Glossary of Canine Terminology
Every pedigree breed of dog has a Breed Standard which is a written description of what the ideal specimen of that breed should be.
Canine terminology includes some technical terms which may not be in common use in our everyday language. Listed here alphabetically are some of the technical terms you are most likely to come across as you research dog breeds in general
Abdomen: The body cavity between the chest and pelvis.
Action: Movement. The way a dog walks, trots or runs.
Angulation; The angles formed at a joint by the meeting of bones e.g. shoulder or stifle, when dog is standing erect.
Back: Region between withers and root of tail, but in some standards may refer to region between withers and loin.
Balance: Consistent whole; symmetrical; typically proportioned as a whole or as regards its separate parts; i.e. balance of head, balance of body, or balance of head and body.
Bandy: Legs Bowed legs.
Barrel Ribs: Rounded, well-sprung ribs.
Beefy: Overweight, over muscled.
Belly: Underpart of abdomen.
Bitchy: Feminine looking.
Bite: The relative position of the upper and lower front [incisor] teeth when the mouth is closed.
● Irregular Bite: Some or all of the incisors have erupted in abnormal fashion.
● Level, Even, Pincer or Vice-Like Bite: The front teeth meet exactly edge to edge.
● Overshot Bite: The upper front teeth overlap and do not touch the lower front teeth when the mouth is closed. Usually a fault.
● Scissor Bite: The upper front teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
● Undershot Bite: The lower front teeth project beyond the upper front teeth when the mouth is closed.
● Reverse Scissor Bite: The upper incisors close just inside the lower.
Blaze: White stripe running up the centre of the face.
Bloom: The sheen of a coat in prime condition.
Blown: When the coat is moulting or casting.
Bodied Up: Mature, well developed.
Body: Anatomical section between fore and hind quarters.
Body Length: In some breeds taken as the distance from point of shoulder to point of buttock, in others, taken from top of withers to set on of tail.
Bone: The thickness, quality, and strength of bone as seen in the legs, especially forelegs.
Bone Shape: Shape of bone in cross-section (foreleg). May be flat, oval or round.
Bowed: Forelegs curved outward.
Breastbone: Series of bones and cartilages which form the floor of the chest. Also known as sternum or keel.
Breed Standard: A picture in words that describes each breed of pedigree dog, approved by a governing body e.g. The Kennel Club, the FCI and the American Kennel Club.
Brisket: Forepart of body below the chest, between the forelegs.
Bull Neck: Short, thick, heavy neck.
Butterfly Nose: Parti-coloured nose; dark, spotted with flesh colour.
Characteristics: Combination of type, appearance, disposition and behaviour.
Cheek: Fleshy part of the head below eyes and above mouth.
Cheeky: Cheeks prominently rounded; thick, protruding.
Chest: The forepart of the body enclosed by the ribs.
Chippendale Front: Forelegs out at elbows, pasterns close, and feet turned out.
Chops: Jowls or pendulous flesh of the lips and jaw.
Cloddy: Thickset, comparatively heavy.
Coarse: Lacking refinement.
Coat: The hairy outer covering of the skin. Bernese have two coats (a double coat); an outer coat and an undercoat.
Cobby: Short-bodied, compact.
Compact: Closely put together; not rangy. Neat.
Condition: Health as shown by the body, coat, general appearance and deportment. Denoting overall fitness.
Conformation: The form and structure; physique.
Conjunctiva: Thin membrane lining the inner surface of eyelids and reflected over eyeball.
Coupling: The part of the body between the last rib and the start of the hindquarter section; the loin region.
● Short-Coupled/Close-Coupled: The situation when this distance is short and relatively strong.
● Long-Coupled: The converse to short-coupled.
Cow-Hocked: Hock joints turned or pointed towards each other, causing the feet to turn out.
Crabbing: Dog moves with body at an angle to the line of travel.
Croup (Rump): Part of the back from the front of the pelvis to root of the tail.
Cryptorchid: Male dog without testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Daylight: The light showing underneath the body.
Dentition: The number and arrangement of teeth. The total number of teeth is forty two, made up of:-
● Upper jaw; six incisors, two canines (eye teeth), eight premolars and four molars.
● Lower jaw; six incisors, two canines, eight premolars and six molars.
Dewclaw: First digit on the inside of pastern. Most breeds do not have rear dewclaws but Bernese are sometimes born with double or single rear dew claws.
Dewlap: Loose, pendulous skin under the throat.
Doggy: Masculine looking.
Down on Pastern: Weak or faulty pastern set at an exaggerated angle from the vertical.
Drive: Powerful thrusting of the hindquarters denoting sound locomotion.
Ear: Consists of three parts: the external ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Standards refer to the outer ear (ear lobe or leather).
Ectropion: Condition in which the eyelids are turned outwards.
Elbow: The joint between the upper arm and the forearm.
Elbows, out at: Turning out or away from body; not held close.
Entire Dog: Dog with two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Entropion: Condition in which the eyelids are turned inwards causing irritation.
Expression: The general appearance of all features of the head as viewed from the front.
Eye: All standards include an eye clause which usually comments on shape, size and eye colour. Shape and size are due to the shape of the area exposed by the eye rims i.e. orbital aperture. (The eyeball is round.) Eye types include:-
● Almond Eyes: Aperture basically of oval shape, bluntly pointed at both ends.
● Globular Eye: Round, slightly prominent, not bulging.
● Goggle Eye: Protruding eye.
● Oval Eyes: The most common eye shape. Egg-shaped aperture.
● Round Eyes: Eyes set in circular-shaped apertures.
● Triangular Eyes: More angular in contours than oval eyes.
Eye Colour: This is due to the presence of the pigment melanin in the iris. The more melanin the darker the eye.
● China Eye: Both eyes clear blue.
● Merle Eye: Iris flecked with brown and blue.
● Wall Eyes: One blue and one brown eye.
Eyebrows: The skin and hair above the eye covering the projecting superciliary ridges.
Feathering: Longer fringe of hair on ears, legs, tail or body.
Feet: These are made up of four separate toes (digits). The toes are joined by a fold of skin termed the web. Feet vary in shape:-
● Cat (like) Foot: Short, round, compact foot like that of a cat.
● Hare Foot: Foot with the two centre toes appreciably longer than the outside toes. The toes should be close together with arching.
● Oval (spoon shaped) Feet: Both centre toes are slightly longer than in cat feet.
● Webbed Feet: These have well-developed webs.
Flank: Fleshy side of the body between the last rib and the front of thigh.
Flat Sided: Central section of the ribs insufficiently rounded.
Flews: Pendulous upper lips - chops.
Floating Rib: The last (thirteenth) rib which is attached only to the spinal column.
Forechest: Front part of the chest.
Foreface: Head in front of the eyes, nasal bone, nostrils and jaws.
Forehand : Front part of dog, including head, neck, shoulders, upper arm, legs and feet.
Foreign Expression: Expression not typical of the breed.
Foreleg: Front leg from elbow to foot.
Forequarters: Front part of dog excluding head and neck.
Fringes: Longer hair on ears.
Front: Forepart of the body as viewed head on.
Frontal Bone: Skull bone above the eyes.
Furnishings: Longer hair on legs and tail.
Furrow: Slight indentation on the median line from stop to occiput.
Gait: The pattern of footsteps at various rates of speed, each pattern distinguished by a particular rhythm and footfall.
● Amble; A relaxed, easy gait in which the legs on either side move in unison or in some breeds almost, but not quite, as a pair. Often seen as the transition movement between the walk and faster gaits.
● Extended Trot; Trotting gait in which the limbs reach far forward.
● Flying (Suspended) Trot; A fast trotting gait in which all four feet are off the ground for a brief moment during each stride. Because of the long reach, the oncoming hind feet step beyond the imprint left by the front.
● Gallop; Fastest of the dog gaits, has a four beat rhythm and often an extra period of suspension during which the body is propelled through the air with all four feet off the ground.
● Hackney Action; High stepping front action with exaggerated flexion of the pasterns.
● Pacing; Movement where fore and hind legs on the same side move in parallel. Some breeds typically pace at slow speeds. Many breeds pace slowly as an energy conserving measure.
● Rolling Gait; Distinctive roll from side to side when moving.
● Trot; A rhythmic two-beat diagonal gait in which the feet at diagonally opposite ends of the body strike the ground together; i.e. right hind with left front and left hind with right front. Correctly, the hind feet fall immediately behind the front feet.
● Walk; Gaiting pattern in which three legs are in support of the body at all times, each foot lifting from the ground one at a time in regular sequence.
Gay Tail: The tail carried very high or over dog’s back. Often indicates that the tail carriage is higher than approved in the breed standard.
Guard Hairs: Longer, smoother, stiffer hairs which grow through the undercoat.
Hard Expression: Harsh, staring expression.
Haw: Third eyelid at the inner corner of the eye; more obvious in certain breeds.
Heart Room: Deep and capacious chest.
Height: Vertical measurement from the withers to the ground; referred to usually as shoulder height.
Hind Leg: Leg from pelvis to foot.
Hindquarters: Rear part of dog from loin.
Hocks, well let down: Hocks set low.
Iris: Flat, circular, coloured membrane within the eye. The inner boundary forms pupil, which adjusts to control amount of light entering eye.
Jaws: The bones forming the framework of the mouth.
Jowls: Flesh of lips and jaws.
Knee Joint: Stifle joint.
Layback: Angle of the shoulder blade, when viewed from the side.
Leather: See ear.
Leggy: Too long in the leg for correct balance.
Lippy: Pendulous lip or lips that do not fit tightly.
Loaded Shoulders: Excess weight in shoulder area.
Loin: Region of the body on either side of vertebral column between the last ribs and hindquarters.
Low Set: Tail set below level of topline. Ears set below line of correct placement for the breed.
Mane: Long, profuse hair on top and sides of neck and chest.
Markings: Arrangement of coat colour, normally a lighter or darker colour as a contrast to the ground colour.
Median Line: Line or furrow in the centre of head.
Mismarked: Incorrectly marked dog.
Monorchid: A dog which has only one testicle.
Mouth: See bite.
Movement: See gait.
Moving Close: When front or hind limbs move close to each other.
Muzzle: The head in front of the eyes; foreface.
Nape of the Neck: Top of the neck adjacent to the base of the skull.
Neck well set on: Good neckline, merging gradually with strong withers, forming a pleasing transition into topline.
Oblique Shoulders: Shoulders well laid back.
Occiput: Upper, back point of skull.
Out at Elbow: Elbows loose or turning out from the body.
Out at Shoulder: Shoulders loosely attached to the body, causing them to jut out, increasing width of front.
Overreaching: Fault in the trot often caused by more angulation and drive from behind than in front, so the rear feet are forced to step to one side of the forefeet to avoid interference or clipping.
Overshot: See bite.
Paddling: The front feet during movement thrown out sideways in a loose, uncontrolled manner.
Pads: Tough, thickened skin on the underside of the feet.
Pantaloons: Longer, thick hair on rear of thighs.
Pastern: The part of the foreleg between the wrist and the foot.
Patella: The knee-cap - a small bone at lower end of femur which forms a part of the stifle-joint.
Pelvis: Girdle of bones fused together. Each half being composed of the ilium, ischium and pubis; the whole attached to the spine at the sacrum. On the lower sides are the hip-joints.
Pigeon-Chest: Chest with a short protruding breastbone.
Pigmentation: Natural colouring of skin and other tissues.
Pin Bones: Upper bony protuberances of pelvis.
Pinning: Forefeet pointing in when moving.
Plaiting: Walking or trotting crossing the front legs.
Plume: Long fringe of hair hanging from the tail.
Pounding: Gaiting fault resultant of dog’s stride being shorter in front than in the rear; forefeet strike the ground hard before the rear stride is expended.
Profile: Side view of the whole dog or of the head.
Proud: Held high, usually head or tail.
Quality: Excellence of type and bearing giving close adherence to the Breed Standard, the indefinable attribute denoting refinement and nobility. Also, the absence of coarseness giving strength to a dog and refinement to a bitch without weakness.
Quarters: The upper portion of the hindquarters - the pelvic and thigh regions.
Queen Anne Front (Chippendale Front): Forelegs bowed and out at elbows, pasterns close and feet turned out.
Racy: Giving an impression of speed, without loss of substance .
Rangy: Dog of long, thin build, often lacking maturity.
Reach: Distance covered in a forward stride.
Ribbed Up: Ribs extended well back.
Roach Back: Convex curvature of the back toward the loin (e.g. Bulldog).
Sabre Tail: Tail carried in a slightly curved fashion either upwards or downwards..
Second Thigh: The part of the hind leg from stifle to hock.
Set On:Placement of tail on body. Position of ears on skull.
Shelly: Weakly formed, shallow and narrow in body; lacking substance.
Short Coupled: Short distance between last rib and the beginning of the hindquarters.
Shoulder Height: Height of dog’s body as measured from withers to ground.
Shoulder Joint: Joint between the shoulder blade (scapula) and the upper arm (humerus).
Sickle Hocked: Inability to extend the hock joint on the backward drive of the hind leg. Exaggerated narrow angle of hock when standing.
Single Tracking: All footprints falling on a single line of travel. Many breeds single track at fast paces.
Skull: Bones of the head. Breed Standards refer to that part from stop to occiput.
Skully: Thick and coarse through skull.
Slab-Sided: Flat ribs with too little spring from spinal column.
Sloping Shoulder: The shoulder blade set obliquely or “laid back”.
Snipy: Muzzle Pointed, weak muzzle.
Socks: White colour on feet and extending up the leg.
Sooty: Black hairs intermingling with tan or base colour.
Soundness: A term particularly applied to movement. The normal state of mental and physical well being.
Splayfoot: Flatfooted with toes spreading.
Spring of Rib: Degree of curvature of rib cage.
Stifle: The joint of the hind leg between the thigh and second thigh equivalent to the knee.
Stilted: Gait due to minimum hind angulation.
Stop: The step up from muzzle to skull; indentation between the eyes where the nasal-bone and skull meet.
Straight Shoulders: Insufficient lay back of shoulder; upright shoulder.
Straight Stifle: Lack of angulation; straight behind.
Substance: Correct bone, muscularity and condition.
Swayback: Concave curvature of the back line between the withers and the hip bones.
Symmetry: Overall balance.
Tail Set: The position of the tail on the croup.
Temperament: Mixture of natural qualities and traits that produce character.
Texture of Coat: Quality or feel of coat.
Thick Set: Broad and solidly built.
Thigh: Hindquarter from hip to stifle.
Throatiness: Excess of loose skin in the throat region.
Tied at the Elbows: Elbows set too close under body, thus restricting movement.
Topline: Outline from just behind withers to croup.
Tricolour: Coat of three distinct colours.
Tuck Up: Upward curve of underline of body.
Type: Characteristic qualities distinguishing a breed.
Undercoat: Dense, soft coat concealed by longer top-coat.
Underline: The shape found under dog from brisket to flank.
Upper Arm: The foreleg between the shoulder and elbow joints.
Upright Shoulder: Minimum layback of shoulder.
Weaving: Movement Feet crossing over, plaiting when moving.
Weedy: Light-bone structure, lacking substance.
Well Laid Shoulders: Optimum shoulder angulation.
Well Sprung Ribs: Ribs springing out from spinal column giving correct shape.
Wheel Back: Back line excessively roached.
Withers: Highest point of body immediately behind neck; this is the top of the shoulder blades, the point from which height is measured.