If any breed
of dog is most deserving of the title Noble with Natural Beauty then that dog is
the German Shepherd.
is a dog with elegant yet flowing lines,
glamorous to behold, with a shining coat, erect ears, and an intelligent
expression that will command attention wherever he is seen. His eyes indicate
the love and affection he has for those who care for him and his sweeping tail
will show his mood whether it be gay or sad.
nature a German Shepherd is wary of strangers, though once one is accepted by
him he is a friend for life. He is an efficient obedience worker, quick to learn
and what is learned will never be forgotten. It is an active breed and thrives
on work—little is beyond its capabilities. Fleet of foot, powerful yet
graceful and nimble, he is the epitome of those qualities considered to be ideal
within a dog.
loves human companionship and will respond to his owner’s mood whether this be
lying quietly by his side or romping across the fields; indeed, at all times,
his one desire is to be with you and to please you.
has a keen sense of humor and enjoys playful games yet, in defense of
those he loves, can become a frightening adversary that one would be well
advised to keep clear of. He can fit into a flat or a mansion as the need may
be, for he is happy wherever you are happy.
bringing a German Shepherd into your home, you are making an addition to your
family and he will quickly feel a part of it. Your house, your garden, your
possessions and in fact all that you own will from then on be in his special
care. He needs your love, but he needs also correct attention to his grooming,
exercise, food, and general welfare. Given these, your German Shepherd will
devote his very life to you and you will be the richer for this and for the
companionship and love you both will share.
a short work such as this, one cannot look too deeply into the history of the
breed for this would take up a volume in itself. However, it is important that
all Shepherd owners have an insight, brief though it may be, into the
development of the breed for it is this development that has given us the German
Shepherd we see today. Only a few early dogs and only one person is named in
this history, though it will readily be appreciated that there were many dogs
and many people whose efforts and sacrifices have furthered the growth of the
from the very dawn of mankind the dog has figured prominently. Early man quickly
recognized the dog’s ability to complement those faculties in which he was
weak. The dog could run better, see better, hear better and had a far more acute
sense of smell than man.
dogs were captured and reared within man’s encampment, and in return for food,
shelter, and protection, would help man hunt and give him advance warning of
predatory animals. This was the beginning, and as man settled from his nomadic
wanderings his requirements of the dog changed. He now needed more diversity in
his dogs. There were those for hunting, those for protecting his home and family
when he was away, those for carrying small burdens, and those for helping tend
his flocks and cattle. The dawn of the pastoral shepherd dog had arrived.
Throughout the world slow development was taking place, but the pace quickened
in Europe where man himself was raising his standards more rapidly.
size, coat, and color of sheepdogs at this time varied greatly, dependent upon
many factors. The weather clearly dictated that dogs working in cold areas would
have profuse coats while those of temperate climates would have shorter coats.
Areas where predatory animals were found in large numbers would need more
powerful dogs than those lands dominated by man. The wolf, the bear, the large
birds of prey—all would influence man’s choice of sheepdog.
Germany, as in France, the United Kingdom, Holland, and others, the growth of
large industrialized cities meant that predators were declining quickly and also
that there was a greater awareness of the excellence of the shepherding dogs of
different areas. The establishment of dogs of fixed type was now at hand
although there were still great variations to be found from one area to another.
Breeders would meet and discuss the relative merits and shortcomings of certain
dogs, and it followed that dogs of high merit were much in demand as breeders
tried to fix into their stock the sterling qualities seen in dogs from other
areas. It came to pass that in Germany, in 1891, a group of enthusiasts formed
the Phylax Society with the aim of fostering and standardizing native German
breeds. The society was short-lived and in 1894 it was disbanded, but it had
sown the seeds from which the German Shepherd was to emerge.
this time Capt. Max von Stephanitz appears in the breed’s history and indeed
it is this man who is acclaimed as the father of the breed. Von Stephanitz had
long admired the qualities of intelligence, strength, and ability found in many
native sheepdog breeds but had yet to see one which embodied all of his ideals.
Chance was to play its part, and while visiting a show with a friend in
1899, he saw a dog that impressed him greatly to all accounts so much that then
and there he purchased the dog and promptly formed a society, the Verein fur
deutsche Schaferhunde or SV as it is called. This was a milestone in the
breed’s history and marked the beginning of a new era for it. From this date
the German Shepherd as a specific breed had arrived.
dog was called Hektor Linksrhein but was later named Horand v Grafeth by Von
Stephanitz, who used the animal as the basis on which much future development
would be made. Horand was greatly admired by many breeders who were quick to use
him in their breeding programs. Not surprisingly, he became the dog that best
exemplified the goals of early breeders.
most celebrated son was Hektor v Shwaben, who in turn sired Heinz v Starkenburg
and the litter brothers Beowolf and Pilot.
of these dogs in turn sired many progeny and became pillars in the development
of the German Shepherd. Von Stephanitz was a cavalry captain and was ideally
suited to impose his strong will over the SV of which he was president. In this
capacity and with uncompromising dedication he directed the breeding programs.
The dogs of Thuringia, Frankonia, and Wurttemburg were all used, each area
providing dogs which had special merits of tail and ear carriage, size, color,
degree of inbreeding was necessarily high at this time, for although it carried
risks of incorporating faults, it likewise enabled the breeders to fix
permanently those qualities which today are such features of the breed. Von
Stephanitz believed above all else that the German Shepherd should be bred for
utility and intelligence and this was to become his motto. It was this
adaptability that was later to make the dog the world’s greatest all-rounder.
With the oncoming of the twentieth century, and
having seen the SV develop into the largest single breed club in the world, Von
Stephanitz was turning his attention to the long-term future. He was able to
foresee that in a growing industrialized nation the role of the pastoral
shepherd dog would decline and the breed must be able to adapt to other work if
it were to continue as a functional animal.
It seemed that the very qualities that made the
German Shepherd such an exceptional sheepdog could well be put to good use by
government departments. This was the thinking of Von Stephanitz and this was to
be his next campaign. As always, he achieved this and during World War I was
seen as messenger dog, rescue dog, sentry dog, and personal guard dog.
Servicemen from the USA, UK, and the Commonwealth would see first hand the
dog’s bravery, intelligence, and steadfastness, and many stories were taken
back home. Not surprisingly, a number of dogs were acquired by servicemen and
transported home with them.
In 1919, when the English Kennel Club gave the breed
a separate register, some 54 animals were included, but by 1926 the ranks had
swelled to 8,058, such was the unprecedented success of the dog. At the end of
the War it was thought that the breed would not flourish were the word German to
appear in its name and it was therefore decided to call the breed the Alsatian
Wolf Dog after the German-French border area of Alsace-Lorraine. The “Wolf
Dog” tag was later to be dropped—again as it was felt that this would
prejudice the breed. Thus we had for many years the misnomer of the breed
brought about by national hostilities. In 1977, following numerous campaigns by
breeders the name of the breed was changed back to the German Shepherd Dog by
which it is known in the USA, Australia, and most other countries.
Teacher and author Helen Keller hugs her German shepherd on a garden lawn.)
With the breed arriving in Britain mainly on the
strength of its reputation as a war dog, its sterling qualities as a sheepdog
were largely overlooked. At that time Britain already had a string of quality
working sheepdogs such as Collies, Corgis, and Old English Sheepdogs. Therefore,
the pattern of development of the German Shepherd in the USA, UK, and Australia
was to be dictated by its adaptability. The Seeing Eye dogs in the USA and
Britain were predominantly German Shepherds and only later did the Labrador
challenge this position.
At the outbreak of World War II, the trained dogs of
the Allied Forces were seen wherever the troops traveled, spreading the
breed’s popularity like a blanket around the world.
World War II German Shepherd has gone from strength to strength and is now one
of the world’s most popular breeds. This is as it should be, for while task
for task other breeds may surpass it, no other single breed has been able to
master such a wide range of skills as the German Shepherd Dog.
German Shepherd is large enough to tackle a man and win a contest, yet agile
enough to cope with a flock of sheep. He may not be able to outrun a Greyhound
but he can show an amazing turn of speed, and having developed from natural
working strains, he can maintain a steady canter far longer than most other
can be seen from the foregoing that our modern German Shepherd is a king among
dogs, noble of head, athletic in body. Here is a dog developed to be functional,
the epitome of dedicated and carefully planned breeding.
problems that have confronted the post-war breeders have in their own way been
as great as those confronting the early pioneers.
early German Shepherds were predominantly working dogs and it was therefore not
difficult to ensure that working qualities were maintained and that the
breed’s natural intelligence was put to practical use. Once established it was
difficult to retain qualities, let alone improve on the breed, yet this breeders
strived to do. For this reason working trials were introduced in addition to
obedience trials where qualifications such as C.D. (Companion Dog), T.D.
(Tracking Dog), P.D. (Police Dog), and U.D. (Utility Dog) could be earned.
Between the two World Wars many clubs came into being which rendered great
service to the breed. In addition to the many shows and meetings they hold, they
have acted as public relations offices to defend the breed against periodic
maligning from the public. The German Shepherd has throughout its history had to
contend with condemnations from the press. The great fluctuations in
registration figures over the years serve to illustrate this and the very
popularity of the breed has itself been the cause of much trouble.
popularity has meant that at times many undesirable breeders have appeared on
the scene with the sole object of making money. In this situation mediocre dogs
are bred from in almost factory style thus perpetuating faults. The sheer
numbers of dogs meant that sooner or later disaster would happen. The wrong
people obtain the wrong dogs and ultimately someone gets hurt.
breed’s wolfish appearance makes it a prime target for the press who often fan
the flames of public dissent. As a result, sales decline and the hard core breed
lovers are left to put their house back into order. This is most difficult for
often in the turmoil bloodlines can become a puzzle to sort out.
spite of these setbacks, serious breeders have maintained the breed though there
are, of course, periods when much debate takes place over varying points. Backs
may be getting too long, angulation too steep, ear and tail carriage faulty,
dentition lacking, movement poor, and other aspects appearing to illustrate that
we must be continually on our guard lest our breed degenerate. In Germany, the
SV has, since its inception, controlled very tightly the affairs of the breed,
has maintained complete records of all dogs, and has made periodic surveys with
recommendations to all owners. In the USA, the Register of Merit (R.O.M.) is an
attempt to ensure that only the better dogs are used in breeding programs.