top of page


The American Kennel Club now has a breeder's online tutorial designed to help breeders and judges understand canine structure and movement. The AKC relies upon the research conducted by Rachel Page Elliott and Curtis and Thelma Brown just as the Curly Coated Retriever Club of America's standard revision committee did 30 years ago.  

The AKC's


The Canine College is a series of online audio lectures accompanied by slides used to teach the basics of canine structure and anatomy.

It is free to register and enroll in the classes and it could be very useful to folks who want to learn more about how dogs are put together and how that impacts function, including movement.

A substantial amount of what AKC presents is based on Rachel Page Elliott's research, which is the same research the Curly Coated Retriever Club of America's standard revision committee used when considering certain aspects of the curly coated retriever's structure and conformation. 

The AKC's FREE Canine College courses are at:

The AKC recognizes there is a dispute among some breeders, exhibitors, and judges as to whether a 45-degree really exists in any breed but doesn't totally discount the possibility.

However, when it comes to the different types of breeds and their functions, the AKC's Canine College includes Rachel Page Elliott's three different forequarter angulation categories: those for achondroplastic breeds such as Dachshunds and Bassett hounds, those for herding and retrieving breeds, and those for sighthounds.

In general, herding and retriever breeds display an approximate angle of 120 degrees between shoulder blade and upper arm, meaning the blade angle is about 60 degrees. That is 5 degrees steeper than the specified angle in the curly coated retriever standard so our standard, as we wrote it, actually asks for a shoulder blade more laid back than what actually occurs in most of the other retriever breeds.

(See Figure 1 below.)

Retriever/Herdng Breed: Shoulder blade and upper arm angulation image
Figure 1. Credit: The American Kennel Club
The curly coated retriever standard includes the ESTIMATED angle of the shoulder blade, NOT the ACTUAL measurement. The reason we chose to include the ESTIMATED angle is because conformation judges normally do not have the time nor the tools necessary to examine the real angle.
To better understand the difference between the two angles, I have adapted a diagram from the Gilbert and Brown canine structure book. The lines indicate what the actual measurement line should be in a retriever with a 70 degree blade angulation and what most judges and observers will estimate as the angulation.
The estimate will normally be 5 to 10 degrees less than the ACTUAL measurement. That means the estimate will be a sharper angle than what actually exists.
In the diagram, we see the green line is drawn on the spinal ridge of the shoulder blade. That is where the muscles that are going to move the blade are attached. 
The green line extends to point D, which is in the middle of the humerus (upper arm bone) and shoulder blade joint. The line then extends to the middle of the humerus and ulnar/radial joint (point E). These joints are what flex to allow the dog to move his front legs and that is why the true angle between these joints is what determines front extension.
Actual Measurement of shoulder blade and upper arm angle vs. estimated angle illustraton.
Gilbert and Brown are using a 70 degree angle as representing the ACTUAL angle of the shoulder blade measured from
the spinal ridge to a horizontal line coming from the middle of the SHOULDER JOINT, not the point of the shoulder. Using these areas of the front assembly makes this angle broader than the other measurement. If this was a curly coated retriever, the desirable angle from the horizontal to the green line on the spinal ridge would be about 65 degrees.
The ESTIMATED shoulder angle of the dog in the diagram, from the top of the shoulder to the point of shoulder is the red line, which in this particular dog diagram, is 60 degrees. If this was a curly coated retriever diagram, the estimated shoulder angle on the red line would be about 55 degrees. 
I cannot emphasize enough: the forequarter angulation we ask for in the curly coated retriever standard is more laid back than found in most retriever breeds. It is within the range for efficient moving, deep chested trotting dogs. 

As both a waterfowl AND upland dog, a curly needs excellent forequarter assembly to be able to hunt long hours in the field, moving at more of an upland hunting dog pace than the retrievers who are only required to sit at heel until sent for a retrieve. 
In fact, the curly coated retriever is actually a land and water SPANIEL, more closely related to other water spaniel breeds and to setters than he is to the other retriever breeds. 
The curly is not as well-angulated in front as the achondroplastic breeds. Nor should he be. He is not a digging dog or a tunnel dog. He does not have a long back like Dachshunds and Bassett Hounds to accommodate a 45-degree shoulder blade. 
bottom of page