Showsight Presents The German Shepherd Dog



aspects of American life. In the dog show ring, the winningest dog of any breed was a GSD called Champion Alta- na’s Mystique. She was owned by Jane Firestone and handled by James Moses. With 275 Best in Show wins “Mystique” is not only the top-winning GSD of all time, she is also the show dog with the most wins in American history, earning the Top Dog award in 1993 and 1994. In 1993, she won 116 best in Show wins, which is more than any other dog in a single year. By 1925, the breed had become the number one in America. By 1950, the GSD was ranked in the top four breeds and has remained in the top ten in every decade since. From 1963–1972 the breed ranked number two and today it is the second most popular breed behind only the Labrador Retriever, which has held that top spot more than twenty years. TEMPORARY NAME No breed’s reputation suffered more from a war than the GSD. During World War I and II the intense feel- ings toward Germany resulted in the removal of the word “German” from the name of the club and the breed in the United States and England. In the US, the breed was renamed the “Shepherd Dog” and in England the temporary name given the breed was “Alsatian” or “Police Dog.” It was many years after WWII before the breed was again called the German Shepherd Dog. FUNCTION AND PURPOSE The second and third elements used to understand breed knowl- edge are called function and purpose.

These elements focus on the reasons and use that brought about the develop- ment of the breed. In this regard, the GSD was originally developed as an all-purpose utility dog. It did not take long before its versatile ability and work ethic made it the ideal dog for military, police, law enforcement and service/ assistance (Moody et al. 2006). Begin- ning with WWI and in every major war since, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) has proven to be a valiant soldier respon- sible for saving thousands of lives. Some of its duties have included: mercy work (locating the wounded and guiding help to them), a messenger to carry medical supplies, sentry dog and search dogs for locating the hidden enemy, (bubby traps, snipers and mine). Bronze stat- ues of the German Shepherd Dog can be found throughout America, which is a tribute to their work and proven record of service. As the all-purpose utility dog, the GSD has been given a wide range of uses including those for service dog work. These assignments continued to accelerate the breed’s popularity thanks to the efforts of Dorothy Harri- son Eustis (1886-1946). Born in Phila- delphia, she became the founder of the Seeing Eye. She opened the first school for guide dogs in the United States based on the principles she observed in Germany where dogs were trained to assist blind veterans. By the time of her death in 1946, more than 1,300 blind persons had been matched with a guide dog. The success of the See- ing Eye ( based in Morristown, New Jersey has spawned many guide dog schools throughout the

United States. Eustis’s life is celebrated in the book, “ Independent Vision” by Miriam Ascarelli, published in 2010, by Purdue University Press. Much can be said and attributed to the GSD and the human-animal bond. The behavior most attributed to this bond can be found in this breed’s work ethic, playfulness and the fact that it is uninhibited. The GSD became one of the most popular breeds because of its devotion and trainability. Hart and Hart (1985) studied playfulness in 56 breeds and noted that there were differences between breeds. The criteria used to measure playfulness involved a willing- ness to chase balls, Kong’s or Frisbees and to engage in hide and seek type games. Their study produced five cate- gories that are used to separate breeds. They were called: • Most playful • Above average • Average

• Below average • Least playful.

Based on their criteria the GSD was found to be “Above Average” for this trait along with the Vizsla, Fox Terrier, Lab- rador, Boston Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Wheat Highland White Terrier, Toy Poo- dle, Silky Terrier, Welsh Corgi and Shih Tzu. As mentioned earlier, the GSD is considered a multi-faceted utility work- ing dog. Its record of accomplishments is legendary having served as an assistant to soldiers in wartime and as a rescue worker after the September 11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Cen- ter and the Pentagon, which are recent reminders of why it is cherished by so many.


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