This is a VA dog from a recent German Sieger show. In other words, somebody thinks this is a good structured, good moving dog.

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I’ve overlaid a skeletal analysis of this dog, showing what his underlying true structure really looks like. Try as I could, I could not make a normal, natural, healthy spine fit into this dog’s body.

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This gait is faster than a walk, but not really a true working trot either. It is certainly not a flying, suspended trot. The dog seems to be pulling into the lead, and is moving at a very slow, supported trot. The near rear foot will fall short of the print of the near forefoot. In a normal supported, working trot, the rear foot will draw even with the forefoot, and land a bit to one side. So it appears this dog is generating very little drive, which is to be expected at such a slow speed.

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However, look where the vectors of force, generated by the dog’s rear leg, are being directed. The energy is being driven up through the driving leg, as it should be, up at a rather steep angle through the pelvis, and continues upward through the lumbar vertebrae. It’s not until it reaches the last few vertebrae of the thoracic spine, the midback, that the line of energy is forced forward. Most of it is being blown upward through the mid back. No wonder the dog is prancing with so much energy being wasted upwards, producing a pronounced hunchback, even at a slow, low energy speed. Unfortunately, the thoracic vertebrae then slope dramatically down toward the base of the neck. At no point is this dog’s drive being channeled straight ahead along a straight, strong, level conduit. He is doing the best he can with a distorted spine, and back muscles that are too weak to prevent the trunk from heaving upwards at each drive phase of the stride. Throw a straight spear, and it will remain straight and travel far. Throw a bent spear and it will bend even more with the force of propulsion, and fall short.

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In this phase of his stride, he is not yet fully extended and the pressure on his spine is building. Hence the convex curvature is slightly less, but it is still pronounced, dropping the level of his rear to an abnormal degree. Also, look at the driving hock, excessively flexed because of the lack of clearance. This puts added stress on the one joint that is expected to absorb and direct a huge amount of energy. This dog is nowhere near a normal working speed, and his driving gear appears to be collapsing.

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In this photo, the dog is showing better speed and extension. The goose stepping is not unusual given his heeling posture. But look at his withers. Despite the degree to which the dog has raised his head, he cannot bring his withers up into alignment. In normal structure, the thoracic vertebrae would rise slightly with the cervical vertebrae of the neck, to keep a smooth, flowing alignment of the neck, withers and back. But this dog shows a steep, abrupt angle where the neck is straining to rise from the withers. The withers, slanted down by the convex curvature of the spine, cannot rise to give the dog free movement of his head and neck.

Trying to redefine the thoracic vertebrae as the “true back”, in the attempt to preserve some illusion that, in dogs like this, the “back” is running level doesn’t change the anatomical reality that this dog’s spine is profoundly distorted and unable to function as a normal canine spine. The pronounced hunching effect that this spine creates drops the rear and forces the dog to run uphill, prancing all the way.

Does anyone seriously think that a dog with this degree of structural distortion could put in a lifetime of hard work, trotting, galloping and jumping? Seriously?



  1. Interesting article. I’d love to see the skeletal overlays for a typical American show line with subsequent analysis. They are exaggerated but in a much different way than the German show line dogs!

  2. Further …. I read this excellent and very true quote in a dog magazine some years ago but unfortunately can’t remember who wrote it.

    ” Competitive dog shows forces dogs to be judged ‘dog to dog’ , NOT ‘dog to Standard’. THIS is the root of the problem with exaggerations.”

  3. Loved this article Linda and good on you for speaking up on the structure of this much sought after shape show dog. Regardless of country , we have every judge and surveyor to thank for the destruction of the breeds conformation not to mention breeders who hang off every word and belief of these Judges and surveyors. After all it is they , Judges and surveyors, who are at the forefront and promote the breeding of these dogs through their awarding them Excellent status at shows and Class 1’s at surveys.

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