Max von Stephanitz is credited for developing the breed. He was a career cavalry officer and spent some time serving at the Veterinary College in Berlin. Here he gained valuable knowledge about biology, anatomy, and the science of movement all of which he later applied to the breeding of dogs. He was promoted to Captain in 1898 and shortly after took his release.
He used many of the techniques utilised by English dog breeders of the period. He was primarily interested in improving the German shepherding dogs because they were local and were the working dogs of his time. Stephanitz enjoyed attending dog shows and observed that there were many different types of shepherding dogs in use in Germany but there was no breed standardization. He greatly admired those dogs with a wolf-ish appearance and prick ears who also were intelligent, had sharp senses and willingness to work and believed that he could create a better working dog that could then be used throughout Germany.
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. The breed survey is the ultimate instrument used as the selection method for the German Shepherd Dog Breed. It is absolutely necessary for the preservation and advancement of this breed. Originally developed in Germany for their domestic stock, in 1922 the breed survey also became the tool used as a resource for breeding the German Shepherd Dog. Simply explained, German Shepherd Dogs need a certificate for reproduction. This certificate is issued by a special procedure where the breed survey judge evaluates the dog’s temperament in different stimulus situations. The dog must always demonstrate a friendly and self-confident character and in any situation, must show control even when in confrontation with its own natural instincts. On 22 April 1899 Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (S.V.) with his friend Artur Meyer. Three sheep masters, two factory owners, one architect, one mayor, one innkeeper and one magistrate joined them as co-founders. Along with establishing a breed standard the S.V. also developed a Zuchtbuch (Breed Register). Twenty years later they published the Körbuch (Breed Survey Book), which determines a dog’s suitability for breeding based on their physical and mental characteristics, and not based solely on show wins. Under Stephanitz’s guidance the S.V. became the single largest breed club in the world and it was his idea to introduce the breed to other types of work such as delivering messages, rescue work, sentry duties, and as personal guard dogs. The German Shepherd made its world debut in these roles during the First World War.
If you want a strikingly beautiful dog, a head turner these lines might be for you. A good show line German Shepherd Dog is beauty itself, but its beauty is functional and not abstract. Show line German Shepherds tend to be larger than Working line dogs and brighter in color. Also, they usually have a softer and more agreeable temperament. They too, however, must have a Schutzhund title in order to be bred, and pass a courage test at each National show where they compete in accordance with SV rules. They make exceptional family companions and protectors. German show line German Shepherds are in no way couch potatoes; they need exercise, training, and lots of social interaction.
This German Shepherd dog type is MAINLY bred for its working ability. If you are looking for a dog that will search for drugs or contraband, or will be part of a search and rescue team, you should look for a German Shepherd that comes from working lines. These dogs make great family companions too, but some of them require an experienced handler and trainer. Even though they have a lot of drive and a great desire to work,successful working dogs have a stable temperament with a great disposition and know how to relax. They can also perform miracles in obedience.
American Bloodlines are practically a different breed of dog, as breeders who promote this type do not follow the International German Shepherd Breed Standard.The German Shepherds of this type usually have thinner bones, narrower heads, exaggerated angulation, and softer ears and pasterns. In addition, there are several health concerns that seem to be more common among these dogs, such as bloat, allergies, and excessive shedding. There is another serious issue to consider when looking at this type of dog – there is no hip certification required by the main breed registries in the United States. There are no temperament tests required either. If you do decide to get an American line German Shepherd, be certain that not only its parents, but all ancestors for at least four generations have healthy OFA certified hips and that you can at least verify the temperament of the parents.
Sieger: The Sieger is the Male winner of the National Championship Conformation (Beauty) show, therefore it is the best Champion for the entire year. The German Sieger typically beats hundreds of other Champions to attain this coveted title. The only higher accomplishment possible is to be the World Sieger…the top German Shepherd in the world. The Sieger show is held every year in Germany at the beginning of September. The Siegerin is the Female winner in this Championship.
Universal Sieger: This as an annual competition to find the dog that has the best structure (beauty) and the best working (SchH) combined characteristics. The dog must compete in a National level Conformation (beauty) show and a National level Schutzhund competition all on the same weekend. The dog that is the best in the combined event is the Universal Sieger. The 2nd place dog is the Vice-Universal Sieger.
VA: Select Champion: Awarded to the top few Champion dogs at the Sieger show each year. VA-2 is the Vice-Sieger, etc. (note: VA dogs are worth well over $100,000.00, so getting a breeding to a VA dog is a BIG deal!)
V: Champion Vorzuglich (Excellent): This is the standard Championship for excellence of quality. No dog in Germany can even TRY for it’s Championship until it is at least 2 years old, has passed a hip x-ray for Dysplasia, has passed a Temperament Test, has a working Schutzhund degree (tests the dog in Tracking, Obedience, and for Courage), and passed a 12 mile Endurance test…then you can show the dog to see if it is ALSO pretty!
SG: Sehr Gut (Very Good): This is a rating that the dog has Very Good structure. It is the highest rating a dog can get in the Show until it has met all the requirements listed above for a Championship.
G: Gut (Good): This dog is rated as having Good structure. This is the lowest rating still allowed to be used for breeding in Germany.
VP: Very Promising: The Highest rating available to dogs under 1 year of age when shown.
SchH and IPO (1, 2 &3): Schutzhund:Schutzhund is a test of the dog’s trainability and talents in Tracking (following a person’s trail similar to Search work), Advanced Obedience (includes working under gunfire. Dogs that are afraid of gunfire are also afraid of thunder and lightening…a real problem. If you’ve ever had a dog that is afraid of loud noises, you’ll understand why it is important), and the dog is tested for it’s Protection abilities. A Schutzhund dog must work off leash in a crowd of people with out endangering any one. They are the ‘cream of the crop’ when it comes to trained dogs!
Koerklass KKL 1A and KKL 2A: Before a dog can be bred in Germany it must pass all the above tests, and then it must also be evaluated by an official of the German Shepherd Club of Germany (Schaeferhund Verin) called a Koermeister to further test and evaluate the dog’s temperament and structure. Every part of the dog is described in a report called a Koerreport. Dogs that are considered to be prime quality breeding prospects will be graded KKL1, dogs considered acceptable for breeding, but with some warnings of what to watch out for, such as being oversized,etc. will be graded KKL2. Dogs considered “not suitable for breeding” will not earn a KKL rating, and they can not be bred.
*Angekoert: New Term for breed survey as of January 2012
LBZ (Lebenszeit): Breed surveyed for lifetime
ZW (Zuchtwert): An estimated Breed Value. Is used to aid breeders in making the selection of breeding partners for their dogs according to their hip status. A breed value of 100 is typical for the breed. Each breeder should strive to produce offspring with a Breed Value LESS than 100.
“A” Stamp: The “A” means the dog has passed it’s hip certification for Hip Dysplasia in Germany.
“A”1- Normal: Certified normal hips
“A”2- Fast Normal: Certified near normal hips
“A”3- Noch Zugelassen: Still Permissible
OFA Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: A part of Columbia University which receives, evaluates, and certifies Hip x-rays for dogs in the USA. An OFA hip certified dog is listed as “having no evidence of hip dysplasia”. There are different levels of certification. The grading takes several factors into consideration which include the structure of the hip joint, the clarity and quality of the hip x-ray itself, and the positioning of the dog’s hips on the x-ray. All levels of certification (fair, good or excellent) are free of hip dysplasia and are suitable for breeding.