one reaction to the proposed changes to the standard
John Ayotte 06/1999
As many of you know, I have been vocal on the issue of the standard revisions and the differences between the GSDCA standard and the SV/WUSV standard. I am particularly concerned by the attitude that "they are not all that different" because it implies that a change would be "no big deal." IMHO, the people with that attitude have not done their homework in studying and understanding the standards. Most of the differences are significant. No matter which version you think is better for the breed, you cannot honestly believe that the standards do not describe different dogs.
Until now, I have only been able to attempt to point out the differences. With the publication of the revised draft that came out of the ad-hoc committee meeting, it is probably time to start discussing the merits of the changes being proposed. Hopefully, you will have an opportunity to look over the draft that is posted on the ahowgsd-l web site.
General Appearance: the only change to this section is the addition of the phrase "medium sized." Personally, I think that this is a valid change... not vital, but good if we are going to make any changes at this time.
Character: the phrases "easily trained" and "totally good natured" have been added. These are fine with me. The term "watchdog" has been removed, and "service dog" added. Again, these seem appropriate. If it were up to me, herding dog would be the first thing listed, but I wouldn't make an issue of it. The only other change in this section is the vague "these" being specified as "temperament faults".
Proportion: I was pleased to see the 10 to 8 1/2 proportion retained. If the SV/WUSV will accept this (it is somewhat longer than their standard calls for), we will have taken one step toward ensuring that the revised standard does not change our ideal dog significantly. Changing the word "desired" to "ideal" in the description of the height of the dogs is of little consequence. To everyone's relief, the height range has remained unchanged (in spite of the fact that the SV/WUSV standard seems to call for a slightly shorter dog). The addition of the sentence: "Deviations from the ideal affect the working and herding ability of the dog and should be faulted in direct proportion to the amount of the deviation." still seems to give the judges the descretion they should have. I would prefer that this be stated as follows, however: "Deviations from the ideal height that affect the working..." An agile, larger dog that has the endurance necessary for the work should not be penalized simply because of its size, even though, as a rule, the larger dog will be less agile and have less endurance.
Head: this section has been expanded considerably... mostly for the better. I've always thought that the description of the head in our standard could be improved and made more specific. Unfortunately, a list of faults has been added that begs the question of whether it is necessary to list faults immediately after describing what is correct. I'd rather see us stand on the correct description and let the judges decide how to fault deviations from that ideal. Listing every imaginable fault makes the standard seem much too negative to me. I'd rather it be a positive picture in words of the ideal animal.
Ears: the word "firmly" has been added before erect... not a bad idea. I also think that adding the sentence: "While in motion, or at rest, the ears may be carried folded back against the skull." was a good idea. Too many people seem to think that the ears should be up when the dog is gaiting. The addition of the list of ear faults (wide set, over set or tipped, curled back, or lack of firmness) may or may not be necessary, depending on your point of view. They are the faults that are generally penalized even though they are not stated specifically in today's standard. I'm not sure what prompted the addition of "semi-drop" to cropped and hanging as disqualifications... I guess it moves some weak ears from faults to disqualifications.
Eyes: the only change here was the addition of a fault sentence. You be the judge of whether it is necessary to specify "Too small, round, yellow or close set eyes are faults."
Teeth: overshot jaw or level bite has been changed from undesirable to very serious fault. The wording of the current standard is "Any missing teeth other than first premolars is a serious fault." Although it is a stretch, this could be interpreted as all four first premolars could be missing and it is still not a serious fault (although I would argue that it is certainly not judged that way today). The new wording is "Any missing tooth, other than a first premolar is a serious fault. Any combination of three or more missing teeth is a very serious fault." This is somewhat clearer. I read it as more than one first premolar missing is serious, but that may be arguable. Even though this seems to increase the number of faults in the standard, it seems to me to mearly reflect the reality of how we already judge our dogs.
Neck: no change
Forequarters: this section has been expanded considerably, and rewritten even where the description is the same. The addition of the 45 degree from the vertical description to the shoulder blade is fine, and the type of improved description I like to see. Describing the shoulder blade and upper arm as of equal length is also a good addition. Adding that the front legs are parallel to each other is correct, but I was surprised that it was felt necessary. "Elbows must turn neither in nor out while standing or moving." is also a valid addition, but one that always seemed obvious to me without being stated. Adding that the pastern is about 1/3 the length of the foreleg is probably ok (but am I the only one that thinks this sounds a bit long?). The first controversial change comes next: the current standard calls for approximately a 25 degree angle from the vertical... the proposal is for 22 degrees (I think that the SV calls for about 21 degrees). Look at some dogs and decide if 22 degrees is to steep or, conversely, if 25 degrees is too weak. Once again (as in Proportion) a sentence has been added that states that certain faults affect the dog's working ability. If these references are necessary, I would rather see it stated that these problems should be faulted to the degree that they degrade the dogs movement and working ability.
Feet: "slightly rounded" has been added so that it reads more like the SV. "Elongated, flat feet are a serious fault." has also been added.
Body: A significant (in my eyes) change is being proposed here. Instead of "deep and capacious" it is now "moderately deep and capacious." This is couple with the addition of "The depth of chest comprises about 48% of the dogs height at the withers." Since the illustrated standard give a value of 55% for the depth of chest, and my own measurements of actual dogs and many pictures seem to indicate that the 55% figure is more accurate for what we see in our rings today (and even for many of the > German showlines), this 48% represents an attempt to reshape the breed. I won't get into the pros and cons of this here, but mearly point it out for you to ponder. In addition, the now common fault sentence has been added to the end of the section, specifying that "A heavy, overly deep body, barrel ribs, or a narrow, slab-sided body are serious faults."
Things get a bit dicier in the next couple of sections, but here goes:
Topline: The following sentence, very similar to one in the SV standard, has bee added. "The upper line runs without any visible break in the topline from the set on of the neck to and through the set on of the > tail." Sounds ok to me.
Withers, Back, and Loin: sections are unchanged.
Croup: has been changed from "Long and gradually sloping." to the more specific "Long and sloping gradually at about 23 degrees from the horizontal to the smooth tail set." This sounds ok to me.
Tail: description has been changed from one that should at least reach the hock joint to one that should extend to the middle of the hock (and at least reach the hock joint). The phrase "with no break" has been added to the description of a smooth tail set. These additions seem fine to me. Correct tails have been more thoroughly described with the following: "In motion, the tail extends behind the dog in a slight saber curve which acts as a rudder and is carried high enough to avoid interference with the action of the hock joint. The tail should not be carried higher than the horizontal." Faults have been expanded to include "lifeless in appearance or bouncing off the hocks" in addition to the too short and clumpy ends that are in the existing standard. The disqualification for docked tails has been included in this section as well.
"approximately equal in length" has been added to the description of the
upper and lower thigh. This seems appropriate. Since there has always
been some confusion about the position of the rear leg when measuring
the 90 degree angle that is called for, an attempt has been made to clarify
it with this phrase "when the dog is standing with the hind foot directly
beneath the hip socket joint." From my measurements of actual dogs, this
seems to be a valid statement, and should go quite a way towards clarifying
this part of the GSD anatomy. On the other hand, an additional sentence
has been added: "In a show stance, with one hind leg pulled behind the
dog and the metatarsus perpendicular to the ground, the angle between
the upper and lower thigh is about 120 degrees." While this is essentially
correct, it seems to be unnecessary in light of the previous clarification
about when to measure the 90 degrees. The following sentences have also
been added: "The hind legs, viewed from the rear are parallel to each
other. Lack of proper upper and lower thigh musculature, overly long lower
thighs or metatarsus, lack of sufficient angulation and overangulation
of the hindquarters all affect the dog's endurance and working ability
and are serious faults." While I think the parallel part is fine, I'm
not sure it is necessary. Mentioning the musculature is probably ok, it
deemed a necessary addition. Long lower thighs is already covered by the
positive statement that the upper and lower thigh are of approximately
equal length. To repeat this as a negative seems redundant to me. To single
out lack of angulation and especially overangulation with the blanket
statement that they affect endurance and working ability seems like a
red herring to me. (I know that it is lifted from the SV standard
Gait: What a relief! This section is unchanged. I am very glad that the inferior description of gait from the SV standard was not incorporated.
Transmission: there are two additions to this section. The first is "A topline with withers lower than the back or hips, or a soft, or roached back effect the transmission and are serious faults." I can live with this, in spite of my opinion about stating the definite effect of a fault. The second addition is a shopping list of gait faults: "and include significant deviations from correct movement such as lifting or pounding in front; looseness in elbows; throwing hocks in or out; kicking up in the rear; lack of under drive or follow-through in rear; dragging of hind toes; failure to single track; and restricted length of stride." While I doubt that any of us would argue that these are, indeed, faults of gait, is it necessary to burden the standard by spelling them all out. At least none of these issues change our picture of the ideal German Shepherd Dog.
Color: nothing really changed here, except that black nose requirement was moved to the head section.
Coat: nothing was changed here. Everyone that was worried about the disqualification of long coats can relax.
following general statement has been added: "Any deviation from the ideal
description of the German Shepherd dog not specifically mentioned should
be faulted in direct proportion to the amount of the deviation." I actually
like this, and am inclined to ask why, with a statement like this, we
need to spell out so many specific faults. They should be apparent as
deviations from the correct dog and judges should be able to decide for
themselves. Perhaps the authors think that there are too many judges that
are unable to do this without help (not that I would ever think something
like that <g>
Disqualifications: the only change was the addition of semi-drop ears. Not sure I've ever seen that in a GSD, but I guess it should be a disqualification.
OK, those are my observations, and some of my opinions. Take them for whatever you think they are worth.
In the final analysis, there are only a couple of major concerns I have with this proposed standard revision. In the order they appear, they are: change in pastern angle to the more upright 22 degrees, depth of chest of 48 percent, faulting deep bodied, the reference to 120 degrees > while in a show pose, and the reference to over angulation. In addition, > I am concerned about the increased emphasis on faults and the repeatedly dogmatic statement that certain faults impair gait, endurance, or working ability.
I commend the committee members for their hard work. This proposal is > not too far from being a workable improvement to our standard that will be in the best interests of the breed. If the concerns that I have expressed in this analysis (and those that you may have but I have missed) are discussed openly by the membership we may yet see one more revision and be able to take an intelligent vote.
While I am trying to be positive about this, I am still concerned about the way that it has been handled. I also (as those of you who have read my earlier comparisons of the various standards will understand) have some severe reservations about whether this revised standard will be acceptable to the SV/WUSV. I certainly hope so.