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German Shepherd Breed Standards and Information

.:Breed Health:. .:Working Titles:.

German Shepherd Standards per 1976 SV

General Appearance:  The immediate impression of the GSD is of a dog slightly long in comparison to its height, with a powerful and well muscled body. The relation between height and length and the position and symmetry of the limbs (angulation) is so interrelated as to enable a far reaching and enduring gait. The coat should be weather-proof. A beautiful appearance is desirable, but this is secondary to this usefulness as a working dog. Sexual characteristics must be well defined - i.e., the masculinity of the male and the femininity of the female must be unmistakable.

True to type GSD gives an impression of innate strength, intelligence, and suppleness, with harmonious proportions and nothing either over done or lacking. His whole manner should make it perfectly clear that he is sound in mind and body, and has the physical and mental attributes to make him always ready for tireless action as a working dog. With an abundance of vitality he must be tractable enough to adapt himself to each situation and to carry out his work willingly and with enthusiasm. He must possess the courage and determination to defend himself, his master, or his master's possessions should the need arise. He must be observant, obedient, and a pleasant member of the household, quiet in his own environment, especially with children and other animals, and at ease with adults. Overall he should present a harmonious picture of innate nobility, alertness, and self-confidence.

Character:  The main characteristics of the GSD are: steadiness of nerves, attentiveness, loyalty, calm self-assurance, alertness and tractability, as well as courage with physical resilience and scenting ability. These characteristics are necessary for a versatile working dog. Nervousness, over-aggressiveness, and shyness are very serious faults.

Head:  The head should be proportional in size to the body without being coarse, too fine, or overlong. The overall appearance should be clean cut and fairly broad between the ears. Forehead should be only very slightly domed with little or no trace of center furrow. Cheeks should form a very softly rounded curve and should not protrude. Skull extends from the ears to the bridge of the nose tapering gradually and evenly, and blending without a too pronounced "stop" into a wedge shaped powerful muzzle. ( The skull is approximately 50% of the whole length of the head.) Both top and bottom jaws should be strong and well developed. The width of the skull should correspond approximately to the length. In males the width could be slightly greater and in females slightly less than the length. Muzzle should be strong with the lips firm, clean and closing tightly without any flews. The top of the muzzle is straight and almost parallel to the forehead. A muzzle which is too short, blunt, weak, pointed, overlong or lacking in strength is undesirable.

Ears:  Of medium size, firm in texture, broad at the base, set high, they are carried erect (almost parallel and not pulled inward), they taper to a point and open toward the front. Tipped ears are faulty. Hanging ears are a very serious fault. During movement the ears may be folded back.

Eyes:  The eyes are medium sized, almond-shaped and not protruding. Dark brown eyes are preferred, but eyes of a lighter shade are acceptable provided that the expression is good and the general harmony of the head not destroyed. The expression should be lively, intelligent, and self-assured.

Teeth:  The jaws must be strongly developed and the teeth healthy, strong, and complete. There should be 42 teeth: 20 in the upper jaw, 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, 4 molars; 22 in the lower jaw, 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 6 molars. The GSD has a scissor bite - i.e., the incisors in the lower jaw are set behind the incisors in the upper jaw, and thus meet in a scissor grip in which part of the surface of the upper teeth meet and engage part of the surface of the lower teeth. (Full and correct dentition is required for a "V" rating. Double p1's are acceptable for a "V" rating so long as everything else is correct. A missing p1 or incisor results in an "SG" rating. A missing p2 results in a "G" rating. Missing incisors are quite rare.)

Neck:  The neck should be fairly long, strong with well-developed muscles, free from throatiness (excessive folds of skin at the throat) and carried at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal; it is raised when excited and lowered at a fast trot.

Forequarters:  The shoulder blade should be long, set obliquely (45 degrees) and laid flat to the body. The upper arm should be strong and well muscled and joined to the shoulder blade at a near right angle (90 degrees). The forelegs, from the pasterns to the elbows, should be straight viewed from any angle and the bones should be oval rather than round. The pasterns should be firm and supple and angulated at approximately 20-23 degrees (from the vertical). Elbows neither tucked in nor turned out. Length of the forelegs should exceed the depth of chest at a ratio of approximately 55% to 45%.

Feet:  Should be rounded, toes well closed and arched. Pads should be well cushioned and durable. Nails short, strong, and dark in color. Dew claw sometimes found on the hind legs should be removed 2-3 days after birth.

Proportion:  The ideal height (measured to the highest point of the wither) is 57.5 cm for females and 62.5 cm for males 2.5 cm either above or below the norm is allowed. Any increase in this deviation detracts from the workability and breeding value of the animal.

Body:  The length of the body should exceed the height at the wither, the correct proportions being at 10 to 9 or 8.5. The length is measured from the point of the breast bone to the rear edge of the pelvis.

Over or undersized dogs, stunted growth, high-legged dogs and overloaded fronts, too short overall appearance, too light or too heavy in build, steep set limbs or any other failure which detracts from the reach or endurance of the gait are faulty.

Chest:  Chest should be deep (45-48% of the height at the shoulder) but not too broad. The brisket is long and well developed.

Ribs:  Ribs should be well formed and long, neither barrel-shaped nor too flat; correct rib cage allows free movement of the elbows when the dog is trotting. A too rounded rib cage will interfere and cause the elbows to be turned out. A too flat rib cage will lead to the drawing in of the elbows. The desired long ribbing gives a proportionately (relatively) short loin.

Abdomen:  Belly is firm and only slightly drawn up. Loin broad, strong and well muscled.

Topline:  Back is the area between the withers and the croup, straight, strongly developed and not too long. The overall length is not derived from a long back, but is achieved by the correct angle of a well laid shoulder, correct length of croup and hindquarters. The withers must be long, of good height and well defined. They should join the back in a smooth line without disrupting the flowing top line which should be slightly sloping from the front to the back. Weak, soft, and roached backs are undesirable. (A roach is a clearly defined elevation in the center of the back above a horizontal line drawn lengthwise at the base of the withers such that the spine arches.)

Croup should be long and gently curving down to the tail (approximately 23 degrees) without disrupting the flowing topline. The illium and sacrum for the skeletal basis of the croup. Short, steep, or flat croups are undesirable.

Tail:  Bushy haired, should reach at least to the hock joint, the ideal length being to the middle of the hock bones. The end is sometimes turned sideways with a slight hood; this is allowed but not desired. When at rest the tail should hang in a slight curve like a sabre. When moving it is raised and the curve increased, but ideally it should not be higher than the level of the back. A tail that is too short, rolled or curled, or generally carried badly or which is stumpy from birth is faulty.

Hindquarters:  (the leg referenced is the forward hind leg in the stacked position) The thighs should be broad and well muscled. The upper thigh bone (femur), viewed from the side should slope to the slightly longer lower thigh bone. The angulations should correspond to the front angulations without being over-angulated. The hock bone is strong and together with the stifle bone should form a firm hock joint. The hindquarters must be strong and well muscled to enable the effortless forward propulsion of the whole body. Any tendency toward over-angulation of the hindquarters reduces firmness and endurance.

Gait:  The GSD is a trotting dog. His sequence of step therefore follows a diagonal pattern in that he always moves the foreleg and the opposite hind leg forward at the same time. To achieve this, his limbs must be in such balance to one another so that he can thrust the hind foot well forward to the midpoint of the body and have an equally long reach with the fore foot without any noticeable change in the back line. The correct proportion of the height to length and corresponding length of limbs will produce a ground covering stride that travels flat over the ground, giving the impression of effortless movement. With his head thrust forward and a slightly raised tail, a balanced and even trotter displays a flowing line running from the tips of his ears over the neck and back down to the tip of the tail. The gait should be supple, smooth, and long reaching, carrying the body with the minimum of up and down movement, entirely free from stiltiness.

Color:  Black or black saddle with tan, or gold to light grey markings. All black, all grey, or grey with lighter or brown markings (Sables). Small white marks on the chest or very pale color on the inside of the legs are permitted but not desirable. The nose in all cases must be black. Light markings on the chest and inside legs, as well as whitish nails, red tipped nails or wishy-washy faded color are defined as lacking in pigmentation. Blues, livers, albinos, whites, are to be rejected. The undercoat is, except in all-black dogs, usually grey or fawn in color. The color of the GSD is in itself not important and has no effect on the character of the dog or on its fitness for work and should be a secondary consideration for that reason. The final color of a young dog can only be ascertained when the outer coat has developed.

Coat:  a) The normal (stock) coated GSD should carry a thick undercoat and the outer coat should be as dense as possible, made up of straight hard close lying hairs. The hair on the head and ears, front of the legs, paws and toes is short. On the neck it is longer and thicker, on some males forming a slight ruff. The hair grows longer on the back of the legs as far down as the pastern and the stifle, and forms fairly thick trousers on the hindquarters. There is no hard or fast rule for the length of the hair, but short mole-type coats are faulty.

b) In the long-coated GSD (long stock coat) the hairs are longer, not always straight and definitely not lying close and flat to the body. They are distinctly longer inside and behind the ears, and on the back of the forelegs and usually at the loins, and form a moderate tufts in the ears and profuse feathering on the back of the legs. The trousers are long and thick. Tail is bushy with light feathering underneath. As this type of coat is not so weatherproof as the normal coat it is undesirable.

c) In the long open-coated GSD the hair is appreciably longer the in the case of the type b and tends to form a parting along the back, the texture being somewhat silky. If present at all , undercoat is found only at the loins. Dogs with this type of coat are usually narrow chested, with narrow overlong muzzles. As the weather protection of the dog and his working ability are seriously diminished with this type of coat, it is undesirable.

Disqualifications:  Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

All male dogs must have both testicles fully descended into the scrotum.


 German Shepherd Standards per GSDCA

 General Appearance – 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 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.

 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 8 1/2. 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.

Head – 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 predominately black, must be disqualified. The lips are firmly fitted.

Jaws are strongly developed.

: 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 prefered. 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 rather than up, but a 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 posternum, 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 posternum showing ahead of the shoulder in profile.

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 only moderately 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.

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.


Forequarters – 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 ad 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 and springy and angulated at approximately a 24-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.


Hindquarters – The whole assembly of 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.


Coat – 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 hindlegs 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.


Color – The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred.

Pale, washed-out colors or blues and livers are serious faults. A white dog must be disqualified.

Gait: 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 hindlegs and forelegs. At a trot, the dog covers still more ground with even longer stride, and moves powerfully and easily, with coordination and balance so 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 hindleg 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 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.


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 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 the front, rear or side, are to be considered very serious faults.


Temperament – 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 a 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 of 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.


Disqualifications – Cropped or hanging ears; undershot jaw; docked tail; white dogs; dogs with noses not predominantly black; any dog that attempts to bite the judge.