I’ve done articles here before about the different coat colors and coat lengths of the German Shepherd Dog. We have a breed standard, but you could line up all these different dogs with their unique coloring or coat length and there really wouldn’t be any consistency in their breed type. Oh they may all be beautifully structured, but they really wouldn’t look alike except for the erect ears that this breed is known for. So even if they all were the best representatives of their breed only in different colors and coat length, no two of them would look alike.
Many pet people have never seen an all black German Shepherd for instance. Some have never seen or know what a sable looks like. A bi-color may totally confuse them. Most people have seen a white German Shepherd so that wouldn’t be too confusing. Probably the most favored color is the black and tan dog.
Over time if you live with one of the different types of this breed, your eye gets used to looking at that type of dog. Correct or not, this is what you’re used to seeing so when you see something else that doesn’t look like your dog and may even be a better representative of the breed, you still think that you dog has the better quality. That’s because that’s what your eye is used to looking at.
For example, if you are used to showing a specialty type of dog that has more hindquarter than an All-Breed dog, than that’s what you think is correct. It works both ways. The All-breed exhibitor will think his dog is the correct standard for the breed. If your kennel is known for producing good fronts, you will automatically be looking at the competition to see if they have the front and side gait that you’re used to looking at. The same thing goes for the kennel that consistently produces good hindquarter angulation. If a dog has anything less than what you’re used to looking at, then you’ll think it lacks hindquarter. It’s all because this is what you are used to looking at in your own dogs.
Many times you can follow a specialty judge and know what he likes by looking at the type of animals he’s bred and raised. If he’s bred some top winning dogs, many times that’s the type he’s going to put up. It’s what he’s used to looking at everyday and it’s what he’s won with. Some judges are movement judges. Some are breed type judges. Some like lots of rear. Some like lots of front. Ideally you want to show under a judge that takes the whole package into consideration when he judges. Hopefully you show under a judge that has a “trained” eye. He’s lived with and knows dogs and specifically the German Shepherd Dog.
It can be very difficult for some people to develop a “trained” eye. You will never know what a good dog is unless you’ve lived with them and bred them. Living with these beautiful specimens of the breed is all the education one needs. To have bred and lived with dogs that “take your breath” away is the best education you could ever hope for when you step into the middle of that ring. No book, no magazine, no video could ever prepare you to what it’s like living with one of these properly structured animals. I used to love letting my dogs out in the back yard and just sit watching them float around the yard like it was no effort at all. And that’s the key……a good dog moves like there is no effort at all. The other dogs will have to put out more energy to move. That’s probably why you see your better movers in the ring floating rather than charging. The dog that is not as good of a mover will have to put out harder to make up for the lack of his proper structure, whereas the good mover makes it look easy. You won’t see him huffing and puffing at the end of his lead like the charging dogs in the ring next to him.
Someone said to me not too long ago when talking about a fellow exhibitor, “What does she see in that dog? Why is she still showing him?” She said that the dog was a really horrible dog. I replied to her, “It’s what she’s used to looking at.” Is the owner right or is he wrong in showing his poorly structured dog? It’s really not a question of right or wrong. It’s all about what her eye is used to looking at. Until she educates herself, she will still think her poorly structured dog is correct.
So if your dog lacks the front or rear and he’s not a very good mover, you won’t really know it until you put him in the ring next to those that have these attributes. When you watch a dog that is not properly put together, because you live with him, you believe he’s the best thing next to a “hot off the grill” cheeseburger. Then when you put him in the show ring and you see the other dogs, you think that there’s something the matter with the other dogs. They look nothing like your dog does. It’s all what your eye is used to looking at. This is called being kennel blind. Your education begins when you are forced to re-evaluate your breeding and show stock.
You can chose to like whatever it is that you find appealing in this breed’s structure (hindquarters, fronts, movement, etc.) but for all the variety that is out there, there is only one correct structure and that is dictated by the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s breed standard. Once you become familiar with it, you may come to realize what your eye has become used to is not what the standard calls for in a correctly structured animal.
My rating: Get familiar with the breed standard: (4)