The German Shepherd’s beginning is quite fascinating. Shepherds that tended their flocks on the European continent in the 1850s needed a bigger, more intelligent, stronger, and completely loyal dog to protect their flock and family. These dogs needed speed, keen senses, strength, and sheer courage in the face of dangerous killers.
In the 1890s, Captain Max von Stephanitz started a breeding program to perfect these herding dogs. At a dog show in 1899, he found a dog that completely fulfilled his dreams for the German Shepherd - Hector Linksrhein. Hector was so impressive that Captain Max bought him on the spot! Renamed - Horand von Grafrath, Captain Max founded the “Society for the German Shepherd Dog,” and Horand was declared to be the 1st true German Shepherd.
During WW1, over 20,000 dogs were in service. It is estimated that 50% of these were German Shepherds on both sides of the conflict working for the Red Cross and the troops. These dogs sniffed out the enemy, found wounded soldiers, delivered first aid and messages, and protected both their handlers and the men in their troops. The German Shepherd excelled in helping wounded soldiers off the field of battle. After the war, this ability led to the formation of the first Seeing Eye dogs.
At the beginning of WW2, The US Army QuarterMaster established training programs for 32 breeds of dog. By 1944 this list had been reduced to seven, and ultimately the German Shepherd dog became the only dog in the K-9 corps. The German Shepherds now had official roles, and they were trained as Sentry Dogs, Scout or Patrol Dogs, Messenger Dogs, or Mine Detection Dogs.
Only three dogs have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Two of them are German Shepherds - Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin. While Strongheart was the World’s 1st Movie Star Dog, bringing his audiences to tears as he performed on screen, Rin Tin Tin was rescued from a World War battlefield and became the star attraction of a Saturday morning kid’s show, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.” From 1954 to 1964, 166 episodes were produced, and Rin Tin Tin’s fame spread around the world, making him the most famous German Shepherd of all time.
Today German Shepherds are seen as family dogs as much as they are seen as working dogs. Standing as high as 26 inches at the shoulder, the German Shepherd Dogs showcase smooth, graceful curves rather than angles. They are considered the frontrunners in canine royalty. They are often distinguished by their character, loyalty, courage, confidence, obedience, and the willingness to protect their loved ones with their lives.