German Shepherd General Information

Understanding Pedigrees Puppy Selection Info Show vs Pet The Rescue Trend Perfect Health Breed Standard

Articles are written by Jackie Athon and can not be reproduced or copied with out written permission.

German/European Bloodlines...Working vs Show lines

There are two major different types of German Shepherds in the World Standard: The Working lines and the Show lines

The working lines are not as large, have very little angulation, are usually only KKL2 (permitted to breed, but not recommended to breed). All German Shepherds in Germany must get Schutzhund titles before they are permitted to breed, so obviously both types can do the work, but not necessarily with the same amount of intensity.

Working lines are usually bred to have a very high pain tolerance. This means they do not respond very much to pain. This helps a Police dog when a crazy man on drugs is trying to kick the s**t out of him so he won't give up the fight. It also means he will not respond to normal corrections and requires much harder discipline to get the dog to obey you.

Working dogs have more 'hair trigger' aggression, and generally a higher Prey drive. Because of this, they must be monitored carefully around people, especially children. Anything that moves fast becomes Prey (like a rabbit) to be chased down and caught. If a jogger runs by, or a child zips by running, or is on a bicycle or on skates, the Working dog may react to them as if they are Prey. They can't grab with their paws, so they use their mouth to grab (bite) to stop their Prey.

So what is best for you will depend on how you intend to live with your dog (kennel dog or house companion), how experienced of a dog handler you are with assertive dogs, and how far you want to go in SchH (Protection Dog) competition. With the higher pain tolerance, the higher aggression, and higher Prey drive, you had better know what you are doing and how to handle the dog in a safe manner if you want a working line shepherd.

If you intend to compete in SchH 3 Nationals, you will find the working dog is more likely to get you to that level. If you want a really nice quality dog with relatively easy going temperament that does have natural (but sensible) protection drives, that can make it's SchH titles with proper training, and is easier to live with and control than the Working line dog, then you will do better with the German Show line shepherd..

The show lines were developed by breeders who are very focused on the structure and appearance of the dog. Although these dogs do have to obtain working titles in order to qualify for breeding, their working drives are usually lower than those of the working lines. The conformation lines are dogs that are generally easy to live with, trainable, stable, and calm, yet possessing enough drive to work and protect. The structure of these dogs is excellent, balanced, harmonious and efficient, and their general appearance is quite homogenous. They are mainly black and red, black and tan or occasionally sable. Working and show lines are still similar in temperament, with the working line exhibiting a higher drive and more intensity, making the show lines a better choice for children when placing them in a family environment. To read about the German Standards and the meaning of each title in your pedigree go to German Terminology.

In North America, we find American / Canadian shepherds. They are very different from the original German shepherds. Although these dogs have common ancestry to the German shepherd, they have become almost a breed onto themselves. These dogs are bred for show purposes, the breeders focusing almost exclusively on looks and movement. They have adapted the standard to their own preference; the result is that these dogs differ greatly from German shepherds found in the rest of the world.

They are generally larger, more passive, heavier, and have a lighter bone structure. There is often less differentiation of the two sexes, the males having less masculine heads and bodies, their angulations being quite extreme and their very structure being different from German shepherds. They look a bit like they are squatting in the rear while standing. Aside from their appearance being quite different, the major distinction is the temperament; The Canadian / American shepherd is not bred to be a protective dog. Many do well in Obedience, Herding and Tracking, and other functions that do not require well developed protective temperament..

The American / Canadian shepherds are not required to pass any temperament test, or to do Schutzhund, to undergo the endurance test, to acquire a breed survey or any other requirement. They are not even required to be free of dysplasia. The only registry is the CKC or the AKC, which do not control the quality of the animals being bred. These animals retain a potential for protective behavior and responses, but without the courage, stability and clear headedness to temper their actions. They are often fear-biters, nervous and stressed, showing inappropriate aggressive tendencies. They lack the courage for true protection work, their aggressive behavior being a result of defensiveness and fear for themselves and not an instinct to protect their master. This can be confusing to a novice, but the end result is very different; you cannot count on this type of dog to protect and defend you in a threatening situation.


Understanding German's all Greek to me!

(By Jackie Athon-Hodsdon-no reprints without permission)

All dogs have a pedigree.  That is, all dogs have ancestors!   The pedigree is the 'family tree' that lists the names and accomplishments of the ancestors of your dog.  Some dogs have a great pedigree, while others have  a poor (or even unknown!) pedigree.  Why should a pedigree matter?

Each puppy is a result of the genetics represented in it's pedigree.   The better quality, smarter, prettier adults generally produce the better/smarter/prettier puppies!  The more that is known about the ancestors and their accomplishments, the less likely your puppy will develop into a disappointing adult.   Of course, by then you will love the dog, but you will have to deal with it's problems it's whole life.  Start right...with a well bred dog from a good pedigree!

Awards for beauty (Championships) are listed before the dog's official name.  Awards for training accomplishments (Working Titles) are listed after the dog's official name.

German Pedigree Terms

Sieger:    The Sieger is the Male winner of the National Championship Conformation (Beauty) show, therefore it is the best Champion for the entire year.  The German Sieger typically beats hundreds of other Champions to attain this coveted title.  The only higher accomplishment possible is to be the World Sieger...the top German Shepherd in the world.  The Sieger show is held every year in Germany at the beginning of September. The Siegerin is the Female winner in this Championship.

Universal Sieger: This as an annual competition to find the dog that has the best structure (beauty) and the best working (SchH) combined characteristics. The dog must compete in a National level Conformation (beauty) show and a National level Schutzhund competition all on the same weekend. The dog that is the best in the combined event is the Universal Sieger. The 2nd place dog is the Vice-Universal Sieger.

VA:  Select Champion:  Awarded to the top few Champion dogs at the Sieger show each year.  VA-2 is the Vice-Sieger, etc. (note:  VA dogs are worth well over $100,000.00, so getting a breeding to a VA dog is a BIG deal!)

V:  Champion Vorzuglich   (Excellent):  This is the standard Championship for excellence of quality.  No dog in Germany can even TRY for it's Championship until it is at least 2 years old, has passed a hip x-ray for Dysplasia, has passed a Temperament Test, has a working Schutzhund degree (tests the dog in Tracking, Obedience, and for Courage), and passed a 12 mile Endurance test...then you can show the dog to see if it is ALSO pretty!

SG:  Sehr Gut (Very Good):  This is a rating that the dog has Very Good structure.  It is the highest rating a dog can get in the Show until it has met all the requirements listed above for a Championship.

G:  Gut (Good):  This dog is rated as having Good structure.  This is the lowest rating still allowed to be used for breeding in Germany.

VP: Very Promising: The Highest rating available to dogs under 1 year of age when shown.

SchH and IPO (1, 2 &3)Schutzhund:   Schutzhund is a test of the dog's trainability and talents in Tracking (following a person's trail similar to Search work), Advanced Obedience (includes working under gunfire.  Dogs that are afraid of gunfire are also afraid of thunder and lightening...a real problem. If you've ever had a dog that is afraid of loud noises, you'll understand why it is important), and the dog is tested for it's Protection abilities.  A Schutzhund dog must  work off leash in a crowd of people with out endangering any one.  They are the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to trained dogs!Schutzhund:   Schutzhund is a test of the dog's trainability and talents in Tracking (following a person's trail similar to Search work), Advanced Obedience (includes working under gunfire.  Dogs that are afraid of gunfire are also afraid of thunder and lightening...a real problem. If you've ever had a dog that is afraid of loud noises, you'll understand why it is important), and the dog is tested for it's Protection abilities.  A Schutzhund dog must  work off leash in a crowd of people with out endangering any one.  They are the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to trained dogs!:  Schutzhund:   Schutzhund is a test of the dog's trainability and talents in Tracking (following a person's trail similar to Search work), Advanced Obedience (includes working under gunfire.  Dogs that are afraid of gunfire are also afraid of thunder and lightening...a real problem. If you've ever had a dog that is afraid of loud noises, you'll understand why it is important), and the dog is tested for it's Protection abilities.  A Schutzhund dog must  work off leash in a crowd of people with out endangering any one.  They are the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to trained dogs!:  Schutzhund:   Schutzhund is a test of the dog's trainability and talents in Tracking (following a person's trail similar to Search work), Advanced Obedience (includes working under gunfire.  Dogs that are afraid of gunfire are also afraid of thunder and lightening...a real problem. If you've ever had a dog that is afraid of loud noises, you'll understand why it is important), and the dog is tested for it's Protection abilities.  A Schutzhund dog must  work off leash in a crowd of people with out endangering any one.  They are the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to trained dogs! IPO is the international test that is identical to Schutzhund, so the titles have the same meaning.

KKL 1A and  KKL 2A :   KKL= Koerklasse. Before a dog can be bred in Germany it must pass all the above tests, and then it must also be evaluated by an official of the German Shepherd Club of Germany (Schaeferhund Verin) called a Koermeister to further test and evaluate the dog's temperament and structure.   Every part of the dog is described in a report called a Koerreport.  Dogs that are considered to be prime quality breeding prospects will be graded KKL1, dogs considered acceptable for breeding, but with some warnings of what to watch out for, such as being oversized, etc.will be graded KKL2.  Dogs considered "not suitable for breeding" will not earn a KKL rating, and they can not be bred in Germany. The "A" means the dog has passed it's hip certification for Hip Dysplasia in Germany.

"A" Stamp: The "A" means the dog has passed it's hip certification for Hip Dysplasia in Germany.

OFA:  Orthopedic Foundation for Animals:  A part of Columbia University which receives, evaluates, and certifies Hip x-rays for dogs in the USA.  An OFA hip certified dog is listed as "having no evidence of hip dysplasia".  There are different levels of certification.  The grading takes several factors into consideration which include the structure of the hip joint, the clarity and quality of the hip x-ray itself, and the positioning of the dog's hips on the x-ray.  All levels of certification (fair, good or excellent) are free of hip dysplasia and are suitable for breeding.

Schwartze-Hunden requires all it's puppies to be registered using the same protocol as in Germany, i.e. each litter is assigned a letter of the alphabet such as "A", "B", "C" etc. The registered name of the puppy will begin with this letter, and end with the kennel name "vom Schwartze-Hunden". Thus, for example dogs in a "P" litter will all have a name beginning with the letter "P", and followed by "vom Schwartze-Hunden".

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Here is a sample of what a pedigree looks like; The father is on the top at the far left, and the mother is on the bottom at the far left. Parents, then grand parents and great grand parents are listed as you move from the left to right. Names in Red are Champions. As you can see, this pedigree is 100% Champions!

Sample: Pedigree of Hera vom Grunenfeld

V-Obelix vom Arkanum SchH2, KKL1A Normal German Sieger VA-Ulk von Arlett SchH3, KKL1A Vice Sieger VA-Yago vom Wildsteiger Land SchH3, KKL1A German Sieger VA-Eiko vom Kirschental SchH3, FH, KKL1A
V-Quina von Arminius SchH2, KKL1A (littersister to German Sieger Quando)
V-Dolly von Arlett SchH2, KKL1A VA-Fedor von Arminius SchH3, KKL1A
V-Bambi v Feldschlösschen SchH3, KKL1A
V-Linda vom Neuen Berg SchH1, KKL1A (litter sister to German Sieger Lasso) VA-Folenmarkens Jasso SchH3, IP3, KKL1A VA-Mark vom Haus Beck SchH3, KKL1A
V-Floenmarkens Quelle BHP1, KKL1A
V-Eike vom Neuen Berg SchH2, KKL1A V-Enzo v dBurg Aliso SchH3, FH, KKL1A
V-Anusch v d Beilsteinühle SchH3, FH, KKL1A
V-Daisy vom Haus ZiegelmayerSchH2,KKL1A V-Vatikan von Bad-Boll SchH2,FH,KKL1A German Sieger Ulk von Arlett SchH3,KKL1A Vice Sieger VA-Yago v Wildsteiger Land SchH3, FH, KKL1A
V-Dolly von Arlett SchH2,KKL1A
V-Xinte von Bad-Boll SchH1,KKL1A VA-Pütz von Bad-Boll SchH3,FH,IP3,KKL1A
V-Nena vom Roßleinberg SchH1,KKL1A
V-Rommy vom Haus Ziegelmayer SchH2,KKL1A V-Olymp von Bad-Boll SchH3,FH,KKL1A VA-Cello v d Romerau SchH3,FH,KKL1A
V-Parma von Bad-Boll SchH1,KKL1A
V-Ossi vom Haus Ziegelmayer SchH1,KKL1A V-Enzo v d Berg Aliso SchH3,FH,KKL1A
V-Heddy vom Loher-stien SchH3,IP3,KKL1A

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German Shepherd Puppy Selection

by Jackie Athon - no reprint without permission

Selecting the right puppy starts with selecting the right BREED, and the right breeder.  Not every person is suited to have a large breed dog that is bred to have protective qualities. German Shepherds are NOT supposed to be a Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever in a "German Shepherd suit". German Shepherds are wonderful family dogs. The children and puppy must each be taught how to behave properly together with mutual respect and kindness, so adult supervision is important while all are learning what is, and what is not correct social behavior towards each other.

Breeds that are known for their loyalty and courage are stronger willed than the passive hunting dog breeds. You must be prepared to be the Leader of the Pack, and to Obedience train your German Shepherd at a young age. Otherwise, the DOG will become the leader, and that is bad for everyone, including the dog.

This is not to say German Shepherds are hard to train. The opposite is true. They are very trainable, but it IS necessary to train them. I do not refer to the popular bribery (treat training) that has become so popular and 'politically correct'. That "sit and I'll give you a cookie, stay and I'll give you a cookie" is NOT true training. The dog is responsive only as long as it wants the cookie more than it wants to do something else.

A cookie trained dog is worse than an untrained dog, as the owner has the MISTAKEN belief the dog IS trained. Then, the first time the dog is in a situation where it has a strong distraction or  strong urge to do something you don't want it to do, it won't care about the cookie (assuming you even have one with you at all times) and the dog will not behave as you wanted or expected.

With Cookie training, people have a tendency to have the dog in situations that require them to have good control because they THINK they DO have control. Then the dog does what ever it wants, as there is no respect for consequences for misbehavior. This is true for all breeds, not just German Shepherds.

A great dog training book can be found (out of print) from by William Koehler on basic dog training. You may also find it at your local library. It will teach you how to have a happy, reliable well trained dog.

People that have weak or very passive personalities should not get a dog from any breed that has protective qualities. People with these traits will not have the internal determination to be the leader. You do not need to be a 'drill sergeant' type, but you must have the willingness to be the one in control.

People that are uncomfortable around large dogs, or who have household members that are afraid of large dogs should not get a German Shepherd, or any dog for that matter. The logic of, "I'm afraid of dogs, so other people will also be afraid of my dog, and that will make me feel protected," is NOT good logic, and it is setting the stage for disaster.

When looking for a Breeder, search for one with experience and success in producing dogs with the traits you want your new dog to have.  Every one has a slightly different opinion of what is 'good', so first decide what you really want.  Do you want an active, "busy" type of dog?  Do you want a more "laid back" mellow type of dog?  Do you want a dog with stronger protective abilities?  Do you want a I'm happy-to-be-the-follower type of personality? Do you want the "instigator" leader-of-the-pack personality instead?  Or do you want the middle of the pack dog?   Do you want a very loving strongly bonded personality dog, or do you prefer the independent type?  How important is color to you?  What size do you prefer?   Do you want "German" bloodlines or do you want "American" bloodlines? There is a big difference in looks, and in what the dogs must do/be to be considered "Top Quality".

Once you have a clear idea of what YOU want your dog to be like, and have decided you are suited to be the owner of a German Shepherd, you are in a better position to make a realistic decision, and to ask each breeder questions about their dogs. This will help you make your choice of which breeder you wish to purchase a dog from.  Make yourself a little check list. Write down the name and contact information of the breeder, and their answers to your questions. 

There is a misconception that if a breeder has several litters each year that this somehow makes them a 'bad breeder'.  The number of litters a breeder produces has nothing to do with the quality of their dogs.  The quality of their dogs is dependent on the quality of their breeding stock, and how well the puppies are taken care of.  There are many breeders that produce only a few litters a year that have poor quality dogs, and do not have the knowledge to properly care for the puppies, or to answer your questions as your puppy grows and develops.

In general, puppies should be clean, happy, friendly, well fed, have begun their vaccination series, been wormed, and have a confident attitude.  No responsible breeder will release a puppy into it's new home until it is AT LEAST 7 weeks of age. If possible, go to visit the kennel so you can meet the puppies, and if possible, the parents before you buy.  Hopefully you will also be able to meet a few other adults owned by the breeder so you can get a better over-all impression of how this breeder's puppies develop and mature.  If it is not possible to go to the kennel (if the puppy must be shipped to you over a long distance) be sure to have all your questions answered to your satisfaction before you send money!

What about "PUPPY TESTING"? There are many 'puppy aptitude' tests that have become popular.  In fact, I wrote a puppy test procedure to evaluate what traits are needed for a Police dog, a Guide dog, a Herding dog, a Schutzhund dog, a Search and Rescue dog, Bomb/Drug detection dog and Family Companion dog way back in 1980 that was published in a National Working Dog magazine.  These tests are fine, but your BEST gage is not how a puppy performs on one given day, it is better to select based on observation of the puppy over weeks instead.  The person who can best do this is the breeder, IF he/she is experienced and knowledgeable in all aspects of raising and training German Shepherds in all these areas.  If you are looking for a companion dog, then temperament and willingness to please become the most important factors in your decision.

When you decide to get a puppy, please remember this is a living, feeling creature.  They need constant care, love, attention, TRAINING, and supervision.   You are taking on a new member to your family.  You need to be prepared to keep this dog for it's entire life.  This means when you must move to another area, you don't get rid of the find a place to live where you CAN have your dog.   If you decide to have a child, you don't get rid of the dog or banish it to living in the back yard.  This dog is to become a part of your family.  Your future decisions must consider the fact that you have this dog in your family, just as your decisions should consider your spouse and children as well. 

Puppies grow up into big dogs. They go through the 'puppy monster' stage (like a child in the Terrible Two's).   Puppies DO NOT 'outgrow' bad behaviors.  They must be TAUGHT what are acceptable and NON acceptable behaviors, just as children must also be taught how to behave.  Having a wonderful dog as part of your family can enrich your life, but give serious thought BEFORE you buy to be sure you have the time, space and COMMITMENT to take care of this dog until it dies of old age.

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Show Quality vs. Pet Quality

by Jackie Athon - no reprint without permission

Many people shopping for a home companion mention they want "just a pet".  Often times what they really mean is that they want a cheap dog.  Whether you intend to show or not, why not own a really GOOD dog for the next 12 years!  The dog you buy is an it worth about $50.00 per year to have a "BMW" quality dog rather than a "VW" quality of dog?  If you average out the difference in cost over the dog's lifetime, that is all it works out to be!

Good breeders pay close attention to temperament, health, good hips and over all quality when selecting breeding pairs.  If a breeder aims to produce 'just pet'   dogs, be assured the puppies will be mediocre at best. Even premium quality dogs will produce a few puppies that are not "show" quality, but they will be far above mediocre!

My average investment in each breeding female is $6,000-$12,000, and most of my females are bred only 3-4 times as I do not breed the life out of my girls. Most of my stud dogs cost me $10,000-$20,000. Good, well bred dogs are not cheap! If you do not want to spend the money for a well bred dog, go to a rescue. If the dog develops health or temperament problems you can not be surprised as you went for the 'pig in a poke' rather than saving your money until you can afford a well bred dog. Even most rescue dogs will cost you about $500. Who knows, you could get lucky with a rescue dog...

There are a few dog buyers that do become interested, and want to change their whole lifestyle to become active in the Dog Show/Competition arena. There are many wonderful people involved with competition with their dogs; but there are also those that change dogs like others change shoes….get rid of one because they like the looks or performance of another dog better. I feel sorry for the dogs!

Some breeders believe that a show quality dog is "wasted" when they go into loving pet homes. I also believed this years ago when I started breeding German Shepherds (1976), but I was naive. Now I disagree completely!!!!  Why shouldn't you be able to have the pride of ownership of a gorgeous, quality dog? It costs as much (or more!) to keep a mediocre dog as a good one...go for the best you can find!

The "Rescue" Trend

Why Americans are "obsessed" with rescuing dogs.
By Jon Katz
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2003

I was walking in a nearby park recently when an enormous mutt—a Lab/shepherd mix, from the looks of it—came bounding down the wooded path, plowed into my belly, and knocked me down, touching off a spirited tiff with my two border collies.

As I clambered to my feet, a middle-aged man came chugging up, agitated and out-of-breath. He began belatedly scolding the genial and oblivious dog, whose name was Bear, explaining that Bear was a rescued dog, "probably abused." So the guy—who introduced himself as Stan—didn't want to train him to come, sit, or stop ricocheting into people, not yet; Bear had been through so much heartache already. He did lecture Bear—"no," "bad dog," "why don't you listen to me?"—long after the fact and well beyond the point of usefulness.

Finding Bear was no cinch, it turned out. Stan told me he had combed animal shelters for months but found that in the Northeast, at least, the number of abandoned and adoptable dogs has fallen in recent years; new leash laws had resulted in fewer lost and straying dogs, and a sharp rise in neutering and spaying meant fewer dogs running around period. Stan didn't want to simply buy some fancy purebred pet, he explained, not when there were so many creatures in need. He preferred to save one from misery, possibly even death.

So Stan went online and located Bear not in New Jersey, where we lived, but in a "foster home" in Alabama, via a rescue site listed on Petfinder .com. The demand for "rescued" dogs can be so great that groups often have to scour faraway rural areas these days to find abused dogs for people to adopt.

Bear was transported north, by volunteer "transporters" located via mailing lists on the Net, and delivered to a local New Jersey "fosterer" for evaluation. "Screeners" check possible homes and new owners. Stan and his home and family were thoroughly evaluated before he was permitted to bring Bear home. "Believe me," he said with some pride, "it was easier for me to buy a house than to get this dog." The screeners returned more than once and let him know they would be back periodically. He signed a document promising to care for the dog and to never let the dog walk off-leash.

Now he was crazy about the dog, he confessed. It seemed to me that at least part of that feeling stemmed from his pride in having spared the animal a grim fate. How did he know that Bear had been abused? I asked. "You can just tell," Stan assured me. "It's obvious. If you come near him with a leash or collar or stick, he looks terrified."

I'd heard such stories countless times. It needs to be said that there are innumerable and well documented stories of horrific abuse inflicted on dogs. At a Brooklyn shelter I visited a few months ago, I saw dogs that had been burned almost to death, abandoned, starved, poisoned, nearly drowned, beaten, and horribly mauled after being used as training fodder for fighting dogs. Rescue volunteers go to extraordinary lengths to save and care for these dogs.

But many professional trainers and dog lovers have become wary. They often roll their eyes when people explain that their dogs have been abused, seeing that as an excuse for obnoxious or aggressive behavior and as a way to avoid the effort of training. Many also sense a need for some dog owners to see their pets as suffering victims, rather than animals.

Pet behaviorists will tell you that it's usually impossible to know what dogs have actually been through, since they can't tell us. Dogs who are simply adjusting to new homes or poor training frequently show the same behaviors as ill-treated dogs: cowering, trembling, eliminating, shying away from the unfamiliar.

But dogs, like so many other things, are a mirror of the society we—and they—live in. And a growing number of Americans not only need to rescue a creature, but to perceive those creatures as having been mistreated. Somehow, our dogs have joined us in our culture of victimization. Since we can only guess what has happened to them, they are blank canvases on which we can paint anything we wish. Add to this the fact that millions of dogs are indeed abandoned or maltreated and do need homes, and it becomes clearer why animal rescue is a booming social phenomenon.

The dog rescue movement is relatively new. A generation ago, a person in need of a pet went to a breeder or to a local dog pound. There, he or she "adopted" rather than "rescued" a dog. There was and is no numerical shortage of abandoned dogs: The Humane Society of the United States estimates that between 8 million and 10 million enter the U.S. animal shelter system each year, with about 5 million unable to find homes and euthanized. It's worth noting that nobody really has any idea how many of these are actually abused. But this hardly matters. Rescue workers have become the special forces of the dog world: dedicated, fearless, driven, intensely organized, wily, and resourceful.

The Internet has propelled and shaped this movement. Type "dog rescue" into Google, and more than 700,000 references pop up. Rescue groups have formed for almost every breed in almost every city and state, some with scores of members, fund-raising campaigns, sometimes their own vans, plus badges, caps, T-shirts, and bumper stickers. Through this national network of sites and lists, dogs can be rescued, re-rescued ("re-homed" is the preferred term), and transported all over America.

Thanks to sites like the online clearinghouse Petfinder, any dog in need of a home can be eyeballed by anybody in the country with a computer. Last week, Petfinder had nearly 100,000 "adoptable pets" on its Web site, with sophisticated software that permits potential adopters to search databases for the pet: What breed? What age? What color? Housebroken? Deaf, blind, or injured?

Rescue fantasies are familiar to therapists, who see them particularly in people who were themselves mistreated or ached for escape from loneliness and alienation. Some rescue workers have encountered people they call "hoarders" or "compulsives"—that is, rescuers with a dozen or more dogs. Hoarders are especially drawn to hopeless cases, dogs that are severely injured or especially aggressive. They are often confident that they can "flip" the dog around. And sometimes, they simply can't say no.

Rescues can also provide an outlet for thwarted political inclinations. Social problems seem overwhelming, government remote. People can't easily stop a war or even get a stop sign installed on their blocks. But as a neighbor of mine explained, "I can't seem to do much for people these days, so the least I can do is rescue a dog." In sophisticated cities and their suburbs—New York, Washington, San Francisco—where everything makes a political statement and children are always being taught "values," it means something to have rescued a dog as opposed to having simply bought one.

Something buried in the psyches of certain dog-owners needs to alter animals' fates and leads them to see those animals as having suffered. Owners of rescued dogs I have talked to tend to have holes of one sort or another in their lives: "Saving" an "abused" dog can sometimes fill that hole. It makes the owner a hero: a literal savior. It makes the owner necessary: This poor abused creature can't possibly live without the person who saved it from misery and death. And it gives the owner a willing, and ever grateful, target of endless love.

But while the lavish and forgiving affection showered on rescued dogs may be psychologically satisfying for the pet owner, it isn't always good for the animal. Seeing a dog as a victim in need of rescue, too traumatized to be confined or to learn simple commands and behaviors, actually impedes proper care. It undermines a dog's ability to be well-socialized, to live happily in a home, and to coexist with humans in general. Dogs like to be trained. It calms them, gives them a sense of order. When we respond to them in terms of our own needs, rather than theirs, we do them no favors.


Note by Jackie Athon:

If you want to rescue a dog, that is fine, but be clear about why your are preferring a rescue. Those of us who are reputable breeders spend years studying pedigrees and working hard to produce a puppy that will have excellent health, temperament and beauty. We are here for you for the life of your dog to answer any questions, or provide advice for you. You will be able to know about the background of your puppy or adult from us. If you wish to look both at rescues and at breeders, that is great. Please do not penalize the breeder that is trying to do a good job for the breed, and for you (the buyer) by refusing to consider a well bred pet from a breeder.

Perfect Health

by Jackie Athon - no reprint with out permission

We all want a dog with perfect health. One that brings joy to our lives, and little, if any worry. Buyers of purebred puppies expect the Breeder to produce only dogs which develop no significant health issues, and Breeders WANT to produce only dogs with optimum health. So why do some puppies and dogs still develop health problems?

 Admittedly, not every Breeder of purebred dogs strives to produce healthy puppies.  Breeders are human beings, and not every one has the highest good in mind, but this is true of people in every walk of life. For the most part, Breeders of purebred dogs are doing all they can to produce wonderful, healthy puppies.  

We hear the phrase “they are in it for the money” applied to Breeders, as if making money was an evil thing. What ever you do for a living, would you be willing and able to afford to do it without being paid? Are you evil for expecting to make money for your labors? How many times is a pet put to sleep because the owner cannot afford expensive medical treatments for the dog? Should we condemn the Veterinarian because he makes money from people with sick or injured pets? No, we should not, and the Breeder is not evil either for selling puppies, as long as they are making reasonable efforts to produce healthy puppies; and they are selective about whom they will sell their puppies to.  

In every breed, there are some health problems that Breeders are trying to eliminate. Does this mean you should skip owning a purebred dog, and that mixed-breeds are healthier? No. Mixed-breeds can have the same problems as purebred dogs. The difference is the purebred dog Breeder is aware of the problems, and is trying to reduce them. The mixed-breed dog is in existence because the parent dogs were owned by irresponsible pet owners that let their dog reproduce with no thought, planning or pre-breeding health exams.  

People that get mixed-breed puppies have low, or no expectations as to a health guarantee or responsibility of the breeder. Because of this, we don’t hear complaints from owners of mixed-breed dogs blaming their dog’s “breeder” for the dog’s health problems. Why shouldn’t mixed-breed “breeders” be held just as responsible as the Purebred dog Breeder? The mixed-breed pet owner either pays the Veterinary cost to improve their dog’s health, or they put the dog to sleep, without ever thinking of trying to find the “breeder” to complain or ask for monetary compensation for the dog’s Veterinary bills.   The established breeder is easy to find again, and is usually targeted as if they have intentionally caused the dog’s problem.

Is this fair? The Breeder of purebred dogs does charge more for their puppies than does the ‘breeder’ of mixed-breed dogs. However, in the long run, the main cost of having an animal is the cost to upkeep and care for the life of the dog, not the purchase price. The Breeder of purebred dogs puts many hundreds, and often many thousands of dollars into their breeding stock. They spend hundreds of dollars on the pre-breeding health exams, and hundreds of dollars giving the puppies the best possible care. They provide help and information for the life of the dog to assist the new owner and puppy. In spite of their efforts to produce excellent puppies, the purebred dog Breeder is blamed and viewed as evil if a puppy does develop a health problem.  

So what about ‘genetic’ problems that occur in a purebred puppy/dog? Actually, everything is ‘genetic’ to some degree, in that when a problem occurs, there is something wrong in the DNA genetic material of that cell. This can be due to a gene defect that is present in one or both of the parents, or it can be due to outside influences that cause the defect in the DNA.  

We all hear warnings about the risks of smoking, the risks to an unborn (human) baby if the mother is drinking or taking drugs, and of health problems due to toxins in our food and environment. Outside influences can cause changes in the genetic DNA, thus cause diseases, yet they are not ‘genetic’ in the sense in that it was not a defect that was present in the genes of the parents. Outside influences can also play a big part in the development of a disease in your puppy.  

Studies in human children have shown that many kids with allergies or asthma may not have developed these problems if they have, or have not been exposed to certain things as a child. The same holds true for our ‘dog-children’ as well. 

Human children that do too much strenuous exercise on a regular basis can permanently damage their joints. The same holds true for our dog-kids. There are a number of health issues that can be caused, or at least made much worse by things that happen to the dog (intentionally or unintentionally) once the puppy leaves the breeder’s care, yet it is common to blame the Breeder for these ailments. Strange how the ‘breeder’ of mixed-breed dogs is never considered to be responsible for the ailments their puppies develop!

 What about problems that are truly carried by the genes of the parents and passed on to the puppies? It is easy to cast blame on the Breeder for these, but what is the real story? Do you really think Breeders intentionally breed defective dogs? No, in fact they go to great lengths to breed from the best stock possible. So why then do genetically transmitted problems still occur?  

Here is the shocker no one wants to tell you about…there is no such thing as a dog totally free of carrying hidden genetic defects (or human, for that matter). Given enough different breeding partners, and enough offspring, every dog has the potential to produce a genetically based defect, whether purebred or mutt. So, do we stop all breeding of dogs because there will be some puppies here and there that will develop a problem?  

Most genetic defects are recessive in nature. Most of them are also poly genetic as well. That is, it takes several different genes to mesh in a certain way for the defect to occur in the offspring. Therefore, neither parent exhibits the problem, but their offspring can develop the problem. Recessives can remain hidden for many generations, and then pop up again, seemingly out of nowhere. This same is true for all animals and humans.  

Let’s say, for example, your great-great-great grandfather had a health problem that can be passed on genetically. We humans don’t know what our ancestor’s health was like back in, say about 1876, so when these defects pop up in our human offspring we are naturally astounded, surprised and very dismayed.  

Do you go back to your parents and grand parents and tell them they are terrible people, and they are responsible for your health problem, therefore they should compensate you financially? Should your children sue you when they become adults because you passed on a ’bad gene’ to them? This may sound absurd, but puppy buyers often sue Breeders because the Breeder does not have the ability to totally control and foretell every potential problem that may have laid hidden for generations, but then develops in your puppy. (only God can totally control that!)  

Puppy buyers are quite naturally devastated and angry if their dog-child develops a problem. Breeders DO want to know if a problem occurs. The puppy buyer will announce to the Breeder their dog has a GENETIC problem, and they fully expect you to never breed the parents again.  

Here’s another bit of news that will shock most puppy buyers…It is totally unrealistic to never breed those adults again, since EVERY dog will occasionally have a recessive gene pop up and produce a problem. As the saying goes, “you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. What really matters is HOW OFTEN have those adults produced that problem. If a problem occurs, most times the breeder will not breed those 2 dogs together again, but those dogs may be bred to different dogs that hopefully do not carry the same recessive gene. 

It’s a bit like a game of hide-n-seek as the breeder is trying to control defects that the adults DO NOT EXHIBIT THEMSELVES.  This is why Breeders study pedigrees as far back as great-great-great grand parents. They are trying to reduce the chances your puppy will ever develop a health problem, and most of the time they are successful in doing exactly that.

Grunenfeld does provide a health guarantee for any major congenital or hereditary problem that may occur in a puppy up to 12 months of age, and because of our careful breeding program it is seldom needed. So, is it a case of ‘sour grapes’ on my part that I write this? Perhaps a bit, but mostly I want people to understand the difficulties that most Breeders of purebred dogs encounter, and most are giving their best effort to produce that puppy for you that enjoys “Perfect Health”, but sometimes...... S**T happens.

German Shepherd Breed Standard From Germany

This is the Internationally recognized F.C.I. approved Breed Standard for the German Shepherd
It is available courtesy of The United Schutzhund Clubs of America
The United Schutzhund Clubs of America Inc. is a German Shepherd Dog Breed Organization guided by the rules of the organization of origin of the German Shepherd Dog, the "Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV)" in Germany and is strongly devoted to create and promote the German Shepherd Dog in its original breeding as a working dog. The United Schutzhund Clubs of America Inc. is a member of the "World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs" and excepts the by-laws of this organization in regards to the breeding rules of German Shepherd Dogs.
The following translation of the German Shepherd Dog F.C.I. Standard, MO. 166/23.03.1991/D translated from the SV publication 1998 has been submitted by Johannes Grewe and is recommended by the 1998 Breed Advisory Committee for approval by the Executive Board at their meeting in 1998.
The "Standard" is part of the USA By-laws.
The following "Standard" has been approved by the Executive Board at the meeting in
Bangor, Maine, on May 6, 1998.
F.C.I.-Standard-Mo. 166/23.03.1991/D
Edition 1993
Short Historical Overview
In accordance with the official provisions of the German Shepherd Dog Club (SV) e.V., located in Augsburg, a member of the Federation of Dog Clubs in Germany (VDH) is the founding organization of the German Shepherd Dog and therefore, responsible for the breed standard. Work on this document was begun at the first membership meeting in Frankfurt/M on September 20, 1899 and is based on proposals by A. Meyer and v. Stephanitz. Additions and revisions to the standard were made as follows: membership meeting on July 28, 1901; 23rd membership meeting on September 17, 1909 in Koln; Board and Executive Committee Meeting on September 5, 1930 in Wiesbaden, and the Breeders Committee and Board Meeting on March 25, 1961 in conjunction with the WUSV (World Union of German Shepherd Clubs) and during the WUSV Meeting on August 30, 1976 where the standard was agreed upon, revised, and approved by the Board and Executive Committee on March 23 and 24, 1991.
Planned breeding activities began after the inception of the SV in 1899. The German Shepherd Dog was developed from herding dogs in service during that time in Middle and Southern Germany. The goal was to produce a high-performance working dog. To accomplish this goal, the Breed Standard of the German Shepherd Dog was created. This document addresses both physical qualities as well as character attributes.
General Appearance
The German Shepherd Dog is medium sized, slightly longer than tall, strong and well muscled, bone is dry, the whole dog presenting a picture of firmness.
Important Measurements
Height at the withers for males: 60 - 65 cm, bitches: 55 - 60 cm. Length of torso exceeds height at the withers by 10 - 17%.
The German Shepherd should appear poised, calm, self confident, absolutely at ease, and (except when agitated) good natured, but also attentive and willing to serve. He must have courage, fighting drive, and hardness in order to serve as companion, watchdog, protection dog, service dog, and herding dog.
The head is wedge-shaped and in harmony with the dog’s size (length app. 40% of height at the withers) without being coarse or overly long. The head should appear dry, and moderately wide between the ears. Seen from the front and side, the forehead is only slightly domed, the center furrow is either absent or only slightly visible. The length ratio of skull to face is 50 : 50%. Skull width approximately equals skull length. Seen from above, the skull slopes into a wedge-shaped muzzle. The stop should not be pronounced. Upper and lower jaws are strong, the bridge of the nose should be straight, not a Roman nose or dish-faced nose. Lips are taut, well closed and of dark color.
The Nose
The nose flesh should be black.
The teeth must be strong and complete in number (42 teeth as per formula). The German Shepherd has a scissor bite, where the upper incisors must meet the lower incisors in a scissor grip. Level bite, overshot and undershot teeth are faulty, as well as widely-spaced teeth. A straight incisor tooth line is also faulty. Jawbones must be well developed, to permit deep rooting of the teeth in the gum.
The Eyes
The eyes are medium sized, almond-shaped, set slightly oblique and not protruding. The color should be as dark as possible.
The German Shepherd has medium-sized, upright ears which are carried erect and perpendicular to one another, pointed and open to the front. Tipped ears and hanging ears are faulty. Laid-back ears are not faulty when the dog is in motion or resting.
The neck is strong, well-muscled, and clean cut (without folds of loose skin). The angle of neck to torso is approximately 45 degrees.
The topline extends from the point where the neck meets the skull past the well developed withers and the gently downward sloping back to the slightly sloping croup without a visible break. The back is firm, strong, and well muscled. The loin is broad, well developed, and strongly muscled. The croup should be long and have a slight downward slope (approximately 23 degrees from horizontal) and should merge smoothly into the tail set.
The chest should be of moderate width, the underchest long and pronounced. Chest depth should be approximately 45 to 48% of height at the withers. The ribs should be moderately sprung. Barrel shaped or flat ribs are faulty.
The tail reaches at least to the hock joint, but not past the halfway point of the hock itself. The coat is slightly longer on the underside of the tail. The tail hangs in a soft, saber-like curve. When the dog is excited or in motion, the tail is somewhat raised, but should not reach past the horizontal line. Surgical corrections are not permitted.
Seen from all sides, the forelegs are straight and absolutely parallel when viewed from the front.
Shoulder and upper arms are of equal length. Both are held snugly to the body by strong muscles. Angulation of shoulder blade to the upper arm ideally is 90 degrees, but up to 110 degrees is permissible.
Elbows may not turn out when the dog is standing or in motion or be pinched inward. The lower legs viewed from all sides are straight and absolutely parallel, dry, and well muscled. The pastern measures about 1/3 of the forearm length and is angled 20-22 degrees to the foreleg. Pasterns with an angle of more than 22 degrees or very steep pasterns (less than 20 degrees) reduce working capability especially, endurance.
The paws are rounded, tight, and arched. The soles are hard, but not brittle. The nails are strong and dark.
Hind Legs
The rear legs have a pronounced rounded knee or turn of stifle which projects the dog's rear quarter well behind the point of the pelvis. Seen from the rear, the hind legs are parallel to one another. Upper and lower thighs are of approximately the same length and form an angle of 120 degrees. Thighs are strong and well muscled.
The hock joint is strong and dry and the hock stands upright under the joint.
The paws are tight, slightly arched, the balls of the feet are hard and dark, nails strong, arched, and dark.
The German Shepherd is a trotting dog. Length and angulation of front and rear legs must be in proper proportion to one another to permit the dog to move the rear leg underneath the body, matching the reach of the rear legs with that of the front legs and at the same time, keeping the topline over the back relatively undisturbed. Any tendency for overangulation of the rear reduces firmness and endurance of the dog and therefore, working capability. Correct body proportions and angulation result in a ground-covering gait which moves close to the ground and conveys the impression of effortless movement. With the head held slightly forward and the tail slightly lifted, the dog trotting evenly and smoothly, we see a softly moving topline which flows without interruption from neck to tail tip.
The skin covers the body loosely, but without folds.
Coat Characteristics
The correct coat for the German Shepherd is a stock coat (outer and under coat). The top coat should be as tight as possible, straight, coarse, and clinging closely to the undercoat. The head, including the inside of the ears, the front of the legs, the paws, and toes have short hair. Neck hair is longer and thicker. On the rear side of the legs, hair length increases downward to the pastern and hock. The rear of the thighs is covered show moderate "pants".
Black with reddish brown, brown, tan to light-grey markings. Solid black, grey with darker overcast, black saddle and mask. Inconspicuous small white chest markings, as well as lighter pigment on the inside of the legs is permitted, but not desirable. All dogs, no matter what their color, must have black noses.
Missing mask, light to white markings on the chest and inner leg sides, light toenails, and a red tail tip are signs of faulty pigmentation. Undercoat has a slight grey cast. White is not permissible.
Males: Height at the wither 60 cm to 65 cm
Weight 30 kg to 40 kg. (25 to 27 Inches in height, aprox. weight 70 to 90 lbs)
Females: Height at the wither 55 cm to 60 cm
Weight 22 kg - 32 kg (23 to 25 inches, aprox. weight 50 to 70 lbs)
Visual inspection must show two normally developed testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Any deviations from the above listed points are considered faults. Points deducted must be in accordance with severity of the deviation.
Severe Faults:
Deviations from the breed characteristics described above which compromise the working ability of the animal.
Ear Faults: ears set too low, tipped ears, overset ears, and soft ears.
Considerable lack of pigment.
Firmness strongly compromised.
Faults of Dentition:

All deviations from a scissor bite and number of teeth, unless they are disqualifying faults.
Disqualifying Faults
a) Character weakness, nervous biters, and dogs with a weak nervous system;
b) Dogs with documented "severe hip dysplasia";
c) Monorchids and cryptorchids as well as dogs with testicles of visibly uneven size or shrunken testicles;
d) dogs with disfiguring ears and/or tails;
e) malformed dogs;
f) tooth faults as follows:
1. missing 1 #3 premolar and any other additional missing  tooth;
2. missing 1 canine tooth or
3. missing 1 #4 premolar, or
4. missing 1 molar #1 or #2 or
5. missing a total number of 3 teeth and/or more;
g) dogs with bite faults: overbite of 2 mm or more, or undershot; level bite;
h) Dogs that measure more than 1 cm over or under regulation size;
i) Albinism;
j) White coat (incl. those with dark eyes and nails);
k) Long stock coat (long, soft loosely fitting outer coat with undercoat, flags on ears and legs, bushy pants and bushy tail with flag on underside);
l) Long coat (long, soft outer coat without undercoat). This coat type frequently is parted along the center line of the back, has flags on ears, legs, and tail.