Monday, August 31, 2020

An Observation of How Top Line Types Have Evolved

The increasing global popularity of German Shepherd Dog has exposed the breed to varied risks and chances of variations and modifications. Today the world can see a huge deviation from Captain Stephanitz's core idea  and vision about his breed. The differences in thoughts, vision and expectations of look etc. have contributed hugely to the variations in anatomic built.

Ideally, there should not have been  two distinctive types (Working Line and Show Line) developed, and that wasn't the vision. Distinctive line types - Working Lines and Show Lines wasn't in the plan then. Shows then only aimed at filtering the non-breedable stock out, in order to restore the purpose  of the breed in thee breeding programs. Unflagging enthusiasm, accompanied by the change in the ways the new breeders started visualizing the breed and emphasizing fashion and look over the breed's original purpose gave rise to different types and lines.

Variation in thoughts and differences in visualizing a dog influenced the breeding programs hugely. Breeding experimentation based on look and styles consequently led to several types, and eventually different lines.

Apart from this there are a number of offshoots of the breed, all of which claim their respective recognition. Crossing between the lines and types have produced different odd colors and styles that resemble a GSD. As a matter of fact when it comes to true type GSD, there are no rare coloration and special style, and should come only with desirable characteristics and traits. Except the really rare pattern like Brindle gene, which is a pure gene, there’s no desirable color and types that can be concluded as special.

The breeders who claim to promote any special types or color of GSD are not breeding these animals keeping the GSD standard in the mind. For instance, breeders who breed Large, Big Boned or Over sized German Shepherd, and who throw out ads to promote their types are not learned breeders. Neither are they those who claim their breeding as correct and scientific for maintaining a overly compact specimens.

An understanding of different types evolved in the evolutionary process of German Shepherd Dog breed.

Let us start from 1933 - the year Odin von Stolzenfels [(Father: VA Curt von Herzog Hedan SchH )x (Mother: V Bella vom Jagdschloß Platte)] was made sieger.

1933 Sieger Odin vom Stolzenfels
Born: 07 April 1930

Odin Stolzenfels was the last sieger made by Captain Stephanitz in his three decades of breed development career, and prior to his (Stephanitz's) death. Ever since he started the breed development project, captain had always laid his focus on few points, which he thought were most significant -
(i) Improvement of proportion between withers and the back
(ii) Improvement of the top line
(iii) Angles of the bones.

Odin's types can be best judged if we consider a comparative study between him and the 1900 Sieger, Hector von Schwaben [(Father: V Horand von Grafrath (Hektor Linksrhein)) X (Mother: Mores Plieningen)] - one of the most important foundation dog in captain's breed development program.

Left - Odin Stolzenfels & Right - Hektor Schwaben

The type actually started with Odin vom Stolzenfels (1933 Sieger), as he exhibiting improved Top line compared to Hector von Schwaben (1900 Sieger)...  A type of top line that captain visualized: smooth, beginning from the back of the neck and continuing in a straight line over a nicely developed wither with a tight, strong and muscular back. However, it still wasn't the perfect type that he visualized, but close to what he desired.

Notice 1958 Sieger VA Condor vom Hohenstamm - the dog that exhibited nice type - quite improved, and was definitely getting closer to the captain's dream.

Born May 1st, 1954
Breeder & Owner - E. Franke; Lunen (Westfalen)

Condor really exhibited an improved type, with good substantial built, nice angulation, nice depth and prominent chest, good shoulder angulation. Although the stifle angulation definitely still not there, but the overall harmony in the structure of this dog gives a clean indication that his locomotion would have been really nice and balanced.

Notice 1962 Sieger, Mutz aus der Kuckstrasse - the dog was even closer to the type Captain wanted see as far as the top line was concerned.  

1962 Sieger, Mutz aus der Kuckstrasse
Born: 19 April, 1958; Breeder - F. Hesse (Hannover); Owner - Erich Franke

After 29 years of Odin being declared Sieger, and 26 years after captain's death, Mutz aus der Kuckstrasse (sired by Condor vom Hohenstamm)  was made Sieger in the year 1962. The top line was even improved and even closer to what probably Captain Stephanitz had been dreaming of. However, although he became the Sieger, Mutz exhibited less angulation of shoulder blade and stifle. I must say Mutz's father certainly had better shoulder positioning, but the stifle seems to be slightly better in the son (Mutz).

My guess: I think Max Stephanitiz would have loved to see Mutz's spine slightly more raised. It was very close to what Stephanitiz had standardized, but not there yet.

Now with a big leap of 10 long years, we get Marko vom Cellerland as the 1972 Sieger - A dog that exhibited very nice top line, almost exactly what Stephanitiz had visualized. Marko was titled VA4 two times - in 1971 for the first time and 1974, second time (the year for Dick von Adeloga to be VA1, another dog that created a magnificent buzz).


1972 Sieger, Marko vom Cellerland
Born: 3 May, 1968

This slightly long-bodied beautiful dog, in this picture itself, giving a very strong indication of very good hips, the best top line among all the Siegers shown above, very good angulations. Marko, in this picture, has displayed a strong back and good whithers and top line, that gave him a balanced structure.

With such an elegance in his built, I tried delving deeper into his Marko pedigree line, and found (5-5 linebreeding of V2 Hein vom Richterbach, a dog that had very similar back and top line. However, in terms of built and proportion, Marko seemed to be a quite superior dog than his father Kondor vom Golmkauer Krug    

However, just 2 years later we noticed another nice dog with great top line and back. 

Notice 1974 Sieger, Dick von Adeloga - a dog bearing a close resemblance with 1972 Sieger Marko vom Cellerland, described above.

1973-74 Sieger, Dick von Adeloga (2x VA1)
Born: March 1, 1971

Dick Adeloga in this picture, seems to have had the back slightly more raised than Marko, that delivered a very subtle, smooth slope towards the back, with very well formed croup, and a nice balance between the high whither and the back... much superior to his father VA2 Quanto von der Wienerau - also a well known specimen. Dick had a nice and very firm built - very typical to what Max Stephanitz envisioned overall. However, Dick Adeloga sired many mind blowing progenitors,  of which VA1 Herzog von Adeloga is worth mentioning.

1977 VA1 Herzog von Adeloga
Born: December 1, 1973

VA1 Herzog von Adeloga  exhibited a very strong medium sized structure, with a good overall anatomic built. Herzog's stack gives a clear indication of a very strong and firm hind and back. Herzog bore a great resemblance with his father Dick von Adeloga, except the croup region which is slight little more sloped towards the back compared to dad Dick. At that point of time the sloping croup was not in the Standard.

For me, however, VA1 Dick von Adeloga still exhibited a better anatomic built than his son VA1 Herzog von Adeloga

However, it is important at this phase of the article to state something very interesting! The year 1976 marked a significant change in the GSD SV Standard. The standard was slightly, yet significantly altered to bring in a very specific description and interrelation of the back and the withers. Until 1976 the reference of withers and the back in the standard was: "back straight, between withers and croup not too long". Surprisingly, it was really as simple as this! 
Please Note: The word "Straight" was NOT used to mean "Level", contrary to the popular belief - then and even now. Straight back was used and is still used to indicate  a spine that doesn't give an egg shaped back that tend to give a lowered hip position and impacts the top line and its slope.
The back, withers and croup in the amended German Shepherd Standard of 1976 described as this: "back including the loin straight and strongly developed, not too long between the withers and croup. The withers must be long and high enough to be well indicated against the back into which it must gently flow without disrupting the backline which should be slightly sloping front to rear.

So, why I mentioned about the change in the Standard in the middle of this article, could now be better understood with the next dog that I would like to discuss about. 

VA1 Canto von Arminius - the 1978 Sieger, a dog that marked a significant and noticeable evolutionary modification of the back. VA1 Canto Arminius (sired by V1 Canto von der Wienerau) exhibited a sharp deviation from the old description of straight back that was mentioned in the standard prior to 1976.


1978 Sieger, VA1 Canto von Arminius
Born: August 18, 1972

With a close resemblance with the description of the back and withers in amended Standard of 1976, Canto Arminius displayed a back that is not too long between the withers and croup. Canto's withers were high enough to be indicated against the back that flowed with no disruptions in the backline, that gently slopped front to rear. 

However, for several years since 1978, there wasn't any significant changes noticed; therefore no dog is worth mentioning while describing the German Shepherd top line evolutionary process. I would still love to talk about a very stable and a balanced specimen - the 1983 Sieger - VA1 Dingo vom Haus Gero

1983 Sieger, VA1 Dingo vom Haus Gero
Born: September 16, 1978
Breeder:  R. Jansen; Berg. Gladbach

Dingo Haus Gero was a medium sized, strongly built and very typical to the kind of dog that Stephanitz probably dreamt of. Dingo's structure indicated high wither, with good top line, appropriate length - not too compact. good croup situation. Dingo's top line was much close to that of Canto von Arminius. Dingo was an exemplary specimen, close to the amended standard of 1976 that indicated a change, specifically in the description of back and its relationship with the withers and croup. The back nicely sloped between the front to the rear, till the croup. The very structure was so balanced that the locomotion of this dog had to be seamlessly effortless, rhythmic and with adequately good force.

Dingo sired many progenies, of which I would like to mention two of his sons - VA1(I) V8 Natan vom Bergischen Tal (Born - March 3, 1982) and V Amor vom Kellerbug (Born - April 16, 1982). Both these dogs were medium in size, powerful and substantial, dry and firm. High withers, very nice top line, good location and length of the croup.

What we are noticing in both these dogs (Amor and Natan) displayed nice top lines starting from the well defined withers over the back with a very subtle and slight slope towards the back, without any disruption in the backline. This marked a new top line type, keeping a good parity with the 1976 amendment of the standard of the GSD back. 

 2X VA1 Uran vom Wildsteiger Land
1984 + 1985 Sieger,
Born: March 12, 1981
Breeder: Martin Göbl and Maria Göbl

Uran vom Wildsteiger Land is certainly another pillar of the modern German Shepherds. High at the withers, Uran exhibited a strongly developed back, flowing straight towards the croup, not too long between the withers and croup. The top line is a deviation from what we have been seeing so far till Dingo Haus Gero, but has a resemblance with Digo's son Natan vom Bergischen Tal. A very slight and mild rise of the thoracic vertebrae, slopping subtly towards the rear had become little more prominent with Uran compared to Natan vom Bergischen Tal. This wasn't there in any of the dog before Uran; although was too mild in Natan Bergischen Tal. 

Moving forward till 1992 we could notice almost similar top line.

2X VA1 Quando von Arminius 1986 + 1987 Sieger
 2X VA1 Quando von Arminius
1986 + 1987 Sieger
Born: November 28, 1981

VA1 Eiko vom Kirschental
1988 Sieger
Born: December 26, 1983

VA1 Iso vom Bergmannshof
1989 Sieger
Born: February 23, 1985

2X VA1 Fanto vom Hirschel
1990 + 1991 Sieger
Born: March 13, 1986

VA1 Zamb von der Wienerau
1992 Sieger
Born: March 7, 1987

The 1993 Sieger - VA1 Jeck vom Noricum comes in as a new rend setter of top line. However in the year 1991 the FCI breed standard once again underwent an amendment - related to the withers and it's correlation with the back of the dog. 

1991 amendment stated: "the upper line runs without any visible break from the set on of the neck over the well defined withers and over the back very slightly sloping to the horizontal line into the gradually sloping croup"

From the picture it seems like Jeck displayed a top line with a slightly deviation from 1991 amended standard of back.
1993 Sieger, VA1 Jeck vom Noricum
VA1 Jeck vom Noricum
1993 Sieger
Born: August 4, 1987

The first picture of Jeck  Noricum seems like the top line hugely deviated from 1991 standard that stated: "the upper line runs without any visible break from the set on of the neck over the well defined withers and over the back very slightly sloping to the horizontal line into the gradually sloping croup". The first pic show a prominent disruption in his in the thoracic vertebral region ( the region compose the middle segment of the vertebral column). There was an abrupt downward slope noticed in that picture and the croup too had an abrupt slope. A Bad Photoshop Work ineed

 However, in one of the videos that I came across of Jeck, I realized that the disruption was still noticeable, but not as prominent and abrupt as the first picture. Although this disruption was not desirable at all, but the new top line type was very much noticeable, where the top line ran smoothly from the start of the neck over the dog's withers, flowing through the back with a very slight and subtle slope to the horizontal line, and gradually flowing through the subtly slopping croup. This was the top line type (as was described in 1991 amendment) that the serious breeders of that time, who were not intending to promote a special/specific type and who were breeding with the GSD standard in mind started focusing on the top line of this type. This type was very clearly seen with further improvisation than Jeck  Noricum, in top dogs like, VA1 Ulk von Arlett (1995 Sieger), VA1 Ursus von Batu (2000 Sieger), VA Larus von Batu (2004 - 2005 Seiger)      

However, a very new and distinctive trend in the top line was noticed with introduction of a very nice dog in the scene... Nero vom Hirschel (VA5 in the year 1994), who was line bred on VA2 Quanto von der Wienerau 5th generation (Sire) - 3rd + 5th generation (Dam). 

Nero vom Hirschel (VA5  1994)

Nero vom Hirschel
1994 VA5
Born: September 20, 1990 

So, regarding Nero Hirschel, I have mentioned "a very new and distinctive trend in the top line", because of the prominent rise of the spinal cord in the back's lumber area. This rise of the lumber region of the back gave the dog a very different anatomic changes - especially related to top line. Nero sired many progenies, and most of them exhibited same top line type. 

Nero's Sons Reflecting same Top line Type:

V Visum vom Nassauer Berg, Gero vom Finkenschlag, Wasko vom Mons Tabor, Arno de Montedeva, V Fax de bi Lagun, V Neros vom Hasenborn, V Vax vom Nassauer Berg, SG Utz von Arminius, SG Idefix zum Ida-See

Nero's Daughters Reflecting same Top line Type:

V Chanell von Adelplatz, Quisa von Haus Dexel, V Wasna von Mons Tabor, V Linda Hartis, Ydette von der Wienerau, VA2(USA) Carina von der Wienerau

However, when it comes to Nero's son, it reminds me Odin vom Hirschel (VA4 in the year 1998) - A very nice and a strong specimen with high wither, firm back and good croup, exhibiting the same top line style as his father Nero vom Hirschel. Interestingly Odin vom Hirschel seems to have strongly contributed to his father's top line type and definitely set a trend of  rise of the spinal cord in the back's lumber area 

1998 VA4 Odin von Hirschell 
2003 VA1 Bax von Luisenstrasse 
2007 VA1 Pakros d’Ulmental 
2008 & 2009 VA1 Vegas du Haut Mansard

Odin von Hirschell
1998 VA4
Born: March 8, 1995

VA1 Bax von Luisenstrasse
2003 Sieger
Born: April 19, 1999

VA1 Pakros d'Ulmental
2007 Sieger
Born: April 4, 2002

2X VA1 Vegas du Haut Mansard
2008 + 2009 Sieger
Born: March 16, 2004

However, After VA1 Bax von Luisenstrasse (2003 Sieger), there came into the scene other fantastic specimens as Sieger that definitely showed entirely different top line type. And the worth mentioning was Xamp vom Thermodos. I cannot help talking about the legendary VA1 Zamp Vom Thermodos (2006 Sieger), who exhibited a top line type, very different from what was shown by the siegers who are continuous direct line sons of Nero vom Hirschel. 

2006 Sieger, VA1 Zamp vom Thermodos

VA1 Zamp Vom Thermodos
2006 Sieger
Born: January 27, 2002

For the first time since 1991, there came a dog with the back closest to the 1991 amendment of the GSD standard (amendment was made specifically regarding the back - described above). I would rather unhesitatingly say that Zamp Thermodos was little exaggeratedly angulated, yet the most influential dog of his time, and was a great mover. He was a great example of a specimen with high wither. Zamp Thermodos probably was the first fine specimen to have hugely deviated from the 1976 amendment of the GSD standard related to the back. As the 1976 standard amendment of the back clearly stated: "strongly developed, not too long between the withers and croup. The withers must be long and high enough to be well indicated against the back...", Zamp was remarkably a long bodied specimen - long enough between the "high" withers and the "long" croup so as to give the dog a very different look overall, with high wither, top line very prominently (not slightly) sloping, yet very strong back, long croup and overly angulated hind compared to the other Siegers so far. 

Zamp vom Thermodos - presented at Crufts Show 2008 in Birmingham, England

Zamp probably genetically possessed these traits from his legendary dad - VA2 Quantum von Arminius. Zamp passed on this elongated built with exaggerated rear angulation to many of his progenies - the worth mentioning of which are:

V Alex Alexander the Great 

(Arak did not have such an overly angulated hind as Alex Alexander) 

and so on...

The top line type of VA2 Quantum von Arminius line is different from the top line type produced by Odin vom Hirschel line  

Top line Type of Odin vom Hirschel Line

A rise of the spinal cord in the back's lumber area is noticed

Top line Type of Quantum von Arminius Line

No rise of the spinal cord in the back's lumber area is noticed. "The upper line runs without any visible break from the set on of the neck over the well defined withers and over the back very slightly sloping to the horizontal line into the gradually sloping croup"

Important Note

Quantum Arminius >> Zamp Thermodos line, however, exaggerated sloping top line. Some of the Zamp Thermodos' progenies have shown over angulated hind - close to the ground, with metatarsus of hind legs,  being placed nearly flat on the ground. This tend to compromise strides and reach. 

While on the other hand, the Nero vom Hirschel >> Odin von Hirschell line exhibited the rise in the lumber area but did not showed any exaggeration in slope of top line. Most dog of this line did not come up with overly angulated hinds and not close to the ground. Most dogs in this line exhibited better strides while trotting. 

According to the documentation of FCI standard [23.12.2010/EN (FCI-Standard N° 166)] of German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog is a trotter. The limbs must be coordinated in length and angulations so that the dog can shift the hindquarters towards the trunk without any essential change of the top line and can reach just as far with the forelimbs. Any tendency towards over-angulation of the hindquarters reduces the stability and the stamina, and thereby the working ability. 


The standard did not depict the exact requirement of the top line in that document. However has given a very clear indication that the top line should not be impacted  while gaiting. We see many dogs in the rings of many prestigious shows, lacking balance as they tend to lift their fronts up rather than proceeding forward. There are, however, many specimens seen with nicely sloped top line and croup with balanced built. 

Instead of following a trend it is important to understand the correlation between wither, top line, back and croup and plan the breeding program like wise.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Mitochondrial Myopathy in German Shepherd Dogs

Before we directly drop down to Mitochondrial Myopathy in German Shepherd Dog, let us talk a bit about what is "Mitochondria" and what is "Myopathy" separably.

Mitochondria is the cellular structures in an organism in which energy is produced by oxidation of fuels such as glucose and fat in the form of heat and mechanism i.e. working. Researchers have discovered some of the biochemical defects in the mitochondria. Some of the known mitochondrial diseases in dogs and other organisms occurs due to abnormalities in the mitochondrial DNA.

Myopathy is a neuromuscular disorders which make the muscle fibers dysfunction due to one or more reasons. This consequently results in weakening of muscles, leading to cramping and stiffness of muscles and muscular spasms. Myopathy can be of different types like mitochondrial myopathies, congenital myopathies, muscular dystrophies etc.

Inherited disorders of carnitine metabolism in dogs are amongst the most important causes for mitochondrial myopathy in German Shepherd Dogs and other dog breeds. The mitochondrial disorders in German Shepherds occur due to gene mutations - either nuclear genomes or mutation in mitochondrial DNA. The mutations in mitochondrial DNA in dogs get transmitted by maternal inheritance. Putting this in simple, Mitochondrial myopathies in GSD and in any other canine breeds are caused by genetic mutations, which directly affects the functioning of the electron transport chain (ETC).

Although not in very large numbers, yet a few cases of Mitochondrial Myopathy have been found in canines. The histochemical and ultrastructural findings in case of mitochondrial myopathy in German Shepherd Dog breed have been reported quite infrequently by vets.

Case History: Mitochondrial Myopathy in a German Shepherd Dog

A male German Shepherd Dog of around 36 weeks old had been referred to the Department of Veterinary Clinical Science – Surgery Section, University of Naples for a systematic evaluation of progressive exercise tolerance. The dog had a history of intolerance to exercise, reluctance to move, and spontaneous pain. The symptoms had started showing just a month before the dog was referred to the clinic. The condition had been progressively increasing, showing signs of systemic muscle atrophy, mainly in limb and truncal muscles, accompanied with muscular pain, stiffness in gait, thoracolumbar kyphosis (spinal deformity). The German Shepherd with such a clinical symptoms was exhibiting bunny hopping in hind legs while trying to move fast.

Since the orthopedic and neurologic examinations of the German Shepherd turned out to be unremarkable, his blood samples were collected for hematologic and serologic examination. The report of hematologic examination did not show any abnormalities, while on the other hand the biochemistry revealed an increase in the level of creatine kinase at 37 C (181 U/liter), lactate dehydrogenase (510 U/liter), and aspartate aminotransferase (123.6 U/liter). Moreover, radiographs of stifle region and coxofemoral had been taken. However, no abnormalities could be found in the rediograph report. Muscle biopsies were also taken from the femoral biceps muscle for histopathologic examination.

Organs that get affected by Mitochondrial Myopathy in Dogs

In mitochondrial disorders in dogs, the worst affected organs are the ones that mainly depends on oxidative metabolism (chemical reactions involving oxygen). However, these organs includes brain, skeleton, and heart muscles, sensory organs and kidney. The existence of mildest degree of mitochondrial myopathy in GSD, like any other canine breed will cause mild weakness of muscles, which would be mostly noticed in the arms. There will also be exercise intolerance.

Signs of Mitochondrial Myopathy in canine

German Shepherd Dog - like any other dogs affected with mitochondrial myopathies have severe exercise intolerance that can be consistently demonstrated with even mild exercise. They have stiff, stilted gait, bunny-hopping in the pelvic limbs, reluctance to move, and spontaneous pain. Laboratory tests reveal exercise-induced metabolic acidosis.

Diagnosis of Canine Mitochondrial Myopathy

Diagnosis of mitochondrial myopathies in dog often involves a multifaceted approaches. It requires demonstration of post-exercise plasma lactate and pyruvate concentrations. Light and electron microscopic evaluation of mitochondria of the dog within muscle biopsy sections are also used to diagnose mitochondrial myopathies in canine breeds. Precise characterization is dependent on specialized biochemical tests and molecular studies.

Treatments of Mitochondrial Myopathy in GSD or other canine breeds

Treatments of Mitochondrial Myopathy in GSD or other canine breeds range from treating the symptoms to very specific cause-targeting treatments. The common treatments include administration of antioxidants - especially vitamin E, alternative energy sources - creatine monohydrate, lactate reduction - dichloroacetate and most importantly - exercise training. Exposing the patients to correct type and level of exercise is a particularly very important modality in treating canine Mitochondrial Myopathy.


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Monday, December 30, 2019

Understanding "Speed" in the GSD Show Dogs

German Shepherd is a trotting breed and has been bred with "Endurance" in the forefront of mind. So, obviously when we talk about speed, we mean trotting pace. Some dogs exhibit lengthy strides, while others comparatively short strides. During a trot a dog can increase its trotting pace in two ways:

1. Increases the number of strides in a given span of time. This means the frequency of strides is increased  
2. Increases the length of the strides.

Almost all the good specimens in the world have been noticed to initially increase the stride length to increase the trotting pace. After reaching a certain level of pace, the dog fails to increase its stride length. This is the Optimum Stride Length Point, from where the dog tends to increase the number of steps in order to speed up its trot.

However, some dogs have tendency increase the frequency of the strides from the beginning itself instead of stretching the stride length. In such situations the dog's efficiency gets compromised, because it needs to takes more number of steps to cover the same amount of ground that is covered by the dog that use Lengthy Stride. Therefore the dogs that use increased Lengthy Strides are usually preferred over the other counterpart (the dogs that have tendency to increase stride frequency from the beginning) by a judge.

I have seen people (spectators) in many show grounds clapping and cheering dogs that exhibit speedy trots with high stride frequency from the beginning. We need to remember that German Shepherd is a trotting breed at the first place. Speed isn't the criteria of his beauty. The dog wasn't bred to run fast, but to trot miles consistently and steadily. His beauty lies in his ability of consistent, effortless and rhythmic trotting for a long span of time with firmness of back, covering maximum amount of ground as possible even longer stride. If dog increases the speed by increasing the stride frequency then he will suffer a shortage of energy after a short spell of time.

Related reads:


Below embedded the video of the legendary Vegas du Haut Mansard, exhibiting his very rhythmic trot, originally uploaded by fontedasbicas 


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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Cross Steps, Cross Over, Gait Assessment in German Shepherd Dog during Trotting

What does a judge see about steps while judging gait/locomotion of the GSD? A good judge will definitely try to assess the steps, alongside the overall gait, because how a GSD settles its steps during trotting says a lot about the dog’s overall gait.

This post should yield adequate idea about steps and gait to the owners who show their dogs. Even if you do not show your dog, it is important that you are aware of your dog’s structure/ built.

The two most important parameters to understand are “Cross Steps” and “Cross Overs”

During a trot the fore foot that is carried towards the front, touches the ground when the fore foot that is lagging behind is just lifted. The same stepping nature is demonstrated by the hind feet. The rear foot that is carried towards the front touches the ground when the rear foot that is stretched backward is just lifted.

The right front foot and the left hind foot is carried towards same direction, while the left front foot and the right hind foot is carried towards same direction, which is a typical diagonal stepping pattern. There’s nothing special about it, as this clearly demonstrates the typical mammalian gait.

Now, for a breed like GSD, (in which the structural built is the most important determinant of an efficient locomotion), what’s special and needs to be considered is the distance between the two fore feet and the distance between the two rear feet, when the dog is trotting.

The distance between the two fore feet (one stretched towards the front and the other lagging backward) while trotting, is known as “Front Cross Step”. 

The distance between the two rear feet (one carried towards the front and the other stretched out backward) while trotting, is known as “Rear Cross Step”. 

The most ideal and desired locomotion type demands the equality between “Front Cross Step” and “Rear Cross Step”. However, it is well understood that it may not be possible that “Front Cross Step” and “Rear Cross Step” are exactly equal. But lesser the deviation, better!

The picture below gives a pictorial understanding of Front and Rear Cross Steps

This uniformity in cross steps is usually missing in the show dogs that have more angulated hinds. The show line GSDs have more acute hind angulations, due to  which the Rear Cross Step gets slightly more stretched out and becomes longer compared to the Front Cross Step

In the picture below the blue dots indicates the points of contact of the front paws and the ground, and the blue line indicates the Front Cross Step. The red dots indicates the points of contact of the rear paws and the ground, and the red line indicates the Rear Cross Step. It is clearly noticed that the Rear Cross Step is comparatively longer than the Front Cross Step. This is typically noticed in show specimens - especially in the dogs that have overly angulated hinds.

Due to the the longer Rear Cross Step, the rear foot that is carried forward and front foot that is lagging backward cross over each other. This situation is known as Rear and Front Feet Cross Over. As a result of such Cross Over the pastern of the rear limb touches the ground, which is not desired. 

 The deep angulation of the hinds that causes Rear Foot - Front Foot Cross Overs, and that leads to ground-pastern contact, seriously impairs the performance. The efficiency of the dog's movement and power of the strides are both compromised. The hind thrust that carries the dog forward is compromised, due to which the the Speed during a fast trot also gets compromised.


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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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Monday, September 30, 2019

Hind Leg Weakness in German Shepherd Dogs

Does Your GSD Suddenly Start Showing Signs of Hind Leg Weakness?

Rear Limb Weakness (RLW) or hind leg weakness is commonly seen in large breeds including GSD. A German Shepherd that used to run around without missing out even a single step may suddenly exhibit signs of Rear Limb Weakness (RLW) and pain in the hind leg(s). This condition of sudden and progressive weakening of your GSD's hind limbs may go worse day by day, and its sudden onset will put wrinkles on the owner's forehead. This post is aimed at helping you with detailed information about the probable reasons of the condition.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Among the several neurological disorders that manifest themselves with RLW and hind part pain, degenerative myelopathy is commonly found in dogs - irrespective of breed type, size and genders. In worst cases DM in your dog may eventually lead to paresis - partial loss of voluntary movement of the hind limbs. DM starts with malfunctioning of the spinal cord, where the signals are not properly carried to the brain and the dog gradually loses strength and control of the hind legs.

Spinal Cord Injury

Another major reason - quite common - for weakness in hind legs is spinal cord injury, caused by both traumatic and non-traumatic reasons. Any kind of bruise or inflammation in the spinal cord eventually lead to weakness in the rear legs. Severe injury to the spinal cord, and/or vertebral fractures leads to paralysis of rear limbs.

Common traumatic causes of spinal cord injury in dogs:

• Animal abuse (hit by humans)
• Automobile accidents
 • Accidental falls
• Violence - mainly from Gunshot wounds - common in police and war dogs
• Medical/ Surgical Complications

Common non-traumatic causes of spinal cord injury in dogs:

While non-traumatic spinal cord injuries are not as frequently seen as traumatic spinal cord injury, but they are still prevalent.

• Osteoporosis
 • Spinal tumors and cancer
• Multiple sclerosis (disabling disease of spinal cord and brain - the central nervous system(CNS))
• Inflammation of the spinal cord
• Arthritis
• Spinal Stenosis
• Blood Loss

Cushing's Diseases

Cushing's Disease is quite common in dogs of 6 years or above. Cushing's disease
(hyperadrenocorticism caused by an ACTH-secreting tumor of the pituitary gland) is the excess production of cortisol hormone by adrenal glands that are located near the kidneys. The hyper-secretion of Cortisol adversely affects the functioning of many organs and is often accompanied by hind leg weakness, excessive shedding and baldness, pot-bellied appearance, excessive thirst and hunger and general weakness.

Diabetes Mellitus

If your dog has high blood sugar, he/she may exhibit signs of back leg weakness. Overweight canines that are kept on high sugar diets and diets containing grains are more prone develop Diabetes Mellitus. The most common complication that arises from high blood sugar in dogs is diabetic neuropathy, where a temporary or permanent damage of nerve tissues. Such nerve damage usually progresses as a neuropathic problem resulting in weakening of hind legs. This condition eventually progresses either to pain or numbness, and finally the dog will stop movement.

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)

Non-Chondrodystrophic breeds like German Shepherd Dog, Doberman Pinscher and Labrador Retriever are prone to the risk of IVDD (Intervertebral disc degeneration). Also called Degenerative Disc Disease or disc rupture, the obese dogs are more exposed to the risk of this condition where the dog loses strength of hind legs, accompanied by mild pain. IVDD often leads to partial to total paralysis of back legs.


Another reason for your GSD's back leg weakness may be arthritic pain. Older dogs may suffer arthritis, weak joints and hip joint pain, which may severely compromize the dog's normal mobility. Arthritis in dogs may also lead to change in attitude and behavior.


Treatment completely depends on the cause of RLW. There is no single treatment for all causes of the condition. Your veterinarian may want you to perform and x-ray for your dog to ascertain the cause of weakness and/or pain the back legs. More than that, the vet may also ask you to perform blood tests and urinalysis of your dog that can help him in proper diagnosis. Sometimes general weakness along with RWL may be triggered by the altered (rise or fall) level of minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, or phosphorous in the blood. Electrolytic imbalance can be treated easily.

Note: Sometimes genetics are responsible for RLW. Unscientific breeding without keeping anatomy in focus cause puppies to grow with RLW. YOu will suddenly notice your adolescent pup or the adult GSD showing weakness in his hind, and losing motor function of his hind legs. Over time, the weakness grows into pain and may even get worsen. Proper breeding is hence highly desirable.


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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Playtime Hyper Excitement In German Shepherds

play time over excitement in German Shepherd Dog

Playtime Hyper Excitement has got nothing to do with aggression or any other behavioral problem.

Playtime excitement is quite common in the German Shepherd Dog breed. Hyper excitement during the playtime is also not very uncommon in these dogs. The roots to the creation of the GSD as a breed is directly from the sturdy working sheep dogs and hence the natural energy level is higher than most of the other dog breeds. GSDs are powerful dogs too. They require exercises a lot more than many other dogs to attain a content and balanced playtime.

For German Shepherds that exhibit hyper activeness or over excitement during the playtime needs to be handled in a little different ways during the time of exercise. Firstly, being the alpha member of the team (team composed of you, as the leader and your German Shepherd as your follower), you need to establish a set of rule and ceilings in order to prevent him from taking the advantages of the playtime. The ceiling here denotes a particular type of play that is correct and is desired and your German Shepherd should follow you as the pack leader. All you need to do is to show him how to fetch the ball or how to catch the frisbee. But how to?

Well, this is not a rocket science! And this is highly possible. Make sure that you will not skim the frisbee in the air or throw the ball until he comes to you and calms down to a comparatively cooler state and sits, waits for the throw. Throw the ball after he waits for it and gives you an eye contact, which is a sense of respect towards you – his leader. This way you can frame boundaries or rules of play. But prior to that there are certain steps to be taken, else you will not be able to set up the rules and put him into that.

There is nothing like playing frisbee or fetching a ball with your GSD in order to get his energy drained out. But before you start playing with your hyper active dog, it is recommended that you get a part of his energy exhausted to a little extent. This is important for the process of putting him into your established rule. A long walk accompanied by occasional trotting for few minutes in between the walks can be a great option of drive out some amount of his energy prior to the play. After the walk get into an fenced yard and allow him rest for a while. Then let him play with the ball by himself – rather not involving yourself into the play. Finally give a twist to this entire exercise regime by throwing the frisbee or the ball for him to fetch. Throw it as far away as possible and allow him to fetch.

Also allow him to play with the ball or the frisbee alone when at his room or in the garden. This will gradually degrade his sensitivity to the toys and make the toys less attractive to him eventually.

Most often this kind of overly excited playtime behavior – especially towards the toys are misrepresented as aggression. That's NOT aggression. Many dog owners confuse between play-time over excitement  and aggression. This playtime hyper excitement is nothing to be worried about and there’s no reason for it to be associated aggression. It is just the extra level of excitement and energy that he exhibits through exhibiting hyper sensitivity towards certain toys or certain place (for example a large open lawn or many be your yard) during the playtime – especially the toys that he loves the most.

Remember this entire process is just a package and you need to repeat the whole process as explained over and over until your German Shepherd start behaving in a desensitized way during the play time. However, in such situations it is required to put him into good volume of exercises as explained above throughout the dog's life, until the time he can play well. Volume of exercise must be optimized based on his age and health.


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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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