Recommendations for Judging the German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog running.


Recommendations for Judging the German Shepherd Dog

The impact of the judge’s role cannot be overemphasized. Your selections will influence the breed for generations. With that in mind, let’s get started.

One cannot overstate the importance of beautiful breed type and overall soundness. These are concepts that are laid out in the Breed Standard, with which the judge should, of course, be very familiar.

German Shepherd standing near fence.
Excellent male head
  • The German Shepherd Dog Club of American requires a minimum ring size of 75′ x 100′ at regional Futurity shows in order to judge this breed properly. Small rings penalize the better-moving dogs. Ring size is a challenge at venues with limited space. If possible, superintendents should consider combining two rings while judging German Shepherd Dogs, or judges should utilize the diagonal, if necessary, to judge side motion.
  • Dogs are best judged on a loose lead.
  • Speed
  • A moderate trot, which is the primary gait used while tending sheep, is the preferred speed to assess correct structure and motion.
  • Racing is not preferred and must be discouraged.
  • Examining German Shepherds at a walk can illuminate strengths and weaknesses not visible at a trot.
  • Observe
  • When gaiting dogs individually, they should be observed for the entire go-around of the ring. Typically, the best motion will be displayed during the last third of a pass.
  • In motion, the back should have little if any vertical motion. Bobbing, rolling, rumbling, or weakness are indications of structural issues.
  • Be vigilant for dragging toes, dead or weak tails, kicking up, locked hocks and/or knee joint, as well as lifting of the forehand.
  • Examine under-reach for both too much or too little under-drive, which could result in a lack of follow-through or kicking-up.
  • Heads should be viewed from both the front and side for correct shape and proportion.
  • Shoulder conformation is critical to a well-conformed German Shepherd Dog. The shoulder must not be too far forward, as indicated by the position relative to the neck, wither, and prosternum. The front legs should be under the withers.
  • Ask the exhibitor to have the dog stand naturally to allow you to observe any concerns that may be concealed by stacking.
  • It is important to perform the loose lead exam properly. Following is the Loose Leash Temperament Evaluation Procedure. It is highly recommended that you also obtain and watch the GSDCA loose leash exam instructional video.Hack opening of the German Shepherd Dog

Loose Leash Temperament Evaluation Procedure

  1. The loose leash examination must be the first physical contact made with each dog.
  2. Double handling must be discouraged during the temperament exam.
  3. There should be a predetermined place in the ring where the handler takes the dog and stops. The dog should not be posed, stacked, or given any command. The dog may walk around or stand naturally by the handler. Although the leash is loose, the handler is to remain in control of the dog.
  4. Without staring, the judge should approach the dog from six to ten feet, and speak in a friendly manner.
  5. It is the judge’s responsibility to decide if a dog may be safely approached. If, in the opinion of the judge, the dog is menacing or threatening upon approach, he should stop and excuse
    the dog.
  6. After the loose leash evaluation is completed, the judge may have the handler present or pose the dog.
  7. The judge must be consistent, treating all dogs equally. The judge should continue to evaluate the temperament of each entry the entire time it is in the ring.
  8. Dogs can be aloof but never fearful. Unsound, shy dogs must be penalized. Awards must only go to dogs that are completely sound.
  • EXCUSE: Dog is menacing or threatening.
  • DISQUALIFY: Dog attempts to bite the judge.
  • DISQUALIFY: Dog attacks the judge or another person in the ring.
  • EXCUSE: Dog attacks another dog in the ring.

The Breed Standard is clear about the paramount importance of sound temperament, and the loose lead exam is simply a tool for the judge to use when evaluating such. A loose lead exam that is not done correctly has no value and is a waste of time.

German Shepherd
Another beautiful male head

Important Notes: When judging outdoors, the judge should be aware to not approach the dog with the sun at the judge’s back and in the dog’s eyes. Additionally, the judge should never take the dog’s leash in hand and pull the dog closer.

The German Shepherd Dog is the only breed with a loose lead exam. It was designed to test the dog’s behavior when approached by a friendly stranger. The Breed Standard is clear about the paramount importance of sound temperament, and the loose lead exam is simply a tool for the judge to use when evaluating such. A loose lead exam that is not done correctly has no value and is a waste of time.

German Shepherd Dog running.
Example of correct gait at a tending speed

Hopefully, the above recommendations, if followed, will result in the best dogs winning the top awards. The GSDCA encourages every judge or judge applicant to attend our breed seminar at the National.

German Shepherd
Example of excellent breed type – male standing
  • Bob Drescher has been actively involved with the breed for over 50 years. He is an AKC judge since 1999, Chair of the Education Committee for the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, and the Announcer for the National.

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