The German Shepherd is one of the world’s most popular companion and community service dogs. The origins of this lovable breed came from various sheep dogs found in Germany during the last century. In the second half of the 19th century, dog breed fanciers began to fix the type of sheep dog found in Germany that would eventually form the basis of the modern German Shepherd Dog.
In 1899 German cavalry officer Captain Max Von Stephanitz purchased a dog who impressed him very much. Naming this dog Horand v Grafrath, Von Stephanitz soon founded the Verein fuer Deutsche Schaeferhunde (SV) in Germany (“The German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany”). The SV started a registration book and Horand v Grafrath became the first registered German Shepherd Dog.
By 1910 the German Shepherd had a firm foot hold in Europe, and in Germany the service potential of the dogs were realized by helping to equip police stations with trained police dogs. Von Stephanitz was adamant that the breed should remain a working dog, and constantly looked for new tasks to keep the breed working.
During the first world war, the German and French military used the German Shepherd for various functions, including search and rescue of casualties. Dogs were also used to carry ammunition, messages, cables and first aid supplies between the trenches, often through artillery and small arms fire. Many soldiers were impressed by the bravery of the dogs and took captured German Shepherds home with them after the war. Many soldiers were blinded during the First World War and German Shepherds were trained in large numbers by the German authorities as “seeing eye” dogs for the blind.
During the 1920’s, canine movie stars such as Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart made the breed extremely popular outside of Germany. However, great harm was caused as unscrupulous breeders introduced poor breeding practices which, along with some irresponsible owners, worked against the founding principles of the breed.
Anti German sentiment following the First World War, caused the British to re-name the breed as the Alsatian Wolf-Dog. In Australia, this led people to the wrong belief that German Shepherds are directly bred from wolves.
During the Second World War many German Shepherds were pressed into military service. In Germany the breeding stock was greatly reduced due to great losses during the war. Many dogs also were trained to detect the presence of unexploded devices resulting in today’s explosive and drug detector dog programs.
Today the German Shepherd remains one of the most popular breeds of dogs in the world. The founding club has grown to over 100,000 members, making the SV the largest single dog breed club in the world. The founder of the breed Captain von Stephanitz believed that, “The breeding of shepherd dogs is the breeding of working dogs; and this must always be the aim, or we shall cease to produce shepherd dogs”. German Shepherds are not only used as working dogs but also companion animals and ideal family pets. The high intelligence, the well-balanced temperament, their physical size, courage and affinity for people make them a very versatile service dog.
However like all breeds many pet owners decide to become breeders, know very little of what they are doing and give out a mass of misinformation when selling their pets. Most of whom will display nervous behaviour and often either hyperactivity or underactivity. Unfortunately this breed of dog suffers extreme problems with HD causing dogs to have a shorter life due to walking problems.
When considering buying any breed of dog, ask to speak to the vet of the breeder to ensure that the breeding parents have a bill of good health. Do not rely of Pedigree Certificate which is not a mark of quality or health. It is just like our birth certificate and only registers a birth.