Full house for my seminar in Medan. Great to see the club issue certificates to the attendees. Always such a pleasure to be with people who have the passion and desire to learn about the German Shepherd Dog.
A five hour Breed Lecture hosted by the Taiwan Kennel Control. Big turnout included 20 aspiring judges and 10 All Breed judges. Many thanks to Alex Zee for translating. Lovely to be with so many enthusiastic people so keen to learn about the German Shepherd Dog.
Some words from the breed's creator and initiator of GSD breed surveys - Max von Stephanitz.
Breed Surveys have nothing whatsoever to do with showmanship or show business. Neither sport nor competition should play any role whatsoever in it. The aim of breed surveys is to find out those animals who are suitable for breeding.
A pity that for many enthusiasts those fundamental core elements have been lost in time and that they see breed Survey classification as being no more than a piece of paper that is necessary to get an excellent grading.. To have the view that there should still be two classifications is to see Breed Surveys as a show dog classification - akin to a blue ribbon is only prestigious if someone is standing behind you with a red ribbon - it is about ego not the breed.
Putting aside whether you like the style or type of this dog, it shows where the full back starts and finishes and shows that skeletally and functionally the back consists of two quite distinct parts - thoracic and lumbar. The thoracic spine can't bend, but the lumbar spine can and does to a significant degree.
The German Shepherd Dog standard calls for the back (full back) to be straight and sloping slightly from the withers to the croup.
One of the most common argumentative exchanges one hears and reads about relates to the backline of the German Shepherd Show Dog. Is it straight, is it curved, is straight better than curved, and within those parameters, what is the best backline for a trotting dog anyway?
In these exchanges, a number of thoughts I have had are;
The following photo is a typical example of what one sees on FB. The comment one reads is that the photo demonstrates the optimum backline for a trotting canidae, and in a tone of authority it is stated what you see in the photo represents a straight back - inevitably, just like their German Shepherd Dogs back!
There is no argument that 'in terms of endurance' there is no adult domestic dog, never mind a German Shepherd Show Dog, that can out-trot, out endure, a healthy Gray Wolf, but as to whether what is seen in the Gray Wolf topline constitutes a 'straight back' is another matter.
Not withstanding evolution designed the Gray Wolfs backline and that the Gray Wolf is one of the planets greatest endurance trotting canidae, whilst the lumbar back is straight, the full back, the section that spans between the lower part of the withers and commencement of the croup, the pin bones, is slightly concave. In more specific terms, the anticlinal region of the back, the more forward part of the spine consisting of both thoracic and lumbar vertebrae has a perceptible hollow.
As this post relates to comparisons to the German Shepherd Dogs backline, I also add, the back on the Gray Wolf slopes downwards from the rump to the base of the withers, in comparative terms, the Gray Wolf, like approx. 70% of all pedigree dogs, including most working dogs, is overbuilt in the hindquarter - surprised?!
To give some sense of balance to the argument that evolution created endurance trotting canidae have a backline like a Gray Wolf, the following photo is also an example of an evolutionary trotting endurance canidae'. A canidae that is just as old as the Gray Wolf. A canine who's method of catching its primary prey, the antelope, is to trot without stopping for a distance that is so great, so enduring as to cause the antelope being pursued to eventually collapse from exhaustion.
Is this is a 'straight back'? It's not (and I have seen African Painted Dogs in the flesh), its slightly convex, the anticlinal region is higher than the withers and croup and I suspect from my personal observation the tops of the dorsal spinal processes within the withers are higher than in the Gray Wolf, but that's another story!
Straight is straight, curved, be it convex or concave, is curved, and straight does not mean level!
The point of my post is this;
As I said in my preface, the standard for the German Shepherd Dog states very clearly the back, withers to croup, should be straight and slightly sloping and whilst one might wish to debate the definition of 'slightly sloping', the backline that most closely reflects the words of the SV German Shepherd Dog standard is seen in the introductory photo - diagram.
I wish to make it very clear; I am not criticising the backline of the Gray Wolf nor any wild canidae, nor am I suggesting their backlines could be improved upon, to do so would be the epitome of ignorance and arrogance, in the context of function and purpose their backlines are obviously highly efficient. What I am saying is this; A straight, and I mean straight not curved, slightly sloping backline as seen in the German Shepherd Dog in the opening photo/diagram is a very good example of the SV standards requirement for the backline of the German Shepherd Dog and that this photo/diagram demonstrates what a straight sloping backline looks like. To use a Gray Wolf or any wild canidae to demonstrate what a German Shepherd Dogs backline should look like and to use them to demonstrate what a straight back looks like is very wrong, why not apply this to say a Borzoi or Bulldog? Apples for apples and oranges for oranges as they say!