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Old 03-11-2014, 04:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Chest- Broad, not Narrow

Let's talk about the GSD's chest. The breed standard according to the USCA states:

"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."

Here are some questions I have:
  1. What part of the dog's conformation defines the chest width? Does the placement of the scapula, and or the length of the humerus give an appearence of a wider/narrower chest? Or is this only a factor of how wide the sternum is?
  2. What is the function of having a wider/narrower chest?
  3. Why do we tend to see narrower chests in Highline dogs? Was this a conscous decision or a by product of other conformation decisions?

Full disclosure- what I really want to talk about is turning ability and how the front end of the dog influences turning ability (especially as it relates to croup angle). But I think before we get to that conversation, it might be wise to understand how the narrowness or wideness of the chest affects things.
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:09 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I can't help much, but I can tell you my male who has a very broad, very barrel chest, has a very deep bark lol. He is also not as agile as thinner chested dogs I've come across. Fast, but straightline fast lol. Like a Ferrari compared to a musclecar. I think those are linked.
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Not sure if this plays into the discussion, but during a breed survey the chest is measured.
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:15 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yes, interestingly this conversation came up off the forum and was almost spot on with what you're saying, Hunter. I suggested that I really liked the wider chest I'm seeing on a lot of Mals, and that I thought that generally the GSD is suffering from a narrow chest. It was pointed out to me that a wide chest does not necessarily equate to athleticism, and that narrow chested breeds often tend to be more athletic than GSDs.

I think one must be REALLY careful when talking about conformation in saying that any one thing is "the reason" that a dog can turn. I'm sure the whole packaged is involved (thus my comment on croup angle- which I swear I've read on this forum that croup angle is hugely important for collected turning). But again, I'd like to first understand if the width of the chest serves any particular function for the athleticism of the dog.
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:23 PM   #5 (permalink)
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OK, I found Nikon's info, I'll give it to you since you've seen him in person multiple times and possibly some (crappy) agility footage, so you can kind of mentally gauge what that means as far as what you're pondering.....

At 4.5 years of age he was measured 62cm tall, 30cm chest depth, and 81cm chest circumference.

Things that may relate to movement/agility....
Constitution: moderately robust
Structural characteristics: normal proportions
Bone: moderately strong
Musculature: well developed/powerful
Firmness of front ligaments: very good
Firmness of rear ligaments: very good
Back: firm
Tightness of elbows: very good
Firmness of pasterns: good
Front view: straight
Croup: normal length
Firmness of hocks: good
Gait: front/rear correct, straight
Front reach: very good
Rear drive: effective

"Medium size, medium strong male with good expression and pigmentation, high withers, firm back, nice top- and underline, very good angulations in front and rear and balanced chest proportions. Steps correctly coming and going and shows fluent gaits with free front reach and effective rear drive. Sure temperament; TSB pronounced; does out."

Personally, I'd say Nikon's chest is a tad on the narrower side, but I wouldn't call it *too* narrow. I think he does have quite good length of upper arm, shoulder angulation, and correct open reach and I think having a more correct front places the legs a bit father under the dog, so at least visually, a dog with a more straight front and arms farther forward might make the chest appear a bit wider up top. I would not mind a tad more chest on him (width, not depth), but would rather have his chest than one that is a tad too wide, IMO.

ETA: Actually according to your numbers his chest would be considered on the wider side of the standard. 48% of his height is 29.8cm and his chest was measured 30. However, I'd bet if we measured him 3 times, we'd get 3 slightly different numbers (like 29, 31, 30). The breed survey isn't spectacularly accurate I don't think (that lady that measured our dogs at the Premier seemed to do a much more comprehensive and careful job).
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:25 PM   #6 (permalink)
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That wasn't very clear above... What I meant to say is that I commented that I liked the wider chest I'm seeing on Mals because just like in Ferraris, the wider wheelbase creates a more stable platform. THAT'S when I was told that often wide chested dogs are not particularly agile, which is curious to me.
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:38 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think there are many links but a lot of factors involved. For example, used to do SchH with some Rottweilers and a few of these dogs literally could not breathe after 15 barks. They were strong dogs, good barking and aggression, nice muscle, but...maybe their heavy bone structure and huge chests just make it more work? I mean, essentially they are performing the same things as a lighter dog like a 45lb Mal or 65lb GSD. It seems like it has to take more effort for a bigger, wider, heavier dog to perform the exact same tasks? As long as the dog has the physical mass necessary to do a task, more bulk probably doesn't help (otherwise why are gymnasts typically under 5'2"? talk about agility). And that's not even considering the skeletal anatomy and how angulation comes into play....
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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the ideal GSD conformation is determined by the dogs' function.

The GSD was meant to be a dog with tireless endurance .

That means that the that the chest has to be capacious enough to accommodate a good set of lungs.
That is one of the criticisms with the American show bred dogs, deep but very narrow -- not for endurance.

The muscle of the GSD is not supposed to be short and bulky , longer bundles allowing for extension , not load bearing.

Always the balance between flexibility and strength.
Great article written and illustrated by Linda Shaw in Das Schaferhund Magazin June 2006
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Old 03-11-2014, 10:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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What you are actually addressing is a term called "spring of ribs" and Carmen is right. The German shepherd should have a nice spring of rib, not the slab sided narrow stuff you see so often today. It's all about lung capacity - nice spring of rib yields more area for lungs to expand. How they got narrow slab chest from the Standard is beyond me.
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Old 03-11-2014, 10:52 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Some pictures from this weekend!

That's a decent set of pics of my males chest. He also has great endurance. Did an AD on him on a whim with no real prep lol
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