Q&A with Fred – GSD Toplines

Hi Fred,

I have been going back and forth on a topic close to my heart and part of what my decisions will be in regards to breeding… and that is toplines. I CANNOT stand the “arched” (or roached) toplines I see in the German showlines. I tried to get used to it, tried to train my eye to it, and I just can’t do it. It seems all of the showline males available have arched toplines from very slight in the “older style” dogs like Little Man (Leri Unesco) who I used for my first breeding to almost hinge-backed dogs. I see in just about every German showline litter that most of the puppies are hump-backed. I just can’t justify breeding that. And how do I justify that to buyers? Even the pet people know a deformity when they see it! Regardless of whether or not they are what wins in the German ring, and how the German judges try to explain it, it is NOT correct to the standard, and just based on anatomy and basic physics, it is NOT more efficient. In fact, in the case of hinged-backs, it is a perfect site for osteoarthritis to set in, complete with bone spurs, and that is not a good thing to happen around a spinal cord. Continue reading

SV Breed Survey

Körordnung (SV Breed Survey Rules) in EnglishTranslation © by Fred Lanting

2009 revision of Körordnung (previous version was 2007, and 1997 before that). Changes highlighted.

KörordnungFassung 2009Augsburg-Hauptgeschäftsstelle — Inhaltsübersicht

2009 edition/revision

1. General

2. SV– Nature of the survey

2.1 Köramt (HQ survey office)

2.2 The Körmeister (breed survey master)

2.3 Survey administration — regional club jurisdiction

2.4 Körzeit (Time of survey)

2.5 Legal issues

3. Requirements for breed survey participation

4. Activity & conduct of the local clubs, and
Duties of the Kör (survey) manager

4.1. Requirements for the local club

4.2. Equipment

4.3. Survey manager’s duties

5. Registering for the breed survey

6. At the survey (Ankörung)

6.1 Temperament test

6.2 Gunsureness test

6.3 Protection [courage] test

6.4 Measurements: heights, weights, etc.

6.5 Standing exam and movement evaluation

6.6 Reports, Confirmations

7. Körung (the survey)

7.1 Körklasse 1

7.2 Körklasse 2

7.3 Final Körklasse (re-survey)

7.4 Postponement of re-survey — one year

7.5 Unsuitability for the Körung

7.6 Lifetime or length of time Körung is effective
7.7 Completion of the breed survey

8. Survey certificates and survey record book



The Verein für Deutsche Shäferhunde (SV) e.V. [Club for GSDs Inc.] is the parent club for the breed, and has responsibility for it and its Standard, which is acknowledged by the German (VDH) and international (FCI) Kennel Clubs. The Körordnung [breed survey regulations] of the SV serve the advancement of the controlled breeding of the German Shepherd Dog race in both varieties: the “Stockhaar” (straight-haired, medium length topcoat) and the“Langstockhaar” (longer topcoat but also with undercoat), and regulate the overall breed survey. They are a permanent part of the SV rules, and obligatory for all members. The purpose of the Körordnung is to select from the breed registry a number of dogs which in their character, performance, and anatomical construction appear to be suitable for the conservation and improvement of the breed.

2.SV – Nature of the survey

2.1Köramt (survey office)

The Kör (survey) office prepares the annual survey scheme (deadlines, reporting local chapters, acting Körmeisters, survey regions, etc.). All evaluation reports from the various survey districts are recorded in that office, and are examined and documented for form and accuracy. The Köramt produces the survey certificates and annually publishes all surveyed dogs in the Körbuch (survey record book).

2.2The Körmeister (breed survey master)

For the implementation of the breed survey the SV requires an experienced conformation judge as Körmeister. The Körmeisters have no legal right to annual employment in breed surveys. The choice and employment of the Körmeister is done by the respective Landesgruppe (region). The jurisdiction of arranging for these teacher-helpers for the breed surveys lies with each Landesgruppe’s executive committee.

2.3Survey administration — regional club jurisdiction

The regional and/or local jurisdiction of the breed survey shall be delegated from the SV headquarters to the SV regions and/or local chapters.

2.4Time of survey

The survey season [in Germany] extends from the 1st of March to the 30th of November each year. The presentation of a dog for the breed survey is possible once in this period.

2.5Legal issues

2.5.1The owner of a dog scheduled for the survey’s tests must be a current member of the SV. The eligibility of the dog ends with the withdrawal of the owner’s membership in the club.

2.5.2Survey jurisdiction

The location of the dog’s residence determines which breed survey it participates in (where the Körung is performed); that is, in the owner’s region (Landesgruppe). Local club (Ortsgruppe) membership determines which region that is. If a person holds membership in several local clubs, regional membership is determined by the main place of residence. Members who belong to no local clubs are assigned to a region based on principal place of residence. Breed survey masters (Körmeisters) are free to choose or approve of Körung locations in all regional groups.

2.5.3A dog that is the property of a person listed as being permanently barred/suspended from the studbook can neither be shown in a breed survey by him personally nor by any other person.

2.5.4The decision of the acting Körmeister is final.An objection against it is not permitted. 2.5.5At the survey of a dog, any and all damage claims by any party involved (owner and/or outsider) resulting from an Ankörung- (conformation measurement/survey) decision or an Abkörungsentscheidung (performance) decision regarding any dog will explicitly not be allowed.

2.5.6Responsibility: The owner of a dog is responsible for any damage attributable to his dog.

3. Requirements for participation at breed surveys [see note below re Körung in Germany]

– The Körung is appropriate only for German Shepherd Dogs registered in the breed book of the SV, and which have coats classified as “Stockhaar” or “Langstockhaar mit Unterwolle” (translation: “straight topcoat hair” or “long straight topcoat” — both requiring wooly undercoat). In the year of the Körung they must be at least two years old;

– Proof at least a SchH-1 or IP-1 Prüfung (test) under an SV Leistungsrichter (performance judge); including at least 80 points in section C, the courage and protection phase;

– Proof of an AD examination under an SV judge;

– “a”-stamp for hips, shown in the Ahnentafel [certified SV pedigree. Translator’s note: an equivalent issued in another country where the dog resides is satisfactory];

– ED stamp for elbows also in the Ahnentafel (if born after 01.01.2004, required starting in the 2008 show season);

– Proof of a minimum quality evaluation of “Good” under an SV judge.

Further conditions:

– Sick dogs may not be shown;

– The Körmeister must be informed of bitches in season; this determines when that dog will participate;

The dog must be identifiable in regard to a legible tattoo, microchip reading, etc.

4.Activity of the local clubs
Requirements of the local club:

– Large training ground with ancillary premises and sanitary facilities

– Trained members in sufficient number

– Typewriter or word processor.

4.2 The club must have or obtain:

– Assistant/steward and typist/secretary for the Körmeister

– Sufficiently large ring

– Public address system

– SV-approved measuring devices [for height at withers and depth of chest]

– Tape measure

– Weight scale

– 2 starter’s pistols with sufficient ammunition

– Number vests for the dog handlers.

4.3 Duties and responsibilities of the Körung manager:

– Timely delivery of the registration forms

– Examination of documents for completeness and accuracy

– Information given to the Körmeisters regarding the receipt and standing of the entries

– Establishing a catalog-like list of contestants and their dogs and bitches, for repeat and new breed surveys

– Submission of the individual dogs’ examined documents to the Körmeister before the beginning of the breed survey

– Confirmation of entrants’ SV memberships

5.Registering for the breed survey

The entry for the breed survey has to be received by the local Kör managers at least seven days before the scheduled survey as indicated in the survey announcement and entry form. By the day of the breed survey at the latest, the following documents are to be presented:

1. Original Ahnentafel [SV pedigree and performance record]

2. Conformation show cards and scorebook

3. If at the repeat survey, the first survey’s certificate

4. Proof of completion of any specified requirements remaining from the first survey

The maximum number of dogs admitted for one breed survey day is 50. In case of an entry of more than 50 dogs a further survey day (or half-day) is to be added on the same weekend. [In practice, preference is normally given to dogs going for their Lebenzeit (second and lifetime) survey.] ¶ ¶¶

6.At the survey (Ankörung)

6.1Temperament test

Each dog is to be subjected a temperament test by the Körmeister. The examination of the dog’s character can be made during the over-all breed survey.According to the Standard, the dog has stable character, i.e., in particular he is impartial and unaffected, self-assured, with firm nerves, and amiable and peaceful.

6.2Gunsureness test

From a distance of at least 15 steps, at least two shots are to be fired from a starter’s pistol (6 mm or .22 caliber); the dog has to behave indifferently [is not bothered, cowed, or nervous because of it; joyfully expecting to do bitework, such as when a whip is cracked with similar sound, is O.K.].

6.3Protection/Courage test [this rule version effective since 1997]

To help in the protection phase of trials in his Landesgruppe, the Körmeister is available as a teacher-assistant.


I. The attack from the blind

1.The handler reports with his accompanying dog to the Körmeister.

2.On order from the Körmeister the dog handler takes 30 steps from a place marked as the starting position toward the hiding-place, with his dog off leash.

3.The leash is draped around the handler or put in his pocket.

4.On command from the Körmeister the dog handler proceeds, with his dog heeling off-lead, in the direction of the hidden helper.

5.The dog should heel tightly.

6. On command from the Körmeister, the helper comes out of the blind and undertakes an attack as if to drive off the dog handler and dog, or he may initiate this himself if the dog or dog and handler are found to be 5 steps from the hiding-place.

7. The dog must immediately, surely, and energetically fend off the attack by applying a firm and full-mouth grip.

8. When the dog has grasped, it receives from the helper two blows with a padded stick upon thighs, sides, or the area of the withers.

9.To encourage the dog’s defense against the attack, encouragement by the dog handler is allowed.

10. Upon command from the Körmeister, the helper discontinues the attack and stands still quietly.

11. The dog then (independently or on the audible signal “Aus!”) must let go and [appear to] hold the helper “spellbound” [by its gaze and perhaps barking a warning not to move].

12. The dog handler is given the order from the Körmeister to approach his dog.

13. He leashes his dog and receives the order from the Körmeister to step into a certain hiding-place [momentarily, to prepare for the next attack].

II. Defense of an attack from a distance

1. The handler is called out from the hiding-place by the Körmeister and goes with his dog to the assigned position [at a central place at one end of the field].

2. The dog is taken off-leash and may be firmly held by the collar.

3. The dog has to be restrained in this position, until it is later sent with the audible command “Voran!” in the defense of the next attack.

4.The helper leaves his hiding-place upon a signal from the Körmeister, and crosses, at a normal pace, to approximately 70 to 80 steps distance from the dog handler.

5.The dog handler yells something at the helper; for example, “Stay where you are!”

6.The helper disregards this warning, and commences a [running, threatening] frontal attack on the dog and handler.

7. As soon as this attack begins, the Körmeister immediately gives the dog handler the signal for their defense.

8.The dog handler immediately sets his dog in action with the audible signal “Voran!” and stands still.

9.The dog should very eagerly and energetically grab with a firm, full, sure, and steady grip in order to avert the attack [on its handler].

10. When the dog has gripped, the helper must give it a short pressing [threaten with the stick] without hitting and then, as instructed by the Körmeister, discontinue the struggle.

11. Thereupon, the dog must let go independently and/or on the audible signal “Aus!” and must hold the helper by threat.

12.Upon a signal from the Körmeister, the dog handler approaches his dog at a normal pace and in a direct way, and attaches the leash.

13.The dog handler heels his dog to the Körmeister, to report to him before being allowed to leave the field.

III.Identity control

Before the team departs from the field, the Körmeister [or an assistant] must note the registered tattoo number.

IV.The appraisal/evaluation

1. The release of the bite

1.1. After discontinuation of the helper’s attack, the dog should let go independently.

1.2. The dog handler can independently give the first voice command, “Aus!” after an appropriate time.

1.3. If the dog did not release after the first voice command, the dog handler receives the order or signal from the Körmeister for up to two further audible commands to let go of the sleeve.

1.4. When giving the “Aus!” command, the handler must stand steady, without otherwise directing the dog.

1.5. Should the name of the dog be used, that will be considered as a separate command to release [let go of the sleeve].

1.6. If the dog independently releases [“outs”] when being retrieved by the handler, this also can be considered as a legitimate release. The dog handler however must be at least five steps away from the dog.

1.7. If the dog, either independently or upon audible signals, properly outs in the first attack [from the blind] and also in the [long] attack “from ambush” it receives the official notation of lässt ab (“lets out”).

1.8. If this “out” does not happen, even if in only one case, the dog does not receive the notation of “lets out”.

1.9 The Kör evaluation is not awarded or publicized at that time [but is kept by the Körmeister until later].

1.10. The Körmeister stays relatively close to the dog handler during the entire courage test and closely observes the conduct of dog and handler until the conclusion when the dog is picked up.

2.Appraisal of the Triebveranlung, Selbstsicherheit und Belastbarkeit (TSB) [drive, self-confidence and ability to handle stress]

2.1 The overall rating for the courage test will be one of these graded evaluations: “pronounced”, “sufficient”, or “insufficient”.

2.2Pronounced (Ausgeprägt): Self-confident, very eager, purposeful, with sure grasp and retention of the grip; no negative reactions to the blows; close and attentive watching in the guarding phase.

2.3Sufficient [Present] (Vorhanden): A little restraint [or less eagerness], e.g., in the areas of self-confidence, determination, the grip, and reaction to the stick, as well as in the guarding phase.

2.4. Insufficient (Nicht genügend): Lacking in self-confidence, very limited concerning ability to handle stress, and/or lacking in focus on the helper.

I inserted the following three points here, even though they are not actually part of the Körung. Supplemental determinations for the courage test at the German Sieger Show (an addendum):

1. Two teacher-assistants from the Landesgruppen serve as aides for each courage test at the disposal of the Körmeister.

2. Announcement of the respective results is to be given over the microphone directly after completion of each courage test.

3. Upon completion of the courage test the tattoo control number is obtained [confirmed] by a judge authorized by the Körmeister. The judge will be made available by the Landesgruppe having jurisdiction.

6.4Measurements and weights

The measurements for weight, depth of chest and chest diameter can be taken by the Körmeister or his authorized helper or Körung manager; the withers measurements are taken by the Körmeister.

6.5Standing Exam and Movement Evaluation

During this inspection the Körmeister prepares the Körbericht (breed survey report). The dog is to be presented to him for this exam without substantial help [hand-posing, etc.].

6.6Reports, Confirmations

After the conclusion of the respective breed survey of each dog, the Körmeister gives his report on the loudspeaker. The owner of the dog will receive from the Körung manager a confirmation signed by the Körmeister. This contains the results of the breed survey and the evidence that it and the pedigree will have been sent to the SV headquarters.


7.1Körklasse 1 (Kkl-1)

The Körklasse-1 is the highest breed qualification, i.e., a classification of dogs that are recommended for breeding. In Kkl-1 will be the dog that corresponds to the image of the breed [meets the Standard]:

a) in height, weight, and anatomical construction;

b)in its entire conduct, i.e., self-assurance, calmness and expression, has “TSB”: pronounced attitude of drive, self-confidence and loading capacity [ability to handle pressure]; and has flawless, complete dentures, though double P-1 premolars are permissible.

7.2Körklasse 2

Dogs included in the rating of Kkl-2:

a) with minor defects in the anatomical area;

b) with measurement over or under the limits ofwithers height by up to 1 cm;

c) with TSB fighting drive (Triebveranlagung), self-confidence (Selbstsicherheit), and ability to handle pressure (Belastbarkeit) in the courage test evaluated as being Vorhanden [“present” or “sufficient”];

d) missing: one P-1 premolar or an incisor; or two P-1s, or one P-1 and an incisor, or a P-2, or a slight off-bite (level, even, pincer bite) of the center incisors.

7.3Final Körklasse (Re-survey)

The possibility exists for the owner of a dog given a Körklasse-2 in its first or subsequent Körung to have this upgraded (at the earliest, in the subsequent year) by the same Körmeister. A deviation is only permissible with consent of the Körmeister, who determines that the dog has made the improvement for the impending survey. The desired Körklasse upgrade from first or repeated survey is possible only one time.

7.4The re-survey deferment (postponement) of one year is permissible if:

a) the body has not yet developed as expected in order to permit a re-survey;

b) in the conduct of the dog or at the examination for fighting drive, self-confidence, and hardness (TSB), a status of being qualified for breeding has not yet been reached;

c) the deferment is because the reevaluation is possible only once. A dog unsuccessful the second time is not suitable for the purpose of the survey (which is, to determine breed worthiness).

7.5Unsuitability for the KörungThe following defects exclude a dog from the Körung:

a) considerable anatomical defects;

b) Oversize or undersize of more than 1 cm;

c) Testicle fault [missing, unequal size];

d) Tooth defects [also see chart at the end of this document]; an absence of:

one P-3 [third premolar] or

two incisors or

one P-2 plus one incisor or

one P-2 plus one P-1 or

two P-2s

e) Dogs with considerably faulty pigment

f) Longcoated dogs (Langhaar or Langstockhaar) that are lacking undercoat.

7.6 Lifetime or length of time Körung is effective

7.6.1The new breed survey and the survey after interruption [i.e., if the repeat is not done in time] are good for two years at most. During the second calendar year (Kör season) of the time the survey is good for, the dog must be presented for the second survey.

7.6.2The second survey results are for life (“Lebenzeit”).

7.6.3A Kör class upgrade does not extend the original Kör class effective duration.

7.6.4A surveyed bitch heavy in whelp in the year of the impending second survey, can be given extra time for resurvey: a further year without demonstration of being qualified to breed (gekört). If this is the case, then on the day of the scheduled survey, there must be shown:

·The certificate of mating indicating the gestation period to date is at least 42 days.

·Certification from the responsible local breed warden re the visible pregnancy.

The same [extra time] consideration is given for nursing bitches, if not more than 42 days between whelping date and scheduled survey. No other reason for extension of the breed survey is possible.

7.7Completion of the breed survey: If a surveyed dog does not make the second survey, the original breed survey ends with the conclusion of that calendar year. [Must start all over again.]

7.7.1The breed survey ends if the surveyed dog is sold to a non-member, except that the buyer is given up to three months to join the SV.

7.7.2The breed survey term of a dog whose owner is excluded from the SV as a result of a club’s criminal proceedings ends with the day on which the expulsion decree attains legal force.

7.7.3The breed survey can end, become invalid, through the process of revocation. This comes about through a recommendation by a Körmeister or conformation judge to the Köramt [survey office at HQ]. A “hold” can be put on the process of recording the survey results for whatever time is necessary to iron out any possible problems.

8.Survey certificates and survey record book:

For a fee, a certificate (Körschein) for the breed-surveyed dog is prepared by the Köramt [survey office at the SV’s HQ]. It will take some weeks for this and the original pedigree to be returned to the owner of the dog after the breed survey summary is added. The owners of dogs not successful at the survey likewise get back their original pedigree after the time it takes to process the report. On the pedigree the reason for the non-survey is noted.

These dogs are annually listed in the SV’s survey record book [Körbuch] by coat variety (Normal, Langhaar or Langstockhaar) [detailed above] and by sex. The Körbuch includes a statement about the dog’s classification called “recommended for breeding” (Kkl-1) as well as those “suitable for breeding” (Kkl-2). These concern anatomical construction as well as character.With the statements by the Körmeisters about breeding recommendations, this makes an inclusive and indispensable reference book for the earnest breeder.


On the effective date of these survey rules (2009), all earlier versions become invalid. This concludes the rules for the breed survey (Körung). This translation is prepared and copyrighted by Fred Lanting.All rights reserved, but permission to reproduce will be granted if approved biographical information is appended to any such publication.


more notes from Fred:

SV and the long-coated GSD

In July 2008, there was an announcement that SV & FCI had signed an agreement to permit the showing of “long-stock coated” GSDs as a legitimate variety of the breed. The German word “stock” can best be transliterated as “stiff, straight, and harsh” and refers to the normal topcoat hairs seen in the typical coat of this breed The “long-stock coat” has the same straight, harsh texture as the normal, historically accepted coat. The decision was made that these dogs were to be “re-integrated” into the breed. In the summer of 2009, it was announced that long-haired GSDs (with the “long-stock” coat) could be shown, but only in their own shows or classes. It is to have its own Stud Book and its own Körung. It will not be permitted to be shown at the BSZS. Matings between the long-coat and normal-coat dogs would not be approved (their offspring not registrable). Of course, when long-coated dogs are born to dogs whose coats are of normal length (as has happened since before the SV was formed), those individuals would have to be registered as longcoats.

Note: As of 01.01.2010, the changes in rules referring to microchips likewise apply to the long-haired dogs, subject to the permission of the FCI.

SV Körordnung and Zuchtordnung, revised 2009:

4. Zuchtwert und Zuchtvoraus setzungen

Die Zucht des Deutschen Schäferhundes ist nur innerhalb der Varietäten der Haararten “Stockhaar” und “Langstockhaar mit Unterwolle” erlaubt. Eine Verpaarung von stockhaarigen mit langstockhaarigen Hunden mit Unterwolle ist nicht gestattet. Hunde aus derartigen Verbindungen können keine Aufnahme in das Zuchtbuch finden, lediglich in das Gebrauchshunderegister.

translation: The breeding of German Shepherd Dogs is permitted only within the coat varieties, viz., the “stock hair” and “long stock hair with undercoat.” Both varieties have mostly or all straight topcoat hair. A mating of normal-length (stockhaarigen) with long-coated (langstockhaarigen-with-Unterwolle [undercoat]) dogs is not permitted. Dogs from such pairings cannot be admitted into the studbook (breed registry), only into the working-dog register.

According to the SV Körordnung (breeding classification rules), a person cannot get an SV breed survey done on a dog unless the AD and at least one SchH title are awarded by an SV judge. Clarification in a letter from SV to me: June 13, 2003:Dear Mr. Lanting, Concerning your inquiry, we want to inform you that a dog must have passed [at least one of] the trials under an SV judge only if the dog is presented for a breed survey in Germany. If the dog takes part in the breed survey in the States, it has to meet the requirements of USCA or WDA. Please note: a dog whose owner resides in Germany cannot be presented for breed survey outside of Germany. Furthermore, we must inform you that training degrees which have not been passed under an SV judge are not sufficient for breeding in Germany.”Thus, if you want to exhibit your dog anywhere under an SV judge, and get internationally-recognized awards, it must have the Körung (breed survey) and SchH or IPO (IP) title as described above.


As a postscript, comments on tooth faults follow on the next page.

The Judging of Tooth Faults in Conformation Shows and Breed Surveys


Kkl-1, VA (Vorzüglich?Select)

Kkl-1, V (Vorzüglich, excellent)

Kkl-2, SG (Sehr?Gut, very good)

Kkl-2, G (Gut, good)

Not eligible for a Kör classification,
but still may get a “G” in a show ring

“U” (Ungenügend, Insufficient) and blocked from the registry


Flawless bite, complete dentures, no broken* or defective teeth or large gaps, no extra (double) teeth.

Flawless bite, complete dentures, no large gaps; (double P-1s, and tooth broken accidentally are allowed).

Missing one P-1 premolar or an incisor**

(double P-1s, and accidentally broken teeth are allowed).

Missing two P-1s; or

one P-1 and an incisor; or

one P-2 **

Missing one P-3; or

two incisors; or

one P-2 plus one incisor; or

one P-2 plus one P-1; or

two P-2s;

Absence of: one P-3 and any other tooth; or one fang (canine); or

one P-4; or

one M-1 (1st molar); or

one M-2; or

a total of any three teeth.

*See rule change of 1998, allowing for exceptions due to non-genetic causes.

** In puppy classes at shows, the judge may give “Promising” to either condition, but for breed surveys and adult show classes, the maximum rating is as above. Puppies are eligible for these show ratings: Very Promising, Promising, Less Promising, and Faulty.

Other Tooth and Jaw Defects

Over- and Under- bites:

Obviously undershot or overshot (the latter being the separation of top incisors standing in front of the bottom ones by the thickness of a matchstick or greater): the dog is not allowed to be listed in the registry.

Imperfect bite (Aufbeißen, off-bite)

A slight off-bite (level, even, pincer bite) of the center incisors can be allowed in Kkl-2.

Caries (tooth decay) disqualifies from the breed survey.

Worn down and discolored:

If due to age, it is considered in the judgment, but with no major downgrading. If teeth have turned slightly yellow or brown, but if the tooth is substantially O.K., Kkl-2 is possible.


Change in SV Breed Show Dentition Rules

Note: This is my translation of the Dentition Rules the SV announced in August 1998. The “dental notation” can be done anywhere, any time, by certain authorized people. The purpose is to provide proof of normal dentition in case disease or accident causes loss before the dog is presented for a Körung (the official record being the Körschein).

The SV concluded this year’s [1998] conference on changing the breed show rules concerning the Ahnentafel (“official pedigree”-registration paper) and regarding damaged (broken) or missing teeth. This is the new wording of section 4.3. of the breed show rules:

Environmental influences that lead to damage to a portion of the teeth, or to their entire absence, have no consequence for breed evaluation awards (such as show placings or Körung). However, it is required that the former presence of healthy, strong teeth and/or a flawless scissors bite be confirmed and noted on the Ahnentafel. The proof to be given the studbook office can be as follows:

(Check-list for establishing dentition registrations)

1. Submission of a dog show judgment [critique and results] and the scorebook, in which a conformation judge has described and confirmed the totality and [former] presence and sufficiency of healthy, robust teeth and a flawless scissors bite determined by personal examination. This is done after the dog has reached the age of 12 months.

2. Submission of the breed survey certificate (Körschein), in which were recorded the dentition and bite status at the time of the survey.

3. The submission of a radiograph together with a certificate by an SV-certified HD veterinarian, or a veterinary dentist approved by the SV. On the radiograph, parts of the root or at least the tooth socket must be shown.

Directives to Veterinarians regarding certification for tooth faults, and X-ray requirement for the entry in the Ahnentafeln: Unfortunately it frequently occurs that veterinary certifications of damaged or missing teeth are inadequate in description. Until the necessary statements about the Ahnentafel registration exist, taking much time, this can be very vexing to the owners, who are not allowed to exhibit their dogs! We therefore had to put together the most important points for you to certify, in the form of a checklist:

* Complete name of the dog on the pedigree: obvious and legible

* SZ number (SV Zuchtbuch/studbook), on the pedigree

* Tattoo number: in the right ear, agreeing with that on the pedigree

* Give the status of any dentition problem:

· Tooth is broken off, chipped, etc.

· Tooth with root is missing completely (due to environmental, non-genetic) influence)

· Tooth had to be extracted (give reason)

* Cause of the tooth fault

* Position reference (right/left, top/bottom) please imagine yourself behind the dog, to determine which is right or left side

* Description of teeth: Please pay attention to the correct designation (P1, P2, etc.)

* X-rays:Requirement for the entry in the Ahnentafel:

Tooth faults in the GSD occur often, even though it may be that dogs are completely free of tooth faults for many generations. Inheritance plays a role in the congenital tooth fault, but loss or damage acquired later in life through environmental influences plays no role in determining the breeding value of the GSD or for its descendants. Before the extraction of a tooth, a radiograph must be made in each case. It is a requirement for recording the missing tooth in the Ahnentafel of the dog. The stud-book office of the SV acknowledges radiographs only by certified HD veterinarians or from approved veterinarians specializing in dentistry. Please note, at the establishing of the radiograph, the following:

* Do the X-ray before the extraction!

* Clearly mark: “right” or “left”!

Still another note: Teeth that do not emerge completely from the gum (or are not normally developed) generally have no designation in the Ahnentafel. Veterinary certifications and radiographs therefore are necessary only for damaged or extracted teeth, whose absence is a result of non-hereditary, outside influences.

Translation and added notes © Fred Lanting, This notice must appear on all reprints and postings, and all such use must have specific permission from the author. Fred has years of experience as an SV Zuchtrichter (conformation judge) and is an author of books on the GSD and on Orthopedic Disorders, among others.

Canine Digestive Tract Disorders in Several Breeds (Part 1)

Fred Lanting, © 2003


After skin problems, the next most common and next most frustrating set of disorders to the dog owner and the diagnostician are those of the alimentary canal, that tube through which passes food (and non-food, sometimes) from ingestion through defecation. It is said that the dermatologist has both the easiest and the hardest job: nobody calls him in the middle of the night or on holidays, but it frequently takes many months of trial-and-retrial before he comes up with the most likely diagnosis and then the cure is seldom totally effective. The internist also has a plethora of possible causes for digestive upsets, though not as many, and often he must likewise try several treatments before success. In addition, he is frequently called on for perceived emergencies.

The job of the digestive tract and the rest of the alimentary (food) canal is to take in nutrients, process the food for assimilation and conversion into body proteins, and expel what is left. Sounds easy, but many things can go wrong in that canal and in the organs that contribute to the digestive and absorption processes. These organs principally consist of the circulatory system, the gall bladder, and the pancreas. All add to or take away from the stream.

In 1990 I wrote an article entitled Digestive Tract Disorders. Having been requested to supply articles on bloat/torsion/volvulus, and on megaesophagus, I decided to combine some old pieces, revise the 1990 article, and work these into a new one with a new name. My favorite breed, the German Shepherd Dog, is susceptible to many gastrointestinal problems. There are a great number of causes for stomach and intestinal problems. When these two organs in the alimentary canal are considered together, we refer to a syndrome as gastro-intestinal. The three disorders I wish to treat here are:

  1. Megaesophagus
  2. Torsion/Bloat (Volvulus)
  3. Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

Esophagus Affliction

For no other reason than whim, let’s start at or near the beginning of this alimentary tract, where the esophagus meets the stomach. This is where a sphincter exists, that is supposed to keep the digesting stomach contents from refluxing back up the tube into the mouth (or worse, sidetracked into the lungs). Peristaltic action (a progressive squeezing, analogous to milking a cow, forces food boluses down from the mouth and throat to where they can be digested in the stomach and intestines.

Congenital pyloric stenosis is a similar disorder but is mostly found in Boxers and other short?faced breeds; it is very rare in the German Shepherd Dog. Spasm of the pyloric sphincter in excitable dogs, especially toys and miniatures, is also uncommon in the Shepherd Dog. There may be several other causes of esophageal dilation, affecting various breeds to different extents. However, German Shepherds have over thirteen times the incidence of esophageal disorders of all other breeds combined, although PRAA may be part of this statistic.

“Megaesophagus is the most common cause of regurgitation in dogs”, said Mary Labato, DVM, at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. “It may be a primary disorder or secondary to esophageal obstruction or neuromuscular dysfunction. Among the causes: neuromuscular diseases, including myasthenia gravis, polymyositis (a muscle disease), polyneuropathy (affecting the peripheral nerves), dysautonomia (a rare disease involving the autonomic nervous system), systemic lupus erythematosus (an immune?mediated disease), polyradiculoneuritis (inflammation of the peripheral nerves and spinal ganglia), central nervous system disease, botulism, and damage to the bilateral vagal nerve that carries messages to and from the brain. Other causes include foreign body obstruction, stricture, neoplasia (various cancers), granuloma (inflammatory tissue), congenital vascular ring anomaly (vessel malformation), extramural esophageal constriction, hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocortcism, esophagitis, thymoma (tumor of the thymus gland), thallium (a metallic element), and lead toxins.”

Congenital megaesophagus occurs in young dogs and is a developmental abnormality of the esophagus. Megaesophagus-susceptible breeds include Irish Setters, German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Shar?Peis, Great Danes, Miniature Schnauzers, Wire­haired Fox Terriers, Newfoundlands, Pugs, and Greyhounds.

Frequently, large dogs are diagnosed with the idiopathic form in which the cause is unknown. Adult-onset megaesophagus occurs spontaneously in dogs 7 to 15 years of age. Dogs with secondary megaesophagus, as with myasthenia gravis, may go into remission and improve with appropriate treatment. “In most cases we don’t know the causes”, said Dr. David Twedt in the department of clinical sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “Twenty-five percent of the cases have an underlying cause with the most common being myasthenia gravis.”

Congenital megaesophagus is also known by many other names such as cardiospasm, esophageal achalasia, dilated esophagus, and ectasia. The disorder appears to be caused by a simple autosomal recessive in German Shepherds, although it is highly variable in expression. After briefly consulting me, genetics worker Danielle LaGrave wrote an article for the November 2002 GSDCA Review on this subject, and concluded, “I had hoped to have a definitive answer as to how megaesophagus in the GSD is inherited. But regrettably, I was unable to.” My example of a pedigree study in “The Total German Shepherd Dog” ( apparently was not enough for her need to know the etiology, but is convincing enough to point to familial tendencies (heredity). While reportedly only about one percent of the dog population may be involved, mortality rate in pups is fairly high. Even when the far-less-common PRAA (Persistent Right Aortic Arch) has been ruled out as the cause, I believe the percentage of megaesophagus in German Shepherds is quite a bit higher than that reported one percent. Correspondents in the late 1990s have given me testimonial comments that they believe the incidence is on the rise, but this, too, may be more a matter of greater awareness. This abnormally large and flaccid “food-pipe” between the mouth and the stomach can be found in adults, but the most heartbreaking and serious cases are in pups early in the weaning and solid-food stage. The ballooning out reminds one of the extensibility of a pelican’s pouch. The more severe the expression, the earlier it manifests itself. There are two major types of megaesophagus; the early-onset, clearly hereditary kind with variable intensity, and the late-onset, acquired or secondary kind found almost exclusively in adults. Most of us have encountered many more cases of the former than the latter. Cases in young adults may not be easy to categorize as to type.

The worst cases starve to death by 8-9 weeks, others might have to be euthanized before 7-8 months. These represent the juvenile-onset, inherited type, not the adult-onset acquired type. GSDs, Goldens, and Irish Setters seem most at risk, and if a pup survives to adulthood, the condition often causes or is associated with other esophagus problems, peripheral neuropathies, gastric dilation with or without torsion, and especially myasthenia gravis. Even in adults, many are euthanized because of progressive malnutrition and owner frustration over the regurgitation. Or they asphyxiate due to aspiration pneumonia, vomitus obstructing the air passage. Most adult cases that are presumed to be acquired have no cause discovered, which leads us to believe some cases may simply be a milder form of the genetic problem that causes death by starvation in most pups between 5 and 9 weeks of age. Some veterinary references, however, stoutly consider these genetically- or environmentally different disorders. A loss of peristaltic action is probably due to a disorder of the afferent nerves. This is why there is no successful medical, pharmaceutical, or surgical treatment. There may be a connection with other nerve disorders, even giant axonal neuropathy, which mimics HD and GSD myelopathy. Some have gone so far as to hint that a general immune system deficiency is at the root of this problem, as it appears to be in so many disorders: pannus, Demodex susceptibility, DM, and more. I have elsewhere presented another article that treats this syndrome.

“On routine chest films, there is a large, usually air?filled esophagus, and frequently secondary aspiration pneumonia,” Dr. Twedt said. Symptoms of megaesophagus include slow or halted growth, weight loss, dehydration, water in the lungs, and persistent and progressively worse vomiting of food minutes after swallowing. The disorder usually is detected at or slightly after the commencement of weaning. As food slightly stretches the esophagus on the way down, an affected pup’s muscles apparently fail to contract enough to prevent the food bolus from staying in a pouch just in front of the entrance to the stomach. In time, the muscles become progressively weaker and less able to squeeze the food ball, and even liquid food remains in a hanging “pelican pouch” forward of and below the stomach entrance. As with PRAA, the pup becomes emaciated and listless, often dying of starvation. In fact, the two conditions may be indistinguishable without autopsy, but fortunately the incidence of PRAA seems to have decreased since the 1960s when I first encountered both disorders.

A definitive diagnosis can be obtained by giving a “barium swallow”, a concoction that contains heavy barium sulfate in emulsion or suspension, like a chalky milkshake. A radiograph is taken or fluoroscopy performed immediately after swallowing, and the opacity of the cocktail clearly shows where it is. Repeated views over the next several minutes will show the dilation and any obstructions to peristalsis. In the normal pup, the barium emulsion will be moving into and through the stomach, but in the dog with megaesophagus, most of it will be seen collected in that esophageal pouch ahead of the stomach. An experienced breeder or dog watcher may be able to save you a trip to the vet, but it is a good idea to make sure with a professional evaluation, so you can better plan the next breeding.

“Clinical signs of megaesophagus are regurgitation, wasting, and malnutrition, halitosis, hypersalivation, bulging esophagus at the neck, coughing, and increased respiratory effort due to pneumonia and muscle weakness”, Tufts’ Labato said. Diagnosis is confirmed by means of radiographs and other tests, which are intended to identify the underlying cause, and may include a complete blood count, chemistry profile, urinalysis, ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) stimulation test, thyroid function test, acetylcholine receptor antibody titer to diagnose myasthenia gravis, and an antibody titer, which is a blood test that looks for immune-mediated disease in which the body attacks itself. Some perform the tests in conjunction with endoscopy, an electromyogram that measures changes in muscle tissue, and “bio-electrical” nerve conduction velocity studies.

Megaesophagus signs first appearing at old age are not typical, but dogs with “very mild cases” of the congenital type may not present with noticeable signs until older, when the owner perhaps is watching more, during and after meals. Also, similar symptoms can be caused by other disorders. One correspondent, when pressed on the issue of her 8 year-old “suddenly” showing signs, admitted that he had classic symptoms at 7-8 weeks (not long after weaning onto solid food), which points toward megaesophagus. A second opinion from a veterinarian who has a lot more experience in megaesophagus may have been needed, and that is what I advised her to get. I told her that there is a late-onset secondary form related to other disease states, but I was suspicious because of the history at age 7-8 weeks.

Mild or moderate expression of megaesophagus should not be a problem in the individual, non-breedable pet except after eating — which could be for many hours, though. If it is megaesophagus (inherited or acquired esophageal dilation) you might better control it by having the dog eat more-liquid-like meals, small servings, many times a day, and standing on his hind legs such as eating/drinking from a table with his front feet up where the bowl is. Also keep him as upright as you can for a while after meals. This might be the wisest management method. I suggested she might consult with a vet who would not advise surgery at this age — most surgical procedures to “correct” megaesophagus are not satisfactory. It is a very involved operation, with very low rates of success, and is highly expensive. Some dogs appear to outgrow the disorder, while others show no improvement, and owners must manage their feeding life?long. In a review of cases of dogs with megaesophagus with no identifiable cause, owners had 65 percent of them euthanized.

The height of the food bowl is a matter of controversy in the subject of torsion, and poorly-designed experiments have been inconclusive. But, for frank megaesophagus it is very helpful to have the dog in an “upright”, almost bipedal position, during feeding. There the bowl height is less important than the orientation of the esophagus. A vertical drop, small soft/liquid portions, and not feeding in the evening are good ideas. Feed small, wet/mushy portions throughout the morning and early afternoon, but not in the evening. A Tufts University bulletin in May, 2003 had a picture that illustrated feeding in a sitting-up position like that a dog uses when taught to “sit up and beg”. The owner of the case reported on for purposes of illustration made a special chair so the dog could eat in that position, which used gravity to help move food to the stomach. Keeping the dog in a vertical position for 15 minutes after each meal was most effective. The veterinarian told the owner to give wet dog food instead of dry, to feed him in a raised position, and prescribed medication to keep his food down, along with antibiotics. His total fee: $2,000. This owner learned that her dog did not benefit noticeably from medication; it even seemed to increase his regurgitating.

Following, in italics, is an excerpt from an article prepared by my young geneticist friend Danielle, for an American magazine. I have condensed it because of some parts being either obvious or redundant for an introduction. Remember that she is not a breeder, and did not have first-hand familiarity with the pedigree study I presented in my book, some generations of my own breeding a few decades ago. My comments are in brackets. “I am flattered that you want to include the article on the website. Please feel free to quote whatever parts you feel are applicable. Respectfully, Danielle.”

The answer to many questions depends on how “Mega” is inherited. There are two ways in which it might be inherited. The first is via an Autosomal Dominant (AD) gene. [Autosomal means that the trait is carried on some chromosome other than the X/Y sex-determining ones.] If the disease is AD, then only one parent needs to carry the mutated gene in order to have affected puppies, and would be affected itself. [Danielle says:] Approximately 50% of the pups in the litter should be affected, although that can vary from all to none based on chance. [Fred’s comment: this might be true only if the condition were a dominant trait with inhibited or partial penetrance, and I do not believe that to be the case, based on what I have seen; Danielle has not my breeding and observation experience, just the schooling.] Penetrance is the probability that a gene will have any phenotypic expression at all. When an individual with the appropriate genotype fails to express that genotype, you have a gene that shows “reduced penetrance”.

The second likely way Mega can be inherited is via an Autosomal Recessive (AR) gene. If the disease is AR, then both parents would have to be carriers (have one normal Mega gene and one mutated Mega gene). They would be phenotypically normal, and indistinguishable from a dog that does not carry the abnormal gene. However, when two carrier dogs are mated together, each pup they conceive, will have a 25% risk of inheriting the mutated gene from both parents, therefore having no normal version of the gene, and being affected. [Again, Fred’s comments: actually, 75% of the pups, on average, will inherit the defective gene; 50% of the offspring would be expected to be carriers and 25% would have a double dose and therefore clearly show the symptoms. The other 25% would be normal in both phenotype and genotype.]

So, if the disease is AD and the female has Mega herself then, yes, she can have affected pups even if the male does not carry the mutated gene. However, if the disease is inherited in an AR fashion, then both parents need to be carriers for the pups to be at risk. So she would not have affected offspring if the sire were not a carrier for the disease, even if she were a carrier. The problem here lies in that if she is a carrier, while she may not have affected puppies, on average 50% of her offspring [sired by a normal male] will also be carriers for the disease, perpetuating the abnormal gene in the GSD population. It takes both the sire and the dam to produce [overt] Megaesophagus in the litter if the disorder is inherited in an AR fashion.

At this time, there is no way to tell which pups are carriers. So you have a 2 out of 3 chance that the pup you choose to show and breed is a carrier for Megaesophagus. If you [in North America, anyway] breed the pup to another carrier (very likely if you line-breed) then your risk of having affected pups depends on the closeness of the relationship and whether the other dog has affected littermates or offspring (a fact you may never know). The math is simple. Let’s say you breed a bitch with affected littermates. Her risk to be a carrier is 2/3. You decide to breed her back to her paternal grandsire. His risk to be a carrier is ½ (Her sire must be carrier in this scenario (risk = 1) and he shares ½ of his genes with his father – ½ x 1 = ½ = granddad’s risk to be a carrier). This assumes that the grandsire has no affected littermates or offspring. So the chance for each pup produced by this mating to be affected is: bitch’s risk to be a carrier x dog’s risk to be a carrier x ¼ (each pup’s chance of being affected if both parents are carriers). In the above scenario this works out as follows: 2/3 x ½ x ¼ = 1/12. This is each puppy’s chance of being affected. The chance of at least one pup in the litter being affected would be higher, and would depend on the number of puppies.

[Danielle’s math is OK, but the statement that a show-pick pup from the bitch who had affected littermates had a carrier risk of 2 out of three is not a good way to express this. Make a Punnett square or other diagram and you will see that of four genotypes in her offspring (sire is normal, remember) one is homozygous-normal, one is homozygous-affected, and 2 are heterozygous-normal but carrying the recessive defect.]

If you outcrossed her, your risk to have affected pups would decrease, but since the carrier rate in the population is not known, the chance of having affected puppies cannot be calculated. Things get a little more convoluted when we address this question using the AD scenario. If Mega is a dominant disease it shows what is called “reduced penetrance”. Penetrance is the percentage of animals with the Mega genotype that demonstrate the Mega phenotype (are symptomatic). For example, in a [dominant] disorder with 75% penetrance, only 75% of the affected pups would be expected to show symptoms, so it is possible that an “unaffected” littermate is really affected but asymptomatic, and could still have affected pups. Therefore, the risk that one of the unaffected littermates could have affected puppies depends on the penetrance. The penetrance of the disease cannot be calculated until it is known that it is inherited in a dominant fashion. [Even then!] Dominant diseases often also show a trait called variable expressivity. What this means is that each dog which has the Mega genotype can express the phenotype to varying degrees. Some dogs may have the full-blown disorder with vomiting of solids and liquids and may need special assistance in eating (chairs to hold them upright, etc.). Others may only vomit solids and get by on soft diets. Some may grow out of the vomiting stage. And still others may barely be symptomatic at all and may never be diagnosed at all. These varying phenotypes may all be present in the same litter. So the pup that came to your attention due to vomiting and weight loss might have a brother who is gaining weight just fine, never vomits, and seems perfectly normal. However, if this pup had a [barium] swallow test at the vet, it would [might] be determined that this pup had Mega as well. So it is important when one pup in a litter is diagnosed with Mega, that a vet with knowledge and experience in diagnosing Megaesophagus examine all the pups. If you bred this “normal” pup, he would be expected to sire pups with Mega.

[Unfortunately, the same scene can be, and I believe definitely is, painted with the AR (recessive theory) brush. What we breeders have seen is that there are “modifier genes” located either close to or far from the major gene responsible for a recessive trait, on the same or different chromosomes. These account for such differences between littermates as amount of gray grizzling in the saddle, relative darkness of the iris, amount of hip joint laxity, etc. I believe such modifiers are most likely the primary cause of differences between affected (homozygous-recessive) littermates with megaesophagus. Further, the effect of environment cannot be ignored; I believe there is a substantial contribution to phenotype there. Some pups with a borderline condition, held in check for a while by those modifiers, could be pushed over the line into obvious pouch dilation by feeding techniques. Conversely, a pup with a mild form might grow up to have stronger muscles around the length of the esophagus, if it had been fed small frequent quantities of soft mush, while standing on its rear legs, and handled in other manners designed to prevent stretching of the esophageal tissues. Other pups will vary even if the same treatment is given to all.]

If the goal of the breeder is to eliminate this disease from their line (and ultimately from Germans Shepherd Dogs, entirely), then dogs that have affected offspring or have affected littermates should not be bred; we would greatly reduce the number of affected alleles in the breeding population. If the disease is [recessive], then it will take a while due to those pesky carriers that never had an affected litter [to tell us] they are carriers) until genetic testing is available that can detect carriers. If it is AD, it can be eliminated in a very few generations, even with reduced penetrance. [The condition is more common in the U.S. than hemophilia or epilepsy was in England just a couple decades ago, and since it has not noticeably diminished in linebred American-AKC type dogs, this is another strong hint that it is a recessive trait.]

If your goal as a breeder is to not eliminate the gene, but to only avoid affected pups, then it is necessary that you perform in-depth research into the lines of the males you choose for her. The same logic applies to stud dogs as to the bitches; the main difference is that some studs contribute their genes to a larger proportion of the next generation(s). If you feel that your bitch’s positive contributions to the breed far outweigh her negative contribution (the Megaesophagus gene), and you do decide to breed her, you need to determine that the potential sires have no offspring [or relatives] with the disease and have every puppy checked for Mega by a vet. If the disease is inherited in an AR fashion, then you are breeding a known carrier (having affected offspring is a very accurate test for carrier status!). Remember that ½ of her pups would be carriers and we can’t tell which. [Actually, your Punnett square will show half to be apparently normal but carriers, 25% will be overtly affected, and 25% genotypically normal. For more on the Punnett square visualization of inheritance modes, see my book, The Total GSD, and articles of mine on genetics found on various websites.]

If a very popular male is a carrier of Mega, he can have a devastating effect on the allele frequency in the population. His popularity can cause the number of carriers in the population to rise sharply. Then, as these dogs are bred (and often line bred) the number of affected pups jumps. A female has fewer chances to contribute her genes to the next generation. [This has happened. The pedigree study in “The Total German Shepherd Dog” ( indicates that both Bernd Kallengarten and Lance of Fran-Jo were suspects in carrying the recessive for megaesophagus. The popularity of combining these lines for success in the show ring was mirrored by a large number of affected pups. Most died at or shortly after weaning age (5 to 9 weeks) despite attempts to save them. A good friend who had carriers and affected dogs had an attitude that was typical of many: he felt that the worst ones would self-cull by dying, and those that survived would be as acceptable for breeding as their show-successful parents.]

In the AR scenario, a dog with a genotype of mm [homozygous and affected, even if not obvious], can only contribute mutated genes. 100% of [its] offspring will at least be carriers of the disease. Some percentage will be affected as well, depending on the carrier status of the other parent. In the AD scenario, each pup will have a 50% risk of being affected. Even the ones that do not show signs of disease may have affected offspring due to reduced penetrance. [I disagree, and feel these last two sentences are potentially confusing; in my experience, 100% of the pups in a litter with one dominant-gene parent (or both) will be affected. Modifier genes can indeed cause phenotype variability. But it is less than academic, since I am quite sure that megaesophagus is recessive. Besides the litters I’ve seen, other weight is given by the fact that most disorders are recessive in essence. Nature tends to weed out defects through the laws of natural selection and “survival of the fittest”. It is man that has created, by protective and selective measures, such defects as are now accepted as “desirable”, such as pushed-in faces, dwarfed legs, extreme size, and other anatomical and behavioral features. Likewise, by benign neglect, man has also interfered with Nature’s tendency to keep defects at their lowest incidences.]

Never breed an affected dog; even an affected dog who “has recovered” should be neutered and all littermates tested. If the goal is to eliminate the disease, then any carrier risk should not be bred. Of course, this applies to the parents as well. They are “obligate carriers”, and will continue to contribute the gene to their offspring even if they never have another affected puppy. One source states that the incidence of Mega-esophagus in the GSD population in the US is approximately 1%, although the author [LaGrave] speculates that it may even be higher. If 1%, then about 18% of US German Shepherd Dogs are carriers of the altered gene (assuming AR inheritance). With 18%, the [risk], even if you avoid line breeding and stay completely away from all the [known] lines is extremely high. [Fred adds: I do not see the occurrence of megaesophagus in other countries where I have judged, as being anywhere near the magnitude as it has been and probably still is in the U.S. The reason? Bloodlines, probably. After the mid-1960s, the lines diverged tremendously from those in the rest of the world, those being primarily in close alignment with current German genes. Some were isolated by government quarantine and that included the “Alsatian” in the U.K., and the lines in Australasia. The relative isolation in North America was one of breeders’ choice and fad preferences as much as it was the control by a powerful political clique.]

Predictions for 2008

Every year some of my GSD friends ask me to look into my crystal ball and predict the main winners of the upcoming Sieger Show. It might be fun to pretend that I’m clairvoyant, but my prognostications really are based on more mundane things: my background as an SV judge; I know the judges who are officiating; I go to the Sieger Show every year and visit top kennels most years; and I know the SV system. While there may be some surprises, such as dogs being sold to China and not being available for the show, I usually predict with about 85% or greater accuracy who will be in the VA males classification, and many who will be high-V.

While Quenn Löher Weg probably has many more winning offspring and will likely have the most impressive progeny class, it will be very difficult to beat last year’s Sieger Pakros. For one thing, Pakros has a Sieger as his sire and Quenn does not. For another, a German is one of Pakros’ owners, while Quenn is owned by a Brit. Now, Pakros is six years old and traditionally dogs of that age are retired, so it’s possible that Pakros and last year’s VA3 Dux (same age) may stay home this year. That would indicate that the battle would likely be between Quenn and the Pakros son Vegas du Haut Mansard. Vegas has also been used a lot for breeding, and will have a big progeny class. He has the advantage of having a Sieger for a sire and of being partly owned by Pakros’ German handler. Believe me, these nuances really do play a part in this “German national show”. His drawbacks include “near-normal” hips and a very wide action in front (seen coming toward you), which he passes on to most of his offspring.

I think Orbit Huhnegrab will retire or sit this one out, and the fight for VA3 will be between Nando Gollerweiher and Ingodds Agazzi; I predict the latter will pass Nando. For VA5, the very handsome Yak son Odin Holtkaemper Hof might move up. Godalis Tino will almost certainly be VA this year, but probably behind Uran Wilhelmswarte, so look for them around the VA6 – 9 spots. The other ones in that neighborhood could well be the Mack Aduct son Aron Terra dei Forti and the Zamp son Negus Holtkaemper See. Budiman Salihin’s Yerom will probably be in the V1 to V3 area, right next to Quantum Fiemereck (a wonderful dog with great pedigree). I doubt the Larus son V1 Yimmy Contra will be there this year.

Dogs to watch for, many of whom should be high in the V category: I hope Reinhardt gives a better placing to the exciting Timo son Arex vom Herbramer-Wald than he’s had the last couple years. This crowd favorite has the same marvelous shoulder opening and reach as his sire and carries on the qualities of the great Quando Arminius. The Peruvian Xaro v. b. Harten (Zamp Thermodos son), Digger Elzmündungsraum, Taureg Bad-Boll, Furbo degli Achei, Bruno Val D’Anzin, Tiras Roten Feld, Panjo Kirschental, Sony Heinrichplatz, Jumbo Zenevredo, and X-Box Precision. A dark-horse (surprise) high-V winner might be Arex v Haus Neoplantum.

Bitches are a lot harder to predict, because they often make one big splash in the competition, then go to the whelping box for the rest of their fame. But you should see the Negus daughter Paula Gut Lethe near the top; she really knocked my socks off last year. Other top prospects for Siegerin are Lana Zenteiche and Chanel degli Achei, with Anika Herdersfarm and Nadia della Loggia dei Mercanti close behind. Ronja Haus Burow will be high in the standings. If she shows up, Benny d’Ulmental also should be in the top group. Watch also for Tiana Fichtenschlag as well as Viana Fichtenschlag, Anika Herdersfarm, Romina Piste Trophe, Hazel vom Winnloh, Rimini vd Zenteiche, Birdy du Domaine du Parc, Palme vd Zomerdijkslanden, Biene vom Valtenberg, Flora di Casa Nobili, and Pitty vd Freiheit Westerholt,

Things that can throw my predictions off include sales to people in foreign countries, bitches talking time off for whelping or blowing their coats for estrus, and of course a poor performance in the courage test. So many show dogs are given “passing grades” at the Friday courage test, that they are seen by the breed judge later without any indication that their character was not really what is worthy of high placings. That is why I want to see as many of these dogs doing their bitework as possible, and make up my own mind as to whether they deserve the breeding recommendations that come with a high Sieger Show placing. Friday is a long day, but unless you tough it out and see what the dogs really have in them, you can be fooled by how they do the next day.

Tell your GSD friends to join my group next year. If you, the reader of this little forecast, are going on this year’s tour, compare my predictions, stay close in case you have questions, and enjoy!


Fred Lanting, annual Sieger Show tour director.


Let’s Talk Breeding and Training

By Fred Lanting

The title of this article stems from a discussion list or website group in the U.K. with the name “Let’s Talk Breeding”. One of its subscribers said she couldn’t “sit by and listen to foolishness without speaking up.” While the forum is admirably open-ended, “designed to allow all sides of an issue to be voiced”, this gives much opportunity for promulgation of ignorance, spaced-out weirdness, incredible claims, unscientific conclusions, and the like. There is always this difficulty of finding our ways between the extremes of total libertarianism (anarchy?) and rigid governmental-type control. Think of a journey down a fairly broad valley with those extremes being the mountains on both sides. Either you allow all sorts of crazies to speak as loudly as reasoned voices (one mountain range) or you disallow any voicing of opinion other than the “party line” (the other mountain range). The latter is how communist and the equally murderous African/Islamic/Latin/third-world regimes have operated all these many years and only a few of these are crumbling, others rising anew from the lava core of human nature. In this valley, there are many changes of scenery and degrees of slope toward one or the other range.

There are many in this valley who attempt to play the role of peacemaker, and say that “the only way for anyone to make an educated decision is by understanding or at least being aware of the opposing views”. But they (we) often have rocks hurled at them from those further up both slopes. Sometimes the arguments get downright silly and based on woeful ignorance of canine psychology, which is both my subject and forte in this instance. For example, in the UK, there is currently raging a tempest in a teapot over whether dogs should be crated. Ever. Never, say some. They cry that “the idea of crates [is] evil, spaying/neutering unhealthy, and that anyone who uses any type of force other than a cootchie-coo is inhumane”. Of course, many of us have seen abusive conditions in which dogs spend almost all of their lives in crates, and I would side with the activists complaining about that, but the vast majority of dog people using crates (the airlines call them “kennels”) do so wisely and effectively. Crates help train puppies in housebreaking, chewing, and other mischievous activities they would otherwise get into when you are busy with something else. Crates give dogs a “safe place” just like the caves their ancestors used to keep from being trampled on or molested while they nap. Crates keep a dog from being bounced around in a car when you have to brake or turn suddenly. They enable you to take more than one dog with you to training, visiting, and other activities and are infinitely safer than tying the dog up to a tree or lamppost while you exercise or compete with the other dog. The problem is that too many who are soft in the heart are also a little soft in the head, and tend to anthropomorphize excessively, likening a crate to being in some medieval, dank, rat-infested sewer of a dungeon.

One apparent voice of reason reportedly has been banned from one UK site due to “calmly, logically and with research refuting statements that are either erroneous, misleading or have no basis.” I have experienced the same exile or being placed on “moderation” (probation) on one or two e-mail discussion groups that I had thought and hoped were going to be open to differences of opinion, even if slightly strongly worded. I used to be very impatient, but in my 50s I went through a mellow stage. Now, after continually hearing the same foolishness for far too long, I am growing impatient again. Sometimes I feel like saying “Don’t these dummies want to listen or learn?” I believe that is truly the case. In this post-literary age, when TV and Internet and fast-foods and DINKS (double-income-no-kids — or at least no parental supervision of same) have made instant gratification a way of life in even the flood of information we swim in, people have largely abandoned both logic and listening. When was the last time you heard of a school teaching classes in logic? When was the last time you got the impression in a supposed conversation that the other person was actually listening to you and your ideas, rather than just waiting for an opportunity to speak?

The other topics that, strangely, have been occupying the worry-time of Brits and other Europeans are not world famine or peace, but tail docking and the pros and cons of neutering/spaying. One of my UK correspondents (not correspondents!) said that when it was mentioned in some communiqués that puppies and kittens are spayed at eight weeks by some U.S. vets, “there was an outcry that would make you think the world was ending.” Such a reaction is very curious to those of us living in the land of convenience foods and instant gratification, especially coming from a U.K. citizenry that believes docking tails is cruel and anything more than an instant of pain. I don’t hunt with docked dogs, but I have seen many a litter docked, and handled dogs for people who’ve reported repeated injury to some breeds’ undocked tails. I’m not getting into the argument of how damaging it can be to leave the tail on, but I know what I have seen, and the pups that have their tails cut off whether by hatchet, scalpel, or thumbnail (I’ve seen all three!) are no worse off right away or throughout life than dogs that step on a thorn that is pulled out right away. Even if I did not live in rural Alabama, where hunting is a way of life for many and is a needed way to keep certain wildlife from populating themselves into starvation or environmental disaster, I could not go along with those who decry docking for reasons of suffering – it’s a red herring, it’s a non-issue. But the extremists want to ban all hunting with dogs everywhere, even to the point of fines “over there” if your dog catches a rabbit or squirrel. Dogs no longer can work as they were meant to do, if such draconian measures are adopted. And they are. Unfortunately, most politicians are not dog owners and I include the few who allow their wives and kids to have a little foo-foo “dog” on their laps, yet politicians love to make laws that infringe on the lives of others. That’s the definition of the word politics: power, over other people. It’s also the definition of tyranny.

In the U.S., another storm that is always roiling is between the “show lines” and the “working lines” in what is supposed to be the same breed. In the U.K., Australia, and one or two other countries, “Schutzhund” is a dirty word, but in Germany, the U.S., and the rest of the world, it is a major facet of both the dog sport and the proofing of character. Unfortunately, the dichotomy persists despite the efforts of many to bring the two camps together. In the U.S. we have a vociferous and active Schutzhund movement domineered by what I call the “scores-only” mentality. It doesn’t matter greatly to them if the dog looks like a Malinois, coyote, Dutch Shepherd, wolf, or GSD; only how well it performs on the Schutzhund fields is important. On the other extreme is the “show-only” crowd, most of whom are concentrated in the far-out, non-mainstream GSDCA. For the benefit of my overseas readers, I must interject an explanation of these two particular groups before continuing. In the U.S., there are two breed clubs purporting to speak for the breed. Both are members of the W.U.S.V. The voting member unfortunately (by dint of negligence on the part of the rival club) is the GSDClub of America, which is a member club of AKC. The AKC in turn has a “working relationship” with FCI, similar to that of the UK’s “The Kennel Club”. The other breed club is United Schutzhund Clubs of America, which as the name implies, started as a sports club; it held its first conformation Sieger Show in 1990, if I remember rightly. They prefer the acronym USA, although the SV refers to them as USCA. The GSDCA does not adhere to or even acknowledge the international (WUSV) breed standard, while USA follows in almost every footstep taken by the SV, in all matters. It does not have any relationship with FCI (the FCI works with only one national club per country, as if all countries were socialist in which government “ownership”, control, or sanctions is necessary for validity). As a result, GSDCA leadership, or should I say lack thereof, has caused a noticeable shift in average phenotype in “AKC-Shepherds” away from the international look, the dog that is seen almost everywhere else in the world. This slide started in the late-1960s, when we still had many great-looking but “standard” examples of the breed, but also were seeing many unrepresentative examples being given easy championships (and thus breeding status) at shows judged by an AKC coterie of unknowledgeable judges; these were selected from the ranks of Poodle and Bulldog breeders and others who knew how to read the Standard and pass a written test. Today, the stereotypical AKC Shepherd is anything from a last-place finisher to a laughing stock when it is seen competing in international-type shows under knowledgeable, apprenticeship-trained judges.

Anyway, a flap in USA/USCA circles not many years ago was over whether a person should be permitted to breed according to his knowledge and experience, or meet certain artificial prerequisites laid out by “the breed police” (most of whom have an abysmal lack of experience in anything other than training a dog or two toward a Schutzhund title). A controversy on at least one e-mail “list” has been over some members of their community breeding dogs that are untitled (by which is meant the Schutzhund affix). Some of the novice upstarts have gotten all bent out of shape because a few more experienced people have occasionally bred a bitch or dog without the SchH title. Yet some of them would have no objection to breeding a dog that could only place in the last third or tenth, etc., of its conformation class, as long as it had those magic letters after its name. Even if it could only manage a Koerklasse-2. As long as it had good scores in its trials, especially the bitework part. I know of older, well-versed breeders who are much more qualified and able to make good decisions regarding pairings, and who are castigated for using dogs that would certainly be able to earn those titles, but for good enough reasons have not. Some owners feel the rigors of training late at night in all kinds of weather are not worth the effort and would not tell them anything more about their dogs than they can see in daily life. Some of us live too far away from training clubs (I know of some who drive 4 hours one way to go to training, as I have!) and others do not have a decent protection-phase “helper” to work with. But just let a wealthier “scores-only” compatriot send his dog to Germany (whether for minimal training and a “midnight trial” or not), and that dog is accepted by this group!

My argument with the fringe element in the working-dog community is based on the fact that I do train the dogs I keep, but I am not averse to using an untitled dog if it contributes to the breed and my program. I also make sure they have great character, hips, breed surveys, and anatomy. The only person to whom I have to prove anything is myself. I know what I see, am a darned-good dog psychologist and trainer, and a consultant in canine behavior. Nobody was forced to buy my occasional puppies, but those who do have their own option as to titling. Titles are but tools and proofs, but preserving the breed is done by preserving the best genes and combining them wisely. The titles are merely clothing and badges worn by the genes. I use them, but I do not put them above the dog’s inherent qualities. The important thing is the essence of the dog: the genes, not the uniform, medals, ribbons, accessibility to helpers and training clubs, or other paraphernalia. I get pleasure out of producing good representatives of the breed. Any that I sell and claim to be good Schutzhund potentials will indeed be so. Whether my co-owners or customers actually put the titles on them is secondary. Nice, but not necessary. Titles do not change the dog. Repeat: titles do not change what is in the dog’s character or genes. I have competed & trained intensively since 1966, and have won in conformation with clients’ dogs that never should have won because of character or other flaws, and I likewise have seen innumerable working-titled dogs that should never be in the gene pool. I know how to preserve the breed, and it isn’t by using those fakes.

Copyright 2005 Fred Lanting, Canine Consulting.
All rights reserved. Please view his dogs on -(or)-

The author has had years of experience as a conformation judge for AKC, SV, UKC, and many other registries, and regularly trains his dogs in Schutzhund, trying to live up to the title of his book “The Total German Shepherd Dog” (Hoflin). He consults as a behavioral analyst and training coach, and gives seminars on canine anatomy & gait as well as orthopedic problems (he is the author of the new book on HD and Other Orthopedic Disorders). Books can be ordered and lectures can be scheduled: or 256-498-3319.