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GSD Anatomy

German Shepherd Anatomy

The German Shepherd is essentially a trotting dog. Developed for herding the dog would work all day – almost always in a trot never tiring. Therefore strict adherence to the structural makeup is of utmost importance. Croup formation and shoulder angulation are just many of the features that serious dedicated breeders work for in their breeding stock.

With sound structural efficiencies for long, arduous work, the standard for the German Shepherd Dog calls for mental stability and a willingness to work. The dog should be approachable, quietly standing its ground, showing confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without itself necessarily making them.


It should be generally calm, but eager and alert when the situation warrants. It should be fearless, but also good with children. The German Shepherd Dog should not be timid or react nervously to unusual sounds or sights. A dog that is overly aggressive because of its overall fears of people and events can be extremely dangerous. These dogs should be eliminated from the gene pool as dogs that are not structurally sound.

The withers is maybe one of the most notable parts of canine anatomy, as it is used to measure the height of a dog. The withers is a ridge on the dog’s back between its shoulder blades. The height of a dog is measured from the bottom of the paw up to the withers, and never includes the neck, head or ears of a dog in the measurement. Starting from the paws on a dog’s forelegs, the paw is connected to the pastern by the wrist joint. There is no human equivalent to the pastern, but it is the shortest and lowest bone on a dog’s forelegs excluding the paws and toes. The pastern is connected to the forearm by the pastern joint, and the forearm is connected to the upper arm by the elbow. These are only vaguely similar to forearms, elbows and upper arms found in humans. The upper arm is connected to the body by the shoulder.

German Shepherd Skeletal

A dog’s hind legs are considerably different than its forelegs. Again starting from the paws, the hind paws are connected to the rear pastern. The rear pastern is connected to the secondary thigh, also known as the gaskin, by a pronounced joint known as the hock. The secondary thigh is connected to the upper thigh by the stifle, sometimes referred to as the knee joint. The upper thigh forms the hind-quarters and is connected to the body by the hip.

Along the back of the dog, there is the croup, loin, back, withers and crest. The croup is the rear-most portion of the dog’s back, where the tail is connected. The crest lies along the neck-line of the dog. The loin, back and withers fall in between the two, in the order described. Along the underside, there is abdomen, brisket and fore chest. The abdomen is rear-most portion of the dog’s underside, starting where the rib-cage stops. The brisket forms the underside of the dog’s chest, where the rib-cage is, and the fore chest is the protrusion of chest past that forelegs.

The head of the dog includes characters common among most mammals such as eyes, nose, ears and tongue. The elongated portion of the dog’s mouth and nose area is known as the muzzle. The point where the muzzle meets the remainder of the head is known as the stop, and is usually where the eyes are located.

German Shepherd Proportions to the Standard

The “white” line represents the height at the shoulders, which should be measured using a special rod for measuring dogs, placing the animal on a solid floor. The “Orange” line represents the total length of the trunk which the German Shepherd varies between 111% and 125% of its height at the shoulders.

German Shepherd Cranio Facial Ratio

The cranio-facial axes (cranial axis AB and facial axis CD) are parallel in the German Shepherd dog. Any deviation from the parallelism represents a defect of varying degree. The right cranio-facial ratio is 1:1 (The mouth should be closed for accuracy).

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