The German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog is probably one of the most complicated dog breeds there is. From West German Show Line, to West German Working Lines, Czech Lines and DDR, if there has ever been a breed split, the German Shepherd is a prime example.

A well-bred German Shepherd Dog wants to work, they are eager to please, smart and come with a lot of work ethic.

On the following pages I’d like to bring the German Shepherd Dog closer to you and explain the different types, lines and colors, the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with owning one of the most controversial breeds out there.

First, let’s start with the original Breed Standard:

shepherd-anatomy-smallPicture with courtesy of Dogs for Defense K9

German Shepherd Dog Standard

23.12.2010/EN FCI-Standard N°166

TRANSLATION: Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) E.V. / Original version: (D).

ORIGIN: Germany / DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE OFFICIAL VALID STANDARD: 11.08.2010.

UTILIZATION: Versatile working, herding and service dog.

FCI-CLASSIFICATION:              Group      1    Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs).

Section    1    Sheepdogs. With working trial.

The German Shepherd Dog, whose methodical and systematic breeding was started in 1899 after the foundation of the society, had been bred from the central German and southern German breeds of the herding dogs existing at that time with the ultimate objective of creating a working dog inclined to high achievements. In order to achieve this objective, the breed standard of the German Shepherd Dog was determined, which relates to the physical constitution as well as the traits and characteristics.

General appearance

The German Shepherd Dog is medium-size, slightly elongated, powerful and well-muscled, with dry bone and firm overall structure.

Important dimensional ratios 

The height at the withers amounts to 60 cm to 65 cm for male dogs and 55 cm to 60 cm for female dogs. The trunk length exceeds the dimension at the height at the withers by about 10 – 17 %.

Character

The German Shepherd Dog must be well-balanced (with strong nerves) in terms of character, self-assured, absolutely natural and (except for a stimulated situation) good-natured as well as attentive and willing to please. He must possess instinctive behavior, resilience and self-assurance in order to be suitable as a companion, guard, protection, service and herding dog.

Head

The head is wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the body size (length about 40 % at the height at the withers), without being plump or too elongated, dry in the overall appearance and moderately broad between the ears. Seen from the front and side, the forehead is only slightly arched and without any or with only a slightly indicated middle furrow.

The ratio from the cranial region to the facial region is 50 % to 50 %. The width of the cranial region more or less corresponds to the length of the cranial region. The cranial region (seen from above) tapers evenly towards the nasal bridge with gradually sloping, not sharply depicted stop in the wedge-shaped facial region (foreface) of the head. Upper and lower jaws are powerfully developed.

The nasal dorsum is straight, any dip or bulge is undesirable. The lips are taut, close well and are of dark coloring.

The nose must be black.

The teeth must be strong, healthy and complete (42 teeth according to the dental formula). The German Shepherd Dog has a scissor bite, i.e. the incisors must interlock like scissors, whereby the incisors of the upper jaw overlap those of the lower jaw. Occlusal overlay, overbite and retrusive occlusion as well as larger spaces between the teeth (gaps) are faulty. The straight dental ridge of the incisors is also faulty. The jaw bones must be strongly developed so that the teeth can be deeply embedded in the dental ridge.

The eyes are of medium size, almond-shaped, slightly slanted and not protruding. The colour of the eyes should be as dark as possible. Light, piercing eyes are undesirable since they impair the dog’s impression.

Ears – The German Shepherd Dog has erect ears of medium size, which are carried upright and aligned (not drawn-in laterally); they are pointed and with the auricle facing forward.

Tipped ears and drooping ears are faulty. Ears carried rearward when moving or in relaxed position are not faulty.

Neck – The neck should be strong, well-muscled and without loose neck skin (dewlap). The angulation towards the trunk (horizontal) amounts to approx. 45 %.

Body – The upper line runs from the base of the neck via the high, long withers and via the straight back towards the slightly sloping croup, without visible interruption. The back is moderately long, firm, strong and well-muscled. The loin is broad, short, strongly developed and well-muscled. The croup should be long and slightly sloping (approx 23° to the horizontal) and the upper line should merge into the base of the tail without interruption.

The chest should be moderately broad, the lower chest as long and pronounced as possible. The depth of the chest should amount to approx. 45 % to 48 % of the height at the withers.

The ribs should feature a moderate curvature; a barrel-shaped chest is just as faulty as flat ribs.

The tail extends at least to the hock, but not beyond the middle of the hind pastern. It has slightly longer hair on the underside and is carried hanging downward in a gentle curve, whereby in a state of excitement and in motion it is raised and carried higher, but not beyond the horizontal. Operative corrections are forbidden. 

Limbs

Forequarters – The forelimbs are straight when seen from all sides, and absolutely parallel when seen from the front.

Shoulder blade and upper arm are of equal length, and firmly attached to the trunk by means of powerful musculature. The angulation from shoulder blade and upper arm is ideally 90°, but generally up to 110°.

The elbows may not be turned out either while standing or moving, and also not pushed in. The forearms are straight when seen from all sides, and absolutely parallel to each other, dry and firmly muscled. The pastern has a length of approx. 1/3 of the forearm, and has an angle of approx. 20° to 22° to the forearm. A slanted pastern (more than 22°) as well as a steep pastern (less than 20°) impairs the suitability for work, particularly the stamina.

The paws are rounded, well-closed and arched; the soles are hard, but not brittle. The nails are strong and of dark color.

Hindquarters

The position of hind legs is slightly backwards, whereby the hind limbs are parallel to each other when seen from the rear. Upper leg and lower leg are of approximately the same length and form an angle of approx. 120°; the legs are strong and well-muscled.

The hocks are strongly developed and firm; the hind pastern stands vertically under the hock.

The paws are closed, slightly arched; the pads are hard and of dark color; the nails are strong, arched and also of dark color.

Gait

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. Correct body proportions and angulations results in a gait that is far-reaching and flat over the ground which conveys the impression of effortless forward movements. The head pushed forward and the slightly raised tail result in a consistent, smooth trot showing a gently curved, uninterrupted upper line from the ear tips over the neck and back to the end of the tail.

Skin – The skin is (loosely) fitting, but without forming any folds.

Coat

Hair texture

Hair:

The German Shepherd Dog is bred in the hair varieties double coat and long and harsh outer coat – both with undercoat.

Double coat:

The guard hair should be as dense as possible, particularly harsh and close fitting: short on the head, including the inside of the ears, short on the front side of the legs, paws and toes, some-what longer and more strongly covered in hair on the neck. On the back side of the legs the hair extends to the carpal joint or the hock; it forms moderate ‘trousers’ on the back side of the haunches.

Long and harsh outer coat:

The guard hair should be long, soft and not close fitting, with tufts on the ears and legs, bushy trousers and bushy tail with downward formation of tuft. Short on the head, including the inside of the ears, on the front side of the legs, on the paws and toes, somewhat longer and more strongly covered in hair on the neck, almost forming a mane. On the back side of the legs the hair extends to the carpal joint or the hock and forms clear trousers on the back side of the haunches.

Colors

Colors are black with reddish-brown, brown and yellow to light grey markings; single-colored black, grey with darker shading, black saddle and mask. Unobtrusive, small white marks on chest as well as very light color on insides are permissible, but not desirable. The tip of the nose must be black in all colors. Dogs with lack of mask, light to piercing eye color, as well as with light to whitish markings on the chest and the insides, pale nails and red tip of tail are considered to be lacking in pigmentation. The undercoat shows a light greyish tone.  The color white is not allowed.

Size/weight

Male dogs:

Height at the withers: 60 cm to 65 cm

Weight: 30 kg to 40 kg

Female dogs:

Height at the withers: 55 cm to 60 cm

Weight: 22 kg to 32 kg

Testicles

Male dogs should have two obviously normally developed testicles which are completely in the scrotum.

Faults

Any deviation from the aforementioned points should be considered as a fault whose evaluation should be in exact proportion to the degree of deviation.

Serious faults

Deviations from the above-described breed characteristics which impair the working capability.

Faulty ears: ears set too low laterally, tipped ears, inward constricted ears, ears not firm

Considerable pigment deficiencies.

Severely impaired overall stability.

Dental faults:

All deviations from scissor bite and dental formula insofar as it does not involve eliminating faults (see the following)

Eliminating faults

a)      Dogs with weak character and weak nerves which bite

b)      Dogs with proven “severe hip dysplasia”

c)       Monorchid or cryptorchid dogs as well as dogs with clearly dissimilar or atrophied testicles

d)      Dogs with disfiguring ears or tail faults

e)      Dogs with malformations

f)       Dogs with dental faults, with lack of:

1 premolar 3 and another tooth, or

1 canine tooth, or

1 premolar 4, or

1 molar 1 or molar 2, or

a total of 3 teeth or more

g)      Dogs with jaw deficiencies:

Overshot by 2 mm and more, undershot, level bite in the entire incisor region

h)      Dogs with oversize or undersize by more than 1 cm

i)        Albinism

j)        White hair colour (also with dark eyes and nails)

k)      Long Straight Topcoat without undercoat

l)        Long-haired (long, soft guard hair without undercoat, mostly parted in the middle of the back, tufts on the ears and legs and on the tail)

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