Everything you need to know

Main menu: Home | Index | Colours of the Rainbow | Contact Us

Fun Stuff

General anatomy

The canine spinal anatomy is very similar to ours, with the exception of one additional thoracic vertebra and two additional lumbar vertebra and a variable number of coccygeal (caudal) vertebrae.

bullet bullet The skull or head is comprised of two parts: the muzzle which includes from the tip of the nose to the stop and the backskull or cranium which is from the stop to the occiput.

bullet The spinal column is made up of five major vertebral regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper/mid back), lumbar (lower back), sacral (pelvic) and coccygeal (tail).

bullet 7 cervical vertebra form the neck from the occiput to the withers. The last of the cervical vertebrae and the first of the thoracic vertebrae are down between the shoulder blades. The withers is a transition stage between the neck's relatively upright carriage and the more horizontal back area.

bullet 13 thoracic vertebra form the main part of the torso support and are attached to the rib cage.

bullet 7 lumbar vertebrae form the lower back area. These vertebrae are very sturdy in construction, as they support more weight and movement than other vertebrae. They allow for supple flexion and extension, lateral flexion (side bending), and also some rotation.

bullet 3 sacral vertebrae form the rump/croup of the dog from the front of the pelvis to the tail set.

bullet The coccygeal vertebrae are the bones forming the tailbone and tail. Many animals, including dogs have a greater number of "tail vertebrae" than humans and they are more commonly known as caudal vertebrae. The canine tail consists of a variable number (6 to 24) highly mobile vertebrae.

Glossary of canine terminology

  • Abdomen: body cavity between the chest and pelvis
  • Angulation: angle which is formed by the meeting of bones at a joint; most commonly used to refer to the shoulder/upper arm angle in the front and stifle/hock angle in the rear
  • Back: region between the withers and root of tail
  • Bad mouth: crooked or misaligned teeth; bite overshot or undershot outside of breed specifications
  • Balanced: symmetrical, proportionate, overall consistency
  • Belly: under part of Abdomen
  • Bite: relative position of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed
  • Bone: substance
  • Canines: The fangs; the two upper and two lower sharp pointed teeth next to the incisors
  • Carpals: bones of the pastern joint (wrist)
  • Chest: the part of the body or trunk enclosed by the ribs
  • Coarse: rugged physique lacking refinement. Also term for a rough or harsh coat texture
  • Coat: The dog's hair covering
  • Condition: health as shown by the coat, state of flesh, general appearance and deportment
  • Conformation: the form and structure, make and shape; arrangements of the parts in conformance with the breed standard demands
  • Croup: lower spinal region, from the hip bones to the tail set. Some use the terms rump and croup interchangeably
  • Dentition: number and arrangement of the teeth
  • Dewclaw: An extra claw or functionless digit on the inside of the leg: a rudimentary fifth toe
  • Drive: thrust of the hindquarters providing impulsion
  • Elbow: joint between the upper arm and the forearm
  • Elbows out: turning out from the body; not held close
  • Eye shape: (i.e. almond) refers to contour of the tissue surrounding the eye. The eye itself is always round
  • Fall: hair overhanging the face
  • Feathering: fringe of hair on ears, legs, tail or body
  • Fiddle front: forelegs out at elbows, pasterns close, and feet turned out; French front
  • Flank: side of the body between the last rib and the hip
  • Floating rib: last rib (13th) - unattached to other ribs
  • Forearm: foreleg bones between elbow and carpus
  • Forechest: front part of the chest
  • Forequarters: front of the dog, excluding head & neck
  • Fragile: dainty and slight, lacking substance
  • Front: Forepart of the body as viewed head on
  • Gait: movement, the manner in which a dog walks, trots or runs
  • Height: vertical measure from the withers to the ground
  • Hindquarters: rear part of dog from the loin
  • Hock: tarsus or collection of bones of the hind leg forming the joint between the second thigh and the metatarsus; heel
  • Incisors: upper/lower front teeth between the canines
  • Layback: angle of the shoulder blade as compared with the vertical (when viewed from the side)
  • Leather (ear): ear flap, outer lobe of the ear.

  • more common terms

  • Loin: region of the body either side of the vertebral column, unsupported by ribs, between last ribs and the hindquarters
  • Mandible: the lower jawbone
  • Metatarsals: bones between the hock joint and the foot
  • Mesocephalic: moderate head/facial shape; medium width/length with approximately equal muzzle/top skull
  • Muzzle: foreface; head in front of the eyes which includes the nasal bone, nostrils & jaws
  • Neck: column between the occiput and the withers which supports the head
  • Occiput: upper, back point of the skull
  • Pastern (front): region of the foreleg between the carpus (wrist) and the foot
  • Pastern (rear): region of the hind leg between the tarsus and the foot; often incorrectly called the “hock”
  • Patella:kneecap, in front of the stifle joint
  • Pelvis: a framework of bones formed by the pelvic arch
  • Point of buttock: rear most point of the buttocks
  • Point of hip: front most point of the hip and pelvis
  • Point of shoulder: joint where the upper arm meets the scapula (shoulder blade)
  • Plume: feathery tail carried over the back
  • Profile: Side view of the whole dog or of the head
  • Prosternum: front most upper point of the sternum
  • Reach: Distance covered in a forward stride
  • Roach: convex curvature of the spine towards the loin
  • Rump: rear part of the back from front of the pelvis to root of the tail. Some consider it to be the entire fleshy area from front most point of the hip to rearmost point of the buttocks
  • Scapula: shoulder blade
  • Scissors bite: bite in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner sides of the upper incisors
  • Skull: bony regions of the head. Cranium or backskull: section of head from stop to occiput
  • Snipey: a pointed, weak muzzle
  • Spring of rib: curvature of the ribs
  • Sternum: breastbone
  • Stop: depression between the eyes where the nasal bone and skull meet
  • Stifle: joint of the hind leg; the dog’s knee
  • Tail set: how the base of the tail sets on the rump
  • Tasrsus: bones of the ankle
  • Texture: quality or feel of the coat
  • Throat:front part of neck below the lower jaw
  • Topline:outline of the back from just behind the withers up to the tail set
  • Trim: to shape or shorten the length of the coat by plucking, clipping, scissoring or any other means
  • Tuckup: concave underline of the body curving up from the end of the ribs beneath the loin; the waist
  • Type:The characteristic qualities distinguishing a breed; the embodiment of a standard's essentials
  • Upper arm: humerus, bone of the foreleg between the shoulder blade and the elbow
  • Withers: the peak of the dorsal vertebrae and the point at which height is measured
  • Zygonmatic arch: arch of bone forming the lower border of the eye socket extending to the base of the ear

  • Back