by Linda J Shaw
by Linda J Shaw
|On a Lighter Note: Some years back I was visiting a friend who owned a lovely black GSD bitch. We were chatting on the deck, and I was petting the dog and noticed a nasty lump on the top of her skull. We looked closely and found the most enormous tick. We don’t generally get ticks here, and my friend was quite distraught. We tried dousing it with nail polish remover, vegetable oil and a few other things, but after a couple of hours the little beast was still tenaciously intact. Someone thought of burning it off, but since neither of us smoke there were no cigarettes or matches to be had. Then my friend remembered her lighter for the fireplace, the long nosed kind, like a little flame thrower. I held the dog, and she took careful aim. Unfortunately, in the prolonged kerfuffle we had completely forgotten that we had doused the top of the dog’s head with nail polish remover. My friend fired the lighter and POOF!, a most impressive flame burst upwards from the top of her dog’s head, as high as her ears. Fortunately, the flames went straight up, a bit like the Hindenburg. Amazingly, the dog did not seem the least purturbed by this; she was far more alarmed by her mistress frantically smacking the top of her head.In the end, all was fine. The patch of charred hair was hardly noticable on a black dog, and the tick was completely incinerated.
Highly effective, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
by Linda J Shaw
|DENTITION OF THE GSD The jaws of a carnivore carry what are arguably its most important tools – the teeth. The jaws of all animals that are classified within Order Carnivora, including all dogs, cats, bears and weasels, both living and extinct, feature the hallmark of their order: the Carnassials. These teeth, designed for shearing meat, are the fourth upper pre-molars, and first lower molars, and are enlarged and flattened like blades to varying degrees, even in those Carnivora that retain omnivorous and even herbivorous diets. In the German shepherd dog as with the wolf, the carnassials take the form typical of the hyper-carnivora, carnivores whose principle diet is meat.|
|The teeth of a wolf tend to be large and very strong, with huge carnassials, and very long, thick canines or fangs. The incisors are lined up in almost straight lines between the fangs, and missing premolars are extremely rare. Of all the wolf skulls I have inspected, none showed missing teeth. The bite is always scissors. The formation of GSD teeth should be almost identical to that of the wolf. All domestic dogs characteristically show teeth that are reduced in size, particularly showing shorter fangs. In many GSDs bred with a longer, finer head than we want the teeth are small and widely spaced, with incisors lined up in a curve due to narrow jaw structure. The extreme form of this type of jaw structure can be seen in the collie.|
|The ideal GSD head should be somewhat shorter and broader than a wolf, with a deeper stop and rounder eye. A long, broad back skull gives greater area of attachment for jaw muscles, and a slightly shorter jaw gives greater leverage and a powerful grip. A slightly convex curvature to the bottom of the lower jaw, and slight chin, gives plenty of room for the teeth to set deep roots. I have never seen a GSD with canines as long as a large wolf, but the teeth should be large and thick, close together with no spaces between them, and white and free of blemish. In general, the strength of the teeth seems to relate to the strength of bone. Big boned dogs will have stout teeth, and fine boned dogs will have more delicate teeth.A missing premolar won’t have any practical consequences for a dog, but more than that may indicate other problems, such as a narrowing or misaligned jaw. Incisors that don’t align or occlude normally would probably result in broken teeth in the wild, and should never be used for breeding, and double teeth might be a sign of genetic abnormality. Other conformation points give us a beautiful dog, but good teeth are a requirement of any normal carnivore, and the GSD should be no exception. They are essential for a working dog, are less vulnerable to breakage and premature wear and help maintain a healthy mouth. Care should be taken to keep the dog’s teeth clean with diet and regular veterinary attention.Upper and lower arcades|
|There are 42 teeth, 20 in the upper jaw, 22 in the lower. They should be large and closely spaced.
The total count is:
Incisors: 6 upper and 6 lower.
Canines: 2 upper and 2 lower.
Premolars: 8 upper and 8 lower.
Molars: 4 upper and 6 lower.
|Age of tooth eruption:
Incisors: deciduous 4-6 weeks, permanent 3-5 months.
Canines: deciduous 5-6 weeks, permanent 4-6 months.
Premolars: deciduous 6 weeks, permanent 4-5 months.
Molar: permanent 5-7 months.
by Linda J Shaw
|SLOPING TOPLINES The topline of a dog can slope or appear to slope, for a number of reasons. A dog with correct structure will show a slight slope when set up for show, with one hind leg pulled slightly back. Unfortunately, in the minds of some, if some is good, more is better, regardless of how that slope is achieved. Of course, it’s best to see the dog live, moving and standing naturally. Then it’s easy to see if the dog really has a correct topline. However, dogs that are deceased and exist only on pedigrees, and dogs being advertised through their photographs, may give a wrong impression of their true structure. A slope can be the result of several different things.It’s also a good idea to define what we mean by topline, and differentiate it from the back. The topline is the silhouette created by the withers, back and croup. Some commentators include the neck and tail, but this isn’t really helpful in a discussion of slope. The back is the section of the spine that begins where the withers end, and ends where it attaches to the pelvis and the croup begins, approximately between the hips. Obviously, you can’t have a good topline if you don’t have a good back.|
|The most common reason, at least in North American lines, for a sloping back is too much rear angulation. The dog appears literally to be sinking in the rear end, which effectively is what is happening. The knees, or stifles, are bent more than they should be, and the rear end drops. It’s the same as if you, while standing, were to bend your knees and sink down. These dogs are usually cow hocked and sickle hocked, and show soft, low, squishy movement, as if they are moving across a mattress with soft springs. Some judges think this is a sign of good shock absorption, but anyone who has had their car’s shock absorbers go soft know what a hard ride it can be. Some of these dogs will stand with a fairly level back when both hind legs are set well under them, but they can go very low in the rear when set up for show. To set the rearmost leg back so the hock is vertical, it must be stretched very far back, and the topline takes on an almost ski slope aspect. It may look dramatic and flashy, but it is not a powerful rear and is not correct.|
|Handling can also cause a dog to stand incorrectly. Handlers don’t seem to train their dogs to set themselves up, so there is a lot of hand setting of dogs in the ring. Inevitably, the dogs get overstretched as the handlers try to make them show more rear angulation. Perfectly good dogs that would look wonderful if they could stand naturally get overstretched and pulled into showing more of a slope than they naturally have. A few years ago a photo of a Canadian champion who had beautiful structure, but was extremely overstretched in his photograph, was circulated around the internet as an example of an extreme American dog by someone who apparently didn’t know the difference. If a dog is over-stretched, regardless of how much or how little angulation it has, the hock of the leg pulled back will not be vertical, but will be sloped. Dogs usually don’t stand this way naturally, so it’s a pretty good indication of a dog that has been improperly posed by hand.|
|A roach back can also give the impression of a slope. If the spine behind the withers is arched more than it should be (the natural anatomy of a wolf or hunting dog shows almost no arch), then the back will bow downwards towards the rear, making the croup steeper than it should be and lowering the pelvis. In the worst cases the hindquarter seems to small, almost as if nature has shrunk the hind legs to accommodate the lowered rear. It’s also common to see cow hocks in roached backed dogs, even when the angulation is normal. A slope due to roach generally doesn’t disappear when the dog is standing naturally, and posing the dog by hand seems to cause it to hunch up even more. Any curvature of the spine alters the relationships of the major parts of the anatomy, as the back is the cornerstone of the dog’s entire structure.|
|Even dogs with basically level backs can give the impression of a sloped topline. Dogs with very high, sloping withers (sometimes the result of straight shoulders) and steep croups can seem to slope more than they should, especially in a show pose. The angle of the withers and croup creates the optical impression of an overall slope, even though the back itself is reasonably normal. I’ve seen this combination of traits in more than a few American dogs, but it probably doesn’t exist in German showline dogs.|
|Finally, any dog, whatever its structure, will show a sloping topline when it is pulling on the lead, whether standing or gaiting. A dog that is “strung up” when gaiting to force the head unnaturally high can show a dramatically different topline than when it is gaiting naturally, hence the wise German requirement that dogs be gaited off lead. Dogs that are baited to get their attention will pick up their heads and drop their rears, and while we like a dog to look alert and poised, it will change the profile somewhat from a natural, relaxed stance.|
|As you can see, a “sloping topline” is really just a symptom that doesn’t mean very much unless you look further for the underlying structural reasons.|
by Linda J Shaw
DESCENT OF THE DOG Modern paleontology has painted a much different picture of the origins of our modern domestic dog than was thought up to just a few decades ago. The early canids varied from rabbit sized to the stature of a grizzly bear, and swung between herbivore and carnivore several times. They originated in North America and spread around the globe, and today their most modern representatives, the wolf and coyote, rank with humankind as the most successful predators on the planet. Click on the images for enlargements.
Thought by others to be the actual progenitor of present day Carnivora, the fearsome, wolf like CREODONTS were ancient meat eaters that lived from 63mya to just 5mya. Less swift than more modern predators, the decline of the Creodonts left vacant an environmental niche that made possible the ascendance of the ORDER CARNIVORA.
CARNIVORA split into the suborders CANIFORMIA (dog like) and FELIFORMIA (cat like) approximately 50 to 43 mya, and the family CANIDAE was the first of several families, including bears, raccoons, weasels and skunks, to evolve from Caniformia about 40 mya. The genus HESPEROCYON (formerly Cynodictus), a group of longer limbed, fox sized, more terrestrial North American omnivores, possessing both the requisite carnassials and ossified bony middle ear cavity, were the first true canids, the “dawn dogs”.
Carnassial teeth, designed for shearing meat, are the hallmark of all Carnivora. The 4th upper pre-molar and 1st lower molar are enlarged and flattened like blades to varying degrees, even in those Carnivora that retain omnivorous and even herbivorous diets.
The subfamily HESPEROCYONINAE arose from Hesperocyon to become the first of three great Canidae subfamilies to evolve in North America. Twenty-eight known species of Hesperocyoninae, including genus MESOCYON, filled both omnivore and carnivore niches across North America, surviving from 40 mya to 15 mya. Originally small, raccoon like omnivores, they exploited the decline of the stabbing cats and hyaenodons 25 mya to become carnivorous predators the size of small wolves.
About the time of the appearance of the Canidae, the family AMPHICYONIDAE also branched away from the Miacids and gave rise to the bear dogs, such as wolf sized but rather short legged DAPHAENODON. Originally thought to be the progenitors of the bear family, these powerful predators were distant cousins of both the Canidae and the Ursidae (bears), and for nearly 30 million years preyed upon the slower, giant herbivores that roamed North America. The widespread decline of these huge prey animals led to the bear dogs’ disappearance only 9 mya.
The BOROPHAGINAE, the second great subfamily of North American canids and the largest and most varied group, arose from Hesperocyoninae about 32 mya. They included TOMARCTUS, long thought to be the immediate ancestor of the modern dog, but which actually died out 15 mya and left no known descendants. The decline of Hesperocyoninae created a predatory gap that the Borophaginae exploited to the greatest degree thus far, resulting in the “bone crushing dogs” or “hyaena dogs” such as OSTEOBORUS, with huge jaws for cracking the marrow bones of giant herbivores. They were the top predators of their time, with some species reaching the size of large bears, but with the decline of the great herbivores the last of the Borophaginae died out only 2 mya.
The appearance of fox sized LEPTOCYON about 24 mya, an early divergence from the Borophaginae line, marked the debut of the third and last subfamily, the CANINAE. Leptocyon survived for nearly eight million years, but with the demise of the powerful Borophaginae, the Caninae took the opportunity to produce a plethora of now extinct wild canines, as well as the modern canines that we know today. The first of these was coyote sized EUCYON of 11 to 4 mya, likely the immediate ancestor of the wolf and domestic dog as well as modern coyotes, jackals and foxes.
Eucyon’s many canine descendants migrated into Eurasia and Europe 7 to 8 mya, and into South America 5 million years later. The most famous, the Dire Wolf (Canis Dirus) was a large, powerful, rather short-legged wolf probably descended from South American wild canines only one million years ago. It spread back into North America and was a top predator there until only 8,000 years ago, when the big herbivores that were its primary food source died out.
The Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus), which evolved in Eurasia 6 mya, crossed back into North America across the Bering Strait and has become the most widespread land predator on earth today. The size and temperament of the modern wolf make it an unlikely candidate for domestication, and genetic evidence suggests that a smaller, less aggressive subspecies may have diverged from the Eurasian wolf about 100,000 years ago. This Asian Pre-Dog, the missing link between wolf and dog, may have lived in closer proximity to man and his hunting and agricultural refuse, not yet domesticated, but genetically self-selecting for temperament more amenable to eventual domestication.
By 15,000 year ago, the true dog, Canis Familiaris, appears in the archeological record alongside man, showing the unmistakable traits of early domestication – smaller size, braincase and teeth, broader palate and more pronounced forehead or “stop”. The Dingo is an example of primitive dog, as are other Pariahs such as the Basenji. Only 7,000 years later, many distinct breed types such as sight hounds, mastiffs, toys and hunting dogs appeared in the art of ancient civilizations. The over 400 breeds of modern dog that have accompanied humanity to every corner of the globe represent the fourth and most successful wave of canids and, with human beings, are the most successful mammals ever to appear on earth.
Don Valich, dog lover, Wikipedia guru and great source of information.
Xiaoming Wang for his help and his article, written with: R.H.Tedford, B. Van Valkenburgh, R. Wayne. Ancestry: Evolutionary history, molecular systematics, and evolutionary ecology of Canidae. 2004.
Raisor, Michelle Jeanette. Determining the Antiquity of Dog Origins. 2004.
And the beautiful paleo-art of Jay Matternes and Mauricio Anton.
by Linda J Shaw
WELCOME to the new Shawlein.com. This site has been completely re-designed to offer much more information to readers, and to make adding that information a lot easier for me. While the focus will still be all things German Shepherd Dog, I will also be adding material about many different breeds. There is more information on my background and experience on the About page, as well as a bit about some of my beloved shepherds. The GSD page is devoted exclusively to the German Shepherd Dog, including the Breed Types page that was so popular on my old site. My Portrait page includes a gallery of paintings, a page showing the process of painting a portrait and information on commissioning a painting.
My Q&A page is where you can send me your comments, thoughts and questions. Rather than simply open each article to random responses, which is very time consuming to monitor, I decided a better option would be to have one gateway for serious responses. So, if you have such questions, comments or ideas for articles, send them on.
The Store page will feature books and videos that I have reviewed and recommend, and eventually where I will make available an ebook version of my Illustrated Standard of the German Shepherd Dog. It is about three quarters done, and has proven to be a heck of a big job, so bear with me.
All the information that was available on the old Shawlein.com will be transferred here, perhaps rewritten, and often with newer and better drawings. Plus, I have plans for many more articles of interest to other breeds, and purebred dogs in general. It will take a while to get all this and more uploaded, but this site is intended to be an ongoing work in progress. The information will be organized so that it can be searched according to both categories and informational tags. If I can figure out how to format an Index I may do that too. This site will be an ever expanding library of information for anyone who loves dogs, hopefully as interesting to you as it is to me.