ANATOMY OF THE GSD
The World Union of GSD Clubs (WUSV)
FCI Breed Standard
1) General Appearance
The GSD is medium sized. With the hair pressed down, the height at the withers is measured by a stick along the vertical as it follows the line of the elbow from the withers to the ground. The ideal height at the withers is 62.5 cm for males and 57.5 for females. An allowance of 2.5 cm over or under is permissible. Exceeding the maximum as well as not meeting the minimum diminishes the working and breeding value of the dog.
The GSD is slightly long, strong and well muscled. The bones are dry and the structure firm. The ratio of height to length and the placement and structure of the limbs (angulation) are so balanced that a far-reaching, effortless trot is guaranteed. He has a weatherproof coat.
A pleasing appearance is desired as long as the working ability of the dog is not called into question.
Sex characteristics must be pronounced, e.g., the masculinity of the males and the femininity of the females must be unmistakable.
The GSD that corresponds to the Standard offers the observer a picture of rugged strength, intelligence and agility, whose overall proportions are neither in excess or deficient in any way. The way he moves and behaves leaves no doubt that he is sound in mind and body and so possesses physical and mental traits that render possible an every-ready working dog with great stamina.
With an effervescent temperament, the dog must also be cooperative, adapting to every situation, and take to work willingly and joyfully. He must show courage and hardness as the situation requires defending his handler and his property but otherwise being a fully attentive, obedient and pleasant household companion. He should be devoted to his familiar surroundings, above all to other animals and children, and composed in his contact with people. All in all, he gives a harmonious picture of natural nobility and self-confidence.
2) Angulation and Movement
The GSD is a trotter. His gait exhibits diagonal movement, i.e., the hind foot and the forefoot on opposite sides move simultaneously. The limbs, therefore, must be so similarly proportioned to one another, i.e. angulated, that the action of the rear as it carries through to the middle of the body and is matched by an equally far-reaching forehand causes no essential change in the topline. Every tendency toward over angulation of the rear quarters diminishes soundness and endurance.
The correct proportions of height to length and corresponding length of the leg bones results in a ground-eating gait that is low to the ground and imparts an impression of effortless progression. With his head thrust forward and a slightly raised tail, a balanced and even trotter will have a topline that falls in moderate curves from the tip of the ears over the neck and level back through the tip of the tail.
The GSD must be able to gait (trot) for long stretches with n-minimum effort. Prerequisite for this is the appropriate anatomical structure, combined with dry and strong muscles. The medium trot is the most natural type of movement of the GSD. For a reaching stride, correct angulations are a requirement. Only with correct angulation of the rear quarter do the hind feet meet the steps of the front feet [under the dog] or even pass them. The trotter assumes an almost horizontal position while in motion. The forward movement initiated through the rear quarter is transferred to the forequarter over the croup and the back. Therefore, the length and position of the croup, as well as a short, firm back are of great importance for a good trotter.
Correct angulation of the rear quarter and broad, well muscled thighs enable the dog to have a powerful rear drive.
The forequarter has the responsibility to complete the forward movement action and "catch" the body. For the largest possible length of stride, the correct angulation of the forequarter, with correct length and position of the upper arm and shoulder blade are of importance
Anatomical faults influence the harmonic movement, e.g. faults in the back disrupt the line over which the energy of the forward motion is conveyed. A soft back acts like a bumper, the dog has no line and falls on the forequarter.
Limitations in angulation influence the length of the stride.
The other gaits of the GSD are the step, gallop and pace
The step is the slowest gait; the dog always has three feet on the ground. He starts the motion in that he first moves the rear leg forward and then lifts and sets the front leg ahead.
The transition from a trot to a gallop is flowing. The gallop is the fastest gait, can however only be endured for a short period of time. The gallop is a type of Jumping gait, which is basically a quick succession of "broad jumps".
The pace is the normal gait of giraffes and camels; for the German Shepherd, however, it is faulty. This gait involves moving the rear and front leg of the same side ahead in unison.
Also of importance for smooth flowing movement are the support lines. Support lines are imaginary lines which from a front view, flow vertically through bones arid joints over the shoulder blade, upper arm, lower arm and pastern to the ground. From a rear view, the imaginary support line flows over the thigh, lower leg and hock to the ground. If these support lines are not straight, the elasticity [or "spring"] of the legs during the various forms of gaiting are unfavourably influenced. Straight bone structures are prerequisites for a secure stand and flawless movement of the dog. The GSD should, therefore, have correct support lines, because only then will he be able to stand for long periods of time and to trot with endurance.
Verifying the anatomy is done at breed events. For this, the organization has introduced a schedule according to which the dog is judged and evaluated.
In conclusion, the head, withers, back and croup as well as the angulations and chest proportions are evaluated; and from the front view, the correctness of the front.
Evaluating the gait involves evaluation of the stepping sequence from the back, from the front, and the trot.
For the evaluation of the trot, the length of the stride and the overall tightness are of importance.
A further glance takes in the ears and the tail carriage.
In the critique, the individual positive and negative features are to be assessed. The consideration of these individual features then becomes tile overall evaluation, which results in the breed evaluation.
3) Temperament, Character and Abilities
Sound nerves, alertness, self-confidence, trainability, watchfulness, loyalty and incorruptibility, as well as courage, fighting drive and hardness, are the outstanding characteristics of a purebred GSD. They make his suitable to be a superior working dog in general, and in particular to be a guard, companion, protection and herding dog.
His ample scenting abilities, added to his conformation as a trotter, make it possible for him to quietly and surely work out a track without bodily strain and with his nose close to the ground. This makes him highly useful as a multipurpose track and search dog.
The head should be in proportion to the body size (in length approximately 40% of the height at the withers) and not coarse, over refined or overstretched (snipey). In general appearance, it should be dry with moderate breadth between the ears.
The forehead when viewed from the front or side is only slightly arched. It should be without a centre furrow or with only a slightly defined furrow.
The cheeks form a gentle curve laterally without protrusion toward the front. When viewed from above, the skull (approximately 50% of the entire head length) tapers gradually and evenly from the ears to the tip of the nose, with a sloping rather than a sharply defined stop and into a long, dry wedge-shaped muzzle (the upper and lower jaws must be
The width of the skull should correspond approximately to the length of the skull. Also, a slight oversize in the case of males or undersize in the case of females is not objectionable.
The muzzle is strong; the lips are firm and dry and close tightly.
The bridge of the nose is straight and runs nearly parallel with the plane of the forehead.
Dentition must be healthy, strong and complete (42 teeth, 20 in the upper jaw and 22 in the lower jaw). The German Shepherd Dog has a scissors bite, e.g. the incisors must meet each other in a scissors like fashion, with the outer surface of the incisors of the lower jaw sliding next to the inner surface of the incisors of the upper jaw.
An undershot or overshot bite is faulty, as are large gaps between the teeth. A level bite is faulty, as the incisors close on a straight line.
The jaws must be strongly developed so that the teeth may be deeply rooted.
The ears are of medium size, wide at the base and set high. They taper to a point and are carried facing forward and vertically (the tips not inclined toward each other). Tipped, cropped and hanging ears are rejected. Ears drawn toward each other greatly impair the general appearance. The ears of puppies and young dogs sometimes drop or pull toward each other during the teething period, which can last until six months of age and sometimes longer.
Many dogs draw their ears back during motion or at rest. This is not faulty.
The eyes are of medium size, almond shaped, somewhat slanting and not protruding. The colour of the eyes should blend with the colour of the coat. They should be as dark as possible. They should have a lively, intelligent and self-confident expression.
The neck should be strong with well-developed muscles and without looseness of the throat skin (dewlaps).The neck is carried at an angle of about 45 degrees to the horizontal. It is carried higher when excited and lower when trotting.
The body length should exceed the height at the withers. It should amount to about 110 to 117% of the height at the withers. Dogs with a short, square or tall build are undesirable.
The chest is deep (approximately 45 to 48% of the height at the withers) but not too wide. The under chest should be as long as possible and pronounced.
The ribs should be well formed and long, neither barrel shaped nor too flat. They should reach the sternum, which is at the same level as the elbows. A correctly formed rib cage allows the elbows freedom of movement when the dog trots. A too round rib cage disrupts the motion of the elbows and causes them to turn out. A too flat rib cage draws the elbows in toward one another. The rib cage extends far back so that the loins are relatively short.
The abdomen is moderately tucked up.
The back, including the loins, is straight and strongly developed yet not too long between the withers and the croup.
The withers must be long and high, sloping slightly from front to rear, defined against the back into which it gently blends without breaking the topline.
The loins must be wide, strong and well muscled.
The croup is long and slightly angled (approximately 23 degrees). The ileum and the sacrum are the foundation bones of the croup. Short, steep or flat croups are undesirable.
The tail is bushy and should reach at least to the hock join but not beyond the middle of the hocks. Sometimes the tail forms a hook to one side at its end, though this is undesirable. At rest the tail is carried in a gentle downward curve, but when the dog is excited or in motion, it is curved more and carried higher. The tail should never be raised past the vertical. The tail, therefore, should not be carried straight or curled over the back.
Docked tails are inadmissible.
The shoulder blade should be long with an oblique placement (the angle at 45 degrees) and lying flat against the body. The upper arm joins the shoulder blade in an approximate right angle. The upper arm as well as the shoulder must be strong and well muscled.
The forearm must be straight when viewed from all sides. The bones of the upper arm and forearm are more oval than round. The pasterns should be firm but neither too steep or too down in pastern (Approximately 20 degrees).
The elbows must be neither turned in nor turned out. The length of the leg bones should exceed the depth of the chest (approximately 55%).
The thigh is broad and well muscled.
The upper thighbone when viewed from the side joins the only slightly longer lower thighbone at an angle of approximately 120 degrees. The angulation corresponds roughly to the forequarter angulation without being over angulated.
The hock joint is strong and firm.
The hock is strong and forms a firm joint with the lower thigh. The entire hindquarters must be strong and well muscled to be capable of carrying the body effortlessly forward during motion.
The feet are relatively round, short, tightly formed and arched. The pads are very hard, but not chapped. The nails are short, strong and of a dark colour.
Dewclaws sometime appear on the hind legs and should be removed within the first few days of birth.
Colour should be black with regular markings in brown, tan to light grey, also with a black saddle, dark sable (black cover on a grey or light brown case with corresponding lighter marks), black, uniform grey or with light or brown markings. Small white markings on the fore chest or a very light colour on the insides of the legs are permissible though not desired.
The nose must be black with all coat colours. (Dogs with little or no masks, yellow or strikingly light eyes, light markings on the chest and insides of the legs, white nails and a red tip of the tail or washed out weak colours are considered lacking in pigment.)
The undercoat or base hair is always light grey, with the exception of that on black dogs. The final colour of a puppy is only determined when the outer coat completely develops.
a) The medium smooth coated GSD
The outer coat should be as thick as possible. The individual hairs are straight, coarse and lying flat against the body. The coat is short on the head inclusive of the ears, the front of the legs, the feet and the toes but longer and thicker on the neck. The hair grows longer on the back of the fore- and hind legs as far down as the pastern and the hock joint, forming moderate breeching on the thighs. The length of the hair varies, and due to these differences in length, there are many intermediate forms. A too short or a mole like coat is faulty.
b) The long smooth coated GSD
The individual hairs are longer, not always straight and above all not lying close to the body. The coat is considerably longer inside and behind the ears, on the back of the forearm and usually in the loin area. Now and then there will be tufts in the ears and feathering from elbow to pastern. The breeching along the thigh is long and thick. The tail is bushy with slight feathering underneath. The long smooth coat is not as weatherproof as the medium-smooth-coat and is therefore undesirable; however, provided there is sufficient undercoat, it may be passed for breeding, as long as the breed regulations of the country allow it.
With the long smooth coated German Shepherd Dog, a narrow chest and narrow overstretched muzzle are frequently found.
c) The long coated GSD
The coat is considerably longer than that of the long smooth coat. It is generally very soft and forms a parting along the back. The undercoat will be found in the region of the loins or will not be present at all. A long coat is greatly diminished in weatherproofing and utility and therefore is undesirable.
Faults include anything that impairs working versatility, endurance and working competency, especially lack of sex characteristics and temperament traits contrary to the German Shepherd Dog such as apathy, weak nerves or over excitability, shyness; lack of vitality or willingness to work; monorchids and cryptorchids and testicles too small; a soft or flabby constitution and a lack of substance; fading pigment; blues, albinos (with complete lack of pigmentation, e.g. pink nose, etc.) and whites (near to pure white with black nose); over and under size; stunted growth; high-legged dogs and those with an overloaded fore chest; a disproportionately short, too refined or coarse build; a soft back, too steep a placement of the limbs and anything depreciating the reach and endurance of gait; a muzzle that is too short, blunt, weak , pointed or narrow and lacks strength; an over-or undershot bite or any other faults of dentition, especially weak or worn teeth; a coat that is too soft, too short or too long; a lack of undercoat; hanging ears, a permanently faulty ear carriage or cropped ears; a ringed, curled or generally faulty tail set; a docked tail (stumpy) or a naturally short tail.
The above standard was approved and put into effect for the countries and clubs of the FCI. The name of the breed is the German Shepherd Dog. The country of origin is Germany.
The Lines - what does that mean?
In the evaluation of our dogs we speak about lines, which should preferably be harmonic. The topline starts at the tip of the ears and continues on, without any sharp knick or interruption, over the back, gently falling to the tip of the tail. The bottom line begins at the neck and continues along the forechest and lower chest and rises slightly towards the rear.
The important parts of the top line are:
The withers - should be high and very pronounced; when the dog is in a calm stand position, they form the highest point of the back. The back - must be straight, very well muscled and firm; it is formed by 13 vertebrae. The thighs should be broad and strong. There are 7 lumbar vertebrae which are firm-dry attached to each other. The croup should be long and slightly sloping at an angle of approximately 23 degrees. It consists of the sacrum, 3 coccygeal vertebrae, muscles and covering skin layers.
The boney portion of the tail, formed by 18 - 23 vertebrae, generally reaches the flocks and should not be longer than to the middle of tile rear foot below the hock.
The important parts of the bottom line are:
The chest area, which provides necessary space for the inner organs, such as heart arid lungs, and must therefore be well developed. The front arid major part of the body is comprised of the chest, which is divided into the forechest and lower chest.
The forechest continues from the neck starting at the breastbone (sternum) to between the front legs. A well angled forequarter is indicated if the forechest is easily visible from the side view.
The relationship of withers to body length is: 9 - 10, A dog with a height at the v6thers of 60 cm would therefore be 66 cm long.
"The chest depth should be less than half the height at the withers; 46-47% of this height is the correct measurement."
The lower chest line should be harmonic arid rise only slightly towards the rear. The lower chest should be relatively long, in order to provide ample space for the inner organs. The chest depth consists of approximately 45% of the height at the withers. Tile ribs are slightly curved; there are nine true arid four false pairs of ribs.
The shoulder blade is angled at approximately 45 arid lies flat against the withers, which are formed from the 11eUral spine of the first vertebrae.
Continuing on at an approximately 90 angle is the upper arm; the shoulder blade and the upper arm, with a linking joint, form the shoulder. Continuing on is the elbow joint arid the forearm. The metatarsus joint connects it to the pasterns at an angle of approximately 220.
The elbow connection is often a problem area, especially in young dogs. Prerequisite for a good elbow connection is an appropriately wide chest area. If the chest is too wide (barrel chested), then the elbows are turned outwards and the dog tends to toe-in while walking arid standing. If tile chest area is too narrow (flat-ribbed, narrow-chested), then the elbows tend to be pressed in, arid the dog tends to walk and stand with the feet in an "east - west" position.
The front is straight; the feet are round, short, tight, arid curved. The nails are short, strong arid dark in colour.
The rear quarter must be strong arid well muscled. The thigh (femur) is connected, at its upper portion, to the hip joint, arid at its lower portion, by the knee joint to the shank (lower leg).
The metatarsal bones are strong arid connected over the hock to the shank. The dog should stand slightly set back.