Pit Bull Informational Pages
by Diane Jessup 

Understanding CORRECT pit bull conformation and WHY it is correct


The term "the front" here describes the relationship of the the combination made by the shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm (humerus), breastbone (sternum), and their related soft tissues. "Angulation" describes the angle at which the underlying bones connect. Don't feel bad if it takes you a while to get comfortable with this! It is pretty complex.

Step one: draw these two lines. Here we see why having the dog standing naturally and the photo taken absolutely from the side is important. I have "fixed" the lines to show the true angles if the dog had been standing natural (here stacked with front legs too far forward, a common mistake) and if the photo was from the side.

This reason for drawing these lines is to show us that because the line from the prosternum bisects the body in half, the dog does NOT have a short upper arm. The other line shows us the dog's head and neck are in front of the line, where they should be.

Now, feel your dog! Become familiar with locating these three points.

#1 - the top of the shoulder blade
#2 - the notch where shoulder blade and upper arm come together - hint; it is in line with the point of prosternum.
#3 - the bump directly in front of the point of elbow.


Looking at this skeleton of a dog may help you locate these three markers.

To work at their peak efficiency, bones must be in unison. In the dog, this means that the angle between these three markers should be as close to 45 degrees as possible. There is controversy about this, however remember that the straighter the angle, the less reach (and power) a dog has.

Pat Hastings: "The shoulder blade should fit smoothly and blend into the ribcage. They should never be the highest point of a dog. The top of the shoulder blade should always lie along the ribs, slightly below the high points of the spine." Tricks of the Trade.

This dog shows nice angles. Notice how I put in the prosternum line to help show where the two lines should meet. This dog also shows another thing we will discuss later - nice balance of angulation from both the front and rear. In other words, both the front and rear are nicely angled and balanced with each other. This doesn't always happen

This dog is cute but his front has two main problems. First, notice that his head is below the level of his topline; this is due to the short upper arm (area between elbow and point of shoulder). The prosternum also indicates this, being too low on the body. Second, notice how "loose" the elbow is to the body. Loose elbows weaken a dog, as it is the muscular attachment of the upper arm to the body is what gives the dog strength in the front.

A decent front on a puppy. The bitch here is only 8 months old. Her chest will drop a bit more. Here we see nice straight legs with elbows firmly attached to the body. This bitch is OFA clear for elbow dysplasia.

The scapula is not attached to any bones at its top, but is attached by four muscles to the spinal column at a number of places from the first cervical to the ninth thoracic vertebra and to the first seven or eight ribs. The tighter this attachment, the stronger the front assembly. This is why "loose" shoulders are such a structural fault.

Very nice front indeed. Good angles, good straight leg, upright on the pastern, good feet. See if you can mentally find the three points of top of scapula, point of shoulder and point of elbow...

I call this picture "Bad Genes"... you can see my bowed legs and the scars from my knee replacements and the fact that my leg enters my foot at an angle. This dog is not much better! We both inherited poor genes for soundness. I guess that is why I feel so bad for dogs with poor structure. A lot of fad breeders breed for "bully" build, completely disregarding the pain their dogs will suffer in silence because of their poor builds.

Note the very poor front; there is lack of attachment of the muscles between upper arm and body. The legs are bowed, the pasterns weak and "easty-westy". The feet are flat.

Notice here that the entire weight and force of this fast moving dog is on one thing - her right pastern and foot. This is why it is so important to breed working dogs with strong, straight pasterns and tight, strong feet. The breeder who produces dogs with weak pasterns and flat feet put their dogs at a distinct disadvantage; they may do the work, but price will be increased risk of injury and a dog which will break down far sooner than necessary.

This happy guy is "out at the elbows". This is a serious fault in any working animal. No matter how hard he tries, this animal will never be as strong or sound as an animal correctly built.

These dogs face enough challenges today - they don't need more caused by careless, uneducated or greedy breeders!




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