Breaking Down the Standards - AKC Style
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the main organization for dog registration in America. There are others, like the United Kennel Club (UKC), along with some hunting organizations such as North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVDHA) and North American Gun Dog Association (NAGDA). Most people have heard of AKC, but not everyone is aware of UKC or NAVDHA, which both have registries, where NAGDA is just an organization, not a registry.
We have chosen to use the AKC as our registry because it is about the strictest registry out there, by strictest we mean that they have higher standards for registering. For example, in AKC, as a breeder, I have the option to give a dog a "limited" registration as opposed to a "full" registration. The difference is that the AKC will not allow a dog with a "limited" registration to parent an AKC-registered litter. In essence, the breeder is requesting, by giving limited registration, that the dog should not be bred. Many registries will allow AKC limited registration dogs to breed and have a registered litter; because other registries will allow this, it tends to lower the general opinion and quality of the registry.
The Cons of AKC Registered Dogs
Now note, any dog with "full" AKC papers can breed and register a litter if bred to another AKC Full Registration dog of the same breed. No one verifies these dogs to see if they conform to standard, it merely means that the breeders of the parents provided full registration. This process places AKC's faith in their breeders' integrity, and, as a buyer, you should due your diligence in finding a breeder you want to work with, whose integrity you trust.
Lastly, I don't place all my eggs in the bloodlines either. GSPs can have 12 puppies in a litter, these puppies are a combination of the best and worst of each parent, the better the breeding, the higher the likelihood the puppies will inherit excellent traits, but again, there is a range in each litter, some dogs are just not meant to be high-drive hunters suited for trial dogs, despite the bloodlines suggesting such. If someone buys a lesser dog in the litter, gets full registration, and breeds an "inferior" dog, it can still be registered with an excellent pedigree.
My advice always is find out what you're buying, the breeder should be able to help you decide which litter is best for you based on the pros and cons of each of their breeders. A breeder who won't discuss cons suggests either a lack of integrity, a lack of care if the dog is a good fit, or a breeder who doesn't know their dogs.
My Thoughts on AKC's Priorities
I love AKC for the excellent registry it maintains, but I differ in some of my ideologies. AKC puts a lot into the looks of the dog, how strongly they show breed character with their body shape and their gait. Although I use AKC as a guideline for conformation (structural design), I cannot place all my eggs in this basket. In my breeding program, I place priority on health, structural integrity (a large component of health), but I also put a lot into the drive and temperament of the dog, something that AKC does not address.
Additionally, I care that the dogs have a build that will assist in their job of pointing and retrieving birds. One place I differ in structure is neck length, I prefer that the neck be a little on the shorter side, this is because these dogs are designed to grab game, sometimes as big as pheasants. In a medium dog, like the GSP, these birds can be pretty big. A shorter neck puts less strain on the dog for retrieving larger game, however, in the show ring, a dog will a longer neck will look more "graceful and elegant". Since I breed my dogs to perform, I try to avoid this. In contrast, the UKC does an excellent job emphasizing the "working" aspect of breeding dogs, but since we don't show our dogs at this time, and all AKC dogs can be registered with UKC, I choose to just use AKC to keep things simple.
Lastly, a note on German Bloodlines, like Rusty. German dogs run MUCH bigger than the AKC Standard, they are heavier boned, with more muscling, their ears are thicker and longer, instead of reaching to the corner of the mouth, they often run to the corner of the nose and beyond. In height they are often 2-4 inches taller than AKC standard at the shoulder and tend to run at least 15 lbs. heavier than standard, although I've seen them as heavy as 100 lbs. instead of the 55-70 lb. AKC Standard.
In my program I like the German dogs for their ear length, their square heads, muscle mass and bigger bone. If you look closely you will also notice that the rear legs of German dogs have different proportions than the American lines, the German femur is shorter, but the lower leg is longer, whereas the upper leg is longer on the American dogs (look at Rusty (German) v. Buster (American) to see this difference).
AKC Standard Interactive Graphic - Courtesy of the AKC