by Gordon Garrett, B.A., CKC Judge (All-Breed), GSD Authority
A couple of years ago I did a presentation with slides for our local kennel club with the assistance of the education director who has the visual art equipment. Our presentation was well accepted, illustrating the faultiness of many of the German Shepherds.
I could show where a short upper arm would make a dog lift its front leg high on reaching forward, compared to reaching with a proper upper arm. This big dog (and tiny little girl) shows good pastern lift but foreleg just slightly ahead of body. I also had a picture of a straight shoulder assembly driving the front leg into the ground and a couple of dogs with soft slanted pasterns that dropped down almost flat on the ground as they took the weight of the dog.
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.
The rears were most revealing, showing over-angulation either from steep croups or long rear leg bones, causing dogs to buckle up the rear on driving forward, curling and dragging back toes as they moved the hind leg forward.
I have written before about the AKC standard for the German Shepherd and how there is a built in formula for faulty structure and movement in it. The standard was rewritten a number of years ago and as time has moved on old judges have passed on and breeders have become judges by being familiar with the standard. New breeders have come along and when an old timer like me points out that such structure is wrong, they just point to the standard and there is the proof, that I am wrong.
In a discussion I had with a friend we went back and forth on the German Shepherd Dog breed standard. One comment during the discussion suggested that the hind leg was not fully extended because even though the front leg was fully extended, the hind leg was at a different stage of its cycle.
Let us consider that; just last night I watched a nature program about a herd of wild deer, mostly they were hopping and galloping but often they were trotting and every one of them straightened the knee as they were trotting and everyone of them had long upper arms and were balanced as they moved. It was the same with the wolves and bears, they have to straighten the knee and their fronts and rears have to be coordinated.
That is nature's way, that the front and rear alternate legs move in sync as they trot. The fact is that when the rear angulation of the German Shepherd is increased by steepening the croup the hind leg cannot get untracked. It is a fault that is more than serious.
This is why we have dogs that drag the tops of their rear toes, but that is not all. They also cannot push forward correctly.
In an example from a human point of view, I found when I walk my knee does not straighten fully but when I go up stairs I literally have to straighten my knee each time I push myself up each stair.
We seem to be breeding more rear angulation with the mentioned problem and shorter upper arms that is causing the dogs on the front reach to either push their front legs out or lift them.
Then there is the slope of pastern that the standard can also be blamed for as the American standard calls for a twenty five degree slope. Take a protractor and measure how much that is. The German working dogs hardly have any slope as do the dogs of yesteryear. Look at the pictures in my book. The book is free on line and great to work with. Compare them with the pictures of today's big winners, notice the pasterns, the croups the rear angulation and the upper arms.
We can't blame the judges, whether they are specialty or all breed judges. I know when I was judging I would take the best of what was shown under me and sometimes I felt insulted by what was shown but I never ever took the option of dismissing any dogs even though from time to time felt that I should.
Maybe I was wrong not to.
I see these people displaying their winners on Facebook, standing with dog’s front legs bridged beneath their ears and the hind legs stretched too far into a distorted position, and I feel embarrassment for the judge. Why don't they just let the dog stand naturally? It did not win because of the way it was shown. Because you win does not mean your dog is as it should be; it is just the best there (that day) in that judges opinion.
Editor’s Note: see extraordinary illustrations of the “flying trot” in All-Breed Judge Lanting’s
Myth Of The Flying Trot
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