Kennel Club Statement on the German Shepherd Dog (GSD)

The Kennel Club has been working closely with the German Shepherd Dog clubs over a significant number of years in an attempt to address issues surrounding the breed. However, it appears that the various initiatives designed to improve matters have had very little effect and this in turn is serving to damage the reputation of dog breeders, not just in this breed but across all breeds.

Matters came to a head at Crufts this year where the exhibition of GSDs once again came under intense scrutiny, which merely served to reinforce the Kennel Club’s concerns for the breed’s future. As a result of this, a review group was established to examine the issues surrounding the GSD.

In particular, the culture of double-handling widely practised and condoned at breed club shows was felt to be having a detrimental effect on the temperament of dogs which often show symptoms of enormous stress while being exhibited and at other times. Erratic movement and apparently exaggerated conformation were other concerns which the review group looked at.

In attempting to address the worsening in the breed’s reputation, the General Committee, guided by the review group, initially considered de-registering the breed and/or removing its CC status. Both these measures would have had the effect of driving breeders outside the influence of the Kennel Club, doubtless causing a further decline in the breed, and eventually implementation was decided against.

Another measure, making it compulsory for breed club championship shows to be held in conjunction with group and general championship shows, was also discussed but has not been implemented at this stage due to the huge changes in infrastructure which would be necessary.

In June of this year, the Kennel Club issued a press release in which it stated that the General Committee had expressed concern over the current situation which it would not allow to deteriorate further. Included in this announcement was a list of stringent measures the General Committee was considering in relation to the breed.

These measures have now been discussed and as a result the General Committee makes the following directives:

  • The GSD Breed Standard is to be changed as of 1 August 2016 to include additional wording to emphasise the importance of the dogs being capable of standing comfortably and calmly, freely and unsupported in any way. Read the latest version of the breed standard.
  • Each judge of GSDs must understand their role which includes proper control of the ring and adherence to Kennel Club regulations at all times. Judges who ignore the Breed Standard and/or allow double-handling will risk having future CC appointments rejected.
  • All championship show judging contracts for 2018 and beyond are suspended with immediate effect until such time as each judge has attended a Kennel Club judges’ education seminar. The Kennel Club is to establish a programme of these seminars throughout the UK for championship show judges and expects that all judges of the breed will adhere to the points made, which will emphasise that the breed is to be exhibited in the same manner as all other large pastoral breeds. See details of judges' training seminars on the GSD.
  • Kennel Club representatives will be appointed as soon as possible to attend all championship shows where CCs are on offer for the breed. They will work with the show societies and judges to curtail double-handling and will have executive authority to put into effect the previously agreed escalation procedure for double-handling if the show societies and/or judges do not do so. Shows which allow double-handling will risk having their future CC status rejected. 
  • There is to be a review of the Category Three Breed veterinary check guidelines for the GSD breed to ensure that health and welfare concerns continue to be addressed.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Kennel Club was given no option but to address the issues which the breed itself seemed to be taking far too long to address and which came to a head at Crufts this year.

“The health and welfare of dogs is the primary objective of the Kennel Club and, where a breed experiences any issues in this respect, the Kennel Club has an obligation to take action where it can. The time for that action is now.

“This situation simply cannot continue as not only is the health and welfare of the breed at risk but this is having a detrimental effect on the reputation of all breeders, pedigree dogs, dog showing and the Kennel Club.

“The implementation of these measures involves a considerable financial commitment on behalf of the Kennel Club, which demonstrates the level of investment that has been made to protect the future of this breed.”