Why is breeding according to the standard important
-by Erich Orschler (von Batu kennels). SV Breed Judge and Koermeister
(02-03-1929 - 08-02-2017)
Translated by Elke Effler from the SV
Zeitung, June 1998 issue
I don't care what the dog looks
like, so long as it can work, bite, track, be able to cope with stress and,
if possible get 298 points!"
Are you familiar with this saying? Of course
you are and I am aware of this attitude, and also know dogs who most
definitely do not reflect the standard of the German Shepherd Dog; dogs who
have serious anatomical faults but who still demonstrate exceptional
performance results. They impress with their behaviour, their temperament,
their joy in working, their courage and combative drive, their performance
ability and together with the expert assistance of their handler, are
The German Shepherd Dog - after all, it was
because of his universal ability, his widespread and versatile usefulness,
his courage and his endurance that he became so well known!
is it then whether he reflects the Standard (whatever that may be) or not?
Does it matter if he is steeply angled, has loose ligaments, is too large or
too small, too long or too short, whether he has missing teeth or hanging
In Germany alone, 30,000 (worldwide,
several hundred thousand) German Shepherds are bred every year. Are then the
anatomical facts not really important?
Assertion: If the SV had not
exactly prescribed the Standard and so carefully watched over it, our dogs
would most certainly not look like the Standard and he would also not
reflect the performance Standard. The predictability of phenotype and
temperament, the related performance ability, and above all the dog's
universal usability, would be lost; at the very least it would be markedly
diminished. Shall we therefore look at our dog and ask again whether there
are correlations, why the Standard wants it this way, why the proportions,
the anatomy, the movement and of course also the temperament should be thus
and not otherwise.
Shall we play the judge and look at our dog in the
following chronological order:
The German Shepherd Dog belongs
to the medium size breeds. The important measurement proportions are set as:
males 60-65 cm, bitches 55-60 cm wither height. The trunk length exceeds the
wither height by approximately 10-17%. Improved breeding and feeding
conditions, but also without doubt the preference for the larger, stronger
dog have in the last decades, contributed to the fact that our dogs have -
to word it somewhat carefully - reached the upper limit in size.
correct, or where can there be problems in size?
Dogs which are too
large: Even if the dog is harmoniously constructed, he becomes too heavy.
There is an over proportional weight gain. Mobility/agility suffers.
Although giants are very powerful, they are never agile or fast. If these
over size dogs are not too heavy, then they will usually be leggy, have
little bone strength, the chest will be only moderately developed, they will
be narrow and usually such dogs will also not be firm or well knit.
which are too small: We also have two possibilities here: If there is
harmonious construction, the males appear bitch-like and the bitches are
little suited to being brood bitches. Is strength and substance and
therefore also weight present, then the proportions of the limbs are
incorrect; this means that the trunk is too pronounced, the dog's legs are
too short and the length of stride suffers.
A balance between size and
strength, agility and speed-already limited by size alone - is therefore a
requirement for performance.
Our dog is bred to be a
trotter. All theories expound this, but also experience has shown that the
slightly elongated dogs are best able to tirelessly trot over long
distances. Dogs which are too short and square, are barely able to trot.
They have a tendency to either gallop or to pace. They are capable of being
fast and agile over short distances but for longer distances their mode of
movement is not economical enough. Very elongated or long dogs are even less
able to perform. Usually their back ligaments are not firm and the
transmission of the hindquarter action to the forehand is missing. Result:
The dog falls or lies on the forehand - the centre of gravity is disturbed.
It is exactly this 'centre of gravity' (our colleagues from the former East
Germany correctly use this definition more often) which plays such an
important role in the assessment of movement. English speaking countries
have the definition 'well balanced movement', which also perfectly describes
what is meant, namely the straight, level back combined with harmonious
movement. Incidentally, for performance sport people, it is only a matter of
time before their too - long dogs develop loin or vertebrae problems. It is
irrelevant what the dog looks like - oh really?
These are also prerequisites for the
performance dog. Under 'strength', bone strength is understood. The bones
form the framework of the body and should therefore be strong and dry.
Finely boned dogs therefore have no place in breeding. "Substantial" is a
dog when he possesses a lot of body. Pronounced chest development, the under
chest reaching well towards the hindquarter but only rising moderately, give
the inner organs such as the heart and lungs, enough room. It is exactly
these organs which must be well developed in order to facilitate high
performance. The moderately developed chest and/or short under chest is not
only optically but also functionally less good.
ligaments, lacking firmness, overweight, flabby, little trained muscles,
substantially restrict the working ability of the dog. Even if the dog is
able to produce performance in his early years, he will soon fall away, (or
can you imagine a person with, for example, fallen arches or flat feet, able
to run the 10,000 metres over many years?)
Jumping ability, trotting,
galloping, and the joy in moving and in work - all are impaired when overall
firmness is lacking. Genetically given firm ligaments with developed and
trained muscles and combined with good condition, are essential
prerequisites for optimal results - this also applies to the dog being
handled for working performance. It is therefore no accident that fitness
and show training is being done more and more by performance people. This is
a development which should be supported by the branches.
The Standard also demands a correct coat, that is, pronounced top coat with
undercoat - a 'working jacket' as the founder of the breed demanded - offers
the body corresponding protection. Whoever has had a long-coated dog, will
know how easily the coat becomes knotted and how difficult it is to comb
out. Dogs which have too short a coat, are too exposed to weather changes
and are possibly more sensitive.
We want a dog with strong pigment.
Critics may say that this does not play a role in the dog's performance and
only serves beauty. However, pigment plays a very important role in the
whole domestic animal breeding (this also applies to humans). Pale skinned
people and animals have a tendency toward skin diseases, be it genetic or
environmental eczema, allergies or other skin changes. Even the inner
firmness of horn material such as hooves or nails appears to be less.
is therefore also a demand arising out of performance when we want a
healthy, that is, well pigmented normal-coated dog according to the
standard. If beyond this, the dog also has a beautiful colour - everyone is
Have you now caught me out?
Standard does not say anything on this subject however, from the description
of the head, eyes, ears, the nature of the coat and colour, it is easy to
see that von Stephanitz wanted an expressive and typey dog. Critics say that
in the last decades, our dogs have become too uniform in appearance and that
a greater variety should be created. This is surely a matter of opinion, an
attitude, and is up to every breeder to breed whichever type (phenotype) he
desires. The Standard offers a very wide field of possibilities.
however one essential which I maintain:
If the breeder wants to be
successful, he must have a goal. He must set an exact goal - which type
(phenotype) of dog he wishes to breed - and he must rigorously pursue this
The brood bitch, the prospective sire and any line breeding should
reflect this goal and the whelps should be chosen accordingly. It is an
indisputable fact that aspects such as performance willingness and ability,
joy in working, hardness, courage and trainability must all play a role.
This is the only way that a breeder can establish himself for the long haul.
The Kennel groups competition demonstrates the breeder's goal in an
It is exactly this phenotype, and here I would like to
again be allowed to use the concept 'beautiful', combined with universal
ability which has made our dog beloved worldwide. Shall we preserve this!
It is not without reason that the head is described with such
detail in the Standard. A well developed head is very important for
performance. It starts with the taking of food. (Processed food is not the
only food available!) A well developed male head can create a pressure of
1.6 tonnes per square centimeter between the jaws (P4/M1). No wonder that
bones crack! Have you ever observed how long it takes a dog with weak jaws
to do this? Our bite helpers feel the difference in grip between dogs with
strong and weak jaws.
Therefore demand: A broad skull, correct
proportions of skull and foreface (50-50%), good depth of muzzle and above
all, a strong lower jaw. Strong jaws offer sufficient room for well
developed, strong teeth. Logically, weak lower jaws offer only a minimal
bony foundation for the teeth. In this scenario, the teeth are more weakly
developed and sit less strongly in the jaw.
For the observer: When the
mouth is closed and when viewed from the side, the lower jaw must be clearly
Is it unimportant for the performance person whether his dog has
tip, hanging or pointed ears? Primarily yes! Nevertheless, the possibility
of ear infections is much greater in those dogs with hanging ears than with
those having pointed ears. Beyond this, it is the correctly carried pointed
ear which gives our German Shepherd his characteristic appearance. Compare
this with the appearance of a dog with deep and wide set ears. It is only
right that such ear carriages are, (and also the very close-set or the soft
ears) in the spirit of the Standard, faulty.
42 Teeth: (26 milk teeth)
The adult German Shepherd has 42 teeth. In a scissor like action, the upper
incisors grip over the lower incisors. The incisors stand in regular spacing
around the curve of the jaw. In this way, and similar to a vaulted ceiling,
they are given a particular firmness. Teeth with irregular spacing in the
lower jaw are therefore faulty because they can easily break off or out. The
remainder of the teeth can then shift position, form gaps and then loose
their firmness. In a faulty bite, the incisors are often worn down and
partially or totally broken off. Herewith we have the same problem as just
described. For the same reason, premolars and molars with gaps are
undesirable. Optimal, resilient dentition - with minimal risk of losing
teeth - has its home in a strong jaw with the teeth standing in a gapless
row next to each other. This is essential for performance, isn't it?
is frightening how little attention is paid to mouth and tooth hygiene.
Regular tooth care, the removal of plaque and the treatment of infected gums
should be a routine program of care by the breeder and exhibitor as well as
the performance person. In this connections, more attention should be paid
to the Schutzhund sleeve. An often used, damp sleeve, possible stored in
such a way that it cannot dry properly, forms a source of infection for the
mouth's mucous membranes, or for the well known eczema of the corners of the
According to the Standard, the neck should be strong,
well muscled and be without loose skin at the throat. The angulations of the
neck to the trunk (horizontal) is approx. 45°. It is important for the
performance that the neck be sufficiently long. A correspondingly long neck
offers those muscles which reach to the shoulders, a good base for lifting
height and for power. An extremely long, slender (swan like) neck without
power and 'oomph' diminishes working performance. Too short a neck is also
faulty as it restricts the movement of the head e.g.. when tracking.
Wither, Back, Croup:
"The top line flows from the join of the neck over
the well developed wither and over the back which (in stance) is just
slightly angled from the horizontal, to the slightly angled croup, without
there being any noticeable interruptions."
A well developed wither is of
utmost importance as it plays a significant role in the closure of the
forehand. It is formed by the dorsal extensions of the first back vertebrae.
If these dorsal extensions are pronounced, there is room for much muscle
development: are they too short, the muscles barely have room, the wither is
level and the forehand cannot firm. During movement it then becomes clear
that the shoulder blades reflect upward and push through.
forehand firmness (level wither = a back which is not firm as well as loose
elbows) is a quite considerable, performance diminishing fault as it
negatively influences endurance.
Already in middle age, such dogs often
refuse to jump, set down on the jump, lose their joy in working and are
often burned out early.
Repeatedly, dogs which stand high in the
forehand, are incorrectly described as being 'high in the wither." This can
also be a dog with steep forehand angulations who has very steep back. A dog
with very good forehand angulations usually has in stance (as desired) a
slightly angled top line which during movement reverts to a fully horizontal
line. These are the dogs who as a rule have a pronounced wither with an
angled, well muscled shoulder blade which is exemplified by fully knit
forehand and a far reaching step combined with good centre of gravity.
The back is firm, strong and well muscled. It builds a bridge between the
fore - and hindquarter and also transmits movement. The muscles must be well
developed and trained. Under no circumstances should the back be long or too
long. A back which is too long buffers the action of the hindquarter, the
dog does not carry himself, he falls out of the centre of gravity and places
uneconomical stress on the forehand.
Result: Deficient endurance.
The correct length and lay of the croup is very important but
admittedly not always easy for the observer to recognize. It does however
play an essential role in the dog's movement, be it the walk, trot, gallop
or the jump. A correctly placed croup gives the most rational and optimal
transfer of the power generated by the hindquarter, to the forehand.
forms the croup?
The ilium forms the skeletal structure of the croup. A
sufficiently angled lay is about 45 degree from the horizontal. This must be
so, as thus it forms the ideal angle. (Imagine that you have to push your
car because it has run out of petrol. What do you do? With your body -
leaning against the car - you form an approximate 45 degree angle because
this is how you will have the greatest chance - if at all - of moving your
car.) Therefore, only the 45 degree angled ilium offers the optimal base for
The appearance of the croup (the ilium at a 45 degree
angle) is moderated by the sacrum, the muscles and the coat, so that the
ideal angle of the croup, as the observer sees it, appears to be 23 degrees
to the horizontal. If the croup is level, the ideal transmission up and to
the front, is also lacking.
It can already be observed in whelps
that the tail serves to hold the sense of balance. The tail also serves this
function in the adult dog. Observe in slow motion filming how the tail is
used to balance out movement. This is why the Standard demands that the tail
should be sufficiently long but not too long. The bony skeleton (18-22
vertebrae) should reach at least to the hock joint but at the most to the
middle of the hock. The tail appears to be longer because of the longer hair
on the end and under side of the tail, but it should never lie on the
The essential role of the forehand is to catch and
project the movement and power generated by the hindquarter which has been
transmitted over the back.
Different from the hindquarter, the forehand
is NOT connected to the spine by a joint. This is why it is essential for
performance that the forehand be firmly bound to the body via firm muscles,
tendons and ligaments. A prerequisite for this, apart from a pronounced
wither, are correspondingly long bones which are in correct proportions; the
shoulder blade and upper arm should be of equal length. A long shoulder
blade is angled and well muscled. The optimal angulations between the
shoulder bade and the upper arm is 90° and should not exceed 110°; this is a
favourable prerequisite for good forehand closure, a large-opening angle and
the therefore expansive reach. The upper arm connects in the elbow joint to
the lower arm. When viewed from all sides, the lower arm should stand
parallel; this is the only way that they can fulfil their function of
feathering and transferring movement.
Take a look for example, at the
film 'The German Shepherd Anatomy and Movement', specifically the slow
motion of the dog jumping a 1 metre hurdle. You will easily see that a
well-knit forehand is of decisive importance for continuous performance
ability over many years.
Bowed lower arms (similar to baroque chairs) are
extremely faulty as such a stance means that the weight of the body movement
con no longer be evenly caught. A familiar fault is the front pastern which
is too long and therefore too angled, as the cushioning angle is too large.
The short and steep front pastern is also performance reducing as it does
not feather the power sufficiently. (Make a few steps on your own heels and
you will soon notice in your back how much the feathering action of the foot
The above mentioned fault impairs working ability and
particularly endurance, quite considerably and it is this requirement coming
from the performance world which causes the Standard to say:
stance and in movement, the elbows must not turn out, neither are they to
pinch in. Viewed from all sides, the lower arms are straight and standing
absolutely parallel to each other, are dry and have firm muscles. The front
pasterns which has too much angle (more than 22 degrees) or too little (less
than 20 degrees), impairs working ability, particularly endurance."
In manner of speaking, the hindquarter is the dog's motor,
because it is from here that all movement is initiated, be it the walk,
trot, jump or gallop. The hindquarter stance is slightly back, the hock is
vertical under the hock joint, the upper and lower thighs are approx. the
same length and form an angle of about 120 degrees and the thighs are
strongly muscled. The over-angulated hindquarter, usually because the lower
thigh is too long, seriously affects its performance. Naturally, when viewed
from the side, such dogs impress because of the length of stride. However,
the alert observer will notice that the extremely angled hindquarter is
unstable. In almost all cases, the hock joints are loose and of little use
for work. The breed's founder had demanded that, "The dog must be able to
stand for long periods!" Have a look for yourself, over angulated dogs
usually lie down very quickly! Only the correctly angled dog will be able to
stand, move and work for long periods of time. It can be suspected that the
over angulated hindquarter has a negative effect on the hip joints as the
static's are no longer correct. Just as in the too steeply angled forehand,
the too steeply angled hindquarter does not give enough ground cover and is
therefore uneconomical. This is logical as more steps are needed to cover
the same distance.
Well-developed organs of a living creature
are of great significance for performance.
The heart and lungs in
particular must be well developed. This is why the Standard requires that
the German Shepherd have a well-developed chest with a long, only slightly
rising under-chest, so that the inner organs have sufficient room.
depth of the chest should be about 45-48% of the wither height. More would
be too much and be a disadvantage as too much body would need to be moved by
limbs which are too short. A formula: Half of the wither height, minus 10% =
the correct chest depth. (Example: The half of a wither height of 60 cm
would be 30 cm, minus 3 cm = a chest depth of 27 cm).
chest, particularly when it is too narrow, leads to an instability of the
forehand. The dog tries to cope by tucking in the elbows but must then
compensate by standing and moving wide, which in turn again affects working
ability. Sometimes very young animals display wide stance and movement which
improves as the body, and in particular the chest, develops.
This section on the anatomy has already been discussed in detail in
connection with the forehand.
The German Shepherd Dog is a
trotter and is bred as such. "The limbs must harmonies in their length and
angulations so that the hindquarter can push forward right up to the rump,
the forehand reaching forward exactly the same distance, without there being
any marked change in the top line. Every tendency to over-angulation
adversely affects the stability of the hindquarter, and the steeper the
angle, the more uneconomical the movement, that is, the dog would have to
make more steps in order to cover the same distance. In both cases, the
working ability of the dog is diminished. Correct proportions and
angulations ensure far-reaching gait which remains in good balance, moving
level over the ground. It gives the impression of effortless forward
The fast, so-called 'flying gait' which is for example, shown
at the Siegerschau at the end phase, is in fact unnatural. Unless with the
influence of his handler, no dog will show this gait in nature. In no area
of work is this type of gait with its extreme length of stride required or
used. The question then arises whether this gait should be judged at all.
Could it be that this 'fast round' has been made faster and faster by our
top dog handlers and that our judges have accepted this? It is interesting
to note that no other breed has this gaiting test. Nevertheless, a
justification for this 'round', quite apart from its spectacular
presentation, can be found in the fact that the dog's condition, endurance
and resilience can be tested one more time.
V. Stephanitz recognized
early on that a correct assessment of movement could really only be done on
a dog moving freely in nature. He also knew that with the quantity of dogs
presented at a show, that this was not possible. However, as a matter of
self-education, each dog owner should calmly and occasionally do just this.
Anyone who sees only the description of anatomy in the
Standard, is wrong.
Breeding according to the Standard of course also
means breeding for temperament according to the Standard.
more than five sentences, the Standard describes it thus:
"In terms of
temperament, the German Shepherd must be balanced, have firm nerves, be
self-confident, be absolutely easy-going (apart from a provocative
situation) and be good natured; he should also be alert and trainable. He
must possess courage, combative instinct and hardness so that he can be used
as a companion-, watch-, Schutzhund-, service-, and sheep herding dog."
Critics could say that not a word can be found on joy in working,
willingness to work, drive qualities, vitality, resilience and such like,
all of which are very important characteristics for performance. Admittedly,
the description on temperament is very brief, but if one analyses each word
correctly and fully, the meaning becomes clear:
The German Shepherd Dog
is bred as a WORKING DOG!
And now I seek confrontation and discussion:
In recent years, have we thought too selectively when we spoke of the German
Shepherd Dog as a working dog? Did we think only of the Schutzhund trials,
and then perhaps only the protection part? Could our today's SchH - working
dogs be able to work a sheep herd? Is he still required to trot over long
distances? (max 50 steps suffice for a trial!) How resilient or trainable
should he be? Does he still need the economy of movement which a body
reflecting the Standard, as well as being in the correct proportions, having
straight bones or the correct angulations, the balanced chest proportions
and efficient movement gives?
It would not be enough to breed the German
Shepherd Dog as a TRIAL DOG only!
"Working' does not only mean tracking,
obedience and protection, although our dog is specially used - worked, in
this field. 'Working' surely also includes his usability in other areas. It
is unnecessary to list the other possible uses of our dog here. However it
is important that we maintain his versatility - he is not only, but also,
the 'tractor' of the tracking field.
Surely it is this universal
usability of the German Shepherd - certainly in regard to his anatomy, but
also his temperament - which has brought him to this position!
thorough practical experience have shown that this usability can best be
maintained if we breed a dog which has a trotter's anatomy; a trotter who
has a predisposition towards being normal in all areas without over, or
It is correct that: the Standard also demands the
dog who is NORMAL in his temperament, a dog who is in the medium range.
But there is something else which should reflect the Standard:
keeping of dogs be spacious - suitable!
This means that the dog has a clean,
dry, draft free and sufficiently large kennel, has regular meals, fresh water
and sufficient movement and work as well as having intensive contact to people.
Included is a regular worming and immunization program and care of coat, ears
and teeth - that is the Standard!
The working ability
of a dog is determined by the factors of anatomy, predisposition to work,
vitality and longevity. It is optimized by responsible dog ownership. These
essential factors are, in their quality, dependent on one another and influenced
by each other.
This is why breeding according to the Standard is important for performance!