The shepherds of Germany had used dogs with their flocks a long time ago. Those dogs were of no specific breed or type. Looks count for nothing at that time, only the dog’s ability to perform his job.
Late in the 19th century, a movement to combine the various sheepdog breeds into a definite breed was created, which led to the formation of the first society of the German Shepherd Dog. The moving spirit and the first president of the society was Max von Stephanitz. In a few years, through the careful selection and in-breeding of herding dogs in Germany, a beautiful, intelligent and useful breed was created: the German Shepherd.
Stephanitz was very strict in his demands of utility and intelligence in the breed. According to him, its utility and intelligence lay the dog’s beauty, and it had no beauty aside from those qualities.
The German Shepherd Dog society soon became big business with more than 50,000 members and over 600 branches. It was the largest and best-organized association of breeders pertaining to a single breed in the entire world. German Shepherd Dog fanciers were not limited to Germany – soon, the breed circled the world.
Max von Stephanitz early recognized that to retain the natural character of the breed, the best means was to work. However, the opportunity to work with flocks was lacking. He tried to interest the various authorities in the use of German Shepherds in the police. At first, his efforts were opposed and laughed at. Then, gradually his efforts led to the creation of the service dogs system in Germany.
In America, the first German Shepherd Dogs were registered in 1912 by two fanciers from Pennsylvania. Soon, the breed became very popular, and in 1915 the German Shepherd Dog Club of America held its first specialty show.
The German Shepherd Dog is indisputably the world’s most recognized dog breed: From sheepdog in Germany to guide dog in America to universally loved and admired canine. German Shepherd Dogs are the most popular family pets and children’s companions throughout the world.
German Shepherds make wonderful family pets in city apartments as well as country homes and on farms because they are so easily trained. They love children and get along with them very well to the point that they can serve as outdoor baby-sitters.
The German Shepherd Dog has proved his versatility and more than paid his way in many different jobs. Thousands of German Shepherd Dogs have served in the armed forces of different countries. The first guide dogs for the blind were German Shepherds.
Our fascination and passion for this breed come from their versatility and ability to work well in so many different areas yet still make excellent family companions. There are so many stories about German Shepherds acting as heroes that it seems that German Shepherds spend their whole lives going around saving people. It’s not unusual to pick up a newspaper and read about some heroic effort taken by a German Shepherd to save a child from an icy river or risk his life protecting his family.
The German Shepherd Dog is often referred to as a “police dog.” His alert appearance and sense of responsibility and his work with the armed services and law enforcement officers have earned him that respected name.
The affection of the owner for his German Shepherd Dog is seldom predicted upon his comparative excellence as a show dog. Character, temperament, responsiveness, intelligence, and the ability to perform the services for which he is trained and used is to the owner more important than the conformation to a physical ideal. How many of us would not prefer to possess another Rin-Tin-Tin, a dog without any of the qualifications of a great show dog, than to have the greatest champion that ever lived?
The difficulty of developing the personalities and temperaments of many dogs makes German Shepherd dogs’ breeding in wholesale numbers an insuperable task. Other breeds may be reared in the kennels, duly fed and cared for, and left to themselves. The Shepherd mentality is so highly organized that he stagnates or becomes neurotic without human companionship, which he craves.
Most of the shyness and the sharpness, and other undesirable temperaments observed in the breed are not inherited but are conditioned by neglect, indifference, ill-treatment, or some avoidable or unavoidable mental trauma that the dog has suffered. Of course, some German Shepherds are more alert and receptive to the regimen of training than others, but almost any young Shepherd can be developed into an agreeable and responsive companionship, and many of them can be taught to perform routine duties. A few can be developed into super dogs with what appears to be a strong faculty to reason like a human being.
The German Shepherd (also known as the Alsatian) is an intelligent breed of dog. Because they are eager to please, they are easily trained in obedience and protection. German Shepherd Dogs are often used as working dogs in many capacities, including search and rescue (SAR), military, police or guard dogs. They are valued around the world for their work as police dogs, trackers, drug detection, search and rescue, guide dogs, mine detection, armed services dogs ( Army, Navy, Airforce ) and Security dogs.
When provided with regular training and attention, the German Shepherd can also make a great family pet. They are very loyal and protective of their own family but tend to be a bit suspicious of strangers, especially when not in the company of their master.
German Shepherd Lines
In America, you will find two distinct types of German Shepherd Dogs: the American line and the German line. While there is a notable controversy between breeders of the two types, in general, the American line is considered to have strayed from the original herding function to create a more graceful dog with a flying trot. In contrast, the huskier German line is considered to emphasize the original “working dog” capabilities which include sheep herding and protection.
At A Glance
German Shepherd Dog, Alsatian
Country of Origin:
FCI Classification: Group 1: Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs). Section 1: Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs; With Working Trial
AKC Classification: Herding Group
Sheep Herding – Sheep Guardian
Large (22 – 26 inches at shoulders)
Base color should be black with markings of brown, red-brown, blonde and light gray. Alternatively a gray base-color with “clouds” of black markings and a black “saddle” and “mask”. Inconspicuous white markings on the chest, and “brighter” shades on the under – and inner sides of the dog are permitted but not desirable.
10 – 12 years
The German Shepherd is a “double-coated” dog with an undercoat and guard hairs. The guard hairs will be shed all year. The undercoat is “blown” twice a year. German Shepherds shed heavily all year round and need weekly brushing. As a matter of fact, the more you brush, the less they shed.
Heavy all year round
Highly intelligent, highly adaptable, extremely responsive to training, devoted, protective and fearless. These dogs are known to build a strong bondage with their owners.
When not properly socialized at an early age, GSDs can develop unruliness or lack of self-confidence.
Suitability for Children:
Good with children of their family, but because they are naturally wary of strangers, they need close supervision when introduced to visiting children and adults. They are reserved but not aggressive toward strangers.
The German Shepherds are high energy dogs and need 2 hours vigorous daily exercise, preferably 3-4 times a day.
Extremely responsive to training, especially to voice commands. If well-trained, they can do almost anything.
Health & Behavioral Issues:
The German Shepherd is a trotting dog, and his structure has been developed to best meet the requirements of his work in herding. A long, effortless trot which shall cover the maximum amount of ground with the minimum number of steps. The proper body proportions, firmness of back and muscles and the correct angulation of the fore and hindquarters serve this end. This enables the dog to propel himself forward by a long step of the hindquarter and to compensate for this stride by a long step of the forequarter. The high withers, the firm back, the strong loin, the adequately formed croup, even the tail as balance and rudder, all contribute to this same end.
In America, show German Shepherds tend to have so much rear angulation that it has become a great source of concern regarding the dog’s ability to perform the tasks for which it has been bred.
- Lower thigh (gaskin)
- Hock (ankle)
- Upper Thigh (femur)
- Shoulder (with shoulder blade or scapula)
The angles of the bony structure at the joints, particularly of the shoulder with the upper arm (front angulation), or the angles of the stifle and the hock (rear angulation). Rear angulation has been the source of many disagreements in the German Shepherd dog breed. With extreme rear angulation, the position of the leg is so far behind the body that even though it creates a long and powerful stride at the same time, it leaves the dog with a lack of balance and loss of agility. Show dogs have more angulation than the working ones.
The breast or lower part of the chest in front of and between the forelegs, sometimes including the part extending back some distance behind the forelegs.
The rear of the back above the hind limbs; the line from the pelvis to the set-on of the tail.
The chaps; pendulous lateral parts of the upper lips.
The part of the foreleg between the fetlock (or pastern joint) and the foot that consists of five metacarpals (cylindrical bones). The front pastern and lower segment correspond to the wrist and hand of humans.
Stifle (or stifle joint)
The joint next above the hock, and near the flank, in the hind leg; rear hock joint bends backwards only.
The point between the eyes where the muzzle ends, and the forehead starts.
The part between the shoulder bones at the base of the neck; the point from which the height of the dog is usually measured.