How Dog Height Is Measured

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How Dog Height Is Measured

January 23, 2023 6 min read

When measuring your dog’s height, make sure you do so correctly to get an accurate measurement. There are several ways to measure dogs, but none of them are definitive! Some people use their elbow as their reference point while others use their knee or foot.

Some even measure at the withers which is just above the shoulder blades. Because dogs grow rapidly, it is important to have a clear picture of what length their body is already before adding length for a new breed or size modification.

This article will go into more detail about different ways to determine dog height. It will also talk about why there is no “standard way” to measure dogs and some potential pitfalls in using wrong references. So, let’s get started!

Measure Up!

Measuring Your New Puppy

The first step when taking care of any canine includes knowing his or her exact height. This is very helpful in determining if he/she needs to be spayed or neutered, finding homes, and ensuring that she/he does not need safety training or other special services.

When puppies are eight weeks old they begin to develop muscles around their neck and chest. At this stage, veterinarians usually take a nose-to-tail measurement between the pup’s back legs. To ensure the most reliable results, check both front and rear measurements.

Cushion height

how dog height is measured

The cushion or knee height of your dog is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a breed. This is typically measured by having your puppy sit down, then measure the length of his/her paw as it lands on the floor- that’s his/her footlength.

Next, have him get up again, this time without any paws on the ground! That’s the difference in knee height. A shorter knee means more like a terrier type and a taller one means longer looking.

Generalizations can be tricky, but there are some general guidelines for what size knees we recommend. We suggest measuring your puppy at around six months and again at nine months. If the two measurements differ by more than 2 inches, you should probably go with the older measurement. For example, if the legs are twice as long at 9 months as they were 6 months earlier, going with the lower number would mean a shorter dog.

Arm length

Side View of an Alaskan Malamute Dog on Green Grass


When measuring your dog’s arm length, make sure to measure from elbow to wrist with your hand placed close to his front leg. Do not include the length of his fur or tail when measuring this distance!

This is important to know because some dogs have longer hair than others do. For example, German Shepard Dogs typically have long coats that grow very fast. This can cause issues when trying to determine if your puppy is a reliable companion or not.

A small note about weight: Because different breeds weigh more or less depending on their body type, we cannot tell you what size pup would be a good match for you just by knowing their height. It is also important to remember that heavier puppies will take longer to housetrain so try to pick a time when they are both healthy and ready. Check out our article here to help you decide if a Puppy is The Right Size for You!.

Arm width

Brown Dog Wearing a Black Collar


When measuring your dog’s height, make sure you include their arm length when calculating total height. Dogs with longer legs usually have longer thigh muscles which contribute to their tall appearance. This is why some shorter dogs seem taller than others!

Thigh muscle doesn’t grow as fast as bone or cartilage growth, so it takes more time for them to show up in radiographs and/or photographs. Since most dogs are not photographed nor X-rayed at a breeder’s ranch, it can be tricky to identify if they are lying about their height being equal to another dog of the same breed!

Luckily, there are ways to verify dog’s true heights easily by looking at proportions. We will go into those here!

I would like to add that although this article focuses mostly on Labrador Retrievers, these tips work for any breed. Most breeds measure similarly in terms of average height, though some may vary slightly.

Hand length

how dog height is measured

The hand length is measured by having the dog put their paw over top of your extended index finger. Your thumb goes along the side of the dog’s front leg to determine the second measure, the patella (kneecap) length. This process is repeated with the other leg.

The longer the measurement of the hands, the taller the breed. A shorter hand length indicates a smaller sized dog. Although this seems obvious, it is important to note that not all size breeds have tall dogs! For example, English Bulldogs are known for their short haired, drooping faces but are never considered small due to their height.

General tips: remember that different breed sizes require different amounts of weight to feel comfortable, so weigh your dog before measuring them!

Dog owners often get confused as to what makes a breed seem “taller” or “shorter” because some puppies grow more quickly than others do. However, we can only compare an adult dog’s measurements to another dog of the same breed, so there is no way to tell how tall any individual puppy will be until it grows up.

However, you can use our general guidelines to know if your dog is a likely candidate to appear tall! For instance, a British Bulldog probably has long legs, which contribute to its appearance.

Hand width

how dog height is measured

The length of your dog’s hand is measured at its widest part, just like people! This is called the palmer surface or palm depth. For dogs that have strong muscles in their paws, this measurement can be slightly longer than those with thinner feet.

However, for a more proportionate dog, this measurement should be shorter. Because of this, there are some general height recommendations for different sized breeds.

For example, a taller breed like a Labrador Retriever will usually have a lower height recommendation due to their sturdy build. On the other hand, a smaller breed like a Chihuahua may call for a higher number because of their size.

Breed sizes also vary depending on whether you are talking about neutered or not as well as if they are male or female. All of these factors affect body shape and thickness so it makes sense to use the same numbers across all of them.

Leg length

This is one of the most important things to consider when determining if your dog is a tall or short breed. The leg length determines how high their paws will be able to reach, and thus, what kind of foot shape they have.

Leg length does not refer to the length of the whole limb (the thigh and lower leg attached to it), but just the length of the individual legs themselves. For example, if the dog has long thighs but short front feet, then his/her leg length would be considered longer. A longer leg can look good on some breeds, such as French Bulldogs, where the shorter coat makes them seem taller.

Some dogs have really long legs that actually drag on the ground, which looks funny. These types of dogs are usually called duck-footed because of this. Some examples of breeds with very long legs include Greyhounds, Chow Chows, and Dalmatians.

Overall height is also influenced by the chest size, so make sure you know your dog’s favorite food and whether or not he/she is exposed to many different animals! All of these factors contribute to overall canine stature.

Shoulder height

how dog height is measured

When measuring your dog’s shoulder height, make sure you measure from behind the dog and not directly in front of him. This could lead to an inaccurate measurement. Because dogs roll their shoulders up when they are nervous or uncomfortable, this can be tricky to avoid.

To get an accurate measurement, have someone stand next to the dog and record the distance. You may want to do this several times and average the numbers to obtain the most reliable data.

Shoulder height is measured by placing one hand just outside of the elbow and then using that length as a reference for the other arm. The longer leg is then divided into two parts; the upper part which includes the neck and head and the lower body portion which starts at the pelvis and goes down to the feet.

This article will help you determine if your pooch has enough depth of field! Read on to learn more about it.

Arm curl

how dog height is measured

The dog is placed on the floor with its paws just barely touching. Then, your partner gets in front of the dog and grabs one arm as close to the elbow as possible while stepping away.

The person then throws the other arm forward, grabbing only the top knuckle or fist of the hand (the first joint). When done quickly, this action becomes very quick and doesn’t give the dog enough time to react.

After about two seconds, the owner releases the dog and notes how high the back legs are. This length is measured and given an appropriate number depending on the size of the dog.

This measure does not take into account whether the leg is extended beyond the back edge of the mat or if it is bent at a lower angle. These things can slightly influence the total distance but not by much.

Cindy PetsForLife
Cindy PetsForLife

Hello, I'm Cindy, the founder of PetsForLife. I am a true animal lover with 3 cats and 1 dog of my own. My passion for all things pets has led me to create a unique collection of personalized pet gifts. Check out our personalized pet gifts on our website.

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