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Five Fascinating Facts About A Dog's Neck

We often take our dogs' necks for granted, but those necks do so much! A dog's neck main function is to support the dog's head and protect the spinal cord. Sure, a dog's neck is not as impressive as the neck of a giraffe, but it carries many roles and there are some interesting facts about a dog's neck that are ready to be discovered! Here are fives fascinating facts about a dog's neck.


1) Dogs Have the Same Number of Vertebrae Than a Giraffe.

How can it be? Sure, a dog's neck appears much shorter than the neck of a giraffe, but both dog and giraffe have only 7 vertebrae, which is also the same number of vertebra humans have.

The dog's first vertebrae is called the atlas and you must thank this bone if your dog is able to raise his head and lower it down. Next in line is the axis, the vertebra that allows your dog to rotate his head laterally. The remaining five vertebrae are quite similar in structure.

What mainly makes the difference between the neck of a dog and the neck of a giraffe? According to San Diego Zoo, a giraffe's vertebrae can measure over 10 inches long, so add those vertebrae up and you have an explanation for the giraffe's impressive 6-foot neck!

Did you know? The first vertebra's name "Atlas" derives from a Titan giant who in Greek mythology was known for holding the world on his shoulders. Just like the giant, the atlas holds up your head and the head of your dog!

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2) Mother Dogs Carry Pups By the Scruff of Their Neck

puppy mother

We often see mother cats carrying their litter of puddy- tats by the scruff of the neck, but did you know mother dogs carry their pups the same way? Without the luxury of baby strollers, mother dogs have to resort to their most ancient means of transportation if their desire is to move a litter of pups from point A to point B.

If you ever watched a mother dog carry her pups by the neck, you may have noticed how the pup gets limp like a strand of overcooked spaghetti. Why is that? This behavior is reminiscent of the past and might have helped grant a pup's survival, even though today it might not have much survival value.

In the olden days, pups were raised in a den and it was imperative that pups were kept safe. When mother dog stumbled on any stranded pups it was crucial to move them from the great outdoors back to the safety of the den. 

Upon being lifted off the ground, the pups go instinctively limp because this ups their chances for survival. Struggling was maladaptive because doing so could have caused the pup to get hurt and it could have irritated the mom with the pup risking being left behind. Non-struggling puppies who made the task easy as pie instead had higher chances of being quickly brought to safety. This evolutionary advantage has therefore persisted and is why we still see it occur as of today even though our pups nowadays live in our homes instead of dens, explains Stanley Coren.

Warning: just because momma dog carries her pups this way doesn't mean we should handle them the same way. "Scruffing” is likely to cause pain in puppies because flexor dominance does not persist in puppies" warns Karen Overall. Also, puppies are no longer carried this way by momma dog after a certain age. And definitively, scruffing should never be used as a way to discipline puppies!

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ewe head dog

3) Some Dogs have an Ewe Neck.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs with an ewe neck have a neck that has a topline that is concave rather than convex. The bottom of the neck is instead convex making it look like an upside down neck.

It's called this way because it resembles the neck often seen in a female sheep, known as "ewe."

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In many dog breeds an ewe neck is considered a fault. According to the Borzoi Club of America, the presence of an ewe neck in the borzoi is indication of a weak neck that interferes with the ability to hold prey.

4) The Lundehund Can Bend His Neck Backwards

Norwegian lundenhund

Norwegian lundenhund

The Norwegian Lundehund dog breed is as special as it can be. On top of being equipped with 6 toes on each foot and being able to close his ears so to protect the ear canals from dirt and moisture, the Lundehund has special neck joints that allows him to bend the neck backwards along his spine (a quality seen only in reindeer!) which turns extra handy when he must turn in a very tight passage.

This extraordinary breed was selectively bred to hunt for puffins and their eggs which required him to hunt off the rocky coasts and narrow passages of Værøy island, Norway.

plott hound

5) The Neck is a Delicate Piece of Machinery

Despite what you may have heard, a dog's neck is not as tough as you may have thought. Chronically pulling on your dog's collar may lead not only to stress on the neck, but in the long run, potential for a lifetime of painful disc disease and shoulder ailments, explains veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly. Not to mention tracheal problems which are common in small dogs.

The neck and cervical spine contain the spinal cord, from which the nerves of the front legs originate. The thyroid gland, which is responsible for regulating the whole metabolism of a dog's body, is also located in the neck, points out veterinarian Dr. Dobias.

Choke, prong and shock collars can cause irreversible damage to your dog, Dr. Dobias warns.

He therefore recommends avoiding collars and using instead front-attachment harnesses which don't put strain on a dog's neck and throat.

"Sometimes it seems no one ever explained that the neck is a delicate piece of machinery through which all things flow." ~Dr. Patty Khuly


  • San Diego Zoo Animals, Mammals, Giraffe, retrieved from the web on April 15th, 2016
  • Norwegian Lundehund Club of America, Homepage, retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 15th, 2016

  • Pet MD, Collar Safety, Collar safety in dog training and in real life: A veterinarian's take, retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 15th, 2016
  • Dr. Dobia's Natural Healing, Choke, Prong and Shock Collars Can Irreversibly Damage Your Dog, retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 15th, 2016
  • Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, By Karen Overall, retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 15th, 2016

Photo Credits:

-Wikipedia, Picture of a Norwegian Lundehund, N UCH Ålvisheims Hårek, by Karen Elise Dahlmo, CC BY-SA 3.0

-Wikipedia, Plott Hound, DTabCam - Own work, GFDL

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