According to the American Kennel Club's glossary, a snipey or “snipy” muzzle in dogs consists of a “pointed, weak muzzle, lacking breadth and depth.”
For sake of comparison, a snipey muzzle may be described as being pointy and resembling the muzzle of a fox.
These characteristics ultimately lead to a weaker jaw which may, therefore, negatively impact a dog breed’s ability to effectively perform the task it was bred for as a working dog.
Indeed, the American Kennel Club often considers a snipey muzzles as a fault in many breeds.
Origins of the Term
Many canine terms are very colorful and generate from creative comparisons with other animals or things.
The term "snipey" or "snipy," most likely derives from the bill of the snipe, a bird characterized by a very long, slender bill and its camouflaging plumage.
Of course, no dog has such a slender muzzle, but it gives you the idea!
Causes of a Snipey Muzzle in Dogs
In general, a snipey muzzle in dogs is due to a lack of due to lack of "depth" in the jaw. More precisely, dogs with a snipy muzzle have a lack of enough underjaw.
A snipey muzzle is therefore more often seen in dogs who aren't bred carefully, although it may sometimes pop up in even well-bred dogs every now and then.
A snipy muzzle in puppies may be temporary, and the pups may grow out of it as they develop and "fill in."
The Problem With Snipy Muzzles in Dogs
A snipey muzzle is considered a problem because the strength of the dog's jaws is compromised.
Dogs with a snipy muzzle often have a lack of enough underjaw. With less underjaw, dogs may have smaller teeth and an over all weaker muzzle.
Breeds Where a Snipey Muzzle is Penalized
In several dog breeds, a snipy muzzle is mentioned and penalized. This may be because it impacts a dog's ability to carry out various tasks or because it gives the dog an unpleasant look that is not typical for the breed.
For example, in the bearded collie breed standard, the muzzle should be strong and full and a snipy muzzle is to be penalized.
In the mastiff, the muzzle is expected to be short and broad under the eyes and running nearly equal in width to the end of the nose and of great depth from the point of the nose to the underjaw. Snipiness of the muzzle is considered a fault.
In the Chinese shar-pei the muzzle should be broad and full with no suggestion of snipiness.
In the Labrador retriever, the jaws are expected to powerful and free from snippiness.
Even in breeds known for having a "foxy expression" with a pointy nose, a snipy muzzle is penalized. For instance, in the rat terrier which is expected to have a strong muzzle that tapers smoothly along the sides to the nose, the lower jaw and teeth should give no sign of being snipey or weak.
German shepherds are expect to have a long and strong muzzle that is wedge-shaped and without abrupt stop. The jaws should be strongly developed. Weak and too narrow underjaws, snipey muzzles, and a lack of stop are all considered faults.