The versatile german shepherd dog..


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History by Martin Wahl
It’s generally known that "Max von Stephanitz" started the German Shepherd breed. Lesser known facts are, that this man had a keen interest in, and extensive knowledge of, physiology, anatomy, mammalian natural history and evolution, theories of breeding, animal husbandry, and derivation and characteristics of the canine species. He was a cavalry officer only for social reasons, to satisfy his well to do, stuffed shirt family. It was no accident that he selected his original breeding stock exclusively from herding dogs, and not from farm or estate guard dogs, war or attack dogs, or British show dogs, which were the four prevalent types of dogs in Germany at the time. He knew that only the intelligence of a herding dog could make a perfect companion dog, based on his background knowledge and his experience with Germany’s first Shepherd club, the "Phylax Society". It had formed in 1881 but failed after only three years because of it’s emphasis on pretty show dogs.

On April 22, 1899, Max von Stephanitz and his friend Artur Meyer, together with nine others, formed the "Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde" (German Shepherd Dog Society), known by most Germans and most dog lovers around the world simply as "SV". Because of Max von Stephanitz’s outstanding background knowledge, the group made him the first President and General manager of the SV, which he led until 1935 with military precision and true German Gründlichkeit (thoroughness). If it’s worth doing, do it right the first time.
He soon wrote the first breed standard for the German Shepherd Dog with emphasis on "utility and intelligence". It contained the sentence: A pleasing appearance is desirable, but it can NOT put the dog’s working ability into question! And to be certain he wouldn’t be misunderstood, he coined the phrase:
"German Shepherd breeding is Working Dog breeding, or it is not German Shepherd breeding" which became world famous.
By enforcing those rules with an iron fist during his term as president of the SV, the German Shepherd Dog became the world's most useful working dog, be it as police and military service dog, search and rescue dog, personal protection dog, guide dog for the blind, helper dog for the deaf, farm and property protection dog, and many other uses. Anyone doubting the superior abilities of Max von Stephanitz, take a look at how rapidly he developed the GSD in the first 8 years.
During the second world war, the GSD in Germany experienced unbelievable hardship by being slaughtered by the thousands, as the military confiscated any dog they could find, regardless of family attachment or breeding value, and through mis-formed, stunted and diseased puppies being born due to widespread malnutrition. The few dogs surviving the war were tough and lean, and almost represent a new start for the breed in Germany. The two most influential survivors of the war were "Rolf vom Osnabrücker-Land" and "Axel von der Deininghauserheide". Together with "Hein vom Richterbach" those 3 dogs rebuilt the German Shepherd in Germany after the war.
The overwhelming world wide success of the German Shepherd Dog is proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that "von Stephanitz’s" theories were absolutely correct. Yet, it is sad to see that more and more breeders today ignore his well founded and proven wisdom, especially in North America.
But even in Germany, there developed a split between pure, old-fashioned working shepherd breeders, and trendy show shepherd breeders. This "show" trend started after the second world war and was most likely the result of some German breeders trying to cater to that new American style GSD that had developed during the war, and those promising big American bucks. All this may not be apparent to an outsider, because the SV retained the old rules and safeguards established by Max von Stephanitz, and as a result has a breeder/trainer guidance system in place that is unrivalled in the world and is beyond the imagination of most non-Germans. It is the reason why "GERMAN" German Shepherds, regardless of show or working blood lines, are still the worlds best and most in demand German Shepherds.
And of course, the lack of any kind of a breeder guidance system in North America is the main reason for the huge variations in size, shape, and poor quality of the American Shepherds bred here (USA and Canada).
Until the outbreak of the second World War, German Shepherds in America where identical to the German Shepherds in Germany. The last dog imported from Germany before the war to have a major impact on the GSD in America was "Pfeffer von Bern". He became the US Grand Victor in 1937, and in the same year went back to Germany to become the German National Show Sieger, then became the US Grand Victor again in 1938. By producing about 47 Am Chs he became the first ROM in 1952 and did dominate the US bloodlines throughout the 1940s.
During the second world war the GSD in America, cut off from its German roots, and quite possibly subject to some German bashing made fashionable by the war, started to develop its own appearance, mostly through very close line breeding, but in many instances also through repeated inbreeding.
After the end of the war, some American breeders recognized the need to get back to the original working shepherd and spent good money on imported GSD’s from Germany, but a new trend had started. American judges and breeders had developed "a taste" for their own, uniquely "American" style German Shepherd, featuring a more "refined look", and a lot more hind leg angulation to get that "unreal floating side gaite".
One drastic example of the widening split between German and American bloodlines in the 1960s is "Bodo vom Lierberg SchH3, FH". He was the 1967 German, Dutch and Belgian Sieger (Grand Victor), was sold to America, but didn’t make US Grand victor and ended up contributing very little to the breed. His brother, "Bernd vom Lierberg Sch3, FH" being as similar to Bodo in look and temperament as only a twin brother can be, remained in Germany and became THE most famous working dog ever since. They where the last all-in-one "universal" working and show dogs. Any real working Shepherd breeder in the world would give just about anything to have the name Bernd or Bodo vom Lierberg in his/her pedigree. Some breeders even use "sound-alike" kennel names to cash-in on the fame of that name.
During the 1950s and 60s, only about half of the US Grand Victors were German imports, the last one being "Arno von der Kurpfalzhalle" in 1969. Since then, the American Shepherd has gone its own way entirely, and today, no German import would have a chance of winning anything in an American show ring. The "American" Shepherd has become a pure object of beauty, to be looked at through a window. Its ability to be useful, reliable, well tempered and healthy, in fact, every thing the German Shepherd originally became famous for, has been sacrificed for that "floating side gait" during the last 30 years of AKC style inbreeding. There is absolutely no resemblance left between those two separate breeds of Shepherds, except the name.
The majority of American breeders are aware of the extreme difference in the quality of the American Shepherds they breed, and are attempting to cover up this fact by using German sounding kennel names, in the hope of fooling the public.

I have found info about herding style of the GSD. One thing was they didn't do the same kind of work as the Border collie, they guarded the surrounding terrain they moved thru and around by detering sheep and such from going there, moving constantly around the fringes, hence the protection of property they developed, since Germany didn't have fences and most still do not to this day. They barked and used their size to intimidate and if needed grabbed a mouthful to make a point, but were never allowed to grab and shake. They watched and directed the animals to move when needed, also keeping them out of the roads.
The dogs during the war became popular and germany was cut off, but even when the lanes opened, the demand was greater than germany could keep up with, due to the strict breeding rules in place, but america had no such restrictions, quantity over quality.:msnrolleyes:
Note: A GSD puppies ears; Make sure and leave your GSD ears alone to let them stand on their own, don't pet them backwards or rub them.
I get this all the time so wanted to mention it.
I know quite a bit thru research on this breed anyone want more just ask.


New Member
That was very interesting. Thanks for posting this.

I'm now experiencing my first GSD, who my family rescued. We are now trying to socialise him a bit more. But I can see what a very intelligent little man he is (big man really but only 14 months old). He is also very sensitive. But even after just 6 months he is showing how very loyal and loving he can be.


New Member
Very opinonated post. All American GSD's are not poor quality- just bred for a different purpose. Many American breed GSD's are used as working dogs and in the US you will find many many good working dogs from mainly American lines and not German. Though German line are exceptional working dogs- I would argue that (not just show dogs) American lines are exceptional pets. Depends on what you are looking for. My American breed GSD is awesome.:dogwink: