“The Front and Its Importance to the Dachshund Breed”

 

 

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In speaking of Dachshunds and their problems, I often bring up fronts, its absence in some dogs and why, exactly, I demand it in a top quality Dachshund. The reason I am so persistent on this end is that there are so many problems that could be made better by a strong, correct front along with the many ways that true and honest structure affects the whole Dachshund. The whole look, from the front, over the shoulder and withers, from the rear and from under the dog, is affected by all the little things that a Dachshund needs to hold that all-powerful front, in control and in motion.

There are many parts to a Dachshund front and all those parts have a specific purpose in what they do to a Dachshund’s body and I will go through the Standard and give my explanation as to why these things do as they do. I will use the Standard, in bold print, and then give my explanation as to what these parts do in the paragraphs after the Standard’s explanation.

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Neck – Long, muscular, clean-cut, without dewlap, slightly arched in the nape, flowing gracefully into the shoulders without creating the impression of a right angle.

The neck is well arched and flows beautifully into the shoulder blades and withers without looking like it comes out as a totally right angle from the neck with the shoulder flow smoothly out of that laid back assembly and well set on neck. The head should come out of the body , but should be a little off center so that it does not look like a right angle, but should be fairly close to it, in my opinion. The smooth set on of the shoulder should be obvious and the shoulders should blend in very smoothly with the neck and topline of the body. In grooming, I always really stripped out this area so that it was very smooth and so that you could not tell where the shoulder blades blended in. I wanted that smooth look and I wanted that well-blended shoulder and neckset to look as if it flowed there naturally without any outside help.

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Forequarters in detail: Chest – The breast-bone is strongly prominent in front so that on either side a depression or dimple appears. When viewed from the front, the thorax appears oval and extends downward to the mid-point of the forearm. The enclosing structure of the well-sprung ribs appears full and oval to allow, by its ample capacity, complete development of heart and lungs. The keel merges gradually into the line of the abdomen and extends well beyond the front legs. Viewed in profile, the lowest point of the breast line is covered by the front leg.

I realize that from my emphasis on the prominent breastbone and VERY prominent front that people think I am obsessed with this feature, but its placing itself at the head of the Dachshund front description makes me think I am not as forceful as, perhaps, I should be. I think that forechest is the symbol of a great Dachshund and its lack is such a serious defect that it almost cannot be excused in the Breed. I think we need to look at the older dogs and see their forechests and brisket and ask if we are seeing the same thing at present or just so much less than we should be seeing in the Breed ring today. That forechest is what the Dachshund needs and what the breed has to have to perform its task of going to ground and to bring the heavier fronted dog around the ring and to look good doing it.

That big forechest has to be oval and be wide enough for its heart and lungs to have room to develop without being too wide to fit into that small oval area that the ribs present to the world.  The forechest should go in front of the front legs and then should gradually merge behind the forelegs into the well-muccled abdomen and there should also be a slight tuck up in the area behind the ribbing, right in front of the croup. The deepest part of that forechest should be where the front legs are IF they are set back where they should be and which we will talk about later. Remember, forechest is something that is not ‘okay’ to do without, but is something that every Dachshund needs to be that perfect example of the Breed and something that every great example has to show as part of its lovely and useful front.

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Shoulder blades – Long, broad, well laid back and firmly placed upon the fully developed thorax, closely fitted at the withers, furnished with hard yet pliable muscles.

The shoulder blades are tight at the withers, being long and very well laid back. There are lots of angles to these shoulders and they should never be straight into the withers, but the withers should be well laid back themselves and go far back on the thorax, creating a beautiful space for the point of gravity of the shoulders as they merge into each other from either side of the body. One thing I have noticed is that many people do not consider this when looking at puppies, but the shoulder layback and withers placement should be a big point in deciding on one you keep as a show prospect. These withers MUST be far back and the shoulder blades should meet there and create that beautiful neck set that the true Dachshund fancier is looking for and where exactly it needs to be placed on the body. To be honest, I have seen many Dachshunds who have some shorter shoulder blades and some who are a little straighter than I like, so I decide, after I see them move, whether they move that front correctly as it does take shoulder blades and upper arm working together to make that front be comfortable and move effortlessly. Sometimes you have to go with what works and then decide what is correct afterwards as, in my opinion, the motion is what I am seeking and, despite where they may be a little off in motion, that true Dachshund movement is what I want to see when they move individually.

What I see a lot of now is that the front starts at the beginning of where the forechest is placed , and the front of the neck comes straight out of the forechest and not from the withers. That is a HUGE problem today and one we need to work around. Getting that neck coming out further back on the body should be a great chore that most Dachshund breeders should work on and that correct shoulder placement really must be what the Breed needs right now, in my opinion.

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 Upper Arm – Ideally the same length as the shoulder blade and at right angles to the latter, strong of bone and hard of muscle, lying close to the ribs, with elbows close to the body, yet capable of free movement.

The upper arm needs to be able to move and move freely. There should be no obstruction and these bones need to be equal to the length of the shoulder blades to get the flawless movement we are seeking. Getting the correct length of the upper arm and the shoulder blades is always a major point in getting that smooth-moving Dachshund to move as it should.  These upper arm bones should perform easily and these also should make the dog move with little bounce and in a free, ground-covering movement.

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 Forearm – Short; supplied with hard yet pliable muscles on the front and outside, with tightly stretched tendons on the inside and at the back, slightly curved inwards. The joints between the forearms and the feet (wrists) are closer together than the shoulder joints, so that the front does not appear absolutely straight. The inclined shoulder blades, upper arms and curved forearms form parentheses that enclose the ribcage, creating the correct “wraparound front.” Knuckling over is a disqualifying fault.

The forelegs are short and the forearms and feet are much closer together than where the shoulder blades and upper arm meet on the body. Remember, the shoulder is set on carefully and does not move and the upper arm is used to move the body around the ring. I want this body to move around with little effort and no ‘roll’ in the front, but move ahead in a straight line. The wraparound front should be obvious when you look at the front of the dog and can see the feet being much closer than the upper arm/shoulder blade meeting. The forelegs being close together than the upper arm/shoulder blade meeting point is the definition of that wraparound front. These closer joints will not provide any roll and the rear, being wider and staying strong, will move the body forward so that no moving back and forth will be noticeable. The front legs coming inwards in front and the rear to remain wide is what produces the best locomotion for the dog.

Knuckling over, which is a growth malady usually seen in young dogs from the ones who cannot use their fronts correctly and who have the pasterns bend forward when holding the fronts upright, is something where some people seem to see a lot of. It is a problem I have never seen in or out of the ring and, as many people do, I wonder why it was included as a DQ for our Breed, since, in my opinion anyway, it is so seldom seen. If I ever come across it in my ring, I will, of course DQ it, but it is something I have never found in the ring where I have judged before.

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Feet – Front paws are full, tight, compact, with well-arched toes and tough, thick pads. They may be equally inclined a trifle outward. There are five toes, four in use, close together with a pronounced arch and strong, short nails. Front dewclaws may be removed.

The feet are large and the toes are well-arched with thick pads and they provide what the Dachshund needs to move inside the ring, chasing varmints in the field  and they were certainly the way a dog got into any holes he ran across outside. Although they may turn a little outward,according to the Standard, I never had anything in my kennel which did not have straight front feet and, personally, again, I believe that this outward foot placement is just something put in the Standard that most people do not use, but, I guess, is nice to have in writing.

By the way, I never removed any dewclaws from the front legs of any of my dogs as I never thought it was necessary, but many people do this and I certainly do not penalize anyone who does.

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After reading all that is written about the front, I believe it is time to look at some examples of what we are looking for and why we want them to look as they do. When I look at the head, sitting atop the well-arched neck which blends so well into the remarkably smooth shoulder blade and withers  placement, I see how far back on the thorax that neckset and withers are.

I like the forelegs to be set right under the point of withers at the lower end of the upper arm, having a lot of forechest sticking out in front of the beautifully set-back point of shoulder (where upper arm and shoulder blades meet). I want to see a huge forechest, a well set back point of shoulder and a nicely set back withers and foreleg placement. I want these three things to be separated by a lot of area between them and I want to see the forechest and then have the neck and neckset far behind that forechest with the point of shoulder in the middle.

I want the topline to be straight behind the withers and I want the underline to come up gradually behind the forelegs and blend into the slightly tucked-up abdomen. This should look like a nicely put together dog who should move without rolling or any type of back-and-forth motion. That is what we are looking for and, if the front is right, we should have it if we follow the Standard’s instructions. Always remember, the Standard is what we breed for and it is what we want the Breed to look like.

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 In breeding for the great front, we have, of course, to remember that we want the rest of the dog to be of outstanding quality. I want everything to be great and above average, but this article is one we use when we are searching for the great features we must have to keep that beautiful front. I want every piece in the dog to be brilliant and every piece of the dog to be the best it can be, but this article is about adding great front pieces to finish off this outstanding dog and which will make the dog move so much better and look great, standing or moving.

I must apologize as I normally do not use my own dogs, but this article more or less required that I use dogs who showed the aspects of the front that am looking for when I judge, so I  used the pictures that I liked a lot and that showed what I see when I find it.

Dan Harrison

January 2014