I’ve done a comparison between two dogs of German breeding, standing and gaiting. One is a recent German Sieger, the other is Ilk Eschbacher Klippen, son of V Klodo aus der Eremitenklause. Ilk was born in 1963 and exported to Britain, and is reasonable typical of good dogs of that time. Dogs like Klodo and Ilk predated digital photography, and good gaiting images of dogs of that time are rare.
Ilk in stance shows nice, normal, unexaggerated structure. His proportions are reasonable, and his long leg bones are all the same length, with a slightly longer tibia. This is consistent with wild dogs. His front and rear angulations are not excessive. His spine is level and as straight as a wolf’s. His withers are long and high, and his croup is smooth and moderately sloped. There is nothing about his structure that seems odd or distorted.
The Sieger is posed in show stance. This would account for the slightly steeper set of his pelvis. His angulation front and rear are not that different from Ilk, and his withers also appear reasonably high. He differs from Ilk however, in three ways. The first and most obvious is the curvature of his spine. When an American show dog is posed, the hips drop and the entire spine is sloped, creating the “ski slope” back from neck to tail. In this dog, the thoracic vertebrae remain stable and only the lumbar spine slopes, buckling the spine at the midback. It’s possible the pelvis is steeper than I have shown, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, this curvature has caused the loin and underline to shorten. This dog shows a mild herring gut.
Second, the dog’s lower forelegs, the ulna and radius, are shorter than all the other long bones. This is partly what is giving this dog his low station. Shorter legs are never desirable on an athlete, and there is no anatomical reason for them. It does give the dog the false appearance of greater substance. Finally, the Sieger’s trunk is larger. His prosternum projects further forward, and his chest and abdomen are deeper. His rib cage appears too large. Working and hunting athletes are invariably lean and economical in their structure, with more muscle mass and less framework and guts. Ilk has the look of an athlete. The Sieger does not.
The gaiting sequences are especially revealing. Both dogs are in the same phase of the trot.
Ilk’s spine remains straight and level. The energy generated by his rear is being driven straight forward along a straight spine, driving the body with it. His withers are still high, with ample area for the muscular attachment of the scapula. He shows extraordinary reach, despite having a good but not outstanding shoulder. He appears to be completing a period of suspension. His reaching rear leg is fully extended and will land on the toes. The driving rear leg is also fully extended, and the hock is below the stifle joint. He looks lean and dry, as if he could go all day.
Under the pressure of gaiting, the Sieger’s issues are showing the strain. His spine is buckling even more, forcing the thoracic vertebrae down toward the head and causing the withers and head to drop. Some of the energy generated by his rear is being blown out through his back. The stifle of his reaching rear leg is almost interfering with his rib cage because of his abnormally short gut. The foot is about to land slightly more plantigrade than Ilk’s, and the leg will be supporting the dog’s weight in a more flexed position. The driving rear leg appears not quite as extended, flipping up the toes, and slightly out of synch with the front reach. He appears to be travelling faster and working harder than Ilk. Worse, despite his apparent speed, there is no period of suspension. This is not the gait of a long distance athlete.
Obviously, how good looking a dog is or how flashy its gait may appear to the unaided eye are not related to soundness of structure and movement.
THE ILLUSTRATED STANDARD FOR THE GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG
Written and Illustrated by Linda J Shaw. SOLD OUT!
Is now sold out. I have a couple of copies on standby, but I will post them if and when they come available.
This book has been selling steadily since publication in late 2015, and I have about forty copies left. This book has 200 pages and nearly 500 of my drawings illustrating the structure, anatomy and gaits of the German Shepherd Dog. It is absolutely the most detailed and accurate source of information available anywhere. I have put particular focus on the two issues that have most plagued the breed in America and Germany: excess rear angulation and the roach back. No one who studies the material in this book will be in any doubt about what is and isn’t normal structure and gait in a working dog. I have also included about 90 photographs of really beautifully structured dogs, of many different bloodlines, past and present.
For more pictures, click on the Illustrated Standard tab above.
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