The Breeders Eye: Understanding Structure


When most people look at an Animal, almost instantly they know if they like the dog or not. For the most part, this quick judgment is based on a few things. Whether it’s the type of dog, color, how big or small the dog is or even how loose and “squishy” the face looks. All of these things are a big no no’s when you’re evaluating a dog. Whether it’s because you want to buy a puppy produced by that dog or if you’re looking for a stud for your dog. When you’re looking at or judging a dog you need to have an objective point of view. If you don’t know the breed standard, you’ll need a copy of that on hand. The first thing you need to see is the structure. Regardless if you are buying the dog for showing, breeding, or companionship the structure of the dog is very important. In this article, I’m going to give you a step by step guide on how you can better break a dog structure down.

The Topline

I start on the top line because it’s the easiest thing to see if the dog isn’t balanced and easiest to explain. More often then not a top-line issue is not from a spinal issue. Very often the culprits for a bad top line is a product of the front or rear assembly. So, when you see a high rear or even a rear that greatly slops from their withers down you need to look to the front assembly or the rear. Some faults in the front assembly are straight shoulders, shoulders set too far forward, lack of angulation in the shoulders or even straight upper arms. Now, if there’s a roach to the top line 9 times out of 10 the problem is in the rear. It could stem from hips problems or having slip hocks, whatever it is the dogs are trying to compensate for the weakness by relying on their back to lighten the load.

Front Assembly

When your looking at the shoulder it should be balanced from the shoulder blade to the nob of the shoulder and equally as long from the nob of the shoulder to the elbow. Our breed standard calls for shoulders to be well laid back. Remember that straight shoulders will hinder the reach. A dog will never be able to reach further than the tip of their nose. Shoulders that are set to far forward will give an appearance of a short neck thus the dog will not have proper reach compared to the rear end.

Rear Assembly

The distance between the point of the rear to the knee cap should be of equal distance from the knee cap to the hock. The legs should turn in nor out when viewed from the rear. The rear should have a slight slope from the wither to the rear but being straight is accepted. In my opinion, the rear assembly is THEE the hardest feature to breed for. Why do I say that? Well, Id says high rears are an epidemic within the bully community.


The most important thing you need to keep in mind when judging an American Bully is balance. Does the dog have balance in its structure to not put undue pressure on one point or another? When you’re looking at the shoulder and rear start with the angulations and relation between the distance of the points to the nob or knee than from the nob or knee to the elbow or hock. The order I go through in my head when I’m checking out a dog is structure, breed type, and temperament. All of these are what make up a breed standard. If you plan on buying, breeding, or producing an American Bully you should have a general understanding of these features first.