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German Shepherd Judging: Westminster 2018

by Gordon Garrett, B.A., CKC Judge (All-Breeds), GSD Authority


All breeds judge comments on judging style, excessive angulation in today’s GSD, and the principle of an unwritten Universal Standard in today’s breeds.


Warren Parkinson who I have discussed German Shepherd dogs with since the 1955 German Shepherd National Specialty in Toronto emailed me on how I could watch the German Shepherds at the 2018 Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Here are my impressions as I analyze from video.


There were 9 or 10 dogs in the ring and I will say from the outset that they appeared to be all excellent specimens of the German Shepherd. The ring, by specialty standards, was small but adequate. The dogs had excellent backs (I was impressed) and were basically true coming and going but because of some kind of label superimposed on screen, I could not see lower legs coming.


I am not sure how thoroughly the judge checked teeth but every dog was gone over including flipping of tails. That seems to be a usual practice of All-Rounders who have read the Standard. I thought the judge was bewildered--they all looked capable of winning--he did all but scratch his head as he moved dogs back and forth in the lineup, then around. His problem was that they were all excellent.


He moved the two males up to the front of the line and cut the group down to 6 and continued to move dogs haphazardly, gazing intently as the dogs posed. Then he would move them around together. He moved the dog handled by a well-known handler to the front. That dog lacked balance as it lifted its front and did not follow through well behind--too much angulation. There were a few that had steeper croups than necessary and lifted fronts up rather than just forward. However within that group of six was a bitch that had wonderful balance, proper reach and follow through behind, correct topline; and he missed her. Beyond that she had a nice slope of croup and of course she did not have as much rear angulation as some but her ligamentation throughout was solid, no wobbly hocks or little flick outward of the elbows.


When they all moved together she stood out. Oh yes, there was something else; she not only had good temperament, she had character, she was active, having a good time as she bounced to comply with her handler’s orders. The judge finally put another bitch over the male and gave the male best opposite sex-- patting his handler friend on the shoulder as he left the ring--like saying sorry he couldn't put him up.


I went to the group judging, where I would say that the judge was not a particular friend of German Shepherds. It was like he made no bones about it--he had lots to choose from--he didn't pull the shepherd out into the eight dogs for consideration.


Here the video work was much better and the hocks on the shepherd did seem to wobble just a bit and the rear angulation was too much to get good follow-through. As I watched the other dogs from side and coming towards me I could see once again what I call the universal principle of standards kick in. As I watched this video and those from Crufts and other shows, to me it is clear that there is an unwritten "Universal Standard" that the American and Canadian German Shepherds do not comply with.


Of course there are specifics that define a breed, allow for the roll over the loin of the sight hounds, the hackney gait of some of the toys, different coats and head shapes. Yet even the newly accepted breeds into the registry move with the same balance between front and rear and a semblance of a level topline that is unyielding as the dogs move.


The working German Shepherds and the FCI standard for the German Shepherd Dog satisfy this universal principle of dog standards but when All-Breed judges read the North American Standards for the GSD they seem to get confused because the closer a dog gets to these stipulations the more it looks out of place. It is my opinion that it is the reason that invariably wonderful German Shepherds are often missed in the ring--like the one I picked in the breed. You may not agree with me which is OK.


When I was showing dogs I wanted to win and when my dog won it became my conception of what the breed should be.


Then I began to think something was not right. When I was young it took me a long time to figure out what was meant by the Standard because it never seemed to add up to what I was seeing. Now I understand it was written as a conception of what Reginald Cleveland thought the breed should be.


Last year when watching hours of Crufts I realized all these judges were essentially looking for a similar structure and movement in all breeds--I call it the unwritten universal standard. While looking at nature documentaries I found wolves and other four legged creatures had similar structure and movement. Mother Nature is the great selector.


Related Gordon Garrett Articles and Information: (offsite, opens in window) Best Moving Shepherd Ever Video   ~   German Shepherd Toplines EST 2005 1804

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