German Shepherd Information
Illustrated information by Gordon Garrett on the roached-wheelback toplines prevalent in the GSD showrings today.
German Shepherd Dog Toplines
Analysis by Gordon Garrett, B.A., CKC Judge (All-Breeds), GSD Authority
I looked at my old Gazette article titled "A Voice from The Past" and I think it might become the voice of the future as regards GSD toplines.
I remember being impressed with Jack Kilgour's writings on the German Shepherd Dog National Specialty of 2014. Jack is a person capable of writing about the breed and where it might be going.
I joined the German Shepherd Dog Club of America in late 2014 and would like to share my impressions of some photos in the German Shepherd Dog Review. Perhaps I never should have taken that university course on critical thinking. The print was too small for me to dwell on so I went to the pictures. I've been here before in my comments but bear with me as I get to the point.
I was at a show in Sudbury and a lady was showing a young German dog and I had made some comment from the ringside. She approached me and said, "I heard you liked my dog." I bluntly replied that I did not like her dog and thought that it was a poor representative of the breed, primarily because of the obvious roach in the back. She told me that this would straighten out in time but she was there the following year as was I and it the dog’s topline was still the same.
The point is that a lot of the dogs are showing the same thing (roached back) in their pictures. One puppy looked half way decent but the handler was pushing down on the back. The roached back fault carried on right through the classes, whether the dogs were standing or moving.
In doing the research to update my book I looked at a lot of dog moving videos as well as a lot of standing – posed pictures from North American Specialties as well as Sieger show photos. I have tried to rationalize the roach but even when I see VA dogs moving…even when they settle down and stop pulling on the lead, if they are not roaching there is a lot of action in their topline.
I like the German dogs, especially the VA dogs, they all seem to have long upper arms that allows the front legs to reach out but they do not go directly to the ground, there is sort of a turning up before they make contact (prepare to land). Generally they follow-through in the rear well but I do not see any that drive as thoroughly as in Dingo von Haus Gero. I think Hermann Martin was onto something when he put him Sieger. I think he realized this was what they were reaching for, the complete picture of what they wanted.
Unfortunately I think that the judges that followed after him did not get the message.
Somewhere along the line they fell in love with the roached backs and just kept going with it. This GSDCA Sieger show that in the write-up people said was an "Awesome event" "Great Show" "Super event" but when they showed the pictures with the odd exception it left me wondering what they have done to this wonderful breed in Germany.
However there were more videos of German dogs. The German working dogs a number of them came from, either the Czech Republic or Slovakia, once the same country. These dogs invariably do not go to the Sieger Show in Germany because they do not stand a chance. Why? When one watches their working performances it is not hard to see that they hit harder and perform more precisely. They are a wonder to watch and it did not go beyond my observation that they do not roach and a lot of them are dark sable, a colour seldom seen in the winner's circle in Germany.
I noticed as I studied the videos I had
taken and others that the dogs selected for the Select Class not only had
wonderful movement but their backs were firm and immovable as they were moved on
So now I come to the January issue of the German Shepherd Dog Review where they had all the pictures from The American National. These dogs looked wonderful, the breed is still the same in the United States but even more consistent than it used to be.
So I am coming to a conclusion that I did not expect. I believe the North American conformation German Shepherd Dogs are more correct than the dogs being selected for the VA class in Germany.
I think there are better dogs in the working dog classes in Germany but they do not have a chance in the Sieger Show. I wonder if the SV judges get so wrapped up in assessing the pedigrees and bite work that they have lost track of the structural qualities that were in the breed for decades before?
I expect many would disagree with me but if one were to look back at the pictures of German dogs and American dogs of decades ago and look at what is being selected today, they might just agree with me.
Fred Lanting, with whom I don’t always agree, has suggested the Judges doing the Sieger show would be well advised to watch the working dogs earlier in the week. There is no doubt I would agree here.