Responsible Breeding

Lessons from the Yankee club educational weekend: upper arm

I’m trying to string together the educational portions of the weekend and deliver them in as close to Paula’s original words as I can – if I editorialize I’ll make it clear.

That’s Knickers, by the way, at least I sure hope so. Being surrounded by brindle dogs when you’re used to having the cheat sheet of the spots can be confusing!

Anyway, notes on Paula’s mini-lecture:

1) You measure upper arm from the notch where the bone fits into the elbow, NOT from point of elbow.

If you imagine this photo to be your dog, you’d put your fingers at B and E, NOT at B and C.

Here’s Paula demonstrating:

2) The upper arm is supposed to be “nearly as long” as the length of the shoulderblade. Very few dogs have this kind of length.

3) If the upper arm is short, the dog will tend to A-frame or post when stacked. It’s most comfortable with the front extended slightly instead of directly under itself.

4) Upper arm tends to correlate with placement of the prosternum. A low prosternum (less than halfway up the body¬†(?not sure I got this right – if it’s not supposed to be halfway it’s supposed to be close to that)) tends to mean a shorter upper arm as well.

5) Very difficult to get a decent upper arm in Cardigans, but vital to the ideal front, which is the hallmark of the breed.

Joanna’s editorial: Getting length of upper arm is made extraordinarily difficult by the fact that the dogs are dwarfed. Dwarfism of this type preserves the length of the scapula but shortens the humerus. By asking the humerus to be the same length as the scapula, we’re actually fighting our own dwarfism – especially since we’re usually trying to beef up the dwarfism present in the lower arm bones and the foot. We actually want a close-to-undwarfed upper arm and then an extremely dwarfed lower arm. This tension is very difficult to achieve or maintain.

The illustrated standard shows the skeletal dog with a humerus that is 3/4 the length of the scapula (yes, I measured). If that’s actually what we’re striving for, we may need to clarify things, because 3/4 is not the same as “nearly.”

Good or bad length of upper arm is NOT the same as a forward-set front. You can have a good long upper arm on a hinge that’s too far open, or a short upper arm set at a great angle; the right picture is a long upper arm that is ALSO set at the right angle to the scapula and to the neck and ribbing.

It kind of burst my bubble in a big way to be told that we don’t count from point of elbow – all of a sudden I’ve got nothing but short arms in my house! You easily lose an inch of length when you move your finger inside the elbow.

Length of upper arm should not be wildly different from the length of the second thigh – in other words, the length of the tib/fib (from the dog’s knee to his hock). If the dog has a ton of length in the second thigh but not a lot in the upper arm (when the dog has an excellent rear but a less excellent front) the rear will try to cover more ground than the front can cover. Think of it as being a big wide open hinge (the good rear) and a little short hinge (the front). When a dog like that is moved slowly, they’ll artificially shorten their rear stride to match the front stride. When the dog is moved at speed, they tend to bounce upward or bound forward in the front to try to get out of the way of the big strides the rear wants to take. Think of the way Shepherds move and you’ll know what I mean.

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  • Reply Le'o October 13, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing what you learned. I have been really envious of all who had this opportunity with Paula and really appreciate you passing it on.

  • Reply Kamie October 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    That’s interesting! We use the withers to point of chest to elbow triangle when grooming poodles. Not in a conti, but in other clips one wants to emphasize a good angle there. Always interesting to see it in other breeds!

  • Reply Christine October 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    “When the dog is moved at speed, they tend to bounce upward or bound forward in the front to try to get out of the way of the big strides the rear wants to take. Think of the way Shepherds move ”

    The whole point of correct GSD movement should be to avoid the upward thrust–at least when the dog is free-moving and not thrusting into a leash.

    This video from a top dog from 1983 is a good example of the goal:

    • Reply rufflyspeaking October 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

      Sorry, TOTALLY correct. Should have said “typical AKC show-ring Shepherds” – especially in the first stride from a stop, when the front has to get out of the way of the massively over-reaching rear. Once they’re in the trot they can sometimes work it out, but beginning it always has that plunge.

  • Reply Jeri October 13, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Holy cow that GSD video is amazing.
    Jeri recently posted…Win photoMy Profile

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