The German Shepherd dog breed, which was born more than 100 years ago, has changed enormously since then. This breed has gone in separate directions in Germany and America. Now, German Shepherds raised in Germany have a completely different appearance and a different temperament than those raised in America. Different breeders have different preferences as to what they prefer; German lines or American lines. Due to contrasting views on this matter, I intend to share information today, so you can decide which side to be on.
Let me first explain how the many dog breeds and dog associations are organized. If you are trying to understand the GSD breed, this is an important point; as you will understand later.
There is an organization called FCI or “Federation Cynologique Internationale”, based in Belgium. This world canine organization was established on May 22, 1911 and its main mission is to defend and preserve purebred dogs throughout the world. The main activity of the FCI is to link all the dog clubs of the world to have consistent breed standards. Even more; ensures that all pedigrees and judges are recognized by all FCI members bilaterally.
The organization has 84 members, one from each country. They all issue their own pedigrees and train their judges. These are national registries, but there are some that are international. Throughout the world, national clubs are members or partners of the “Federation Cynologique Internationale”. The only major exceptions are the United States, England, and Canada.
The FCI has 10 groups that include the different races: 1st Group; Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs) 2nd group; Pinschers and Schnauzers – Molossians – Swiss Mountain Dogs, Swiss Cattle Dogs 3rd group; Terriers (large and medium) 4th Group; Dachshunds 5th Group; Spitz and Primitive Types 6th Group; Hounds and Related Breeds 7th Group; Sample Dogs 8th Group; Retrievers – Flushing Dogs – Water Dogs 9th Group; Companion Dogs and Toy Dogs 10th Group; hounds
The German Shepherd dog breed is part of the herding group.
There is also an independent organization; a breed specific registry club that is not a national registry. It is known as SV or Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (the German Shepherd Dog Club in Germany). This is the breed’s parent club. It is the most extensive and active breed specific club in the world. The SV has two main activities. It is a breed specific registry and sponsors sporting and training events, influencing the breeding of working dogs.
There is also a third club, the SV World Union or the WUSV. The WUSV was founded in 1974. This club is a member of the FCI. It is a liaison club, which brings together the more than sixty GSD clubs from all over the world and serves as a liaison with the SV and also connects them with the FCI.
There are other clubs, such as the American Kennel Club or the AKC, that are not members of the FCI and do not meet its standards of conformation. The “Fédération Cynologique Internationale” recognizes the breed standard of the country of origin. For this reason, the conformation standard adopted by the FCI is that of the SV. Therefore, any German Shepherd dog that is not entered in a national register that follows the FCI standards has certainly not been bred according to the breed standard.
The American “German Shepherd” is not recognized by the FCI as a true German Shepherd dog. This controversy is so important that it takes a little time to explain how the discussion started.
At the beginning of World War II, dogs of this breed in the United States were exactly the same as German Shepherds in Germany. An example that exemplifies this is a dog by the name of Pfeffer von Bern. This was the last German Shepherd (who had a major impact on the advancement of the GSD in the United States) to be imported into the United States before the war began, Pfeffer won the title of United States Grand Champion in 1937 and was carried back to Germany the same year and won the Sieger; he later returned to the United States and became United States Grand Champion, again in 1938. He was also the first dog to receive a Record of Merit or ROM. This is a title that is based on cumulative credits awarded to the animal’s progeny. The intention is to recognize outstanding stallions. The Pfeffer von Bern lineage dominated the breeding of German Shepherd dogs in America during the 1940s.
During World War II there was great hostility between the United States and Germany, so the Americans isolated their upbringing from that of Germany. There was an excessive line of breeding and inbreeding and the American “German Shepherds” began to show characteristics of their own. At the end of WWII, there were some American breeders who realized that they needed to go back to the original German Shepherd and imported a large number of German Shepherds. However, there was already a new trend underway. Judges and breeders in America had begun to appreciate their own “German Shepherd” style. This type was more refined and had much more angled hindquarters, which was a necessity due to its distinctive door.
The last imported dog to be an American Grand Champion was Arno von der Kurpfalzhalle, in 1969. From that day on, the American “German Shepherd” evolved on its own and today no German Shepherd imported from Germany would have a chance with any dog. show in America. The American “German Shepherd” is now primarily an object of beauty. Many aspects of the characteristics of this dog, such as its usefulness and its great temperament and good health, have been sacrificed for its “floating trot”. These days, there really is no resemblance between the American version and the German version, except for sharing the name.
In the next article I will delve a little deeper into the differences between these two “types” of German Shepherd and share more information about the other varieties of the German Shepherd dog breed.