Knowing your canine is important for protection dog or guard dog owner. However, being able to recognize and label canine anatomy is especially important for both German Shepherd breeders as well as those wishing the purchase canine protection. Much of a German Shepherd’s bloodline and history can be discovered simply by looking at the build and physical structure of the dog. Knowing the details of canine anatomy is key in being able to distinguish the physical differences between an import German Working Line dog versus an American Show Line.
Just as all humans have joints and physical features labeled as elbow, wrist, knuckles etc., there are common labels given to the various joints and features of canine anatomy. While some of these labels, such as thigh or knee, are the same as that of humans, it is important to remember that the thighs and knees of a canine are very much different from our own.
The withers is arguably one of the most important parts of canine anatomy, as it is used to measure the height of a dog. The withers is a ridge on the dog’s back between its shoulder blades. The height of a dog is measured from the bottom of the paw up to the withers, and never includes the neck, head or ears of a dog in the measurement. Starting from the paws on a dog’s forelegs, the paw is connected to the pastern by the wrist joint. There is no human equivalent to the pastern, but it is the shortest and lowest bone on a dog’s forelegs excluding the paws and toes. The pastern is connected to the forearm by the pastern joint, and the forearm is connected to the upper arm by the elbow. These are only vaguely similar to forearms, elbows and upper arms found in humans. The upper arm is connected to the body by the shoulder.
A dog’s hind legs are considerably different than its forelegs. Again starting from the paws, the hind paws are connected to the rear pastern. The rear pastern is connected to the secondary thigh, also known as the gaskin, by a pronounced joint known as the hock. The secondary thigh is connected to the upper thigh by the stifle, sometimes referred to as the knee joint. The upper thigh forms the hind-quarters and is connected to the body by the hip.
Along the back of the dog, there is the croup, loin, back, withers and crest. The croup is the rear-most portion of the dog’s back, where the tail is connected. The crest lies along the neck-line of the dog. The loin, back and withers fall in between the two, in the order described. Along the underside, there is abdomen, brisket and forechest. The abdomen is rear-most portion of the dog’s underside, starting where the rib-cage stops. The brisket forms the underside of the dog’s chest, where the rib-cage is, and the forechest is the protrusion of chest past that forelegs.
The head of the dog includes characters common among most mammals such as eyes, nose, ears and tongue. The elongated portion of the dog’s mouth and nose area is known as the muzzle. The point where the muzzle meets the remainder of the head is known as the stop, and is usually where the eyes are located.
While the various terms may seem initially daunting, they are not difficult to learn. Knowing the key parts of the German Shepherd anatomy will help ensure that you have the tools you need to make an intelligent, informed decision when purchasing a person protection dog, guard dog or security dog.