AKC judge explains “reach and drive” and how the dog’s front and rear angulation dictate movement. Confusion gone; simple anatomy is the answer.






E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge, Exhibition Editor


Canine movement is different when one compares a square body to a rectangular body shape. The dog’s front and rear angulation is also dependent upon body proportions.


Border Collies must have good reach and drive, rectangular body proportion, and flexibility to crouch and use “the eye” for which they are famous.Using knowledge of your own breed to judge a distinctly different body type can lead a judge astray. The Bouvier Des Flanders, a square dog, is a drover and cart dog. The Border Collie’s rectangular body proportions serve it well with stops and starts, allowing graceful speed and direction changes. Its stalking crouch and gallop developed over hundreds of years makes it a premier herder. The intense gaze or “eye” completes the picture.


An example of change is the Belgian breeds. The standard now reads “stands four square” rather than “square outline”. Today correct, square dogs with balanced, light movement are often faulted. Their general appearance says “approximates a square”. Their herding technique is pushing and circling the herd. “Smooth, free, easy movement. Never tiring, exhibiting facility of movement rather than a hard driving action. The breed shows a marked tendency to move in a circle rather than a straight line.” Few standard changes clarify type and many have the opposite effect. Older judges of the initial standards KNOW the difference! Dedicated breeders understand this movement.


Akitas movement should reflect moderate reach and drive due to correct moderate angulation and slightly off-square body proportion.Change is often affected by outside influence: The Japanese Akita was a square, powerful dog used to hunt bear and boar. American forces occupying Japan brought in the military German shepherd which changed the Akita body proportions. When the breed was recognized in the 70s, Herding and Working Groups one Group and judges were often confused by the Akita’s body type variation. Some preferred the reach and drive of the German Shepherd’s rectangular body. Others awarded the heavier bone and square body type which came with moderate movement. Even today, there is great variation in the Akita’s body proportion, from “great mover” to a more square bodied, supremely agile hunter of bear and boar.


Square Great Danes carry their heads up and have a light gait. (1960 standard said GAIT-springy). Today there are too many long bodied Danes of minimum height. Those low on leg move with lowered head. This type does NOT reflect the “Apollo” of the breed. Derived from Wolfhound, Greyhound, and German Mastiff, they were “majestic’ in type. Another case where standard changes altered type.


A friend once argued a dog can NOT reach too far! Yes, it CAN overreach! A dog reaches as far as the shoulder lays back. Toe beneath nose is good. Anything further, causes structural compensations. Extensive “reach and drive” cannot be used as criteria in all breeds; it depends on the body type and what the dog was bred to do.


Canine balance creates perpendicular and parallel hocks. If the hock passes the butt (ischium) bone, the bones are NOT in balance. The pup is over angulated and won’t change. If it doesn’t reach the butt bone, the dog will stand under itself. Some stacked dogs continually adjust their feet despite a handler’s efforts to smooth out the top line.


Over-angulated rears are usually cow-hocked. They bow in or out when moving. In an effort to avoid running over the front, the hind toes may curl over when the dog follows-through rear movement to buy a split-second of timing. Other dogs lay their entire hock on the ground when moving. Again, nature solves a “timing issue. Some dogs kick too up high behind and some will have a “ping or hitch” every few steps to co-ordinate the rear drive with the restricted front movement.


When the front is more correct than the rear, the dog will be “sickle or locked hocked”. The rear reach should equal the follow-through motion, but due the short front stride, the rear action CANNOT be completed. This is obvious from the sid.


A “stacked” dog may appear level but have a “carp back”. This “carp” accommodates the lack of balance and allows the lower assembly to propel the dog forward. (Re: front action is lifting, bowing, padding). Shepherds in Germany and the US reflect both types and dogs are analyzed in the context of which they appear. The standard “higher at withers, sloping into a level back, without sag or roach” is pretty explicit.


Afghans are square dogs that move with head and tail up and reach and drive to fit their body shape. When an Afghan becomes longer bodied, he drops his head and tail and loses breed type. In the quest for more reach and drive, the Eastern “King of Dogs” with the exotic expression could be lost to the past. This aloof, dignified dog, at a gallop shows elasticity and spring. At a trot, Afghans are light on their feet. Granted, square dogs often offend the eye of someone accustomed to breeding rectangular breeds. Square body type does NOT mean the head is screwed onto the shoulder directly over the front legs. The neck should truncate into the body smoothly.


Sadly, many “square” dogs win on their extensive reach and drive; therefore breeders “breed to win!” Judges are protectors of the breed standards. IF they don’t step up to the plate regarding desired size and body shape, the breed types will continue to be in constant revision, which changes breed type. How sad when breed type change is simply the concentration of a fault that becomes so common place it is viewed as a virtue. (For a time.)


E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge/Exhibition Editor, TheDogPlace.orgThat can happen when we ask a German Shepherd judge how a Pomeranian should move? Should one ask a Chow judge how the Border Collie should move? Many judges know, but others may unwittingly apply their own breed’s standard or qualities to a breed with which they aren’t that familiar. It’s a judge’s responsibility to define the difference regarding correct movement and body proportions when awarding wins.


The losers are often the newer judges who have not studied the old standards. The losers are those who have not seen great dogs of the past. The losers are breeders exhibiting to less than stellar judges and accepting their opinions as truth. The losers are those who never read their breed standard and aren’t privileged to know respected judges of the past. They are the ones who will change type until our uniquely lovely breeds are no longer recognizable.


In the end, the real losers are the breeds who fall victim to those who don’t understand correct body proportions and corresponding movement. Reach and drive isn’t the end-all in many breeds! EST 1998 © 12041611



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