About the Breed

How it all started

A German cavalry officer, Capt. Max von Stephanitz, is the father of the German Shepherd.

The History

How the breed became very popular and loved all over the world.

For some time von Stephanitz had studied the possibilities of creating a new breed that was to embody the best traits of the hardy German sheepdogs that the officer loved for their loyalty, tenaciousness, intelligence and strength. Von Stephanitz wanted a breed that could be used in various tasks by farmers, law enforcement personnel, the military, and fire and rescue units.

Then, in 1899, at a regional dog show, von Stephanitz became mesmerized by the skills of a sheepdog named Hektor Linksrhein. The captain decided then and there that he had discovered his ideal animal and purchased Hektor on the spot. Later, he named the animal Horand v Grafeth.

Horand’s seed became the genetic starting point for the development of the remarkable breed we call German Shepherds in the United States and in most English-speaking countries. In Great Britain, the dog is popularly known as an Alsatian. That name is a vestige of the stigma attached to the adjective “German” in the immediate years following the conclusion of the Second World War.

After acquiring Horand, von Stephanitz organized an association, the Verein fur deutsche Schaferhunde, or SV. From the beginning he presided over the group with a firm hand, developing the new breed’s standards. He applied his exacting criteria to breeding programs that were started throughout Germany. Von Stephanitz’s attention to detail and his uncompromising standards helped breeders fix the qualities for which the German Shepherd is admired today.

World Wars

How the breed was used during WW1 and WW2.

Later, as a result of von Stephanitz’s energetic campaigns on behalf of these dogs, German Shepherds were used extensively during World War I as messenger dogs, rescue dogs and guard dogs. In little time British, French and American soldiers discovered the German Shepherd’s remarkable qualities. As a result, some servicemen took the dogs home. From that moment, the breed’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds outside Germany.

During the Second World War, the German Shepherd became the Allied serviceman’s inseparable companion. The animals were assigned many of the same duties these dogs had performed throughout World War I.

The Breed Today

The breed is now one of the most loved family dogs.

Unfortunately, and perhaps this is due to the breed’s popularity among armed forces and police departments, in the popular mind the German Shepherd is often viewed as a vicious, aggressive animal that is little more than a domesticated wolf.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If they are bred with care and raised with a bit of common sense, German Shepherds are even-tempered and affectionate. Indeed, until very recently, the German Shepherd’s loyalty, adaptability, stamina, and great natural intelligence made him the guide dog of choice for blind people in the United States and Britain.

Today, German Shepherds continue to use their skills in law enforcement and military work. They also serve as farm guardians and guide dogs. But above all they are wonderful family pets, devoted companions to children and adults, and tireless sentries for the home.

Click here to watch a short video of a Search and Rescue dog in action.

Extracts from Max v Stephanitz GSD on breeding

“The breeding of Shepherd dogs must be the breeding of working dogs, this must always be the aim or we shall cease to produce working dogs. In contradistinction to working and utility breeding is “sport breeding” which produces a temporary advance but is always followed by deterioration, for it is NOT done for the sake of the DOG, nor does it make him more useful, but it is done for vanity of the breeder and subsequent purchaser”.

“Breeding can only give the foundations for good body build and high efficiency …… for perfection of the body and for usefulness of vocation, bringing up, keeping and training are responsible.”

The word “SPORT” also means competition for the highest, that is true, but this competition reaches its high watermark in “Exhibitions”, which, just because they demand no real capabilities lead people only too easily astray…”

“Dog breeding must be done by a dog lover and cannot be a profession. The work of breeding service dogs must be the work of dog lovers (such as) the shepherd with sheep breeds as a dog lover, for they have the desire to breed for exemplary, efficient and useful dogs.”

“The dog bred for a business is no longer bred for his service to the breed, but for his market value. The direction of the breed then is dictated by the desires of the market, usually novices to the breed who knows nor cares (nothing) of the weal and woes of the breed, knows nothing of the value or aptitude for work…he often only has eyes for IMPOSING, REMARKABLE, and even a RUFFLING SWASHBUCKLER”

“The breeder on a small scale, one who works with one or two bitches, is the most serviceable breeder for service dogs, for he can care for his breeding animals and their progeny to such an extent that he can produce strong sound animals that can be trained”

“Breeding on a large scale and in a kennel is the ruin of sound Shepherd dog breeding. It is not possible to keep shepherd dogs in “herds”…… his master must be able to be busy with him, especially as a young dog.”

“A dog raised in a kennel craves to escapes from such a crass stupidity into liberty, the presence of people ……to play and work (and) causes a state of continuous exasperation that frets at their nerves….. may acquire a craze for purposeless reaction……often harmful to themselves.”

“The more we emphasize the social and civil importance of service dog breeding , the easier it will be for all true friends of the breed to keep it sound……it will then be stripped of all which has grown through indifference, ignorance, vanity, the obsession for sport and greed for money.”

The Breed

  1. head
  2. neck
  3. lower jaw
  4. upper jaw
  5. neck
  6. withers
  7. back
  8. loin
  9. croup
  10. thigh
  11. rear angulation
  12. hock
  13. paw
  14. pastern
  15. elbow
  16. upper arm
  17. shoulder