Expert handler has classes available for UScA Sieger Show
May 10, 2013 weekend: I have classes available; let me know ASAP if you would like me to show your dog. I offer many years experience as an expert show handler, and as an SV breed judge. I know the judges well, what they are looking for, and what they want from handlers. Remuneration negotiable, but I ask for only a pro-rated share of my expenses, not any extra fee for handling. (The more dogs I show, the lower the amount.)
Whether or not I show your dog, I will have copies of my books available. You really should have the GSD book and the Orthopedics Disorders book, too. Order in advance so I pack enough for the trip.
Although I have lectured and judged in some 30 countries, this was my first trip to the dogs in Iceland. The occasion was the semi-annual national dog show of the kennel club known as Hundaræktunarfélagið íshundar. Ishundar is affiliated with Federación Canina Internacional (the FCI that is headquartered in Spain) and International Kennel Union (IKU), which two recently cooperated to form an association, the “Cyno OneWorld Alliance” of more than 50 countries and still growing. As far as I know, I am the only American licensed by this alliance thus far.
Following the format of my annual Sieger Show report for the past dozen years or more, this is a two-part article. Part One is the tour that makes my guided event different from do-it-yourself trips to Germany; it involves visits to training clubs and breeders. Part Two is an analysis of the show results as I saw them unfold. Photos will vary, depending on space available in the publication you are reading.
For newcomers, it must be said that the international German Shepherd Dog “Sieger Show” is the main event for the breed held annually in Germany. It is the largest single-breed event in the world, although this year attendance in both the stands and the rings was down, due to the general economy entering near-depression in many countries including, most recently, those in Europe. When you read my abbreviated travelogue, think about being part of my group next year in Bavaria: lederhosen, yodeling, Alps, castles (including the one that inspired Disneyland’s little copy), and great food. I’ll start taking deposits in January. I offer expertise as an SV judge, plus knowledge of the geography, customs, breeders, competing dogs, and some familiarity with the language.
It always disappoints and dismays me as a dog-show judge to examine dogs in the ring and find some of them filthy (which very seldom happens) or many with neglected teeth (which happens regularly — even in the majority of cases, in some breeds such as the GSD). Without good, home dental care, they teeth may recede into swollen gums with gingivitis, or they may even fall out by the time the dog is nine or ten years old. It’s as if the owners think, “Well, the dog will only last that long or a little longer, so why bother?” While it is true that dogs wear down or break off their teeth by about the time they will soon no longer need them, there is no excuse for ignoring the dog’s need for regular cleaning to the point that we cause him to reach that stage years before the natural consummation of his life. To rely on dry dog food to scrape tartar off the teeth is no different than to rely on exercising your jaw muscles by eating only corn flakes with milk.
The dog should be given the proper occasional bone and rawhide or other chewy, and the best method is to give him a frozen (raw) chicken quarter once a week. Just as you might nibble little bits at a time of a popsicle, the dog will gnaw through meat and bone together, little by little and work it down to a tiny nubbin. No separation of bone from meat, as happens when cooking, and no splintering as you could get in a thawed piece. The gnawing chewing action that utilizes almost every tooth really cleans them as no other method or chewy or toy could. Just as good as scaling the teeth with a dental pick, but less work for you and more enjoyment for him.
Unless you use this method, you should scale the teeth once a month and (depending on what food you give your dog and how fast he builds up a coating on them, you might want to also brush them a couple times a month as well, to keep them in good condition. The “brush” can be one of your used toothbrushes, or a rough cloth wrapped around your finger, with toothpaste applied. When the judge, vet, or friend looks at your dog’s teeth, the color brown should be as embarrassing to you as it would be on your child’s exposed underwear.
If you don’t have a dental pick, you can use a short-handled, short-bladed screwdriver on a dog that hasn’t had his teeth cleaned in a while. Sit on the floor with the dog lying on his back and snugly supported by, and locked in place between, your legs. Start with the easiest tooth, the big canine. With almost all the tool hidden in your hand and just the smallest part of the blade showing, push the gum back a little and firmly push the hard tartar toward the tip of the tooth. If the finger of your other hand is there, when the tartar breaks loose, you’ll be able to prevent the blade from gouging into the tongue or gum of the opposite jaw. After you get practiced and the dog learns not to wiggle, use the sharp-pointed dental pick. Always, with each tooth, start underneath the normal edge of the gum and chip the plaque away. With just a minimum of practice, you can save bill vet bills and use the vet only for things you cannot do.
Another, but less frequent or serious an example of neglect is in the care of the dog’s claws or, as we non-veterinarians usually call them, the nails. Every dog should become used to getting his nails trimmed every couple of months. Put it on your calendar. Make it a habit, along with heartworm preventative, teeth cleaning, combing, inspection of the coat and skin, etc., though many of these are monthly or weekly activities (I don’t want to use the word “chores” because these should be times of strengthening bonds, not just performing duties). A whetstone, a short-bladed, short-handled, and very sharp knife, plus a good nail clipper made for dogs are all you need. Find a shady spot outdoors with good indirect light, or a well-lighted area in the house where it will be easy to sweep up the trimmings.
Use the same dog-between-legs, escape-proof posture of sitting on the ground that you used when scaling the teeth. Dogs tend to wiggle and complain at first, but eventually they’ll be willing to get the nails done if you keep your patience and use lots of praise whenever they lie still.
The first digit on the front paw (erroneously called a “dewclaw”) doesn’t touch the ground except during full gallop, so it doesn’t wear down by itself the way the others can; you’ll have to cut that one deeper or more often. All of them contain a cushion-soft core called the “quick” (meaning “alive, having blood”) that is covered on top and sides by the hard chitin or keratin type material that enables the animal to scratch, dig, fight, or aid in traction. This hard shell grows in a downward curve resembling a parrot beak, and where it obviously hooks past the flat or “level” portion of the quick underneath, is where you want to cut with the clipper. However, the horny part which is thickest on the dorsal surface, continues to wrap around on the sides (although thinner there) and, if not properly maintained, tends to grow together and enclose the softer sole. And with it, dirt and other junk you don’t want to be there.
The best way to handle the nail that has been neglected this long is to snip off the “beak”, then with your frequently-sharpened little knife, pare the thinner horn from the plantar area (bottom) and sides, a little sliver at a time, taking care not to slice into the corium (core, or quick). Use a sawing motion, but toward the centerline of the nail, otherwise it will be much more uncomfortable if you cut and peel away from the center. Then you can better see the remainder of the beak, and cut another section of that off. The first digit should be especially well manicured, and even smoothed with a sapphire file or emery board, because the dog uses this claw to scratch his muzzle, clean his teeth or muzzle, and even get foreign material away from his eye, and you don’t want a sharp or ragged edge on that one.
The quick is rich in blood vessels and nerve endings, so if you cut it, the dog will probably protest and bleed for a while. That is another good reason for doing this job outdoors. You can go to the bother of using styptic powder or flour to help stanch the flow, but it’s easier to just wrap that nail in a piece of paper towel and go on to the other nails. If it’s still bleeding when you release the dog, let him run around normally until it stops. The other potentially uncomfortable part of the operation is the pull you exert on the nail, so make sure the knife is kept sharp to cut easily in a twisting, carving motion.
After having used the paring knife, you will find that you did not cut as much of the surplus nail off as you had thought, so carefully use the clipper again and trim it off closer to the quick, especially on the front and on the side edge right next to it.
Of course, you can use an electric tool to trim nails, but my approach requires merely tools you can carry in a pocket or purse (unless you are boarding an aircraft). As in Parts One and Two of this series, I offer the simple, common-sense, economical, and convenient way to groom dogs for health and livability.
© Fred Lanting, Willow Wood Consulting: For reprint permission or info on books & articles, see:
http://siriusdog.com/sphider/search.php?query=lanting&search=1 (or) www.FredLanting.org
During or following the semi-annual major hair loss, you can bathe the dog, if he still needs washing, with a good pH-balanced shampoo especially formulated for dogs. Baby shampoo will do as well, and as long as you don’t wash him too frequently, plain old hand soap is good enough. Bathing will help loosen and remove much of the rest of the dead hair. This is especially helpful if you don’t take time for daily prolonged combing during these shedding periods. Have the dog lie on the concrete run or wooden porch, soak him with water from the hose, then work in shampoo or bar soap until you get a good lather, rolling him over to get the belly and other side, then the head and neck. Hold the head almost all the while, or the dog will struggle to get up and shake. After he is soaped from ears to tail tip, let him up to run around for about five minutes while the dirt is emulsified and any ectoparasites are drowned (fleas and ticks will survive under plain water, but cannot breathe in soapy water). By the way, I don’t believe the flea shampoos are any more effective than just letting the dog’s coat stay soapy for several minutes.
Then repeat the process with clear water from the hose, making sure you rinse every last residue of soap, or you will encourage itching and allow dried soap flakes to show later. Soap remaining in the coat will often look like dandruff when it dries, and may even promote moisture retention and hot spots, as will clumps of dead hair that remain wet. The dog can “drip-dry” if the weather permits and the yard is grassy, otherwise he’ll want to roll on the ground and may get muddy. If that is possible, towel him off thoroughly before allowing him to run and roll. Use the damp towel over your finger to “ream” out his ears. If you live in the north and must wash him in the winter, you might consider doing this whole operation (minus the running around wet) in your shower. A proper rinse will also remove any insecticide that was in the “medicated” soap, anyway.
Unless your dog has mites or gets seeds or dirt into his outer ear, the natural production and outward flow of wax will keep the ear lined with a light protective layer, and all you need do is put some tissue paper on your little finger and ream out his ears during your weekly “combing and quality time” sessions. If you notice more than the normal amount of wax, get out the ear cleaning kit. This includes rubbing alcohol, cotton, paper towel, and Q-tips™ or generic equivalent. If you find an infection and/or infestation, you’ll also want to have on hand the combination antibiotic/fungicide and perhaps the miticide. Using the cotton swab-on-a-stick, twirl it in one direction only, on the way into the ear canal as well as on the way out. If you pull off the dirty cotton and twist fresh onto the stick, do so with that same directional motion, or it may come off in the ear. With the dog lying on his side, use the heel of your hand to keep his head down while pulling up on the pinna with the thumb and first two fingers. In this manner, you can partly straighten out the sharp bend of the canal so you can get the swab all the way in. Despite warnings in the popular dog press and elsewhere about touching the eardrum, I have done this for well over thirty years with no problem. With a gentle touch, you can feel the swab bottom-out, and with a firm hand and soft voice you can keep the dog still while you clean the entire outer ear canal.
Some dogs often lack natural and sufficient hormonal activity to prevent flea-bite allergy and other signs that the thyroid and other glands are not working optimally. It may be fighting merely a holding-action battle instead of winning the war, but there are things you can do to alleviate most of the discomfort. The skin, especially in certain areas such as belly, underarms, and pelvis/croup regions, may be affected. But it is the ear that usually is the most obvious place of irritation and symptoms. If the ear canal has an abnormal amount of wax, and if the accumulation is dark and smells unpleasant, it needs cleaning, but you should also attack the cause, not only the symptoms. I mean the immediate cause, as the underlying original cause may be that the immune system has been damaged from too-frequent and unnecessary 5-in-1-type vaccines and inoculations. There’s always a chance that the dog may have ear mites, but this is infrequent enough that until you get some miticide or schedule a possible vet visit if you can’t handle it yourself, you’d be wise to treat the symptoms.
Some people claim some success with hydrogen peroxide, but I have found over the years that cleaning with a 50/50 dilution of cheap white vinegar does as good a job as anything, and at minimal cost. It would mean doing it daily or a few times a week, but that should be preferable to making payments on your vet’s Lexus SUV. Wet a thin cloth or a strong paper towel with the solution, and with your little finger ream out the ear as much as you can. Then, while it is still wet, use the Q-Tip I mentioned, and clean out all the channels, then all the way to the ear drum. If you waited too long, and the ear is sore, you will have to persuade the dog that the pain is for his own good, and it will be better in a day or two as the open sores heal. Vinegar has a low (acidic) pH, and that’s what you need because the opportunistic fungus (which is always in the air) does not do well in acidic environments. Do it every day until you can try every other day with success in controlling it. Meanwhile, try to mitigate some of the damage to the immune system by giving vitamin-E supplements.
If you do find that the dog actually has a rare case of mites, put some of the medicine on the tip of the tail as well, as experienced breeders have long said that the same mites are usually found there, too. In fact, that may be one of the only excuses for frequent bathing until the critters have been killed or banished.
Geriatric dogs that have been damaged by overvaccination frequently have the same foul, rancid smell emanating from the entire external integument (the skin) that you had earlier noticed only in the ears. Again, it is probably too late to cure or to erase the damage, but you might be able to control the smell by frequent bathing, a weak vinegar solution rinse, immune-system dietary boosters, and you might have to let the dog sleep outdoors or in a ventilated room of his own.
© Fred Lanting, Willow Wood Consulting: For reprint permission or info on books & articles, see:
http://siriusdog.com/sphider/search.php?query=lanting&search=1 (or) www.FredLanting.org
Dog breeds are grouped – often arbitrarily or erroneously – into from five to ten categories based on function, superficial appearance, or geographical origin, depending on the registry organization. Just because it may make more sense to assign them to groups based primarily on ancestry and then on historical function, does not mean that such will be the case. In most dog circles, the “working” breeds have always been considered as those that originally did such work as herding or guarding livestock, pulling loads, and protecting property. Even though other breeds had specific occupations in the service of man, they are not known as working breeds: sighthounds running down prey or predators, gundogs flushing food for the table, terriers and toys terrorizing vermin – these were more or less doing what they would do without human ownership, anyway, so their jobs were considered less like “work”.
Many dog organizations split the huge Working Group into two, with the ones that had historical development for tending, driving, or bunching flocks and herds being called “Herding breeds”. Never mind the confusion about whether the reindeer-herding Samoyed is hardly much different from the sled-pulling Husky – that’s a puzzle for another time. Most of the Group that did not resemble the mastino-type wagon puller or the bear-fighting wooly flock guardian type were once employed to trot around the animals raised by man for his food, and assigned to the herding subcategory. These latter were specialists in trotting, in covering much ground with the most efficiency (least effort). This meant that success favored those with the most shoulder angulation over those with the stiffer, more vertical front ends.
When we speak of a shoulder in a dog, we usually include a lot more than just the scapula (shoulder blade) – although the flat, broad bone is often the center of attention. No part of a dog exists alone, not even those “floating” bones such as the hyoid, sesamoid, clavicle, patella and penile bones, all of which are connected to muscles and other bones by ligaments and tendons. The shoulder is intimately related to most other portions of the foreassembly or “forequarters”, from the skull to the ribs, from vertebrae to arm and breastbone.
The scapula does not articulate with any bones at its top, but is attached by four muscles to the spinal column at a number of places from the first cervical to the ninth thoracic vertebra and to the first seven or eight ribs. This is the case whether the dog is steep-shouldered or well-laid back, so differences between the two types must be due to minor differences in scapula and humerus lengths and ratios; perhaps the lengths of the vertebrae; and the tightness and condition of the ligaments and muscles that hold the bones in their positions.
At the most forward and lowest portion of the scapula is a shallow socket in which articulates the head of the upper arm (humerus). This area, especially the humeral greater tubercle that protrudes in front of the articulation, is called the “point of the shoulder”. Running roughly up the center of the blade from that point nearly to the top is a ridge of bone known as the spine of the scapula. The lowest and thickest section of that spine close to the socket is the acromion. See Figure 2. There are several muscle groups attached to the scapula. Don’t be frightened by their names; use abbreviated nicknames if you stumble over pronunciation. What matters is that you know what action each gives to the blade and the entire limb, and where the muscles are attached.
The first of these is the triangular trapezius muscle originating on the bones and ligaments of the vertebral column from the third cervical (neck) vertebra to the ninth thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is on the spine of the scapula. Since part of this thin broad muscle lies forward of the ridge it is attached to, and part extends to the rear, it can easily be seen that its function is primarily to elevate the limb. It also brings the arm forward and helps in changing the angle of layback during movement. The omotransversarius starts from the first cervical vertebra (the atlas) next to the back of the skull, dips beneath the other muscles of the neck, which extend to the sternum and arm, then attaches to the scapular spine near the acromion. Its obvious action is to draw the limb forward and rotate the bottom of the scapula forward while other muscles are trying to hold the rest of it in place. Knowing that, you can easily understand why a dog trotting in the show ring isn’t going to extend its forelimbs in ideal or equal reach if it has its head turned toward its handler. Nor will it cover as much ground if it trots with its head held high instead of forward and slightly above back level. Yet terrier and cocker dog-show handlers are notorious for the silly spectacle in which their dogs often barely touch the floor with their front paws!
Beneath the trapezius lies the rhomboideus muscle, which originates on the vertebrae from near the head to about the sixth or seventh thoracic vertebra. Its insertion is along the edge of the scapula, farthest from the acromion. Because of its wide origin, it can lift the limb upward, pull the limb and shoulder forward or backward and draw the scapula against the rib cage, depending on which portions are ennervated (stimulated by nerve impulses.)
The muscle filling the space in front of the scapular spine is called the supraspinatus, and it is attached to the top of the humerus. Thus, you can envision it straightening out the shoulder-arm angle and bringing the limb forward. The (behind the spine) will either flex or extend the shoulder joint, depending on the position when the muscle contracts. It also is inserted on the humerus. Other muscles include the infraspinatus, serratus, teres, deltoideus, and sub-scapularis; all play some parts in moving the scapula in relation to the ribs, vertebrae or upper arm.
Now that you have a little more understanding of the muscles and their actions on the bones, let’s get back to the subject of angulation. Some of what follows is similar to an excerpt from my book, The Total German Shepherd Dog.
Variously called the front assembly, forequarters, or shoulder, the whole combination made by the shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm (humerus), breastbone (sternum), and their related soft tissues is at the heart of much poor movement in dogs the world over.
Shoulder assembly – The least understood and most controversial portions of the AKC and most other Breed Standards relate to the angles proscribed for the forequarters and hindquarters. I disagree with the angles commonly reported to be ideal in the shoulder area, though much of the discrepancy may be a matter of how that angle is usually measured. To specify angles is useless unless exact points of reference are not only agreed upon but also easily determined. Since the bones forming these angles are curved, such “landmarks” as (1) the highest point of the scapula, (2) the foremost point of the upper arm where it meets the shoulder, and (3) the topmost point of the elbow should be used as well as a detailed illustration decided upon. Without X-ray vision, we need to rely on our fingers.
None of the editions or versions of the AKC Standard for the German Shepherd Dog has been sufficiently explanatory, nor have they been so in other breeds. Many years ago I radiographed standing dogs and found that what I had been reading in books and seeing in artists’ drawings was not true, even though I had already discovered that by digital palpation of bones and joints.
Many people hear and even use terms without a good understanding of their meanings. See my article on “topline” for another example of this. What is “shoulder layback?” Many dog fanciers are not sure. See Figure 1. It is the front-to-back inclination of the shoulder blade, seen and felt when one touches both the point of the shoulder and the top of the scapula or the withers at the same time. The withers is the area atop the shoulder from where the neck ends to where the “true back” begins. In most dogs, the last cervical vertebrae and the first thoracic vertebrae are down between the shoulder blades, so you might not be able to feel them, especially in well-muscled dogs. The withers is thus a transition stage between the neck’s relatively upright carriage and the nearly level back called for in most working breeds. (I use the term “working” in the utilitarian sense, and especially refer to the herding breeds.) The beginning judge (or the one evaluating heavily-coated breeds) often checks and compares layback by running his thumbs down the spine of the scapula. That line is almost parallel to, and only an inch or so behind, the envisioned line from the highest point of scapula to point of shoulder. Even so, among novices there is usually great disparity between what the fingers feel and what the mouth spouts!
In examining the standing dog, the good layback of 35 or 30 degrees can be determined either by feeling that line of the slope of the scapular spine, or by palpating those points mentioned above, and imagining a line between these points. These two sloping lines will be essentially parallel, so take your choice; in either case, you will have approached the question more scientifically. By observing the facts for yourself you will be able to arrive at a conclusion or hypothesis. The sooner we understand what is as opposed to what we imagine, the sooner we’ll understand how to get the most out of our dogs. Feeling that scapular spine is more difficult in a heavily muscled breed such as the Rottweiler.
The often-heard call for a 45-degree shoulder layback plus another supposed 45-degree angle to the “line” of the upper arm, equaling a 90-degree shoulder angle, is inaccurate and misleading. If lines are drawn on a radiograph or a sketch, along the scapular spine and down the center of the humerus as they usually are, a 90-degree angle in the real, live dog standing there before you will never be realized. Since the time I started challenging this notion, there have been noted authorities who have corroborated my claims with independent research, but it will be a long time before the old books are all revised and longer still before writers do their own investigative work instead of copying sketches from each other. One of the better drawings of the “ideal” (according to American tastes) German Shepherd Dog ever made in this country is Lloyd Fanning’s which appeared in the Review and in an early, small booklet on the breed published by the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. Strange, that so many have used incorrect representations instead of this fairly accurate sketch. An even better sketch is available from the SV and appears in many posters and magazines owned by those who appreciate the international (German) type.
If you draw your line (on a radiograph or in your mind) from point of shoulder to the highest part of the ulna that we call the point of the elbow (leaving the humerus to do so), you get points of reference you can see and feel. Now draw your second imaginary line from point of shoulder to top of shoulder blade. The angle between is closer to 90 degrees than if you tried to imagine and use a line going through the shaft of the humerus, but you still don’t get a right angle, even with the best laid-back shoulder blades. That touted right angle cannot be attained by drawing your lines down the middle of the upper arm on a radiograph. Whether or not you have x-ray vision, you will not be able to agree where a “center” line of this slightly curved, well-padded bone is!). In my live-dog illustrated lecture, “Analytical Approach to Evaluating Dogs”, I show where the lines can connect palpable points by drawing chalk lines on dark, short-coated canine volunteers. Even without using a protractor, my audiences can see the fallacies of those printed standard specifications. See Figures 1 and 4.
Sketches in my book on the breed represent the typical German Shepherd with a good shoulder. Dogs with better reach and a floating gait have close to the same angles and layback. I suspect much more credit for such gait lies in the muscles and ligaments than has been imagined, measured, or hinted at in the past. And of course, desire and drive make a big difference, too. In actuality, the ideal shoulder with an angle approaching that much-vaunted “90-degree” number (from point of elbow to point of shoulder to highest point on scapula) has about a 30 to 35-degree shoulder blade layback, not 45 degrees. Factors such as the relative lengths of scapula and humerus, the angle at which the humerus inclines, plus the dog’s attitude, play parts in both the standing appearance and in the reach in motion. While they didn’t have all the answers, Humphrey and Warner had most of them, and they determined that a scapula-humerus angle of 102° was ideal for the working German Shepherd Dog.
Another problem in reports of that fictitious 45° or greater layback is that it just doesn’t occur in the standing dog. Possibly you might exclude achondroplastic dwarf breeds such as the Corgi, although a noted Dachshund breeder once told me that my statement about “no such shoulder angle as 45 degrees” was true for his breed as well. It does happen when the dog is trotting, running, deeply crouching, or lying on its chest and belly in the manner of the Great Sphinx. The reason for this is that the scapula is not fixed or stationary; its lower end is pulled back by the trapezius and forward by the omotransversarius and serratus, with many other muscles being involved to a lesser extent. These angles can be visualized by watching slow-motion movies or the frames taken from those, and superimposing (technically, infra-imposing) the skeleton or lines representing the bones. Examining many dogs of varying qualities, hopefully with the guidance of a knowledgeable veteran, will enable you to see these proper angles in motion and in standing.
A very unfortunate situation has arisen out of ignorance and laziness: many AKC breed standards were written by people who copied the wording from other erroneous standards without checking accuracy first. The same problem is seen in the multitude of breed books in which artists’ drawings of canine skeletons could almost have been traced from other books, judging from the mistakes they have repeated.
I had been preaching scientific honesty and artistic accuracy for years, thinking I was, like Elijah, “the only prophet in the land of Baal” – until Rachel Page Elliot’s book Dogsteps came out. As I had done on a smaller scale, she x-rayed many standing and running dogs to prove the nonsense about 90 degree angles between humerus (upper arm) and scapula, and the impossibility of a 45-degree layback of the shoulder. That so-called right angle cannot even be approached if you draw your lines down the middle of the upper arm (if you have x-ray vision, maybe you can tell me where the “center” line of this slightly curved, well-padded bone is!).
The Bouvier’s AKC standard has quite good wording on this subject, as does the Collie’s. The “about a right angle” in the AKC German Shepherd Standard is misleading. Is slightly less as good as slightly more? Is it even possible? Their Doberman Pinscher standard is a travesty, what with the 45° layback and 90° shoulder/arm angles being specified. Might as well specify cubical tires for cars! And Dobes have a terrier-schnauzer-sighthound type of structure, with more “open” front angulation than in the herding breeds.
Why, within a particular breed, are some shoulder angles better than others? In a few cases this is the same as asking why some scapulas are laid back at a greater angle than others, though most deficiencies in front angulation lie in the upper arm rather than the scapula layback. If the angle of the spine of the scapula does indeed differ between dogs, it is possibly because some dogs have proportionately shorter vertebrae in the neck or sacrum, and some may have longer bones in the true back and loin (the true back being between the scapula and the croup). If the dog has shorter vertebrae and disks, the shoulder may more upright.
Use Your Fingers
If you draw your line from point of shoulder to the highest part of the ulna that we call the point of the elbow (leaving the humerus to do so), you get points of reference you can see and feel. Now draw your second imaginary line from point of shoulder to top of shoulder blade. The angle between is closer to 90 degrees than if you tried to use the line going through the shaft of the humerus, but you still don’t get a right angle, even with the best laid-back shoulder blades. In my live-dog illustrated lecture, “Analytical Approach to Evaluating Dogs”, I show where these lines are by drawing chalk lines on dark, short-coated canine volunteers. Even when I don’t use a protractor, my audiences can see the fallacies of those printed standard specifications. Again, see Figures 1 and 4.
Action and Motion
Remember that those trapezius and rhomboideus muscles extend to the ninth and sixth thoracic vertebrae with only a small portion of their fibers, and if the vertebrae are relatively short or the scapula is slightly more upright in that dog for another reason, the muscle attachment will be relatively forward and less broad. The same may be true to a lesser degree with the serratus ventralis, which runs from the scapula to the last five cervical vertebrae and the first seven ribs. The more forward all these attachments are, the less the blade will be inclined when a pup begins to move and muscle forces help shape its semi-cartilaginous bones and joints. In such a dog, there would be less muscle mass present to rotate the top of the scapula back and forth, thus a restriction of motion here contributes to a lack of reach in front and even follow-through beneath.
There is a far greater cause for poor reach, or less smoothness of front action. Some dogs have an upper arm (humerus) that is not laid back at a good angle from point of shoulder to elbow joint. This is sometimes accompanied by a proportionately shorter arm compared to the scapular length. Such dogs are in the minority, but it’s wise to keep an eye on the problem. Because of cyclic neglect, German Shepherd Dogs, have periodically become alternately better and worse in this respect. At the time of this revision, the AKC-GSDCA type has lacked good upper arm layback for many years while the international type has improved since the 1970s. See Figure 3 for one artist’s conception of ideal structure.
Whether herding livestock, doing police work, performing obedience exercises, or pulling loads, the working dog needs a well-angled shoulder/upper arm assembly. Let’s consider this synonymous with good layback of both bones, for convenience’s sake. A “straight” (more vertical) foreassembly is somewhat like a car without springs. Imagine a dog with poor front angulation hitting the ground with its forelimbs after climbing over a wall in pursuit of an errant lamb or thief. The hard shock will have a detrimental effect before long.
A dog with better angles (yet strong ligaments in pasterns, elbows, and shoulders) can spread that shock over an imperceptibly longer period of time, during which the muscles slow the impact while the bones go through their “folding up” action relative to each other, then release that stored energy by straightening out again (bouncing back). Trotting creates very nearly the same sort of shock that jumping does, only far less violent.
A successful parachutist survives because he takes only a tiny fraction of a second longer to hit the ground than someone whose chute didn’t open. A good boxer “rolls with the punches”, while the guy who holds his head still when the other guy’s fist approaches finds himself waking up some time later. The baseball player relies on padding and moving his hand back to slow the speed of the ball as it makes contact with his glove. The differences in time intervals in each illustration are truly minute, but they can mean the difference between ease and pain, or life and death. Likewise the differences in layback from dog to dog may be small, but a tiny difference can mean smoother action, greater ability to hit the ground effortlessly whether jumping or trotting, and a longer useful working life. The galloping breeds minimize that shock by increasing the horizontal-to-vertical motion ratio. My show champion, lure-coursing Whippet was undefeated after he learned to run “flat” instead of “up and down”. The trotter breeds have a little more need for more acute angles in the foreassembly.
Not many dogs are used for pulling loads anymore, but the dog with a smaller angle between scapula and upper arm is better suited for this type of work, too. Even if only for historical interest, the ability to pull carts or sleds should be preserved in those breeds that are developed for such purposes, for breed type is inextricably bound to that utility. Form follows function, and if we get too far in the evolution of breeds from their original purposes, we will have created (though gradually) a distinctly different breed. What time traveler from centuries past would recognize today’s utterly non-functional English Bulldog from those he had seen chase and tame wild bulls in the days when the breed had a useful purpose? Do not let our working, utilitarian breeds slip away into uselessness as some other breeds have. There is a good reason why I put so much emphasis on shoulder and upper arm angles, and reward good examples in the show ring. It’s the same reason why it is so difficult to improve in breeding.
Why is good front angulation harder to achieve and possibly more important?
In the case of angulation at the knee (“bend of stifle”), ignorance and fad-following have resulted in GSDs with lower-thighs that are too long, with hocks too far behind the torso to be adequately controlled by ligaments and muscles. This rear angulation at the stifle can go either direction from the middle (moderate) ideal for most breeds, with the American-fashion GSD at one extreme and Chows at the other. However, in the case of the shoulder, the ideal is not in the middle of a normal range, but on one end; namely, closer to the fictional 45-degree layback and 90-degree shoulder/arm angles. Actually, depending upon breed and whether you draw the bottom line to the point of the elbow, a layback of 35 degrees in either scapula or upper arm is very good, and an angle of 95 degrees from withers to point of shoulder to point of elbow is excellent for a herding breed. Drawing that line through the upper arm, you would get about 115 degrees in most of the efficient trotters. If it were possible to create a 45-degree layback in both bones, some say that such a dog might fall on its face.
But back to those palpable points of reference, those being the indentation at the point of shoulder, the highest point of the scapula, and the top of the ulna. If a number of genes affect the angle between these bones, some would be “ideal genes” (let’s say they’d call for a 35° angle from vertical, for each bone, for purpose of illustration), and others would be “less than ideal genes” calling for some lesser angle. Of all the possible genes that could be transmitted, the vast majority would be calling for an angle of somewhere in the 20 degree to 30 degree range, with a miniscule number calling for the coveted approximately 120 degrees remaining between the scapula and humerus. Genes are inherited randomly, and statistically would show a bell curve with the smallest amplitude in the two extremes (say, 15 degrees and 35 degrees, for example) and the greatest in the middle of the curve.
Despite all the talk about angles, it boils down to this advice: forget the numbers, examine as many dogs as you can get your hands and eyes on, compare one dog to the next, and reward or admire those with the smallest apparent angle between shoulder and upper arm, while proving what appears in stance by watching the dog perform in the trot. See Figures 4 and 5.
Since he cannot do “better” than the ideal shoulder angle, which is at one end of a range of possibilities, the breeder must be more diligent in such an instance to cull from breeding programs all dogs which drift an undesirable distance from that good end of that spectrum. More so than is necessary in any trait in which the ideal is at some intermediate point between the worst on one end and the worst in the opposite direction. In the case of good forequarter function in a herding breed, and in most other working breeds, there is only one direction from the ideal, when we speak of breeds developed for trotting. To paraphrase Sir Edmund Burke, eternal diligence is the price of freedom from poor forequarters.
The thigh – What is meant by “the whole assembly of the thigh” in the wording of the AKC Standard for the GSD? Viewed from the side, it includes the croup, upper thigh (femur and associated soft tissues), and lower thigh (tibia and fibula). If these three skeletal sections are too “vertical” or steep, the hindquarters will not present the broad picture called for by the Standard. Obviously, if the croup and lower thigh are slanted downward toward the rear, the femur will not also be so. Nor is it angled forward when the GSD stands in a normal pose, in spite of the AKC Standard’s inaccurate statement about it paralleling the scapula. Many books on many other breeds have made the same error; even some written by well-known judges who should have known better than to report on something they did not experience in real life.
From experience both in radiographing live, standing dogs and in feeling for the bones in the hindquarters, and getting my seminar attendees to do the same, I have repeatedly shown that the femur is vertical when the metatarsus (hock) is vertical. The natural stance for German Shepherd Dogs is with one rear leg placed a little (and only a little) under the torso for added support of a long, substantial body. In this leg, the femur is not vertical, but neither is the hock. Stand your dog with metatarsi vertical and parallel. Lift the dog’s rear leg while you feel with your fingers for the acetabular (hip) joint capsule, and make a chalk mark there. Then feel the depression between the upper and lower leg bones. This is some distance below the patella, which is too hidden in cartilage to be accurately palpated. Make another chalk mark there. You can now see that the femur is quite vertical between these two easily-located points.
The slant of the lower thigh in the GSD can roughly approximate that of both the croup and the humerus, although there is considerable variation, and it probably comes closest when the metatarsus is vertical, but even then not in all dogs – too much has been made of this similarity and the concept should be dropped. The angle that the lower thighbones make with the femur in a natural stance is not a right angle. Here again I am forced to contradict a poorly worded line in the AKC Standard which is more fancy than fact, and probably harks back to the days before radiography was used much.
Even von Stephanitz may have understated conditions a little when he said this angle should be “90 to 100 degrees, sometimes even a bit more.” He was talking about the angle made between the pelvis (croup) and femur, which right angle we have shown is not possible. But one of the axioms of geometry indicates that if the croup is parallel with the tibia, the angle between the femur and tibia equals that between the femur and croup. Remember that this premise of parallel lines is approximate at best. The angle between pelvis and femur is not a 90° angle, as you now know. With a slope of (typically) 35° to the croup, and a nearly vertical femur, that angle between lower thigh and femur in most excellent moderately- or even very-angulated dogs will be around 125° (90 + 35) from the horizontal, however one measures it. To have a right angle would necessitate a horizontal croup or a forward-slanting femur, neither of which are found. The angle between a vertical line from hip socket through the stifle indicating the femur, and the line from stifle joint to point of hock varies from 95° in an “extreme” dog to about 130° or 140° in a less-angulated, straighter-stifled dog. This means the angle of the lower thigh from the horizontal varies from 5 to 50 degrees in various breeds. The relative length of the lower thigh is the biggest anatomical factor in determining this angle. See Figure 6.
For a good understanding of the anatomy of the dog, additional pictures and discussion would be helpful. Toward that end, I urge you to get your own copy of “The Total German Shepherd Dog”, regardless of what breed you have, and study the illustrations and information.
Fig.1 Shoulder Angles – It is almost impossible to duplicate, by eye or hand, the typical illustration in most books that shows a 90-degree angle between limbs, with lines going through the middle of the humerus and from either the most-forward point of the shoulder or the imagined location of the center of articulation to the highest point of the scapula or along the scapular spine. Only in the “best” fore-assemblies will an angle of 90 degrees even be approached, and then only if lines are drawn on radiographs from top of ulna to front of upper arm to a point behind the highest point of the scapula.
Figure 3 Various Bone-Joint Angles in a Well-built Herding/Working Breed
(Actually, few GSDs have this good a shoulder, and very few from American lines since the 1970s)
Figure 6 Rear Angulation. This is defined as the angular relationships between croup (pelvis), femur, lower thigh, and metatarsus. The term is erroneously used by rank novices to describe slope of topline.
Copyright 2005 – This article is a revision of the earlier article “Angulation Front and Rear” by the same author. See separate article on hindquarter angulation elsewhere.
(About the author – Fred Lanting is an SV breed judge, is approved by UKC and many international registries as an all-breed judge, and has judged numerous countries’ GSD Sieger Shows and Landesgruppen events, and other shows in about 30 countries. He presents seminars and consults worldwide on such topics as Gait & Structure, HD and Other Orthopedic Disorders, Anatomy, Training Techniques, and The GSD. Fred lives part of the year in Alabama, actively trains in schutzhund, and breeds for occasional litters. He invites all to join his annual non-profit Sieger Show and sightseeing tour. He can be reached at email@example.com and his dogs can also be seen on Jagenstadt, www.SiriusDog.com, and www.fredlanting.org; the latter being where you can also find most of his articles. Some of the illustrations in this article are from the book, The Total German Shepherd Dog. That book and the new Orthopedic Disorders book are available directly from the author or some distributors. Reprint permission of these copyrighted pieces can be requested and must carry this or a similar notice at the end.)
Part of a Set of Articles on Dwarfism
by Fred Lanting
(original version appeared in Dog World [US], Dec. 1984)
Dwarfism is a condition of abnormally small stature, and usually is characterized by altered body proportions. Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Corgis are examples of achondroplastic dwarfs; they have more or less normal-sized torsos and heads but shortened limbs, and are accepted as typical of their breed. Alaskan Malamutes, on the other hand, are not considered acceptable if they have their particular blood cell related disease. In that breed, both achondroplastic dwarfism and hemolytic anemia are inherited as pleiotropic conditions, meaning a single gene giving multiple phenotype effects. Additionally, there are dwarfism abnormalities in other breeds such as pseudochondroplastic dysplasia in Miniature Poodles.
In the German Shepherd Dog, however, there is a little-known dwarfism that yields a nearly perfectly proportioned but considerably downsized version. An acceptable term to use would be proportional or pituitary dwarfs, even though all types of dwarfism have their origins in that gland. The fact is (or was until this article appeared), many do not know about the existence of this type of dog, even though it is not all that rare. Possibly because of the large-scale linebreeding by a West Coast kennel that produced winning dogs, the incidence rose for a number of years in the U.S. Due to linebreeding on certain British and German dogs, there was a noticeable number appearing both in England and Australia, countries which rely heavily on German lines. One genetic analysis of Australian data indicated that two dwarfs might be expected out of 1000 pups when “any dog” is bred to “any bitch”. The recurrent risk for any dog or bitch bred to a parent of a dwarf is seven per 1000; a parent of a dwarf to a half-sibling of a dwarf is 272 per 1000; and parent of dwarf X parent of dwarf is 235 per 1000. The roughly 25% risk in the latter two matings is typical of what one would expect when two normal carriers of a simple Mendelian trait are bred to each other.
Of course, that 25% is an average. I recently (1984) examined pups from a litter of six in which three were pituitary dwarfs, but both parents were of normal size. Now remember, these were not abnormal in proportions, only in size and unseen body chemistry. The little Shepherds I examined that year had beautiful temperaments, and were active and apparently healthy at the time I first saw them at almost four months of age. They weighed about five pounds, while a normal littermate was about 32 pounds. There was something that had not appeared in the scientific literature but which I noticed in this litter, as well as in photographs of other litters: pituitary dwarfs seem to squint in bright sunlight more than do their normal siblings. Another facial characteristic of miniature Shepherds is a fox-like appearance, coming from wide-set ears. I believe this to be a result of disrupted proportions of skull vs. base of the pinna (ear shell), which to some extent is seen in Welsh Corgis also. A somewhat snipey (pointed) muzzle is due partly to a shortening of the skull and, in some individuals, a slight overbite.
The Arkansas litter I visited was no combination of junkyard genes, but sired by an AKC Champion and with two Champion grandsires. The whole pedigree was full of recognized and respected kennel names and individuals. Indeed, the trait has been known for many years to be carried by “champion-quality” dogs. The gene seems to have first arisen, possibly as a mutation, around 1940 or shortly before. It’s almost 100% sure that one of the most valuable German Shepherd Dogs of all time, Vello zu den Sieben Faulen, is a major source in bloodlines since the late 1950s. But we cannot lay all the blame at his feet, nor avoid all his descendants. Nor would we want to, for many of the breed’s best lines are based on Vello. Only a percentage of his (or any dog’s) progeny would carry the defective gene, and presumably many of the earlier dogs who exhibited it in their progeny were removed from the gene pool. The SV doesn’t favor continued breeding of dogs that produce defects, and they have the power in Germany to prevent such dogs from further use by denying registration. However, when a dog is valuable in other respects, such as the Sieger Uran WildsteigerLand, a blind eye is used to look in that direction.
Some non-show lines occasionally come up with pituitary dwarfs, such as the white German Shepherd bitch I found, who at two years of age weighed only 15 pounds (some get as heavy as 30 pounds or so, but most are smaller). Her skin was milk-chocolate in color, thin, wrinkled, dry, and lacking in elasticity or tone. She had almost no hair on the trunk, neck, and wear areas such as buttocks, etc. Primary or guard hairs were present on a few areas of the head and feet, and the rest of the body was either bald or lightly covered with secondary hairs (puppy fuzz or undercoat), which were easily pulled out with the fingers. All these signs are very common in these animals as adults, with the skin ranging from brown to gray in color. Dogs which would otherwise be plush or long-coats usually look like Chinese Crested Dogs — if they live to maturity — with feathery fringes around the ears and feet, and bald elsewhere unless treated with growth and/or thyroid hormones.
External or obvious characteristics aren’t the only things different about pituitary dwarfs. Blood chemistry tests show that hormones that are supposed to be circulating may be absent or at very low levels. The methods are too involved to go into here, but briefly stated, there are ways to assay the activity of endocrine glands and amounts of their secretions. The hypophysis (commonly known as pituitary gland) is the “master” gland of the body, situated in the center of the head at the base of the brain. It produces a number of hormones, including GH (growth hormone). IFG (insulin-like growth factor) circulating in the blood is interdependent with GH. The pituitary gland is affected by others, but it is more the director of the body’s other endocrine glands, such as the thyroids and gonads. The thyroids have a say in the maturing process, metabolism, development of form and behavior, and physical and mental activity. Muscular weakness and the skin/hair problems described above are due to inadequate or absent thyroid activity, which in turn is due to lack of proper direction from the pituitary. Your veterinarian can explain T3 and T4 to you if you wish to study thyroid function more fully.
The effects of this type of dwarfism can be mitigated or delayed by administration of thyroxine and GH, but this is a very expensive proposition at present. It is thought that if recombinant genetics (gene-splicing) and RNA production of human growth hormone becomes feasible, the price may go down. Dogs apparently respond to human GH, but not the other way around. Eventually, at the age of normal skeletal maturity or a bit later, the growth plates in the dwarf’s bones close and no further growth is possible, regardless of GH injections. Another problem in treating the condition is that most owners don’t present the pups to a veterinarian until their littermates are twice their size. The affected pup grows normally until three to eight weeks, when the brakes are applied and the normal siblings leave him behind in growth.
Although it is possible that pituitary dwarfism in the GSD is a polygenic disorder of a threshold nature, most investigators so far believe it a result of a simple autosomal (not sex-linked) recessive trait. In most characteristics inherited in this simple method, the recessive gene can be hidden for many generations before it is paired with another identical recessive gene. Genes operate in pairs, and only when both of the pair are the recessive alleles, does the trait manifest itself. When only one recessive gene exists, its dominant partner dictates the normal or dominant phenotype characteristic. It’s like a Labrador Retriever that inherits one gene for black coat color and gets the recessive gene for yellow from his other parent. He himself is black, because that first gene is dominant over yellow and does not allow the yellow to predominate or show in the phenotype (appearance).
However, some recessive traits are only partially covered up by the dominant member of such a heterogenous gene pair. Often, one can see the faint hint of a saddle in a sable German Shepherd Dog which is heterogenous (has one sable gene and one black-and-tan gene). Similarly, it may be possible to “see” other recessives through the use of blood tests, examination of the eyes retina, etc. Achondroplastic dwarfism in the Malamute, for example, is connected with a blood cell disorder, both being pleiotropic results of the same defective gene. Because of the effect the pituitary has on thyroid function and on other glands, it may become possible to detect the “carriers” in a GSD litter among whose members some dwarfs have appeared. In a statistically typical litter of 12 produced by two normal-appearing carriers of the recessive gene, suppose three homozygous dwarfs and three pups without the gene. The other six are heterozygous carriers and appear normal (like their parents) but will contribute one recessive gene to each pup they produce in the future.
It is unfortunate that such abnormalities are often hidden from the public by breeders and owners who are fearful, mercenary, proud, or ignorant. Most pups are sold about the time the growth rate difference begins, so many cases reported to veterinarians have been “single incidences” as far as the buyers and their vets could tell. Others may be put down by embarrassed breeders who don’t want it known they have produced such anomalies. Since the health of pituitary dwarfs is more precarious than that of normal pups, it can be assumed that many that die at birth, are resorbed during gestation, or die before the trait begins to appear, may be dwarfs. The Arkansas breeder who called me to ask what she had, and invited me to see them, upon discovering half her litter were dwarfs, decided not to put them down and cover up, but rather care for them and share their stories with responsible breeders and veterinary researchers. She even intended to train and show at least one in obedience and was, at this first writing, hoping to persuade the AKC that there are no rules against it. From such an openminded approach, we may be able to make an educated guess as to pedigree origin of the defect, plus discover some means of identifying normal-appearing carriers.
She even briefly entertained hopes to try breeding these dwarfs with each other or with siblings or parents, trying to duplicate the occurrence. I guessed (correctly) that she might find it difficult. Development of the gonads varies from atrophied testicles and absence of estrus to normal testicles and seasons. If she had been successful in reproducing the condition, we may have seen the AKC faced with difficult decisions: they cannot justify withholding registration privileges or show/trial eligibility because of the pure pedigree, so do they create a separate variety within the breed, as exists in Dachshunds, or a separate breed as they did with Norwich and Norfolk Terriers? Doubtful. The only alternative is to keep them in the regular classification and hope judges will not place them for reasons of not being of sufficient breed type. The German club has disqualifications for those outside size limits; the AKC does not. By the way, for several years, a pituitary dwarf attended the German Sieger Show (as a spectator) and was seen by thousands.
One problem I can foresee in attempts at breeding these, besides lowered fertility, is whelping. Pituitary dwarfs start life off at normal size, which for a Shepherd is in the neighborhood of one pound, give or take about four or five ounces depending on the number of whelps. If a dwarf bitch were impregnated (artifically, of course) by a normal-sized carrier male, some of the whelps could be normal sized and the bitch would not be able to pass them or possibly even carry them without damage to them and/or herself. If a normal-sized carrier bitch were bred to a dwarf male, it shouldn’t be any more of a problem than when two normal-sized dogs with the recessives are mated together. So far, nobody has engineered such a mating, to my knowledge.
Size of the dwarfs varies a great deal. As of this (1984) writing, the ones I have examined were 5.5 months old and weighed seven pounds. Others at skeletal maturity (when growth plates close and bones don’t grow any longer) have been reported to weigh from under 15 pounds to slightly over 30 pounds. Normal weights for GSD bitches are 55-75 pounds, and for males 70-90 pounds. It’s not unusual for a bitch to give birth to ten pounds of puppies, plus carry the extra weight of fluid and placental tissue. For a dwarf bitch, that percentage would be impossible, I would think.
The variable size of the pituitary dwarf Shepherds reported so far is an indication of the possibilities that the trait itself could be a threshold polygenic trait (unlikely), but the variation could also result from modifier genes governing varying time of growth cessation. There are some differences in absence, presence, or level of growth hormone in untreated dwarfs, and those that grow to be larger than others before the growth plates close may simply have more GH. Since the “problem” has been swept under the rug so often, and is rare enough to begin with, professors at veterinary colleges are in disagreement over the meager information that is available. Thanks to the breeder in Arkansas, several universities and the Morris Animal Foundation were currently studying the data and the dogs.
This type of pituitary dwarfism involves the German Shepherd Dog, but a breed from the Russia-Finland border, called the Karelian Bear Dog, is also affected. The reason is that the Karelian (Finnish spelling is Carelian) has the GSD as part of its ancestry, and the affected individuals had some GSD carriers in their pedigrees. The scientific literature has reported one Yorkshire Terrier, one “Toy Pinscher”, and two “Spitzes” as well, but it is highly doubtful that those are the same genetic defect. If I find several examples, as there are in the GSD, I’ll withdraw my doubts.
Fred Lanting is a German Shepherd Dog breeder, judge, and breed authority, and is the author of books on Canine Hip Dysplasia and Other Orthopedic Disorders (www.MrGSD.com), and The Total GSD (www.hoflin.com). He lectures around the world on canine orthopedics, and structure and gait. Articles are found on many websites, and permission can be requested at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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by Fred Lanting
In the German Shepherd Dog world, and echoed elsewhere, we have long heard (and voiced) complaints about the schism that exists between the “show” (Hochzuchtlinie or high-breeding) lines and the “sport” or working-competition (Leistungs) lines. I’ll speak to the issue of the non-standard (AKC, Alsatian) styles elsewhere, but first I intend to discuss the continued and even widening gap in the international type. Here, I will allude a little more to the history of the breed. You might consider this “Part Two”, with an illustrated companion article (though not actually designated “Part One”) having been made available under the title, “Will the True Working Dog Disappear?”
The vision of Max von Stephanitz, which even today is cherished by many of us who love the breed, was to standardize, to “fix Type” in, the many variations of the shepherd’s dog he found all over Germany and many adjoining lands. Some were shaggy, others were short-coated. Some were scrawny, some high in the rear, some had ears that did always stand up. But all that he incorporated into the new “breed” association in 1899 had jobs they worked in.
Besides the flock tending, which was becoming less needed in the age of industrialization and migration to the cities, dogs with these talents and type were finding other occupations. Captain von Stephanitz saw, selected, and developed the abilities that soon made his German Shepherd Dog the preferred breed for police and military service. Before long, its combination of sensitivity and need for nearly-constant human contact, plus its size, made it ideal for the newly-recognized occupation of guide dog for blind people. It was still a dog with “working papers”.
Between the two big wars, the pastime of exhibition and competition grew, designed to select the dogs that looked like they were best qualified to produce the next generation. Coat length and colors, body size and proportions, ear and tail carriage — all these were added to the evaluation of character and some evidence of utility. Conformation competition classes were categorized by age, with any dog over two years old being required to have a suitable training title in order to compete in the “beauty” shows. These titles included the HGH herding certificate and the newer Schutzhund (protection) title. Other, less-encountered service designations were retained for a while.
After WW-2, with the breed in Germany decimated as a result of personal dogs having been commandeered by the military, and most of them killed in action or having disappeared when the concentration camps were found and dismantled, the breed and sport had to start all over with a limited gene pool. Conformation shows were only suspended during a few of the war years. Still, despite different zones of Germany being assigned to the major allies, and many GSDs becoming prisoners of Communism behind an iron curtain, there was still the oneness of the breed, with one conformation standard and set of requirements for proof of working ability.
This united, single-breed status continued for another couple of decades. In Eastern Europe, because of the Soviet Union’s cancellation of such freedoms as communication, dogs on “their side” stopped sharing and exchanging genetic material with their western counterparts. Therefore, we who were around then and for many years later could see the result of this isolation. We could spot, at a glance, the rust-red Czech dog, the bicolor or black East German dog, and the wiry sables from many parts of these imprisoned lands. But in western Germany and in all the countries of the free world that got dogs from there, the GSD looked pretty much the same. Even in North America, where no proof of working ability was or is needed, the international type and styles were honored until the late 1960s.
There are two main annual, national competition events in Germany that are of the greatest interest to people around the world, and I have led tour groups to both. One is variously called the Sieger Show or Bundessiegerzuchtschau (BSZS), and the other is the Bundessiegerprüfung (BSP). The former, held around the first of September, is supposed to select and rank those dogs that conform anatomically, and the latter is to rank those that perform all the schutzhund exercises (tracking, obedience, and protection). The BSP is generally held two weeks after the conformation event, in a different part of Germany. The BSZS is open to all qualified dogs regardless of country of birth or residence, but the practical fact is that if a dog has not been competing in Germany’s local and regional shows during the spring and summer under the judge who will see them at the Sieger Show, and if it has not been placing highly there, it will not get an elevated placing at the big show in the autumn. The BSP is open only to dogs resident in Germany.
At the Sieger Show, there is a qualification performance for adult dogs on the first of the three days. It is commonly referred to as “the courage test” and involves two short excerpts from the SchH-1 (IP-1) exercise. In the first one, the handler and dog walk at heel toward a blind from which an attacker jumps out and threatens them. In the second, the dog is sent from the far end of the field to intercept the “bad guy”. In each case, the trespasser is charging at them, waving a stick as his weapon. The dog must confidently and firmly hit the intruder, and bite steadily with (hopefully) a full-mouth grip. The dog must not “shy” at any time or let go during the struggle.
In each case, after the “out”, the dog must guard the motionless “bad guy” until picked up by the handler. An evaluation of Ausgeprägt (pronounced) enables a dog to be presented for the conformation judging, which for that dog begins a few minutes after leaving the courage test field. An evaluation of Vorhanden (sufficient” means the dog barely passed but with a relatively poor level of courage and fighting drive (TSB). Such a dog can still get an SG (Very Good) rating at most, but is ineligible for the V (excellent) rating, or the VA, which is what the top few qualifiers get. Adult females go through the same process, but since males produce up to ten times as many offspring a year, they are the ones most studied at the show by breeders and potential puppy buyers. The dogs that completely fail to engage, stay on the sleeve, and act protective and brave are sent home or to the kennel box — hopefully in the shade.
Now, here’s the rub. The judge who decides which dogs get the VA and high-V placings (and therefore will contribute most to the Hochzuchtlinie gene pool) does not get to see the actual performance in the courage test. In fact, he doesn’t even get a report on how well or how marginally the Ausgeprägt dogs really did. Many do not deserve a pronounced rating, although the 2006 courage test judge for males did a tougher, better job than average. So, how can the breed judge know what the character, as tested in the qualifying ring, is really like? He cannot. About the only thing he can use as a tiny part of his judgment, is the knowledge of whether the dog passed in the previous year.
In 2006, the Sieger was a dog that had failed the courage test at a prior BSZS, and at least half of his adult offspring did very unconvincing jobs in their own bitework. The vice-sieger was this dog’s father, who has not proven to be much better in either his own work or in producing brave dogs. Von Stephanitz must be turning over in his grave! In third place, a dog that perhaps should take their place next year, unless the Chinese snap him up as they are doing with so many dogs, is Orbit Huhnegrab. He, himself, did a good job on Friday, but had not a single offspring entered that was over two years old. A progeny class of untested dogs, no matter how good they look in stance or gait, should not be used to make a dog the Sieger. In the next several dogs in the VA group, problems with hip ratings, bitework, and other less-than-exciting qualities, made me yearn for the method used in the years of 1938, `41, `42, `74, `75, `76, and `77, when there was no Sieger named and the VA dogs were not ranked in order. I was so disappointed with the “Friday fiasco” lack of courage and preparation, and poor proof of progeny in the 2006 show, that I would not have awarded any VA’s at all.
I had a dream about a week after the 2006 BSZS, in which I was the judge doing the adult males conformation. Not only did I have the authority, but I also was in charge of organizing the show, and formulating official SV policy. I scheduled the courage test for males to begin on Thursday, and instructed the Leistungsrichter (courage test judge) to be as tough and demanding as he would be if he were doing it at the BSP. Instead of sequestering myself in a distant ring and only trying to see which dogs were prettier than which, I took private notes from my viewpoint, which was standing right next to the Leistungsrichter.
Later that night, he and I reviewed those notes and watched the video clips of those dogs that were in the running based on their show placings in previous months and years. We also looked at the films of dogs not usually shown — the “working lines” dogs, many of whom were hoping to compete for the Universal Sieger award, which is heavily weighted on BSP and other trial scores, but influenced by how high a V rating they get in the beauty shows.
In my nocturnal fantasy, I had the backing and encouragement of the Leistungsrichter when I moved certain great-working dogs up in the standings from where they would otherwise be if evaluated only on anatomy. Since the judges in charge of the adult bitch tests and show were in the meeting, too, I persuaded them to look at the bitches in the same light. Having seen several of the females work, I helped formulate those eventual placings, too. I decided to input data on Zuchtwert and “a”-stamp grades into the “calculations” — on a subjective basis, not a mathematical point system. The SV “a”-stamp has improved hip quality in the breed only up to a certain low plateau, and there must now be greater restrictions on what sort of hips and elbows we judges promote with our show placings.
As Chief Breed Warden, I was also formulating suggestions to improve the Zuchtwert system by including PennHIP data. This is the system, now widely used in Denmark, and increasingly in Belgium and Holland, that gives much better diagnosis because of much greater accuracy in determining joint laxity, and a better handle on heritability and progeny prediction. I also directed the responsible parties to work out an arrangement whereby non-German registered dogs could have their radiographs and allied data put into the SV system and database, so that “foreign” dogs did not have to start with 100 for their ZW value.
As an example of the present design not allowing sufficient information, the bitch from the Netherlands, Yasmin v. Nieuwlandshof, SchH3, (Erik Ehrenfeste ex Yelena di Fossombrone); linebreeding: 5-5 Enzo Burg Aliso) was outstanding in both anatomy and TSB. The ZW hip rating on this lovely granddaughter of Timo Berrekasten was 88, but it might have been even better had she not come from Holland and her dam from Italy. One of the bitches in my dream was “Space Geanie”, who in the real-life 2006 show got the only SG in the adult class, was instead advanced to a very respectable V rating in my dream. She gave one of the most exciting, positive, and pleasing performances of the day at Oberhausen. Excellence is more than croup angle and upper-arm length and layback.
Another that was very enthusiastic and practiced was Shalome vom Oasis, and I recommended to my fellow judge that he seriously consider her for Siegerin. Of course, outside of a dream, that would be looked upon as crude interference, but in my imagination-discourse, I was only doing what Captain Max would have done. Shalome had been consistent in both bitework and gaiting in the past as well as on this day. Other bitches that did well in both were VA 8 Oduscha Team Fiemereck, and of course Lothar Quoll’s beautiful VA1 Xara Agilolfinger.
My dreamland consultants and I returned to the subject of the males. They agreed with me that we should give much better placings than would otherwise be based on simply gait and stance, in such cases as the otherwise-V-132 Nando vom Haus Vortkamp. This male was breathtaking in his speed, precision, and enjoyment of being “macho-man” in the protection rôle.
The next day, when I had to build the preliminary order of highest-V down to the few SG dogs, I relied a great deal on the comments of my fellow judges, and the notes I took on the video review and during the protection work itself. The protection judge and my assistant who had done the statistical study were with me when I evaluated the structure, movement, and show history of the dogs in the past 18 months. All this was added to information on how many offspring had done poorly, how many were good, and how many were excellent in anatomy and/or work, especially in the previous day’s TSB. The percentage of progeny that passed the courage test, as well as the ratio of Ausgeprägt to Vorhanden, were part of the picture I based my rankings on.
After the decision on what placing each dog was given, all the Leistungsrichter (working trial judges) at the show came up and congratulated me on the primary emphasis I put on character. I reminded them that I was born the year von Stephanitz died, and ever since I became a show judge, I felt that I inherited his mantle, the way Elisha was chosen to continue the work of Elijah. I told the gathering that it was up to both groups to bring the German Shepherd Dog back to the center, where character, working ability, and usefulness to individuals and society are as important as such aesthetic qualities as good pigment, long croups, strong but normal toplines, good front angulation, proper dentition, and excellence in orthopedic matters.
But alas! Dreams soon are left to wither and fade on the pillow when the sun rises and pierces them with its burning rays. And the dream I was in, about being the Chief Zuchtrichter at the Sieger Show, was no exception. I woke to stark reality.
Instead of foreseeing the “total” German Shepherd Dog, it seems likely I will not live to see a single breed re-created from the two branches that now exist. It’s possible, but nothing to bet the farm on. As long as the breed judges (especially the ones choosing the top males) are isolated from even knowing how good or how marginal the TSB performances are, they will continue to choose on the basis of appearances (beauty) alone. They might as well stay home and judge from snapshots and video clips.
On the other hand, as long as BSP competitors and breeders ignore the cigar-shaped torso, the vertical front, the steep pelvis, and other problems, the gap will not be closed from their side, either. If breeders rely only on numbers — such as Schutzhund/IPO scores — they are also doing an injustice to the breed.
If show dogs need a SchH or IP or HGH title in order to gain recognition in the conformation ring, then “working-line dogs” should be required to have a V rating in the Zuchtschau or perhaps a Landesgruppe show, and a Körklasse-1a in order to rank in the top-ten BSP spots, or in the annual WUSV working trials.
The gap, the “great divide”, was not a creation or intention of von Stephanitz and his colleagues. Nor should it be continued by the SV and WUSV any longer. It was our (breeders, exhibitors, judges) creation, especially since the end of the 1960s, and we should be responsible for filling in that gap, for making the German Shepherd Dog one breed again.
Fred is an SV Zuchtrichter (Auslander), retired because of the mandatory age limit, but continues to judge in many other registries. He also presents seminars worldwide on GSD Structure, and on Canine Orthopedics. His articles can be found by putting his name in the Google or other search engines. He conducts annual non-profit sightseeing tours of Europe, centered on the Sieger Show (still the biggest breed show in the world). For tours or his books on Orthopedic Disorders or on the GSD, contact him at “All Things Canine” consulting division, Willow Wood Services: E-mail: email@example.com
As most of you know, I have been involved with the German Shepherd Dog since 1947 as a trainer, breeder, judge, author, and teacher. My love for the breed is unquestionable and I count it an honor to have fought for its welfare and preservation for all these years. In my zeal for one of God’s great gifts to man, namely, the companionship and utility of dogs, I may step on some toes once in a while. But it never from spite or greed or self-aggrandizement that I call a spade a spade, and wish to correct error. Lately I have been railing against the deterioration of character in the show dog and the unwillingness of the working-only faction in the sport to make peace and use “gentle persuasion” in bringing the two communities back together.
For my usual show-and-tour description, look at “Impressions of the 2006 Sieger Show and Tour” on http://SiriusDog.com , www.angelfire.com/de3/jagenstadt/vonsalixHome.html , and http://www.aniwa.com/renvoie.asp?type=1&id=102350&cid=126426&com=1&lang=2&animal=1 , among other sites. In this companion piece, I want to extend those remarks and expand a bit on what the trends are in the world of the German Shepherd Dog. First, I’d like to give my modified definitions of the words type and style. The former word, especially when I capitalize it, refers to those essential, central characteristics that describe or illustrate the breed or an especially good representative of the Standard. The latter connotes the variation within and diverging a little from that ideal. Where the boundary line is between these words, is a matter of individual opinion.
We have already seen the loss of Type in the AKC dog and the old Alsatian GSDs. In England and its satellite colony-countries, this was caused almost entirely by the unfortunate quarantine system. When a species becomes isolated, it develops in such a way as to accentuate certain recessive traits and, by such inbreeding, fix a new type or style. My book, The Total German Shepherd, gives a good genetic explanation for this phenomenon. We cannot blame the rabies quarantine in the U.S., but isolation there is partly a matter of distance and cost. The great percentage of dogs do not go back and forth across the ocean for breeding and or competition, so the effect of isolation is just as bad. Maybe worse, since England’s proximity to the Continent and, later, the relaxing of those burdensome quarantine times, has allowed the international type to gain a position of prominence there. In North America, the home-bred AKC-style GSD is mostly a dog that very few people want. Instead of being Number One as it is in the rest of the world, it hovers closer to the bottom of the Top Ten in popularity. Canada might as well be considered another state in the USA, as bloodlines and clubs are almost indistinguishable.
In the other major quarantine region, Australasia, body style is still largely in the 1970s and `80s rut of the broken or banana-back topline that came about as a side-effect of the emphasis the Martin brothers put on rear drive, and (following their lead) the neglect by many top SV judges of the normal canine topline. It is improving, but the problem that remains is the Australian National Kennel Club, which is their all-breed registry and 1,000-kilo gorilla. The sport and proofing tool of Schutzhund has been banned by the all-breed club and the government, and the GSDClub of Australia has meekly gone along with them rather than put up a fight for the sake of uniting the breed or at least keeping it a true working-character dog.
So, what happens when the powers-that-be in Australasia, the AKC and CKC, The Kennel Club (UK), and smaller national dog registries have all that power to inhibit the training and competing with protection dogs? They make old Max von Stephanitz spin madly in his grave, for one thing. The breed was developed for the twin purposes of herding and protecting sheep, and protecting their owners and property. This expanded early into using their natural abilities for police and military work as well as Search and Rescue, and guides for the blind. The herding use has become an anachronism in this day of city growth and Border Collie replacement. Guide dogs are more likely to be Retrievers. Even the military and police dog jobs are being given to Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and mixed breeds.
In the first 65 or 70 years of the breed, the German Shepherd Dog was one breed. The working qualities were stressed almost as much as the aesthetics were. Breeders put almost as much emphasis on training as on conformation. America still relied on imports to keep them reminded about what the GSD was supposed to look like and act like. About the same time that Americans were linebreeding extremely heavily on one dog with weak temperament (the mid-1960s), Germans were beginning to put all their eggs in the one “beauty basket”, at least those who wanted the prestige of a good rating at the Sieger Show.
For me, 1967 marked the biggest pot-hole and detour in the road the GSD had been traveling. In the USA, character was being ignored. The (U.S.) GSDCA’s Grand Victor of 1966 and 1968 produced a large percentage of “spooky” offspring. The 1967 Grand Victor also had a temperament problem and passed it along, notably to such weak dogs as his son the 1971 Grand Victor, as well as structural problems that became intensified due to unwise excessive linebreeding on him. One of the last German Siegers with really super breed character was 1967′s Bodo Lierberg, and he was passed over when he only got as far as Winners Dog (the chief non-champion class) at the American National Specialty that same year. That decision irrevocably skewed the course of the breed in the United States and Canada. After 1967, emphasis in Germany increasingly favored the exciting, driving gait over courage, and several dogs of questionable character strength (or at least, poor character in a large number of offspring) were rewarded with high placings, even Sieger, such as one notable choice in the mid-1990s. The gap was widening rapidly between working-dog and show-dog Type in this all-important feature.
And that gap kept widening. Despite new SV President Peter Messler’s stated desire to make it one breed again, we began to see many conformation-VA dogs with character weaknesses, and high-ranking Leistungs (schutzhund-trial) dogs with weak heads, extremely short croups, and upright fore-assemblies. These are OK for galloping, but not suited for endurance herding and therefore not representative of the historic body construction of the breed.
This trend is short-sighted, even suicidal. In Europe and elsewhere, there is a growing bias against the sport of schutzhund (protection and utility proofing) and the civilian and military/police jobs that this activity was designed to simulate. Why? Many causes. Population growth and career evolution has increased city residence and decreased locations to rear and train your dogs, even though Germany still has a club in easy driving distance in most regions. People elect politicians who are city-dwelling, non-dog-owners — in fact, many of them turn out to be actively anti-dog or easily swayed by the dog-haters such as in the Green Party and other pressure groups. Of course, long ago, the need for sheep-herding all-purpose guard dogs like the GSD started to wither and die, with less demand for wool than for synthetic fibers, and not much demand for lamb versus “factory animals” such as pigs, that demand less land. Besides, the wolves had disappeared and with no need to double as protection dogs, Border Collies are cheaper to maintain, and work at least as hard.
Even in the historic, almost sacrosanct use that gave the other nickname to the breed, “German Police Dog”, that job is being filled more and more by the Belgian Malinois and cross-breeds of that lithe, agile, and speedy dog. They have much lower incidence of hip dysplasia, which is extremely important when one realizes the great expense of training and the shortened useful lifespan that HD brings. Police schools used to depend mostly on donated dogs and purchases at reasonable prices, but GSD breeders generally were not willing to give away their best dogs nor sell them for less than a show-dog or sport-dog buyer would pay. Those schools that do not breed their own, can get good prospects from Malinois breeders at much lower prices than GSDs demand. Therefore, because of the SV’s famous slow (or no) recent progress in hip quality (in spite of more than two decades of PennHIP data), the inherently better hips and longer useful life of the average Malinois, maintenance costs, effete politicians who are more afraid of voters’ bites than that of the breeds they hate, the image of the brave GSD as a police and personal protection dog has been suffering mortal wounds.
That leaves only one small reclusive refuge for the aficionado of the “working dog”: the shrinking world of Schutzhund. As a rule, most of these people are primarily trainers, not breeders; they spend their time and energies in the tracking field, working obedience routines, and building confidence and technique in the bitework. A much smaller percentage or total number of this group breeds litters than we find in the world of the show dog and pet market. The size of the BSP and WUSV performance trials, when compared to the Sieger Show, attest to this. As inflation, living in cities, dog-hating politicians, television (yes, this brain-numbing scourge even exists in Europe) and other factors continue to attack the breed and the sport, the true working dog will suffer.
Shows and breeding of show dogs are also down. Attendance at Sieger shows, of both dogs and people, seems to be less in most recent years, so that even the small stadiums (the only ones available in these days of football schedules booking most dates) look relatively empty. BSP attendance is also down. A few years ago, top VA dogs were getting the maximum allowed number of matings, and now they are not reaching that limit. The situation in the sport dog is at least as bad, and since Schutzhund is the “little brother” in the GSD family, this sub-family in the breed will be hurt even more.
The only way out, the only hope of saving the breed, is to re-unite it. Bring back the two wings as they were in the days of Alfred Hahn and Rummel and yes, even von Stephanitz. How? Well, one step would be to require the conformation judges of the so-called “working dog” classes (Gebrauchshund) to watch the courage tests, perhaps scheduled earlier in the week, and have Leistungsrichters advise them when deciding on the choices of the VA dogs, as these are the ones that get the most breedings. Dogs with high IP scores should be spotlighted and these accomplishments taken into account. Maybe have the BSP before the Sieger Show instead of two weeks later as now occurs, with the judges of the Sieger Show required to watch every dog’s performance. Other innovative ideas should be employed that would encourage the sport dog to enter the conformation shows. Dogs should be moved up quite a few placings if they do good work at the courage test that is currently held on Friday of the Sieger Show weekend. It is a real shame that perhaps the best-working female at the 2006 Sieger Show, the Swedish bitch “Space Geanie”, was only given an SG; perhaps if the judge had seen her courage test, she would have been awarded the V she deserved. In males, the tremendous work of dogs like Nando Haus Vortkamp, a very dark sable sired by Buster Adelmannsfelder, should have been rewarded, not hidden from the conformation judge.
Each year, in the tour that I conduct prior to and following the Sieger Show, we visit a variety of kennels and training clubs: some showdog-oriented, some strictly competition performance. Most of my tour participants hold “the total dog” as their ideal, but all of them appreciate seeing both styles or specialties in the breed. As an SV conformation judge (Zuchtrichter) as well as having put schutzhund titles on numerous dogs, I want to see probable functionality reflected in the anatomy of a beautiful dog, but I also demand that character be the number-one trait for dogs allowed to breed.
In 2006, we were fortunate to meet with the breeders and trainers at Tiekerhook, Karthago, Pfalzerheide, Willems’ Reptrade, and a KNPV (Dutch Police Dog) club close to Amsterdam. Some of my group bought pups from a couple of these, as often happens. You can read about the whole tour on sites such as those listed above, but in this article, I’d like to give, as an example, a kennel that specializes in the working dog. That is, the work that would be suitable for police as well as personal protection and enjoyment. Koos Haasing of Tiekerhook, in the southeast corner of the Netherlands near Eindhoven and the German border, discussed his philosophies and methods over lunch and at his home, where we saw his latest litter and his super dog, Max. Later, he joined us at the training demonstration and practice at the Limburg club about an hour away, where his top dog was one of those demonstrating their abilities.
Koos is a semi-retired police officer, and the principal leader of a club where very difficult challenges are given to dogs in training, so that they would be prepared for anything they might encounter on the competition field and in real life. I have selected several photos of his Max v. Tiekerhook to accompany this article, as well as a couple of examples of poor performance by “show dogs” in the so-called “working” classes at the Sieger show we saw a few days after the visit with Koos.
A companion article, entitled “The Gap Widens” has been offered to websites and magazines, with more emphasis on the historical perspective.
[editor's note]: Fred is an SV judge as well as a respected all-breed judge for several international registries, and has judged numerous countries’ Sieger Shows and Landesgruppen events. He presents seminars and consults worldwide on such topics as Gait-&-Structure, HD and Other Orthopedic Disorders, Anatomy, Training Techniques, and The GSD. He conducts annual non-profit sightseeing tours of Europe, centered on the Sieger Show (biggest breed show in the world). For tours or his books on Orthopedic Disorders or the GSD, contact him at “All Things Canine” consulting division, Willow Wood Services; 256-498-3319; or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Canine HD and Other Orthopedic Disorders (new) by Fred Lanting
It covers all joints plus many bone disorders and includes genetics, diagnostic methods, treatment options, and the role that environment plays. This new “Hip Dysplasia and Other Canine Orthopedic Disorders” book is a comprehensive (nearly 600 pages!), amply illustrated, annotated, monumental work that is suitable as a coffee-table book, reference work for breeders and vets, and a study adjunct for veterinary students, for the dog trainer and the general dog owner of any breed. Order from the author or ask your book distributor.
The Total German Shepherd Dog by Fred Lanting
This is the expanded and enlarged second edition, a “must” for every true GSD lover. It is an excellent alternative to the “genetic history” by Willis, but less technical and therefore suitable for the novice, yet very detailed to be indispensable for the reputable GSD breeder. Chapters include: History and Origins, Modern Bloodlines, The Standard, Anatomy, The German Shepherd in Motion, Shows, Showing, and Training, The Winners, Nutrition and Feeding, General Care and Information, Health and First Aid, Parasites and Immunity, Diseases and Disorders, The Geriatric German Shepherd, Breeding, Basics of Genetics, Reproduction, Whelping, The First Three Weeks, Four to Twelve Weeks, Trouble-shooting Guide. Available from Hoflin.com or autographed from the author.