The German Shepherd

The Origin of the German Shepherd Dog

It all started when a young German Cavalry officer stood on the crest of the hill, deep in thought and watching the sheep herder tending his flocks in the valley below. The sheep in this part of Germany were large and tough and appeared to be almost more than a match for the small dogs herding them. They kept the sheep from straying into the corn field nearby, herding them together when carriages approached on the road and permitted them to scatter and graze when it was safe.

While the German Cavalry officer watched, fascinated, he envisioned a dog of medium size who could cope with the two different sized breeds of sheep found in Germany, he saw a dog who would be extremely intelligent, quick on his feet, protective if necessary, noble in appearance, trustworthy in character, physically sound so that he could work tirelessly all day long and born with innate desire to please. A dog who could reason and be a companion to man, when the farsighted cavalry officer, Max Von Stephanitz, returned to his regiment, he promised himself that he would start a utilitarian breed of dog that would be known as a German Shepherd, and so it was, this day in the 1890’s that the idea of founding a new breed come into being.


Structure of the German Shepherd

General Appearance:
The first impression of a good German Shepherd dog is that of a strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert and full of life. It look’s substantial and not spindly, giving the impression both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility, difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. To a knowledgeable German Shepherd fancier the word “Nobility” is synonymous with a German Shepherd of incorruptible character, physical beauty and prowess, the highest intelligence, glowing health, an extremely attractive male or female that unquestionably denotes it’s sex characteristics and presents itself in the ring with all the confidence and self assurance of a “star”.


The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendship. The dog must be approachable quietly standing it ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet over turns without itself marking them. It is both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler, it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reaction, such as tucking of tail to strange sounds or sights. Any of the above deficiencies in character, which indicate shyness, must be penalized as a very serious fault.

The Head is noble, cleanly chiselled, strong without coarseness, but above all not fine, and in proportion to the body. The head of the male is distinctively masculine, and that of the bitch distinctly feminine. It is desirable for the dog to have an alert, fearless expression.

Ears are moderately pointed in proportion to the skull, open towards the front, and carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the centre lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.

Of Medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The colour is as dark as possible. The expression keen, intelligent and composed.

Forty two in number, 20 upper and 22 lower are strongly developed and meet in a scissor bite in which part of the inner surface of the upper incisor meets and engage part of the outer surface of the lower incisor. An overshot or undershot jaw or a level bit is undesirable.

The neck is strong and muscular, clean-cut and relatively long, proportionate in size to the head and without loose folds of skin.

Fore Quarters:
The shoulder blades are long and obliquely angled, laid on flat and not placed forward. The upper arm joins the shoulder blade at about a right angle. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled. The forelegs, viewed from all sides, are straight and the bone oval rather than round. The pasterns are strong and springy and angulated at approximately a 25-degree angle from the vertical.


The feet are short, compact, with toes well-arched, pads thick and firm, nails short and dark. The dewclaws, if any, should be removed from the hind legs. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on.

The German Shepherd dog is longer than tall, with the most desirable proportion as 10 to 81/2. The desired height for males at the top of the highest point of the shoulder blade is 24 to 26 inches, and for bitches, 22 to 24 inches. The length is measured from the point of the prosternum or breast bone to the rear edge of the pelvis, the ischial tuberosity.

The whole structure of the body should give an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.

Commencing at the prosternum, it is well filled and carried well down between the legs. It is deep and capacious, never shallow, with ample room for lungs and heart, carried well forward, with the prosternum showing ahead of the shoulder in profile.

Well sprung and long, neither barrel-shaped nor too flat and carried down to a sternum which reaches to the elbows. Correct ribbing allows the elbows to move back freely when the dog is at trot. Too round, caused interference and throws the elbows out; too flat or short, causes pinched elbows. Ribbing is carried well back so that the loin is relatively short.

Firmly held and not paunchy. The bottom line is only moderately tucked up in loin.


Top line

The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back.

The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short. The desirable long proportion is not derived form a long back, but from overall length of withers and hindquarters, viewed from the side.

Viewed from the top, broad and strong. Undue length between the last rib and the thigh, when viewed from the side, is undesirable.

Long and gradually sloping.

Bushy, with the last vertebra extended at least to the hock joint. It is set smoothly into the croup and, low rather than high. At rest, the tail hangs in a slight curve like a sabre.

The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the side, is broad, with both upper and lower thigh well muscled, forming as nearly as possible a right angle. The upper thighbone parallels the shoulder blade while the lower thighbone parallels the upper arm. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the foot) is short, strong and tightly articulated.

A German Shepherd dog is a trotting dog, and its structure has been developed to meet the requirement of its work.

General Impression — The gait is outreaching, elastic, seemingly without effort, smooth the rhythmic, covering the maximum amount of ground with the minimum number of steps. At a walk it covers a great deal of ground, with long stride of both hind legs and forelegs. At a trot the dog covers still more ground with even longer stride, and moves powerfully but easily, with coordination and balance so that the gait appears to be the steady motion on both forward reach and backward push.

The German Shepherd dog varies in colour, and most colours are permissible. Strong rich colours are preferred. Nose black. Pale, washout colours and blues or livers are serious faults. A white dog or a dog with a nose that is not predominantly black must be disqualified.


The Ideal Dog has a double coat of medium length. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh, and lying close to the body. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is permissible. The head, including the inner ear and foreface, and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer thicker hair. The rear of the forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock, respectively. Faults in coat include soft, silky, too-long outer coat, woolly, curly and open coat.



·         Cropped or hanging ears

·         Undershot jaw

·         Docked tail

·         White dogs

·         Dogs with noses not predominantly black

·         Any dog that attempts to bite the judge

Club Address: South Island German Shepherd League P.O. Box 2133 Christchurch
Club Captain's Cell: 022 140 6142