The History, Origin, and Profile of a German Shepherd Dog


Today, the German Shepherd is a very famous dog breed around the world. But where did the German Shepherd originate from and what is their history?

In this article, it will be discussed how the very first German Shepherd was originally found, their presence throughout history, and information about the German Shepherd breed as a whole.

History and Origin

The story behind the first German Shepherd

In 1889, Captain Max von Stephanitz attended a dog show in Karleske, Germany.

He saw a wolf-like dog named Hektor Linkshrein where he saw in them that they have intelligence, strength, and speed. Attributes that made him want to buy the German Shepherd.

So, he bought Hektor on the spot renamed them Horand von Grafrath and consequently bred them to get the German Shepherd breed that we know today.

Von Stephanitz goal was to find a breed that is useful and intelligent as well as a working dog. He worked to enhance both the physical characteristics as well as their working abilities.

The German Shepherd dog club

Max Von Stephanitz founded the first German Shepherd club. He made sure to pick up and standardize across Germany.

He was the founder of the first dog breed in Germany. Through this club, they continued to develop the standardization that they use to evaluate the criteria of a German Shepherd.

He made sure to focus on mental sharpness rather than color and body shape. The idea comes from believing in intelligence and usefulness above physical attractiveness.

He always searched for dogs that are intelligent instead of focusing their looks. Today, breeders will likely disagree with this notion.

Inbreeding of German Shepherds

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Max Von Stephanitz focused on inbreeding of German Shepherd. Even though there were many German Shepherds, they had health-related problems.

They had lots of health problems such as hip dysplasia as a result of inbreeding.

So Max Von Stephanitz realized the situation and instead, he introduced new unrelated dog individuals into the breed to lower the chances of health-related problems.

First German Shepherd in the U.S.A

The first German Shepherd came to America in 1907. For more than 20 years, this breed remained in Germany; however, Otto Gross and H Dalrymple introduced the first German Shepherd to America for a dog show in Pennsylvania.

The first German Shepherd was named Queen of Switzerland.

In just six years, German Shepherd dogs were participating in dog shows.

Also, in 1913, there was a championship that was won by the first German Shepherd.

It didn’t stop there, a German Shepherd dog club was formed in the same year by Benjamin Throop and Anne Tracey with 26 charter members all of which was for German Shepherds.

German Shepherds during World War 1

When the breed entered World War 1, they were less desirable than they have been for the past 4 years.

The American Kennel Club changed the name of the German Shepherd dog to Shepherd dog.

Also, the German Shepherd Club of America became the Shepherd Club of America.

Because Germany and Britain weren’t allies during World War 1, the British changed the breed name to Alsatian.

However, at World War 1, the German had good use of the German Shepherd; they used the German Shepherd as a war dog. They were used as messengers, guard dogs, and ammunition carriers.

They were also capable of leading soldiers who were wounded and blinded of the battlefield.

Rin Tin Tin

Credited: The New York Times

Rin Tin Tin made the German Shepherd so popular in America and abroad. During War World 1, American soldiers got the dog Rin Tin Tin from the battlefield and brought them back to America.

Their popularity was raised after WW1 because they starred in many movies.

Here is the full story of Rin Tin Tin

Considered one of the famous German Shepherd’s of all time, Rin Tin Tin was a rescue.

As WW1 was coming to an end, an American soldier found a German Shepherd and a litter of five puppies.

They were the lone survivors of a bombed war kennel located in France. The soldiers adopted the family.

Then, Corporal Lee Duncan who made the discovery picked out two puppies. The puppies were named Rin Tin Tin and Nannette.

Even though the two lived, unfortunately, the rest of the family died. When the war ended, Duncan arranged for the two puppies to come to Los Angelos with him.

Unfortunately, Nanette became sick and passed away during the journey. Duncan was left with Rin Tin Tin.

For the next years, Duncan took Rin Tin Tin to several dog shows. Rin Tin Tin amaze everyone when they jumped 12 feet during a show held by the Shepherd Dog of America.

Rin Tin Tin went on to star in several dog movies and became a star. Rin Tin Tin starred in a total of 26 movies.

German Shepherd in World War 2

German Shepherds in World War 2 were heavily used during wartime in roles such as mine detection, messenger, guarding dog and many other tasks.

They were used by both the Allied and Axis forces. Because many were lost in war from hunger and casualties, many took the initiative to protect and preserve the breed so German Shepherds wouldn’t become extinct.

After the war, German Shepherd’s dogs began to emerge at dog shows. Many started to look more like a German Shepherd that we see today while also having the same genes as war dogs.

German Shepherds in 20th Century

Today, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular breeds in different countries. They are very popular due to their ability to perform many tasks and services when they are trained.

They excel in roles such as police dogs in military and police, rescue, herding, tracking, obedience, service dog, tracking, and scent discrimination.

For each role, your German Shepherd must be trained using positive reinforcement techniques and tactics.

Your dog will ultimately know what to do when they are doing these roles.

One of their best traits is that they are highly adaptable to learning new behaviors and things so they can easily learn new roles.

In today’s times, the German Shepherd is criticized for not following Max Von Stephanitz idea of the breed.

This idea focused on creating a working dog breed that focuses on being strong enough to fit different roles without having any health-related problems.

Breeding was strict and done under specific conditions. However, in today’s time, breeding was done carelessly and wasn’t strict causing.

Consequently, the German Shepherd breed faces different problems such as health problems like hip dysplasia, missing teeth, and weakness in temperament.

Where did the German Shepherd originate from?

Credited: embarkvet

The German Shepherd breed originated in Germany in 1899. It is a new breed of dog indeed.

Formally known in World War 1 as Alsatian by many different countries, the German Shepherd as a name wasn’t so popular.

This mainly stems from that the British and many other countries didn’t want to associate anything with Germany so they changed the name.

However, the breed was used by many countries during the war because of their usefulness and intelligence.

They were originally developed to herd and guard sheep before they were introduced to other roles.

Where did their name come from?

The German Shepherd was named by Max Von Stephanitz. The German name, Altdeutsche Schäferhunde, translates to German Shepherd Dog.

They were called German Shepherd dog because they were used to help shepherd in herding and guarding sheep.

However, the name changed after World War 1 due to not wanting to associate with anything that’s German.

Then, the UK Kennel Club changed the name to the “Alsatian wolf dog” and it was adopted by many international kennel clubs.

Eventually, the words ” wolf dog” was dropped from the name. The name Alsatian became used for 5 decades until campaigns made by breeders and people changed the name to ” German Shepherd Dogs”.

How did the breed become so popular?

The German Shepherd breed was first recognized in the UK Kennel Club in 1919.

The UK Kennel Club registered about fifty-four dogs at first. Over time, they have registered over 8,000 dogs.

It was also during the end of World War 1 that the breed gained lots of popularity from stories that came from returning soldiers and the famous story of the dog Rin Tin Tin.

Also, because the first German Shepherd dog was registered in the United States, the German Shepherd breed gained more popularity.

However, This German Shepherd had offsprings who suffered from defects that caused the breed to decline a bit in popularity.

After that, popularity began to rise again when a German Shepherd, Sieger Pfeffer von Bern, started to participate in dog shows in the American Kennel Dog Shows.

However, the breed again declined in popularity when World War 2 started due to countries not wanting to associate anything with Germany.

In 1993, their popularity rose again and they became the third popular breed in the United States.

In 2009, the breed became the second most popular breed in the United States. Also, the breed has become popular in other registries.

Today, the breed as among the most popular breeds in the world due to their intelligence and athletic abilities.

German Shepherd personality

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The German Shepherd is very loyal and loving in their nature that they will always protect their families and friends. They always show their love and care for their dog parents.

They make excellent family dogs where they will care and protect you and their families. Because of their physical abilities and strong bodies, they make excellent working dogs.

They have high energy levels where they need to get daily exercise; they do need at least 2 hours of exercise. Thus, it’s important to give your German Shepherd exercise.

The German Shepherd has above intelligence where they can learn and get trained easily; they are quick learners who react and learn faster when positive reinforcement techniques are used.

They are also very soft on the inside even though they look menacing; they have a sweet, playful, friendly, and trusting personality.

However, they also have some negative traits such as:

  • They get easily bored when they aren’t given something and bark and chew on things so they must always be preoccupied with something to do such as chewing toys.
  • They may become overprotective around their families and friends if they aren’t properly socialized.
  • The German Shepherd can have an unstable temperament if they aren’t bred properly so problems such as excessive barking and aggression may occur.
  • They may also be prone to health problems because of their genetic makeup.

Tempermanent

They require regular mental and physical stimulation because they are highly energetic.

They were bred to be sheepdogs so they were used as herding dogs. They definitely need to be socialized at a young age because they have an aloof temperament around strangers.

If they sense a lack of leadership from your part, they will act as an alpha dog and won’t listen to you at all.

Health

There are common health problems that occur to your German Shepherd. They happen either because of unhealthy eating, dental problems, infections, obesity, and parasites.

Dental disease

This is a very common problem that happens to almost 80 % of all dogs at the age of two.

They can start having dental disease from build up tartar which can lead to infections and other gum diseases if left untreated.

If you don’t treat your German Shepherd from dental disease, it can affect them badly by affecting other organs in their bodies such as kidney, heart, and liver.

Also, your German Shepherd lifespan may be cut by one or three years. To prevent dental disease from developing, you got to clean your dog’s teeth regularly.

Infections

German Shepherds can also get infections such as bacterial and viral infections. These infections include parvo, rabies, and distemper.

To treat your dog from these infections, go immediately to the vet where they will prescribe your dog with certain treatment for their condition.

To prevent these infections, in the first place, always be sure that your dog is vaccinated.

These vaccination are recommended based on their age and many other factors.

Obesity

Obesity can be a huge problem for your dog if they have it. They may get serious health problems such as joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain, and heart disease.

To get your German Shepherd back to health, you can start by giving them healthy foods and letting them exercise every day.

The best diet can be recommended by your vet who will surely know what your dog needs.

Parasites

Your dog may also get parasites in their skin that will cause them many problems. Some of these parasites are ear mites, fleas, and ticks.

If your German Shepherd happens to have these parasites, then you have to go to the vet so they can help eliminate the problem.

Digestive problems

Digestive problems may cause problems like bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss in German Shepherd.

These digestive problems will affect your German Shepherd dog badly.

To help prevent this problem, give your German Shepherd a high-quality dog food that they will surely love and benefit them.

Hip dysplasia

German Shepherds may also have hip dysplasia. This is a condition where the joints are displaced; they aren’t placed together smoothly.

Hip dysplasia affects about 20 % of the entire German Shepherd breed so its a very serious problem.

Some of the signs are abnormal gat, lameness, and pain while walking.

If your dog has any of these signs, go to a vet immediately so they can fix the problem before it gets worse.

Elbow dysplasia

This happens if there is displacement in your dog elbows causing lameness and pain in the legs. It can happen because of the lack of exercise and can also be because of your dog’s genetics.

However, there are preventative methods, treatment, and surgery for this condition.

If your German Shepherd has this condition, you have to go to the vet.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This condition affects the spinal cord by gradually stopping the way the spinal cord communicates with the brain.

If degenerative myelopathy is present, your dog will lose their control over their hind legs. With time, they may even forget that they have legs.

Some cases may improve with dietary changes and treatments for the disease. However, in other cases, there are no cure and dogs are put down.

Exercise

Credited: WCBV Boston

German Shepherds need exercise daily to stimulate both their minds and bodies. Because they have really high energy, they need to have this type of exercise daily.

But you have to be careful to give them the right amount of exercise. It must not be a lot as to overstrain them or too little that they don’t get what they need.

It’s important to not overstrain them, especially at a young age because they may develop joint problems.

Depending on their age, you will give your dog a specific amount of exercise.

Grooming a German Shepherd

The German Shepherd has a double coat that is thick and dense. They have an undercoat and an overcoat that helps them throughout the weather.

They need to be groomed so they can become clean or else they will become dirty.

If your German Shepherd isn’t very active, they will only need to be groomed twice a week. However, if they are very active and they go outside, then they need to be groomed on a daily basis.

A German Shepherd may become ill from not being groomed.

Brushing

A German Shepherd has a double coat which does require frequent brushing. They usually need to be brushed 3 to 4 times each week.

This will ultimately keep their coat shiny and loose hair-free. It is also very important as your German Shepherd sheds all year and undercoat is blown away twice a year.

Bathing

Give your German Shepherd a bath but make sure that it isn’t too frequent. The reason is that German Shepherd’s skin can become dry and flaky from frequent baths.

If you want to give your German Shepherd a bath, you can do so after a long period of exercise or just once a month.

You have to also take care of your German Shepherd if they developed fleas in which case, you will need to bathe your dog frequently using anti-flea shampoo and spray.

Teeth

Your German Shepherd is more likely to develop tartar and plaque so you will probably need to brush your dog’s teeth routinely.

To brush your dog’s teeth effectively, you will need to have a dog toothpaste and dog brush which will help in cleaning your dog’s teeth.

Other ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean is through giving them kibble or chew toys.

Toenails

Trimming your dog’s toenails is an essential part of dog grooming. If they are left to grow for too long, they can cause your dog injury because of their length which will hinder movement and let all the pressure be applied on their feet.

So, you have to check your dog’s toenails once every week and trim them routinely.

If you can’t trim your dog’s nails, you can go to the vet or the groomer so they will trim their nails.

When you trim your German Shepherd’s nails, you have to be careful to not cut too deep that your dog bleeds and becomes injured.

If your dog does get injured, apply styptic powder into the area.

Ears

As for your German Shepherd’s ears, you have to check them and get them cleaned once a week.

If left without cleaning, your dog’s ears will develop excess wax and debris which can lead to an ear infection.

To clean your dog’s ear, you can use ear drops to clean them. After putting the ear drops into your dog’s ears, massage the base of the ear gently.

Then, take a soft cloth or cotton pad to clean off the wax and debris. It’s important to never clean your dog’s ears using water because it will cause infection in your dog’s ears.

Ways to take care of your German Shepherd

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Socialization

Introduce your dog whether a puppy or an adult to people of all ages and different cultures and dogs so they can get used to people and dogs easily.

Lack of social contact can let your dog become afraid of interacting with others. Thus, it is important to let them introduced to other people and dogs.

Go to the park to let your dog know new people and dogs. If they are still a puppy, you could still enroll them in a puppy kindergarten class where they will learn how to interact with other puppies.

The sooner you let your dog learn how to socialize, the easier it will be for them in the long run.

Training

Enroll your puppy in obedience training before the age of 6 months and continue to advanced obedience as your dog matures.

This breed is very intelligent and you could train them before they are 6 months of age on basic obedience training. Then, you can continue moving on to advanced training.

The German Shepherds are very intelligent that they can easily learn to sniff and track anything that you tell them to sniff and track.

You could also train your German Shepherd on any of the roles that they can be trained in such as guide dogs and service dogs. They are highly adaptable so they will learn quickly.

Feeding

Credited: the happy puppy site

Avoid giving your dog commercial food all the time. Try as much as possible to give natural food combined with dry food.

If your dog is a puppy, then feed them three to four times a day. When they are adults, reduce their feeding to one or two per day for adults German Shepherds.

After your dog finishes, take the bowl out after your dog finishes eating.

You have to also take your dog to regular visits to the vet to check their weight and determine how the German Shepherd is growing at a healthy rate.

Health

Avoid purchasing German Shepherd puppies from breeders who can’t provide health records for dog’s records.

German Shepherds are prone to many diseases that are the exact reason that you should be careful when getting them.

Conclusion

A German Shepherd dog originated in Germany but it wasn’t that easy to find and inbreed them. It was a process that took years until we had the German Shepherd that we have today.

German Shepherds were used during World War 1 and World War 2. They were very useful and helped a lot. The German Shepherd held many roles throughout history due to their high adaptability.

Today, they are a famous dog breed who have a very loyal and loving nature. You have to take care of your German Shepherd through taking care of their physical and mental exercise, diet, training, socialization, health, and grooming.

They are truly strong and resilient dogs.

To know more about the difference between German Shepherd VS Alsatian Dog, Is There a Difference Between the Two?

Share your opinion with us? Do you believe the German Shepherd is a loyal and amazing dog? What did you think about their history and origin?

Nada

Welcome to my bio everyone, my name is Nada. Ever since I was little, I have loved animals because they are so loving and kind. All they need is you attention, love, and care but I didn't understand them very well because I didn't get the chance to raise them. Well, That changed when my family and I got our first dog Rocky, a German Shepherd. Rocky was fun and loving with funny quirks. Being loyal and protective of us, he made me see the nature of a German Shepherd. Now, we have another German Shepherd named Mia. She is a wonderful dog and a rescue who just needed a second chance in life. Mia has long grown from being a terrified dog to the brave and caring German Shepherd that she is today. P.S: Here is a picture of our beautiful German Shepherd, Mia.

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