Showsight - March 2022




Figure 4. Prosternum landmark shown in the palm of your hand.

Figure 3. 1st Thoracic Vertebra

Figure 3A. 1st Thoracic Vertebra

The shoulder blade (scapula) is a broad, flat bone with a ridge running right down the center. (See Figure 6.) The ridge, called the spine of the scapula, is the landmark you must seek in order to deter- mine the layback of the shoulder blade. The spine is there for the attachment of the muscles: the longer the shoulder blade, the more room for attachment; the shorter the blade, the less attachment. The spine of the scapula is much easier to understand when seen in profile. (See Figure 7.) The spine of the scapula is marked "A" in Figure 7. From this illustration, it is easy to see how prominent it is and how it could support the attachment of many muscles. The surface marked "B" is the side of the scapula that lays flat against the ribcage and is smooth so that it more easily oscillates (rotates back and forth) against the ribs. The bone marked "C" is the top of the upper arm, and "D" is the ligament (on both sides) that enables the articulation of the two bones. The landmark of the top of the spine of the scapula is shown in blue. To physically examine a dog, in the majority of breeds, you should put your dog four square in a show stance with the elbow under the withers and the front feet in the proper position. (Posi- tioning the foot either forward or further back can change the angle of the shoulder blade, and lowering or raising the head can throw it off, too!) You can easily find the landmark of the spine or ridge along the shoulder blade. (See Figure 8.) Place your fingers along where you think the spine of the shoul- der blade is located. (See Figure 9.) To find the actual ridge, gently move them back and forth as indicated by the arrows. (See Figure 10.) This is a crucial step to determine the layback of the shoulder blade. The trick is to gently place the fingertips with the pads of the fingers over where you think the shoulder blade lays on the body. You may need to part the coat of a long-coated breed to feel the scapula's spine. By rotating the skin back and forth as shown, you can feel the protrusion that is the spine of the scapula. By following this ridge down toward the point of the shoulder and up towards the withers, you will know the actual layback of the shoulder blade. By doing this, you will have a more accurate representation of the shoulder layback than you would by just "spotting" what you think is the top of the shoulder blade and the point of the shoulder. Once you have determined the line of the ridge, you can see whether the blade is well laid-back (pointing further toward the back of the dog) or more upright (pointing more at the sky than at the dog's tail). (See Figure 10.) Next, place your fingers at the next landmark, the point of the shoulder. You can feel a notch at the joint where the shoulder blade meets the upper arm. (See Figure 11.)

To find the end of the neck and the beginning of the thorax (ribcage), start palpating gently with your finger or thumb for the last cervical vertebrae (C7) and then feel for the landmark of the higher projection of the first thoracic vertebra (shown in blue). (See Figures.3 and 3A.) Next, put your hand, palm up, below the neck with your fin- gers going between the legs to feel the prosternum. The landmark formed by the prosternum should fit into the palm of your hand. (See Figure 4.) With your hand placed on the dog's chest, your fingers should be able to reach between the legs and feel how the ribs curve under the body to attach to the sternum (brisket) beneath the dog. For all but the rounded chest shapes, this should feel somewhat akin to the keel of a boat in the way the ribs reach down from the spine and attach at the sternum. By doing this, you will be able to deter- mine the chest's width, its depth and a bit of the shape of the chest due to the way the prosternum (Arrow 5 A) fits into your palm. The sternum (Arrows B1 & 2) extends under your fingers from the prosternum backward and under the dog for rib attachment. (See Figure 5. Prosternum and Sternum, from B1 through B2 and back.) The next all-important step is to determine the layback of the shoulder blade on your dog. When you are considering the front assembly, the first thing you must remember is that the shoulder assembly is "held on" to the dog's body only by muscles and liga- ments, referred to as the shoulder girdle group. In the rear assem- bly, the hip is fused to the three vertebrae that form the sacrum, thus creating a much more rigid connection in the rear than in the front. The front assembly of the dog is mainly used for its "pole vault" effect, whereas the rear is the "motor" that pushes the dog along. A dog does not pull itself forward from the front, but is pushed along from behind. (There is some pulling action on the front end, but it is not the primary driving force for propelling the dog forward.) The angulation on both ends of the dog should be in balance. It is vital to be able to discern not only the layback of a dog's shoulder blade but also how it is placed (laid onto) the body of the dog. The angle or layback of the shoulder blade determines the distance (reach) a dog can cover when the front leg is reaching forward. We must learn to feel for the landmarks when palpating through the skin, muscles, and fat in order to ascertain the angula- tion on the canine. These landmarks are easy to feel if you know where to put your hands.


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