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German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog Books

Group: Pastoral - Breed Standard


The breed was originated by Captain Max von Stephanitz in the late 19th century and early 20th century. His goal was to breed an all-purpose working dog. The first registered GSD was Horand v. Grafrath. Von Stephanitz admired the landrace herding dogs of his native German Empire, and believed they had the potential to be all-purpose working dogs. Additionally, he was aware of the declining need for herding dogs and believed that the working abilities of the breed would decline unless it was put to other uses.

He founded the "Schaeferhunde Verein" (SV) as the official governing body for the breed. The SV then created the schutzhund trial as a breed test for the German Shepherd Dog, and prohibited the breeding of any dog which could not pass the trial. The schutzhund trial, along with the SV's conviction that "German Shepherd breeding is working dog breeding, or it is not German Shepherd breeding" led to a rapid development of the breed's abilities.

After World War I, British and American soldiers, impressed by the abilities of the dog, brought home examples to breed. The breed instantly became popular, both as a family pet and as a working dog. The name Alsatian is also commonly used in the United Kingdom and countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. After World War I, a few dogs were taken to England and the United States. In 1919, the English Kennel Club gave the breed a separate register. At that time, the English owners renamed the dog as the Alsatian Shepherd (based on the breed's origination from the German-French border area of Alsace-Lorraine); It was feared that the German Shepherd Dog name could be an impediment owing to anti-German feelings still present after the War. Only in 1930 did the British Kennel Club authorise the breed to be known again as the German Shepherd Dog.


Height: dogs: 63 cms (25 ins); bitches: 58 cms (23 ins).


Well-bred GSDs have powerful jaws and strong teeth, can develop a strong sense of loyalty and obedience, and can be trained to attack and release on command. Poorly bred GSDs, such as those from puppy mills, can be fearful, overly aggressive, or both. GSDs are often perceived as inherently dangerous, and are the target of Breed Specific Legislation in several countries. If a GSD is violent or aggressive, it is often due to the combination of poor breeding and the owner's lack of control or training. GSDs are often used as guard, attack and police dogs, which further contributes to the perception of being a dangerous breed. However, many GSDs function perfectly well as search dogs and family pets - roles where aggressive behavior is unsuitable.

GSDs' sense of loyalty and emotional bond with their owners is almost impossible to overstate. Separation trauma is one reason they are now used less often in guide dog roles, since guide dogs are typically trained from puppyhood by one owner prior to final placement with their employer.

Breed Health

German Shepherds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. Other health problems sometimes occurring in the breed are von Willebrand's disease and skin allergies. It is also prudent to check the eye and ear health as GSD can tend to have problems with these as well. German Shepherds are also prone to bloat. They have an average lifespan of 10-13 years.


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Last link added: 12 Mar, 2008