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;
- How many people putting forward their arguments actually understand the anatomy of the canine spine and its relationship to the withers, croup and locomotion?
- In the context of the back, how many understand the difference between straight, sloping, level, strong and weak?
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?!
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!
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!