Monday, February 22, 2010

Angulation =/ Pain

I had several responses to my posts that equated extreme angulation or low-slung hips with dogs in pain. But this is a mistake. I've never seen a dog that was in pain just because of the angulation. The "low hips" look is achieved by selecting for a long upper thigh and hock and some other factors--not because the dog is squatting in pain. And it is a mistake to think that extreme angulation means bad hips--some of these dogs are OFA Excellent. They are usually NOT in pain. (At least in young dogs.)

As supposition, I would say that a dog with extreme angulation is more likely to have ACL injuries and back issues--but they are no more or less likely to have HD. I do think most of these lines are more likely to have Degenerative Myelopathy (because it is a genetically inherited issue, and it is often found in the tightly bred, often inbred American show lines) (inbreeding is a factor because it concentrates the genes, thus making the incidence of the genes for DM or other problems higher and sometimes all but impossible to avoid if you stay in that gene pool)--but you also find DM in German show and working lines, although it is more uncommon (you also find back injuries in working lines and until recently the testing to figure out the difference was often prohibitively expensive).

We could also get into the discussion of hereditary illness versus a hereditary propensity to injury--that, is dogs aren't born with ACL or knee injuries, but a dog's genetic knee construction can make a knee ligament injury extremely likely--and this isn't specifically a GSD concern. For example, almost all GSDs (all bloodlines, apparently) have a narrower space in the spinal column for the spinal cord than is common in most other breeds. This in itself may not cause any issues (although it can), but if there is an injury around the spinal cord, there is less room and the injury is more likely to cause problems. So to speak, there is less room for error.

But going back to angulation and "low hips" -- so, the big issue is that the function of a dog with extreme angulation becomes curtailed--lack of stability in movement at any pace other than a trot, lack of agility, turning ability, tight turns, etc. This lack of stability leads to a lack of usefulness--imagine one of these dogs as a service dog, guiding a blind person, chasing down someone in a police chase, or even doing a bomb search or drug search or doing cadaver or live find SAR work.

In contrast, a well-put-together dog, well balanced and athletic, is more likely to have full use of every muscle and have a natural physical confidence. For example, Hunter knows at all times where every foot is planted. She boings like a spring at the gate of her kennel, doing vertical leaps that bring her head over the top of the 6 foot gate panel. She (and her mother Nike) could do a 540% turn on a 12-inch dog walk board that is 5 feet above the ground and not blink twice. One training tool is to put a ladder on the ground and ask your dog to walk through it, thus learning to think about where its rear feet are hitting the ground--Hunter trotted through and asked me what was for dessert. :)

There are a lot of articles out there on this topic--some better than others. I like Linda Shaw's analyses:
For example, here is an excellent illustrated article on movement in dogs with a focus on the GSD.

Breeders must be careful, however, not to develop the flying trot into a caricature of itself, producing animals that are loosely ligamented and over-angulated in the rear, and that show a length of stride that, while impressive to the uninformed, is excessive (Fig 22). This extreme type loses its athleticism at other gaits and in jumping. The correct GSD is capable of a supported trot that is longer, more flowing and more efficient than any other breed, but it can also display the most efficient and spectacular version of the flying trot (Fig 23).

Also check out this informative page on the different types of GSD.

"Ideal" GSD Gait

This is a VA dog from the mid-80s--what the GSD people value is the smoothness of the topline during movement, and the smooth transmission of power throughout the body. Also watch the how the hind feet land in front of the front feet. Another thing to notice is how far forward his front leg goes and how close to the ground it stays--it shouldn't be kicked out high.

On Breeding GSDs

(This and the next two posts are re-blogged from my non-dog-specific LJ blog.)

I started to reply in brief to this thoughtful post about the "evil AKC." But I couldn't sum up my thoughts in brief.

What if I firmly believe the winning show dogs in my breed DO NOT match the standard?

I breed (titled) working-line German Shepherds from imported bloodlines--because to me those are the dogs that best exemplify the breed--in temperament, ability, and oftentimes, looks.

I register AKC because you have to if you ever want your dogs to enter into any other registry (exporting, for example) but I place no value on an evaluation of conformation by AKC or GSDCA judges--what they consider desirable, I consider detrimental.

Sadly the picture the standard paints can be interpreted with wide variance. Look at the GSDCA's illustrated standard:

For example, this illustration:

Now look at the picture on the home page of the GSDCA website:

Long thigh, steep upper arm, long and overly flexed pastern, long toes, extreme depth of chest, upright and long neck, upright attachment of neck, pronounced prosternum. And what you can't see from a picture like this--2-dimensionality--dogs that are narrow in skull, chest, body, thin and long muscles that contain little power for explosive movement.

No thank you. If that's what they value, I'm happy being worthless to them.

The European conformation dogs have their own issues. My new rule of thumb is that if the point of the hips is lower than the point of the shoulder, something is wrong:

Now, that's a pretty extreme example. But look at this dog--he was rated one of the top 10 conformation GSDs in Germany-- "VA" (excellent select) rating in 2007 and 2006:

The AKC (GSDCA) equivalent dog ("Grand Victor" and "Select Excellent") for 2002 and 2003 is this:

What do you think?

I'm not blind to the conformation faults of my dogs--I know they tend to have short and steep croups and need more length of upper arm, and could use a bit more rear angulation (length of thigh). This is not a great stacked picture, but you can see the conformation:

His mom, Nike:

She's a bit overstretched in this picture (her back hock is not perpendicular to the ground and the forward foot should be straight below the knee), but you can see she has more angulation than her son Coal and you can see the slighlty short upper arm.

These are also the most common conformation faults in the European working bloodlines--I think they exist b/c the sport of Schutzhund inherently rewards/selects for this body type. So I am trying to breed away from these faults while maintaining impeccable temperament and trainability and health in my lines. Danca is a bitch that brings in better movement (more rear angles and nice front reach)--while keeping drive and absolutely sound nerves.

She has a very short croup, however, and her head is a bit small and foxy and she is somewhat handler-sensitive. Her puppies so far have held onto her conformation and smooth movement, and the combination with Coal has produced some excellent puppies who are very handsome with great temperaments and drives. They're still young though and I'll need to see how they mature conformationally and temperamentally to know for sure if I am getting what I want from this combination.

But look at the movement of Kiva (Danca + Faddo -- so no relation to Coal or Nike)--WHILE working:

Yeah, she's out of coat and down to a few dozen tophairs, she's lacking muscle development, too. (And in the first one, she's reaching down to see if she can grab a bite of sheep.) But she's only 14 months old and she's growing back her coat and she'll start putting on muscle. So, at this moment, this makes me happy with what Dance produced in her first litter for me.

I like where my dogs are--they are a work in progress. Improve conformation, yes, sure--but toward the standard and better function--not toward the show dog ideal.

This is one of the best producing and most desired working studs in Germany--his brother is in Pennsylvania now. The German judges rate him as "V" -- Excellent. But he wouldn't come close to the VA dogs in the ring. This is closer to what I aspire to:

Calendar Girl

Hunter's going to be in a 2011 BrownTrout GSD calendar--with this photo.

Agility Grand Victrix Blackthorn's Deva -from Oct. 18, 2009

I got this email from a proud owner-this is a puppy that I bred back in 2003-my D litter. Following the German style, I alphabetize my litters--so first litter was A (2 pups), next B, etc.


Deva and I left Tuesday morning for Springfield, Ohio to compete in Agility at the 2009 German Shepherd Dog Club of America National Speciality. We went in needing 2 more Double Q's for our MACH 2. For my non doggie, non agility friends...that means we had to have 4 perfect runs! :-)
We went clean in both rounds the first day, along with a Q in the game class FAST.
8 other teams also went clean, which meant we were all now in line to win the GSDCA 2009 Agility Victor/Victrix award. This award is determined by the team having the fastest time with the most double Q's. 4 teams were still clean by the second round the last day. Someone mentioned to me just before that last run that could get your MACH 2 and also win Agility Victrix award. Sure, no pressure!! :-)
Deva is happy to say that I didn't make her look bad and after that last round she is now...

GSDCA 2009 Agility Victrix

She was awesome! In spite of my little bit tentative handling on Thursday instead of the usual Steeplechase go for the money style... she ran amazingly well!! I am so proud of her!!

Here is the link to some photos. In the Agility folder, go to Wed Excellent Standard 24 inch. Her pics are #154-#163.
In Jumpers Excellent 24 inch her pics are #64-#68. There aren't any photos of Thursdays runs.
There are a bunch of pictures of Deva and me with judge David Hirsch. Page 7 in Casual+Ribbon Photos pic #58-87.

Thanks for letting us share our good news!!
Have a great day!!
Sheli and Deva

SAR Dog--Clue (Blackthorn's Guinness)

One of my pups--Guinness from my G litter, renamed "Clue"--did his job and searched for and found a missing woman.

Guinness is from the first breeding of Nike and Alex and is a full brother to Hunter.

Jackie (Kismet)

Here's a pictures of another one of the K kids in the snow from the Hampton Roads area newspaper:

More ball?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SAR dog working

Learned today that a puppy from my 2nd-ever litter (Nike x Bodo) is out searching for the missing man in this case of a missing man presumed dead in/near Canyon Lake near Austin, TX.

It's one of the things I am most pleased about--that one of my babies can go on to do good work like this.

Oddly enough, I found out about this because a friend of mine is related (extended family) to the missing man. It's a small world, you know? I have only a few friends in Austin and only 1 puppy of mine in all of Texas.