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The Researchers and What They Discovered About Canine Shoulder Angulation
A Swiss Veterinarian
and a dog breeder from Holland concluded in the 1950's dogs did not have 45-degree shoulder angulation.
U.S. Beagle Breeder Dr. Curtis Brown

How did the 45-degree angulation theory get started?

It's likely most of us, when we began our interest in dog showing and breeding, were given the same information by other breeders, judges and exhibitors: in order to move correctly, a dog must have a 45-degree shoulder angle. Some standards even mandate the 45-degree layback.

Where and when this myth began is a matter of speculation. Some canine anatomists and historians believe the 45-degree scapular idea was started by horse breeders who also bred dogs. For horses, a 45-degree shoulder blade makes sense for the horse rider. That layback would provide a smoother gait and thus a smoother ride. (Many horse breeders today do not believe in the 45-degree mandate.)


Dr. Carmen Battaglia, writing on his Breeding Better Dogs website, surmises the 45 degree angulation was partly perpetuated by McDowell Lyon in his 1950 book “The Dog in Action.”  Dr. Battaglia goes on to declare the 45 degree angulation theory is “nothing more than a myth.”


Several people, including Eugen Seiferle, Curtis R. Brown, Rachel Page Elliott, and H. DeGroot, have debunked this myth by using new methods and technology and scientific and clinical research to actually measure angles in dogs.


A Swiss Veterinarian and a Breeder from Holland are among the first to disagree with 45 degrees.

A Swiss veterinarian, university professor, and canine anatomy expert, Eugen Seiferle used actual skeletons and dissection methods to prove the 45-degree angle was impossible. Seiferle co-authored many textbooks on canine anatomy and physiology used by veterinary colleges and universities.


DeGroot, a world famous German Shepherd judge and breeder from Holland, followed that work up with the actual measurement of more than 1,000 dogs and found NOT A ONE with 45-degree angled shoulders.

Seiferle and DeGroot did much of their research in the 1950's. 

Dr. Curtis Brown, U.S. Breeder and Author

By the 1950’s, U.S. beagle breeder Dr. Curtis Brown decided to take his own measurements. He used a movie camera to film shoulder angulation and then played those movies back in slow motion.  Brown came to the same conclusion as Seiferle and DeGroot—dogs did not have 45-degree angled shoulders. Brown and his wife, AKC judge Thelma Brown, published a 1976 book explaining their findings.

"A 50 to 60 degree layback is well-laid back."

~Edward M. Gilbert, Jr. & Thelma Brown

K-9 Structure & Terminology, Howell Book House, 1995

One of the most important works on canine structure was researched and authored by Golden retriever breeder Rachel Page Elliott. Her work also influenced the CCRCA standard deliberations.

Read about her work and others in our third page on shoulder angulation SHOULDER ANGULATION Part 4. 

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