I made a comment recently that the GSD representative in the pastoral group ring at this year’s Crufts, appeared to have much better conformation than last year. This is a breed which has sadly seen much conflict over the last thirty years or so, where the chasm between supporters of the two ‘types’ ie the Germanic and the English has grown ever wider.

In the 80‘s we started to see Germanic dogs with very extreme top lines, which were often disparagingly referred to as ‘banana backs’ and yet were consistently winning at top championship shows, despite the breed standard calling for a level top line. Kennel club measures to ensure that the extremes of breeding were curtailed have been unsuccessful to say the least, although after last year’s furore at Crufts and the public outcry about the ‘deformed’ Gsd, things may now improve somewhat.

However, it would seem that much damage has been done to this magnificent breed and as always, some breeders have a lot to answer for. Despite all the health screening (and many GSD breeders are some of the most conscientious in this regard), we are now seeing the results of deliberate breeding for a more and more extreme top line, with hip and spinal problems coming to the fore.

In the last twelve months in my work as a behaviourist, I have seen three German Shepherds with badly deformed hind quarters, for which the phrase sickle-hocked isn’t expressive enough to convey the terrible state some of these dogs are in. All three look like normal Gsd’s to the casual eye, until that is one looks at them standing in profile. The severe curved spine or banana back is immediately apparent with extremely steep croup, but it is only when one looks at them from the rear that one sees the real results of all this tinkering with anatomy.

The dogs hocks actually touch and in all three cases, the dogs could stand with their back legs crossed at the hocks which just shouldn’t be possible. On the move going away, it is a very sad sight and goodness only knows how many years it will take to put all this right, even if there is a real desire to do so.

The latest of these three cases had been indulging in wild spinning, hence my involvement and the owners had not been best served by their vet. I took one look at the dog and told them I felt that his spinning was almost certainly  because he was in pain and that he was probably suffering not only from hip dysplasia, but also a spinal problem. The owners consulted another vet for a second opinion and my assessment was confirmed following X-rays.

I really do hope that the top people in this wonderful breed, both here and in Germany, together with the various breed clubs and kennel clubs etc., do their utmost to halt the decline of this iconic breed.