The German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia Inc.


A Reply to Sister Johnston’s article



The article ‘LOVE OF THE BREED OR SELF-PROMOTION’ been circulated via the Internet and has appeared on the GSD Forum. It is our opinion that the article as written by Sister Johnston is inaccurate both in fact and assumptions made. On behalf of the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia Inc (GSDCA), the National Breed Commission Executivewould like to now reply to the article.

The GSDCA has over the last 30+ years implemented breed improvement schemes. These are the GSDCA Breed Survey Scheme, GSDCA Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes and the GSDCA Haemophilia Scheme. All these schemes have contributed to the betterment of the GSD in Australia. The schemes provide much needed information to breeders and enthusiasts, and are the reason why our dogs today are far sounder in both body and mind when compared to the breed 30 years ago.


Chondrodysplasia in the GSD) Dr Karen Hedberg Hereditary Diseases Chairperson (HDC has as a Veterinary Surgeon seen the condition:  Chondrodysplasia in German Shepherds sporadically over the years, other members of the NBC Executive were not aware of the condition nor had they ever seen a German Shepherd puppy with this particular disease.

The first case was reported to the HDC in late December 2002 with a case from Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Two more cases were reported in January and late March 2003, one from the ACT and the second from South Australia (SA). The bloodlines were quite diverse from the bitches concerned, the only common factor in these cases was the sire and whiste noted, the HDC could only carry out preliminary investigations as only 3 cases were reported. April 2003 saw a case as presented to Dr Hedberg. This case had no common bloodlines and unlike the three before did not have the same sire. November 2003, another case was reported to the HDC. This time the sire of this case was the same as the three cases reported prior to April 2003.

The NBC Executive discussed the matter in late November as we now had 5-recorded cases with 4 from the one sire. It was decided that the HDC Chairperson would commence an investigation and follow up the cases reported thus far. In addition Dr Hedberg contacted Dr Malcolm Willis, Murdoch University, Bob Maver, ANKC Hereditary Diseases Chairperson, Dr Robert Zammit and Dr Roger Lavelle. Dr Zammit reported he had seen two cases within his practice. Of these, when contacted by Dr Zammit, only one breeder would supply the required pedigree information. The NBC Executive undertook to investigate the matter further as the number of cases reported had increased, and in late December an article was published on the GSDCA Website.

[*There was a report of an affected puppy being born in New Zealand from a son of the first dog, however this has been proven to be incorrect. It was only the repeated requests to the breeder of the puppy, that in mid January we received a reply confirming this. It cannot be stressed enough that any report should be backed up with factual, definitive information: hearsay and or innuendo must be DISCOURAGED.]

The GSDCA believes that we need to address problems that occur within our breeding program. It is important that the breeders of this country are aware of the positives and negatives of their breeding stock and to keep these problems in perspective. It is one of our missions that Breeders should be provided with correct and substantiated information. It is only with this that they can make valued decisions related to their breeding programs. In return the GSDCA asks that when problems arise that they are reported to the HDC, It is only with this feedback that we are able to act swiftly when a problem is recurring.

The process in this instance worked very well with Breed surveyors were notified of the situation and of breed advice regarding the condition. The advice was to used starting with the forthcoming Breed survey season that began in February 2004..

The NBC Executive agrees that part of the problem arises from the reluctance and or refusal of breeders to co-operate with the reporting of genetic problems and other health issues to the Hereditary Disease Chairman. This attitude unfortunately arises from a fear of some sort of imagined reprisal or denigration of various dogs or bloodlines. We can only state again and again that any information given to the HDC is treated as confidential and only used to better the breed and not denigrate breeders and or their dogs.

Comments by Dr. Karen Hedberg – Chairman of the Judges Committee and the HDC Chairman.

Chondrodysplasia: One cannot act without input and even when this comes, you need statistically significant numbers before action can be taken. While this disorder has appeared sporadically in the past, a cluster of cases occurring within a short space of time and was acted upon once we had sufficient input where the data could be verified. Until the exact mode of inheritance can be determined, one can only give general advice to our breeders as a whole and equally keep the problem in perspective – around 1% of this dog (and the other dog’s) progeny have been affected to our knowledge.

Pituitary Dwarfism. This did not rate a mention in the epistle, but when these were first found in the breed in the late 70’s early 80’s, the same drama and hysterics occurred. Such notable dogs as Ingo Hafenlorhtal, Masuta Piuate and Prima Zorba threw dwarfs, yet these dogs were significant sires of top quality stock, were widely used and appear in the back generations of most current homebred dogs today.  This is supposedly a simple recessive disorder, yet the percentages seen are well below what is expected, running at less than 2%. No sire was penalised for this problem, no sire was removed from stud, and no breed survey status was removed. The great Uran Wildsteiger Land, whose blood would now be in around 80% of specialty GSD’s anywhere in the world, also threw the problem.

As you have stated, the most important aspect of any hereditary disease is the reporting of cases. If they are not reported, how are we to act? One cannot act on hearsay alone. Concrete evidence and pedigree backing is required for each case. One also needs as many cases reported as possible in order to find common denominators within pedigrees. One interesting aspect with the Chondrodysplasia cases is the fact that there is an additional case, which is by a largely unrelated sire. The fact that these cases are appearing within the same timeline is indicative that the gene has in all probability been floating within our population for a long period of time and only recently has passed the “threshold” point where the combinations of carriers reaches a significant level. Until the exact mode of inheritance is correctly determined and preferentially that a reliable DNA marker found, we continue to gather information and give breed advice to avoid doubling up on suspected lines. The NBC Executive is currently looking into several avenues to see if a DNA marker can be found for the disorder. If a reliable marker can be found, suspect carrier animals can be readily tested and bred from without loss of valuable animals or bloodlines.

As with the Haemophilia problem when it occurred, the GSDCA rapidly responded by introducing the Haemophilia Scheme by testing all imported males, sons of imported bitches and sons of possible carrier bitches. The problem was rapidly brought under control with no loss of valuable breeding stock. The GSDCA is now at a stage that this disease is in the process of being removed from the Litter Registration Limitations (LRL’s) as a requirement for all sires of GSD litters, as no cases have been reported in well over the 5 or so years that it has been a necessity Australia wide. The original GSDCA requirements covering imports will still stand and will be administered by the ANKC with assistance from the GSDCA if needed.

The right to comment

It is inferred that the GSDCA has tried to censor the debate relaing to this condition. This is not true. The only comments made were to instill calm whilst the true situation could be ascertained. If people want to comment so be it, however please try to be factual. Do not denigrate others, eg making fun of someones work practises is really offensive. Vince Tantaro informs us that an apology was forthcoming for the cheap shot. In relation to the comment in the article regarding the removal of an article from the Rhosyn website, the only article that was asked to be removed was the’ Chondrodysplasia in the Havanese breed’, which has little in common with the GSD condition and was misleading by its inferences to the GSD condition.

The National Breed Commission Executive has always expressed their concerns of all problems affecting the soundness of the German Shepherd dog, both mentally and physically, and has been detailed to the affiliated Clubs in the following manner:-

·         Reports to the GSDCA Annual General Meeting

·         Reports to the National Breed Commission Meeting

·         Progeny results of both the National Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Control Scheme tabled at the NBC Meeting and then printed in the Quarterly Magazine. Additionally, an annual report will also be printed in each Breed Survey yearbook.

·         Improved details of the Sires Progeny Class printed in the Magazine and supporting the motion to broaden the criteria for automatic entry into the class.

·         Lectures delivered to various member Clubs when one of the members of the NBC Executive is visiting a show or judging.

It must be noted that all sires are producers of positive and negative virtues in their progeny. The NBC Executive has a responsibility to keep a balanced viewpoint, collate the information and deliver it to the breeders on a regular basis in this country.

Monica Stewart has the right to express her opinion however at no time has Monica Stewart contacted the National Breed Commission Executive to express her or seek their opinion on the matter. Again, the GSDCA did not dampen down the matter. What it was doing and achieved in the end was a very good investigation that highlighted the need for proactive and not reactionary response to the condition. Our position was to act responsibly and not add more wood to the fire.

The comment related to the honesty of the SV Judges and officials of the GSDCA that they would conspire to penalise dogs owned or bred by Rhosyn Kennels at the forthcoming National GSD Show & Trial to be held in South Australia, because of their involvement in this matter is most offensive and a slur on all of us. We request that Sister Johnston apologises for this immediately.

Dysplasia Schemes The GSDCA Hip & Elbow

The GSDCA Hip Dysplasia Control Scheme Registrar was appointed in 1983. The introduction of the scheme was based on voluntary participation however as of 1st of January, 1987 only animals adjudicated with an “A’ stamp (pass) would be eligible for Breed Survey Class One.

The results of sires are presented at the National Breed Commission Meeting and published in the Quarterly Magazine. The information given is the mean average, the percentage of pass and fail. Everyone should realise that this adjudication ruling is in place, ‘If an animal receives a second result with a variation greater than 6 points, the plates are forwarded to Dr. G. Allan for adjudication to ascertain that the plates are of the same animal.’

Comments from Hereditary Diseases Chairman. Dr. Karen Hedberg

Re the hip scheme. As stated originally when it was allowed to re-submit animals to the hip and elbow scheme. It is not the fault of the dog if a bad plate is taken. The majority of animals that are re-submitted to the scheme have written on the report – “the result would have been better if there was not a tilt to the pelvis”. Equally, of those resubmitted, at least half still fail. Those animals with any degree of arthritis will continue to show those changes no matter what type of film or processing is used. Schemes such as the hip and elbow scheme must be looked at in the long term. One cannot shift a whole breed’s average in a short space of time. We in Australia have a lot to be proud of, we have worked very hard for over 20 years, X- rayed well over 20,000 dogs and currently have a breed average that is nearly a 1/3rd lower that its UK counterpart. The vast majority of our top stud dogs (around 80%) have breed averages of 10 or less. In the UK one is lucky to find 4 or 5 sires within an extensive list that have averages 10 or less.

Details in the article relating to the Elbow Scheme, which are not accurate.

The National Elbow Dysplasia Scheme was introduced in 1993.

In 1995 it became mandatory to obtain a Normal, Grade One, or Grade Two Elbow grading (ie. the ‘Z’ Stamp) to be eligible for a Breed Survey classification. 

At no time was a motion place on the GSDCA AGM Agenda to limit the Excellent Grading to only those animals with Normal Elbows. Discussion and motions have been placed on the GSDCA agenda in the past include:

(i)                   For an Excellent Grading the animal must be in procession of a Normal or Grade One Elbow Grading.

(ii)                 For Breed Survey Class One the animal must be in procession of a Normal or Grade One Elbow Grading. It is correct that these motions were defeated.

The GSDCA Breed Survey Scheme

For the past two years, any animal that has been breed surveyed in either Class One or Class Two, that has Grade Two elbows; under the section of breed advice, the breed surveyor must issue a warning with regard to the elbow classification when selecting a breeding partner.

The elbow statistics are also presented to the National Breed Commission Meeting each year and published in the Magazine. Again it should be noted that the Chairman urges all breeders to read and digest the results. The Elbow Scheme in Australia is second only to that of Sweden We lead the way in front of Germany. Currently we are endeavouring to tighten up the elbow scheme by reducing the accepted amount of arthritis in the Grade 2 classification. The motion will be voted on by the clubs at the upcoming AGM.

Comments from HDC Chairman Dr. K. Hedberg

The Elbow Scheme equally is working well if breeders take note of results. Always check the sire’s progeny statistics where available. Breeders need to understand that the best way to reduce the incidence of elbow dysplasia is to have at least one normal parent when contemplating using a dog with an elbow score, especially if breeding with a Grade 2 animal.

  It should equally be kept in perspective that many dogs with Grade 1 elbows have had excellent elbow results with high % of normal progeny – eg. Iwan Lechtal, Troy Noriswand. Always check the sire’s progeny statistics where available.

  Perusal of the overall elbow results shows that various states eg. NSW – the % of affected animals is dramatically lower than the original 30% affected. It comes down to whether the breeders wish to take note of results that are regularly published by the GSDCA for both hips and elbows. We as a Council provide as much information as possible so the breeders can make informed decisions in their breeding choices. Like a horse taken to water, we cannot force them to take that advice.

   Additionally, the GSDCA has by its efforts over the years, now made it mandatory for all breeders of GSD’S across Australia, that the parents of all GSD litters registered must have been X-rayed for both hips and elbows. It is not however mandatory that the dogs must be submitted to the GSDCA Scheme. The end result of this significant achievement is that there is no excuse for breeding with severely dysplastic stock and common sense generally stops people from breeding with these animals.

It should be noted that the GSDCA does not have any rules regarding the requirements for listing of puppies by individual Clubs, nor that both parents must be breed surveyed. Affiliated Clubs have rules regarding this matter which varies from State to State. This rule applies to the recommended breeding practices and for puppy listings in each Club. The ANKC have a rule that no litter will be registered if the sire/dam is under 18months of age. No dog/bitch can be used for breeding until they are18 months old. Statement should be correct.

If the survey quoted in the article is the survey conducted prior to the National held in Sydney in 2002, then there are inaccuracies in the statements reported.

The following should be noted: -

  1. The imported dog (Nilson Wildsteiger Land) that failed due to size was at the time of breed survey 25 months old.
  2. The animal surveyed on the same day was a bitch and not an imported dog. The bitch measured 59cms and was not an imported bitch and was not owned by the breeder.

3. The dog concerned was presented to survey in Broken Hill with the officiating breed surveyors being H.J. Neddermyer, L. Donald and J.M. Neddermeyer.

We know that the writer was not present at the breed survey in Broken Hill. At no time was a comment made by Breed Surveyors who were present regarding the measurement, size, and the cost of the dog.. With regard to the progeny of this dog, breeders should read the Sires Progeny Class from the 2003 National Show. To date of the writing of this letter no son or daughter from this sire has been presented to survey, however some progeny have been penalised for size in the show ring.

With regard to the Kantenna Ablaze incident, the incidence occurred after the judging was completed. The dog had left the ring and was returning to its trailer. The person bitten did not wish to report the incident and at that time, there was no mandatory requirement to report a bite by the RNSWCC.

Moves are already in place to try to establish a temperament and working test to be run prior to Breed Survey, most probably along similar lines to the German BH requirement. Again, references to this are in the current AGM and will be voted on shortly as to the general format that is considered suitable, before the Clubs formally vote to adopting such a requirement. While still in its early stages, this has been under discussion for the last 2 years at NBC meetings. We are not aware of the temperament testing that the former President, GSDCA tried to introduce years ago. In fact the reluctance of the membership to accept the Temperament Instinct Tests and agility at MBE has been one of the major goals not achieved by the GSDCA. The GSDCA is currently reviewing a work type test for introduction as a prerequisite for Breed Survey.  Comments related to judging at State Breed Exhibitions and shows in general are quite mischievous and are unfounded. Comments related to colour testing at shows is one that is interesting as it has been commented on at NBC meetings and by the current President. We like many of you do notice colour change in some dogs however at this point in time no motion has been put forward to introduce colour testing at shows.

Further comments made about specific dogs are again unfounded and whilst the author may make premises and inferences about this and that the fact is that whatever has been said is rumour mongering at best. The comment related to self-promotion is really unwarranted. Who are we promoting? The hours of voluntary work done by many members of Member Clubs and the GSDCA Executive is hardly a reward of self-promotion. The GSDCA is different to the days of Louis Donald and Max Stokes. They were the days of the benevolent dictator. Those days have caught up with them and the organisation. There was massive upheaval in the power struggles and change in the last 8 years of Council. The change was full as opposed to directed democracy. We now have processes that are transparent. The membership is fully aware of all issues and can change the direction of Council. The Executive as always is only empowered to carry out the wish of the membership. In closing we ask anyone who has a question of what, how and why we do our business, namely the caretaker of the GSD in Australia, then please do not add to the rumour mill, but go and ask. This can be done via your Club or direct to the GSDCA Secretary (

For and on behalf of the GSDCA Inc

Vince Tantaro President

Joylene Neddermyer, Chairperson, National Breed Commission

Dr Karen Hedberg Chairperson, Judges Committee

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