A Closer Look at the
Good conformation does not begin and end with the structure of the limbs, nor does soundness relate only to movement. The spinal column, from neck to tail, has an important role to fulfill. The vertebrae are more than just protection for the spinal cord. They anchor the limb muscles which allow movement, they are the foundation of the dog's skeleton. Differing stresses along the length of the spine mean that this strength must be combined with a degree of flexibility, the spine is not just a hollow tube. The thoracic vertebrae and the neck anchor the muscles of the forelimbs, the former also support the ribcage; the vertebrae of loin and croup anchor muscles of the hindquarters and tail. The bony protrusions at the top of each vertebrae do not all face the same way, those anchoring the forelimb are angled to the rear, for the hindquarters they angle forward, and between are some with less pronounced, more upright ridges. Where these ridged vertebrae meet the neck, at the withers, there should be a slight dip, just before the withers.
The spine is naturally curved - there should be a slight rise at the withers and also over the loin, although the latter is often disguised under muscle, fat and coat, even in Smooths. The spine should not curve from side to side (viewed from above), nor should there by any pronounced dip or rise in the topline. Weakness of the spine results in faults such as a 'Sway back' - a pronounced sag in the spine between withers and pelvis, or a 'Roach' or 'Camel back' - a pronounced rise behind the withers. A level back should not be billiard table flat, but it should not slope, height at withers should be the same as at the croup.
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Reproduced from the British Chihuahua Club Handbook 1987