German Shepherd Dog Breed has a very specific breed standard. Enthusiasts, pet owners and breed specialists can each find what they prefer and do not prefer so much in the breed, and the debate is ongoing about what a modern dog should look like. In either case, we believe it is very important to understand the phenotype of the German Shepherd Dog and to know what this breed standard is. One of the most fundamental researches on German Shepherd Physical presentation with detailed illustration of the breed standard conformation that we have come across is completed by now retired German Shepherd Dog Judge and Breed Surveyor, Louis Donald. His work can be found here - (the link is now removed due to the author publishing his work). We would highly recommend to get a copy once it is published! We just can not wait! It is a great detailed textbook for anyone that wants to understand the concepts of GSD breed standard better.
Another great illustrated work is The Illustrated Standard for the German Shepherd Dog by amazing artists Linda Shaw. We highly recommend this book for anyone that wants to learn more about the breed conformation, colors and standard.
We will also include The Illustrated German Shepherd™ - this online resource we find to be a tremendous amount of work and dedication completed by Deidre Tomkins, DeLois Design.
We will also add the official breed standard as published by Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, SV/Germany, as well as adaptation of it by American Kennel Club are listed below.
SV BREED STANDARD
German Shepherd Dog Standard
23.12.2010/EN FCI-Standard N°166
TRANSLATION: Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) E.V. / Original version: (D).
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE OFFICIAL VALID STANDARD: 11.08.2010.
UTILIZATION: Versatile working, herding and service dog.
FCI-CLASSIFICATION: Group 1 Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs).
Section 1 Sheepdogs. With working trial.
Brief historical overview:
According to the official documentation of the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) e.V. (Society for the German Shepherd Dog, “SV” for short) – legal domicile in Augsburg, Germany, member of the Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen (VDH, German Kennel Club) – the “SV” as the founding club of the breed is responsible for the breed standard of the German Shepherd Dog. Established in the first General Meeting at Frankfurt/Main on 20 September 1899 according to suggestions by A. Meyer and Max von Stephanitz and in addition to the amendments of the 6th General Meeting on 28 July 1901, the 23rd General Meeting at Cologne/Rhineland on 17 September 1909, the Executive Board & Advisory Board Meeting at Wiesbaden on 5 September 1930 and the Breeding Committee & Executive Board Meeting on 25 March 1961, revisions were resolved within the framework of the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs (WUSV) Meeting on 30 August 1976.
Revisions and catalogued measures were resolved with the Enabling Resolution through the Executive Board and Advisory Board from 23/24 March 1991, amended through the Federal Conventions from 25 May 1997 and 31 May/1 June 2008.
The German Shepherd Dog, whose methodical breeding was started in 1899 after the foundation of the society, had been bred from the central German and southern German breeds of the herding dogs existing at that time with the ultimate objective of creating a working dog inclined to high achievements. In order to achieve this objective, the breed standard of the German Shepherd Dog was determined, which relates to the physical constitution as well as the traits and characteristics.
The German Shepherd Dog is medium-size, slightly elongated, powerful and well-muscled, with dry bone and firm overall structure.
Important dimensional ratios
The height at the withers amounts to 60 cm to 65 cm for male dogs and 55 cm to 60 cm for female dogs. The trunk length exceeds the dimension at the height at the withers by about 10 – 17 %.
The German Shepherd Dog must be well-balanced (with strong nerves) in terms of character, self-assured, absolutely natural and (except for a stimulated situation) good-natured as well as attentive and willing to please. He must possess instinctive behaviour, resilience and self-assurance in order to be suitable as a companion, guard, protection, service and herding dog.
The head is wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the body size (length about 40 % at the height at the withers), without being plump or too elongated, dry in the overall appearance and moderately broad between the ears. Seen from the front and side, the forehead is only slightly arched and without any or with only a slightly indicated middle furrow.
The ratio from the cranial region to the facial region is 50 % to 50 %. The width of the cranial region more or less corresponds to the length of the cranial region. The cranial region (seen from above) tapers evenly towards the nasal bridge with gradually sloping, not sharply depicted stop in the
wedge-shaped facial region (foreface) of the head. Upper and lower jaws are powerfully developed.
The nasal dorsum is straight, any dip or bulge is undesirable. The lips are taut, close well and are of dark colouring.
The nose must be black.
The teeth must be strong, healthy and complete (42 teeth according to the dental formula). The German Shepherd Dog has a scissor bite, i.e. the incisors must interlock like scissors, whereby the incisors of the upper jaw overlap those of the lower jaw. Occlusal overlay, overbite and retrusive occlusion as well as larger spaces between the teeth (gaps) are faulty. The straight dental ridge of the incisors is also faulty. The jaw bones must be strongly developed so that the teeth can be deeply embedded in the dental ridge.
The eyes are of medium size, almond-shaped, slightly slanted and not protruding. The colour of the eyes should be as dark as possible. Light, piercing eyes are undesirable since they impair the dog’s impression.
Ears – The German Shepherd Dog has erect ears of medium size, which are carried upright and aligned (not drawn-in laterally); they are pointed and with the auricle facing forward.
Tipped ears and drooping ears are faulty. Ears carried rearward when moving or in relaxed position are not faulty.
Neck – The neck should be strong, well-muscled and without loose neck skin (dewlap). The angulation towards the trunk (horizontal) amounts to approx. 45 %.
Body – The upper line runs from the base of the neck via the high, long withers and via the straight back towards the slightly sloping croup, without visible interruption. The back is moderately long, firm, strong and well-muscled. The loin is broad, short, strongly developed and well-muscled. The croup should be long and slightly sloping (approx 23° to the horizontal) and the upper line should merge into the base of the tail without interruption.
The chest should be moderately broad, the lower chest as long and pronounced as possible. The depth of the chest should amount to approx. 45 % to 48 % of the height at the withers.
The ribs should feature a moderate curvature; a barrel-shaped chest is just as faulty as flat ribs.
The tail extends at least to the hock, but not beyond the middle of the hind pastern. It has slightly longer hair on the underside and is carried hanging downward in a gentle curve, whereby in a state of excitement and in motion it is raised and carried higher, but not beyond the horizontal. Operative corrections are forbidden.
Forequarters - The forelimbs are straight when seen from all sides, and absolutely parallel when seen from the front.
Shoulder blade and upper arm are of equal length, and firmly attached to the trunk by means of powerful musculature. The angulation from shoulder blade and upper arm is ideally 90°, but generally up to 110°.
The elbows may not be turned out either while standing or moving, and also not pushed in. The forearms are straight when seen from all sides, and absolutely parallel to each other, dry and firmly muscled. The pastern has a length of approx. 1/3 of the forearm, and has an angle of approx. 20° to 22° to the forearm. A slanted pastern (more than 22°) as well as a steep pastern (less than 20°) impairs the suitability for work, particularly the stamina.
The paws are rounded, well-closed and arched; the soles are hard, but not brittle. The nails are strong and of dark colour.
The position of hind legs is slightly backwards, whereby the hind limbs are parallel to each other when seen from the rear. Upper leg and lower leg are of approximately the same length and form an angle of approx. 120°; the legs are strong and well-muscled.
The hocks are strongly developed and firm; the hind pastern stands vertically under the hock.
The paws are closed, slightly arched; the pads are hard and of dark colour; the nails are strong, arched and also of dark colour.
The German Shepherd Dog is a trotter. The limbs must be coordinated in length and angulations so that the dog can shift the hindquarters towards the trunk without any essential change of the top line and can reach just as far with the forelimbs. Any tendency towards over-angulation of the hindquarters reduces the stability and the stamina, and thereby the working ability. Correct body proportions and angulations results in a gait that is far-reaching and flat over the ground which conveys the impression of effortless forward movements. The head pushed forward and the slightly raised tail result in a consistent, smooth trot showing a gently curved, uninterrupted upper line from the ear tips over the neck and back to the end of the tail.
Skin – The skin is (loosely) fitting, but without forming any folds.
The German Shepherd Dog is bred in the hair varieties double coat and long and harsh outer coat – both with undercoat.
The guard hair should be as dense as possible, particularly harsh and close fitting: short on the head, including the inside of the ears, short on the front side of the legs, paws and toes, some-what longer and more strongly covered in hair on the neck. On the back side of the legs the hair extends to the carpal joint or the hock; it forms moderate ‘trousers’ on the back side of the haunches.
Long and harsh outer coat:
The guard hair should be long, soft and not close fitting, with tufts on the ears and legs, bushy trousers and bushy tail with downward formation of tuft. Short on the head, including the inside of the ears, on the front side of the legs, on the paws and toes, somewhat longer and more strongly covered in hair on the neck, almost forming a mane. On the back side of the legs the hair extends to the carpal joint or the hock and forms clear trousers on the back side of the haunches.
Colors are black with reddish-brown, brown and yellow to light grey markings; single-colored black, grey with darker shading, black saddle and mask. Unobtrusive, small white marks on chest as well as very light color on insides are permissible, but not desirable. The tip of the nose must be black in all colors. Dogs with lack of mask, light to piercing eye color, as well as with light to whitish markings on the chest and the insides, pale nails and red tip of tail are considered to be lacking in pigmentation. The undercoat shows a light greyish tone. The color white is not allowed.
Height at the withers: 60 cm to 65 cm
Weight: 30 kg to 40 kg
Height at the withers: 55 cm to 60 cm
Weight: 22 kg to 32 kg
Male dogs should have two obviously normally developed testicles which are completely in the scrotum.
Any deviation from the aforementioned points should be considered as a fault whose evaluation should be in exact proportion to the degree of deviation.
Deviations from the above-described breed characteristics which impair the working capability.
Faulty ears: ears set too low laterally, tipped ears, inward constricted ears, ears not firm
Considerable pigment deficiencies.
Severely impaired overall stability.
All deviations from scissor bite and dental formula insofar as it does not involve eliminating faults (see the following)
a) Dogs with weak character and weak nerves which bite
b) Dogs with proven “severe hip dysplasia”
c) Monorchid or cryptorchid dogs as well as dogs with clearly dissimilar or atrophied testicles
d) Dogs with disfiguring ears or tail faults
e) Dogs with malformations
f) Dogs with dental faults, with lack of:
1 premolar 3 and another tooth, or
1 canine tooth, or
1 premolar 4, or
1 molar 1 or molar 2, or
a total of 3 teeth or more
g) Dogs with jaw deficiencies:
Overshot by 2 mm and more, undershot, level bite in the entire incisor region
h) Dogs with oversize or undersize by more than 1 cm
j) White hair colour (also with dark eyes and nails)
k) Long Straight Topcoat without undercoat
l) Long-haired (long, soft guard hair without undercoat, mostly parted in the middle of the back, tufts on the ears and legs and on the tail)
GERMAN SHEPHERD BREED STANDARD
adopted by AKC
The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks 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 ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility - difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.
The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any of the above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized as very serious faults and any dog exhibiting pronounced indications of these must be excused from the ring. It must be possible for the judge to observe the teeth and to determine that both testicles are descended. Any dog that attempts to bite the judge must be disqualified. The ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary purpose.
Size, Proportion, Substance:
The desired height for males at the top of the highest point of the shoulder blade is 24 to 26 inches; and for bitches, 22 to 24 inches. The German Shepherd Dog is longer than tall, with the most desirable proportion as 10 to 8½. The length is measured from the point of the prosternum or breastbone to the rear edge of the pelvis, the ischial tuberosity. The desirable long proportion is not derived from a long back, but from overall length with relation to height, which is achieved by length of forequarter and length of withers and hindquarter, viewed from the side.
The head is noble, cleanly chiseled, strong without coarseness, but above all not fine, and in proportion to the body. The head of the male is distinctly masculine, and that of the bitch distinctly feminine. The expression keen, intelligent and composed. Eyes of medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is as dark as possible. Ears are moderately pointed, in proportion to the skull, open toward the front, and carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. A dog with cropped or hanging ears must be disqualified. Seen from the front the forehead is only moderately arched, and the skull slopes into the long, wedge-shaped muzzle without abrupt stop. The muzzle is long and strong, and its topline is parallel to the topline of the skull. Nose black. A dog with a nose that is not predominantly black must be disqualified. The lips are firmly fitted. Jaws are strongly developed. Teeth - 42 in number - 20 upper and 22 lower - are strongly developed and meet in a scissors bite in which part of the inner surface of the upper incisors meet and engage part of the outer surface of the lower incisors. An overshot jaw or a level bite is undesirable. An undershot jaw is a disqualifying fault. Complete dentition is to be preferred. Any missing teeth other than first premolars is a serious fault.
Neck, Topline, Body:
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 rath er than up and but little higher than the top of the shoulders, particularly in motion. Topline - The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short. The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. Chest - Commencing at the prosternum, it is well filled and carried well down between the legs. It is deep and capacious, never shallow, with ample room for lungs and heart, carried well forward, with the prosternum showing ahead of the shoulder in profile. Ribs well sprung and long, neither barrel- shaped nor too flat, and carried down to a sternum which reaches to the elbows. Correct ribbing allows the elbows to move back freely when the dog is at a trot. Too round causes interference and throws the elbows out; too flat or short causes pinched elbows. Ribbing is carried well back so that the loin is relatively short. Abdomen firmly held and not paunchy. The bottom line is onlymoderately tucked up in the loin. Loin Viewed from the top, broad and strong. Undue length between the last rib and the thigh, when viewed from the side, is undesirable. Croup long and gradually sloping. Tail bushy, with the last vertebra extended at least to the hock joint. It is set smoothly into the croup and low rather than high. At rest, the tail hangs in a slight curve like a saber. 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 curled forward beyond a vertical line. Tails too short, or with clumpy ends due to ankylosis, are serious faults. A dog with a docked tail must be disqualified.
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 stra ight and the bone oval rather than round. The pasterns are strong and springy and angulated at approximately 25-degree 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, nails short and dark.
The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the side, is broad, with both upper and lower thigh well muscled, forming as nearly as possible a right angle. The upper thigh bone parallels the shoulder blade while the lower thigh bone parallels the upper arm. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the foot) is short, strong and tightly articulated. The dewclaws, if any, should be removed from the hind legs. Feet as in front.
The ideal dog has a double coat of medium length. 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 permissible. The head, including the inner ear and foreface, and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer and thicker hair. The rear of the forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock, respectively.
Faults in coat include soft, silky, too long outer coat, woolly, curly, and open coat.
The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are serious faults A white dog must be disqualified.
A German Shepherd Dog is a trotting dog, and its structure has been developed to meet the requirements of its work.
General Impression - The gait is outreaching, elastic, seemingly without effort, smooth and rhythmic, covering the maximum amount of ground with the minimum number of steps. At a walk it covers a great deal of ground, with long stride of both hind legs and forelegs. At a trot the dog covers still more ground with even longer stride, and moves powerfully but easily, with coordination and
balance so that the gait appears to be the steady motion of a well -lubricated machine. The feet travel close to the ground on both forward reach and backward push. In order to achieve ideal movement of this kind, there must be good muscular development and ligamentation. The hindquarters deliver, 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 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 dogs body sideways out of the normal straight line.
Transmission-The typical smooth, flowing gait is maintained with great strength and firmness of back. The whole effort of the hindquarter is transmitted to the forequarter through the loin, back and withers. At full trot, the back must remain firm and level without sway, roll, whip or roach. Unlevel topline with withers lower than the hip is a fault. To compensate for the forward motion imparted by the hindquarters, the shoulder should open to its full extent. The forelegs should reach out close to the ground in a long stride in harmony with that of the hindquarters. The dog does not track on widely separated parallel lines, but brings the feet inward toward the middle line of the body when trotting, in order to maintain balance. The feet track closely but do not strike or cross over. Viewed from the front, the front legs function from the shoulder joint to the pad in a straight line. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs function from the hip joint to the pad in a straight line. Faults of gait, whether from front, rear or side, are to be considered very serious faults.
Cropped or hanging ears.
Dogs with noses not predominantly black.
Any dog that attempts to bite the judge.