V Falk vom Mons Tabor SchH3 KKL-1a
21 Times First Place in Conformation
Multiple Landesgrueppen Sieger in Germany
1983 German Sieger Show Youth Class: 26th Place with 265 entries
We have collected many hours of analog videos of dogs over the years. Converting these to digital is a stroll down memory lane – and an excellent project for long winter days. Being old analog videos, the quality doesn’t come close to current digital movies but these have value as illustrative of their era.
Our Falk vom Mons Tabor was born in 1982. He was typical in structure, especially in his angulation and top-line, for dogs of this era in Germany. Thinking back, Dingo Haus Gero who was VA in 1983 and born in 1978 and widely acknowledged as one of the great movers had moderate angulation. Dogs of that era generally had strong and straight backs flowing from long, high withers to a slightly sloping and long croup – without a noticeable break.
Indeed, the photos below of Dingo show this correctly balanced anatomy with moderate angulation.
What is angulation? The angles of the front and rear assemblies are largely determined by the length of the running bones. Short running bones equal strength. Long running bones equal reach and speed. For a breed known for its trotting, it is a balance of strength and speed that gives efficiency and endurance. The German Shepherd Dog is not meant to be a sprinter. In its capacity as a tending dog, a German shepherd can easily cover many miles each and every day. For this work, the trot is the most efficient.
Very short running bones may be strong but they are also stodgy. (Cute – but still stodgy!) Not going to keep up with sheep, for sure!
Very long running bones lose strength – and endurance – through instability. The German Shepherd Dogs in the American specialty rings of the 1980’s being prime examples of very, very long running bones.
So – here is a converted video of our Falk gaiting on our front road. He moves efficiently and would have moved even better had he not had me as an anchor attached to him. I have copied and slowed a portion of the video to better see his movement. Click on this link to watch the video on youtube:
I will not write a treatise on angulation, structure and trotting because there are already excellent articles covering the subject. What I am reminded as I convert analog video from decades ago, is there were excellent trotting dogs who could cover ground swiftly, efficiently and go great distances – all with moderate – and harmoniously balanced – angulation.
One reason why the trot is such an efficient gait is that moment of suspension where the feet are off the ground. That is why one often hears of the ‘flying trot’. Reach, extension and that moment of being ‘air-born’ all create this economical gait.
You can see this well in the video of VA Dingo Haus Gero. Watch closely, and you will see that suspension.
Below is a snapshot from the video of our Falk. Not quite the perfect photo but it almost captures the moment of suspension. A split second later (and a better camera) would show that suspension. You can see this suspension occurring especially at the letter ‘F’ – which I sadly cannot remove from the converted movie.
Of course, movement is influenced by more than ‘angles’ and running bones. Fluid, ground-covering movement is created by a harmonious structure where all parts support each other. If even one structural component is unbalanced, the overall gait lacks efficiency since other parts of the anatomy strive to fill in the deficiency.
Other sources that are interesting on movement and structure:
And the best book on structure and movement in dogs: The Dog in Action by McDowell Lyon – written ages ago and absolutely great.
“Ouch! You bit my nose! That hurt!”
“Well, you stole my toy! That was MY toy!”
“Wanna dig a humongous hole?”
“ Yea, and we can bury our toy!”
This would be a rather polite exchange between puppies. Puppy interactions range from raucous to industrious, bossy to collaborative, primarily joyful, always instructive with never a dull moment for humans and canines. Even when sleeping, puppies are not dull.
When I designed our home, I purposefully designed our bedroom to be above the puppy nursery. When the builder learned that puppies would be below our bedroom, he suggested a generous amount of sound-proofing between floors. “Oh, no!” I adamantly replied, “I want to hear the puppies.” He is likely still scratching his head in bewilderment.
A breeder learns the safe and contented sounds of interaction. Even the loud bits are relaxing. A hint of danger wakes me up from the deepest slumber.
Puppies’ eyes open around 10 days of age but their vision continues to develop over several weeks. When eyes first open, it is common for pups to sit nose to nose gawping bleary-eyed at each other. They have smelled and felt each other in their nest but these foggy stares are their first glimpses of their own species. Wicked little canines as they are, their mouths open wide to toothlessly crunch on the other nose. Lack of coordination overcomes these early attacks as they thud gracelessly on their own nose. (Yes, it is moments like these that make rearing litters worth the effort!)
My ‘L’ litter was a singleton male, Lars. As serendipity would have it, a friend whelped a singleton female pup 2 days later.
As the two pups approached their 5th week, I transported the little female, Uzzi to our home. Lar’s dam was the perfect mom for accepting an unfamiliar baby since she had retained her inner child throughout her life. She frolicked through life in a continual state of delight! She welcomed Uzzi without question and encouraged her suckling, cleaned her, played with her – all with great tenderness.
When we introduced Uzzi, we anticipated some lively play to break out with the two pups. Lars and Uzzi didn’t seem to even see each other, let alone interact! Both pups would play with our adult dogs – even side by side while bumping into each other – and not notice each other. They were like ships passing in the night – with lights out! This continued for 2 days.
Lars was generously proportioned as eating was one of his favorite hobbies. Uzzi, the quintessential female German shepherd, ate when necessary since she had many projects and experiments to tend. The evening of the second day, while Lars was nursing with his tail erect and wagging, Uzzi spotted his tail. Not knowing this tail was attached to anything of consequence, she only saw the potential for fun. She followed his tail with her eyes and readied herself to attack. She leapt and subdued the tail while Lars whipped around in horror. There was shock on both of their faces when they – for the first time – actually noticed each other!
This interaction was fascinating since they studied each other for some time and gradually, over several days, began experimenting with play. In a week, they played like they had been litter-mates from birth.
From the earliest contact, pups negotiate with each other. They provoke, pacify, tease, threaten and even hurt each another. They learn to take the rough with the smooth, generally to forgive and always to carry-on with fun. They invite others to play; they accept or decline invitations to play. They learn to share, they learn to hoard, they learn to warn and respect warnings from others. Facial expressions (eyes, ear set, mouth, whiskers, direct or indirect bearing of head), posture (and posturing) – myriad small and large gestures signal intent to other dogs. This information flow avoids most quarrels.
During the first months of life, puppies are defining themselves, their world and everything they find in it. A good analogy easily understood would be how eyes (yours, mine, dogs’ even fruit flies) actually ‘see’. Signals sent from the eye to the brain rely on the brain to interpret these signals. The brain has filed away everything an individual has observed. As new signals are sent to it, the brain searches to find matching files.
As the neurobiologist, Barry Condron of University of Virginia’ writes, “…. visual input may not be as important to sight as the brain working behind it.”
This is why a crime can be witnessed by 10 people and the subsequent testimony will be 10 variations of what happened.
Thinking of Lars and Uzzi and the fact it took over 2 days for them just to notice each other with another week for them to interact with play, imagine what goes missing with a singleton pup that misses out on a litter experience altogether. In their almost 5 weeks of life prior to Lars and Uzzi coming together, their brains had not filed away images of like-sized individuals or the many signals puppies send to each other the initial 5 weeks of life . Interaction between puppies and adult dogs does not have the experimental messaging and subtleties of puppy-to-puppy communication.
Pups are born with a genetic blueprint for their temperament. Their personalities are fine-tuned by their litter-mates and their environment. The reactions of puppies and the eventual adults they develop into are based on the experiences (or lack of experiences) they have had throughout their lives. The foundation of puppyhood and litter experience mark a dog forever.
Of course, just as each individual has a personality so does each litter. The collection of individual temperaments shapes a litter’s personality and, in turn, the litter’s personality molds the individual’s character in a circular evolution. Most breeders value an ‘even’ litter, meaning the spectrum of temperaments (as well as conformation) does not vary widely. We evaluate the phenotype we see in pups and litters, compare it to the extended pedigree to ascertain the genotype. And this is a discussion for the future!
Wishing everyone happy and fulfilling holidays.
When I wrote the piece that Cat Warren posted on her blog, What the Dog Knows/Cat Warren I described how the function of the German Shepherd Dog formed the breed’s character. The breed’s function has broadened from tending and all-purpose farm dog (yes, farm dog as uncomfortable as that makes some people!) to police, military and assistance dog beginning with leading the blind to now, assistance and service dogs for a wide range of purposes. A breed’s function always forms its temperament in an ever ongoing evolution. Herding breeds that work closely with humans generally have acute awareness and social skills. Herding is a sort of ballet with dogs, humans, stock and the environment.
Over the almost half century that I’ve lived with German shepherds, (that’s a frightening thought!) I’ve tried at various times to create a list of adjectives for the breed’s character. The list is always long – and always lacking.
The qualities of general awareness and, in particular, social acuity hold much fascination for me. These qualities can also make the breed a bit challenging to raise and live with! I wonder if the shepherd owners who have trouble with their dog compound their difficulty because they don’t appreciate just how perceptive their dog is of the environment, other dogs’ body language and not the least, humans’ unfortunate habit of miscommunication. Alas – that is another blog post for the future. Let’s get back to our shepherd character.
Living with dogs so attentive to their surroundings has helped me notice more. Recently when Zen was trotting down the hall where a tiny bit of leaf had dropped from my husband’s shoe, he turned his attention – mid-trot – to look and sweep his nose close to get a sniff. Now, our home is not pristine, believe me, so this is not the only bit of stuff on the floor! But – it was a new bit of stuff.
I’ve had fun placing new items in my shepherds’ environment to see how much they notice. A small rock on our walkway that I place the night before is noticed by my dogs as they race each other outside to chase the deer and squirrels away from their fence the next morning. A rock! Only a couple inches in diameter that is placed among all the sticks, toys – other rocks – is noted and smelled while they are competing with each other at a full run! Hilariously, this can cause a temporary log-jam as they briefly inspect this new imposter and, with typical German shepherd attitude, give permission for it to remain!
How many of us notice new or altered details as we go about our daily routine to this extent or even close to it?
Herding was a hobby that I participated in for more than 10 years. I was not a great trainer and I did not have dogs achieving high levels of titling in herding. I did work with many dogs, though; titling to test levels and testing numerous adolescents with sheep. The one thing I did learn was to read sheep and dogs; the subtle signals they recognize in each other.
German shepherds are loose-eyed dogs – meaning they don’t stare intensely at the stock to control them. It’s a good thing, too because most German shepherds embody a high power level not only with their personality but their overall appearance. Sheep notice German shepherds!
One of my more astute dogs, Sascha (Serena vom Framheim HT, PT, TD, OFA G/normal (h/e)) educated me tremendously. She did use eye and while she was still inexperienced, the effect was more powerful than she or I could often handle. We worked it out though. The end result was a dog that understood her power and used it effectively. One of the exercises was to allow the sheep to graze while she maintained them in a group. To be honest, even though it was a worthy exercise, it allowed me to catch my breath!
Sascha learned to position herself in just the right spot so she could control the sheep. She also learned to use her eye to advantage – being careful to look ‘past’ the sheep while they were stable and content. She taught me to recognize the very, very tiny change in a sheep’s expression (yes, sheep have expressions!) and body posture when a sheep was thinking of departing. A small shift in her eye towards the recalcitrant sheep and that was the end of that notion. The sheep decided the grass was just fine where it was!
Dogs fine-tuned to such an extent that they seem to read minds! German shepherds, in general, show remarkable finesse in reading their surroundings as demonstrated by Sascha (and any number of herding dogs) in anticipating a sheep’s intention – not an actual movement – but an intention to move! To balance this acuity, a German Shepherd Dog requires a sound and stable genetic temperament as well as an upbringing rich with variety to enhance this keenness. We can assume that this discernment does not end with sheep. Our dogs study us and they have plenty of time to do so. What must they see in us especially since we have largely dulled our abilities with body language. What an incredible breed – keenly aware yet robust and resilient.
And I promised to talk about a particular little pup in the earlier blog post, didn’t I? Patience – we will get there! Next time I’d like to chat about shepherd puppies in general. (And who doesn’t want to talk puppies!)
A few weeks ago, I shared a session of a Waldorf Morning Garden with our 3 year old grand-daughter. With years of observing canine kids developing social skills, there were some real parallels watching this group of 2-3 year old toddlers as they experimented with peer-to-peer social interaction.
Waldorf Morning Garden has a particular philosophy for establishing social skills with toddlers.
“…. the teacher nurtures the children’s power of imagination particular to the age. She does so by telling carefully selected stories and by encouraging free play. This free or fantasy play, in which children act out scenarios of their own creation, helps them to experience many aspects of life more deeply. When toys are used, they are made of natural materials. Pine cones, wood, cotton, silk, shells, stones and other objects from nature that the children themselves have collected are used in play and to beautify the room.”
The gatherings encourage ‘free play’ where children interact with each other. I noted lots of staring at each other with small gestures offered cautiously. Gestures encouraging sharing of toys, interactive play as well as establishing possession of toys or space.
One little boy scurried under a small table covered with a scarf providing a secret hiding spot. A little girl stood nearby watching. He parted the scarf a trifle whereupon the little girl gave a delighted hop with wide eyes and a giggle. The scarf quickly closed and remained closed for awhile as she waited with great expectation. The scarf parted even more tentatively with the little boy sneaking a quick peak. Jubilation by the little girl! Thus started a game of sneaking peaks and giggles galore. Toddlers don’t tire of games easily so this continued for some time until the little girl garnered sufficient boldness to crawl under the table, too. Silence…..the little boy parted the scarf but, alas, no giggling little girl greeted him. They both looked out and were disappointed to find there was no one waiting to play peek-a-boo.
The little boy crawled out from under the table; the little girl parted the scarf and Game on! Giggling and (anticipated) amazement each time the scarf parted!
I am sure whole PhD’s could be written on what was happening during this interaction. Invitation for social interface, sharing of roles, empathy, adjusting behavior for the ‘greater good’ so the game could carry-on!
A little girl sits in a wooden boat-shaped rocker about 3’ wide by 4’ long. There are three slats for sitting inside. Another little girl holding a couple dolls climbs in on the opposite side. Slowly and subtly the little girl with the dolls moves into the middle seat as the original occupant looks over to her. No eye contact is made; no overt domination just an understated yet powerful establishment of ownership with this move. The little girl with the dolls shifts her legs over the middle seat closer to the other toddler. A few moments later, the original occupant departs the rocker to seek entertainment elsewhere. A display of nimble control especially for a youngster.
So – why in a supposedly dog-centric blog am I writing about grand-kids?
The parallels of development are striking. The last tale of establishing territory is often seen with dogs and pups. We call this, ‘power’ when we see this in dogs and puppies! The sheer strength of self-confidence empowers possession of space. Ironically, we like this with our dogs but tend to discourage such conduct in our human kids.
I’ve had pups that make a great drama possessing the water bowl while a self-possessed, confident pup strolls up and has a drink. No quarreling, no display and no question who has the inner core of steel! That early peer-to-peer interaction solidifies or modifies the genetic temperament of an individual. Humans and canines alike learn to communicate – what, when, how, and how much – to achieve one’s objective. (And there always is an objective – no matter which species!)
It’s getting clearer where I am going with this, I bet-
A BLOG! My website comes with a blog! The world population is 7 billion people and there must be at least twice that many blogs. Being realistic here, who is likely to read one more blog? My husband, of course (unless he fancies preparing his own dinner), our kids and their spouses (they’re perfect) and my mom (Ooh, let me check that I have ‘approve comments’ activated!).
My dogs would read my blog. They have an uncanny understanding of language although somewhat limited to their special interests. Reading, though, has not caught on with them. They prefer to watch their media: TV and computer with an emphasis on nature programs. They searched a long time for the wolverine kits that ran off the screen while watching PBS Nature. They were convinced the wolverines ran into our bathroom which is just around the corner from the bedroom TV. Zen searched the bathroom with his every cell ready for the Great Wolverine Encounter. He’s now past this and onto the Great Deer Encounter as the deer reassemble in our gardens, studying which of our plantings they will graze upon next.
As my husband and I stretched deer fencing around the most vulnerable of these plantings, he suggested we post venison recipes to discourage the deer. So – maybe the deer will read my blog?
After my few decades of training dogs in general and breeding, rearing and training German Shepherd Dogs in particular, I suspect this blog will be dog-centric. I have been lucky to live with a variety of shepherd personalities, observing and participating in their social network. Dogs are amazing creatures. They still teach me much and I suspect I have lots more to learn from them.
Let the fun begin!
(While I learn this new ‘technology’, excuse the inevitable mistakes!)