The German Shepherd Dog is known throughout the world for his loyalty, trustworthiness, intelligence and affinity for people. These qualities have helped make the German Shepherd Dog one of the most popular breeds of companion dog throughout the world. These attributes combined with the breeds’ well-balanced temperament, physical size, versatility and courage continue to make it the undisputed king of working dogs. In fact the breed is almost a canine version of a Swiss army knife.
The German Shepherd Dog has been utilised in a vast array of areas. In Australia the German Shepherd Dog has served with the Australian Defence Forces, Federal, State and Territory Police Forces, Australian Protective Service, Australian Quarantine and Inspectorate Service and State Correctional Services. German Shepherd Dogs in Australia have also been used as guide dogs for the blind, utilised in search and rescue work and employed in a host of other applications. The breed is also a popular choice for Pets as Therapy visits.
The German Shepherd is a highly intelligent and active animal and demands stimulating activity to give them a quality of life. It also enjoys physical exercise and owners must be prepared to regularly exercise them. The height of the withers for dogs is between 60-65 cm, and for bitches is 55-60 cm. A German Shepherd can weigh between 30 to 45 kg. Potential owners should also consider other breeds and assess if they would make a more suitable companion. Remember, however, that some people should not own any breed of dog!
As the name suggests the breed originated in Germany from the various sheep dogs found at the time. The acknowledged father of the German Shepherd Dog is Captain Max Von Stephanitz. He had experimented with breeding dogs throughout the 1890’s, and had employed many of the ideas that English dog breeders were using at the time. Von Stephanitz also believed however 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”. In 1899 he bought a dog named “Hektor Linkrsheim”. He immediately changed the dog’s name to “Horand von Grafrath.”
To the Dog enthusiasts of that time, Horand embodied the fulfilment of their fondest dreams. He was of medium size, with powerful bones, beautiful lines and a nobly-formed head. His character corresponded to his exterior qualities. Von Stephanitz and a friend, Artur Meyer, founded the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde, (SV), and Von Stephanitz became its first President. Artur Meyer became Secretary and conducted the affairs of the Club from his home in Stuttgart. They were joined by 9 other Co-founders and subsequently founded the club that was destined to become the greatest single breed club in the world. The SV today has over 100,000 members.
It is believed unofficial imports of the breed had arrived in Western Australia as early as 1904. However it was not until 1925 that the breed’s official Australian history began with the importation of Crufts winner Ito of Fallowdale into Australia. Also on the same boat was Pinkerton Rhoda. The year 1929 saw the founding of the Alsatian Club of Victoria, which is now known as the German Shepherd Dog Club of Victoria Inc. The term ‘Alsatian’ came from Anti German sentiment following the First World War. The British re-named the breed as the Alsatian Wolf-Dog. This was then shortened to Alsatian. Today the breed is known by its correct name as the German Shepherd Dog.
For a more detailed discussion on the German Shepherd Dog please refer to the article The German Shepherd Dog – History, Purpose and Future.
Refer to The Breed Standard for a detailed specification of the standard for the German Shepherd Dog.
The GSDCV has a defined Breed Scheme for breeders to follow.