John Rodriguez


The German Shepherd Dog

by Lori Rodriguez. Published on the web in 1994. This article, reproduced from our original website, is the genesis of much German Shepherd Dog web content today.

"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....

Dog-breeding must be the work of a dog lover, and cannot be a profession, as is the case with other animals, and a means of acquiring bread and butter. If it once becomes that, then it will be dog-dealing that has nothing more to do with serious dog breeding, but on the other hand, too often has to do with the law. The work of breeding service dogs must, first and foremost, be the work of dog lovers... The dog lover in his breeding aspires after no material and external advantage. He allows himself to be contented with the fact that association with noble, beautiful and gifted creatures, the observation of the phenomena of their lives, and the examination of all that happens in their breedings afford him a whole cycle of pure joys and contentment, and allow him to penetrate further into the secrets and the mysteries of Nature. These joys will repay him, (who indulges his fancy without self-seeking,) for all the sacrifices in money, time and trouble, and even for all failures and disillusions."

The German Shepherd Dog In Word And Picture. Max v. Stephanitz. ©1925 Anton Kämpfe, Jena. Reprinted 1982 Hoflin Publishing Ltd. PP 380-381.

A Brief History of the Breed

The German Shepherd Dog we know today, having been masterminded by Captain Max vom Stephanitz just prior to the turn of the century, is a relatively new breed of dog. The shepherds of Germany and the surrounding area had used dogs to herd their flocks and herds for generations, their only requirement was that they could do the work. The German shepherds' dogs were a mixture of long, short, and wire coats; curly tails, saber tails; upright ears, floppy ears, and everything in-between--they were dogs of every color, shape, and size! Then, late in the nineteenth century, a movement to develop a better, more uniform Shepherd Dog began. This movement became a reality with the strict efforts of the Rittmeister Stephanitz. In 1899, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV) was formed with Stephanitz at the helm. Under his strict guidance, the formation of the modern German Shepherd Dog began. But even today we find dogs which vary from the now recognized German Shepherd type - throw backs to their non-homogenous ancestors.

The SV implemented strict requirements for breed suitable, developing tests of physical and mental soundness, a detailed registry, and a stud book. Utility was the mainstay of the breed. Form or beauty was a by-product of and had no merit outside of function. This dedication to develop a better dog (and to strive to maintain or improve the breed within the original design) created what is today perhaps the most versatile, well-loved dog- the German Shepherd Dog.

The Breed Standard

The German Shepherd Dog is unique in that his human creator, Max vom Stephanitz, had the foresight to develop a strict program of testing and record keeping to ensure the soundness of his beloved breed. The SV contains a plethora of information on every German Shepherd Dog ever registered with their organization--right down to SV No. 1, Horand Grafrath. Each dog's Koer report contains four pages of detailed physical and temperament characteristics such as height, weight, date of birth, linebreeding, littermates, eye color, hip ratings, coat, gait, character evaluation, and more! Records of his Schutzhund or conformation competitions are also recorded.

Distinct bloodlines were developed each with their own minute differences in physical and character attributes, making it possible for the careful, knowledgeable to breed for specific physical and/or temperament characteristics - from tail carriage or certain coat markings to level of prey or social drive, track intensity, biting attributes, strength of nerves... and more with relative accuracy! A well-bred dog and his educated owner greatly increase the chances of a successful, happy relationship.

Each breed of dog has very specific character traits. When bringing a new dog into your home, you should fully understand and appreciate his breed characteristics. For us, there is no greater dog than the German Shepherd Dog, but this breed is not suitable for every home. The GSD has a tail that wags for every occassion, often knocking over low-lying valuables. His hair, wonderfully suited for his active lifestyle, does shed--little by little throughout the year and in clumps once or twice annually. The GSD, bred for work, needs exercise and a sense of purpose. A large, fenced in yard is no substitute for active care-taking such as daily walks and strenous play. His natural protective instincts require a more careful eye than the "I'll go home with anybody" Golden Retriever. Bringing home a dog, any dog, requires careful thought. If you are considering bringing home a new dog, first read Larry Shook's book "The Puppy Report. by Lyons & Burford, ©1992.*

The WUSV breed standard

"The German Shepherd that corresponds to the Standard offers the observer a picture of rugged strength, intelligence and agility, whose overall proportions are neither in excess or deficient in any way. The way he moves and behaves leaves no doubt that he is sound in mind and body and so possesses physical and mental traits that render possible an ever-ready working dog with great stamina."

"With an effervescent temperament, the dog must also be cooperative, adapting to every situation, and take to work willingly and joyfully. He must show courage and hardness as the situation requires to defend his handler and his property. He must readily attack on his owner's command but otherwise be a fully attentive, obedient and pleasant household companion. He should be devoted to his familiar surroundings, above all to other animals and children, and composed in his contact with people. All in all, he gives a harmonious picture of natural nobility and self-confidence."

"Sound nerves, alertness, self-confidence, trainability, watchfulness, loyalty and incorruptibility, as well as courage, fighting drive and hardness, are the outstanding characteristics of a purebred German Shepherd Dog. They make him suitable to be a superior working dog in general, and in particular to be a guard, companion, protection and herding dog."

For more information about the German Shepherd Dog, look for the following excellent books:

"The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture." Max vom Stephanitz. Printed in Germany by Anton Kampfe, Jena, ©1925. English edition reprinted in 1982 by Hoflin Publishing Ltd.

"The German Shepherd Book." Susan Barwig. Hoflin Publishing, ©1986.

"The German Shepherd Dog, A Genetic History." Malcolm B. Willis, PhD. Howell Book House, ©1991.
More German Shepherd Dog Facts

How big is the German Shepherd Dog?

Height is measured by the vertical distance from the withers at top of shoulder blades to floor. From Max vom Stephanitz The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture. P500. "The racial type allows about 24 inches average height for dogs and bitches with about 2 inches allowance either way. These dimensions are to be aimed at for all medium sized service races as correct, whether the dogs are used for the flocks or for any other service. The service dog, like a good cavalry charger, must b indefatigable, enduring, and capable of maintaining a persevering, even, quiet, but also a rapid gait, that is to say a trot, and also a gallop. Further, he must be mobile, capable of turning easily, and skillful in overcoming obstacles, whether by jumping or climbing. For this it is necessary to posses a certain size combined with strength."

From Malcom B. Willis. PhD. German Shepherd Dog, A Genetic History. P26 "Height: The ideal height (measured to the highest point of the wither) is 57.5 cm for females and 62.5 for males. 2.5cm either above or below the norm is allowed. Any increase in the deviation detracts from the workability and breeding value of the animal." The British Standard indicates the correct proportions of the length of body (measured from the point of the breast bone to the rear edge of the pelvis) to height of wither to be 10 to 9 or 8.5. The AKC Standard indicates a proportion of 10 to 8.5 with the height indicated at 24-26 inches for the males and 22-24 inches for the females. Please note that a dog of correct height and proportion would rarely tip the scales at 100lbs.

The height of a wolf is reported to be 26-28 inches with weight range from 40-175 lbs. The height of a coyote is reported at 23-26 inches with a weight of 20-40lbs. Wolf Alamac. Busch.©

German Shepherd Dog Colors

The British Standard (which is based closely on literal translations of the SV standard) as quoted by Malcolm B. Willis, Ph.D. in his book The German Shepherd Dog A Genetic History. ©1991, states the following concerning color: "Black or black saddle with tan, or gold to light grey markings. All black, all grey or grey with lighter or brown markings (these are referred to as sables). Small white marks on the chest or very pale colour on inside of legs are permitted but not desirable. The nose in all cases must be black. Light markings on the chest and inside of legs, as well as whitish nails, red tipped nails or wishy-washy faded colour are defined as lacking in pigmentation. Blues, livers, albinos, whites (i.e. almost pure white dogs with black noses and near whites) are to be rejected. The undercoat is, except in all-black dogs, usually grey or fawn in colour.

The colour of the GSD is in itself not important and has no effect on the character of the dog or on its fitness for work and should be a secondary consideration for that reason. The final colour of a young dog can only be ascertained when the outer coat has developed."

From the AKC Standard: Color--The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Nose black. Pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are serious faults. A white dog or a dog with a nose that is not predominantly black, must be disqualified.

From Max vom Stephanitz, The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture, ©1925 : From P497 "pure white dogs with red eyes and flesh-coloured noses are dismissed as harmful to the breed without further ado." From P528. "The colouring of the dog has no significance whatever for service; our shepherd dog accordingly is not bred for colour. Colouring therefore is only a fad of the amateur and as such is often liable to changes of whim. Although, it cannot be denied that a good pronounced colouring improves the general impression made by the dog, I am not in favour of a uniform colour; it does not suit our shepherd dog, whose coat requires some variation in colour, to avoid producing an impression of flatness. Pure black dogs can be tolerated because the light, as it plays on them, produces a change in the monotony; but they look as if they had been well licked, and that is most un-shepherd dog-like. "Black-Japan" offers no advantages as a body covering, in my humble opinion. White-yellowish, cream-coloured, dun coloured, or pure white smooth hair look terribly dull and uninteresting; the shepherd dog soul of the unfortunate possessors appears to be as pale and as overbred as their coat. The old-gold-red coloured dogs which produce a better impression already show the usually lighter points, and are a transition towards wolf-colour. The so-called silver-greys are only a bleached and watered down edition of these; the more cloudiness they show, the stronger and shepherd dog like is the impression made by them. Dapples and piebalds always produce a somewhat unresposeful effect. Their uneven colouring disturbs the sweep of the shepherd dog lines. If the blue or red dapples are small the produce a particularly distracting effect. They can only be tolerated in shaggy hair at the most, but a smooth haired dapple, is hideous.

Tiger marked or striped dogs, and those with black stripes, or bands on a lighter ground do not make a good impression; they are often only striped in the legs, though sometimes also in the head; but this especially ruins the picture. The pure wolf-coloured dogs, or the black dogs with yellow points create by far the best impression, as compared with those who differ by having a yellow coat with black saddle; all the more so as the smaller the saddle, the more lemonade-like is the colour. I have already said all that I have to say about colours, their composition, and their importance, or rather unimportance as regards serviceability, in Chapter 1" From P128. "White colour occurs in Nature only inconjunction with snow as a camouflage, or else as a sign of degeneration."

German Shepherd Dog Teeth

The puppy's first teeth begin to erupt at about 3-3.5 weeks, finishing by 6-8 weeks. The pup should have 14 upper and 14 lower teeth. Usually by 3-4 months, the pup's adult teeth begin to erupt with the canines making their appearance at 5-6 months. Usually the set of 42 teeth (20 upper and 22 lower) are complete by 6-7 months of age. It is not unusual for a puppy's adult teeth to begin eruption as early as 2 months or as late as 6 months

The wolf has 42 teeth (20 upper and 22 lower). And, "The animal [wolf] can develop a crushing pressure of perhaps 1,500lbs/in2 compared to 750lbs/in2 for a German Shepherd." ©Of Wolves and Men. Barry Holstum Lopez. P26

We encourage the potential dog owner to fully investigate individual breed and bloodline characteristics before acquiring a new dog. We will continue to add to and update this section over time.

Call 203.232.8018 or email John to discuss how we can help you and your German Shepherd Dog live happily ever after.

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