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Conformation Showing Auf Deutsch! by Victoria Janicki .
Within the past 5 years, the United States has witnessed the exponential growth of
conformation shows under the auspices of the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhund (SV).
Formed in 1899, the SV is the oldest and largest German Shepherd breed club in the
whole world.

In the US, the SV sanctions conformation shows through the United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA) and the Working Dog Alliance (WDA) arm of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. Most shows are judged by SV judges though a few American judges have been approved by the SV.

How are the classes organized?
The classes are divided into similar categories to the AKC shows with separate classes for dogs and bitches. There is no intersex competition, interage or Best of Breed. The focus is on attaining a rating and secondly on placing well within the class. The ring size is larger than a typical AKC all-breed ring or specialty ring. A class will last at least 20 minutes and up to over an hour long between the examinations and gaiting

Puppy (Nachwuchs) classes
Baby Puppy (3-6 months of age)
Junior Puppy (6-9 months of age)
Senior Puppy (9-12 months of age)
Puppies competing in this class will be given placements and will be rated VP (very promising), P (promising) or LP (Less Promising). Since puppies change so much as they grow, these are considered preliminary classes to provide experience. If a puppy places third with a VP rating, it will be shown as VP-3.

Youth (Jugend), Young Dog (Junghund) and Adult Classes
Youth Dog (12-18 months old)
Young Dog (18-24 months old)
Adult (not offered in Germany) (over 24 months without a working title)
Dogs competing in these classes will be given placements and will be given a rating of SG (Very Good), G (Good) or rarely a lesser rating (Sufficient, Insufficient, Excused). If a young dog places 2nd with a rating of SG, it will be shown as SG-2.

Working (Gebrauchshund) Classes
Working (24 months or older with a working title) Dogs competing in this class must have certified hips and a working title as well as a current Breed Survey (Körung) if over 3 ½ years of age. The only accepted working titles are Schutzhund titles (SchH, IPO, DPO.) and the SV herding title (HGH). Dogs competing in this class will be given placements and will be rated V (Excellent), SV (Very Good), G (Good) or possibly a lesser rating. If a dog is placed 10th with an excellent rating, it will be shown as V-10.

The rating VA (Excellent Select) is awarded only at designated national level shows. In order to be eligible for this rating, the dog must have at least a SchH2 title and earned a "pronounced" rating in the protection test at the show

Veterans – Dogs competing in this class must have been previously rated "Excellent" and be over 6 years of age. The dogs are not officially rated but are awarded a placing.

Progeny (Nachkommen) Group
A group of 3-6 dogs sired by the same dog, which are also entered in the regular classes. The progeny groups are critiqued and ranked. The judges look for uniformity in the offspring as well as a distinct "stamp" of the sire. A strong progeny group in mandatory for a dog to be considered for the VA award at the German Sieger show.

Kennel (Zuchtgruppen) Group
A group of 3-6 dogs bred by one kennel. Judged the same as the progeny group. The dogs should be uniform and distinctive.

Ring Procedure
The dogs enter the ring in catalog order. The judge may have the class move at a walk around the ring before beginning individual judging of each dog. Each dog is examined from head to tail. Each dog is then trotted away and back to the judge before gaiting around the outside of the ring. After all the dogs have been examined, a couple of gunshots will be fired to test for sound sensitivity (except in the puppy classes). Gun-shy dogs will be excused. After the dogs have been lined up in a preliminary order, the entire group will, under the direction of the judge, walk and trot around the outside of the ring. The judge will move a dog up or down the line depending on how well the dog lives up to the judge’s first impression. If the judge has some dogs that are very close in quality, he will gait those dogs together as a group. When the judge is satisfied with the order, he will verbally critique each dog in front of the crowd. Listen carefully as the judge explains his decisions. For each dog, the judge will state what he sees as the positive attributes and shortcomings. He may also provide tips to the handler or owner on conditioning, showing or even future breeding advice.

What is the Judge Looking For?
The German Shepherd Dog was developed originally as a herding dog with a style that demanded an efficient ground-covering trot. With this in mind, the judge will be comparing each dog to his picture of an ideal German Shepherd Dog both in structure and temperament as described in the SV German Shepherd Dog standard. He will be looking at each dog’s:

Overall proportions particularly the length: height ratios. Do the pieces blend together harmoniously?
Back strength and tightness of ligaments standing and in movement.
Angles between the bones of the shoulder and the hindquarters.
Strength of the dog’s head. Jaws should be strong and prominent with a full set of teeth.
Chest development. Is there enough room for a large set of lungs?
Femininity/Masculinity. Does the dog look like its gender?
Gait and extension at the trot. Does the dog reach forward with power? Cover a lot of ground without a lot of lifting motions?
Temperament. Does the dog calmly accept the examination? How does it react to gunshots? Is the dog still lively as the class progresses?
Condition and endurance. Is the dog in good physical condition? Does it tire after a few laps around the ring?
"Type". Does the dog look like a German Shepherd Dog?
Who are those crazy people?

During the class, one or more people outside the ring will jiggle toys, whistle, call the dog’s name and run like mad to keep ahead of their entry. The dog should appear alert with its head up and trotting or walking powerfully with full extension in order to present the best picture. Double handling, which is not permitted at AKC shows, requires training for the dog, an observant double handler and quick, subtle communication between the primary handler and the people outside. During breaks during the class, the double handler will let the dog get the toy and provide water. Always keep the lane clear immediately outside of the ring for the double handlers. Conveniently, some clubs will rope off the outside to keep crowd out of the double handling lane.

What is a Breed Survey (Körung)?
Most show giving clubs conduct a breed survey in addition to the conformation show. Many SV breed judges who travel to the US are also Körmeisters (Breed Survey Judges). The Körmeister is a breeder, breed judge and often a working judge of considerable experience who will examine each dog in detail. Over 30 characteristics including height, weight and coat color are recorded for each dog. The Körmeister determines if a dog is suitable for breeding based on the standard.

In order to enter a breed survey, a dog must have:
a working title (SchH, IPO or HGH)
certified hips (OFA, OVC or "a" stamp)
passed a 12 ½ mile endurance test (AD)
at least 2 years old
a minimum of a Good (G) rating
In addition to an individual examination and gaiting, the dog must also perform a short protection test based on the SchH1 routine. The Körmeister will evaluate the dog’s courage and protective instincts as either "Ausgeprägt" (Pronounced), "Vorhanden" (Sufficient) or "Nicht Genügend" (Not Sufficient) and note whether the dog released on command. Dogs passing will be placed in either Breed Survey Class 1 (KörKlasse 1 or KKL1) or Breed Survey Class 2 (KörKlasse 2 or KKL2). Dogs rated as KKL1 are highly recommended for breeding and exhibit no major faults of structure, temperament or dentition. The KKL2 designation is for dogs that are still recommended as valuable for breeding but that have some faults. Permissible faults are minor structural faults, 1 cm over or under the permitted height, sufficient rather than pronounced courage, or one or two missing teeth. Each dog is verbally critiqued with special emphasis on breeding attributes. An abridged written version of the critique with the dog’s detailed information called a Breed Survey paper (Körschein) is filed and published in a yearly compendium (Körbuch).

Where, How, When?
In the Pacific North West area typically 2-3 USA conformation shows are held each year. In order to participate in an USA show, dogs entered in classes above a year of age must be registered with USA (3810 Lemay Ferry Road, St. Louis, MO 63125). It is a joy to watch our working dogs stretch out in a large ring in a casual atmosphere, especially on a beautiful Pacific Northwest day.