The German Shepherd is an intelligent
breed but its energy and talents must be channelled in the right direction.
A superb working dog with many fine attributes; all of which are apparent
in their mental and physical abilities. They can be loyal, affectionate
and obedient pets.
Description & History
The ancestors of the breed were used
primarily for shepherding and as guard dogs. Today's German Shepherds
were developed from a dog that was purchased in 1899 by a German cavalry
officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz. He had a high regard for the qualities
found in the various types of German sheepdogs and wanted to embody
these characteristics in one specific breed. When developing the German
Shepherd, von Stephanitz was looking to the future. He was fully aware
that the role of the working shepherd dog was on the decline and if
the breed were to survive in the twentieth century, it would have to
adjust to other types of work. Captain von Stephanitz proved that, with
special training, the versatility of the shepherd dog could be used
in other ways. During the First World War this was demonstrated by the
successful work they did with the German army. They were used for sentry
and guard duty, and for carrying messages. They also laid communication
cables - snipers made it impossible for men to carry out this task,
especially when crossing open country, so dogs with drums of cable strapped
to their bodies did the job for them. These brave dogs became known
as "Wire Dogs".
Germany was the first country to train
guide dogs for the blind. The training began in 1917 to help war veterans
and was further developed later to aid civilians. German Shepherds and
another German breed, the Dobermann, appear to be the only breeds that
were used at this time. Various organisations to help the blind have
been established since the First World War. In Germany, Guide Dogs for
the Civilian Blind was founded in 1923. In 1924 The Seeing Eye was established
in the United States and in 1934 the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
was founded in Great Britain.
Between the two World Wars these dogs
were still being trained for the army and police, although other ways
of utilising the breed were developing. Showing and obedience competitions
were becoming popular and the introduction of working trials helped
retain and improve the breed's qualities. In the Second World War the
breed served with the armed forces in Europe, the Mediterranean and
the Pacific. Their duties included patrolling, tracking, sentry and
guard duty and detecting mines.
Since the war the training of these
highly intelligent dogs has continued. Although they are now employed
in peacetime a lot of their work is undertaken in very difficult conditions.
They are are used by police forces for crowd control and for drug detection.
They play an important role with the armed forces and with civilian
rescue teams at times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and
avalanches. On a lighter side, they participate in obedience and field
trials which they enjoy thoroughly.
The German Shepherd was well established
in the United States before the First World War but did not arrive in
the British Isles in any substantial numbers until the 1920's. In 1977
the British Kennel Club agreed that the breed should change its name
from Alsatian to German Shepherd Dog, the name by which it is known
in other countries.