For every recognized breed of dog, there is at least one standard by which to compare the individual dog. The goal of the breeder is to kennel dogs that best represent their interpretation of the standard.
If there are no standards, there are no breeds.
The German shepherd dog breed has dozens of standards that organizations, clubs, and breeders have assigned. This is not surprising considering the GSD is one of the most popular breeds of dog. Opinions differ as to which is correct, and opinions differ in the interpretation of each individual standard.
In Germany, there are currently over a quarter million GSDs that have been vetted as having the temperament and physical characteristics of the S.V.’s (The German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany) standard. Dogs that fall short are not GSDs.
Through history, the S.V.’s written standard has evolved by revision, which helps create even wider interpretation.
The “Old German Shepherd,” or the GSD “as it was originally intended,” is defined differently amongst scores of breeders. Some promote a GSD similar to the Belgian Malinois in size. These breeders reference the GSDs from the early 20th century. However, the father of the breed, Max von Stephanitz, awarded championships to larger dogs as the breed evolved.
The Shiloh Shepherd is promoted as an “Old German Shepherd.” This is a huge dog with a softer temperament.
Two different opinions. Two different dogs.
It seems most of the opinions are based on the central belief that the German shepherd of present is not what it was originally. In all cases, they believe their dog accurately represents the original intent of the breed. I believe some of the dogs today are certainly better than the best dogs of yesteryear.
There are several lines of very strong performing dogs that have been bred since World War II by government owned kennels to standards of their own.
Presently there are several major standards, such as the S.V., AKC, the Kennel Club (UK), the UKC and the Canadian Kennel Club. The international breeding club (FCI) recognizes the S.V. as the standard. Dogs bred to these standards for breed-show purposes, are primarily concerned with physical appearances. A soft temperament certainly makes showing the dog easier.
German breed-show dogs must at least show some level of workability as I mentioned earlier. Unlike some well-bred utility dogs that have evolved with increased performance through the decades, breed show dogs evolution is less predictable. The potential for dysfunction in structure evidently increases when breed-show judge proclamations and show breeder efforts merge.
Roached backs where in fashion in too recent of times. A roached back certainly satisfies a standard calling for a slopped top-line, unfortunately such a back is geometrically cumbersome for a dog. Logic should prevail, but clearly has not.
A correct working dog back should not be so fundamentally perverted that no comparison can be drawn between it and those of equivalent species in the Carnivora order.
Highly angulated hip and rear leg structure also slopes the back, but is similarly ridiculous.
Strong working dogs should have huge hamstrings. It powers them forward, the general direction of a working dog. In order to handle the enormous loads of the leg muscles, the spine, pelvis and femur must be geometrically efficient and structurally strong.
A sloping top-line is achieved when the rear legs are scissorred fore and back out from under the hips, shortening the distance from the top of the hip to the ground. I am confident that the standard was designed to be interpreted no other way. It seems reasonable that the intent of the standard was to eliminate GSDs that have too long of rear legs or other issues and the back sits level (in show pose) or higher.
The GSD should be physically athletic and not handicapped. He should be a medium sized dog, not so big that he is short on endurance and agility, and not so small that he has no power. The ears, nose, mouth, teeth, feet, coat and tail should all be as functional for utility as possible. With the German shepherd, a male should look like a male and a female like a female.
The GSD must be intelligent. The breed has earned a reputation for its keen mind. This does not mean chimpanzee smart. I’d say more like dog genius smart. Disobedience should not be confused for low intelligence. Smart dogs find clever ways to work the system.
The GSD’s temperament should be fearless, loyal, relaxed and good-natured yet he is aloof with strangers. In his task he should be sharp in his energy, and if under pressure, hard enough not to be deterred. It would be a disservice to a dog with aberrated training to be prejudicial about temperament. Proper training in obedience and work is highly recommended for these dogs.
As a whole, the GSD projects nobility, strength and determination. He has a wolf-like appearance, strong of nerve and hard under pressure. He is healthy and free of hereditary disease. He is alert and intellectually calculating. He is even-tempered, therefore predictable. He makes a superb companion and is very willing to serve in any canine duty with unflinching persistence.
Next: Puppy update.