German Shepherd Breed Standards and Information
.:Breed Health:. .:Working
German Shepherd Standards per
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
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
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.
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.)
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
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%.
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Shepherd Standards per GSDCA
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.
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
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
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.
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 prefered. Any missing teeth other
than first premolars is a serious fault.
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
The whole structure of the body gives
an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.
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.
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 only moderately tucked up in the
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.
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