A Small Problem: Dwarfism in Dogs – Part 3

Confusion Continues


Fred Lanting

This is a follow-up article to the one I wrote entitled “Osteochondrodysplasias” in February of 2004. While that was a rather long piece, it still did not address all that people want to know about the subject. Nor will this, but at least we can look at some other aspects, including a little deeper delving into the questions about the genetics of dwarfism.

There are miniature and toy versions of “standard”-size breeds, but this is not the same as dwarfism, the latter being the result of an abnormality rather than a variation within normal limits in genes. People are always developing miniaturized strains by selectively breeding small examples to each other, and continuing to select until “regular” size individuals no longer appear. Some years ago, the heiress to a margarine fortune started to develop miniature Borzois. While some detractors accused her of using Whippets to jump-start the reduction in size, it really doesn’t matter much. Livestock breeders know that you can introduce a gene for some dominant characteristic such as color, but then keep breeding the other structural phenotypes back into in the original breed in such a way that the “new breed” (really a minor variation on the one they started with) will look and perform no differently, except for that color. Or whatever trait they want to introduce.

There is also no reason to believe she did not simply choose the smallest Borzoi from her extensive kennel and, in successive generations, bring down the size until the partners would “breed true”, in regard to that characteristic while not losing proportions or other qualities. Several years earlier, another woman developed a strain of Boxers that matured at 12 pounds body weight by selective, not cross-, breeding. While these examples never caught on, numerous such projects have, to some extent: the Shar-Pei, Australian Shepherd, Teacup Poodle, Bull Terrier, and numerous others. Miniatures do not have enough genetic change to classify their genes or body phenotypes as “abnormal” and, with the minor exception of a little difference in the head, miniatures have the same proportions.

There is a type of dwarfism that also produces proportional but suddenly smaller dogs. I say “suddenly” because unlike the “breeding down” through many generations, proportional dwarfs appear without successively smaller individuals in the line of descent. So far, I have found the particular type that I am thinking of, in only the German Shepherd Dog and in a breed with the GSD in its ancestry, the Karelian Bear Dog. Affected dogs are called Pituitary Dwarfs because the immediate cause, or at least the noticeable defect, appears in the hypophysis on the bottom of the brain. The anterior lobe of this endocrine organ is rightly called the “master gland” because of its governing or influential effect on other organs, specifically the glands. Minor abnormalities in this gland are what create the body types of Bulldogs, the acromegalic Saint Bernard, Dachshunds, and endless other examples of a departure from the more “normal” or “ancestral” types such as the GSD, sighthound, Pointer, etc. Anatomic and functional abnormalities in different parts of the hypophysis make for the difference between the Boston Terrier and other breeds intentionally selected for their abnormalities, for example.

Proportional dwarfism in the GSD is called “pituitary dwarfism” because an old name for the hypophysis, or part of it, is “pituitary gland”. Since this master gland controls much of the activity of other glands, it is not surprising to see abnormalities in thyroid function, and thus the inability to grow a normal coat. Most pituitary dwarfs look like Chinese Crested or other “hairless” breeds although by carefully dosing with thyroid hormones (and possibly the more expensive growth hormones), a normal coat can be maintained. See my article in the December 1984 issue of Dog World, which I may re-issue if there is enough interest. We can deduce that it is caused by a defect in a different part of the pars distalis of the hypophysis than different types of defects or in different gland parts in other breeds. We can make such deductions because such breed differences have been traced to such anatomic irregularities by Stockard and others at least as far back as the 1940s.

The non-proportional canine dwarfs, like their human counterparts, result from genetic defects that take root in other parts of this master gland, and therefore other endocrine glands and organs. But there is much confusion, disagreement, and lack of knowledge leading to frequently inadequate definitions. In my other article, which you might call Part One of a trilogy, I mentioned that various terms are used; I would like to here suggest that we settle on one umbrella word to cover all or most others: either chondrodysplasia or chondrodystrophy. The first simply means an abnormal development or shape (-plasia) of cartilage (chondr-). The latter is “translated” as poor (dys-) growth (troph-) of cartilage. Either would be a less cumbersome term than I used as the title of Part Two, osteochondrodysplasias, which includes the “osteo-” simply to emphasize that the bones are also abnormal. I think we do not need such a mouthful, and that readers will assume the inclusion of shortened bones in the term “chondrodystrophy”. A possible drawback to using chondrodysplasia is that it might someday be confused with enchondromatosis, a rare disease often involving tumors; these words are used interchangeably in human medicine. On the other hand, chondrodystrophy is sometimes used as part of a longer term for different disorders, also. Most of the time, though, it refers to a congenital defect in the formation of bone from cartilage.

Achondroplasia is one of those words that uses the prefix “a-” to denote or connote an absence or deficiency of something. In this case, it means a lack of (good) shape, growth, or form of the cartilage. Aplasia, for example, means “lack of development”, as illustrated in my 2004 book by the radiographic picture of an Airedale whose acetabulum and top portion of the femur did not develop at all from cartilage. The achondroplastic limbs of the Dachshund means that these extremities failed to elongate like the development in normal dogs. Achondroplasia of the skull is obvious in the Bulldog. In either example, the word refers to a disordered chondrification (and of course, later ossification) of the ends of bones. In most breeds, this is most obvious in the long bones (limbs). It is simply arbitrary preference that I use the words chondrodystrophy and chondrodysplasia more often.

But what about the genetics? To even attempt to delve into the mysteries of inheritance of various forms of dwarfism, one must be prepared to consider different genetic causes and expressions in what, on first glance, is easy to assume are the same conditions. Only by crossbreeding can we make better guesses. A couple of the most active researchers into inheritance of traits and practitioners of crossing breeds to get answers were Stockard in the 1920s to `40s, and Whitney in the `30s to `50s.

Basset breeders know that achondroplasia is dominant in their breed, and some think that this means the F1 progeny will always have the same leg length as the Basset. But in crosses between Bassets and GSDs, typically about half the legs (dogs) are intermediate in length, the other half being normal (long, GSD-type) in length. The same when a Bassett-Bloodhound with intermediate-length legs is crossed to a long-legged dog such as the GSD or any other breed.

Cocker Spaniels often have shorter-legged individuals, but the mutation to achondroplasia is not frequent, and is definitely recessive. Other races breed true every time, such as Corgis. It appears that “reverse mutation”, that is, a normal-leg-length offspring being produced by two typical Corgis, just does not happen. Yet we know that we can suddenly find Corgi-style legs in purebred pups of Cocker, German Shepherd, and other breeds. Corgis (and dogs with this mutation suddenly appearing) may have a slightly different genetic code and type of dwarfism than do Bassets and Dachshunds. English Bulldogs seem to have a type of dwarfism more like the Basset than the Corgi. The short legs of the Clumber Spaniel or the Beagle are almost certainly not examples of true dwarfism, as the shapes of the joints and bones are more like those of the normal-length breeds. Sometimes non-dwarf short legs are selected for by misguided breeders (and the judges who reward their dogs!), as in the cases of modern Golden Retrievers, and GSDs from American or “Alsatian-British” lines. There is still a great deal to be sorted out, when it comes to defining the genetic differences in the dwarf dogs. Only when breeders are open and honest, and share their experience and dogs with researchers, will we make progress in unraveling the rest of this riddle.

© All use of the above must be by prior permission, and carry this copyright notice. Fred Lanting, Canine Consulting. Seminars: Canine HD & Other Orthopedic Disorders; Gait & Structure (Analytical Approach); more. Fred is an international all-breed judge, and senior lecturer in anatomy and can be contacted 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.


by Fred Lanting

A disorder sometimes mistaken for hip dysplasia is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, perhaps more frequently referred to by the dog fancier as “Legg-Perthes”. This is an aseptic (not infected), developmental necrosis (dying of tissue) of the femoral head and neck, found almost entirely in toy or other small breeds. On radiographs, it often looks as if the bone is “rotting away”, and lameness is the major or only symptom. It has a history in human medicine, too. In fact, that’s where it was first discovered in 1910 by three researchers working independently. Legg, Calvé, and Perthes each saw a flattening of the femoral head (coxa plana) in affected youngsters and thought that trauma was at the heart of its etiology.

Schnelle in the 1930s first saw the disorder in the canine in Wirehaired Fox Terriers, and Moltzen-Nielsen in Germany about the same time saw it mostly in the Wires but also in a few other breeds Since then, puppies of many other small, toy, and miniature breeds between 3 and 10 months of age have been affected.

Radiographic (“X-ray”) signs of Legg-Perthes are usually gross and the course and outcome discouraging, since many cases are not referred to the vet or the specialist for diagnosis until the dog has been limping for a long time or the disease has progressed to the point that it becomes a more real problem to the owner. These small dogs put so little weight on their tiny hip joints that they almost can compensate for discomfort by “walking on their forelimbs instead of their four limbs”. Many are “couch potatoes” or spend much time being carried, but even then, picking up an affected dog in a certain manner can put more pressure on the joint than does normal locomotion, so pain at that time is often the stimulus to do something about it. Owners have reported “incredible pain” and constant, progressive discomfort, inability to stay long in any one position, and bone lysis (loss through a process akin to dissolving or consuming) at other areas in the limb distal to the hip (further away, the opposite of proximal).

The earliest radiographic signs, should you look for them before they change, include an increased radiodensity (opacity as seen on the radiograph) in the lateral part of the epiphysis of the femoral header Lateral means the part away from the mid-line or medial; the “outside”. Resorption of necrotic (dying, rotting or decomposing) trabecular bone cells is next accompanied by a lysis (dissolving or being consumed) of bone. These are replacement attempts by the body, similar to the attempt to replace bone that takes place during HD remodeling; eventually there is fracture or collapse, like a frame house riddled by termites. As HD may or may not be concurrent, the congruity of the ball-and-socket coxofemoral joint might still be maintained until collapse. See pictures at the end of this article.


The most probable cause is a genetic weakness that allows abnormal or inadequate blood supply to the ossifying epiphyses. Those are the ends or caps of long bones that are changing from cartilage in the embryo to bone in the adult. Depending upon breed and particular bone portion, ossification is usually complete by 12 months of age. Compression/pinching of the blood vessels in that area leads to the necrosis (death) of cartilage and bone tissue. One unproven idea was that some of these little dogs have excess and premature levels of androgen and estrogen hormones that influence this process.


Various treatments have been suggested but the usual one is excision (surgical removal) of the femoral head and neck, again with a similarity to one of the HD operations performed on dogs.

Conservative treatment (as opposed to “heroic measures” such as surgery) has been suggested for those unilaterally limping dogs (lame on only one side and supported well by the other limb) with good congruity and no collapse or deterioration. The dog’s worse limb is put into an Ehmer sling for a time, perhaps as much as a couple of months, then the dog is kept in a crate to minimize activity for another few weeks perhaps, during which time the dog is periodically radiographed. If this approach is successful, the resorbed bone is replaced in a normal manner and radiopacity returns, indicating normal bone cells and regained strength. In such cases, aseptic necrosis is halted and then reversed by keeping the dog’s weight off the limb. Lameness has been reported to cease in perhaps a quarter of dogs treated conservatively, but much of this estimate depends on owners’ reports rather than always being followed up by veterinary examination.

A syndicated column called “To Your Good Health” in the Clarksburg (WV) Telegram of June 30, 1994 included a brief discussion by Paul Donohue, M.D., responding to a reader’s request for advice. Her 8-year old child had recently been diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease and she had seen no improvement after 3 months in a brace. By the way, human infants with HD are put into slings or casts which keep the legs spread apart until the joint begins to strengthen; did you know that people get HD, too? Anyway, Dr. Donohue told her that the Legg-Calvé-Perthes disorder involved a cutting off of the blood supply to the epiphysis (top part of the femur) and that it might take more than a year for the brace to rest the hip enough so that restoration of blood supply can help restore bone there. If unsuccessful after that long a wait, surgery may be needed, he advised. So you see, your dogs are not the only ones at risk for this problem.

Some of us may not have heard of any of our specific breeds diagnosed with Legg-Perthes yet, but that may be because, to many veterinarians, the radiograph looks like hip dysplasia, and it is not sent in to experts for diagnosis and recording of data. On the other hand, I have seen many HD cases mistakenly diagnosed as LCP. If you come across a case of Legg-Perthes in your breed, please report it (accurately, with name and address of person diagnosing it) to the health committee and/or magazine editor of your club.

Copyright, Fred Lanting, 1994. Permission to reprint available if the notice about the new orthopedics book is attached. If you don’t see these below, e-mail: for copies. The following or similar notice should also accompany the article:
The new “Canine HD and Other Orthopedics Disorders” book is here! The long-awaited expanded revision now in its second printing is a comprehensive (nearly 600 pages!), amply illustrated, annotated, monumental work that is suitable as a coffee-table book, a reference work for breeders and veterinarians, and a study adjunct for veterinary students. Be sure to look for the blue cover. Do not confuse it with the much smaller out-of-print 1980 work. $73 ppd in the USA. Combine orders with “The Total German Shepherd Dog” by the same author ($50 plus postage). 17 of the 20 chapters are suitable for owners of any breed.
(c) Fred Lanting, . The author is an international dog show judge and lecturer on such topics as canine orthopedic problems, gait-&-structure, the evolution of the modern GSD, and other topics. Seminars can be arranged.

The Sieger Show Courage Test – Origin and Purpose

by Fred Lanting

Taken for granted in almost all WUSV-member GSD clubs worldwide, and with similar tests in other breeds, the courage test that makes up about a third of the activities at the annual BSZS (Bundessieger Zuchtschau, or German Sieger Show) is treated differently according to country. Some countries’ national breed club require the test at every specialty show, some at just the major shows during the year, some just at the “annual national” show. And in some countries, clubs somehow manage to hang onto WUSV membership despite the facts that they ignore the mandated test or are forbidden to use it, by their nation’s government-run or government-pressured all-breed club.

Before we get into the description of how the courage test is performed and why it is needed, you should know something about “where I’m coming from”. My first GSD in 1947, in New Jersey, was an “immigrant” or the son of an import – unfortunately, all records were lost. I had many GSDs since then, both “German” and “AKC” lines, mostly the former. I have owned offspring of Gin Lierberg, Uran Wildsteigerland, Lance of Fran-Jo, Timo Berrekasten, grandsons of Cello Romerau, Bernd Kallengarten, and many more. I have trained innumerable dogs for myself and others in AKC-type obedience as well as Schutzhund (all of them so-called “show-dogs”), and am a member of the somewhat elite USA SchH-3 Club. As a professional handler I have put championships and high V-ratings on many dogs. I have had hundreds of puppies, and many years experience as a canine behaviorist and consultant. I have judged and lectured in some 30 countries and have seen the gamut of training and club requirements for shows and breeding. I am the author of “The Total German Shepherd Dog” as well as several other books. Not bragging, just saying how blessed I’ve been in this sport. Sometimes one has to re-establish one’s credentials, because the nature of the dog sport is that there are perpetually novices added to its ranks who don’t know us old-timers, and there are also “perpetual novices” who’ve been around a long time but still “don’t get it”.

With this background, and a long history of conducting annual tours of Europe centered on the Sieger Show, and including visits to trainers and training clubs, I don’t think there are many still active who have as much exposure to the breed in all its facets. I believe firmly that von Stephanitz’ dream of the total dog should continue to be respected. My ideal (and I’ve owned several examples) is the “golden middle” that can make me happy in both anatomy and character, both gait and performance. And so I emphasize to my tour groups the importance of seeing for yourself the character demonstrated by the conformation competitors, the preliminary and prerequisite courage test being held on the first day, Friday. Those that pass can then go to the next part of the grounds for the standing exam and gaiting, with the preliminary ranking assigned at that time. Those that do not meet the minimum performance standards go back to their dog trailers and sit out the rest of the show weekend, then home for better training or for sale to a country like India, Australia, or another where the test is not required, or where it is thought it might be easier to pass it. There aren’t many of those anymore.

There are two exercises that make up the courage test, being excerpts and modifications from the Schutzhund Phase C (protection) routine. There is a little bit more leniency, with the judges a little more forgiving in regard to correct heeling, number of times the “Out!” command is allowed, and how close the handler gets to the dog before yelling it, but basically, the worst passing performances resemble the work of the lowest-scoring dogs in a regular schutzhund trial. It should be said somewhere that there are different terms for this SchH title, ranging from VPG to IP or IPO, but it will be a long time before trainers lose the traditional name of the sport. The first half of the test is the “attack (on handler) from the blind”, and the second part is the “long attack”.

Come with us, now, as we (a team of handler and dog) do the exercises at such a show. First, a few teams are lined up outside the large field, which is usually about the size of half or ¾ of a soccer field, waiting their turns. As the preceding team exits via a different gate, and the judge announces their status as “pass” or “fail” and (if they pass) whether the dog was “pronounced” (ausgeprägt) or just barely “present” (vorhanden), the next team walks to the starting point. The judge gives an indication that he is ready for them to begin, and the handler heels his dog to the next marker, at least five paces from the first blind that is a bit to one side, stops with dog sitting, and removes the leash. There is a helper (“bad guy”) hiding in the blind, which of course the dog fully knows, but is supposed to act surprised when the helper pops out in a very threatening attack on the handler.

The team, upon a nod or gesture from the judge, starts heeling off-lead in the general direction of the blind. Most dogs that properly continue heeling show considerable desire to leave when the opportunity (threat) appears; in fact, most will eagerly crouch with lowered head as they heel, because by thus lowering the center of gravity, they can spring forward with more power and initial speed when that happens. In an accompanying photo, you can see my friend Andrew Masia with his Leri Unesco doing just that, on the way to the off-leash marker. Andrew is an experienced trainer, and does not need the leash even when it is allowed. I trained and titled a bitch for him, once, when he was too busy working.

As they get near, the attacker runs out, waving his stick (and usually being noisy). The dog immediately, without any command being needed from the handler, charges at the bad guy to intercept him and thereby protect his master. The bite on the sleeve should be immediate and convincing, and when the struggle ends, the dog is to release, with no more than 3 commands allowed (including the dog’s name). The count on the “commands” is frequently a little bit flexible. After the dog outs, the handler is permitted to walk up to them and retrieve (heel off with) his dog. He heels to the far end of the field while helper #1 disappears.

When the team gets to the marker at the end, they turn and face the originating part of the exercises. From another far part of the field, helper #2 trots along, while the handler shouts at him to get off his property, turns toward the dog-handler team and starts running fast and furiously, again with threatening shouts and stick-waving. The handler releases his seated, eager dog, the dog tears down the field and flies through the air at the end, to hit the helper and latch onto the sleeve. The good helper knows how to catch the dog by “giving”, the way a baseball player catches a fast pitch so he does not have a hard impact. The most applause comes when a hard-hitting dog is caught high and swung around in the air to be set down relatively gently on the ground behind the helper. That shows really pronounced drive and enjoyment of the work.

Again, the struggle stops, the dog releases with (usually) or without command. I like to train my dogs to “out” on their own when the fight stops, without a command from me. Some handlers have to scream at the top of their lungs, hoping the dog remembers how to count up to three and then obey. Then the judge allows the handler to approach the helper and retrieve his dog. In the courage test, there are many irregularities or straying from perfection that would cost the schutzhund trial competitor several points, but here it is just pass or fail. If the work is not convincing, if the dog is weak or reluctant, he may get a “vorhanden”, meaning he can only get an SG (very good) in the conformation show, not a V (excellent).

There are two photos I sent with this article that show something you might not notice at first glance. Andrew’s “Little Man” (Unesco) is doing the “first-half” of the protection exercise with one helper, and the back-half with a different helper. The first one is left-handed, so he wears a sleeve on his right arm, something very few dogs get a chance to see. It was a surprise to many dogs who are used to coming at an attacker from a certain direction and the threat coming out of their left side of the blind. Most adjusted very quickly to the “strange” arm being presented.

After the German Sieger Show tour that I led (an annual event for me) a professional photographer gave me permission to use some of his excellent shots. Very incidentally, part of my tour group was in the background in the stadium in many of them. In one picture, I’ve outlined in white where we were sitting; the dog is just on the verge of letting go as the struggle has just stopped. Credit for these stadium shots: Franck Haymann, . The picture with the helper wearing a number 3 and doing what looks like a dance routine features Solo v Team-Fiemereck. Helper # 5 and handler 1045 shows the 2004 V-1 Karat’s Ulk doing the after-struggle guard from the down position, which is useful to teach dogs that don’t really want to out and then remain so close to the tempting sleeve. Ulk was pulled before conformation judging in order to give another Karat’s dog a chance at the VA rating, a very unwise ploy, since the second dog did not get higher than V-1 anyway, and Ulk would almost certainly have been VA if only they had bothered to get a German breed survey on his dam. Some folks must have been kicking themselves in the rear-end all the way home after that show! Number 1068, Torro Barenwald, is shown in a very nice, correct, attentive guarding mode while the handler comes to pick him up.

There are always a few working-lines dogs that compete in the Sieger Show. One is pictured resting in the vendor area just outside the stadium. Usually these dogs bred strictly for working competitions place far back in the pack, around 110th place or further back. That’s because they are not as highly selected for the proportions, front angulation, long croups, etc. which show-line breeders are always trying to perfect. Most are there to show off (their routines are usually head-and-shoulders above those of the show dogs that get far less practice sharpening their protection skills) or to place highly enough to earn points toward the Universal Sieger title. This is an honor given to high scoring dogs at the annual German and international schutzhund prüfung trials who also do well in the breed ring. In 2005, the judge of the males decided that every dog competing was worthy of a V (excellent) rating, and gave no SG or lower ratings. Of course, that included only those that qualified in the preliminary courage test.

One more picture might be included, at your editor’s pleasure: a working police department dog in Nanjing, China, where I judged a couple of shows in 2004, is properly and safely caught by a military helper and is being set down. You can see that there is very definitely a practical aspect and history to the courage test as it is carried out in a similar though more formalized manner than in real-life police or military situations.

In the very few places where courage is not tested or thought to be a requirement for a breedable GSD, this very practical aspect of breed selection (suitability for service in police, military, or personal protection) is kept at arm’s length by the people in charge of the show-line dogs. In Australia and its smaller copycat New Zealand, the officials of the GSDCA (GSD Club of Australia) are afraid of government repression and the threat of mandatory neutering (as had been the law not that many years ago when there was a breed ban on the GSD). They are ruled by the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council), a quasi-governmental body heavily controlled by national politicians. The State politicians also get into the act, adding their own repressive anti-dog, anti-sport laws on a more local level. Many feel it is a case of the tail wagging the dog, and instead of the government being the servant of a free people, it is the master instead, able to dictate more severe limits on individual liberties than in some other countries. But as long as the citizens vote for such “governors”, they deserve what they get. Europe has long been sliding in the direction of less freedom for dog owners, and America is also slipping in that direction, though still far behind.

What is the purpose of the courage test in today’s societies? If you acknowledge that character is historically the primary feature of the German Shepherd Dog, the answer is obvious: it is to provide a proofing tool (that’s what the word prüfung means) to weed out the weakest temperaments and least useful individuals, and by such population genetic pressure, maintain the true German Shepherd Dog. We don’t expect every GSD to be used in police or military work, but neither should it degenerate into a foo-foo breed and lose its identity. Even before Europe’s growth of cities, decline in wolf and other predators, and less need for sheep herding, von Stephanitz established the breed as the preeminent guard and protection dog for families as well as for all manner of civil and official work, from customs and border patrol to searching for lost children or escaped criminals. History has shown that degeneration in such working character follows the lack of genetic selection pressure for the necessary traits. The courage test is primarily an exercise in obedience with willingness and ability to defend the owner. In fact, the whole schutzhund routine is more an obedience test and demonstration than a show of biting or fighting.

What is the future of “protection as selection”? Mostly downhill, thanks to non-dog-owners being elected to political office. But, in the USA there is a movement called “My Dog Votes” (no spaces between words, if you are doing a Google search) with citizens of all political stripes uniting to campaign against politicians who pass laws that are detrimental to the full enjoyment of dog ownership, including the highly rewarding and satisfying sports represented by schutzhund. The anti-dog forces of PETA and HSUS are well financed by air-headed celebrities with more dollars than sense, and it will be a long, bitter battle. In Europe, Australasia (Oz and NZ), and individual communities in the U.S., there are breed-specific laws written by idiots who don’t understand the first thing about dogs, human nature, or logic.

National and State laws (and lawmakers) must be traded in for better ones. As one friend from the land of Oz told me, “Our people cannot tell the ANKC to go away, or they would not be allowed to show any of these dogs in the regular conformation ring (as opposed to the Main Breeds ring).” I don’t quite understand the difference between those two, despite having judged numerous times Downunder. Continuing with the quote: “We believe it is very important that top-quality GSDs also appear in the regular conformation classes whenever we can tempt their owners to enter them. Otherwise the divide [between show and working/sport dogs] becomes even wider. Not many of them bother of course, but those that do are much valued and give us an idea of where the breed stands -interestingly enough, many of them do enjoy the ‘ordinary’ shows once they try them.” This was in response to my partly tongue-in-cheek suggestion that “Your GSD folks should just tell the ANKC to go away, and join the WUSV instead (whole-heartedly).” Right now, the GSDCA in Australia is resisting being a member in more than just the name; in effect, they are resisting the Standards of anatomy and performance, which in the majority of countries are inseparable.

In England, a very interesting development is unfolding at this moment. One of the three major GSD clubs in the U.K., the GSD League, is a WUSV member. But it has been in a similar position as Australasia until now, bowing to The Kennel Club in outlawing schutzhund activities anywhere near its name. Now, the management of GSDL have worked out some sort of merger or close-ties agreement with the BSA (British Schutzhund Association). Details on the evening news, I guess, but as of this writing, it is indeed a hopeful sign. Some problems persist, though. Many of the most active GSDL members and officers were caught off-guard and knew nothing of this until word bounced back from overseas bloggers and others. Another problem is that there is still the BAGSD (British Assoc. of GSDs) club that has been a rival organization and has close ties with The KC. And of course, there is the dying “breed” known as the Alsatian fanciers who still have something of a diminished following. It will be very interesting if the KC will allow this flexing of muscle, or clamp down the way the ANKC has so far.

Regardless of what happens in the Queen’s flower gardens up close or back yard down-under, the rest of the world is staying the course, using the schutzhund trials (even if renamed IP or VPG) and the shortened courage tests as selection tools to keep the breed on the right track as much as possible, given the wide variety of interests in the game.

Copyright 2005, Fred Lanting,
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2004 National Police Dog Championships

by Fred Lanting

Huntsville Alabama’s police department was the host for the annual police dog championship competition in November of 2004, with contestants coming from all across the U.S. and Canada. It is an event where families renew acquaintances and friendships are strengthened, where skills in the use of dogs for police work are sharpened and encouraged, and where cops’ public relations as well as sports and the dog’s service to man benefit.

There are some similarities to the popular civilian sport of schutzhund (lately renamed by the Germans as VPG for Vielseitigkeitsprüfung which literally translated is “many-faceted test”). This is natural, since the VPG exercises were developed as a stylized and orchestrated expression of most of the work that a police or military dog would have to do for a living. In the police competitions, dogs have to prove their usefulness in such areas of expertise as general obedience, agility with obstacles and jumping, suspect search, evidence search, call-off from attack phase, correction of false starts, criminal apprehension, and more.

In performing the scent work, the challenges would be daunting for the average sports trial trainer-dog team. In one event, there is a 30 X 30-foot section, often in tall grass, in which are tossed two small human-scented articles such as a gun, key on a ring, screwdriver, credit card, book of matches, or other items. The handler is allowed to take his dog around the perimeter, and then sends him in to find the pieces of “evidence”.

Damp drizzly weather made for some slippery surfaces, but even when footing is dry, there are frequently some injuries and accidents in this simulation of real-life work. There were only a couple dog and handler injuries this year. The really bad weather held off until after the final competition events, but rain washed out the public demonstration that was scheduled on Huntsville’s baseball field on the last evening of the week. It would have required several vehicles and activities on the field, and would have damaged it too much.

But the competition already had been completed, and once again, the top scorer was Jeff Ellis from Mauer County, Minnesota. He and his Malinois also won the national title in 2002 and 2003. Also from Minnesota was a team of five officers from the St. Paul Police Department, each with a dog and some also accompanied by a wife. They have 21 service dogs in the city’s department, and there were some 3 or 4 additional teams from outstate Minnesota. There were also many competitors from southern states, where police-dog use has a long and sometimes mottled history.

For a die-hard GSD lover such as I am, there is always a tinge of regret that the police in the U.S. and several other countries have increased the use of Malinois at the expense of the “police dog” that started it all, the German Shepherd Dog. When, after the 2001 BSP, I last took my tour group to the biggest police dog school in Europe (Stuckenbrock, Germany in the NordRhineland-Westfalen region), I was likewise dismayed to find that they were in the end stages of a process of converting from the historical GSD to the Malinois. A very small percentage of the dogs in training now are GSDs, and those only because some of the handlers insist on them. The reasons given were several: the Mals were faster and lighter (more agile), easier to keep and feed and transport, had higher drives (no wonder… they are really Border Collies in Shepherd clothing!), and have a much lower incidence of hip dysplasia.

The SV has been dragging its feet in the realm of HD control, despite it having the best progeny testing system known, called Zuchtwert. But they have ignored the best diagnostic test (PennHIP, which has been enthusiastically adopted by vets in Denmark and Netherlands), and have continued to let noch zugelassen (dysplastic) hips be put back into the gene pool of their registry. This, and the greater difficulty that the police have had in getting donated or reasonably-priced GSDs with both good hips and suitable courage and drive, have been additional reasons why fewer Shepherds are on today’s police forces there.

The same situation, by and large, exists in the U.S. A few departments and the communities that support them, have the funds to purchase quality dogs, but the majority seem to rely on donations. The GSDCAmerica/AKC-lines dogs are almost all temperamentally unsuitable, and the imported GSD is often too expensive for many cities and sheriff’s departments. Still, there were many GSDs at the National Championship, and they did great jobs.

Mansfield Ohio’s Jim Sweat, president of USPCA, the organization that controls the annual event, told me that the 2005 competition will be held in Evansville Indiana, and the 2006 one will be hosted by St. Paul, MN. Cities are chosen by selecting from volunteer departments that offer facilities and local organization. Naturally, the weather plays a role in deciding on the dates, as it would not be feasible to trial in November in Minnesota or in July in Louisiana.

Thirty judges are used, including one chief judge and 9 novice (apprentice) judges. Five are assigned to each performance event and score the dogs in a manner not very dissimilar to the Olympic games. While the assistants tabulate the numbers and the competitors exercise and put their dogs away, other participants and caterers prepare the smorgasbord type supper given on the final evening, and await the results and a few short speeches. Cops have a probably well-deserved image of being overweight consumers of doughnuts, but these dog handlers are in quite good physical shape. I have found through personal training that much excess weight is a handicap to the hard work of conditioning dogs, especially if you do the helper work (play the part of the bad-guy). But I suspect that the more athletic individuals are more drawn to the physical activity of working dogs.

I asked some of the participants if there was anything unusual about this year’s trials, and was told that this was the first time it had been filmed by the Animal Planet channel. It will be broadcast in the Spring of 2005. Be sure to watch for it. And if you live near Evansville or Minneapolis-St.Paul, ask your local K9 officer for details on the public portion of the competition. Ask what you can do to promote the use of dogs in law enforcement, since it is proven that K9 teams reduice the number of officers required to do the same work, and are much more effective than dogless departments in many respects. To paraphrase a popular slogan of the 1960s through 1980s, “Support Your Local Policedog”.

Author Fred Lanting is an international show judge for many registries, presents seminars and consults worldwide on such topics as Structure, Orthopedic Disorders, Training Techniques, and the GSD. Fred lives part of the year in Alabama, actively trains in schutzhund, and breeds for occasional litters (his dogs and kennel in the Netherlands can be seen on ). He leads an annual Sieger Show and sightseeing tour. Most articles can now be found on and Reprint permission of these copyright pieces can be requested and should carry this or a similar notice at the end.