|This is the breed
standard developed by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada and approved by the Canadian Kennel Club as it's official breed
standard for the German Shepherd Dog.
The first impression of a
good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well-muscled
animal, alert and full of life. It should both be and appear to be well
balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and
hindquarter. The dog should appear to the eye, and actually be, longer
than tall, deep bodied, and present an outline of smooth curves rather
than corners. It should look
substantial and not spindly, giving the impression both at rest and in
motion of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness
or soft living.
The Shepherd should be stamped with a look of quality
and nobility, difficult to define but unmistakable when present. The
good German Shepherd Dog never looks common.
characteristics should be strongly marked, and every animal should give
a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its
sex. Dogs should be definitely masculine in appearance and deportment;
bitches, unmistakably feminine, without weakness of structure or
apparent softness of temperament.
The condition of the dog
should be that of an athlete in good condition, the muscles and flesh
firm and the coat lustrous.
The breed has a distinct
personality marked by a direct and fearless, but not hostile,
expression, and self-confidence and a certain aloofness, which does not
lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The Shepherd
Dog is not one that fawns upon every new acquaintance. At the same time,
it should be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing
confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without itself making
them. It should be poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and
alert, both fit and willing to serve in any capacity as companion, watch
dog, blind leader, herding dog or guardian; whichever the circumstances
The Shepherd Dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its
master or handler, nervous, looking about or upward with anxious
expression or showing nervous reactions to strange sounds or sights, or
lackadaisical, sluggish, or manifestly disinterested in what goes on
about him. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of
good character. Cases of extreme timidity and nervous unbalance
sometimes give the dog an apparent, but totally unreal, courage and it
becomes a "fear biter," snapping not for any justifiable
reason but because it is apprehensive of the approach of a stranger.
This is a serious fault subject to heavy penalty.
The ideal height for dogs
is 25 inches (64 cm), and for bitches, 23 inches (58 cm) at the
shoulder. This height is established by taking a perpendicular line from
the top of the shoulder blade to the ground with the coat parted or so
pushed down that this measurement will show the only actual height of
the frame or structure of the dog. The working value of dogs above or
below the indicated height is proportionately lessened, although
variations of an inch (3 cm) above or below the ideal height are
acceptable, while greater variations must be considered as faults.
Weights of dogs of desirable size in proper flesh and condition average
between 75 and 85 lb. (34 and 39 kg); and of bitches, between 60 and 70
lb. (27 and 32 kg).
Shepherd is normally a dog with a double coat, the amount of undercoat
varying with the season of the year and the proportion of the time the
dog spends out of doors. It should, however, always be present to a
sufficient degree to keep out water, to insulate against temperature
extremes, and as a protection against insects. The outer coat should be
as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body.
A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is equally
permissible. The head, including the inner ear, foreface, and legs and
paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer and thicker
hair. The rear of forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair
extending to the pastern and hock respectively. Faults in coat include
complete lack of any undercoat, soft, silky or too long outer coat and
curly or open coat.
The German Shepherd Dog
differs widely in colour. Generally speaking, strong, rich colours are
to be preferred, with definite pigmentation, and without appearance of a
washed-out colour. White dogs are to be disqualified.
Clean-cut and strong, the
head of the Shepherd is characterized by nobility. It should seem in
proportion to the body and should not be clumsy, although a degree of
coarseness of head, especially in dogs, is less of a fault than
over-refinement. A round or domey skull is a fault. The muzzle is long
and strong with the lips firmly fitted, and its topline is usually
parallel with an imaginary elongation of the line of the forehead.
from the front the forehead is only moderately arched and the skull
slopes into the long wedge-shaped muzzle without abrupt stop. Jaws are
trongly developed. Weak and too narrow underjaws, snipey muzzles, and no
stop are faults.
Teeth: The strong teeth, 42 in number (20 upper and 22
lower) are strongly developed and meet in a scissors grip in which part
of the inner surface of the upper teeth meets and engages part of the
outer surface of the lower teeth. This type of bite gives a more
powerful grip than one in which the edges of the teeth meet directly,
and is subject to less wear. The dog is overshot when the lower teeth
fail to engage the inner surfaces of the upper teeth. This is a serious
fault. The reverse condition - an undershot jaw - is a very serious
fault. While missing premolars are frequently observed, complete
dentition is decidedly to be preferred. So called distemper teeth and
discoloured teeth are faults whose seriousness varies with the degree of
departure from the desired white, sound colouring. Teeth broken by
accident should not be severely penalized but worn teeth, especially the
incisors, are often indicative of the lack of a proper scissors bite,
although some allowance should be made for age.
Eyes of medium size,
almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The colour as
dark as possible. Eyes of lighter colour
are sometimes found and are not a serious fault if they harmonize with
the general colouration, but a dark brown eye is always to be preferred.
The expression should be keen, intelligent, and composed.
should be moderately pointed, open towards the front, and are carried
erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the
centre lines of the ears, viewed from the front are parallel to each
other and perpendicular to the ground. Puppies usually do not
permanently raise their ears until the fourth or sixth month, and
sometimes not until later. Cropped and hanging ears are to be discarded.
The well-placed and well-carried ear of a size in proportion to the
skull materially adds to the general appearance of the Shepherd. Neither
too large nor too small ears are desirable. Too much stress, however,
should not be laid on perfection of carriage if the ears are fully
The neck is strong and
muscular, clean-cut and relatively long, proportionate in size to the
head and without loose folds of skin. When the dog is at attention or
excited, the head is raised and the neck carried high, otherwise typical
carriage of the head is forward rather than up and but little higher
than the top of the shoulder, particularly in motion.
The whole structure of
the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.
Forechest, commencing at the prosternum, should be well filled and
carried well down between the legs with no sense of hollowness. Chest
should be deep and capacious with ample room for lungs and heart. Well
carried forward, with the prosternum, or process of the breastbone,
showing ahead of the shoulder when the dog is viewed from the side.
should be well sprung and long; neither barrel shaped nor too flat, and
carried down to a breastbone which reaches to the elbow. Correct ribbing allows
the elbow to move back freely when the dog is at a trot while too round
a rib causes interference and throws the elbow out. Ribbing should be
carried well back so that loin and flank are relatively short. Abdomen
firmly held and not paunchy. The bottom line of the Shepherd is only
moderately tucked up in flank, never like that of a Greyhound.
The bone of the legs
should be straight oval rather than round or flat and free from
sponginess. Its development should be in proportion to the size of the
dog and contribute to the overall impression of substance without
grossness. Crooked leg bones and any
malformation such as, for example, that caused by rickets, should be
penalized. Pastern should be of medium length, strong and springy.
more spring of pastern is desirable in the Shepherd Dog than in any
other breeds, as it contributes to the ease and elasticity of the
trotting gait the upright terrier pastern is definitely undesirable.
Metatarsus (the so-called "hock"): short, clean, sharply
defined, and of great strength. This is the fulcrum upon which much of
the forward movement of the dog depends. Cow-hocks are a decided fault,
but before penalizing for Cow-hocks, it should be definitely determined,
with the animal in motion, that the dog has this fault, since many dogs
with exceptionally good hindquarter angulation occasionally stand so as
to give the appearance of cow-hockedness which is not actually present.
Rather short, compact,
with toes well arched pads thick and hard, nails short and strong.
feet are important to the working qualities of the dog. The ideal foot
is extremely strong with good gripping power and plenty of depth of pad.
The so-called cat-foot or terrier foot is not desirable. The thin,
spread or hare-foot is, however, still more undesirable.
The withers should be
higher than, and sloping into, the level back to enable a proper
attachment of the shoulder blades. The back should be
straight and very strongly developed without sag or roach, the section
from the wither to the croup being relatively short. (The desirable long
proportion of the Shepherd Dog is not derived from a long back but from
overall length with relation to height, which is achieved by breadth of
forequarter and hindquarter viewed from the side.) Loin: viewed from the
top, broad and strong, blending smoothly into the back without undue
length between the last rib and the thigh, when viewed from the side.
Croup should be long and gradually sloping. Too level or flat a croup
prevents proper functioning of the hindquarter, which must be able to
reach well under the body. A steep croup also limits the action of the
A German Shepherd is a
trotting dog and his structure has been developed to best meet the
requirements of his work in herding. That is to say, a long, effortless
trot which shall cover the maximum amount of ground with the minimum
number of steps, consistent with the size of the animal. The proper body
proportion, firmness of back and muscles and the proper angulation of
the forequarters and hindquarters serve this end. They enable the dog to
propel itself forward by a long step of the hindquarter and to
compensate for this stride by a long step of the forequarter. The high
withers, the firm back, the strong loin, the properly formed croup, even
the tail as balance and rudder, all contribute to this same end.
The German Shepherd Dog
is properly longer than tall with the most desirable proportion as 10 is
to 8-1/2. We have seen how the height is ascertained; the length is
established by a dog standing naturally and four-square, measured on a
horizontal line from the point of the prosternum, or breastbone, to the
rear edge of the pelvis, the ischium tuberosity, commonly called the
Forequarter: The shoulder
blade should be long, laid on flat against the body with its rounded
upper end in a vertical line above the elbow, and sloping well forward
to the point where it joins the upper arm. The withers should be high,
with shoulder blades meeting closely at the top, and the upper arm set
on at an angle approaching as nearly as possible a right angle. Such an angulation
permits the maximum forward extension of the foreleg without binding or
effort. Shoulder faults include too steep or straight a position of
either blade or upper arm, too short a blade or upper arm, lack of
sufficient angle between these two members, looseness through lack of
firm ligamentation, and loaded shoulder with prominent pads of flesh or
muscles on the outer side. Construction in which the whole shoulder
assembly is pushed too far forward also restricts the stride and is
angulation of the hindquarter also consists ideally of a series of sharp
angles as far as the relation of the bones to each other is concerned,
and the thigh bone should parallel the shoulder blade while the stifle
bone parallels the upper arm. The whole assembly of the
thigh, viewed from the side, should be broad, with both thigh and stifle
well muscled and of proportionate length, forming as nearly as possible
a right angle. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the
foot commonly and erroneously, called the hock) is strong, clean and
short, the hock joint clean-cut and sharply defined.
Bushy, with the last
vertebra extended at least to the hock joint and usually below. Set
smoothly into the croup and low rather than high, at rest the tail hangs
in a slight curve like a sabre. A slight hook sometimes carried to one
side - is faulty only to the extent that it mars general appearance.
When the dog is excited or in motion, the curve is accentuated and the
tail raised, but it should never be lifted beyond a line at right angles
with the line of the back. Docked tails, or those, which have been
operated upon to prevent curling, disqualify. Tails too short, or with
clumpy end due to the ankylosis or the growing together of the
vertebrae, are serious faults.
General Impression: The
gait of the German Shepherd Dog is outreaching, elastic, seemingly
without effort, smooth and rhythmic. At a walk it covers a great deal of
ground, with long step of both hind leg and foreleg. At a trot, the dog
covers still more ground and moves powerfully but easily with a
beautiful co-ordination of back and limbs so that, in the best examples,
the gait appears to be the steady motion of a well-lubricated machine.
The feet travel close to the ground, and neither fore nor hind feet
should lift high on either forward reach or backward push. The hindquarter delivers,
through the back, a powerful forward thrust, which slightly lifts the
whole animal and drives the body forward. Reaching far under, and
passing the imprint left by the front foot, the strong arched hind foot
takes hold of the ground; then hock, stifle, and upper thigh come into
play and sweep back, the stroke of the hind leg finishing with the foot
still close to the ground in a smooth follow-through. The overreach of
the hindquarter usually necessitates one hind foot passing outside and
the other hind foot passing inside the track of the forefeet and such
action is not faulty unless the locomotion is crabwise with the dog's
body sideways out of the normal straight line. In order to achieve ideal
movement of this kind, there must be full muscular co-ordination
throughout the structure with the action of muscles and ligaments
positive, regular and accurate.
typical smooth, flowing gait of the Shepherd Dog cannot be maintained
without great strength and firmness (which does not mean stiffness) of
back. The whole effort of the hindquarter is transmitted to the
forequarter through the muscular and bony structure of the loin, back,
and withers. At full trot, the back must remain firm and level without
sway, roll, whip or roach. To compensate for the forward motion imparted
by the hindquarter, the shoulder should open to its full extent - the
desirability of good shoulder angulation now becomes apparent -and the
forelegs should reach out in a stride balancing that of the hindquarter.
A steep shoulder will cause the dog either to stumble or to raise the
forelegs very high in an effort to co-ordinate with the hindquarter,
which is impossible when shoulder structure is faulty. A serious gait
fault results when a dog moves too low in front, presenting an unleveled
topline with the wither lower than the hips. The Shepherd Dog does not
track on widely separated parallel lines as does the terrier, but brings
the feet inward toward the middle line of the body when at trot in order
to maintain balance. For this reason a dog viewed from the front or rear
when in motion will often seem to travel close. This is not a fault if
the feet do not strike or cross, or if the knees or shoulders are not
thrown out, but the feet and hocks should be parallel even if close
together. The excellence of gait must also be evaluated by viewing from
the side the effortless, properly coordinated covering of ground.
It should never be
forgotten that the ideal Shepherd is a working animal, which must have
an incorruptible character, combined with body and gait suitable for the
arduous work which constitutes its primary purpose. All its qualities
should be weighed in respect to their contribution to such work, and
while no compromise should be permitted with regard to its working
potentiality, the dog must nevertheless possess a high degree of beauty
Evaluation of Faults
Note: Faults are
important in the order of their group, as per group headings,
irrespective of their position in each group.
Very Serious Faults
Major faults of
temperament; undershot lower jaw.
Faults of balance and
proportion; poor gait, viewed either from front, rear or side; marked
deficiency of substance (bone or body); bitchy male dogs; faulty backs;
too level or too short croup; long and weak loin; very bad feet; ring
tails; tails much too short; rickety condition; more than four missing
premolars or any other missing teeth, unless due to accident; lack of
nobility; badly washed-out colour; badly overshot bite.
Doggy bitches; poorly
carried ears; too fine in head; weak muzzles; improper muscular
condition; faulty coat, other than temporary condition; badly affected
Too coarse head; hooked
tails; too light, round or protruding eyes; discoloured teeth; condition
of coat, due to season or keeping.
characteristics; cropped ears; hanging ears (as in a hound); docked
tails; male dogs having one or both testacles, undescended (monorchids
or cryptorchids); white dogs.
February 1996 (Revision #4 -January 1998)