Canine Posture

Posture and Conformation

Whilst dogs have the greatest morphological diversity of all mammals their overall anatomy is the same. Assessing a dog’s posture, the way a dog holds its body, alongside its conformation can help in identifying areas of musculoskeletal weakness, areas of pain or areas of compensation.

A postural assessment looks at various elements as the dog is stood square or stacked.

  • Spine position or top line assessment – The spine should be in a neutral position or flat not arched, dipped or sloping. A dip (lordosis) in the middle of the topline is often an indicator of weak core musculature. An arched (kyphotic) back is often an indicator of pain.
  • Forelimbs – The forelimbs should be placed with the radius and ulnar bones of the forelimb should be perpendicular to the ground. When viewed from the front there should be a straight line from the foot to the body of the dog with minimal bend at the wrist (carpus) or elbow. This straight line helps with the transfer of power along the limb during movement. The forelimbs also have a key role in deceleration.
  • Head – should be neutral height and facing forward, a short neck may affect the counter and can inhibit forelimb movement.
  • Hindlimbs – The hind limbs have a greater role in acceleration and drive forward. The hind limb structure varies greatly with breed, but the angulation of the limb can be used as part of an assessment. An increased or decreased angulation will affect strength and function. The hock to the ground should be a straight line.
  • Tail – The tail provides counterbalance in turns and has a role in jumping. It should be neutral in position and not held or tucked to one side. It should also move freely and evenly to both sides.
  • Muscle symmetry – Muscles on each side of the body should be symmetrical in shape and size. There should also be a similar muscle bulk between front and hind limbs. An imbalance in muscle is often an indicator of injury, compensation, or weakness.