The German Shepherd Dog

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German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd is not only one of the world's most popular companion dogs, but also probably the most widely used breed for service work. The development of the German Shepherd Dog, along with a number of existing breeds, helped pioneer the modern use of dogs for service and community work that we can see today. For a breed of dog that has only been officially recognised for just over 100 years, it has made an outstanding contribution to mankind worldwide. The origins of the breed came from various sheep dogs found in Germany during the last century. In the second half of the 19th century, dog breed fanciers began to fix the type of sheep dog found in Germany that would eventually form the basis of the modern German Shepherd Dog. Various attempts were made to form associations to develop the German Sheep Dogs such as the Phylax Club, which was formed in the early 1890’s, but disbanded in a few short years. Not only were dog fanciers discussing the breeding of dogs, but also the training of dogs was becoming of great interest. A driving force of the time was Doktor Gerland who presented the world’s first trained police dogs just prior to the turn of the century. These events helped to bring the development of sheep dogs to the attention of many influential people in Germany. During 1899 a German dog fancier and cavalry officer Captain Max Von Stephanitz purchased a dog named Hektor Linksrhein which greatly impressed him. Stephanitz renamed the dog Horand v Grafrath. On 22 April 1899 Von Stephanitz, a few others formed “The German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany". The club started a registration book and Horand v Grafrath became the first registered German Shepherd Dog. On 20 September 1899, the club also adopted a breed standard based on the proposals of Von Stephanitz and later held its first specialty show at Frankfurt-am-Main, using the titles Sieger and Siegerin. The development of the German Shepherd Dog had begun. Von Stephanitz who became President of the SV realised that increased industrialisation in Germany would reduce the demand for sheep dogs and, in co-operation with German authorities earlier this century, began trialing the German Shepherd in other roles to ensure its survival as a working breed. Through his firm guiding hand the SV became the largest single breed club in the world, and the breed became one of the most versatile breeds known to man. German Shepherds slowly grew in popularity, and clubs for the development of the breed began to form in countries where the breed had been exported. As early as 1904, it is believed unofficial imports of the breed had arrived in Western Australia. By 1910 the breed had a firm foot hold in Europe, and in Germany the service potential of the dogs were realised by helping to equip over 500 Police stations throughout Germany with trained Police Dogs. Still being used as a sheep dog, the German shepherd was also finding popularity with the German military. Von Stephanitz was adamant that the breed should remain a working dog, and constantly looked for new tasks to keep the breed working. The onset of the First World War, saw both the German and French military using the German Shepherd as well as a number of other breeds for various functions, including search and rescue of casualties in 'no mans' land, providing what was to become the basis for modern search and rescue dog teams. Dogs were also used to carry ammunition, messages, cables and first aid supplies between the trenches, often through artillery and small arms fire. Many allied soldiers, impressed by the bravery of the dogs, took captured German Shepherds home with them after the war. Many soldiers were blinded during the First World War and German Shepherds were trained in large numbers by the German authorities as 'seeing eye' dogs for the blind. Other countries, including Great Britain, then attempted to train dogs based on this German program. The British dog trainers, however,...
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