The German Shepherd Dog- Which Are Better; German Lines or American Lines?

The German Shepherd dog has gone through many changes since its creation more than 100 years ago. These changes have taken the breed in different directions in America and in Germany. Nowadays, German bred German Shepherds look totally different and have a different temperament than those bred in the United States. Some breeders still prefer the German lines, but some prefer the American lines. There are conflicting points of view in this matter and my intention with this post is just to share some information with you, so that you can make your own informed decision as to which type is better for you.

Let me start by explaining how the different breeds of dogs and dog associations are organized. This is very important for anybody trying to fully understand the German Shepherd dog, as you will see as you learn more about this breed.

There is a world canine organization called the "Fédération Cynologique Internationale" (FCI), which has its head office in Belgium. It was created on May 22nd 1911, with the objective of promoting and preserving purebred dogs. The main interest of the FCI is to link all dog clubs worldwide and thus have uniform breed standards. Furthermore, it safeguards that the pedigrees and judges are bilaterally recognized by all FCI members.

This entity includes 84 members, one per country; each issues their own pedigrees and trains their own judges. These are mostly national registries, although some may be international. Most national clubs in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East and the former east-block countries are members or contract partners of the FCI. The only significant exceptions are the United States, England and Canada.

The FCI has divided the different breeds into 10 groups:

Group 1- Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs)

Group 2- Pinschers and Schnauzers - Molossoid Breeds - Swiss Mountain Dogs and Swiss Cattle Dogs

Group 3- Terriers (large and medium-sized)

Group 4- Dachshunds

Group 5- Spitz and Primitive Types

Group 6- Scent hounds and Related Breeds

Group 7- Pointing Dogs

Group 8- Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water Dogs

Group 9- Companion and Toy Dogs

Group 10- Sight hounds

The German Shepherd dog belongs to the first group; the herding group.

There is also a separate entity, which is not a national registry, but a breed-specific registry club. This club, the SV (short for Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde — the German Shepherd Dog Club in Germany) is the parent club of the breed. The SV is the largest and most active breed-specific club in the world. This club has a dual function, by not only being a breed-specific registry, but also sponsoring sporting and training activities, influencing the breeding of working dogs.

Finally, there is a third and very important club, the WUSV (World Union of SV's). This club was established in 1974 and is a member of the FCI. It mainly acts as a link club, bringing the over 60 German Shepherd dog clubs worldwide together, serving as a link to the SV in Germany and connecting them to the FCI.

Some other clubs, like the American Kennel Club (AKC) are not members of the FCI and don't follow its conformation standards. Since the FCI recognizes the standard of the breed's country of origin, the conformation standard adopted by the FCI is that of the SV. This basically means that any German Shepherd dog not registered in a national registry that abides by the rules of the FCI hasn’t necessarily been bred according to the breed's standard.

Nowadays the German Shepherd dog of American lines is not accepted by the FCI as a true German Shepherd. This is such an important issue that I believe it’s necessary to take some time and explain the origin of the problem.

Up to the start of World War II German Shepherds in America were identical to the ones in Germany. To illustrate the point we can use Pfeffer von Bern as an example. This dog was the last German Shepherd imported to the United States before the war, to have a strong impact in the development of the breed in the United States. This dog became American Grand Champion in 1937; was taken back to Germany the same year and became Sieger; and became American Grand Champion again in 1938. He was the first dog to be awarded a Register Of Merit (ROM) which is a title based on accumulative credits awarded to each dogs progeny, with the intention of bringing recognition to outstanding studs. His bloodline dominated German Shepherd dog breeding in the United Sates during the 40’s.

During World War II, due to the animosity between the two countries, the Americans separated their breeding from that of the Germans. There was excessive breeding amongst very closely related dogs. Due to the extreme inbreeding and line breeding, American German Shepherds started showing characteristics of their own. By the end of the war some American breeders recognized the need to go back to the original German Shepherd, bred for hard work, and imported a large number of German Shepherds. However, a new trend had already started. American judges and breeders had come to appreciate their own style of “German Shepherd”, which was a little more refined and had much more angulated hindquarters, necessary for its peculiar trot.

The last imported American Grand Champion was Arno von der Kurpfalzhalle, in 1969. From then on, the American “German Shepherd” has developed on its own and nowadays an imported German Shepherd wouldn’t stand a chance at a dog show in the United States. The American “German Shepherd” has become a mere object of beauty. Its utility, good temperament and health have been sacrificed in exchange for its “floating trot”. Nowadays, there is no similarity between these two breeds except for the name.

In future posts I will attempt to go a little deeper into the
between these two “types” of German Shepherds and I will share more information about the other varieties within the German Shepherd dog breed.

The German Shepherd Dog- History

Despite the general belief that the German Shepherd dog is closely related to the wolf, this breed is no more closely related to the wolf than any other breed of dog. This breed is the consequence of a calculated effort to fabricate the perfect shepherd. This is mostly due to the formation of an organization devoted to overseeing the breeding of the German Shepherd dog in 1899; the Verein fur Deutsche Scharferhunde, known worldwide as the SV (German Sheepdog Society).

In 1899, Captain Max von Stephanitz, who is known as the father of the breed, saw an impressive dog which he decided to buy. This dog was Hektor Linksrhein (later renamed Horand von Grafrath). He used this outstanding dog as the base for the future German Shepherd dog. Horand symbolized the aspirations of the breeders of that moment in time.

Right after Stephanitz acquired Horand, on April 22nd 1899; he along with some ten friends created the SV. That is the day the German Shepherd dog breed arrived.

Breeders strove to develop a herding dog that would excel at other jobs requiring courage, athleticism and intelligence. The German Shepherd dog eventually proved itself as an intelligent and fearless companion and guardian.

During World War I, the German Shepherd dog was used as messenger, rescue, sentinel, and personal guard dog. Many German Shepherd dogs were taken by soldiers back home.

During WWII, the Allied Forces took their trained dogs everywhere, which made the breed a lot more popular all over the world.

After WWII, the German Shepherd dog became the world's most popular breed, mostly because no other breed has mastered such a wide variety of skills as the German Shepherd dog breed or has such outstanding characteristics.

Because of the negative connotation of the word “German”, the breed’s name was changed a couple times. It was named the Alsatian Wolf Dog, but the “Wolf Dog” part of the name also carried a negative connotation, so in 1977 it was finally changed back to the German Shepherd Dog.

The German Shepherd dog also became very popular because of two movie star dogs: Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin. The German Shepherd was the most popular dog in America for many years and although it has dropped from the top spot in recent years it is still one of the most versatile dogs ever created. The German Shepherd dog has served as a police dog, war dog, guide dog, search-and-rescue dog, narcotics-or explosives-detecting dog, show dog, guard dog, shepherd and even as a pet.

The German Shepherd Dog

Welcome to the German Shepherd dog blog. The German Shepherd dog is one of the world's most popular breeds. This is primarily due to two reasons. First is the fact that although some breeds are better at specific tasks, no other breed has mastered such a wide variety of skills. The second reason being its outstanding characteristics, such as; sound nerves, alertness, confidence, trainability, loyalty and courage. This site provides basic information about the German Shepherd dog; it also explains many interesting facts and discusses several controversial issues, which are normally not considered on other sites.