German Shepherd Breed Origin and History
The German Shepherd dog breed has its origin in the late 1800s when Max von Stephanitz from Germany began developing a breed that would later become the dog we know today as the German Shepherd. 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. The first German Shepherd Club in America was formed in 1913 and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1908. Instantly recognizable, the German Shepherd continues to be a popular dog breed, and the German Shepherd is continually in the top five most popular registered breeds as determined by the AKC.