I would like to
thank the GSD Breed Council and the Educational Working Party,
your Chairman the honourable Mr. Percy Elliott, Secretary Mrs.
Sheila Rankin and my colleague, the international judge, Mr.
Brian Wootton for the invitation to have a conversation about
topics in the breeding, keeping, working and showing of GSD in
the 21st Century.
Firstly I want to
introduce myself to you. My name is Peter van Oirschot; I have
admired dogs from childhood. The most impressive birthday
present I ever received was on my 12th birthday. It
was a purebred GSD bitch and from that time I became involved in
the breed. In l968 my kennel affix was registered “Van de
Herderskring” and I became a youth member of both VDH-NL and SV
Germany. I have trained about 12 different dogs for SchH and
have had different tasks in VDH Vereeniging van Fokkers en
Liefhebbers van Duitse Herdershonded (my society for breeders
and enthusiasts of the GSD) in the Netherlands. In l984 I
became a GSD Judge appointed by the Kennel Club NL and SV
Zuchtrichter appointed from the SV Germany. In l988 I became
Kormeister VDH Netherlands and since l990 I am Breed Warden (Vereinschzuchtwart
supervisor Breed Affairs) of the VDH Netherlands.
My career within
the GSD scheme you can call classic … starting from the bottom
and based on practical experience. I work with GSD, I breed
them, I show them … and I spoil them. I am very lucky to meet
GSD people all over the world and to share with them the common
enthusiasm and sincere involvement with our breed. I felt, and
still feel, a deep respect for the working Shepherd dog:
searching for mines and explosives, as a rescue dog, tracking
using his senses and intelligence and alertness in a variety of
tasks as helpers for mankind, the embodiment of man’s best
friend. Though, maybe his most important duty is his source of
joy in thousands of homes as a lovely, reliable, intelligent
Brian Wootton gave me three interesting themes to start up the
(1) Strength and
weaknesses of the modern GSD – actual animals and bloodlines
and, of course, an open interaction and discussion about this
theme, guided by your Chairman.
(2) We will
refresh our knowledge about conformation, why and what are we
judging? Do we as judges do our utmost to fill in aspects of
health, soundness, working abilities in conformation, standard
type … how do we judge and why? We will refresh our knowledge
by watching a video and discussing it. Is modern judging going
for the cosmetic dog or do we have other aims?
(3) The GSD; Is
it a divided breed? Strength and weaknesses in continental
breeding and showing.
PART 1: STRENGTH
AND WEAKNESSES OF THE MODERN GSD: ACTUAL ANIMALS AND BLOODLINES
This is not a new
subject. As history is a discussion without ending and every
generation and its time has to respond to the actual situation
by putting their own questions and use history to answer them
and to show responsibility, we also have to ask new questions
and show responsibility to this subject “strength and weaknesses
of the actual bloodlines in our breed”.
do we mean? A bloodline is formed by mostly an influential sire
through inbreeding and line breeding that gives his
characteristics to a range of related offspring. The Germans
use the word “Hochzucht” and this involves breeding with the
best dogs: the breeding lines and families of dogs
which in a period are the best representatives of the breed.
This culminates in the most important events in the GSD
world – particularly the major shows. Landsgruppen and Sieger
Shows in different countries; with the top being the main breed
show in the country of origin: the Hauptzuchtschau in Germany.
Those dogs’ lines and families which can perform there and their
descendants belong to the Hochzucht. This system has dominated
German Shepherd Dog breeding for decades and has a worldwide
influence on the breeding of our breed. In this system we must
remember – Sires have the most influence upon the population.
Dams (performing bitches) are the most important for the
individual success of the breeder (kennel).
This modern GSD is
a product of this Hochzucht. Several very good books in Britain
have dealt with its history; you know for instance the writings
of Malcolm Willis and Brian Wootton. From these books we learnt
that each period of time had to deal with its own problems with
the breed. Too many youngsters have a romantic view of the
past. The truth is that in the early years of the making of the
breed this new breed was looking like an ugly crossbreed among
the established ‘luxury’ show breeds. In the early 20th
Century inbreeding and line breeding made quick progress.
Inbreeding is combining animals that are closer related than the
average of the population. Close inbreeding is combining
parents-children; (half) brothers (half) sisters. Line
breeding is combining within the 3rd, 4th
or 5th generation. In the 1920’s of the 20th
Century there were a lot of severe problems in character and the
Nazis abused these working “qualities” for purposes we don’t
want to talk about. It took a very long time to get rid of
this very bad image. When we compare the development of our
breed we notice a change in overall type and construction. There
is a big difference in other breeds where the standard has been
frozen to ideal representatives and an ideal image of the breed
set in the past. The architect of the GSD, Max Von Stephanitz
constructed a visionary standard to be reached in the future.
When he died his work was not finished. His testament was to
maintain the GSD as a suitable working dog with a scale of new
tasks as a helper of mankind in appearance and temperament based
on the excellent mental qualities of the herding dog in the
continental meaning of sound in body and spirit.
The subject of
bloodlines in the past gave us the debate about what is the
right type? We have at this moment a common opinion about the
standard type. The questions we have to answer now are –
How about this standard type in the present day.
2. How about
the soundness of the breed; its health, its performance, its image?
3. How about the
GSD as a suitable working dog; helper of mankind?
How about the harmony between appearance
and temperament and the
excellent mental qualities: sound in body and spirit?
Utz Haus Schutting
Klodo vom Boxberg
Rolf Osnabrucker Land
Alf vom Nordfelsen
The development of the standard type can clearly be demonstrated
by looking to dogs such as:
Sieger 1925 Klodo v Boxberg: He was in his day a turning point
for the problems in his time and he was a surprising Sieger. He
marked the standard type of a more stretched medium sized dog in
a period when the dogs were large, square, high legged and the
temperament had deteriorated. Von Stephanitz surprised the GSD
scheme when he gave the German title to the sable
Czechoslovakian Sieger who gave good temperament but many long
Sieger 1929: Utz Haus Schuetting was a turning point also. He
dominates the bloodlines in the Hochzucht and since Utz,
Schwarz-gelb (black & gold) is in and sable is out. The origin
of the sable colour is found in lines without Utz. Utz is
criticised because of lack of temperament and teeth problems.
VA 50/51 – Rolf
Osnabruckerland and Sieger l955 Alf Nordfelsen are an example of
successful complimentary breeding. VA l962/63 Jalk
Fohlenbrunnen, the Siegers & VA of the seventies, “the big
three” Quanto Wienerau, Canto Wienerau, Mutz Peltzierfarm.
Quanto/Canto Wienerau are examples of complimentary breeding and
successful inbreeding: “L”-litter Wienerau – VA Jalk
Canto von der Wienerau
Quanto von der Wienerau
Mutz von der Pelztierfarm
formed a very good combination with Quanto Wienerau. Mutz gave
good working temperaments and masculinity. As a direct
sire-line his influence is disappearing.
The 1980’s brought
the bitch Palme Wildsteiger Land as a source of success for
Wildsteiger Land kennels through her sons: Siegers Uran
Wildsteiger Land and Quando Arminius. She has had a major
influence on the breed.
Arminius with Sieger Quando brought the legendary Odin
Tannenmeise. With the “Q”-litter Arminius/Uran Wildsteigerland
(Palme), Odin Tannenmeise (Quando A) and Cello Romerau (Quana A)
the inbreeding is getting narrow now and this
PALME/URAN/QUANDO/ODIN/CELLO family has brought us into the
1990’s up to the present days: Ulk Arlett, Ursus Batu, Yasko
Palme vom Wildsteiger
Uran vom Wildsteiger Land
Quando vom Arminius
Looking to the
above mentioned dogs we can conclude that there is a clear
comparison in standard type without exaggerations
(Ubertypisierung) that we can see in the American standards and
the Alsatian-type. We don’t want a cosmetic dog. GSD
breeding is not nice, nicer, nicest. A Zuchtschau is not a
beauty contest. We also can conclude that the period of the
brothers Walter (Wienerau) and Hermann (Arminius) Martin brought
more uniformity in the Hochzucht breed. As we ask ourselves do
we breed according to the standard ideals of the visionary Von
Stephanitz? I think that in our day there is a warning: to
want more can mean to get worse.
We have indeed improved, in general,
the standard type of the GSD. I think we saw the highpoint of
breeding in the 1980’s for instance in the Quanto Wienerau line
via Quando Arminius to Odin Tannenmeise and in Uran
Wildsteigerland. But every advantage brings along its own
disadvantage. We got uniformity in genetic make-up and that
means loss of genetic variation. Uniformity in type but also
uniformity in pigmentation sometimes means less pigmentation.
Hochzucht breeding became a matter of copying the successful
formula of successful breeders; doing more of the same. The
demand for type was a demand for the predominant type set by the
world famous kennel “von der Wienerau”. To deviate from this
type was to deviate from the Hochzucht breeding. Hochzucht
developed into a one way street.
If we have to
criticise we must do it according to the aims of the standard –
the forehand, especially the lay of the shoulder blade and
distinction in sex characteristics between males and
dog – height and overall body weight
The outlines –
specially straight back and correct long underline
A balanced dog
without exaggerated hind angulations. Well-developed thighs
in hindquarters in proportion to the middle piece and the
and chest development
joints, elbows, hocks and correct coming and going.
For a suitable
working dog this means gaiting in harmony and endurance but also
enough ground speed, running, galloping, springing, sitting,
turning easily. Not oversized, overweight, coarse appearance,
lack of firmness. Of course, a champion must show spirit in
appearance and charisma. A breed dog must behave himself like a
perfect gentleman, be reliable and self- confident.
Where there is sun
there is also a shadow. The 1990’s until the present day
brought us also a GSD on the upper limit of height and weight.
A lot of criticism was of the topline, overstretched bodies,
roached backs, sloping backs, unbalanced dogs, steep upper arms
in combination with over angulation of the hindquarters and bad
fronts, elbows and cow hocks. How can such dogs get excellent
places even at a Hauptzuchtschau? Because typey dogs with roomy
gaits seen from the side and handled by experts can impress!
Exaggerations are waiting around the corner, sometimes it is
wiser to maintain than to improve.
Take for instance
the problems of soft ears, oversize, soft temperaments, upper
arms, fronts and look to some of the most influential producers:
Wildsteigerland – oversize, ears.
Wildsteigerland (Palme) – dwarfs, ears
litter) Arminius (Palme)–oversize, front/upper-arms,
lacking hardness (Belastbarkeit)
(Quana A) – oversize, ears, upper arm.
Tannenmeise (Quando A) 65cm/ears, temperament (lazy).
Odin v. Tannenmeise
Cello von der Romerau
Ursus von Batu
Yasko vom Farbenspiel
problems, temperament failures; perhaps some health, physical
and genetic problems are possibly a result of continuing family
breeding and inbreeding while ignoring the problems.
one big family. We see this in the pigmentation. In temperament;
we certainly improved the breed. The GSD became friendlier but
also a softer dog, less hardness means also more suitable as a
pet but also more dogs become dull, lacking in spirit and some
are affected by stressful situations. In general, the
temperaments are more reliable and certainly not dangerous or
shy, but those friendly, soft dogs in stressful circumstances
lack hardness, spirit and endurance, and they cannot bring us
what we want from a multi-purpose working dog. Can we blame our
Hochzucht dog for the sins of his family? That does not mean
that he has not a good character but that sometimes we miss
stated by Mr. P. Messler SV President in his annual report –
* Health: HD/ED:
problems in the back region
Ubertypisierung: overangulation: without stability in the
* Too little
attention given to general appearance – too much emphasis on
* Problems of
oversize, weight, pigmentation.
* Colour (Type)
diversity – genetic diversity.
* More genetic
diversity – more health and vitality. Too much emphasis on
uniformity of general appearance.
A DIVIDED BREED?
In his annual
report (2002) Mr. Messler states: Within the SV are two
populations of German Shepherd Dogs. A population consists of a
range of animals that are related. There is a clear distinction
between Hochzucht and Leistungszucht (working lines).
Leistungszucht have common related animals that are selected
through national and state trials and are supported by working
dog people. In short, this is resulting in polarisation within
the SV and self-interested pressure groups: breeding for their
own market and having a specific interest in the puppy market.
To put it simply, there are two groups: show people versus
working dog people. If you compare the direct sire-lines of the
VA/V males of the Hauptzuchtschau 2002 you will notice a
difference in the lines with Utz Haus Schuetting and those
without Utz and the percentage of sable dogs. If you compare
the appearance of the two populations you will also see clear
differences concerning size, weight, type general appearance and
pigmentation. There is a difference in genetic make up. In
general the working dog lines cannot meet the high standard the
Hochzucht has reached in anatomy, according to the standard and
the Hochzucht has, in general has problems with the “drives and
instincts” which are considered essential to reach high working
performances. This polarisation results in different kinds of
local groups (Ortsgruppen) and a separation between the
delegates in the general meeting. Mostly the silent majority of
pet owners are not represented. Clearly there is a crisis in
breeding aims and policy within the SV and a loss of thousands
We spoke about the
problems concerning the Hochzucht breeding but there is
certainly a crisis in the Leistungszucht breeding too. In this
breeding also we see that bloodlines are becoming narrow due to
selected inbreeding on four or five predominant animals or
lines. A lot of working dogs have problems in reaching the
minimum grading “Good” not to mention the qualities to get a
Breed Survey Class l. Also in these lines we see health and
physical problems. The real crisis though is that the present
working dog breeders cannot fulfil the standards of the breeding
animals that form the roots of their pedigrees. There was a
time when there was a one undivided breed, VA and V Class l dogs
Hauptzuchtschau and LG Schau such as: VA Bernd Lierberg, VA
Seffe Busecker Schloss, VA Mutz Pelztierfarm, VA Frei Gugge
and V dogs like Nico Haus Beck, Mike Bungalow, Greif Lahntal and
several Busecker Schloss dogs etc. These are the roots of the
present working dogs lines and fulfilled the universal aims of
the standard and belonged to the Hochzucht too. The present
day working dog breeder should follow the example of the
Altmeisters of the past. Must they be satisfied with less?
The polarisation is doing the whole GSD breeding harm.
Separation and exclusion is not sensible and clouds the debate
about the future of the GSD “made in Germany”, the leading
position of the SV within the WUSV and the overall quality of
the breed throughout the world.
Bernd vom Lierberg
Seffe vom Busecker
Frei von der Gugge
Nico vom Haus Beck
Mike vom Bungalow
Greif vom Lahntal
The world and
society has changed. The most important task of a GSD is his
role as a companion dog in a complex environment. Dr. Malcolm
Willis (1998) states: “Type traits and behaviour traits are the
most important traits in dog breeding”. Of course we all accept
the priority concerning health and maintenance of soundness,
also when our dogs are becoming old (fitness traits). Willis
states that it is a basic principle of animal breeding that the
more traits one seeks to include in a breeding programme the
harder the task will become. I truly think we exclude too many
potential breed animals both in Hochzucht and Leistungszucht
because of narrow mindedness and because we are selecting in a
one-way street. For instance, if a dog is not absolutely top in
show (VA) we don’t prefer him as a breeding partner because of
the puppy market. The same goes for the working dog people; the
dog must have a high profile in the working dog scene. In fact
we are perhaps excluding the more desired dogs if we consider
the whole range of traits which we demand from a GSD suited to
live or even survive in our time.
After checking one
year of breeding in the Netherlands, the scientific “Hirschfeld
Foundation” of the Dutch Kennel Club, in co-operation with the
Dutch German Shepherd Dog Club, concluded in their report of
l997 that in general, there were less health problems than was
expected but that behavioural problems scored the highest among
the owners of GSD in the Netherlands.
4. Hyperactive, very noisy.
In 2002 the Dutch
SV formed a committee to advise about the problem of the
forbidden use of the electric collar in the training of dogs.
This committee identified a growth in the use of the forbidden
electric collar in training and stated that there was a
connection with too extreme breeding. The Breed Surveyors were
advised to be very alert and exclude the animals that behaved
unmanageably or showed a tendency to aggressiveness. That brings
us to the question; If we want to improve the temperaments and
use the instrument of the Breed Survey (Korung) should this be
done by a more severe courage test (combative spirit) or must we
have improved behavioural testing? Is demanding a harder courage
test by working judges the solution?
At least we should
debate it and not leave it to a delegate meeting of the SV where
delegates are deciding in a polluted atmosphere of polarisation.
For instance at a Breed Survey in Holland in December 2002
conducted by myself, I breed surveyed over 40 GSD. The majority
came in Class 2. I saw some extraordinarily good GSD in the
courage test. On the same day DNA testing was carried out in a
small room by a Vet. The dogs had to enter an overcrowded
canteen. Afterwards I was told that some of the dogs which did
extremely well in the courage test and had high standards in the
trials, behaved very nervously when testing for DNA. Some dogs
could not be tested without being muzzled. The basic
temperament (Weser) is not tested in a courage test. I would
prefer to leave the ring with normal in a courage test and
excellent behaviour in the above mentioned situation in DNA
testing. Another problem is the changed criteria of SchH or VH
or IPO training not to the dog but to its owner. I can tell you
that to train a GSD to obtain Sch Hl will take you a year with
training twice a week. You need good instructors and
well-trained helpers. In the present day where people have a lot
of obligations this demands a lot of a person’s time and
abilities, especially if they have to wait for their turn for
hours at the training grounds. Are we testing the abilities of
the dog or the trainer? How many potentially good dogs are we
excluding? The IPO in the present day demands a lot of
perfection in obedience. Obedience has become the most important
in bite work too. Dr. Margaret Pfleiderer Hogner concluded in
her dissertation (Munich 1979) and doubted if obedience is a
genetic trait. But I fully agree with Willis (l998).
(l). Failure to
train and work functional dogs can have damaging consequences on
(2). Selection for
physical beauty will be of minimal value unless associated with
functional ability and those breeds which have preserved working
should be selected to enhance, not lose those virtues.
(3). With Willis,
I think the breed survey is an important instrument in which
are measured and assessed against the breed standard but
evaluation of character/work.
I think the
statement in the WUSV (Annual Report WUSV meeting 9th
September, Karlsruhe 2002) should be incorporated by all WUSV
for a start programme.
(1) Testing social behaviour to people
and animals; (the Swiss temperament test).
(acoustical and optical). Gun sure test. Prey drive
(2) Companion Dog
Messler states in
his WUSV report – Working is for the GSD essential. To be
kept only in a kennel is a torment to the soundness of his
spirit and body. I personally think we must find several jobs
for our GSD to maintain his position as a Helper of Mankind.
My advice and
wishes are that GSD breeding stops excluding, separatism and
division. More common sense please. No one-way street but
overall selection of overall traits. The right combination is
not extreme mated to extreme. Hochzucht must include
Leistungszucht and vice versa. Sometimes it will be proved that
the dog you want to exclude can be in fact the one that you
needed the most. That means also more genetic variety. We do
not need incrossing of other breeds as stated by Helmut Raiser
at the discussion evening in Viernheim 2003. I think we need a
European Breed Affairs Committee with excellent geneticists and
very experienced breeders that can stop the nonsense.
11. STRENGTH AND
WEAKNESSES OF THE CONTINENTAL SHOWING AND BREEDING
The SV is a very
well organised and professionally managed organisation. There is
a framework of local clubs, experienced instructors, helpers and
well-trained judges. The quality of the breed in general is high
and at the moment the standards have reached such high peaks
that further improvements can lead to exaggerations. The SV
controls and manages the GSD breeding and protects the interest
of the GSD in Germany. The SV dominates the WUSV but this is
possibly due more to a weakness of the other associated
members! The initiatives in HD, especially the Breed Value
system, the ED scheme and DNA programme deserve our admiration.
The Hauptzuchtschau and Bundessiegerprufung are well organised
mega events. Before we mention the shadows, we must conclude
there is a lot of sunshine.
breeding we have at the moment a bottleneck both in Hochzucht
and Leistungszucht and a lack of genetic diversity. Mr.
Messler was not able to stop this and to introduce alternatives.
Hopefully Orschler can find them in or outside Germany. The
German Shepherd Dog is not only the Wienerau/Arminius type.
There are too many pressure groups in the show world. You see
teams sometimes operating as “Cartels”, having too much
influence on the individual choices in breeding and showing.
Sometimes there is a tendency to control the market and to
influence the show world by excluding others. There is not
always equality of chances. There is a tendency amongst
well-informed judges to make their decisions on self-fulfilling
promises. The Hauptzuchtschau is too much a “nice-nicer-nicest”
scheme and less a Zuchschau. The criteria of the progeny groups
must be revised. The Hauptzuchtschau should be more a world show
of the WUSV. Now it functions too much as a German shop window
for German breeding. Bureaucrats and too many rules give
advantages for privileged groups and leads to a form of
protectionism for their own national interests and conflicts
with the ideas of a WUSV. In Europe we sometimes forget the
common owner of a GSD. We must see the whole scene with his eyes
and do something about it so that he can participate. We must
improve the image of the GSD in our present society. If the GSD
is a working dog we must offer more than only Schutzhund or IPO.
There is a distinction in SPORT and BREEDING. At this moment
high demands in Leistungssport are set as criteria for showing
and breeding. Are these demands put to the owner/trainer (sport)
or do they really serve breeding goals? In showing sometimes the
image (achievements in the past) of a dog decides the outcome
and not the actual presentation. Is it possible to beat a Sieger
in the show ring? There has to be criticism also of other
countries. They have to be more independent and take more
initiative. Breeders, judges and clubs have to imitate less and
not do more of the same.
In a forum
discussion (2003) the famous kennel (Herding dogs) “Kirschental”
(Fuller) stated –
“I think a lot
of the actual problems in health and working abilities are the
result of repeated inbreeding on the same ancestors, as we see
in the Leistungszucht too. I believe, and other experienced
breeders will agree with me, that a litter without inbreeding
(outcross) is more robust and there are fewer problems. You see
the same in farm livestock breeding. We did breed a wonderful
unity in Type but what did it cost us? The first 50 dogs of a
Hauptzuchtschau are look-a-likes and have the same anatomy and
outlook, BUT WE DON’T
NEED A UNIFORM TOTALITY, WE DO NEED MORE DIVERSITY PARTICULARLY
IN THE BLOODLINES. WE DO NEED A WIDER BASIS IN OUR BREEDING.”
If in the present
time a breeder is mating his bitch he rarely can keep all the
puppies for himself. Most of them he must sell. If you want to
sell your puppies the sire must be a well known dog, a top dog
from the Hauptzuchtschau or Bundessiegerprufung. Here we have to
What can widen up
the basis of the bloodlines:
(1). VA must be
given to only an anatomically well built and sound dog
below 100 which is a proven producer. A dog can be only awarded VA twice.
The new generation must be given
Only dogs placed
twice VA can make a Sieger.
A Sieger is not
allowed to enter the HZS the next year.
A judge must not
automatically place a dog in the VA Group just because his
Sire or Dam was a VA .
Judges of Adult
Classes must change very year. Every person has his
and dislikes. More dogs should have
changes, perhaps even other types and
colours. I do not want to change radically, but this is my way of thinking.
Century we need a revised policy to rule the breeding and
keeping of the GSD. In the Netherlands we had intensive
discussions with our Kennel Club about breed regulations. The
influence of Government and Local Government Laws threatened the
breeding and keeping of GSD. Also European Laws and
organisations for Animal Welfare are playing a decisive role in
the protection of animal welfare and consumers. Also a puppy is
considered to be a product. The SV Netherlands were pro-active
in these directions. We now have a set of Breeding Rules
accepted by the members of the Dutch Shepherd Club and in fact
are waiting for our Kennel Club to impose them This means new
perspectives: in health, control of behavioural traits,
limitations in breeding with bitches and males and protection of
the welfare of the animals and considering consumers’ rights.
We know very well
that we cannot focus upon a small group of top breeders or top
sportsmen in the working scene. The average buyer of a GSD puppy
wants quality. His priorities are a dog with good health, a
clear representative of his breed, sound character and a
reliable companion. He wants a manageable, obedient dog and as
he is involved in a range of activities he does not want
bureaucratic rules in a busy world where he wants to relax and
spend quality time with his dog. The GSD can be that quality
dog. It is our task to breed the German Shepherd as such and to
maintain him as man’s number one best friend. If he were here
today Von Stephanitz would aim for this too. I’m sure of it!