The GSDCA in Trouble, part 1 There are three Interviews posted on the GSDCA site, with Jim Moses, Barbara Amidon and Dave Rinke, that make for interesting reading. What struck me was that the GSDCA appears to be dying, and they seem to have no idea why. Membership is dwindling, and entries for the national, futurity and maturity shows is shrinking even while American SV style shows, trials and clubs are becoming more popular. If the GSDCA was a company, I wouldn’t invest in it. All three seem cognizant of deep trouble but appear unable to identify why. And yet the answers are so obvious.
I’ve been going through Reviews and Red Books from the early 1980s through the 1990s, gathering references on structure. Prior to the 1980s the dogs were solid, balanced and without exaggeration. Pedigrees were relatively open, and the back ends of most were still anchored by schutzhund titles. But by the middle of the 1980s the tsunami of Lance genetics was well underway. While dogs with excellent, Lance-free pedigrees still existed, their lines were being swallowed up by Lance lines for no better reason than that breeders wanted to win in the conformation ring.
By the late 1980s and 90s, the pedigrees of so-called top dogs had reached a level of inbreeding that was disturbing, to say the least. At the same time, “top” dogs began dying prematurely of torsion, toxic gut and cardiomyopathy, while pancreatitis, esophageal problems, allergies and thyroid issues became more common. How coincidental do you suppose that was? I owned many American line dogs, almost all with health issues. After almost two decades I fled to German working lines and suddenly had healthy, long lived dogs. None of these three breeders even mention the genetic bottleneck into which American dogs have been levered. Rinke comments that breeding indiscriminately to the same dogs is reducing genetic diversity, but never suggests that the only real remedy is to breed out to unrelated (non-Lance) dogs. Simply trying to select against genetic problems while remaining within the same inbred gene pool is not going to repair the breed over the long term. I sometimes wonder if American breeders have any real understanding of the dangers of inbreeding. Certainly the wider public is learning fast.
With increased levels of inbreeding (breeders like to call it line-breeding, but that strikes me as disingenuous) physical type became increasingly strange. Some breeders delighted in advertising their dogs as extreme. Torsos, spines and chest cavities became abnormally elongated. Rear angulation became so unstable that the back legs could neither properly support the dog’s weight, nor generate the strength required to lift the dog into a period of suspension. Breeders who achieved gait with “long, smooth, elastic, close to the ground strides” sacrificed the period of suspension to get it. Such dogs show “movement” by racing around the ring with huge strides, high speed and no power. This may give the impression of spectacular side gait, but these dogs can’t gallop properly and they can’t jump. They can’t work. American breeders alone find this distortion to be attractive and desirable. The rest of the world sees it for what it is.
To be continued…