What does a breeder mean when he says that he’s breeding “for the betterment of the breed”? Is he referring to eliminating overt problems, such as hip/elbow dysplasia, deafness, blindness? Is it to preserve the current form and angulation–the breed standard–of the particular breed? What if the breed standard is the reason for the health issues?
A few years ago the BBC released a documentary about the realities of breeding purebred dogs. There was not one breed registered by the Kennel Club that escaped health issues. The documentary stirred up quite a hornets nest among breeders, and was painful for some lay people to watch. Particularly horrifying was the fate of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, whose small domed head and long ears endears them to dog show judges. Sometimes in breeding for this type of head, the dog’s cranium is too small to accommodate the its brain. They ultimately suffer a painful death.
The recent statement issued by the Kennel Club asserting the unsoundness of the back end, notably the hindquarters, including the hocks of German Shepherds apparently has made some German Shepherd breeders quite unhappy. That’s one thing, but the Club does not state precisely what is meant by unsoundness, although they state that such unsoundness should be penalized in the ring.
The show lines of this once magnificent utility dog features a roach back and sloping back end; that is the preferred look. Anyone who has ever watched Crufts or Westminster has seen these dogs trotting around the ring wtih backends almost trailing the ground, as though the dogs have cinder blocks tied to their testicles, and when the dogs stand unstacked their hocks jut out, or inwards.
Is the Kennel Club referring to incidences of hip dysplasia or other crippling effects in the German Shepherd? The Code of Ethics breeders in various countries are doing a great deal to eliminate hip dysplasia from the breed. The disease, however, continues to plague these dogs.
My question to you is this, is it possible to breed generations of German Shepherds with sound hindquarters while preserving the current angulation required of the breed standard? Aside from the absence of hip dysplasia, what constitutes “soundness” in the German Shepherd? I’d love to hear from some breeders, show-ers, pet owners and people who just love the breed.
Photo Credits: German Shepherd Dog from http://theworlddogs.blogspot.com/2008/09/german-shepherd.html
- German Cops Ditch German Shepherds for Belgian Breed (foxnews.com)
- Why German Shepherds have Had Their Day (New York Times)