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The Kennel Club
United Kennel Club
German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY:
The German Shepherd Dog is a relatively young breed, developed almost single-handedly in the first half of the twentieth century by a German cavalry officer, Max von Stephanitz, president of the Verein far Deutsche Schaferhunde S.V. Using a variety of German sheepdogs as his foundation stock, von Stephanitz developed a distinctive breed in a very short period of time, due in large part to the authoritarian practices of the German dog fancy at that time. Von Stephanitz emphasized utility and intelligence in his breeding program, enabling the German Shepherd Dog to switch easily from herding duties to other fields of work, particularly military and police work. The breed was just gaining notice in the United States when World War I broke out. All things German were shunned and popularity slumped. After the war, however, movie star Rin-Tin-Tin stimulated interest in the breed again. The striking good looks of this breed, combined with its remarkable intelligence and loyalty, have made it a favorite working and companion dog. The German Shepherd Dog was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1924.
Slightly long in comparison to height; of powerful, well muscled build with weather-resistant coat. Relation between height, length, position and structure of fore and hindquarters (angulation) producing far-reaching, enduring gait. Clear definition of masculinity and femininity essential, and working ability never sacrificed for mere beauty.
The German Shepherd Dog is a medium-sized, well-balanced, muscular dog, slightly longer than tall, with a medium length coat, erect ears, and a low-set natural tail that normally reaches to the hock and is carried in a slight curve like a saber. The outline of the German Shepherd Dog is made up of smooth curves rather than angles. The head is in proportion to the size of the body, strong without appearing coarse or fine. Gender differences are readily apparent. The German Shepherd Dog should be evaluated as an all-around working dog, and exaggerations or faults should be penalized in proportion to how much they interfere with the dog’s ability to work.
Versatile working dog, balanced and free from exaggeration. Attentive, alert, resilient and tireless with keen scenting ability.
BEHAVIOUR / TEMPERAMENT:
Steady of nerve, loyal, self-assured, courageous and tractable. Never nervous, over-aggressive or shy.
The German Shepherd Dog is confident and fearless, willing to be approached, yet a certain level of aloofness towards strangers is acceptable. When working, the German Shepherd is alert and eager, adapting well to new tasks. Lack of confidence is a serious defect in the character of a German Shepherd. The structure of this breed was designed for efficient locomotion, particularly at the trot, so poor movement is another serious fault.
Proportionate in size to body, never coarse, too fine or long. Clean cut; fairly broad between ears. Forehead slightly domed; little or no trace of central furrow. Cheeks forming softly rounded curve, never protruding. Skull from ears to bridge of nose tapering gradually and evenly, blending without too pronounced stop into wedge-shaped powerful muzzle. Skull approximately 50 per cent of overall length of head. Width of skull corresponding approximately to length, in males slightly greater, in females slightly less. Muzzle strong, lips firm, clean and closing tightly. Top of muzzle straight, almost parallel to forehead. Short, blunt, weak, pointed, overlong muzzle undesirable.
The head is proportional to the size of the dog, and cleanly chiseled. Males should appear masculine without coarseness; and females feminine without being overly fine. The skull and muzzle are of equal length, parallel to one another, and joined at a very slight stop. There is little or no median furrow.
The skull is broad and only very slightly domed. In males, the skull is slightly wider than it is long; in females, the skull is slightly narrower. Viewed from the front, the skull tapers evenly from the ears toward the muzzle. The cheeks are just slightly rounded but do not protrude.
The nose is always black. A “snow nose” is acceptable but not preferred.
Jaws strongly developed. With a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Teeth healthy and strong. Full dentition of 42 teeth is desirable.
The muzzle is long and wedge-shaped, with strong, well-developed jaws. In profile, the bridge of the muzzle is straight and parallel to the topline of the skull. Lips are tight and darkly pigmented.
The German Shepherd Dog has a complete set of evenly spaced, white teeth meeting in a scissors bite.
Medium-sized, almond-shaped, never protruding. Dark brown preferred, lighter shade permissible, provided expression good and general harmony of head not destroyed. Expression lively, intelligent and self-assured.
The eyes are as dark as possible, of medium size, almond-shaped, and set slightly obliquely. Expression is alert, calm, and intelligent. Eye rims are dark.
Medium-sized, firm in texture, broad at base, set high, carried erect, almost parallel, never pulled inwards or tipped, tapering to a point, open at front. Never hanging. Folding back during movement permissible.
Ears are erect, moderately pointed, of medium size, broad at the base, and set high. Ear leather is firm. When the dog is alert, the centerlines of the ears, viewed from the front, are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other.
Fairly long, strong, with well developed muscles, free from throatiness. Carried at 45 degrees angle to horizontal, raised when excited, lowered at fast trot.
The neck is relatively long but strong and muscular. The skin is tight. The German Shepherd Dog normally carries the head just a little higher than the shoulders, particularly when moving.
Length measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock, slightly exceeding height at withers. Correct ratio 10 to 9 or 8 and a half. Undersized dogs, stunted growth, high-legged dogs, those too heavy or too light in build, over-loaded fronts, too short overall appearance, any feature detracting from reach or endurance of gait, undesirable. Chest deep (45-48 per cent) of height at shoulder, not too broad, brisket long, well developed. Ribs well formed and long; neither barrel-shaped nor too flat; allowing free movement of elbows when gaiting. Relatively short loin. Belly firm, only slightly drawn up. Back between withers and croup, straight, strongly developed, not too long. Overall length achieved by correct angle of well laid shoulders, correct length of croup and hindquarters. The topline runs without any visible break from the set on of the neck, over the well defined withers, falling away slightly in a straight line to the gently sloping croup. The back is firm, strong and well muscled. Loin broad, strong, well muscled. Weak, soft and roach backs undesirable and should be heavily penalised. Croup slightly sloping and without any break in the topline, merges imperceptibly with the set on of the tail. Short, steep or flat croups highly undesirable.
A properly proportioned German Shepherd Dog is longer (measured from prosternum to point of buttocks) than tall (measured from the withers to the ground) in a ratio of 10 to 9. The length is derived from proper construction of forequarters and hindquarters and not from length of back. The line of the back slopes downward from the withers into a straight, strongly developed, and relatively short back. Ribs are long and extend well back, resulting in a short, broad loin. The croup is long and slightly sloping. Viewed from the front, the chest is deep and well filled. From the side, the forechest extends in front of the forelegs and the brisket down to the elbows. Tuck-up is moderate.
Bushy-haired, reaches at least to hock – ideal length reaching to middle of metatarsus. At rest tail hangs in slight sabre-like curve; when moving raised and curve increased, ideally never above level of back. Short, rolled, curled, generally carried badly or stumpy from birth, undesirable.
The tail is set on low in a natural extension of the unexaggerated, slightly sloping croup. The tail extends at least to the hock joint. When the dog is relaxed, the tail hangs in a slight curve, like a saber. When the dog is excited or moving, the tail may be raised and the curve accentuated but the tail is never carried above a vertical line extending from its base. The coat on the tail stands outward, giving the tail a bushy appearance. Dogs with docked or altered tails resulting from working injuries are not to be penalized.
Shoulder blade and upper arms are equal in length, well muscled and firmly attached to the body. Shoulder blades set obliquely (approximately 45 degrees) laid flat to body. Upper arm strong, well muscled, joining shoulder blade at approximately 90 degrees. Seen from all sides, the forearms are straight and, seen from the front, absolutely parallel. Bone oval rather than round. The elbows must turn neither in nor out while standing or moving. Pasterns firm, supple, with a slight forward slope. An over long, weak pastern, which would affect a dog's working ability is to be heavily penalised. Length of foreleg slightly exceeds the depth of chest.
The shoulder blades are long, well muscled, well laid back, and laid flat to the body. The upper arms, also long and well muscled, join the shoulder blade at nearly a right angle. A straight line drawn from the withers to the ground should pass just behind the back of the foreleg.
From the pasterns to the elbows, the forelegs are straight and strong with oval-shaped bones. The pasterns are strong and supple, sloping no more than 25 degrees. The elbows are neither close to the body nor out, but are set on a plane parallel to the body. The length of the forelegs should be just slightly more than half the height of the dog, measured at the withers.
Rounded toes well closed and arched. Pads well cushioned and durable. Nails short, strong and dark in colour.
Feet are round and tight, with toes well arched. Pads are thick and hard. Nails are strong and dark. Front dewclaws may be removed but are normally left intact. Removal of rear dewclaws is preferred but not mandatory. The feet should recoil cleanly from each stride.
Overall strong, broad and well muscled, enabling effortless forward propulsion. Upper and lower thigh are approximately of equal length. Hind angulation sufficient if imaginary line dropped from point of buttocks cuts through lower thigh just in front of hock, continuing down slightly in front of hindfeet. Angulations corresponding approximately with front angulation, without over-angulation. Seen from rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel to each other. The hocks are strong and firm. The rear pasterns are vertical. Any tendency towards over-angulation of hindquarters, weak hocks, cow hocks or sickle hooks, is to be heavily penalised as this reduces firmness and endurance in movement.
Viewed from the side, the hindquarters are broad and muscular. The angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the angulation of the forequarters. The rear pastern is short and strong, and should remain upright and functional. Powerful hindquarters are necessary to enable the effortless movement that is an essential feature of this breed. Rear pasterns should remain upright and functional.
GAIT / MOVEMENT:
Sequence of step follows diagonal pattern, moving foreleg and opposite hindleg forward simultaneously; hindfoot thrust forward to midpoint of body and having equally long reach with forefeet without any noticeable change in backline. Absolute soundness of movement essential.
Absolute soundness of movement is paramount. Correct gait is an essential feature of the German Shepherd Dog. When trotting, it moves with a long, effortless, efficient stride that is driven by a powerful forward thrust from the hindquarters. The rear leg, moving forward, swings under the foreleg and touches down in front of the point where the forefoot left an imprint. The result is that one rear leg passes outside its corresponding front leg and the other passes inside its corresponding front leg. This is a breed characteristic and should not be penalized as long as the body is straight in relationship to the direction of movement. As the rear leg moves backward, the body is propelled forward. The front and rear feet remain close to the ground throughout. When trotting, the back remains firm and level with no superfluous vertical movement. Hocks should be strong and straight, turning neither in nor out as the dog moves. There should be no visible “wobble” to the hock. Neither front nor rear pasterns should strike the ground; this is an unacceptable exaggeration and an indication of incorrect movement. As the speed of the trot increases, there is a tendency to single track. Correct movement and soundness must be evaluated from front and rear as well as the side.
Outer coat consisting of straight, hard, close-lying hair as dense as possible; thick undercoat. Hair on head, ears, front of legs, paws and toes short; on back, longer and thicker; in some males forming slight ruff. Hair longer on back of legs as far down as pasterns and stifles and forming fairly thick trousers on hindquarters. No hard and fast rule for length of hair; mole-type coats undesirable.
The German Shepherd Dog is double coated. The outer coat lies close to the body and is dense and straight with harsh texture. A slight wave is acceptable in a particularly harsh coat. The undercoat is short, dense, and fine-textured. The coat on the body is of medium length but not so long as to detract from the dog’s ability to withstand bad weather conditions. The coat is shorter on the head (including the inside of the ear), the legs, and the feet. The coat on the neck is longer and thicker, forming a slight ruff, particularly on some males. The hair on the back of the legs is longer and thicker, forming trousers on the hindquarters, and extending to the pasterns in front and the hock joint behind.
Black or black saddle with tan, or gold to light grey markings. All black, all grey, with lighter or brown markings referred to as Sables. Bi-colour: Predominantly black, may have tan or gold markings on head, chest, legs and feet; black markings may be present on toes and rear pasterns. Nose black. Light markings on chest or very pale colour on inside of legs permissible but undesirable, as are whitish nails, red-tipped tails or wishy-washy faded colours defined as lacking in pigmentation. Blues, livers, albinos, whites (i.e. almost pure white dogs with black noses) and near whites highly undesirable. Undercoat, except in all black dogs, usually grey or fawn. Colour in itself is of secondary importance having no effect on character or fitness for work. Final colour of a young dog only ascertained when outer coat has developed.
The German Shepherd Dog comes in many colors and white. In evaluating colored dogs, strong, deep colors are preferred. Nose, lips, and eye rims must have dark pigment, regardless of coat color. Color faults are minor in comparison to defects of type and structure.
Ideal height (from withers and just touching elbows): dogs: 63 cms (25 ins); bitches: 58 cms (23 ins). 2.5 cms (1 in) either above or below ideal permissible.
Height at withers:
Desirable height at maturity for males is 24 to 26 inches; for females, 22 to 24 inches.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.
Muzzle: Muzzle too short, blunt, weak, pointed, or overlong.
Teeth: Overshot or level mouth; missing first premolars.
Eyes: Protruding eyes.
Body: Barrel ribs; ribs too flat; long loin.
Feet: A slight hook in the tail to the extent it mars the dog’s general appearance.
Forelegs: Pasterns slanted more than 25 degrees. Pasterns so long and weak that proper movement is compromised.
Body: Any measure of a roached back. Shelly appearance.
Hindquarters: Over-angulated rear, with anything exaggerated beyond a mild slope. Rear pasterns so long and weak that proper movement is compromised.
Feet: Feet that drag along the ground on recoil.
Feet: Tail too short; ankylosis.
Coat: Short, mole type coat; long coat that stands away from the body; soft coat; absence of undercoat.
Color: Pale, washed-out colors; blue; liver.
Gait: Any fault that affects correct movement.
Teeth: Missing teeth other than first premolars.
Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. Viciousness or extreme shyness. Albinism. Undershot. Wry mouth. Total lack of nose pigment. Cropped ears. Drop or tipped ears.
Appearance: Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid.
Characteristics: Viciousness or extreme shyness.
Teeth: Undershot; wry mouth.
Nose: Total lack of nose pigment.
Ears: Cropped ears; drop or tipped ears.
Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.