Canine Anatomy

Whether a Yorkshire Terrier, a Great Dane, a Bulldog or a Dachshund all dogs possess identical bone and muscle structures. Fundamentally, they all are the same. The domesticated dog is a human-made animal developed from generations of carefully controlled breeding practices. We, humans, have created dogs to assist us in many daily functions. 

Many breeds still excel at their original functions, such as herding, hunting or tracking. As times changed, some were no longer required to perform their initial roles, even though the breed itself remains with us today. Other breeds have evolved a proficiency in other activities that allow them to continue to assist people. 

In order to safely handle a dog for grooming, it's important that your groomer has a good understanding of the basic anatomy of a dog. Having a familiarity of a dogs natural limitation of movement can make grooming much more comfortable for your dog.


Knowledge and understanding of key pressure points also ensures the greatest level of safety through the entire grooming process. 

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Canine Anatomy

While the internal anatomy of all breeds is similar, there is great variation in thickness and length of both bone and muscle. 


The skull of a dog shows three basic variations; 


Dolichocephalic breeds have long noses. For example, scent and sight orientated hounds and collies


Brachycephalic breeds have short noses. For example, such as livestock controlling boxers or bulldogs


Mesocephalic breeds. For example breeds such as a beagle or dalmatian.


Saliva has several important roles to play.


A wide mouth offers a dog improved breathing when they are overheated, and the abundance of saliva not only helps to clean their toung but it’s lubricating quality facilitates swallowing of food. 


Saliva also carries enzymes necessary for breaking down food as it makes units way to the stomach.


All dogs possess elongated jaws, carrying rows of teeth that erupt at different times in their physical development.


These have evolved to both rip and chew tough materials such as meat and prey. 


The two lines of the molar and premolar teeth at the back of the mouth, enable the easy  chewing of flesh and bone,.


When your dog’s body temperature increases and they hold out their large tounge and repeatedly pants, this allows them to expose their respiratory area to surrounding cooler air, this aiding the evaporation of saliva to discharge theat. 

Dogs have that distinctive doggy smell because they possess sweat glands distributed across the body to allow the skin to breathe much in the same as a human armpit. These are known as apocrine glands.


The nature of a dog’s coat can vary significantly. A dog's skin has the same inner or dermis layer as humans, but the epidermis or outer layers is much thinner because the ‘fur coat’ offers them necessary additional protection. The outer skin includes numerous sebaceous glands that secrete oil that acts both as a waterproofing and to prevent the coat from drying out. The serum or oil in the skin helps to insulate your dog against extreme temperature changes.


Deep in a dog’s coat are hair follicles producing keratin, required not only for the production of hair but also hard nails, nose skin and footpads. Hair follicles grow and develop to fulfil different roles. Others form individual hairs that make up the coarse outer coat. When a dog displays aggression, the fur around their neck and back thickens as follicle muscles raise the heckles or hairs.

Canine Senses

Your dog will use all their senses in their daily life, but some are sharper and more finely tuned than others. While they can instantly smell and hear a wider range of scents and sounds in the world around them better than you, they can see and see much less.


A dog’s nose, especially within its large sensory region, has a primary use to enable them to track and detect prey through scent.


They can also detect when a female is ready for mating, not only from her body but also from her urine trails.


They can smell when other males have been in a territorial sense and can then over-mark where they have left behind urine and faeces trails.


While there is a great deal of variation in ear shape, all dogs share an ability to detect a wide range of sounds, and higher frequencies than humans.

They can direct their ears towards a sound of interest. At other times when they are at rest, their ears might be still and folded down.


When frightened or wary, their ears are quickly pulled right back or up for alertness, to help them avoid conflict. 

By changing the position of their ears, your dog can also communicate their intended behaviour towards other dogs.


Your dog’s hearing and scenting take precedence over what they can see and enable them to detect the movement prey. 


Dogs have three eyelids: upper and lower, as we have, but with the additional third eyelid of membrane. This keeps the eyes moist and cleans the surface.


Under the surface there are hidden cell structures that have evolved to detect the slightest prey movement.


Dogs don’t possess the same number of taste buds as we humans do; it is estimated that we have 16 times the sensitivity.


The difference is most likely because a dog’s tongue has other more vital uses, foremost the discharging of heat through excess saliva. 

Taste buds help us detect differences in sweetness and sourness or bitter and salty food, but this is far less important for a carnivore.


Human Articles

Check out our latest articles with advice on puppies, training, behaviour and wellness. 

Designed to simplify  information about our favourite people; our canines. 

Human Guides

Download our latest guides with advice on canine first aid and home grooming. 

Designed to  simplify the most important information about taking care of our canines.

Canine Welfare

Read  the latest information on the Animal Welfare Code and canine care. 

Designed to simplify the information around canine welfare and well being. 


Canine First Aid Guide

This handy guide for humans will give you an understanding of canine first aid, as well as advice on what to do when your dog is unwell or injured.


If your pet is injured, it’s important for you to stay calm, so they know they are safe. Call your vet once you are both safe and explain what’s happened. They will advise you of the best course of action.


Make sure you keep your vets number on you you are out and about walking, just in case of an emergency.