Canine anatomy, soundness, and healthy companions with Laura Reeves!

Watch our Good Breeder webinar on breeding to the standard with Laura Reeves of Pure Dog Talk!

by Cat Matloub, Esq. - Head of Partnerships, Community & Legal Affairs at Good Dog

Watch our webinar featuring Laura Reeves, host of Pure Dog Talk!

Laura discusses how the structure and anatomy of a dog is directly related to their soundness. Watch the webinar to learn how breeding to the standard impacts soundness and dog well-being!

More about Laura: Laura is an AKC Breeder of Merit, AKC Judge and a retired zone representative for the Professional Handler Association. Laura is a second-generation breeder of German Wirehaired Pointers, under the Scotia Kennel banner.

In her professional handling career, spanning 25 years, Laura consistently maintained a high-quality, low-number client list. She has finished hundreds of dogs, with group-winners from each of the seven variety groups. Specializing in rare breeds and challenging dogs, she has piloted dogs to Best in Show, Best in Specialty Show, Group wins, #1 rankings and more.


Good Dog:

Good Dog is on a mission to build a better world for our dogs by educating the public and advocating for dog breeders. We are a young, tech-savvy company with an online community that educates the public, supports breeders, helps people connect directly with responsible breeders who have passed our screening and comply with our standards, and promotes responsible dog ownership.

Our goal is to use technology as a force for good and empower the good forces in the dog world with technology – to be a voice and platform for dog breeders, to counter the extremist propaganda, and change the conversation so the public realizes how critical it is to support and recognize breeders. We’re free for breeders (breeders also can’t pay to be listed) and provide support (legal, tech, breeding), and discounts on health testing.

Does our mission resonate with you? Apply to join our Good Breeder community today.


Transcript

Cat Matloub [00:00] I think we can go ahead and kick things off. First of all, thank you so, so much to all of you for taking the time out of your busy days and your busy lives to join us. We’re so grateful and appreciative to you. We just have so much fun engaging in these conversations with you. We look forward to it every week. Thank you so much for taking the time and for being here and for your support. We’re beyond excited to introduce someone who needs no introduction: Laura Reeves of Pure Dog Talk, the voice of purebred dogs, also known as the NPR of the dog world. Laura has been a professional groomer, handler, shower, breeder—you name it—anything in the world of dogs and particularly the sport of showing. Laura’s the lady to go to. We’re just thrilled to have been working with her and trying to join forces with something that has been essential to both of our missions, and that’s education. That’s a powerful, amazing thing. We’re thrilled to be working together on some very exciting news, which is going to be announced later today. You’re all getting a sneak peak.

Laura Reeves [01:32] I was going to say! Are we teasing this?

Cat Matloub [01:35] We’re teasing! It’s going to come out later today. I don’t have enough words to say how over the moon we are about this, but Laura and Good Dog are teaming up to do a podcast called The Good Dog Pod. We just can’t wait to tape these conversations and so many more about canine health and responsible dog ownership and public education and breeding practices and legislation and issues with legislation and everything that’s happening there. We get to have these conversations weekly and talk to all of the best experts, as we’re always trying to do. Like I said, there aren’t enough words (and I’m usually chatty about it). We couldn’t be more excited! We’re launching next Wednesday, and then it’ll be coming out on a weekly basis. Basically, we’ll be releasing many more details about it later today—all the good info about when it launches, how to subscribe, and how to listen. We are enormously honored and privileged to have someone with Laura’s truly unparalleled expertise and knowledge bring something to Good Dog that we didn’t have before. It’s so special and unique and extraordinary. We’re so lucky to have you here today, Laura, and also on board as we work towards our shared mission.

Laura Reeves [03:12] Thank you, Cat! I love you for your enthusiasm.

Cat Matloub [03:20] Monica’s chuckling! Monica, turn your audio on. That got a laugh out of her.

Monica DeBosscher [03:36] I’m laughing to myself!

Laura Reeves [03:30] I’m not sure about some of that, but you know what, I’ll take it! Thank you, Cat, for the introduction. I’ll see if I can live up to that. Okay! So, we are talking today about canine anatomy 101. This is a shortened version of a shortened version of a Pure Dog Talk University I did for folks who are patrons of Pure Dog Talk. For the podcast, one of the things we do is we use crowd funding to pay some of its overhead (or all of its overhead). Patrons get special stuff. This was originally something that I did for the patrons of Pure Dog Talk, and I’ve taken it and adapted it for what we’re talking about today. Cat, I’m going to screen share. We didn’t get that practice session, so here goes nothing!

[04:46] I don’t know about the audience, what you can see or can’t see on my screen share. (I’ve got pictures blocking part of this.) But this slide is basic anatomy and structure. The hock bone is connected to the… thigh bone. This particular slide is super important, if anybody can see it.

Cat Matloub [05:13] Yeah, we can see your slides!

Laura Reeves [05:16] Beautiful! That’s what I needed to know. I think when we talk about breeding dogs, the important piece to understand is that we all want to have healthy, happy companions that go to forever homes. One of the very best ways to do that is to produce—to breed, to whelp, to raise—physically, mentally, and emotionally sound dogs. But today we’re going to talk about the “physically” part. This slide, the quote here is from somebody by the name of Ed Gilbert, who is an American Kennel Club judge and a breeder. The name of this book is K-9 Structure & Terminology. It’s an amazing book; I highly recommend it! But I want to read this for you, a little bit of it, because this is what is important to me.

All dogs need sound structure for health, show, work, or sport, and, by learning to see beneath the skin the reader will be more able to work with, understand, and appreciate canis familiaris. Gain a better understanding of: breed standards, how the original purpose of the breed is expressed in the structure of the dog (which is super important, and we’ll touch on that today), terminology that’s involved in vet care (so when you take your dog to the veterinarian and you know the name of the hock, so does the veterinarian, and you can say, “My dog’s hock is swollen.” That is a whole lot easier for that veterinarian to address quickly).

[07:11] I think that that is the basic principle that we’re going to talk about here. This slide is a really, really basic representation of some of the parts in a skeleton. We understand that when we look at a dog, and we think about a dog’s structure, I use a comparison that I think is really apt, and I’ve heard other people use it as well. It’s like building a house. So the spine is the roof of the house. That’s what holds everything together. It’s what gives your entire structure the ability to stand up in a big wind. These are the ribs. The ribs help keep everything inside safe, like the walls of your house. So if your ribs are short, if they’re shallow—all of those things have impact on the dog’s ability to function, whether it has a job or whether it’s a couch potato. And then we talk about the four corners of the house: these legs. How these legs hold up the body is the same as how the four pillars of your house hold it up, too. All of that is about balance, and it’s about everything meeting nicely. If you’ve ever been in some of those old houses that have tilted a little bit, the floor creaks and the joists pop and the roof leaks. That house is not sound. When we have a dog that isn’t sound, the same thing happens, and it causes the same types of issues in terms of it’s not sound and it’s leaking, or it’s broken, or it’s unable to perform the function for which it was created—just like a house. Femur, fibula, tibia, scapula (just like we have a scapula, right?), humerus, ulna, radius. This is very genetic. All purebred dogs have written standards that describe the breed and all of its angulation and all of its structure. I think the important thing to remember is that most of these breed standards were written by people to describe the dog that was best at doing its job. Every purebred dog had a purpose, had a job—whether it was to herd sheep or hunt birds or fight bulls or sit on your lap. Those dogs were developed by mankind to do a specific thing. When the written standards were developed for these breeds, they were written to describe the dog that did that job the best. It’s important to know what the standard said because that’s what makes a dog that functions in its job, whether that job today is herding sheep, hunting birds, guarding your house, or sitting on your lap. The standard is what describes the dog that does it best.

I hope that that makes sense. I’m going to flip through some of these because, like I said, it was designed for a longer event.

[10:44] I think these are important terms right here. This is the turn of stifle. I’ll show you these on a real dog as well as a skeleton. I showed you what the bones are called and now I’m showing you the actual external part on a skeleton, and then I’m going to show it to you on an actual dog. This is the stifle in the rear leg. This is the stifle joint. This is the hock joint, back here on the bottom. The rear pastern, this is the hock. Feet we know.

[11:17] Now we get to the front part of the dog, also in a skeleton but the external parts. The point of shoulder: a lot of people talk about this because it describes a measuring point. The point of shoulder is where these two sets of bones come together: scapula and humerus. This is the withers up here. That’s an important item because that’s where you measure how tall your dog is. The other thing to historically note: when dog breed standards were written, and when they started talking about the part of the dog, most people who were talking about it were horse people. So what you see are a lot of horse terms. Withers is a horse term. Hock is a horse term. These are things that you see in horses that have corresponding pieces in dogs. Here’s your elbow down here; it’s where the humerus connects into the tibia and fibula. Pastern’s in the front. This is important in some breeds, so that’s what you’re talking about if you have an injury in the front leg. Then you can describe to your veterinarian, “his left pastern is a problem.” That’s important to know these words for this reason.

Cat Matloub [12:40] Laura, we got a question from Cassie: Please address prosternum.

Laura Reeves [12:46] Here it is. It’s up on the screen.

Cat Matloub [12:50] Literally as I clicked to ask you the question, you clicked right!

Laura Reeves [12:58] You guys are on it! You are so on it!

[13:04] Again, we’re talking about the construction of the dog. This is where we start really thinking about it as a house again. Here’s your back; that’s the roof that everything hangs off of. Prosternum is this point right here; it’s in the front of the dog’s chest. It should, in most breeds, come forward of the shoulders some—depending on the breed, how much. That is where all that ribbing, all those walls, come forward and connect. That is the piece that holds things together. The sternum or the keel or the brisket—that’s this piece underneath here. The ribs come down, and they’ve made the walls of your house to protect the internal organs: the heart, the lung, not so much the intestines but some of those really vital organs are inside that big, strong ribbing. Coupling, or the loin, is this piece right here. This is a really common term in dogs: you’ll hear the term “long in the loin.” What that generally indicates is that these ribs don’t carry as far back as they should. This piece right here is unsupported. This is a chunk of your roof that has no good support. So if it’s extra long, and the ribs end here, that’s a weakness. Any place that you don’t have balance and symmetry and any time your dog’s construction is less than ideal, that is a weakness. A long loin and a short ribbing makes for a dog that’s going to be more apt to have back problems. What does nobody want? Nobody! Nobody wants to pay a vet for a back problem. Keeping a good, strong loin is super important. Now I’m going to show you these same things on an actual dog instead of a skeleton.

[15:19] I think sometimes this is easier to see. This is a German Wirehaired Pointer. This is a dog that’s no longer with us. But you can see: here’s the withers, scapula comes down. Here’s the prosternum right here. Point of shoulder. The upper arm, the humerus comes down to the elbow. Watch the balance of these pieces. Here’s the point of the croup, down to the point of the buttocks (the ischium), forward to the bend of stifle, and back to the hock. What I want you guys to look at, and what is important and so many people don’t understand: when people talk about front angulation or rear angulation or balanced angles, those are all terms that you’re going to hear when you talk to dog people because we’re a little bit weird. What this diagram is showing you is basically the point of the shoulder comes down in a straight line to the point of the elbow. These are what they call well-laid back. They go underneath to support the body of the dog. So if these bones are clear up here, that’s again leaving all of this without any support. And that’s going to cause weakness and it’s going to break down. It’s the same thing with the rear structure. This angle of this triangle (scapula, prosternum, elbow)—if y’all pulled out a protractor—and this angle right here (croup, ischium, stifle) are going to be pretty close to the same. That’s a balanced dog. A dog that’s balanced can go run with you and go hike with you and go bike with you and go play in the dog park and go swimming. Even if they don’t have the original purpose for which they were designed, even if they are not a purebred dog—a dog that is balanced and has this structure is the most sound house you can create. Does that make sense?

Cat Matloub [17:45] Laura, I have a question. It’s a question building off of Tracy—I don’t want to steal credit. She asked: Are there percentages or measurements per breed to determine long in the loin? But I guess for all of these things—when you’re talking about balance—is there a range that they need to be within? In terms of, “Okay, 45 degree angle.” Does that vary by breed, and how do you figure that out?

Laura Reeves [18:15] All of those things are correct. Yes, there are percentages. We think a 90 degree shoulder should make a 90 degree triangle, or a 45 degree angle. That is for the majority of big, working animals—sporting dogs, hunting dogs, hounds, big working dogs, stuff like that. Terriers, some of the smaller breeds, are going to have what you would think of as a little more open. The point of this thing (scapula) is going to go up further. The point of this thing (elbow) is going to come forward. This is where your breed standards come in. The breed standards tell you this. The blueprint for your house is what the breed standard is. You build your house according to a blueprint, you build your dog according to the breed standard. Does that make sense?

Cat Matloub [19:15] Absolutely. I think one question might be from my mom, so a very special guest! Jackie Matloub asks: Is the ratio of the dog structure set as a puppy? Does the ratio change as the puppy grows?

Laura Reeves [19:32] Okay, so, this is a great question, Jackie. It’s one of the things that a good breeder does. They evaluate their puppies. The research is pretty strong that most breeds—not every breed, but most breeds—at 8 weeks, what that dog looks like at 8 weeks, is what it will look like at adult age. Keeping in mind that the basic bone structure is not going to change. What can change—and this is a whole other webinar we can do—is the soft tissue that holds those bones together. So a dog that is poorly conditioned and fat can have the greatest bone structure in the world and still be unhealthy, because the soft tissue that holds those bones together has been compromised. So this is like the insulation in your house. You get the idea. The actual structure is important, but the pictures you hang on the walls and how much food you put in the refrigerator makes a difference. The idea is that the bones stay the same, the soft tissue can change and can have impact on the dog’s long-term health. So, keep your dog at a good weight, keep your dog fit and muscled. It is just as important for dogs as it is for humans to be active, to not overeat, and to not eat poor quality food or people food. People food is not formulated for dogs. And there’s a whole question about raw diets, and that’s a whole other webinar. But, that answers your question. Yes, at 8 weeks, we can basically see what the dog is going to be as an adult.

[22:00] Again, here are the same pieces we were talking about earlier on a dog. The brisket, the pastern. One of my favorites: Where’s the occiput? If we actually have time when we get done with this, there’s a quiz. Here’s another important thing (a lot of people may not understand the distinction, and it’s important, going back to your veterinarian): This part right here: that’s the neck. This part up here: that’s the throat. So if you go to your veterinarian with your dog that has a swelling under its jaw, and you tell him, “My dog’s neck is swollen,” they’re not necessarily going to be able to translate that, whereas if you tell them specifically that there’s a swelling in the throat, just below the left jaw—these are important things to recognize and understand.

[22:55] Here’s our discussion again, but with an actual dog: ribbing, loin. This is the back. Withers. Where the tail set and the croups are. Tuck up—just kind of a fancy thing that describes the shape of different dogs that do different jobs.

[23:19] This is actually a super important illustration, and I want us to spend a little bit of time on it, because this is where we start really applying that theory of house and construction and blueprint and standard. Again, this is generic, to the generic dog; different breeds are going to have different specifics. But this is a very good generic understanding. (Fig. 1) A sound dog, generally speaking, if you take a line and you drop it from the ischium (the point of the buttock) straight down, it should land in front of the dog’s toes. That is going to give you the strongest structure, just like when you build a house, there are certain angles and certain ways that they set those roofs on that make them the strongest. This is the strongest construction. (Fig. 2) When you have the line come down, and the back toes are really far behind it, it means that this second thigh is long. And what did we say? Anything that is out of balance is weak. What happens with these dogs, they have a tendency to blow their cruciate ligament. It’s an incredibly expensive surgery. (Fig. 3) Here’s another: when the angle is not as exact and the toes are forward (they’re getting up in front), and this thigh right here is short, this is also something you see in inbreeds like, say, a Chow Chow—breeds that are designed to have sort of a stilted gait, a straighter angulation of the rear, they’re going to look more like this. (Fig. 4) Here’s this example of the dog where the line really comes in the middle of the toes. (Fig. 5) This piece right here, the sickle hock—where instead of the hock being perpendicular to the ground, it comes in—is a very inefficient way to move. That dog is not going to hold up on your long runs or your hikes or your what-have-yous. (Fig. 6) And then there’s a question of whether the length of hock is too long—all of that stuff.

[25:44] We talk a lot about “my dog is built this way, and so it moves this way.” This is a particularly good example, to look at these angles. Then we come down, and we see this same dog moving. You take this structure, that looks like this, and you put it on a dog, and that dog’s feet are very close to the ground.

[26:12] There’s no wasted motion. The legs come directly under the body to support and balance the dog when it’s moving. The dog trots evenly, consistently, and has a very long stride. You’ll notice the toes go clear past the end of the nose on this dog. This dog has full extension of that rear leg going backwards. The important part to understand about this—just like a human athlete—the balanced dog covers the most ground with the least effort, making it more able to do all the fun things that you want to do with it. If your dog doesn’t have this level of balance, it’s not going to hold up as well. There is a thing that we talk about in bird dogs, and that is the concept that a dog runs on heart. Not its actual physical beating not-really-heart-shaped piece of its anatomy, but heart as in gut, as in mind, as in desire. It wants to do what it wants to do—whether you want to do it or it wants to do it. It runs on heart, and we talk about this in working bird dogs. It’s true. I’ve seen dogs that should no more be able to trot across the street than the man in the moon run for an hour at 25 miles an hour and find birds and keep going—it’s true. They do run on heart. But guess what? That dog, by the time it’s 6 or 7, is broken down. And it can’t keep doing that. And the dog that is built properly for no-waste motion is going to hold up longer, stay healthier, be less painful. Just because it can do it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. That’s the thing about it. Dogs’ll do things, even when they’re in pain, that you and I wouldn’t even dream of doing. Because they have heart. So why would we ask them to do that? That’s just wrong. Making it so the dog is most comfortably able to do what it wants to do and what you want it to do is the right thing. We are able to do that by breeding dogs that are built sound, like a well-constructed house.

[28:48] This is another interesting illustration. This is a Clumber Spaniel, for those of you who are not familiar. The Clumber Spaniel standard describes a dog that is 9 tall to 11 long. The dog needs to be 20% longer from the withers to the base of the tail than it is from the withers to the ground, so if the dog is 20 inches tall, it’s going to need to measure 24 inches long here. This is one of those things where a standard is important, because the standard says the dog’s measurement to reach those things is from the withers to the base of the tail, which is quite different from other breeds that measure from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks. And you can see how much longer that dog needs to be to accomplish what the breed standard asks for in order to do the job that this breed was designed to do, which is to get under heavy, heavy, heavy underbrush to flush game back into the 1600s. That’s just a little piece. We can talk about heads. Those I don’t think are as important.

[30:32] I’m going to leave this up here. You don’t have to do it in five minutes, like I said. But here’s something for you guys to go through, based on some of the things we talked about and see if you know the answers to these questions. To sort of wind up the conversation, I think the important thing that we can all do as breeders is be aware of the dog’s structure and confirmation and how that impacts its ability to be a good companion animal. A companion animal is everything from a show dog to an agility dog to a Frisbee dog to a couch dog. They’re all still companion animals, and they all live in our homes, and they have pieces of our heart. We don’t want to see them suffer. That is the thing that joins every single one of the 87 of us on this webinar, and everybody else—the 8 million people that buy a new dog every year—we love dogs. And we don’t want to see them suffer. And if that is our primary goal, building a dog that is properly structured is the best way to get there.

Cat, I see you wanting to ask a question. I’ll shut up now.

Cat Matloub [31:50] No, no. I didn’t want to interrupt. Someone asked if you could maybe click the slideshow mode. The quiz is a little small to read. If you click slideshow instead…

Laura Reeves [32:10] I learned how to do this before—wait a minute!

Cat Matloub [32:17] There’s a slideshow at the top. Slideshow’s on the menu option at the top. Also, we have some questions. I just want you to know we’ll get everybody’s questions at the end, so don’t worry! We haven’t been ignoring you.

[33:25: enlarged quiz slide]

Laura Reeves [33:40] What I’m hoping to do for people who are interested is try and get this entire PowerPoint presentation put up into my Dropbox, so people can access it with a link from Dropbox that I provide.

Cat Matloub [33:57] That sounds fantastic, and we’ll also get it on Good Breeder Center and all of that as well. Laura, how are you on timing?

Laura Reeves [34:08] I’m great! I was trying to get through all of this so we had time for Q&A.

Cat Matloub [34:27] Question from Linda: What is harder on the dog…working/sporting type breed? Linda, are you asking generally? That might have been subject-specific. Oh, in terms of two straight more open angles or being front-to-rear not balanced? So, what’s the most detrimental, given that type of dog?

Laura Reeves [34:50] The most detrimental is a lack of balance.

[35:16] If you have a dog that has the front angulation clear up here (so it’s still got all this rear end) but the shoulder’s up here and its neck and the toes come down under the ears—that dog has got what we think of as a mismatch. What happens is this front is constantly trying to get out of the way of the rear. The rear is going, and you see it when the dog moves. That’s exhausting. From a judge’s perspective, from a breeder’s perspective—it’s the most problematic thing. You do not want to see a mismatch of angles. You would much rather see both ends of the dog a little straighter, right? So a little bit more forward, and a little bit straighter here, and still be the same, so there’s a balance. It’s the balanced columns of support that are so important. Just like if your house had one side that was up here, and one side that was down here, and there was a big wind—it’d go (breaking sound). Same concept of weakness when you have an imbalance in the dog’s structure. Good question. Very, very good question, Linda.

Cat Matloub [36:33] Question from Heather. Back to 8 weeks being around the time that you can tell, Heather says she’s heard that evaluations can happen at birth. Any thoughts on this?

Laura Reeves [36:45] You know, there are people who like to look at their puppies wet. I have a girlfriend who breeds Basenjis. She’s a very, very, very successful Basenji breeder. She makes all of her decisions at birth when they’re wet. The thing that I will say about that: you can see the bones. There’s no puppy fat, there’s no nothing. All you’re seeing really, at birth, is bones. If you hold the puppy up like this, you see—if you will—how they hang. And we talk about that. I personally don’t make my decisions that way. I look at it. I look at heads. I can see the shape of the skull really well when it’s born. The first look at a newborn tells me a lot about what its head is going to do. I like to look at them then. But for me, personally, I get a lot more sense of what the dog will grow up to be at the 8 week evaluation point. I think the other thing that’s really, really, really critical here is we can look at structure with a puppy stacked up on the table, we can take that puppy and make it be whatever shape we want it to be (trust me), but if you look at that puppy and just watch (similar to if you hold, just under their little chins) when you put them down on the table, you’ll see if their little front toes go out like this (V-shape). If they point in or out, that tells you something. If the rear points in or out, that tells you something. Because I can then fix it, so it doesn’t look like that. But you need to be honest. Honest evaluations are the most critical if your goal is to evaluate structure. Structure is structure. Being dishonest about it isn’t going to change it. Being honest with yourself about what it is is very, very important.

I’m very, very, very, very hands on with my puppies. Constant, 24/7, for two freaking months. I watch what those puppies do, how they act, how they interact, how they explore the world, what they do—mentally, physically, emotionally. Particularly, as they get older, into the 6 and 7 weeks time frame, I’m looking for a puppy that always trots everywhere. If it gallops, that is an early indicator of a dog that isn’t built as well as it could be. The dog that always trots, that’s the dog that’s the most balanced. If you watch your litters of puppies grow up, and you start really paying attention at about 6 weeks (that’s for my breed; every breed is a little bit different!), they are mobile and moving! I want to see the one that trots. That’s almost always my keeper puppy.

Cat Matloub [40:11] Heather, thank you for your question. We’d love to have you on our mailing list for future events! The way to do that is to sign up for Good Dog, for our community. We’re free for dog breeders. You just have to meet our standards, and we provide all sorts of benefits and fun stuff, including webinars. Thanks, Heather!

A follow-up question: Speaking of socialization and watching you do that with your puppies, Aaron asks: ENS, does it have an impact on growth and structure? Apologies if you were speaking about something else.

Laura Reeves [40:57] ENS—early neurological stimulation—has a tremendous impact on mental and emotional. It has less an impact on physical. But here’s the thing that I will say. A dog that is mentally and emotionally strong is going to do better with whatever physical limitations it has. Does that make sense? I’m short and fluffy, but because I have a mental position that says, “I’m big and tough!” I look big and tough, and nobody bugs me. It’s the same with dogs. I’ve done similar protocols or comparable protocols for 25 years with my dogs and have continued to add to the systems that I use based on puppy culture, based on Carmen Battaglia’s Superdog program, based on Gayle Watkins’ Avidog program. There’s a lot of people with a lot of really good knowledge out there. Structure is structure. It’s bred in. But what we can impact is that soft tissue piece we were talking about earlier. We can make a dog that is more confident, more willing, more agile—that’s going to keep it moving. That’s going to keep it active. That’s going to keep it in better condition. And then you have to follow through.

Cat Matloub [42:40] Awesome. Speaking of the structure, a question from Lila: How many generations does it take to correct structure and sound results, generally speaking?

Laura Reeves [42:52] That’s a fabulous question, Lila. I’ll tell you: some things are easier than others. That’s a truth. You have to start with at least one component that has to have the quality that you’re seeking. When you’re breeding dogs, just breeding two random dogs and hoping that one of them has good structure isn’t going to work out. You have to start with good structure, and then you can make better structure. I can give you a perfect example. I bred this dog here. [43:28] Actually, my mom and I bred him. His grandmother was my foundation bitch. She was much straighter in the front assembly than this dog. She had this rear but did not have this front. Front angulation—this structure to get the front assembly under the dog and support the dog and giving that the strength to carry—is the most difficult piece. Not one single dog show breeder, hobby breeder, specialist, anyone in the world who has been successful in dogs will tell you that. It is the hardest thing to get and to keep. To keep the elbows tight to the body cavity, to keep the shoulder lay-on back far enough to really support that rib cage—that is hard to get and hard to keep. A good, strong rear is a little easier. This dog, to me, actually is a bit long in the loin. (See where I’m circling it here?) Part of that was because this was a field trial dog. This dog was the breed’s first Best In Show winning Dual Champion, which is a big deal. It means he won a Best In Show at an all-breed show. It means he ran in front of a horse for 45 minutes at 25 miles an hour.

Cat Matloub [45:00] Wow. Speaking of which, we have a question from Sara. She asks: Do you mind sharing the name of the GWP that you’re using as examples?

Laura Reeves [45:12] If that’s a wirehair person, this dog right here is a Best In Show, Best In Specially Show, Dual Champion, Amateur Field Champion, Jetset’s Ragtop Day at Scotia, Junior Hunter, CD.

Cat Matloub [45:27] That was from Sara.

Laura Reeves [45:30] I thought it might be Sara. This is also Cruiser. Cruiser was his call name. This dog could cover more ground than most German Shepherds I’ve shown. I once pulled a groin muscle trying to keep up with him in the showroom. That’s not a joke! My point about this dog: This was the day he went Best In Show. He had the weekend before, or maybe a couple of weeks before, been running 45 minutes or half an hour at 25 miles an hour in front of a horse, over the desert. And so he’s a little thin. This is an example of what a dog that is built right and properly structured can do. It can do its job at the most extreme level and be successful in an examination of structure.

[46:28] This is his sister. Her name was Best in Specially Show winning Jetset’s Margaritaville. For Sara, who will appreciate this, this is the mother of a bitch by the name of Smoke, who was ROM-superior in our breed.

[46:48] This is Cooper, Champion Scotian, Extra Postage.

[47:04] This is his daughter, who was a show champion but never bred from.

Cat Matloub [47:10] We’ve got a couple of questions. We need your wisdom and your knowledge. Melinda and Randy both asked questions along similar lines: Are there exceptions to the rules? For instance, toys, terriers, non-sporting breeds? Then a specific call-out from Melinda, a question about Pekingese with unusual standards, like toe out, curved front legs, narrow rear. Does the balance usually show in 8 weeks? Are there exceptions to the rules?

Laura Reeves [47:58] Yes, and that’s what we talked about earlier. There are specific breed standards that have very specific requirements. They are requirements to do whatever that breed’s particular job was. The Pekingese job was to be really freaking cute. It does it incredibly well. Its breed standard describes a dog that’s—wait for it—really freaking cute. A lot of the toy breeds—the breeds that were designed to be companions—most of their breed standards focus on: they’re supposed to have four legs and two eyes and a tail. The primary focus of breed standards in many of the toy companion breeds is on the aspects of their style, their breed type, that made them excellent in their companion role. For terriers—for example, the terriers that go to ground—there are very specific requirements for those dogs for a keel. Because they balance on that keel to dig down into the dirt. Their rear structure is made a certain way, so that they can back out of a hole to get away from a badger. And their tails are set on in a certain manor so you could grab a hold of their tail and yank them out of the hole before they got eaten by a badger! For real. (Monica’s face! This is the best part of my day.) What I’m saying is in answer to your very, very excellent question: yes. There are distinctions and there are exceptions that are based on breed standards. What we’re talking about here is general dog structure and what makes the most balanced dog for this generic dog concept. But absolutely, there are tremendous exceptions. It’s what makes breeds what they are. They are unique and special and fabulous and representing a particular place and point in time, because that’s what they were designed to do. Once again, the written standard describes the ones that did it the best. And at 8 weeks, yes, any of those details you could still see. Again, that does vary a little bit. I will tell you that my personal experience is that some breeds are more true to type at 9 weeks. My breed, I can see it at 6 weeks, and it never changes. 8 weeks is sort of a rule of thumb more than a written-in-concrete sort of concept. Next question?

Cat Matloub [51:01] From Laura: Did you discuss the pace already? Why do they do it?

Laura Reeves [51:09] I did not actually discuss pacing, but it’s a great question. We’re going to go down here to this slide, just to give us something to look at.

[51:15] Remember we talked about the mismatch and angles? A dog that paces is where, instead of the left-front and right-rear coming forward at the same time and then back, the two legs on the same side go forward at the same time and back at the same time. That is pacing. It is an uncomfortable-looking way of locomoting. But that particular pace—that same-side movement—is also, for many dogs, much easier. The reason they do it is because of a structural issue. Many times, it’s because the rear is too over-angulated for the front, and so they’re trying to get the legs out of each other’s way. Sometimes it’s the back that’s just a little short. It’s a little bit lazy. It’s definitely a learned behavior. I say lazy because whatever structure fault that they’re trying to avoid is the easier way of locomoting for them. It’s hard for them to put their feet in the right places, based on (usually) mismatched anges, sometimes too short of a body when the feet are impacting one another.

Cat Matloub [53:00] Michelle asks: I’ve heard conflicting opinions about prosternums. Some say the bigger the better; others say they shouldn’t be that big; others say you should be able to grab it with your hands. Any thoughts?

Laura Reeves [53:13] Yup! And that is entirely dependent on the breed. So, for example, the Smooth Fox Terrier has a barely-perceptible prosternum. Just barely! The Weimaraner has a very significant prosternum and brisket. The Dachshund, the Basset Hound—these are dogs that have huge prosternums and heels that come all the way back underneath their ribbing. The answer to that question is entirely dependent on the breed of dog. So, what’s the breed of dog that we’re talking about?

Cat Matloub [53:52] I don’t know what Michelle is talking about. Michelle?

Laura Reeves [53:56] Michelle, if you want to tell me the breed, then I can help you answer that a little more succinctly. Do we have anything else while we wait for Michelle?

Cat Matloub [54:04] Oh, we’ve got more left. From Annie (hi, Annie!): Do you use the puppy puzzle method for evals? At 8 weeks, plus or minus 3 days?

Laura Reeves [54:21] Puppy puzzle is Pat Hastings. What I use is a very similar system. But yes, Pat’s work was one of the definitive publications talking about that particular time frame. I have found it to be largely true. I would say not 100% true, but largely true. That is basically the system I use.

Cat Matloub [54:54] Follow-up question from Annie: Do you have an eval sheet for puppies that you would be willing to share or that you do share to honestly evaluate a litter?

Laura Reeves [55:05] I will tell you: I don’t, only because it’s mostly in my head. Sorry! But yes, those exist. One of the things that I’ve found to be really, really successful: I sometimes am asked to do puppy evaluations for other people. It’s just the idea of having someone else look at the puppies that doesn’t have their heart wrapped up in them. Sometimes it can be tough for us to look at “little mouse that I raised and I saved his life” like “oh my god—he’s ugly.” Do you know what I’m saying? I have found that we go through the points. We just take the points of the standard, and we put our hands on those puppies and really write down what we see. The other thing I have always found to be incredibly useful to me: like I said, watch the puppies play, watch the puppies interact, watch the puppies move, do all of those things, but when you get down to that 8 week evaluation, put the puppy on the table and take a picture of it. Because you will see in that staff picture. (I can go back 25 years and look at those staff pictures and look at the adult and the adult had a fault, and I’m like, “Well dumbass, there it was!” That is a learning tool that is an incredibly valuable learning tool. You will see things in the photos of these puppies that you honestly cannot see when they’re running around like little velociraptors. You will see things then that are important, but you will miss other pieces that are important. More than anything, I take pictures.

Cat Matloub [56:50] Awesome. And Michelle responded; her breed is Australian Shepherd.

Laura Reeves [56:55] Oh, Australian Shepherds! In Australian Shepherds, I want to be able to feel a prosternum. I don’t think it needs to be a Weimaraner front—you know, those big old goose fronts. But this is a breed that works, right? So, they have to be able to trot all day long. Trot, trot, trot, trot, trot. All day long! That’s their job! So if we look at how the dog is built in order to do the job that it was bred for, that dog is going to need to have good ribbing that comes forward, that’s tied together with shoulders just like I showed you (that get underneath the dog and hold up the suspension that is the roof of the dog that is the spine). Prosternum is a function of how well laid back your shoulders are, how those pieces all come together. Again, I want to see prosternum, I want to see it forward.

[57:56] This dog, you can see there’s an arrow and then there’s hair in all the rest of it. This is the point of the dog’s shoulder. This is the dog’s prosternum. That’s what you should be looking at in a dog that has a structure that puts the front underneath the dog. It should be in front of the point of shoulder. Hope that helps!

Cat Matloub [58:21] Do you have a couple more minutes, Laura? Maybe we can do rapid-fire through the last ones and see if we can get through everyone.

Laura Reeves [58:30] Oh man! Ready!

Cat Matloub [58:33] I know, I know! We’re making you go over time.

Laura Reeves [58:38] I had it booked in my head for 90, so it’s fine!

Cat Matloub [58:40] That’s wonderful! So this is an interesting question: if more open angles but balanced, reach and drive are compromised some, are there conditions that can be done? So if you have a dog that’s not quite what you want to see, but it is balanced (which is the better of the worse alternatives), are there things that you can do to make sure that they remain bound and healthy?

Laura Reeves [59:06] Absolutely. A balanced dog is always going to be my choice, as I say, even if it’s a little bit less. Keep it fit, keep it lean, and keep it exercised.

Cat Matloub [59:20] Do puppies ever go through a phase where their feet will turn either in or out, and then it will correct itself?

Laura Reeves [59:25] Yes. You will see it a lot in certain breeds. For many of the larger breeds, what happens is the chest develops, and it drops down between those front legs. So what you’ll often see is a little bit of pigeon-toed, and then as the chest comes down between the elbows and pushes those front feet out, the toes will straighten out and go forward. I don’t like to say it as a general rule, certainly not at 8 weeks. You’ll see it more often right around 4-6 months as they’re teething and going through huge growth spurts; that’s when I’ll see a lot of this weirdness going on that will pull together when the chest drops, but when I see it at 8 weeks, that is an indication to me that that’s going to be an issue.

Cat Matloub [1:00:21] Aaron, I apologize. I absolutely incorrectly thought that you had mistyped ENS, but really you were asking about Early Spay/Neuter, which is also a great question! So it’s Early Spay/Neuter!

Laura Reeves [1:00:35] That’s a whole other thing! Fabulous question! Cat, that’s on you, man! Early Spay/Neuter—absolutely, 110% affects structure because it affects the growth hormones. You start with a dog at 8 weeks that’s got beautiful bone structure and you neuter it or spay it at 8 weeks, and it loses all of its access to the hormones it needed to grow properly. So then we’re back to talking about those soft tissues that hold everything together. Once you take away the hormones, the soft tissue damage that’s done by the lack of growth hormones and the lack of sex hormones—the lack of the things it needed to develop—it doesn’t matter how beautifully your bone structure is hung.

Judi Stella [1:01:45] I just want to add to that: I 100% agree.

Laura Reeves [1:01:50] Anybody who’s interested can go to Pure Dog Talk and do a keyword search on that. I have an interview with Dr. Marty Greer that I think is really, really good on that.

Cat Matloub [1:02:10] We just did a webinar a few weeks ago with Dr. Chris Zink, Dr. James Serpell on spay/neuter. That’s on our Good Breeder Center. So we have some exciting stuff that we’re working on with Dr. Chris Zink, a research project on the effects of spay/neuter. Really, really exciting stuff hopefully coming down the pipeline. There’s a lot to look into there. So it’s a great question and a really big topic.

Kimberly asks: Also evaluator says “would be preferred by breeder judge” but general judge wouldn’t necessarily. I don’t know what that means. I guess they’re asking: Are there differences in if it’s a breeder judge versus a non-breeder judge? Is there a possibility that they’re going to evaluate things differently?

Laura Reeves [1:03:06] Kimberly, if I understand your question correctly, absolutely. There are things that judges see differently if they are a breeder or if they are someone that we would think of as an all-arounder. When you’re a breeder, you’re going to have priorities. For example, if you look at this dog that’s up on the screen here…

[1:03:26] That dog has a perfect 10 textbook, as described in the standards, coat. I am a freak about good coats. When I’m judging German Wirehaired Pointers, I want to see a good coat. And I’m going to reward a dog that has a correct coat in a far more rabid fashion than someone who doesn’t know, understand, or appreciate the effort that it takes to create a coat like that. So, yes.

Cat Matloub [1:04:04] We have another question from my wonderful mother, Jackie.

Laura Reeves [1:04:06] Hi mom!

Cat Matloub [1:04:07] Could you tell if a structural issue comes from the male or the female, and can structural issues occur spontaneously, aside from genetic makeup?

Laura Reeves [1:04:22] Okay. That’s a super good question, and I’m not sure it’s rapid-fire, but we’re going to give it a shot.

Cat Matloub [1:04:30] Now that we know you have time, we’ve got time!

Laura Reeves [1:04:31] Okay! So, here’s the thing about genetics. It takes two to tango. If your female and your male both have straight front angulation, guess what: it came from both places. If your female has straight angulation and your male is a little bit better, and maybe behind your female is something that’s a little bit better and you get good front angulation—two to tango. It comes from both sides; it’s based not just on the parents. That’s the thing I really encourage people to understand. The sire and dam are important, but they are not singular. Does that make sense? So much of what is passed through the pedigree comes from the dogs, the animals that are behind the sire and dam. Not 58 generations perhaps; although instinct is something that has been selectively bred in a lot of breeds and it does come from 58 generations ago. So, structural faults are going to come from both places. Too often when we make breeding decisions, we select breeding mates that feature the same fault. When we do that, we make that fault really hard to get rid of. That is part of the answer to the question. It comes from both places, and we as breeders need to pay attention to breeding dogs with fewer faults. If we have to breed dogs with faults (because there are no perfect dogs ever; every dog has faults), don’t breed the same fault together. Find a dog that is good in an area that your female is lacking is my general advice.

Do structural faults happen spontaneously? Not really. You can have injuries. Those happen. You can have soft tissue issues. Those happen. But basic structure is basic structure, and it comes from the genetics of what you put into that pedigree.

Cat Matloub [1:07:01] All of which just supremely underscores the importance of conscientious, purposeful breeding and pedigrees and everything that goes into it. Question from Heather: In giant working dogs, if a bitch is underweight, is that as bad as being overweight for purposes of both breeding and general health?

Laura Reeves [1:07:25] For general health, I will always take a dog that’s a little leaner. It’s easier on their joints, particularly in giant breeds. It’s just easier on them overall. A dog that’s 5 pounds underweight is going to be a healthier dog than one that’s 5 pounds overweight. I have a very interesting podcast on Pure Dog Talk and I cannot for the life of me remember who it was with. I’ll have to go back and search it. Maybe it was Marty Greer? It talked about having breeding females a little bit fat, basically—that that extra 5 pounds at the time that you’re getting ready to breed your bitch often will make them more viable to conceive. Just because of the concept that, yes, we are not short on food. Back to 58 million generations: we’re not short on food, I can support a litter of puppies, this is good to make the body think that. When I say a little bit fat, I’m talking 5 pounds on a 50 pound dog. Not 5 pounds on a 5 pound dog. That is a problem that really just makes my head spin off. Across the American dog-owning public, people are loving their dogs to death. Literally. That extra 5 pounds or 10 pounds or 20 pounds or—dear Jesus—50 pounds is killing that dog. I cannot jump up and down and scream and shout about that enough. I’ll quit, but I’m saying: healthy!!

Cat Matloub [1:09:18] From Destiny, we have an interesting comment that she sees more commonly in dogs with high rears, more than any other structural fault. Teresa then asks: She’s heard that you’re lucky if you get one sound-structured puppy from a litter. Is that true, or what are your thoughts on that?

Laura Reeves [1:09:44] I would say that is not true in my experience. How’s that? It is important to understand you get out what you put in. If you put together two dogs who are poorly structured, you are correct. You will be lucky to get one that’s properly structured. If you put together two dogs who are properly structured, then you are going to get dogs that are properly structured. Some may be better than others. I constantly am working on improving front assemblies. That’s just a bugaboo of mine. In every litter, I am always trying to select for the dog with the best structure in the front, which means that there are others that aren’t quite as good. It also depends on how many puppies you have. Are you breeding Pomerians, where you get 2? Or are you breeding Wirehaired Pointers, where I’m about to have 12? It sort of depends on your law of averages.

Cat Matloub [1:10:48] Question from Teresa. Hi Teresa! What does a roach back do to the movement?

Laura Reeves [1:10:55] It sort of depends on the breed.

Cat Matloub [1:10:56] I think Havanese. It could be another one, but...

Laura Reeves [1:10:57] Okay, Havanese. The breed standard asks for it to have a rise to the loin. That is a particular breed structure for the Havanese. If it’s Teresa and we’re talking about Bergamascos, that’s a whole other story. If it’s Teresa…

Cat Matloub [1:11:40] She’s asking about Bergamascos.

Laura Reeves [1:11:43] That’s what I thought! As soon as you said that, I was like that is a Bergamasco question! So here’s the thing: if your breed standard calls for (like the Wirehaired Pointer does) to have a perceptible slip from the withers to the base of the tail (see that back line?) that is a particular structure that creates a specific trotting movement, which is the dog down here.

[1:12:11] That’s your trotting movement. That’s your low foot, that’s your easy gait. That is the structure that makes that gait.

[1:12:22] A level back would be like so. If you have a rise over the loin, think about how a Havanese moves. It’s different from how a Bergamasco moves! A Havanese has a light gait. A Bergamasco should have a big, long, reaching, sweeping stride, similar to what we’re showing in that German Wirehaired Pointer, versus the Havanese that’s described as a light, springy gait, bouncy. It totally affects the drive, particularly when you then make a very steep croup. This rear structure can’t drive back. If you make the back level, the rise of the loin, and then a steep croup, geometrically, you’ve shortened all of this and the dog cannot get that drive. It just cannot. It’s going to stride in a shorter fashion. I hope that makes sense, Teresa. If it doesn’t, let me know.

Cat Matloub [1:13:45] You know how to reach us, Teresa! Question from Laura: do you find that the quest for structure is a risk factor to genetic diversity in purebreds?

Laura Reeves [1:14:05] I do not, and I’m going to tell you why. Because good structure exists in a variety of families. This particular dog that I’m showing you right here is the result of a double-outcross. I think it might have one or two similar ancestors in a 7-generation pedigree, if that. His mother was an outcross, his father was an outcross, and together, they were complete outcross! Iit depends on the individual breeder, it depends on a whole bunch of things. One of the things that happened as a result of this dog being a double outcross, he never reproduced himself. He was a fluke, we call it. He was that beautiful and that great a field dog and never reproduced. As a breeder, to me, that is a failure because he did not reproduce that quality that I found so valuable in him. But I was able to make this beautiful dog without any line breeding at all. We do that by breeding on what we call phenotypes, so dogs that look alike or have a similar style or outline, that is what we’re breeding on the phenotype—versus the genotype, which is the pedigree. I do a combination of both of those things, both outcrossing and line breeding. The highest COI I have ever had in 25 years is the litter I’m expecting right now. I think that’s like 17%, so what you would consider NBD in the dog world, just to give you an idea.

Cat Matloub [1:16:08] Question here from Marie: What is your thought on increasing calcium while puppy is cutting adult teeth?

Laura Reeves [1:16:17] Calcium in puppies. You really want to check with a vet, but truthfully, I do not do a whole lot of supplementing calcium, because many of the breeds that I deal with, if you supplement too much calcium, you get issues with bone growth disorders. What I tend to supplement when puppies are cutting teeth—and I’ve got weak pasterns or floppy ears or whatever it is—is Vitamin C. Because Vitamin C helps build better connective tissue. Anecdotal—totally not advice from your veterinarian—but that is my personal experience.

Cat Matloub [1:17:06] Judi, curious if you have any thoughts on that. Also, this next question might be more in your wheelhouse: Can you speak to the occurrence frequency of dysplasia in good, excellent OFA hips in sire or bitch? Laura, obviously curious to hear your thoughts on that as well, but I’m curious if Judi knows any of these stats. I love when we can call her in for those.

Judi Stella [1:17:41] What breed? Actually, how OFA reports their data, it’s just anything that is excellent, good, or fair. So anything that technically passes, they lump it all together, just to give you a percentage of all the dogs that reported data.

Cat Matloub [1:17:56] Kelly’s asking about Labs.

Judi Stella [1:17:59] I can look it up for you. It’s about 11 or 12% off the top of my head.

Laura Reeves [1:18:14] Labs have a really high percentage of dysplasia. My family started in Field Trial Labs, way before I did anything else. We had Field Trial Labs. One of the guys that we train dogs with had, if I remember correctly, six dogs in a row from one of the top Field Trial breeders in the country. Every one of the six had to go back with dysplasia. I mean, bad dysplasia. Not just a little bit. It is a real struggle. What I will say is that paying attention to hip dysplasia matters, and it does impact. One of the things I found absolutely fascinating: I was in an interview on Monday with Jimmy Moses, so anyone who’s ever watched Westminster Kennel Club has seen Jimmy Moses run around the ring with a German Shepherd dog. His observation, which made a great deal of sense to me, was that their hip incidents of hip dysplasia in his breeding program of German Shepherd dogs dropped dramatically when they started paying attention to siblings. His comment was, “I would much rather breed to a dysplastic dog, all of whose siblings are excellent, than an excellent dog, all of whose siblings are dysplastic.” I thought that was really, really valuable information.

Judi Stella [1:19:44] I was going to say, because that is part of the discussion I had last week, too! There is much more success and it has been shown in several different breeds if you use estimated breeding values, so looking at close relatives as much of that information as you can get. It seems to make a much bigger difference than just basing your breeding decisions on the phenotype of the pair that you’re matching. Actually, I was just reading something where guide dog organizations have actually gotten rid of hip dysplasia by focusing on it and by doing these estimated breeding values. They got it down. It’s a fixed trait that they don’t have hip dysplasia. They’ve pretty much gotten rid of it in certain lines of guide dogs. It can be done in populations, but everybody has to focus on it, and we have to report that data. Because right now, the data is completely biased in OFA because we’re just not putting in the information.

Laura Reeves [1:20:40] People aren’t doing it! Judi can speak to this also, but I believe one of the most valuable and useful tools that the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has ever created is the vertical pedigree. And you can go and search all the way back on any one of the tested disorders in your breed, and you can look at sire and dam all the way back—and siblings and offspring of all of those dogs. It is unbelievably valuable information when you’re making breeding decisions.

Cat Matloub [1:21:20] We’ve got a couple of questions about hip dysplasia, OFA. Funnily enough, we actually had a webinar in the past week that literally talks about the differences, the benefits, what it means between the two, the reliability of the tests. Judi led a conversation looking at the statistics. We can actually do that on a breed-specific basis as well, which we’ve done for different clubs. So for instance, Labradors, if you’d like to have that presentation again specifically about Labs, we’d love to do that. Same for Spinone. If you have any opinions about PennHIP vs OFA - if you go into our Good Breeder Center now, there’s actually a whole webinar dedicated exactly to that, to get you fully up to speed. You can also always ask us questions about that as well, and just follow up with us any time about any of this. Lori, I’m going to make you the lucky last question so we can wrap things up and not take up too much of Laura’s time. We’ve got a last question from Lori. We love this, so TBD, we’d love to do this again and keep the conversation going. It’s just amazing. Last question from Lori: Do you know if bite is hereditary? A level bite is acceptable in my breed, but the standard calls for scissors. Will level to level be able to have scissors?

Laura Reeves [1:22:43] Yes, bite is absolutely hereditary. Once again, this goes back to knowing your history and what’s behind your dogs. Two dogs with level bites, clearly, are going to have a better chance of making a level bite. But if there are scissors bites behind them, then you always have a chance. What it is that impacts the bite is the head and jaw structure—with the understanding that the top jaw goes last.

[1:23:30] So, for example, Clumber Spaniels are a breed my family was involved with for 35-40 years and literally the very first Clumber Spaniel we ever got was 18 months old when we got him and had a scissors-to-level bite, and by the time he was 2 years old, it was undershot. That’s because the head structure continues to grow. You can see in these dogs just a massive head. In puppies, what you will see happen in a lot of breeds (certainly breeds that I’ve been involved in) where you’re supposed to have a scissors bite and you wind up with a level bite or an undershot bite, is you have heads that grow in such a way that the bottom jaw gets out there and it gets grown first, and that top jaw tries to grow and then it’s stuck, because those top teeth are behind the bottom teeth. That happens more often in Clumber Spaniels than I would ever like to discuss! I’ve seen it in Wirehaired Pointers. It is hereditary. You breed for good bites, you get good bites. You breed dogs with undershot mouth, they’re going to keep popping up. It’s how I know it’s happened before. I have never bred anything but a good bite, but every now and then, here comes an undershot one! It’s out there. But level to level, if you have a history of good scissors bites behind you, it should be okay. Again, a lot of this is breed-dependent, but if you are able to breed head types and styles that are more similar, rather than breeding a super heavy-headed dog to a dog with a tighter, cleaner head, what you’re doing there is you’re combining two different genetic components and it’s making everything grow weird. That’s where I see, a lot of times, that we run into trouble—for what it’s worth.

Cat Matloub [1:25:33] It’s worth a lot, Laura! It’s worth a huge amount. I love that you use your Clumbers, one of my absolute favorite breeds. I grew up with Springers, and then I discovered these lazy counterparts and absolutely adore them. Thank you, Laura. Thank you, everybody. Thank you for these amazing questions. We can’t wait to keep this going. If you’ve enjoyed this, please tell your friends. If you want to subscribe, as they say, please join our community if you haven’t already. We provide discounts on health testing, educational webinars, and a host of other support in our mission to support dog breeders, educate the public, and change the dog world. A huge thank you for all your support! To all you Good Breeders, thank you so much. To my mom, thank you so much for all your support! Wouldn’t be here without you! It’s just wonderful, as always, Laura. We can’t wait to do this again with you all so soon. Have a wonderful afternoon!


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