Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hindquarters in German Shepherds

Before delving deep into details of hindquarters of German Shepherd Dog lets us have a brief talk about what the hindquarters of a dog is composed of – that’s important. The hindquarters are composed of pelvis, croup and the tail, each of which is has its own importance as far as the standard structure of the dog is concerned. Like in any other dog breed, the hindquarter of German Shepherd Dog is most important part of the body, as it provides the entire force that the dog requires during locomotion.

German Shepherd is a trotting dog and requires a great deal of energy and force during trotting. The dog must be able to cover maximum amount of ground through long stretches with minimum effort. Hindquarter in GSD is the most important part of energy portion. The prerequisite of appropriate hindquarters in German Shepherds is correct anatomical structure (right angulation), combined with strong muscles and good bones. The hindquarter of German Shepherd dog is the major source of power of propulsion. Correct angulations (neither overly angulated, nor under-angulated) anatomy of hindquarter is desirable in German Shepherd Dogs. Any weakness in anatomical structure of the hindquarter in GSD breed will compromise the dog's overall gait, which is readily apparent. Without powerful hindquarters in GSD breed running gear in the rear cannot be powerful, which in turn compromises the ability of the dog to work for long hours efficiently and to cover maximum ground with minimum effort.

Let us delve deeper into the German Shepherd Dog Hindquarters

German Shepherd Dog Pelvis

Like in any other mammals, the pelvis of German Shepherd Dog is a complex arrangement of bones that absorb the jolts and take power or propulsion generated by the rear legs and channels it to over the Spinal cord. The pelvis of German Shepherd Dogs must be strong enough to tolerate the jolts during locomotion. Most importantly, GSD pelvis should be correctly angulated so that it can transmit the power through the hip joint, croup and direct it further forward through the joint between the sacrum and the seventh or the last, lumbar vertebra, and transmit it further straight through the spinal chord parallel to the ground. This mechanism is almost similar in all dogs – irrespective of breeds and types. Since German Shepherds are trotting dogs and effective & effortless trotting demand perfect pelvis angulations and good strength without which desired power of propulsion cannot be delivered. As a trotting and working breed the pelvis in GSD is considered as one of the most important parts of the GSD hindquarter.

At first the “pushing off” phase of the stride for any kind of gait makes the paw positioned almost below the hip joint, there from forcing of the leg backward when it becomes almost straight. This propulsion tends to generate a severe force almost straight upwards, and eventually gets transmitted through the croup and further forward through the spine of the dog. As soon as the stride comes to an end, the paw is slightly lifted up into and during the follow-through, the power comes up at an angle f around 45 degree to the ground, when the legs is stretched almost straightened.

Pelvis Angulation 

 A correct angle of German Shepherd Dog pelvis is of utmost importance in order to ensure smooth transmission of energy and power generated during the strides over this part of the rear legs to the spine. The correct angulation of the pelvis in true type German Shepherd Dog normally standing on all four ranges between 30 to 35 degree to the horizontal axis, when the line is drawn through the top of the pelvis. However, another method of explaining the pelvis angulation in GSD breed is by drawing the line right through the middle of the the ilial crest and the ischial tuberosity. In this case the angulation of German Shepherd pelvis s reckoned between 20 and 25 degree to the horizontal axis. We consider the spine as the horizontal axis. Deviation of angulations of the German Shepherd Dog Pelvis is often noticed in domestic stock that have not been put to desired amount of physical stress for generations.

Both these processes of drawing are measuring Pelvis angles are valid 

Pelvis Set

Neither too flat nor overly steep pelvis is acceptable for German Shepherds, because too flat pelvis will exert extra pressure to the top of the acetabulum and overly steep pelvis tends to misuse some energy by transmitting it upwards through the sacral joint instead of channeling it through the spine. Both these extremities tend to compromise the effective trotting.

Both conditions are undesirable 

Pelvis Width

Width of Pelvis in GSD is quite a lot important. The pelvis must be wide enough to give the heavy muscles of the loin and thighs enough area. In GSD females the pelvis should be wide enough to give good amount of space for well developed birth canal.

Croup in German Shepherd Dog 

The croup forms the roof of the pelvis and first few caudal vertebrae of the tail, and consists of sacral vertebrae. The number of caudal vertebrae of the tail included in the croup region depends solely on the length of the croup. The croup is slanted towards the back and the degree of slant depends of how the pelvis is set. Flat pelvis will result in flat croup while overly steep pelvis will result in what is conventionally called steep croup, both of which are undesirable. Often steep pelvis in German Shepherd Dogs show up flat and short croup due to the tail set very high. Again flat pelvis will result in flat croup which may show long or short depending on the tail set.

The length of croup hardly has any influence on the gait nor does it influence the length of strides. But the croup should be broad enough to give good room for the muscles over the region that helps in the distribution of power to the spine. A flat pelvis will show a flat croup, but it could be long or short depending upon the tail set. Even an ideally set pelvis can show a croup apparently overly long or short depending on the tail set. A very strong and high drive dog can show short croup due to its high tail carriage. Consistently high tail carriage and set can result in apparently shorter croup in German Shepherd Dogs. This is where the significance of tail set comes to play.

The GSD Tail

There is actually no influence of the tail on the German Shepherd Dog hindquarters; nor does the tail carriage and tail set have any influence on the dog’s gait and propulsion power and length of strides. According to the German Shepherd dog Standard the tail should be bushy tail and long enough to fall well past the hock. The GSD tail should be gently curved at the end without any twists, sharp curls and kinks. Standard requires the tail should not set high or too low and should fall normally when at rest or not excited. The carriage of the tails determines the dog’s state of mind. Most dogs from the working lines have often high set tails. High set and a high carriage of tails are not always same in all dogs, although the correct tails set allows the dog to carry his tail at around 45 degrees to the horizontal axis, when excited. Very low tail carriage is again faulty. Tail that seems to sprout out from the croup called Rooty Tail is not desirable, because such a tail set exposes the perianal fistula to the risk of vulnerability.

High or too low set tail, stumpy tails are undesirable. Tail should fall normally, when not excited.

Rooty Tail is not desirable 

Upper and Lower Thighs in German Shepherds

 Another vital parts of the hindquarters in German Shepherd Dogs are the Upper and the Lower thighs and the stifle. The curve and the angulations of the stifle, which depends on the angulations at which the Upper and the Lower thighs are attached is again another very important factor that provides power to the action of propulsion during the movement. The stifle angulations should be almost equal to the angle created by the upper arm and scapula. This angulation of the stifle brings in an overall balance required for effortless and powerful strides. Powerful locomotion is aided by correct stifle angulations, which is measured with the dog standing on all four squares, that is to say, standing with the hind feet positioned under the hip joints. This means standing NOT in stacking position. A correctly angulated stifle in a German Shepherd Dog will have their hocks located on a vertical line drawn across the ischial tuberosity, when standing on four square. When the GSD is made to stand on all four square, the hock will not be vertical. The rear angulation is of utmost importance when the dog requires extreme, short distance speed during an attack or a brief chase while herding sheep. In a true type GSD the femur should be almost parallel to the scapula and the tibia/fibula should be almost parallel to humerus. The long bones of the hind legs are of same length and are almost as long as the humerus. The long bones of the hind legs in German Shepherds are the major source of power and speed, and hnce they must of proportionate length. Too long bones, for instance, may produce a great speed and good jumping ability, but at the same time they burn out good amount of energy as well. As they are equal in length (neither too long, nor too short), they help to generate powerful propulsion which helps in maximum ground coverage with minimum effort.

Like wolves, German Shepherd Dogs are long distance trotters. Long, effortless and effective trotting demands perfect stifle angulation and efficient running gear that would burn minimum energy while covering maximum ground while controlling a herd of sheep.

According to the German Shepherd standard the desirable angulation of the upper and lower thigh bones to the horizontal axis (consider ground here) should be 120 degrees, which should refer to the stifle angle when in the proper stack position. Most experienced handlers can make their dog stack in such a manner that the dog will look dog look better angulated than it actually is. Moreover, most GSDs that have been properly taught to stack correctly usually tend to settle down in the rear part, as a result of which the lower thigh tend to be placed more parallel to the ground than it normally is, which thereby, increases the hock angulation while on stack. This, in turn, breaks the parallel relationship between the lower and the upper thigh. It is hence, suggested to measure the angulations of upper and lower thighs to the horizontal axis by making the dog stand naturally (both the hind legs together), and not in stacked position. The real skeletal of the hind region in German Shepherds will be far easier to see.

Related angulation

 Excessive angulation is harmful. Overly angulated hind quarter results in a situation when the dog requires spending more energy while on the move. Overly acute angle between upper thigh and lower thigh, accompanied with the tibia/fibula being proportionately longer than femur will tend to set the hock close to the ground. This, in turn, increases the angle between the tibia/fibula and the dog’s metatarsus, which consequently creates an undesirable condition called sickle hocks.

Angulation should be proportionate and should not compromise the overall strength in the strides. Essential necessities are strong muscles, equally long bones, strong ligaments and perfect height-to-length ratio.

German Shepherd Dog Hock 

This is another very important part to discuss when it comes to hind quarters in German Shepherd Dogs. When the GSD is made to stack – like in the show ring – with the left leg pulled back, the hock should be vertical to the ground. While in the stacked position, an atomically sound GSD should have a hock almost parallel to the femur – (NOT perfectly parallel though), thereby making the hock angulation and stifle angulation almost same – around 95 degrees.

Hocks in a trotting breed in German Shepherds are of utmost importance. Any kind of deformities in hock is considered as fault as the propulsive power at the end of a stride on the trot is being transmitted though the joint of the hock. While galloping, both the hock joints generate great force together, which cannot be fulfilled by defective hocks. Similarly while jumping, even higher force is needed to propel the entire body, which cannot be possible with a defective hock.

Different Faults in German Shepherd Hock 

Straight hocks degrade the quality of strides by shortening the strides to a great extent, thereby checking the speed and ability to jump.Straight hocks are faults in GSD breed.

Sickle hocks, are noticed in many show dogs that have more angulated hock – more acute angulation than the angle of femur. In case of extreme sickle hocks, the metatarsus tends lay almost flat to the ground, which is a serious fault.

Cow hocks, is again another serious fault in German Shepherds. Cow Hock is a condition where the hocks tend to turn towards each other. Cow hock can be a result of any of the two conditions…

  1. Cow hock due to the entire leg turned out from the hip. In this case the dog tends to stand slightly wider on the rear lags, with the stifle and toes slightly extended outward. Such a condition is considered as normal if the bones in the related areas are straight in connection to each other. 

  2. Cow hock due to twisting inward of the hock and the stifle joints. Such a condition affects the gait or locomotion of the dog, which in turn adversely influence the working ability of the dog. Cow hock due to due to twisting inward of the hock and the stifle joints can only happen if the bones are twisted, which cannot be considered normal. It is a serious fault.  

German Shepherd Dog Foot 

German Shepherd Dog should have a strong and thickly padded arched shaped paws. This is very important, as GSD is a working dog and week paws can hardly tolerate the extensive stress that is being put while on work. The rear paws should be well boned and strong enough to deliver good amount of some propulsive power that can act as an additional force to help the hindquarters while on move. Desirable features are, however, strongly arched toes, powerful ligaments and tendons, well boned, well cushioned paws, which should not be too smooth. The hind paw is generally somewhat smaller than the fore paw. This reduces the contact area of the paws with the ground. This tends to concentrating power of the delivered force by the way of increasing the traction.


Note: The images of German Shepherds have been reproduced from the original work of Late Linda J Shaw

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All you need to know about German Shepherd Dogs. Read out what I have to share with you regarding the amazing German Shepherd Dog breed. Are Alsatian dogs and German Shepherd Dogs same? Who was Max Von Stephanitz and What is SV? Also learn a bit more in depth on German Shepherd Dog training tips, German Shepherd puppy care tips, German Shepherd Dog behavior, German Shepherd instinct, German Shepherd Dog standard and history of German Shepherds.

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