Breed History

Centuries ago there developed in Germany, as in all countries where grazing animals were herded, several types of Shepherd Dogs. The conformation of these dogs varied to suit the terrain and weather conditions and thus distinctive types were formed. Despite the visual difference there were four qualities in common, hardness, intelligence, physical soundness and the ability to do their specialised job well.

Groups were formed, bound together by an interest in dogs and a desire to improve the working ability of their stock. Dogs were exchanged, records of breeding kept, and gradually greater structural uniformity was attained.

Each year the best of these animals competed in sheep herding trials and it was at one of these trials that Rittmeister von Stephanitz discovered and purchased his “ideal” German Shepherd Dog. This noble animal, “Hektor Linksrhein” became, under the new name “Horand von Grafath”, the first registered German Shepherd Dog in a Club founded by Stephanitz and his friend Arthur Meyer. The Club, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde S.V. is the largest dog club in the world today. From the beginning, in 1889, very tight breeding controls have been maintained and a uniformity of type was established in a very short time. The standard has always remained, as von Stephanitz would have it, based upon mental stability and utility, with beauty as a natural by-product.

As Germany became increasingly industrialised the tremendous working capabilities of the German Shepherd Dog were to be used in other areas; in Government Services as army dogs, as tracking dogs and for rescue work and later they became the first guide dogs for the blind in a special training school for soldiers blinded in battle in the First World War.

Soldiers returning after the war brought stories of the prowess of these dogs, and before long, the breed was gaining popularity in both the UK and the USA. Unfortunately anti-German feeling ran high and the dog was denied his birthright and renamed the “Alsatian Wolf Dog” in England. This was later changed to Alsatian and it was not until 1977 that the powers that be in England gave the breed the correct name German Shepherd Dog.

From 1928 to 1972 a ban on the importation of German Shepherd Dogs into Australia was in force. This ban was relaxed in 1972 and removed altogether in 1973. Since that time many fine animals have come to this state from all over the world and the standard of the best of breed here is equal to the high standards of the best in Europe.

In 1983 the German Shepherd Dog achieved equality in South Australia when the Government repealed the discriminatory “1934 Alsatian Dogs Act” which had prohibited the ownership of German Shepherd Dogs in many areas of this state.

The Annual Australian National Show attracts a large entry of dogs from all States of Australia and New Zealand and is a true reflection of the popularity of the breed here and the dedication of Australian breeders in their quest to keep the standard high and to do justice to the ideals of Rittmeister Max von Stephanitz.