Call to split the GSD gains momentum
Thousand sign petition to be sent to the KC
A CALL to split the German Shepherd dog into two ‘types’ has been signed by over 1,000 breed enthusiasts, following the furore surrounding the winner of BOB at Crufts in march.
Roy Brandon of the long established Lornaville Alsatians and Chairman of the GSD (Alsatian) Club of the UK, told Our Dogs that it is ‘not a question of who is right and who is wrong’. The breed, partly because of the competing requirements of the two lobby groups within the breed, is in ‘a very poor state’ and allowing the two types to separate would be in the best interests of both. Currently a ‘hard copy’ petition is doing the rounds and has already amassed over one thousand signatures.
Allegations abound that the breed standard is ignored as described in a letter from John Leadbeater in last week’s letters pages, where he points to fundamental differences in the FCI standard compared with that of the Kennel Clubs and says ’the relevant standard at KC designated shows is that of the UK Kennel Club’ therefore, surely dogs which have an outline and contraction significantly at odds with that standard should be rejected. He believes that this is not the case.
The development of the German Shepherd Dogs into two quite distinct strains is a controversy which has been rumbling on for very many years and a number of attempts have been made to divide the breed into what have been described as the ‘English’ and ‘Germanic’ types. Discussions with the Kennel Club, steered by Mason Minns, a member of the general Committee of the KC and who had an abiding interest in the breed, were ongoing until recently, stalled by his untimely death last year. We understand the campaign has lost focus since then but on 6th April a formal request for the breed to be split (see below), was made. In his reply dated 12th April, KC Chairman, Ronnie Irving, made it clear that more information would be required before the KC would consider forwarding the ideas to the Breed Standards Sub-committee to consider any change.
The breed standard deserves careful reading and there are several key requirements over which controversy rages. The standards says ‘Correct ratio 10 to 9 or 8 and a half’, ‘flowing topline, slightly sloping from front to back’, ‘weak, soft and roach backs undesirable and should be rejected’ and . Loin broad, strong, well muscled. Croup long, gently curving downwards to tail without disrupting flowing topline. ‘short, steep or flat croups undesirable and ‘Back between withers and croup, straight’.
Not confined to UK
This is not a problem confined to the UK. In the United States, the AKC standard allows for what some consider ‘an extreme angle in the hind quarters’ and where the description of topline reads ‘The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short.’ And the italics are embedded in the standard. The outline is interesting too:
Our Dogs asked a number of breeders what they felt about the proposal to split the breed. Dr Malcolm Willis, former chairman of the German Shepherd Dog Breed Council, told OUR DOGS that the idea was ‘ludicrous’ and would lead to international complications. In his view if the Kennel Club implemented such a policy it would lead to a breed council leaving the Kennel Club.
Stephen Beck who exhibited two dogs at Crufts and describes himself as ‘more inclined to the ‘Germanic’ type’ said, ‘On balance, I think a separation would be in the best interests of the breed, because it would allow the breed to move forward. At the moment most exhibitors are selecting the judges under which they show very carefully, so in some senses the breed is split already’. He added that it would be better if the breed could come to a common consensus so it ‘was a reluctant “yes” to separation’.
Jackie McManus has had GSDs for 20 years, but has only recently begun to breed and show them. She has found the GSD fraternity warm and welcoming and everyone has been very helpful, so she would be sorry to see a division. On the other hand, she says, ‘It can be confusing for the novice exhibitor coming to terms with such a wide variety of types within the breed’ and she can see the logic of having the two types separated.
On the other hand, Wendy Stephens of Arden Grange is unequivocally against any change. She told us, ‘The Kennel Club standard was revised in the early 1970s to accurately reflect the German (SV) standard (the FCI standard is different again as is the AKC standard) and what is required is for breeders to breed and judges to judge to that standard. Unfortunately many do not.’
David Payne (Videx) agrees. ‘I am 100% and absolutely in favour of a spilt. What is more, I would separate the long coat, too and make it a variety of the breed. There is a precedent with Dachshunds and with Belgian Shepherds, what can be the problem? The two types are already largely separate in terms of bloodlines so the connection between them is already tenuous and reducing.’
Joe Mallet (Maleeze) said, ‘There are those of us who try to breed precisely to the standard and this produces dogs which are not at either extreme. There are, therefore three ‘types’. What happens to those which are in the middle and, in my view, the “correct”, type.’
The GSD (Alsatian) Club of the UK are now preparing a revised submission for the Kennel Club which will be forwarded to Clarges Street as soon as all the details are agreed.
OUR DOGS has published a series of letters relating to the breed in recent weeks, and breed notes, too, have reflected the concern of breeders and exhibitors. However, this concern has not just been confined to breed enthusiasts. Last week, John Blake of the Croydon Rough Collies, offered the opinion that the Best of Breed at Crufts was ‘so poorly structured that … (breeders) … ‘ are going to give enormous ammunition to the anti-dog brigade.’
What do you think - cast your own vote.
Summary of the proposal from the GSD (Alsatian) Club of the UK
It is recognised that splitting the breed would not be an easy task.
An education programme would be required at national and local levels
It would stop the constant disagreement about ‘type’
It would reactivate interest in the breed
The would be a better atmosphere at shows
Each ‘group’ would be happier
Each group would know where it was most appropriate to show
General societies could show both breeds
The number of entries at shows would probably rise
The ‘middle of the road’ arguments (felt by the Club to be spurious) could be abandoned
Registrations would probably increase, reversing the current decline
It would not be easy – a transition period of five to ten years is envisaged
‘Middle Ground’ proponents might resent being forced to choose
They may be a loss of Challenge Certificates
They might be a loss of entries
There may be a decrease in registrations
There may be resistance from the Breed Council or individual clubs
An alternative standard would have to be introduced during the transition period
A series of criteria would need to be introduced to define which dogs were entered on which register. The decision would be taken on either, the phenotype (in which case a panel of experts would be convened to take the decision on the basis of a three generation pedigree and direct observation or photographs) or the genotype (in which case dogs with one imported parent from SV dog or who have 85% German Blood would be placed in the German Shepherd Register with the others on the British Alsatian register.