(let's say they'd call for a 35-degree angle from
vertical, for each bone, for purpose of illustration), and
others would be "less than ideal genes" calling for some
lesser angle. Of all the possible genes that could be
transmitted, the vast majority would be calling for an angle
of somewhere in the 20 degree to 30 degree range, with a
miniscule number calling for the coveted approximately 120 degrees remaining between the scapula and humerus. Genes are
inherited randomly, and statistically would show a bell curve
with the smallest amplitude in the two extremes (say, 15
degrees and 35 degrees, for example) and the greatest in the
middle of the curve. Despite all the talk about angles, it
boils down to this advice: forget the numbers, examine as many dogs as you can get your hands and eyes on, compare one dog to the next, and reward or admire those with the smallest
apparent angle between shoulder and upper arm, while proving what appears in stance by watching the dog perform in the trot.
Since he cannot do "better" than the ideal shoulder angle, which is at one end of a range of possibilities, the breeder must be more diligent in such an instance to cull from breeding programs all dogs which drift an undesirable distance from that good end of that spectrum. More so than is necessary in any trait in which the ideal is at some intermediate point between the worst on one end and the worst in the opposite direction. In the case of good forequarter function in a herding breed, and in most other working breeds, there is only one direction from the ideal, when we speak of breeds developed for trotting.
To paraphrase Sir Edmund Burke, eternal diligence is the price
of freedom from poor forequarters.
Shoulder Angles -
It is almost impossible to duplicate, by eye or hand, the
typical illustration in most books that shows a 90-degree angle between limbs, with lines going through the middle of the humerus and from either the most-forward point of the shoulder or the imagined location of the center of articulation to the highest point of the scapula or along the scapular spine. Only in the "best" fore-assemblies will an angle of 90 degrees even be approached, and then only if lines are drawn on radiographs from top of ulna to front of upper
arm to a point behind the highest point of the scapula.
Various Bone-Joint Angles in a Well-built
(Actually, few GSDs have this good a shoulder, and very few
from American lines since the 1970s)
Author Fred Lanting is an internationally respected show judge, approved by many registries as an all-breed judge, has judged numerous countries' Sieger Shows and Landesgruppen events, and has many years experience with SV. He presents seminars and consults worldwide on such topics as Gait-&-Structure, HD and Other Orthopedic Disorders, Anatomy, Training Techniques, and The GSD. Fred lives part of the year in Alabama, actively trains in schutzhund, and breeds for occasional litters. He invites all to join his annual non-profit Sieger Show and sightseeing tour. He can be reached at
or at: MrGSD.com.
The Total German Shepherd Dog by Fred Lanting
This is the expanded and enlarged second edition, a "must" for every true GSD lover. It is an excellent alternative to the "genetic history" by Willis, but less technical and therefore suitable for the novice, yet very detailed to be indispensable for the reputable GSD breeder. Chapters include: History and Origins, Modern Bloodlines, The Standard, Anatomy, The German Shepherd in Motion, Shows, Showing, and Training, The Winners, Nutrition and Feeding, General Care and Information, Health and First Aid, Parasites and Immunity, Diseases and Disorders, The Geriatric German Shepherd, Breeding, Basics of Genetics, Reproduction, Whelping, The First Three Weeks, Four to Twelve Weeks, Trouble-shooting Guide.
to purchase the Total German Shepherd Dog by Fred Lanting