Nearly a century ago, von
Stephanitz began developing the breeding guidelines for the GSD, or as
one might say today, he "created" them.
He was intrigued by the
untiring work of guard dogs, and driven by the desire to use them in
service to mankind. The founding father of the breed knew that this
was possible due to the dog’s anatomy which was plain and simply based
on physical laws - in particular the law of leverage. The body served
a useful purpose and warranted the often-cited "economy of power", the
efficient and complete work process. This useful anatomy is crowned by
a harmonious physical structure, without any extremes and with all
parts in right relation to each other. These were, at the time,
visionary idea according to which zealous and hardworking breeders
developed the most popular working dog.
We are proud of the fact that
in only two man-generations we now have a dog whose performance and
structural characteristics are the result of continuous improvement
efforts. Only as a combined force can the physical and characteristic
qualities, as stipulated in the racial identification standard, lead
to proper breeding results and thus keep the associated spirit alive.
Neglecting either one of these two "parts of the entity" would without
a doubt lead to the breeds degeneration.
The structural details of
our German Shepherd Dog have, from a technical point of view, been
designed to meet the requirements of optimal performance and have
elevated him to a special status among the working dog population. One
might say, his well-built physical structure has led to a particular,
exclusive beauty ideal that is unaffected by fashion trends or even
forced breeding practices. The physical and performance related
qualities can only become effective within the framework of an
interacting constellation. Breathtaking perfection is only realised in
a dog that meets the standard in terms of characteristic
faultlessness, temperament and expression.
This in turn leads to
the endeavour to admit only anatomically high-classed dogs to
reputable shows. Never before were we closer to this ideal than at the
present time: just look at the high-placed offspring of equally
high-placed show dogs. This fact and the clearly stated goal of our
association’s breeding standard must never be questioned. It would in
fact distort Stephanitz’s ideas and by doing so cause potential damage
to all concerned.
We must be on our guard not to re-evaluate a
complex given standard on the grounds of subjective considerations. It
never ceases to amaze me that in spite of only one breed standard,
there is support for two breeding goals. One boldly speaks of
differing beauty and the other boldly speaks of performance ideals and
even their incompatibility with one another. Such statements obviously
lack scientific support. What they do, however, is cause novice
members to feel insecure. Some people may even be led to believe that,
plainly spoken, "a beautiful dog is unable to perform".
are simply wrong, as documented by excellent statistical data of the
Bundessiegerprűfungen (SCHELD). It is not really my place to comment
in this context on genetic engineering. May that topic remain the
scientists’ realm. I am only attempting to offer you sound advice as
to breeding and performance, without the usual foreign terminology,
but rather based on common sense and experience.
Do allow me to state
According to the teaching of RABER, a mating may
lead to '2 to the power of 39' possible combinations of chromosomes.
This means a twelve-digit number of several billions that would hardly
ever be considered in normal breeding practices. It seems interesting
to me that not even the genetic factors of a superb male litter mate
can guarantee success, because sibling are likely to be very different
from each other, not only in appearance but in genetic makeup as well.
Consequently, only 20 -40% of all breeding efforts are ultimately
successful, the rest just "evaporates" (BRAUNING). That thought will
forever remain wishful thinking.
Of course, the inheriting
abilities of the animals in question are important; any outstanding
accumulation of favourable or less favourable characteristics must be
taken into consideration. However, there is always the exception to
the rule, for an even spread of defects across the entire population
seems to be quite normal. Therefore, there may be genetic factors
(e.g. size, hip dysplasia, ear deformations etc.) that may indeed be
difficult to eliminate. The bearers of these characteristics may after
all be good genetic inheritors. Their progeny, however, must always be
judged in the light of the maternal or paternal flaws. To say it
clearly: a high-placed descendant must not display the shortcomings of
his ancestors. Naturally, one should not settle for any bad
characteristics when shopping for good ones. This is true for
anatomical as well as character traits. By the same token, mating
winners of a Bundessiegerprűfung or Siegerhauptzuchtschau are
absolutely no guarantee to bring forth "winners".
sociological point of view, the dog is a product of inheritance and
environment which is evident in particular areas of development.
However, this is not what we want to discuss in this article. It
follows that the usability of the GSD as a working dog must be ensured
throughout the entire breeding spectrum. Never must there be two
differing blood lines ("the beauties and the beasts")
The founder of
the breed emphasised "high breeding" as an ideal, an inspiration to
achieve "perfection through breeding". Nowadays, however," high
breeding" is frequently equated with "lacking ability to perform"
whereas he had used that expression to describe the very best of the
dogs, the ideals which the majority would in due course, by selective
breeding, follow suit. This requires responsible, continual selection.
It is the only way to ensure that character and anatomy, alone and
together, remain determining factors for working dog breeding. "GSD
breeding is working dog breeding, or else it is not GSD breeding"
Understandably, various interest groups have formed
within the wide range of possible uses with the GSD. They must by all
means do justice to the dog, the breed, and the breeding and
performance standards to which the breeders are tied. Part of that is
having the dogs which are used for breeding, judged in all required
performance and show events. This quite inevitable leads to a shift in
interest and attendance. For example, do handlers whose main interest
lies in performance and thus the necessity for continuous advancement,
find less time to train their dogs for show events. Of course this
works the other way around for show visitors. Both groups, as breeders
or buyers of young puppies, strive to use the very top dogs for their
particular area of interest, and both are frequently disappointed by
the lack of due consideration given to them and their dogs. Is there a
solution? I would think so: Körmeister, breeding judge and performance
judge must closely co-operate to that end. Stephanitz warns of
"damaging misjudging" and this is true in both performance and show
areas. It takes a lot of subtle intuition and a thorough feel for the
dog as a whole. A performance judge cannot disregard the standard, a
fact that a dog handler with a main interest in show must accept. It
may well be that his show dog scores low in a performance event.
The consequences at exams, shows and Kőrung events are laudable.
wrong and damaging to the breed if dogs are given false top ratings at
shows, Kőrung events and exams. This will in no way justify a mating!
May I, in this context, recall the fact that the VORZűGLICH
(excellent) rating must only be given to dogs that strictly meet the
standard, display self-confidence and poise, and are indifferent to
The score SEHR GUT (very good) must only be applied
to dogs that meet the requirements for VORZűGLICH, but display slight
structural deviations. This includes dogs falling short of or
exceeding the standard height by one centimetre.
GUT (good) is
applicable to dogs that meet the standard but display easily
recognisable structural deficiencies.
It may be subjectively
understandable when points and ratings are adjusted to one’s
advantage. But it is simply wrong to try to use that process to
document that a dog is a high-performing and anatomically superb
animal when in reality he is not. The associated members must not be
misled by an accommodating grading system. Unfortunately the Kor Class
2 grading will always put the dog at a disadvantage even through he
may be a well-suited breeding partner due to high "general appearance"
scores, i.e., performance and structure. It might be advisable to
consider introduction of one single Kőrklass, as is done in working
dog breeding, with special provisions for the Schutzhund (protection
dog) requirements. The criteria as stipulated in the standard must be
met without any display of favouritism on the judge’s part. If it is
not, the standard only suffers. This indeed requires responsible
co-operation. Both show and performance groups must take a more
conscious and willing approach to working together, particularly in
light of the fact that the association's backbone is constituted by
members with average breeding and performance results. Top performers
are for example, to motivate others, but they are not the guarantors
of the association!
Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness
in the performance sector that in order to attain top ratings, the
structure and performance-related standard specifics are indeed to be
striven for more carefully.
Corresponding conclusions should be
drawn in the show sector as well. This includes making top-rated males
available for breeding with females that are strong in performance.
A performance man will hardly get excited over a dog displaying over
or near over angulation, which is usually accompanied by weak hock
joints, nor will he fancy an over-sized dog. Without a doubt, many
members have lost their sense of direction in that respect. We must
not yield to the apparent demand for over-size, a trend that is not at
all appreciated by performance people, for "giants are never skilful"
(STEPHANITZ). To my knowledge, we never had a performance winner with
height bordering on the upper limit. This is certainly even more true
for agility. It is important to note that with an increase in body
size, the weight increases far more than the power effective motion
(disharmony of muscle proportion). Overweight builds up dead weight,
thus restricting the dog’s basic speed and possibly leading to hip
dysplasia and a faster wearing-out of the dog in general. any
considerations as to size must be based on the standard, for adhering
to a medium size is of uttermost importance in view of performance
ability. Size and proportions are determined by measuring as well as a
visual assessment. Only that way do we achieve a harmonious,
medium-sized total appearance that ensures good working abilities.
May my above thoughts lead to fruitful discussions and ultimately
unite both interest groups in their common roots and a meaningful
future of togetherness. This requires conforming to the standard, for
its statements as to structure and character are indispensable for the
breeding and use of our GSD as a working dog. Applying the standard
too liberally in both sectors would be at the expense of the breed,
and consequently endanger the common goals of the association.