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by jmcnees1 on 06 July 2018 - 00:07

So I have been trying to learn the anatomy of German Shepherds and havent been able to really visualize what is it is I am looking at. Where do the withers start? How do you know its withers and not the neck? Also terms of short backs and long backs per se. Can someone help break it down for me?

by Rik on 06 July 2018 - 01:07

well hope that worked. if not hope SS can fix it.Thumbs Up


by Sunsilver on 06 July 2018 - 01:07

Roll eyes  I'm not around this site that much anymore, Rik! You'll have to learn to do it for yourself...

[sigh] Click on 'Enable editor' then click on the icon that looks like a link in a chain (third row, third icon from the end)

Copy and paste your link into the popup, and there ya go!


by Hundmutter on 06 July 2018 - 07:07

That link is working fine, guys - and as a multi-lingual page for the various anatomical points of the dog, extremely useful ! I have downloaded it to keep, for the German version mainly, as a quick-reference, but its useful to have the other translations too. (Especially here in Europe). Well done Louis, surprised no one else thought of doing that !

Back to the OP's question: @jmcnees, if you look at the photo Rik & Sunny have linked, the withers appear at first glance to show as a single point on the dog's back; that is a bit misleading, the term generally is taken to mean that area of the dog's overline [here: 'upperline'] covering thirteen of the skeletal vertabrae (incidentally the same number as the next section, the back proper), starting from the 8th vertabra. Situated above the scapula / shoulder blade. Mainly referenced as a point for the height of the dog. A Specialist Judge in the UK of the current generation describes the withers: "The withers are located just behind the base of the neck at the neck/back junction. The withers should be defined by a well-laid shoulder blade, sloping down smoothly into the back."  (A Winfrow)

The withers slope into the back; the back slopes into the croup. When we speak of a dog being 'long' we are talking about not just the upperline of the dog, or that short distinct section which is labelled the 'back', but the whole body of the dog. It is a matter of proportions: the WUSV/FCI official Standard calls for:

"BODY - The length of the body should exceed the height at the withers."   [i.e. think of the whole dog as rectangular, not square]  "It should be 110 per cent to 117 per cent of the height of the withers. Dogs which are short in overall length, square, or high on the legs are undesirable."

So you could say the (ideal) dog would be '9 in height to 10 in length'.

Now, the AKC's Standard puts this as "8.5 to 10" which would seem to indicate that Americans, at least officially through their Kennel Club, prefer a slightly longer dog to the Germans.  This as much as anything gave rise to the structural appearence of the American Showline type.

The UK also has its own interpretation of the Standard, in which IT says:"8.5 or 9 to 10" which allows for that flexible '7 per cent', without being too enthusiastic about a longer dog !  Nonetheless the way it has been interpreted has led to the split in UK type, between 'English' "Alsatian" and the "Germanic" dog.

But nobody usually measures the actual length of the dog's body.  This determination of how much 'longer' any dog is than it should be is mostly one of the observer's eye.  It involves looking at the dog side-on, and, with the demand of the Standard in mind, seeing whether the dog appears to you (in comparison to the many purebred GSDs you have already seen) to be longer - and therefore more rectangular - throughout its body, than it is tall. And whether that is to excess extent, or not.

But remember: no matter the 'type', it is the same skeleton underneath !  Hope this is helpful.


by Hundmutter on 06 July 2018 - 08:07

PS Why would a "too long" dog be incorrect ? Because excess, & therefore unbalanced, length can lead to less powerful and compact muscle, giving 'weak', 'dippy' toplines and/or altering the gait of the dog in movement.  Equally, a "too short" bodied dog's movement can be thrown :  see concurrent thred on the Flying Trot !


by marsiii on 06 July 2018 - 15:07

An image

Here's a good photo example of "prominent"  withers, although its from my linebred Dutch Shepherd and not GSDs.


by susie on 06 July 2018 - 19:07

We had some very good discussions about anatomy on this board, I guess about 2 years ago, initiated by user Ibrahim ( I miss him ! ).
Anybody able to remember the threads?


by Jessejones on 06 July 2018 - 19:07


by jmcnees1 on 06 July 2018 - 23:07

So can a dog still have high or defined withers if the back levels out per se? Example say you see a dog whose back looks like a upside down boomerang or slight curvature.

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