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JoAnna Lou
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Chihuahuas v. Great Danes
Different breeds share structure and movement characteristics

In agility there's a lot of talk about the effect of stride length and size on movement, but a new study has found that there may be less variation in basic structure than previously thought. Martin Fischer and his team at Jena University in Germany set out to determine gait differences between dog breeds and the impact joints have on movement. The research used high-speed 3-D cameras to film over 300 dogs walking on treadmills and continuous x-ray images to capture joint movement.

The study found that the fundamental movement of a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are profoundly similar. There is greater variation between individuals within breeds than between breeds. Selective breeding can change size and leg length, but Fischer’s study showed that we can’t influence basic structure and proportions.

Additionally, the researchers found clear evidence of a greater functionality between the shoulder bone and the upper leg. Unlike humans, the study found that dogs do not achieve their main motion through the movement of joints. Instead the majority of movement comes from the shoulder bone.

Fischer and his team expect that their research will change veterinary textbooks and also influence several other research studies. Another group at Jena University is looking at how amputated dogs compensate for a loss of a limb, which is part of a Europe-wide project to developing robots that are better able to overcome obstacles in unfamiliar environments.

Advancing veterinary care is not just about discovering new treatments or developing new technologies. I think it’s great that research on structure and movement is receiving funding, and not just because I’m involved in agility. Furthering our understanding of fundamental structure will help improve care and quality of life for all injured dogs.

 

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by mikebaird/flickr.

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