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The German Shepherd dog breed has its origin in the 1800s when a group of enthusiasts in Germany formed the Phylax Society with the aim of fostering and standardizing native German breeds. The society was short-lived and in 1894 it was disbanded, but it had sown the seeds from which the German Shepherd was to emerge.

At this time Capt. Max von Stephanitz appears in the breed’s history and indeed it is this man who is acclaimed as the father of the breed. Von Stephanitz had long admired the qualities of intelligence, strength, and ability found in many native sheepdog breeds but had yet to see one which embodied all of his ideals.
There is no doubt that the essential credit for the development of this marvelous breed, must go to Max von Stephanitz. It was his vision that welded a wide variety of sheep herding dogs into one breed. He envisioned a dog of incorruptible character, great working ability, loyal and highly trainable.

Von Stephanitz desired to produce a dog breed that could be utilized as an all-around working dog. Developed from various farm and herding dogs of his time, von Stephanitz's original German Shepherd was derived from a herding dog he acquired in 1899, and he and his friend Artur Meyer formed the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde which was the first club in the German Shepherd dog breed history. This club and von Stephanitz kept tight control over the breed until his death in 1936. He determined which dogs would be used to breed based on how well they did in various shows and trials that were the precursor to the Schutzhund tests still performed today. His main criteria for judging a dog's success were both its usefulness coupled with its intelligence. Von Stephanitz also promoted the utility of the breed to the German government for work in both the police and the military as well as other all-purpose uses as a working dog breed. Following the creation of the German Shepherd breed by von Stephanitz in the early 1900s, the breed's popularity soon soared and became one of Germany's most popular dogs. Serving in both World War I and II, the German Shepherd was a favorite military dog, primarily in Germany, but American and British soldiers were also impressed by the breed and brought the dog home following both wars. In fact, one of the most popular German Shepherds dogs was Rin Tin Tin, originally from France, and brought to America by an American GI following the first world war. Rin Tin Tin went on to make 26 movies until his death in 1932 and contributed to the breed's enormous popularity. In addition to its use in the police and military arenas, German Shepherds have a history of usefulness in other areas, is known as a successful show dog and has been a popular family pet. German Shepherds were the first dogs used as seeing eye dogs in the late 1920s and Helen Keller, an avid dog lover, owned a couple of German Shepherds.

 Max Von Stephanitz used as his watchword,

"Do right and fear no one"

and it was he who laid down the guideline of the breed,
"Utility is the true criterion of beauty"

Throughout the late 19th century, von Stephanitz was breeding dogs, experimenting and learning. In 1899, von Stephanitz attended a dog show and it was there that he purchased Horand von Grafrath. It was at this time the Verein was established and Horand became the first entry in the newly founded stud book, becoming the first registered German Shepherd.

It was Horand's shepherd qualities that impressed von Stephanitz the most. He was a medium sized dog with beautiful lines, he was active and had a zest for living. He was obedient, bold, protective and energetic. But most of all it was his mental soundness that was emphasized.


With the oncoming of the twentieth century, the SV developed into the largest single breed club in the world. Through the leadership of von Stephanitz the S.V. grew to a membership of fifty-seven thousand by 1923. He was in absolute control of the organization and dictated all policies pertaining to the breed. When the breed became famous after the first world war and the unscrupulous breeders raised puppies just to sell to foreign markets, von Stephanitz put a stop to it. He introduced the Koerung, a survey in which the dogs were thoroughly examined, judged and recommended for or excluded from breeding. In this way he put a stop to indiscriminate breeding and was able to steadily improve the breed.


One of the early crises that developed was a lessening need for a herding dog. The time came when railroads transported stock and when sheep raising declined. Again, it was Capt. Max von Stephanitz's keen sense which lead him to promote the German Shepherd as a police dog and this work has developed into a great source of service to mankind by this herding dog. This was occurring during the late 19th and early 20th century, when rapidly growing dog shows also led breeders to breed their dogs for appearance as well as working qualities.


In 1889 Captain Max von Stephanitz began the standardization of the breed. It all started at a dog show in Karlsruhe in western Germany. A medium-sized yellow-and-gray wolflike dog caught his attention. The dog was of the primal canine type, supple and powerful, and possessed endurance, steadiness, and intelligence. He was a working sheepherder, born with this ability, requiring no training other than direction and finish to become proficient at the task. This dog, Hektor Linksrhein, was purchased by von Stephanitz, renamed Horand von Grafrath, and became the first registered German Shepherd Dog. Von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Sch·ferhunde, SV (German Shepherd Dog Club), becoming the first president, and in a short period of time achieved the standardization of form and type in the breed. A standard was developed based on mental stability and utility. The captain's motto was "Utility and intelligence". To him beauty was secondary, and a dog was worthless if it lacked the intelligence, temperament, and structural efficiency that would make it a good servant of man. A breed standard was developed as a blueprint dictating the exact function and relationship of every aspect of structure, gait, and inherent attitude. Von Stephanitz inbred heavily on Horand and also Luchs, his brother, to consolidate the bloodline. Horand's best son, Hektor von Schwaben, the second German Sieger, was mated with his half-sister as well as through daughters of his own sons, Beowulf, Heinz von Starkenberg, and Pilot III.  Intense inbreeding also concentrated undesirable recessive originating from the mixing of the original strains. Von Stephanitz then inserted unrelated blood of herding origin through Audifax von Grafrath and Adalo von Grafrath. As Germany became increasingly industrialized and the pastoral era declined, von Stephanitz realized the breed might also decline. With the co-operation of police and working dog clubs a set of specific tests was developed in tracking, formal obedience, and protection work. This was the prototype of the present Schutzhund trials. He persuaded the authorities to utilize the German shepherd dog in various branches of government service. The dog served during the war as Red Cross dogs, messenger dogs, supply carriers, sentinel, tracking and guard dogs.


Today we have a dog that is used throughout the world as a police dog, armed service dog, guide for the blind, schutzhund sport dog and search and rescue dog. There is demand for German Shepherds as family companions, obedience dogs, show dogs and even still as herding dogs. Thousands of people across the country derive great pleasure from the German Shepherd Dog through showing and breeding. It is the extraordinary character and sound temperament, an incredible sense of smell and efficient working physical structure and size that makes this the most versatile dog today.

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