Terminology of Structure
By Christopher “Bully The Kid” Bennett
I often engage in conversations with individuals that are new to discussing structures in dogs and the terms used to describe body parts. It’s easy when we are talking about common differences such as paws to feet, or fur to skin, but often becomes more confusing when discussing other parts of the dogs anatomy. These body parts are not new to a persons information storage, but new terminology when discussing dogs with those who judge, work, or study canines as a career or serious hobby.
A canines nose is easy enough, it’s easily found and identifiable to even a non dog person. However a person will identify a canines nose by several different terms. Nose, snout and nostrils. The actual nostrils on a dog however are called nares. Nares in relation to dogs are often discussed by describing them as open or closed. Open nares are desired as they allow easy breathing and dogs, especially bulldog breeds will be described as clean breathers when they have wide open nares. Closed nares are often undesired, for the opposite reason. They often inhibit breathing and can lead to breathing problems. Closed nares are also referred to as pinched nares. So simply put nares are nostrils.
Now wrists are pretty easy to point out on a human or dog, but if you point at a dog and say something about a wrist you will immediately be labeled a newbie, novice, or know nothing individual. The part of a dog which would be it’s wrist is called a pastern. The patterns like a wrist are a joint and easily bend and allow for extension of the foot while the dog is in motion. Pasterns are often described as being upright in the pastern, or down in the pasterns. A dog that is upright in the pastern gives an overall appearance of being alert, or up on its toes ready for whatever comes up. In a dog show it allows the dog to stick his chest out and stand proudly. A dog that is down in the pastern, gives the appearance of being lazy, or not structurally sound. Dogs that are low in the pasterns will also seem to have other issues in their structure that are direct results of being low in the pasterns. These other issues can be the top line, the front, and being sway or camel backed.
A forehead seems easy enough, by definition alone it means the front of the head. In humans foreheads are easy, easier in some than others due to the actual size of some foreheads! Well dogs don’t actually have a forehead. In fact depending on what a person is actually talking about a dogs forehead can be one of two things. It can be the top skull, which is the space between a dogs ears falling towards its eyes, or it can be the space between the eyes and above the nose, called the stop. The top skull is often used when describing a dogs head size and the stop has more to do with expression and breed type. Good top skull and stop truly separates good breed type from great breed type in most bulldog breeds. A forehead in humans can be furrowed, or wrinkled when giving a quizzical look, in dogs this furrowing would take place along the top skull adding to expression. Once someone asked where the bottom skull was, and what it is called and with a straight face I had to say that would be the jaw! The under jaw to be precise!
Lips are easy enough, after all even three year olds know where the lips are and what they are called on a human being. Dogs of course have lips and pointing them out is not difficult at all. The issue comes in to action when we discuss the lips in regards to being a fault. Loose hanging lips in several breeds are considered faults, but identifying the fault by its government name can be a bit confusing. The official term used to describe loose hanging lips are flews. Flews are the large back section of lips, usually with the rubbery spiked pieces of lip accompanied by long hanging drool. A lot of bulldog and mastiffs have hanging flews and it’s common for a judge to point out flews when a dog has exaggerated features in the lip department, or right after a particular dog hits him with a Great Lakes size of drool to the face.
There are several other aspects of terminology that often get confusing, but for now this is a great way to step up your canine anatomy vocabulary! Before long you to will sound scholarly when discussing dogs structure with novices or experts alike!