Monday, February 22, 2010

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:

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