- When dogs are at a settled medium speed trot, the leading front foot sets down at the moment the lagging front foot is lifting up. The distance between the two front feet is called 'cross step'. In an optimum sense, the fore and rear cross step should be close to equal. In the German Shepherd Show Dog, as a consequence of its generous hind angulation, the rear cross step is a bit longer longer than the fore cross step. This can be seen in the above photo/diagram where the red line stops a little short of the pad of the forward placed rear foot. In dogs that are too deep in hind angulation, the rear cross step distance relative to the fore cross step distance is excessive and this is seen in excessive fore/rear foot crossover that causes the rear pastern to make contact with the ground.
- 'Cross step ratio' is the length of the cross step divided by the height at the withers. German Shepherd Show Dogs have a long step - high cross step ratio of about 1:2 whereas in most trotting breeds, including the Grey Wolf, it is about 1:1 - this variation relates to the dogs fore and hindquarter angulations.
- Speed is increased in the trot by either lengthening the stride and or increasing the strides frequency. At some point, stride length cannot increase any further and stride frequency is then activated - this is how under angulated dogs can keep up with well angulated dogs in the show ring and it is a judges job to be able to differentiate between the two, i.e. within reason and for locomotive efficiency/powers of endurance, stride length should be favoured over stride frequency.
- Hind thrust - the generation of energy, of thrust, commences only when the rear foot is directly under the hip joint and thrust continues from that point until that foot comes to the end of its rear swing at which time the opposite foot takes over the cycle. The same applies in the forehand and the axis trigger point there is the shoulder blade.
- Hind thrust moves the dogs centre of gravity forward and this is what activates the need for the forelegs to respond - to capture/catch the centre of gravity's forward shift.
- During trotting, the maximum rear thrust is generated at a point that is two-thirds the way through the rear swing cycle and the maximum forward thrust is only achieved if the hock is extended backward to about 60 degrees off the horizontal, not short of this angle, not exceeding this angle.
- Whilst the vast majority of the power comes from the rear quarter muscles in the trot, during galloping the lumbar back muscles contribute 'significantly' to forward movement.
- When the forward reaching foot, both front and rear, make contact with the ground it creates a breaking effect. Until that foot on its rearward cycle passes the shoulder or hip axis point it creates a slowdown effect. As it is in a no gravity environment, if this didn't happen the dog would never stop moving forward.
- At the trot, at the forward reaching mid-point, the pad of the foot and not any part of the back of the rear pastern should make contact with the ground and on the back sweep the rear pastern should not stop and commence its forward step until it attains the earlier quoted angle of about 60 degrees.
- Both the femur and tibia should be long, but not overlong; nor should they be too short and most importantly they must be in balance to themselves and the scapula and upper arm.
- The croup, more specifically the pelvis must be long and correctly angled to the horizontal plane in order to provide a good balance between uplift and forward drive.
- Muscles and ligaments throughout the whole body must be well developed, taught and hard.
- The back, both thoracic and lumbar, must be straight, in stance slightly sloping and in the trot level. The back must be moderately long, well-muscled, tight, and should not have a curve, deflection or a peak which is the manifestation of a now commonly seen downward lumbar spine bend
- The withers must be high, long and flowing into the back and in relation to the back when the dog is standing four square they must not be visually level with it and definitely not below it.
- The neck must not be short, but nor should it be too long as this shifts the dogs centre of gravity too far forward thereby overloading the hindquarter; it must have good length but be of proportionate length to the overall dog.
- The scapula and upperarm must be long, well angled and proportionately balanced to the length and angle of the femur and tibia.
- The depth of the chest measured withers to the underchest [not the elbows] should be about 45% to 48% of the withers height. More and more dogs are moving toward 50%, I prefer 45%. This means the forelegs should be a little longer then the chest depth and when assessing chest depth especially on long stock coats it is important to read this at the dogs underchest and not at its underchest guard hairs.
- The front feet, during gaiting ideally should not rise above the ground any more than the height of the dog’s wrist [carpus] as measured when the dog is standing. Having a foreleg that during the trot ends up almost vertical with the ground might be visually dramatic and it is often interpreted as great forehand reach but this is highly undesirable.
- The front paw should extend forward during the trot to about the dogs eye and definitely no further than its nose.
- Because of its structure the feet of a German Shepherd Dog cross over at the body’s mid point, the less cross-over of the fore and rear feet the better.
- Whilst there should be a gently curved uninterrupted line from the ear tips over the neck and back to the end of the tail the dog should travel flat over the ground not travel at an angle to it.
- The dog must be fit.
- Finally, all of the above means ‘absolutely nothing’ if the dog is not trustworthy, if it does not have the right attitude, protective instincts, character, abundant energy, instinctive drive, firm nerves, sound outgoing self assured temperament and inherent eager willingness to run, work and please.
In life, anyone who tries to deceive another is not well regarded. However, in the show dog world, where a handlers talent is in part based on him or her (and their double handlers) trying to hide the faults of their dog from the judge, deception is both admired and encouraged. I mention this not as a criticism of handlers, but as a preface to the following key point analysis of assessing movement because how a dog is presented to the viewer and how learned/experienced/astute the viewer might be, is critical to assessing movement, i.e. you have to understand canine construction and the fundamentals of locomotion in order that you can asses it. An analogy might be; in the flesh or in a photo, a dog is presented poorly, it is propped in front and overstretched in the rear, but you can still make an accurate assessment of that dogs construction regardless of how it is standing because you understand canine construction; how it is stood is irrelevant - if you know your subject matter!
Movement - locomotion: