Hips & Elbows & Haemophilia

Page Under Constriction:


Elbows & Haemophilia to be added at a later date


When meeting mum and her puppies always ask to see the official BVA paperwork for mum’s hip and elbow scores. 

Unfortunately there are breeders out there claiming to hip and elbow score when they have not. 

Also double check to see that she was scored prior to giving birth, as she should not have been bred until her hip scores were received.



Assessing The Status Of The Parent’s Hips

The inheritance of "good" or "bad" hips is dependent on many genes, and the transmission of these hips are so complex that breeding from parents with perfect hips is NOT a guarantee of good hips within their pups.


HOWEVER research has proven that breeding from good hips can result in the pups having a higher chance of having good hips than they would have if their parents had bad hips.  Thus it is VERY important that breeders aim to breed from parents that look to have good hips


It is also VERY important that one takes into consideration that some GSDs can have bad hips and show no pain and beautiful movement (as proven by some high scoring top winning GSDs in the UK show ring), and thus NO breeder, owner or vet can tell what a GSD’s hip status is via looking at the dog or its movement. 


The ONLY way that someone can determine a GSD’s hip status is via x-raying it, and submitting these hip x-rays to the BVA panel who will mark it / score it according to their opinion on the status of its hips. 


As the overall score is determined by someone’s OPINION it must be taken into account that like all results that originate from someone’s opinion it can be open to human error, and poor judgement. 


Thus some scores may be higher than what they would have been if someone else had judged the x-rays. 


However this range in opinion should only be affected by a very small degree (i.e. commonly within a range of 3 – 4 points, but in rarer cases where it may be advisable to resubmit the x-rays for scoring as much as 8 – 10 points). 


In most cases it is not worth getting a second opinion, but even in rarer cases where the overall score looks to be a false representation of the dog’s real hip status it is often not worth resubmitting the x-rays, as this requires one vet sitting on the BVA panel to say that another has not done their job properly.  This as you can imagine could bring into doubt the accuracy of the vets themselves, and thus even if a vet sitting on the BVA panel does decide to lower the score it is often only by a couple of points.  As an owner would have to risk a further sum of money on such a decision, as long as the overall score is below the recommended breeding total most breeders decide not to take such a financial risk.


Another factor that hip scoring does not take into account is damage via environmental damage or accidents. 


This is because the person scoring the hip’s x-rays gives a score based on what they look at the time of which the x-ray was taken, and NOT based upon what they may have been if the dog had not been in an accident, etc. 


Now some breeders (I hasten to add we do NOT do this at Merjuke, as we allow our dogs to live a natural lifestyle) attempt to prevent environmental damage affecting their dog’s x-rays via only letting their dog’s come out of their crate or kennel when they are at a dog club, or dog show.  Their dogs at scored at the exact minimum age, and they are not even allowed free running off the lead at a park let alone a walk on the lead. 


Whereas other breeders take the risk of their dog’s hip status looking worse in comparison via giving their puppy a correct diet, and exercise suited to a growing puppy, but via allowing their puppy to essentially act like a puppy.


However even those breeders who do or do not take the risk of obtaining a higher score via environmental damage can from time to time be affected by their puppy doing something silly and damaging the hip via an accident.  Such dogs when scored may come back with one hip that looks to be good, and another that is a LOT higher than the other. 


If at the time of the x-ray being taken a vet that is VERY experienced with taking and ASSESSING hip x-rays identifies that the dog should get a higher overall score due to damage to ONE hip resulting from an accident as opposed to the hip looking to be genetically disposed towards this, the dog is a good example of the breed alongside coming from a good pedigree with at least parents of an excellent hip status, and the vet states that they would still recommend that the dog is suitable for breeding and they provide written documentation to support and provide evidence for this claim then it is up to the breeder to asses the situation.  This is because accidents are NOT genetic and thus in this scenario the dog’s official hip score would NOT be a fair reflection of what its hips are based largely upon its genetics. 


In such scenarios IF the dog’s overall hip status was above the recommended breeding total I would advise that someone requested veterinary evidence that supported this claim, that they looked at the dog’s BVA score sheets to ensure that both hips did not look bad, that they looked at the dog’s pedigree to ensure that at least the parents had excellent hips, and that they used their own judgement and common sense to assess the situation. 


In such scenarios it should also once again be taken into account that if the dog’s overall score is below the recommended breeding total breeders would commonly NOT request veterinary evidence to support their claim that the dog had an accident, and this is because they would see it as unneeded fuss and effort.  In situations like this I would also be wary of breeder’s claims of an accident if they did not provide veterinary evidence AND a sibling or direct relative had the exact same hip score.  Thus once again I would advise that a home used their judgement and common sense to assess the situation. 


Other factors that may affect the dog’s hip status include the nutrition it received as it developed, its age, whether its hip x-rays were taken when it was under general aesthetic or sedation, and the skill of the vet position the dog for its hip x-rays.  One vet that we spoke to also suggested that there may be a link between very large fat puppies prior to 10 weeks of age, and a higher incident of poor hip development.


Our dogs were initially scored closer to 2 years of age than 1, scored under GA as opposed to sedation at a vets that rarely hip scores, and we still got beautiful hip scores such as 2:2 with 0:0 elbows. Also although we never over walked our puppies they lead a very natural lifestyle with lots of exercise.


However after obtaining our initial foundation lines we made a decision that it was not fair on us in terms of direct comparison of our dog’s hip status to other kennel’s dogs, and thus we made a decision to still allow our dogs to live a very natural life style but to have them scored when younger, and x-rayed under sedation as opposed to GA.


Poor Hips Shown Within A X-ray Taken from the Internet

UK BVA System


BVA Hip scores range from: 0 – 106

The closer the total hip score is to 0 the better the hip score

The official BVA average is currently 19 (this is flawed due to the majority of breeders not sending in x-rays of hips that look to be bad)

One of the leading vets who hip scores in the country predicts that the true breed average is closer to mid to late twenties

The more balanced the hip score is the better the score is overall (i.e. 0:10 despite containing a perfect hip on one side as an overall being worse than 5:5)

A leading vet who hip scores a vast amount of GSD breeder's dogs stated that a dog with a hip score around 30 may suffer slightly from arthritis when it gets old (which most older dogs can suffer from anyway), as opposed to the  older dog with abhorrent hip joints with a total of 106 that would probably look and act like the image people associate with dogs with Hip Dysplasia.

What UK BVA Hip Scores Should I Look For In The Parents Of My Pup?


The German Shepherd Breed council carries out breed surveys on GSDS that taken into account a wide verity of factors (one of which is the dog’s hip status).


A breed class survey 1 & class survey 1 minus means that the dog is recommended for breeding, and a breed class survey 2 and class survey 2 minus means that a dog is suitable for breeding.  Or it of course it can fail its breed survey (i.e. it is not recommended for breeding).


Alongside other factors the GSD breed council used to give a breed class survey 1 to males with a total hip score of 20 and females with a total hip score of 25, and they used to give a breed class survey 2 (suitable for breeding) to a male with a total hip score of 30 and a female with a total hip score of 35. 


This meant that the breed council used to think that females with a hip score of 0 – 35 and males with a hip score between 0 – 30 were suitable for breeding.


This has since changed.


The GSD breed council now only gives a breed class survey 1 AND a breed class survey 2 to both male and females (alongside other factors) that has a hip score total of 20. Thus the GSD breed council now only recommends that GSD parents with a hip score of 0 – 20 are hip scored.  As this is their recommendation other breed clubs also recommend the same thing.


However most breeders recommend that people chose a puppy from parents that have a hip score below the official (if not flawed) BVA average of 19.  This means that you should be choosing a puppy from parents with a hip score of 0 – 19.

In an ideal world only GSDS with a hip score of 0 would be bred from, but unfortunately such dogs are extremely rare.


As the producers of and owners of single figure hip scored dogs we could jump on the bandwagon driven by a MINORITY of people (who are usually not breeders themselves) that state that only dogs of a hip score of around 0 are bred from.


And yes the hip scores of a chosen dog should 100% strongly be taken into consideration. 


However if there is a parents that is a very poor example of the breed with fear aggression problems and perfect hips, and a very good example of the breed with an excellent temperament and a hip score of lets say 14 for example it should not take a genius to work out which dog should be chosen (although you may or may not be surprised at the fortunately rare home that would consider the parent with the perfect hips and horrendous temperament). 


ALL aspects of a GSD should be looked at. 


To become obsessed with perfecting one aspect (whether it be hips to the detriment of temperament or temperament to the detriment of hips) should be heavily frowned upon IF it does not take into consideration all other areas. 


Perfection is never easy to achieve in any area, and thus to consistently attempt to perfect one area in conjunction with such low availability of such perfection within a gene pool (never mind in this example the fact that parents with perfect hips can produced horrendous hips or that poor hip scored dogs can in fact consistently be very good hip producers) can lead to failings in another area. 

A home should strongly take this into consideration when choosing a breeder, and the parents of their pups based upon their hip scores almost alone.

Will My Parents Low Hip Score Mean That My Pup Will Have Good Hips?


Unfortunately it will NOT.


Very high hip scored parents can produce perfect hip scores and vice versa.


However as previously stated research has proven that breeding from good hips can result in the pups having a higher chance of having good hips than they would have if their parents had bad hips.  Thus it is VERY important that breeders aim to breed from parents that look to have good hips


Better Hips Than In The Above Picture

German / European System

Breeders also breed with dogs scored under the German system.


This can be for a verity of reasons.  For example the dog may be a German import, it may live abroad, they may wish to get it a German breed survey or to show it abroad, or they may even wish to ‘mask’ its BVA status via obtaining an award that appears to make the dog look better than it would it have been done under the UK system. 


The German / European Hip scores include:




It is hard to compare the German system to the UK system as dogs with A stamp can have a very high BVA score here, and dogs with a higher hip score here can have A stamp in Germany.  For example even dogs with a hip score of nearly 30 can come back with an A stamp!


As a general rule of thumb some breeders state that the above scores compare to the following BVA scores:



From the above it can be summarised that a breeder should be looking for parents with A stamp hips, preferably no higher than A fast normal, but as high as noch zuglessen (a3) with a4 and a5 hips being avoided.

In Germany for a pup to get registration papers alongside other factors its parent’s hip and elbow status and ZW values (the hips they and their relatives have produced / are) are taken into consideration.

ZW Value


The Germans also have a system in place that takes into account not only what the dog’s hip scores are, but also what it has produced, and what the hip scores behind it are like.  This gives a value labelled the ZW value.  The lower the value the better, and in Germany the values of both parents have to be below a certain value before the resulting pups are given pedigree papers.


Unfortunately the UK has no such system.  In the past it has been hard to research hip scores behind and in front of a dog.

Will The UK Kennel Club Give KC Papers To Pups From Parents With High Hip Scores?

It is important to note that the KC will give KC papers for any puppy as long as its parents are KC registered with no breeding restrictions, and as long as the breeder pays for this service.  

If the parents are epileptic haemophiliac pancreatic insufficient heart defected with hip and elbow dysplasia the KC would still register the pups. 

The German Shepherd breed council have sought to change this via requesting that the KC register pups only from hip and elbow scored parents, but unfortunately the kennel club at the time of printing have decided to not do this. 

Thus it is German shepherd breeders that are leading the fight against hip and elbow dysplasia via VOLUNTARILY choosing to use parents of a certain hip score.

Of course you as someone who is seeking to obtain a puppy from a breeder can also influence this via NOT choosing to go to breeders that do not hip and elbow score.

But unfortunately despite large amounts of available literature upon the subject a lot of people are unaware of this information and thus hip and elbow scoring and its possible implications on the health of their puppy.

Although the above can be seen as a criticism of the current situation with the kennel club at the same time one must take into consideration that at least KC registration of your puppy means that either your pup’s parents of Grandparents (etc.) have not led to the production of your puppy because of one of the following reasons:

And no I do not believe in the ‘I lost my papers’.  Papers cost around £6 for another copy from the KC, you can have them sent to you within less than 24 hours.  People use this an excuse / misrepresentation of the truth for disguising one of the above reasons.

As non-KC pups are also very unlikely to originate from hip and elbow scored and haemophilia tested parents it must further be taken into consideration that as bad as the above practice is of not denying papers from non hip scored parents at least it is better than if the puppy resulted from one of the above conditions.

Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia is caused whenever a laxity (or looseness) occurs in the joint between the femur and pelvis. Over time this looseness causes damage to the femoral head (ball) and to the acetabulum (socket) so that they do not fit properly.  This damage then causes arthritic changes in the joint, which often reduces the range of motion and causes pain and inflammation. 

What About The Hip Scores That The Parents Of My Puppy Have Produced?

If the litter is a repeat mating, and the previous litter produced a puppy with a high hip score personally I would be VERY wary of it.  This would be especially true if there were more than one such pup.


As with all things that are to do with hip scores things get a lot more complicated when looking at what each individual parent has produced.


The simplest problem would be a parent that had consistently produced high hip scores when put to more than one partner / a verity of lines.  Once again I would be VERY wary of having a puppy from such a parent, especially if it were the female that was behind these problems.  This is because she can have a lot less litters than a male can, and thus the odds are further stacked against a male.


However I have found that it is EXTREMELY common for at least one (the male was usually more affected due to being able to have more litters and thus having a great chance of having more progeny scored) of the parents of a litter to at some point produce a puppy with a hip score way over the breed average.


Or if this were not so then it would not be too long before a dog was found within the pedigree that despite having a good score itself had done a similar thing. Even dogs that had produced 0:0 hips were not immune to this fact!


This even applied to pedigrees that looked ‘clean’ on paper (i.e. the descendents upon the pedigree itself did not have bad scores, but some of the dogs themselves had produced high scores which would be harder to find out about). 


Thus I think that it is important that a puppy owner takes this into consideration before they consider dismissing a whole litter on the basis for example that the pup’s uncle produced a puppy with a hip score slightly higher than the official BVA average of 19.


Personally I think that honesty is the best policy when it comes to the potential problems with our breed.


I also don’t think that I need to elaborate upon breeders who claim that not only are their lines 100% clean, but that they will never ever produce high hip scores.


Personally I dream about the day that a breeder can hand on their heart honestly state that this is true. Unfortunately for the time being this day is a long way off, and thus as a breeder all that we can do is try to reduce our chances via breeding from parents with below recommended breeding BVA & SV scores.

Cross Breeds

One last note on hip scores within the UK:


In comparison to breeds or even cross breeds that are not scored I would also like to add what one does not know about one can not see. 


As parents of cross breeds are rarely if ever hip scored how can one state that they have good hips?  As previously stated no one knows the hip status or score of a dog until you x-ray it and submit it to the BVA panel.


If a pup is a mixture of breeds they are likely to contain a mixture of the different genetic problems that affect each breed.  Nature does not distinguish between a ‘pedigree’ and a ‘mongrel’, as these are terms that we have had constructed to describe the tractability of heritage behind the generations within a dog.


However there will unfortunately always be the advertising spiel of breeders of ‘designer breeds’ (AKA mongrels with a posh name), as they seek to gain profit maximisation from justification of production of something that may only fulfil an owner’s desire to have a healthy dog via pure dumb luck, as opposed to any insight that the breeder had.  As with purchasing a GSD from parents that are not hip scored luck will only stay with you so long, as dogs with a high hip score have a higher chance of producing higher hips than they would have if they had been of a low score.


Please bear this in mind when considering the cute looking poodle cross GSD puppy staring at your from your computer screen, or even worse pet shop.

Showing In The UK & Hip Scores


The GSD breed council has set up the British Seiger.  This is NOT a KC recognised show.  At this show the dog’s hip scores are submitted and taken into consideration when the dog is placed and given a grading.


However at all KC recognised UK shows the dog’s hip status is NOT taken into consideration. 


All that the KC requires is that the dog is registered both by the KC and in its owner’s names, and that it has had no operation to repair for example hip damage.


This means that a dog with a very high hip score can be made into a Champion.  As people are more likely to breed a Champion especially in the case of some Old English line breeders who do NOT hip score (let alone elbow score or haemophilia test of working / temperament test) this means that the KC almost indirectly is encouraging people to breed from a GSD that has a higher chance of producing hip problems.


The breed council had sought to address this via requesting that the KC only register pups from hip scored parents, but at the time of printing this has unfortunately fallen on deaf ears, as the KC refuse to put this into place.

Loose Hocks & Curved Top-lines & Hip Dysplasia


We have level top-lined dogs, and my perfect representation of the breed standard would be relatively LEVEL top-lined.


HOWEVER this does not detract away from the fact that there is not any scientific evidence that supports a link between curved top-lines, loose hocks, and bad hips.




If there was an abundance of scientific evidence and not just opinions (vets or otherwise, as even vets can have opinions not backed up by scientific evidence, as they like everyone else are at the end of the day just a human being with their own opinions and beliefs) it has to be strongly taken into account that the lady who did the BBC programme would have found it and placed it on the aforementioned programme.  She did not place it on it, nor did she place it within any of her replies on public forums following the programme, as it did not exist. 


However as non-breed people often believe this look to be unhealthy based on their assumptions alone the media picked up on this concept from the programme further linking it to THEIR OPINIONS on health despite lack of scientific evidence to support their claims.  The media it will come as no surprise to some can sometimes rely on sensation, as opposed to scientific evidence.  But if one applies common sense, one only has to ask where the abundance of scientific data is from a vast amount of sources to support such claims? 


No breeder wants to breed loose hocks, as a loose hock GSD like for example a long-coated GSD does not represent the perfect example of the breed (both do not minimise energy loss and thus both do not maximise the endurance that a GSD needed to work all day). 


However just as long-coats appear within a litter sometimes a loose hocked GSD can.  Just as there is not a direct link between a long coated GSD and very bad health there is not a direct link between less than perfectly strong hocks and very bad health.  This is a fact backed up by lack of scientific evidence to say the contrary.  As opposed to one lady’s opinion that she was lucky enough to have the backing to make public via the television, and which the reporters within the media later added their own opinions on.


This concept can also sometimes be echoed by breeders (often the owners of the long and level top-lined Old English type) who either do not or who do not hip score or who do not use dogs that are at least hip scored. 


Such breeders could be breeding from horrendous hips, as they will not incur the costs of at least hip scoring, and nor will they run the risk of spending at least hundreds if not thousands showing a puppy only to discover that they cannot breed from it due to at least its hip status.  Despite such abhorrent breeding practices they seek to falsely justify the health of their lines via stating that their dogs are ‘healthier’ due to the status of their dog’s top-line and hocks.  This as you can imagine is gross misrepresentation that relies on playing on people’s fears, and thus please beware of breeders who use such despicable tactics in an attempt to get you to take one of their puppies.


As with choosing parents of low hip scores one has to use common sense when choosing a pup from either level or curved top-lined or loose or firm hocked parents.  A dog with a level top-line and strong hocks that panics as a judge approaches it that has no hip let alone elbow score to back up its claim of good hips in our opinion should never be chosen over a GSD with a very good hip and elbow score with an excellent temperament and a non-level top-line on the basis of imagined concerns about hips alone.  Now if it comes down to personal preference that is a different topic altogether, as personal preference is just that


We have a lot of people coming to us because alongside other factors we do have parents that have a level top-line, and thus such a personal preference is in our best interests.  But we unlike some level top-line breeders would never seek to further compel such a preference via stating anything other than the truth about evidence in relation to hips, hocks, and top-lines.


If we do not have an available litter and we get just a general enquiry for a puppy we will always recommend a breeder that is breeding for the breed’s best interests, and that at least hip scores.  As most of these breeders are of the curved as opposed to level top-line look then we will look past the breeder’s preference for top-line.  Until evidence shows otherwise we will continue to do so, as we like other breeders are NOT aware of a direct link between loose hocks and curved top-lines and Hip Dysplasia