German Shepherd Dogs and...



Graham Mabbutt, Cynologist and author of "A Passion For Dogs, A Journey Of Discovery"


Click here if you missed Part One; Judge And Be Judged


Here we deal with flat rib cages, loaded shoulders, narrow fronts, the lumbar spine downward bend, overangulation, oversize, soft ears and overly long tails.


For those of you have stayed with me thus far may I draw your attention to the two excellent articles by Louis Donald in which he sets out his observations on the 2018 German and Italian Sieger Shows which I consider to be essential reading for all German Shepherd Dog aficionados intent on breed progress and retaining what was once held to be ‘The working dog without peer’.


In the first Judge And Be Judged {Ref # 1}, we discussed condoned defects, some even desired, that are prevalent in the show ring to-day. To name a few, deep slab-sided rib cages, loaded steep shoulders with narrow fronts, lumbar spine downward bend, over angulation, oversize, big sometimes soft ears and over long tails which are an encumbrance in the working dog.


 Such defects, along with an obsession for the gait of the flying trot with its expansive side reach, are to the detriment of sound movement and endurance, inevitably obscuring breed direction.


In regard to locomotion the comment, “Curved backs are fine for walking and pulling, not so good for trotting and bad for galloping, but show dogs don’t gallop – right?”, is most telling.


Here I would point out breeding for exaggeration can only lead to over-exaggeration.


To quote, “The return to The G.S.D. who is moderate in their anatomical form for most people who call themselves breed enthusiasts is incomprehensible and unimaginable. For them a curved back is desirable, a straight back undesirable, over angulation of the hindquarters normal, moderate hind angulation abnormal, and close stepping wobbly cow hocks caused by over angulation characteristic of the breed”.


In answer to the obvious question posed ‘What then is to be done’? lies in correct judging which abhors exaggeration, particularly Sieger and Championship shows. Further to that, the breed as a whole must be aware to bridge the gap between ‘show’ and ‘work’ which now exists, the analogy of the old fashioned, three-legged, milking stool must be ever in their minds. The seat being type, (e.g. What makes a German Shepherd a German Shepherd and a Rottweiler a Rottweiler.) the three legs supporting the seat in perfect balance. First, character, second, soundness (including longevity), thirdly, working aptitude (i.e. tasks to assist man).



Breed progress can be monitored best through accredited assessors observing litters as a whole, at 49 days old. Then as individuals for inherited good character and working aptitude in a place unknown to them exposing them to unusual play stimuli, (note that it is only inherited, not made traits, that can be passed on in a breeding programme) and assess again at ten to 14 month of age.


 Regarding ‘bite-work’ which can be taught arguably more easily to nervous cowardly dogs through the association of the exercise and winning making them pseudo dominant in the process. Such dogs off lead with an avenue of escape open to them are cast adrift as a boat without a rudder.


After environment, ownership, handling and teaching will have influenced what one sees. Note each aspect of the assessment further proved these days by video, in an official file attached to their pedigree. Remembering it is living with as a companion and what you see with your own eyes that really counts rather than pictorial and paper records. However so far as pedigrees can be trusted they play a part especially in the first two generations and in particular, the bottom bitch line, known as the foundation line.


To conclude (and continuing the theme) if we are to prevent the breed’s slide into obscurity through a character which is effete, subject to both veterinary and bodily defects and no longer worthy of being called a 'family companion working dog', the answer does not lie in what is called compensatory-breeding, i.e. breeding extremes to opposites, e.g. curved to straight backs. The over-excitable and sharp, (i.e. alert to every sight and sound, quick to react) mated to the dull and placid does not work.



There is only one axiom, breed incorrect to what is correct, remembering it takes two to tango.


By so doing the undesirable can be eradicated and in so far as is possible, near-excellence achieved.  There's one proviso, as important as was the Kennel Club’s acceptance of the change from Alsatian to The German Shepherd Dog, namely one standard worldwide only, THE STANDARD of the W.U.S.V.


Reference and Related Article Information by Graham Mabbutt: {1} Judge And Be Judged  ~  A Bit About Judging Dogs

TheJudgesPlace.com EST 2005 1910   http://www.thejudgesplace.com/Education/judges-be-judged-continued-g19M10.asp


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