USCA Sieger Show – Lake Geneva, WI May 10-13, 2013

Expert handler has classes available for UScA Sieger Showusca2


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.

Dog-show Judging in the Land of Volcanoes

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.

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2008 Sieger Show Impressions

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.

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Common Sense Grooming Part 3 – Teeth and Nails

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. Continue reading

Common Sense Grooming Part 2 – The Clean Dog

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. Continue reading

Front and Rear Angulation in the Working Dog

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. Continue reading

Pituitary Dwarfism in the German Shepherd Dog (Part 1)

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 (, and The Total GSD ( He lectures around the world on canine orthope­dics, and structure and gait. Articles are found on many websites, and permission can be requested at <>.


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Will the True Working Dog Disappear Part 2 – The Gap Widens

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:

Will the True Working Dog Disappear?

Fred Lanting

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 , , and , 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


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 or autographed from the author.