Breed Standard & A Little Bit Of Breed History


What is a breed standard?


The breed standard is:


A blueprint that describes a dog that is best suited to fulfilling the original purpose for its breed.


It also includes:


Characteristics that people identify with the breed (which should assist its original purpose)


For example when someone thinks of a GSD they do not think of the following characteristics:



Instead they will probably think of at least the following:


(Some may also think of whites which are no longer a recognisable colour)



A Little Bit Of Breed History


Before the war Germany was obtaining the majority of its lamb and wool from abroad.  The German government recognised that it was not economically healthy for them to keep importing lamb rather than farming sheep themselves.  However the problem with introducing sheep farming to the German countryside was that a lot of it was taken up with crops.  A lot of the land available for the sheep to graze on was waste land, or the small strip of green bordering the narrow tracks between the beet fields / vineyards / hop gardens / tobacco plantations.  A shepherd with sheep in such areas had to be careful, because before the war a bite into a beetroot was fined one mark. 


The proprietor of the GSD breed observed that there was no breed standardization within the dogs that fulfilled these shepherding purposes. He greatly admired those dogs with a wolf like appearance that were also intelligent and had willingness to work.  He believed that he could create a better working dog that could then be used throughout Germany, and so he purchased his first dog Hektor Linkrshein in 1899 before changing his name to Horand von Grafrath. Horand became the foundation of the GSD breed.


German shepherds helped with the patrolling job by running up and down the last furrow in front of the crop, running at or/ and gripping any sheep that got to close. 


The German Shepherd Dog was also used when traffic met flocks upon the road.  In such cases the German Shepherd Dog had to elongate the flock by pressing it to one side and allowing only a few to pass at one time.  Although these were the main jobs of the German Shepherd Dog they also had to be able to carry out several more tasks that would help their shepherd.  Such tasks included learning only to bark on command when the Shepherd wanted their sheep to leave a field, or to pass over a bridge, seeking out and bringing sheep that went astray, and protecting it from thieves.  One very important fact about the German Shepherd Dog is that he was expected to work on his own, on the side opposite to the shepherd; patrolling, warding and guarding. Overall the German Shepherd had to demonstrate an amazing array of different skills, and it is no doubt because of this that the German Shepherd Dog today is one of the most adaptable and highly skilled breeds in existence.


Later on the proprietor of the breed realised that a need for such shepherding purposes was dying out, and he was concerned that the GSD must stay a working animal, and thus he strongly encouraged the use of the breed with the German police and military, put in place a system of strict controls that guided breeding, including developing a test that tested the temperament and working ability of the dog; Schutzhund (please look at BSP results to see GSDS that currently excel within this sport). 


In Germany a GSD is still not allowed to have its progeny registered with the SV unless it has passed its breed survey (KKL) which includes it having the following awards:



How does the GSD’s history link to its breed standard?



The GSD had to be capable of working all day before coming home and being at one with its family.


To be able to do this a GSD had to have a correct:


As the GSD had to be capable of working all day its confirmation which affects its movement should:


Maximise endurance via minimising energy loss


Thus the GSD’s breed standard is a blueprint for describing a dog that had the most suitable characteristics for its original purpose which includes:



It stands to reason that a GSD with the following characteristics would not have the biggest chance of being the BEST at fulfilling its original purpose:



Thus it also stands to reason that a breeder breeding with the GSD breed standard in mind is taking the following aspects into consideration:



Whereas a poor breeder would not:




Problems In Interpretation 


However as commonly found with the written word the language within the breed standard is open to interpretation.


Sometimes people’s interpretation of differing breed standards can lead to extremes developing, and other times extremes can develop as judges look to promote dogs that excel in one feature or another.


This is why it is very important that the GSD breed never forgets the message that Max v. Stephanitz who developed the breed left with us:


“Take this trouble for me: Make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog, for I have struggled all my life long for that aim”


Looking for a GSD?


At this moment in time there are not examples of the breed which will consistently themselves (as well as producing) dogs that will win at the world GSD confirmation and working shows. 


There are dogs that will work and that will take home confirmation awards. 


But the degree to which this level of winning in either work or confirmation is dependent upon:


Therefore as a home that may be looking for dogs of this breed it is therefore important that you consider whether or not: 

You would like your dog to excel in 1 area so that it may have a higher chance of excelling in your chosen ‘sport’ (i.e. working or confirmation).


You are really just looking for a pet that has been bred with the breed standard in mind.


In our experience most homes wish to:



There are a lot of breeders whom will aim to:


Consistently only produce dogs that excel in either working or confirmation aspects


There are even more breeders whom:


Do not really care at all about producing pups that could one day embody a perfect example of the breed in favour of profit maximisation

It is also important to note that not every pup in a litter bred by a breeder who is attempting to excel in the confirmation or working ring will excel in the confirmation and / or the working competition ring. 

The most successful of breeders can repeat a litter which previously produced at least one Champion from two Champion parents and have a litter with 12 pups in it, and yet although all 12 pups may look and act like very good examples of the breed standard all 12 of these pups may also not be good enough to take top honours in the show ring.  

Usually the majority of any litter from the best of breeders and from the best of lines will not be good enough to take top honours in for example the confirmation ring. 

Because of this and because of the time and expenses that such a breeder has usually put into producing a litter they will aim to keep the best.  The rest of the litter will usually be homed as beloved pets.  This is why we would recommend that a home looking for a GSD as a pet did not dismiss such a breeder as long as the breeder was breeding from lines and parents that looked to have the potential to produce something that is suitable for a home's lifestyle, experience, etc.


Questions that I can ask


As a home a lot of responsibility in terms of the breeds existence and development lays in your hands.


Puppy farms and repetitive poor breeders would die out if homes did not fiancé their breeding decisions.


A breeder should always be aiming to better their dog, as the perfect GSD does not exist. 


A breeder should be aiming to improve:



IF a breeder is not talking about how they hope that a drive and / or an angulations or certain proportion are likely to be improved by putting mum to dad then you need to ask yourself why are they breeding?


If a breeder is breeding for profit or even profit maximisation then cuts will be made somewhere along the line.


This may relate to:



Most profit breeders are not stupid enough to scrimp on certain aspects which they know will appeal to their homes, and this is why it is important that you as a home check out whether or not a breeder:



If they do not have answers to the above then you as a potential forever home really need to question whether or not they should be breeding at all, and whether or not by going to them you will compromise on the health, temperament, working ability, confirmation, and degrees of advice that you will receive before and hopefully after you get a puppy home.


Puppies are always a gamble especially as environment can affect health and temperament aspects. 


However one always has a bigger chance of getting a GSD puppy that has a better chance of having correct health (etc.) if they not only choose a puppy of the right lines, but also the right breeder.


For every 100 puppy farmed dogs there will no doubt be 1 with an excellent temperament and health, but the chances of a home being that 1 home are a lot less than in they had gone to a reputable breeder whom breeds with the breed standard in mind.


Because of this we strongly recommend that ALL potential forever homes of any breed looks for the above (amongst other factors) when choosing a breeder.