an analysis of the ad hoc committee final draft
John Ayotte 10/1999
In an attempt to keep this analysis to a manageable length I will do as I have done before and not include the complete text of either the current or proposed standards. I hope that you can all get you hands on a copy of the document that is going to be distributed at the National. Its two column format, with the current on the left and the proposed on the right, makes it easy to identify where changes are being proposed. In addition, additions, deletions, and rewordings are all highlighted in that document.
I will go through the standard section by section, identify the changes, and give you my thoughts on their significance. I'm not going to make any claims at being the expert, or even an expert in all of these areas. My purpose is to make it clear to everyone where the changes are being proposed so that you can decide for yourself if they are good for the breed, bad for the breed, or insignificant.
There has been one phrase deleted from the current standard. The drafters of this proposal have removed the words "deep-bodied." In my mind this is debatable. While it is true that some breeders and exhibitors may have over-emphasized depth of chest, and it is argued (though not totally convincingly in my mind) that depth of chest is a contributing factor in bloat and torsion, I still believe that deep-bodied is a proper description of the breed. I feel that this phrase is being removed because it seems to be in conflict with the SV/WUSV standards. This issue comes up again under "Body". The only other change to this section has been the addition of the phrase "medium-large". Although some might object to this addition, and others find it confusing, I find it appropriate. The terms small, medium, and large are used in most standards to begin to set the stage for describing the dog and its proportions. When you look at how these words are used, it seems that a proper sized GSD falls somewhere between the medium and the large breeds, hence the term medium-large. Character: The term "watchdog" has been removed from this section. This is a change that I have supported all along. The phrase "good natured" has been added. Again, I feel that this is in keeping with the character we advocate in our dogs. The sequence of the list of jobs of the GSD has been rearranged to put "herding" at the front. I proposed this a long time ago. The phrase "service dog" has been added to the list. I support this as a recognition of the expanded role that GSDs have taken. When describing faults of character, a vague "these" has been changed to "temperament faults". This is an improvement. The words "easily trained" and "courageous" have been added to the last sentence. Both of these are, in my opinion, good additions.
The word "desired" has been changed to "ideal" in describing the height of the dogs (which, thankfully, has been left at 24-26 inches for dogs and 22-24 inches for bitches... this was under some fire in earlier drafts). If we are going to use the word ideal in conjunction with a range of heights, then I think we need to add theword "between" right in front of the range. This is really picky, I know, but if we are going to make changes, lets make sure we get them right. The proportion has been kept at 8 1/2 to 10. This is different than the SV/WUSV standard, and I think that our proportions are more desirable than theirs. I wonder if they will see it that way when it comes time for them to decide if our standard meets their demands. A couple of sentences have been rearranged in this section, but content is unchanged. A new sentence has been added, however, which I have a great deal of difficulty with. The proposal says: "Deviations from the ideal affect the working ability of the dog and should be faulted in proportion to the amount of the deviation." I feel that this is much too rigid and could easily be misapplied. I would prefer a phrase like: "Deviations from the ideal that adversely affect the working ability of the dog should be faulted in proportion to the amount of that adverse affect." While it could be argued that neither of these phrases should be added to the standard, I think that the later version leaves the judge more freedom to evaluate the total dog and reward an over or under sized animal that has otherwise proper structure, endurance and character.
The phrase "wedged-shaped" has been added. Although this is probably correct, and is consistent with the SV/WUSV phrasing, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with it. I have visions of it leading to a much squarer head. Perhaps this is what we should be doing, and what people want... perhaps not. It is, however, an example of how simple changes to the standard may have significant impact on the appearance of the breed. We should only make such changes with a great deal of study and thought. Two references to a "long" muzzle have been removed. Combined with the "wedge shaped" referred to above, the picture is once again shifting in favor of a squarer head. The phrase "at most, a slight center furrow" has been added to the description of the forehead, and "from the front" has been changed to "from the front or side". These seem to be fine additions to the description of the head. The phrase "without abrupt stop" has been changed to "with a moderate stop". I think that this change is fine, and probably is clearer to anyone familiar with the descriptions of the stop in other breeds. The word "dark" has been added to the description of the lips. This seems a reasonable addition. The following sentence (borrowed from the SV standard, I think) has been added: "The distance from the occiput to the stop and from the stop to the end of the nose are approximately equal, and the width and length of the skull are comparable." Until I can see some measurements take on real dogs I reserve my judgment on this. If it truly does describe the head that we see as ideal it is fine. On the other hand it may be a complex way justifying a change to a squarer head.
The word "firmly" has been added in front of erect. I think this emphasis is probably warranted. Two sentences have been added. The first: "While in motion, or at ease, the ears may be carried folded back against the skull." is a good addition from the SV standard. I've seen too many instances when a dog seemed to be penalized because it ran with it's head lowered and ears back (which is perfectly normal) rather than with it's head and ears up like they are when at alert. The second: "Ears that are wide set, tip in toward the center of the skull, curl backward at the tips, or lack firmness mar the dog's appearance." while true (these things do mar the dogs appearance) this sentence seems to open the door for penalizing ear carriage to a much greater degree than would be warranted in evaluating the total dog for character, movement, and structure (which I'm sure we would all agree are more important than the cosmetic issue of ear carriage... as long as the ears are firmly erect, a very important part of the picture that makes a German Shepherd a German Shepherd).
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."
No changes proposed.
The sentence "An overshot jaw or a level bite is undesirable." has been changed to "A jaw overshot by more than 1/16 inch or a level bite formed by all twelve incisors is a very serious fault." On the surface, this seems to make the overshot and level bites a more serious fault than they currently are. However, since overshots of less than 1/16 inch and level bites by less than all 12 incisors are not even mentioned as undesirable, perhaps it is a moot point. I still haven't made up my mind on this one. The sentence "Any missing teeth other than first premolars is a serious fault" has been changed to "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." Not only is this clearer, and consistent with the SV, it probably reflects the reality of current judging in the AKC ring better than the current standard.
The changes here are difficult to compare in the way I have done previous sections. There has been to much added and rearranged. However, the use of 45 degrees from the vertical, about a right angle, and parallel to each other are all helpful in describing the forequarter and I would support the changes. The added sentence "Elbows must turn neither in nor out while standing or moving." seems appropriate. I'm a bit confused about the added description of the pastern as "about 1/3 the length of the foreleg", but if by "foreleg" they mean the distance between the elbow and the pastern joint, it is probably ok (though my gut tells me it is too long... I'd need to make some measurements to be certain). Changing the angle of the pastern from the currently specified 25 degrees from the vertical to 22 degrees from the vertical is, IMHO a mistake. While I might agree that pastern angles of greater than 25 degrees may be approaching weakness, I would also contend that angles less than 22 degrees are approaching too straight and without enough elasticity for a herding dog. I know that the intent is to bring our standard closer to the SV (which calls for 21 degrees), but I would rather see a range from 22 to 25 degrees rather than a single angle here (the precedent has been set for such a range with things like the ideal height of the dog). In that way, steeper than 22 and flatter than 25 may be penalized by the judge if they feel that it impairs the dogs gait an endurance. The following sentence has been added: "Weak or steep pasterns, lack of proper shoulder angulation, crooked legs and elbow deviations all affect the dog's working ability and are serious faults." As you might have guessed by now, I am not comfortable with this phrasing. First of all, it has become a fault list that is repetitive of the description of what is correct. I prefer that the positive description of what is correct be emphasized, and deviations from what is correct be appropriately penalized, but spelling out the faults like this not only conveys a negative image of our breed, but in its inevitable incompleteness can lead judges to overlook faults that are not listed ("It's not listed as a fault, therefor it must be OK"). In addition, I'm opposed in principle, to saying that a given fault affects the dog's working ability. If, in the assessment of the judge, something affects the dogs ability to work (be it character, movement, or structure) then it should be penalized, but it is unwise and unfair to tie a judges hands by assuming, for example, that a weak or steep pastern will adversely affect a specific dogs ability to herd sheep. You know what they say about the word "assume"? All it does is make an "ass" out of "u" and "me".
The phrase, from the SV standard, "slightly rounded" has been appropriately added to the description of feet. The sentence "Elongated, flat, or splayed feet are a serious fault." has also been added. Other than a general desire to not add lists of faults to the standard, I have no problem with this one.
I'm quite confused by what has been presented in this section. The current standard does not contain a depth of body proportion. The sentence that has been added in this draft doesn't really address this issue either. What it calls for is a 50% proportion from the highest point of the shoulder blade to the elbow. I'm sorry, but this doesn't say anything about the depth of body... it has more to do with the forequarter. Nowhere else in the section is the actual depth of chest addressed (except by the phrases "moderately deep", "carried well down between the legs", and "sternum which reaches the elbows"). Perhaps this is a conscious effort to avoid controversy with the SV, which does seem to call for a depth of chest (measured from point of withers to bottom of chest) of about 45-50%. The problem I have with this is that as I was taught about the breed, and as the "Illustrated Standard" that the Parent Club has endorsed for years shows, the chest extends down below the elbow, making the depth of chest more like 55% (and, in fact, it also shows the distance from the withers to the elbow as 45%). On the other hand, if the sternum represents the "depth of chest" (which I somehow doubt) then perhaps many of us have been misreading the standard all these years. I defy anyone to tell me that the change from 55% to 45-50% in depth of chest is an insignificant change... but then the draft as written seems to sidestep the issue anyway. "Deep and capacious" has been changed to "moderately deep and capacious". See my comments under General Appearance. The phrase "narrow or slab sided" has been added to the negatives on the ribs. A reasonable addition in my opinion. This section of the "final draft" is in need of serious discussion and revision before I would find it acceptable.
The word "long" has been removed from the phrase "desirable long proportion". I actually think that this is an improvement, because this reference to long is somewhat confusing. Since we have defined the proportions as 8 1/2 to 10, it is not necessary. Under croup the wording has been changed from "long and gradually sloping" to "long and sloping gradually at about 23 degrees from the horizontal to the smooth tail set." I like the addition of the angle, but am not sure if 23 degrees is right. Somebody better check and make sure that we are comfortable with the value we put here. Under tail, the description has been changed to "Ideally the last vertebra should extend to the middle of the metatarsus, but must at least reach the hock joint." I don't have a problem with this, but think this is more of an aesthetic than a functional issue. It should really be no bid deal. The phrase "with no break" has been added to the description of the tail set. This seems a useful clarification. The current standard describes the carriage of the tail as follows: "When the dog is excited or in motion, the curve is accentuated and the tail raised, but it should never be curled forward beyond the vertical line." The revision removes the phrase "or in motion" from that sentence, and adds an addition sentence that reads: "In motion, the tail extends behind the dog acting 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." In an attempt to address a perceived (or real) problem of "dead tails" the revision has gotten all jumbled in my opinion. The contribution of the tail to balance is questionable at best and the phrase "like a rudder" while picturesque, really doesn't add to the description. While I agree somewhat with the statement about not interfering with the action of the hock joint, the last part (not carried higher than the horizontal) is hardly correct. If an excited dog can raise it's tail (as long as it doesn't curl forward beyond the vertical) then a dog in motion should be able to as well. The phrase "lifeless in appearance or bouncing off the hocks" has been added to the faults. This would seem to address the "dead tail" issue without so much rewording of the rest of the tail description.
A short paragraph has more than doubled in length. Most of the additions are an effort to clarify one of the most misunderstood and variably interpreted sections of the standard. The phrase "approximately equal in length" has been added to the description of the upper and lower thigh. The research I have done seems to contradict this, and I think that the lower thigh should actually be approximately 15-20% longer than the upper thigh. If they are equal, or close to equal, you cannot form the correct angles to match the ideal forequarter. The only way that these bones could be approximately equal would be for the hock (actually metatarsus) to be almost as long as the foreleg and pastern. Not a pretty picture. In order to clarify the 90 degree angle in the hindquarter, the draft indicates that this is the angle when the footpad is directly beneath the hip socket. I feel that this is an accurate statement, and a needed addition to the standard. The added sentence "In a show stance, with one leg extended behind the dog, and the metatarsus perpendicular to the ground, the angle between the upper and lower thigh is about 120 degrees." may or may not be correct or necessary. Once again, discussion is warranted. Also added is the sentence "The hind legs, viewed from the rear, are parallel to each other." This is a reasonable addition. The final addition is: "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." Besides my comments about similar phrasing in sections above, I fear that the reference to "overangulation" without a good definition of it is inviting misinterpretation and misuse. There has to be a better way of saying this, if it has to be said at all.
The section on gait has been basically left intact. I'm pleased to see this, because it is far superior to the corresponding section of the SV/WUSV standards. One change was the expansion of the phrase "unlevel topline" in the current standard to "A topline with withers lower than back or hips, or a soft or roached back affect the transmission and are serious faults." This seems like a good clarification to me. The final sentence of this section currently reads "Faults of gait, whether from front, rear, or side are to be considered very serious faults." The revision expands this by continuing "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." All of these are the result of structural faults that have already been defined. The structural problems are the cause, these are the effects. I'm still reserving judgment on the desirability of including these negatives in the standard, but I acknowledge that the list does clarify what you are seeing in the ring.
This section has been rewritten in a much clearer manner, leaving no doubt that white, blue, and liver dogs are to be disqualified. Since that was the intent of the last standard revision I think that this clearer statement is a valid improvement.
The changes here define long coats in more detail and shift them from a "fault" to a "very serious fault." For show purposes, long coats have probably been treated as a very serious fault for a long time.
This is New:
"The German Shepherd dog is, above all, a versatile herding and working dog. Faults affecting the function and working ability of the dog should always be considered more serious than those of an aesthetic nature." I agree with this, but it makes me wonder why such emphasis has been placed on aesthetic issues such as length of tail and carriage of ears in this standard rewrite.
Blues and livers are specifically listed rather than relying on the "nose not predominately black" disqualification to cover them.
Many of the most distressing issues that surfaced when I first did a comparison of the SV/WUSV standards and the GSDCA/AKC standard have been resolved in favor of the GSDCA version. The wonderful description of gait and transmission is still there. The proportion of 8 1/2 to 10 is still there. The height ranges of 24-26 inches and 22-24 inches are still there. While these things make me happy, I wonder if they do not doom this effort to rejection by the SV/WUSV that has, to date, shown no willingness to compromise or consider that we might have some of it right and they might be wrong. At the same time, there remain several proposed changes that will have a significant impact on the form of dogs that are bred to the standard (my goal, and that of most breeders, I am sure). The depth of body and the angle of pastern are but two examples of changes that I would find hard to support unless someone can convincingly show me the "error of my ways" and demonstrate that these changes will help us produce better German Shepherd Dogs.
It's late, I'm tired, and most of you are probably bored with my comments. For those of you that made it all the way through this, thanks for listening. Whether you agree with my analysis or not is of little importance. What is important is that you take the time to consider any proposed changes to the standard carefully and with the best interests of the breed in mind.