As part of K9 Health and Fitness week we recently interviewed Pat Hastings, author of the best selling book Structure in Action: The Makings of a Durable Dog.
K9PRO Q: How important is it to have a structurally sound dog especially for competition and sports?
I believe very strongly that all of our sports should be about the dogs, not about people’s egos so I believe any pup or dog that has the type of structural issues that will probably impact the quality of their life as they age, particularly if asked to do things they should not be doing, is a dog that does not belong in our gene pools and does not belong in the show ring. It does not mean you cannot win with it but we all know we can win with almost anything and the more you win, the more likely the dog will be bred and added to the gene pool. A dog with these types of issues should 100% not be in any type of performance. The more structural issue you have, the more susceptible you are to injuries, the faster you break down, the more the break down affects the temperament and the less quality of life the dog has as it ages. That folks is not fair. Dogs will do anything we ask of them and they will continue to do it until their body will no longer allow it so it is our responsibility to learn enough about structure so we make sure we place all puppies in homes that are appropriate for the welfare of that particular dog. That also applies to all puppies we purchase.
K9PRO Q: How can you tell if your dog is structurally sound?
It is really quite simple. Learn to look at dogs using three imaginary lines. The first line is across the back, all the way forward, and the entire head should be above that line. The second line is directly up the middle of front leg (from the side), and the entire neck should be in front of that line.
The third line is to drop a plumb line from the point of the buttocks (ischium), the bone that sticks out under the tail, and that line should land directly on the tips of the rear toes. None of these lines apply to a Peke and the rear line does not apply to either a Chow or a Shepherd but they
apply to almost all breeds. These lines are Mother Nature’s natural balance points and the closer a dog is to those points, the more able they are to hold still.
The hardest thing you do is hold still. The more you move, the more you adjust your weight, the more you lean on things, the more you fidget, the more structural issues you are dealing with.
Remember that a dog does not inherit the topline. The topline is a result of the structure so if your topline is not correct, the structure is not correct. If you have any softness, give, holes or anything that goes down in the topline either standing or moving, that is an indication there is something wrong with your front assembly. It is the angles and proportions of the front that create the stability for the back. If your topline goes up in any breed where it should not be up such as a roach in a breed that should not have a roach or a dog that is high in the rear when it should not be high, those are always an indication that there is something wrong with your rear assembly.
K9PRO Q: What are common injuries seen in dogs with poor structure?
It depends entirely on what sport you are involved in and the basic structure of the dog you are working with. My book “Structure in Action: The Makings of a Durable Dog” describes which injuries you are likely to see with each structure piece that has any weakness. Your angles create your power source and they also create the shock absorption so the better angles and the more balanced they are, the less injuries you will see, the longer the dog will last in its sport and the more the dog will succeed.
K9PRO Q: How can doing sports like flyball, agility, obedience etc impact on a dog’s joints/structure?
I mentioned the importance of proper angles so the straighter the angles, the harder the dog has to work, the more impact is on the joints, the more the impact damages the tissue, the more arthritis sets in and the less quality of life the dog has as it ages. We all talk about front assemblies and I agree we all need to improve them but we need to FIX the rears. 70% of all orthopaedic surgery on dogs is on the rear assemblies, led by torn cruciate ligaments which has become a BILLION dollar a year business. I think we all need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to breed dogs that are not as easily broken.
K9PRO Q: What do you recommend owners should look for when selecting a puppy or dog for sport or work?
It does not matter what you are looking for in a puppy be it the show ring, working, sports, breeding stock or just a wonderful companion animal, we all need to be looking for good health, proper type, good temperaments and structurally sound bodies so the dogs can live the very best lives possible.
Now the next chore is to figure out how to get the breeders to sell good dogs to performance homes.