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I'm currently trying to learn more about proper movement in the German Shepherd. How do you tell if a dog has good reach and drive? What is considered acceptable movement vs excellent movement?


This guy seems to be considered as having excellent movement. But I don't really know why very well. What examples do you have of good movement and how does it shape up to others of the breed?
Is reach and drive effected by the speed that a dog is traveling? For example, does the reach stay the same in a slow trot, medium trot, and a fast trot?

I was told that my pup lacks reach and drive for example. How would one assess her movement? Good, bad, average? Below are some stills of her at what I think is a medium trot.


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How do you assess your own dogs movement? What dog do you think has optimal movement?
 

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Only have a sec, but I can post a pic of Carly (coming to a stop) and Sage (fast gaiting around the ring). You can see that both dogs are moving from the shoulder and not the elbow. Both dogs have a considerable amount of angulation in the rear. Carly is the more powerful mover of the two, and Sage seemed to float when she moved.

CARLY:


SAGE:


Here’s Scarlet at about 6-7 weeks. You can see her movement even at that young age.




And Scarlet at about 14 months old.

 

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Only have a sec, but I can post a pic of Carly (coming to a stop) and Sage (fast gaiting around the ring). You can see that both dogs are moving from the shoulder and not the elbow. Both dogs have a considerable amount of angulation in the rear. Carly is the more powerful mover of the two, and Sage seemed to float when she moved.
Thanks for the reply! The point to watch the shoulder is actually very helpful! Looking at video of my pup moving, I think I can see what others have pointed out now to some extent. Her shoulder only moves with the impact to the ground and doesn't seem to move really during the extension of the front legs.

Does age or conditioning impact reach to a noticeable extent or do you basically know how a dog is going to move when they are still very young?

Do you view that the different lines of German Shepherds tend to move differently?
 

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I don’t breed, I only show, but I can spot a good mover on a young puppy pretty easily. It’s there.

When Sage and Scarlet were just learning to show, they were both what we call “lifty”. When they were gaiting, they would lift their front feet off the ground. I got kind of panicky when I saw it, but everyone said you can fix lift, you can’t fix lack of reach. When they stopped being so “happy” (ie wild, lol), they both stopped lifting.

You can get a dog to stretch out more by running them over cavalettis (like a horse). If they are spaced correctly, the dog will stretch out to avoid hitting the poles(or beams, etc). My breeder had these really really long dirt runs that had landscape timbers half-buried at intervals. I would take the girls out there for a few weeks before we showed, and let them run in them. It seemed to help them be more fluid. But if the conformation isn’t there, it isn’t there.
 

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I don’t breed, I only show, but I can spot a good mover on a young puppy pretty easily. It’s there.

When Sage and Scarlet were just learning to show, they were both what we call “lifty”. When they were gaiting, they would lift their front feet off the ground. I got kind of panicky when I saw it, but everyone said you can fix lift, you can’t fix lack of reach. When they stopped being so “happy” (ie wild, lol), they both stopped lifting.

You can get a dog to stretch out more by running them over cavalettis (like a horse). If they are spaced correctly, the dog will stretch out to avoid hitting the poles(or beams, etc). My breeder had these really really long dirt runs that had landscape timbers half-buried at intervals. I would take the girls out there for a few weeks before we showed, and let them run in them. It seemed to help them be more fluid. But if the conformation isn’t there, it isn’t there.
My pup does some cavaletti exercises at the beginning of each of our agility classes. The purpose is to help her learn where her feet are more so than training her to have better reach. I might not have been asking the right people, but it looks like the only good thing about her conformation is that it's "balanced". She seems pretty coordinated though. Our agility instructor is pretty amazed with her level of coordination while still taking into consideration that she's a puppy.

My goal in learning more about movement is to learn where she is at with an honest picture. If her conformation turns out well enough to not land us in last place every time then I will probably show her when they have conformation shows at the same venue as our trials.

Do you have an video of your dogs trotting that I can try to learn from? I've read all of the standards, I've watched the GSDCA movement videos on youtube, I've stared at my dog trotting, and I'm just still not getting an eye for it all yet. So any help is most appreciated!
 

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I’m reading this on my phone right now, so I’m limited on what I can show you. But if you go to the conformation forum, in dog sports, I have a video of Scarlet in the Group ring. She’s barely two at that show, and naked as can be, but you can see her run around the ring. The title of the thread is “Dog show weekend for Scarlet”, and the date on it is Sept 2018. Apparently I have another thread titled the same thing, but it’s another show. No video.
 

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If you really want to understand what constitutes good movement in the GSD, get your hands on a copy of Linda Shaw's book, The Illustrated Standard of the GSD: https://www.amazon.ca/Illustrated-Standard-German-Shepherd-Dog/dp/1986532496

Both the German and the American show line dogs have had their conformation exaggerated to the point where they are not moving correctly and with maximum efficiency. However, this incorrect movement is seen as the 'norm' in their respective show rings.

The Martin brothers altered the conformation of the German dog by roaching the back and dropping the croup, while increasing the slope of the pelvis. They also bred the dogs to have a longer lower thigh, similar to the American show dogs. I've seen German dogs that were so exaggerated that they hock-walked, just like the American show dogs. Anyway, as a result of the changes to the rear end, the spine tends to buckle at high speed. This causes many of the German dogs to lift their front legs in an exaggerated manner when gaiting. Most of them don't have adequate shoulder reach, either, as you see with some of the above photos.

The conformation of the American dog typically shows a very long upper thigh, and an upright shoulder in the front. Compared to the German dog, the shoulder has moved forward, to help produce front reach. This is obviously not going to produce a balanced gait, either. Many of these dogs cannot achieve a flying trot. Those that do are not going to be able to maintain it for a length of time, because the exaggerated structure wastes energy.

I don't want to get into a lengthy debate about this, because it really can't be discussed without showing pictures of dogs that I don't own, or displaying Linda's copyrighted drawings and text. However, I would very highly recommend this book. She spend 11 pages analyzing Dingo von Haus Gerro's stride and comparing it to that of a wolf!
 

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And it would be so nice to get Carmen back here to give her views, as she understands it much better than I do!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
If you really want to understand what constitutes good movement in the GSD, get your hands on a copy of Linda Shaw's book, The Illustrated Standard of the GSD: https://www.amazon.ca/Illustrated-Standard-German-Shepherd-Dog/dp/1986532496

Both the German and the American show line dogs have had their conformation exaggerated to the point where they are not moving correctly and with maximum efficiency. However, this incorrect movement is seen as the 'norm' in their respective show rings.

The Martin brothers altered the conformation of the German dog by roaching the back and dropping the croup, while increasing the slope of the pelvis. They also bred the dogs to have a longer lower thigh, similar to the American show dogs. I've seen German dogs that were so exaggerated that they hock-walked, just like the American show dogs. Anyway, as a result of the changes to the rear end, the spine tends to buckle at high speed. This causes many of the German dogs to lift their front legs in an exaggerated manner when gaiting. Most of them don't have adequate shoulder reach, either, as you see with some of the above photos.

The conformation of the American dog typically shows a very long upper thigh, and an upright shoulder in the front. Compared to the German dog, the shoulder has moved forward, to help produce front reach. This is obviously not going to produce a balanced gait, either. Many of these dogs cannot achieve a flying trot. Those that do are not going to be able to maintain it for a length of time, because the exaggerated structure wastes energy.

I don't want to get into a lengthy debate about this, because it really can't be discussed without showing pictures of dogs that I don't own, or displaying Linda's copyrighted drawings and text. However, I would very highly recommend this book. She spend 11 pages analyzing Dingo von Haus Gerro's stride and comparing it to that of a wolf!

I would have bought that book already if it wasn't a bit on the expensive side! I've been able to find the first section of the book online, and I have read that part of it. It does not get to the section on movement. I think I need to see if I can't borrow a copy from the library some how. Knowing that she spends so much time analyzing Dingo is actually really appealing!

I've been reading a lot of the articles on Louis Donald's blog and what you are saying seems to be in line with what I am able to intemperate of his opinions. Efficiency seems to be the key to it. I think I'm starting to like a lot of the working line dogs more than I used to. As well, what is considered optimal movement definitely seems to be different based upon who you ask and what line of dogs they look at the most. It all just adds to my confusion! I really have a disconnect between what I read, what people tell me, and the limited amount of detail I'm able to pick out.

Sigh, I just want to be able to look at my dog and determine if she has terrible movement, bad movement, or okay movement and understand why. I think I really will have to get my hands on that book and see if I can manage to learn anything!
 

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Carmen is a breeder who lives in Ontario. Her kennel name is Carmspack. She breeds balanced German shepherds that make good sport dogs, working dogs for police or military, or just good family companions. If you want to get an idea of the depth of her knowledge about breeding, have a look at the Iceberg Breeders thread: https://www.germanshepherds.com/threads/iceberg-breeders.163886/page-12#post-9204297

She and Linda Shaw were good friends, until Linda passed away from cancer. :cry:
 

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Radke, Louis Donald is extremely knowledgeable, and worth a read, but unfortunately, he can't bite the hand that feeds him (the SV and the people who control it.) I used to follow his site, but I eventually got kicked off for pointing out the faults in the showline dogs, and asking unpopular questions.

Here's what Linda Shaw has to say about the German showline structure. The drawing that accompanies the text doesn't even BEGIN to approach the conformation of many of the roached back dogs I've seen in the show ring. One dog I saw a couple of years ago had extreme angulation combined with a roached back. The handler had to support it to help it hold a stack. Yet this was the dog that took the first place ribbon... :'(

Roached Topline C...this type has withers that slope down to the head and the highest point of the topline is an arch at the mid-back behind the withers. The croup is steep. The dog is unable to move without the thoracic/lumbar junction buckling upward under the stress of forward propulsion. The power generated by the rear is unable to travel in a straight, level line to the front and is instead directed up through the dog's back. wasting energy. The gut is short and drawn up, and the body can appear too short. If the dog appears of normal length it is because the spine and body are too long, to compensated for the distortion . This is a very deformed back.
Linda Shaw, The Illustrated Standard for the German Shepherd Dog, 2nd Edition, p. 204

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Linda Shaw's book sold out soon after publication, despite being self-published. The second edition is still available, but prices are going up, as I believe it is also sold out, and with Linda's passing, there will probably be no more printed. I was lucky to get it at original list price of $50. It has an additional 20 pages of drawings, illustrating correct conformation vs. faulty conformation, and thus is the better book to have.

If you can get one for a reasonable price, GRAB IT!
 

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And the other side of the coin, the American show line shepherd. Most of the dogs seen in the ring are this extreme or close to it. And most of them can place the entire hock on the ground (not shown in this photo, but if you look up pedigrees for these dogs, you will see it in many of the photos.)

From Linda Shaw's Illustrated Standard of the German Shepherd, 2nd Edition, pg. 196

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My west Germans show line has some limit in movement, my working line developed arthritis early in life - 8. My American showline is a gorgeous mover comes from American showlines. None of mine are extreme but one can tell their line. I like to stay away from extremes from any line they all have extremes which are in wgsl, working line and American show line - I don’t like extreme roach backs, no angulation nor hock walkers. Most important to me are clear headed balanced dog which all were and are. You will often read on here of only the extreme points of showlines and nothing else and the best points of working lines which are tiresome. Not to say extremes should be pointed out but again they can be easily found in all lines and easily saw this when I was in search of my dogs. Often breeders will have dogs that are quite different and they do have different breedings. A video of my American show line - max trotting when coming back in slow motion from his catch my son threw. Notice he has to close his eyes as he passed me lol! Video of Luna my wgsl keeping tabs on Max lol! Shaw and Louis Donald are good reads to learn about confirmation and some of the extremes
 
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