German Shepherd Dog - Showsight


by BARBARA WOELFEL LOPEZ for the German Shepherd Dog Club of America Education Committee

I n Germany, around the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, there were many sheep herding dogs actively working on farms throughout the land. The breeding of these dogs within each region of the country, whether planned or accidental, had the effect of stamping the dogs within each region with certain distinctive traits that came to identify the region where the dogs originated. Some dogs had short coats, some long; some had erect ears, some floppy; some had sabre tails, some curly; some had wiry coats, some smooth; some tan, gray and black, and some multi-colored. Figures 1-3 are taken from The German Shepherd Dog by Capt. Max von Stephanitz (who came to be known as “the Father of the Breed”). Because there was a desire among dog fanciers of the time to bring togeth- er the best traits of these dogs into one, recognizable breed, on April 22, 1899, a society was formed and is known today as “Der Verein fur Deutsche Schaefer- hund” and referred to as simply the “SV”. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) was formed in 1913 with 26 founding members. Then, when the SV formed the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs (WUSV), the GSDCA became a founding member representing the United States which remains in place today. In those early years of the SV, Cap- tain Max von Stephanitz attended a dog show and was captivated by a medium-sized, gray colored dog, with erect ears that had a reputation for pro- ducing progeny with his desired char- acteristics. And so, after purchasing

him for his kennel, he re-named him Horand v. Grafrath. With uncanny insight into the value of this particular dog, von Stephanitz and the SV soon registered Horand as “SZ1”, the first official German Shep- herd Dog from which all registered German Shepherd dogs descended. Horand and his kennel mate are shown in Figure 4. In von Stephanitz’s own words, Horand was “a very good medium size- with powerful bones, beautiful lines and a nobly-formed head; clean and sin- ewy in build; the whole dog was one live wire. His character corresponded to his exterior qualities; marvelous in his obedient faithfulness to his mas- ter; and above all the straightforward nature of a gentleman with a bound- less and irrepressible zest for living.” He went on to describe him as “the mad- dest rascal, the wildest ruffian and an incorrigible provoker of strife; never idle, always on the go; crazy about chil- dren and always in love.” The German Shepherd Dog retains many of these traits today. German Shepherd dogs are loyal and devoted to their family. As one of the most intelligent and active of the breeds, they require training, exercise, socialization with other dogs and strang- ers and a firm, but loving master. They are very trainable with an excellent will to please, easily housebroken and pro- tective when necessary. They can, how- ever, be strong-willed and happy to take charge with permissive owners. The German Shepherd Dog is in the Herding Group at AKC dog shows because its original purpose was to

herd sheep. The breed was devel- oped in Germany to help the human Shepherd to move the flocks of sheep from the villages along the roads to the pastures. The dog’s job, then, was to establish a perimeter by trotting around the flock in order to keep it in the des- ignated area. He was, in fact, a “living” fence. This is known as boundary herd- ing and is the basis for AKC “C” course herding events. Some fans of this breed may think that because the GSD excels in such activities as police work, bomb detec- tion, search and rescue, etc., that the GSD should be in the Working Group. And it is true that they are used in work- ing capacities such as police and search and rescue. But “working dogs” typi- cally have a build that is more square which allows them to perform such tasks as pulling (Rottweiler, Siberian), jumping (Doberman, Black Russian Ter- rier), swimming (Newfoundland, Por- tuguese Water Dog) etc. But to under- stand the correct anatomy as dictated by the GSD Standard, it is necessary to keep in mind that a steady, tireless trot is required for the correct func- tion of the GSD to achieve the purpose for which it was originally developed. For that reason, the GSD is slightly longer than tall making its body more suited to trotting. The GSDCA is cur- rently updating The German Shep- herd Dog Illustrated Standard which, when available, will be a valuable tool to both new and seasoned judges of this breed. Over the years, the GSD has evolved both in Germany and America as a dog of both beauty and service, but with


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