Friday, March 19, 2010


Since I’ve been in the breed going all the way back to the 1970’s, one of the hardest things for a breeder to do is to breed good fronts (or fore assemblies). It is still a topic of discussion when breeders get together. Why is it so hard to breed a good front but yet easy to get a good rear assembly on our breed? They are both part of the skeleton of the German Shepherd Dog, so why is it that one part is easier to obtain then the other?

It is said that if you have good fronts in your bloodlines that you’ve got yourself a gold mine. Many feel that with a bitch that has a good front and comes from generations of good fronts that you can breed her to practically any dog you want and expect that she’ll produce some good fronts in her puppies. Why does it seem that fronts are so elusive and a goal of many breeders?

The German Shepherd Dog Club of America has this to say about the fore quarter of the standard for this breed. (I quote)……”The shoulder blades are long and obliquely angled, laid on flat and not placed forward. The upper arm joins the shoulder blade at about a right angle. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled. The forelegs, viewed from all sides, are straight and the bone oval rather than round. The pasterns are strong and springy and angulated at approximately a 25 degreed angle from the vertical. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on. The feet are short, compact with toes well arched, pads thick and firm, and nails short and dark.” (End quote).

Why is it hard for some people to recognize what a good fore assembly looks like? Once you’ve lived with it in your own dogs, you never forget what it looks like. Watching a dog move (provided he has all the other structural requirements) that has a good shoulder is a breeder’s dream come true. The dog floats and moves effortlessly across the ground. There is no wasted energy, and no lifting from his elbows, just everything is in harmonious unity that makes you believe this dog could gait all day and make it look easy. It truly is “poetry in motion.”

When you have a good eye for what constitutes a good shoulder layback, you can watch just about any breed of dog and recognize his good fore assembly as well. Just watch the Westminster All Breed Dog Show. I may not know much about the different breed standards, but I can pick out a good mover every time because I can recognize their fore assemblies.

Not every dog that wins his championship will do so because he was a great mover with a great fore assembly. They all don’t have to have this quality to win their championship. Many are fine movers and have beautiful breed type.

Naturally the fore assembly is only part of what contributes to a dog moving well. He needs a strong back and a good rear quarter as well. One does not work without the other.

So what does a poor front assembly look like? Well there are a few things that you can look for. Sometimes when the dog is viewed straight on from the front, he may stand east/west. That is, his front legs turn out. He doesn’t stand true under himself with both of his legs going straight down to the ground. When you look at his feet, they turn out. Also his front or chest may be too wide and when he moves, he’s not single tracking. This would mean the dog is coming at you wide in the front. There are others that a judge might say elbows coming at them. That means that when the dog is moving toward the judge, it is evident that his elbows are sticking out when he’s in motion. Viewed from the side, (and this one is where many people get confused), the dog may be lifting at the elbow. This is very evident if you see a picture of a German Shepherd in motion that moves like this. The dog is bending at the elbow which causes the dog to lift high off the ground in the front and it’s very easy to see in a picture.

Another way to study and learn about the proper motion of a dog is to view him on a DVD and put it in slow motion. A German Shepherd Dog should be moving with his feet close to the ground without lifting in the front or kicking up in the rear. They do this by transmitting their motion from their rear drive through a strong back to their fore assembly.

So why then is it harder to get one structure (in this case the front) than it is the rear? Is it because some pedigrees are saturated with lots of hindquarter angulation and we weren’t paying attention to the front assembly? If this is the case, it would mean that for generations we bred for hind quarter without much concern for their fronts. This might be the reason why it’s harder to get and maintain fronts because it’s not in the animal’s pedigrees. I don’t know. I’m just guessing here.

It is the wise breeder that studies his dog’s pedigree and when he looks at potential breeding partners for his dog, that he studies his as well. Certain blood lines are stronger for fronts than are others. Try to find those pedigrees that have generations of good fronts behind them. And yes, owning a breeding bitch with a good front is important just because it is so hard to get.

You might hear some breeders say that it’s easy to get a good rear……you can do that in one generation. It’s the fronts that are hard to get…..and why is that?

From the book:  "THE GERMAN SHEPHERD TODAY".......Presenting the Great, New Third Edition of the Most Respected Book in Print on the German Shepherd in the English Language. From the time Captain Max von Stephanitz undertook the development of the modern German Shepherd just before the turn of the 20th Century to the present, dog enthusiasts have been quick to recognize the versatility, trainability, and desirability of the universally beloved Shepherd and have taken the breed to their collective heart. 

 My rating: Good fronts: (4), "The German Shepherd Today" book: (4)

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