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German Shepherd Breed Characteristics, Types, and Info for AKC and SV Standards

German Shepherd breed characteristics, according to the American Kennel Club, focuses more on the animal's properties pertaining to its original historical suitability as a sheepdog, rather than on pure aesthetic appeal; in this way, the American Kennel Club arguably preserves some of the traditional breeding philosophies of German Shepherd founder Max von Stephanitz. The American Kennel Club specifies that the German Shepherd should be physically long in comparison to its height. The ideal German Shepherd should be strong and muscular, with powerful fore- and hind-legs alike. This is not merely an aesthetic judgment; the proportional relationship between the length and the height of the German Shepherd should maximize its ability to move swiftly for long periods of time. The American Kennel Club considers the German Shepherd to be a “working dog” with versatile abilities; as a result, the ideal German Shepherd is expected to have a number of qualities pertaining to its ability to work efficiently – the dog should be always attentive and alert, never sluggish or lethargic, with a great deal of endurance and a powerful sense of smell.

While the dog should always be aware of its surroundings – indeed, keenly so – such an awareness should never result in nervousness or aggression; rather, the ideal German shepherd dog is calm and contained, friendly but not overeager. Ideally, the ratio of the length of the dog to height (as measured from the point of his shoulder to that of his buttock) should be 10:9, although a ratio of 10:8.5 is also acceptable. Particularly important in the judging of the German Shepherd is the angle of its back – the line of the back should be straight and smooth, reflecting firm, taut, muscles.

The American Kennel Club specifies that a deviation from this standard is particularly troublesome, and that “weak, soft, and roach backs [are] undesirable and should be heavily penalized.” The ideal height of a male dog is 63 cms/25 inches, while a female dog should be somewhat smaller: around 58 cm/23 inches. The acceptable deviation in either direction is 2.5 cm/1 inch.

As for the SV standards, they describe the German Shepherd dog as one that is well-balanced, firm in nerves, exuding self-confidence, extremely calm and impartial, and (with the exception of certain tempting situations) amiable. Furthermore, the dog must possess courage, a true willingness to fight, and hardness, in order to be suitable as companion, watchdog, protector, service dog, and guardian.  Additionally, general height parameters are as follows:  Males are to be 60-65 cm (23.6 to 25.6 inches), while bitches are 55-60 cm (21.6 to 23.6 inches) in height.  The SV also lists a number of "dentition faults", ranging from deviations in the dog's bite to numerous other deformations.

And though the AKC references many of the original working line traits of the German Shepherd, the SV is quite adamant and forward indeed regarding the temperament of this great canine. It's yet another example of the differences seen in American vs. European German Shepherds, which is a debate that is still being discussed to this day.

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