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The front is more important than the rear!
No, the rear is more important than the front!

by Steve Wolfson

The following points are often vigorously debated both in and out of the show ring.“The front is more important than the rear. No, the rear is more important than the front.” Does this issue matter to anyone? Is it important enough to discuss? The following points are often vigorously debated both in and out of the show ring.“The front is more important than the rear. No, the rear is more important than the front.” Does this issue matter to anyone? Is it important enough to discuss? Most enthusiasts are not interested in discussing this anatomy of the dog; however, since the forequarters and rearquarters play a vital role in the dog’s locomotion, it is a worthwhile argument to a breeder or serious exhibitor.

We can see this argument demonstrated when we encounter a companion dog out in public and when a dog is presented for judgment in the show ring. Generally, a pet does not have superior construction. Unharmonious angulations between the front and rearquarters are commonplace on a personal companion dog and are obvious when we see it going out for a stroll with its owner. Straight stifles, cow hocks, easty-westy are some of the typical construction problems demonstrated among pets. The show dog however, requires superior construction and this argument now becomes more significant. It is important to define the purpose and workings of the front and rearquarters so that the argument is easier to understand and quantify.

The purpose of the front assembly is:

1. To hold the front section of the dog upright.
2. Locomotion.
3. Steering.

1. Holding up the front end.
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(It all starts with a super correct puppy, a typical WCR puppy)

The front assembly, consisting of the scapula, humerus, radius/ulna, bones of the pastern and phlanges, maintain the dog’s upright position, analogous to two Roman columns holding a building, as in Fig. 1. To maintain optimum stability, the columns of the front assembly (the legs of the dog) should be straight, in correct positioning to the chest and in correct ratio to the previously mentioned bones (The correct proportions of the aforementioned bones can be found in the standard of the Rottweiler, section; Forequarters). When the legs are correct, the dog appears stabile and has good symmetry. However, when there are imbalances in the front assembly such as a short humerus, too long on the radius/ulna, etc the dog is out of proportion and appears lopsided, a visually unsymmetrical appearance (See example in Fig 2, called Fiddle-Front). rottweiler puppies for sale

2. Locomotion

The symmetry is directly correalated w the ability of the dog to "Cover the ground with the least amount of effort.” If the front assembly has imbalances, the dog cannot gait with the highest efficiency, analogous to a sports car that has its front end out of alignment, it tends to pull to the left or right. The dog that is “out of alignment” will not gait correctly. For example, if a Rottweiler is constructed with a short humerus (the standard calls for equal length between the shoulder blade and the upper arm), the correct proportions change and impede the dog from extending its arm. Besides a short humerus, a Rottweiler may have inadequate angulation in the shoulder blade, also impeding the extension of front.

3. Steering

Not only does the front end hold the dog upright and propel it forward, it acts as steering mechanism for the dog, analogous to a steering wheel of a car. The torque exerted on the front assembly while making turns is high. This high amount of stress requires the dog to be correct in symmetry; otherwise, displacement of this stress manifests itself through poor elbows, broken-down pasterns, ruptured cruciates etc.

The Rear Assembly Functions

1. Forward thrust.

2. Maintaining equilibrium with the front

1. Forward Thrust

The main function of the rear is to produce forward thrust, analagous to the engine of a sportscar. The muscles attached to the femur, especially the biceps femoris, produce the most forward thrust. The bones of the femur and tibia, along with the hock joint and pastern act like a coil spring. As the dog coils backward increasing tension on the spring, the released energy is transmitted to the croup and then to the spine.

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(It all begins with a correct rear end, this 6 week old WCR puppy is text book)

From Dr. Alvin Grossman, the Standard Book of Dog Breeding "most breeds begin their movement with rear quarter action, and if properly constructed in the shoulders and forelegs, a dog can reach forward without restriction in full stride to counterbalance the thrust from the rear.”

2. Maintaining equilibrium with the front

To maintain harmony with the front assembly, the rear must have balance with respect to the angulations of the front. For example, if the rear angulation is moderate, then the front angulation should also be moderate. A dog with front and rear angulation that is moderate throughout can move with more efficiency than a dog that is well angulated in the front and poorly angulated in the rear. In short, the dog should have balance.

Now a bit of science concerning the function of the front and rear has been covered, we can understand the reasoning behind the original topic for discussion. Understandably, some would argue that a dog needs the front assembly just as much as the rear assembly to work well. More appropriately, the front and rear of the dog must work harmoniously and in balance. However, we can accordingly, place an accent on one of the two for this argument.

The rear assembly of the dog initiates all forward thrust. Weight pulling, agility, roadwork, carting, schutzhund etc. are heavily dependant on the rear. This becomes obvious when watching any dog engage in these sports. From an anatomical perspective, the rear assembly houses the largest muscle group on the body and the thickest bones, the femur and tibia. These large bones attach to the croup and via the croup, (the croup acts as a fulcrum transmitting energy to the spine) forward movement is initiated. The front does not contain as many important elements for movement, therefore from a functional viewpoint; it is the lesser of the two. This does not diminish the front’s importance; however, it does for this discussion.

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(It does not get any better than this)

For most people not deeply involved in the sport of dogs, this argument seems trite. However, for a breeder and exhibitor, this argument has great bearing and importance when making decisions on choosing a perspective show dog, which stud dog or brood bitch to use when breeding them and other integral aspects of form and function. The placement on the accent for front and rear will determine how a breeder views their breeding program and the type of construction their dogs possess.

Steve Wolfson sits on the board of the American Rottweiler Club (ARC) and is actively judging, lecturing and writing articles on Rottweilers

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