I’ve been asked to take the VA dog with the distorted spine and overlay a normal spine, so that people could see the difference (the details of this animal’s anatomy were illustrated in the previous post, ‘Seriously?’).This turned out to be more easily said than done. To begin with, here is an image of the normal spine of a normal GSD. The neck is of normal length and the head is at a natural position. The thoracic vertebrae give long, moderately high, sloping withers with tremendous leverage for the forehand, and the properly aligned lumber vertebrae give a strong, straight, level back, flowing into the sloping sacral vertebrae of the croup. The vertebral disks for the entire back are aligned like an iron bar, straight and strong. Normal.
Now, superimposing this normal spine on the image of the VA dog standing, gives us this:
The arched grey beam is the dog’s actual spine. I matched the positioning of the pelvis and the first few thoracic vertebrae (and therefore closely matched the positions of the attachments of the scapulae). The extreme abnormal convex curvature of the VA dog’s spine is blindingly obvious.
Superimposing the same normal spine on the image of the gaiting VA dog, gives much the same result:
The scapulae don’t quite match because one is stationary and one is slightly rotated. But look more closely. The extreme curvature of the spine is how the VA dog achieves his apparently normal proportions. If his spine was normal, he would be much longer in body. Also, the normal rib cage appears to have dropped. When a dog is roached, the arch of the spine pulls up the rib cage. To try to retain the appearance of normal proportions, the upper and lower arms must shorten, so the chest reaches the elbows (the rib cage will fall slightly short of the elbows). Because the roached spine tends to drop the hindquarters excessively, shortening of the forehand brings the dog’s front half into better alignment with its rear.
In other words, start monkeying around with something as fundamental to the dog’s structure as its spine, and everything else gets thrown out of whack as well. It is so much easier just to learn from Nature. This problem was solved long ago. Witness the most efficient long distance trotter on earth: the gray wolf. If you have never seen a wild gray wolf trotting across a frozen lake in Canada, you have really missed something. It should be required for every judge.
It is all there: a strong, straight level spine, with the trunk moving level, slightly higher withers and a moderately sloping croup. This wonderful, perpetual motion gait can still be found in the GSD, at a moderate working trot with a moderate period of suspension. What more could you possibly want?