The American Kennel Club (AKC) currently recognizes 193 breeds. Before AKC accepts a new breed they require that each parent club submits a breed standard for their breed. These breed standards are the ideal for each breed; a breeder’s guide to follow to achieve perfection within their breeding program. However, more than half the breeders in this country have never read their own specific breed standard much less understand it. Breeders purport that they are focused on improving the breed, but is that what they really do?
Using the German Shepherd Dog in the United States as examples of breeders failing to preserve breed heritage and integrity is the illogical rear-end angulation bred into some show lines. These over angulated show lines appear to be crippled, so much so, that I have witnessed many that walk on their hocks like a rabbit. In addition, we have import breeders that have brought several different German Shepherd Dogs to the United States from the large long-legged Czechoslovakia and Russian lines that were purposely bred for large intimidating size for use as guard dogs. Then we have the West German Shepherds with roached back show lines. Then in order to breed a more high energy working dog, foreign breeders increased the drive of their working lines to such a level they are do not make good family dogs for most people due to needing constant stimulation and activity. All these types have been imported into the United States with such differing characteristics that one could legitimately argue that we have several breeds within the current American German Shepherd Dog. Many of the American shepherds have their problems with structure, health, and temperament as a result of breeders ignorantly choosing or arguably not choosing for certain phenotypes. These deviations from the original shepherds that followed servicemen back to the United States after WW II are now being indiscriminately bred by thousands of breeders across the country. Many of these different types are interbred with really no plan or thought given to the mental and physical characteristics of the next generation.
All breeds have their problems with structure, health, and temperament as a result of breeders ignorantly choosing for certain phenotypes that they prefer rather than choosing for breed type and trying to improve those traits that set their breed apart from others. The challenges that face dog breeders as a result of generations of bad breeding are enormous. Dog breeders need to understand the basics of genetics theory to make informed breeding decisions. Breeders should consider taking the approach of preserving the breed rather than trying to change the breed with ridiculous exaggerations of what is structurally correct or to what aesthetically pleasing to some.
Good breeders preserve our canine heritage for future generations. We at Keystone German Shepherds breed the Heidelberg type German Shepherd Dog for today and for the future. We maintain that we are one of the few breed preservationists that actually breed so that a puppy born today will be the same as a puppy born 2050 or 2100. See our dogs and the Heidelberg type at keystonegermanshepherd.com
As the genetic markers are discovered for specific diseases, the breed preservationist will work to remove these harmful genes from their lines. Breeding out genetic corruptions in the code is expensive and time consuming. We at Keystone German Shepherds & Kennels are dedicated to preserving our breed and improving it by elimination of certain genes that cause disease such as degenerative myelopathy (DM). Some breeders do a poor job out of ignorance, but the main reason most breeders fail is a lack of funds. We live in a world where competition has assured the best products at unbelievably low prices. Quality, quantity, cheap, and fast are the modern consumers’ expectations. Such an economic approach is not compatible with raising quality dogs. Quality and cheap are antithetical when preserving the German Shepherd Dog heritage. Quality has to be first for the breed preservationist.
Breed quality and breed fidelity will never be cheap and fast. Doing it right is not expedient or fast. Doing what is right is hard and requires financial and time sacrifices from the breeder. We are often questioned about the disparaging prices on German shepherd puppies from as low as $100.00 to in excess of $5,000.00. If you are looking for a puppy and are confused about the prices and where you should invest time researching breeders; know that the lower-tiered prices are consistently going to be the backyard breeder where two random dogs are bred with or without papers. Most likely little is known about the ancestral health concerns and little or no genetic testing for diseases such as dysplasia and DM. The middle tier on puppy pricing is probably where you will want to focus most of your research. Sometimes the higher-priced dogs are just higher priced dogs without any genetic or type benefits to justify the higher price. Some breeders focus more on the branding of their dogs than actually correcting faults or improving the breed.