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The Breed Standard
from Fred Lanting's German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard on SiriusDog.com

Short historic overview: Since the official establishment in Augsburg, within the German Canine Association known as the VDH (German "Kennel Club"), the parent club of the breed, the Club for German Shepherd Dogs (SV), is responsible for the breed Standard of the German Shepherd Dog. The Standard was set up in the first membership meeting in Frankfurt on 20 September 1899, upon the suggestions of A. Meyer and M. von Stephanitz, and then revised at the 6th membership gathering on 28 July 1901, the 23rd meeting in Köln on 17 September 1909, the conference of the executive committee and board in Wiesbaden on 5 September 1930, and the breed committee and board of directors meeting on 25 March 1961. As part of that one, the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs (WUSV), was involved with the work. At the WUSV conference on 30 August 1976 they agreed on another revision, and on 23/24 March 1991 assumed full powers by way of resolution of the executive and advisory committees. [The current version was adopted in 1997.]
The German Shepherd Dog, whose systematic breeding was begun in the year 1899 with the founding of the Club, is from the former Central and Southern German stock then available. They were bred and descended from guardian dogs with the objective of creating a working dog predisposed to high performance. To reach this goal, the breed Standard of the German Shepherd Dog was determined, with reference both to the bodily construction as well as to the essential nature and character traits.

General Appearance: The German Shepherd Dog is a medium-size, slightly stretched, strong, and well muscled, with the "bone" dry and firm in the over-all construction. Important measurements and proportions The withers height for males is 60 to 65cm; that of bitches is 55 to 60cm.* The length of torso exceeds the measure of the withers height by about 10 - 17 %.

Nature: The German Shepherd Dog must be, in its essential image, well-balanced, firm in nerves, self-confident, absolutely calm and impartial, and (except in tempting situations) amiable. He must possess courage, willingness to fight (defend), and hardness, in order to be suitable as companion, watchdog, protector, service dog, and guardian.



Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog”. Schutzhund originated in Germany as a test for the German Shepherd Dog so that breeders could evaluate and pick only the highest quality dogs for their breeding programs.

The sport of Schutzhund involves three phases. They are tracking, obedience, and protection work. In the tracking phase, the dog must use its nose to follow a track and find dropped articles along the way. Tracks vary in length, shape and age depending on the level at which one is competing. The second phase is obedience. This involves numerous exercises including off-leash heeling, a gunfire test, motion exercises, recall, retrieving, jumping, and a long down. A set pattern must be memorized by the handler. The third phase of Schutzhund is protection. The dog is trained to bite a sleeve in the correct manner. The dog must be reliable and release a bite when commanded to do so. One must obtain a passing score in all three phases to obtain a title.

There are three titles; Sch H 1, Sch H II, Sch H III . There is also an advanced tracking degree offered, FH. In order to compete in this sport, a dog should be properly conditioned and trained.

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Agility is a relatively new sport. It has gained extreme popularity in the past few years due to the fun and exciting nature of the sport. In agility, a dog must maneuver its way through challenging obstacles at a fast enough pace to qualify. The handler must skillfully direct the dog where to go. Obstacles can include weave poles, teeter-totter, an A-frame, a dog-walk, tunnels, and multiple different jumps.

There are three main organizations which offer titling events, the AKC , USDAA, and NADAC. All three are slightly different in their titling requirements, and courses become more challenging as one moves on to the next class or level. There are many clubs throughout the U.S. that one can join and train for agility.

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Competitive Obedience


There are two main organizations in which you can register your dog and do competitive obedience. These are the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. Both offer titles. A dog must qualify three times in each class to gain its title. There is Novice, Open, and Utility classes. Novice exercises include heeling, stand for exam, long sits and downs, and a recall to front. Open exercises include out of sight stays, drop on recall, retrieve over high jump and broad jump. Utility exercises include hand signals, scent discrimination, directed retrieve, moving stand, and directed jumping.

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Ringsport originated about 100 years ago in France . It was introduced to North America in 1986. Ringsport is very similar to the sport of Schutzhund, but there are some main differences. There is no tracking in ringsport, just the obedience and protection. There are a lot more jumps. And finally, the dog bites on a full bite suit, not just a sleeve. Titles to be earned are Ring I, Ring II, and Ring III . Today there is an ever-growing number of clubs hosting trials.

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Police K9


The German Shepherd Dog is a popular choice for police work. There are four main disciplines in which a dog can be trained for. They are narcotics detection, patrol, cadaver, and explosives.

Narcotic dogs use their nose to find illegal narcotics. They search cars, schools, office buildings, airports, and more. A dog that is trained in narcotics work will hunt for the scent in a designated area and alert to the handler when it has found the scent.

Patrol dogs are used in criminal apprehension. These dogs will chase down and bite a perpetrator on command.

A cadaver dog will search for bodies or body parts. Some police dogs are also used for detecting explosives.




Asistance Dogs


German Shepherd Dogs can make wonderful therapy, service, or guide dogs. These three categories are each different but all fall under the category of “assistance dog”.

A therapy dog provides comfort and companionship. They increase the emotional well being, promote healing, and improve the quality of life for the people being visited. A therapy is not a service dog and does not have as many requirements nor is it required to accomplish specific tasks. A therapy dog is used in places such as nursing homes, hospitals, and schools, as well as work with the mentally and physically handicapped. The testing requirements for becoming a therapy dog include the AKC canine good citizen test as well as added requirements.

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Service dogs provide assistance to people with a disability. Some of the tasks service dogs perform are retrieving objects, pulling wheel chairs, open/close doors, bark for alert, provide balance, and many other individual tasks as needed. Individuals with service dogs are guaranteed legal access to all places of public accommodation. Service dogs must pass medical and temperament tests as well as other requirements depending on the organization certifying the dog.

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Guide dogs assist blind and visually impaired people. A good guide dog is intelligent and willing to serve. Training for a guide dog takes about 4-6 months of formal training. Training includes harness and obedience training, obstacle course, exposure to distractions, and intelligent disobedience. Dogs must pass physical requirements as well as temperament tests.

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Search and Rescue


Search and Rescue is another area of work in which German Shepherd Dogs excel at. A good candidate has astrong hunt drive as well as play drive. SAR dogs use their keen sense of smell to search for human scent. There are different areas of search and rescue to train for including wilderness air scenting, water rescue, cadaver, tracking, and urban/disaster search.

In wilderness searches, a dog mainly follows the scent in the air. The dog must be able to cover larger areas in a quick time. A dog may be trained either to stay with the subject and bark for alert, or return to the handler and lead them to the subject.

A water search requires the dogs to alert on human scent that is underwater. Typically the dog will be aboard a boat and give an alert, it is then that specially trained divers will enter the water at the point of alert and search for the victim.

Cadaver trained dogs search for bodies or body parts. These dogs will typically give a passive alert when the scent is found.

A tracking dog is trained to follow ground disturbance from a track left by the subject. These dogs usually will keep their nose to the ground and follow each footstep until it reaches the victim. The handler will keep the dog on leash and follow it.

In urban/disaster searches, a dog must find human scent amongst rubble piles and areas of disaster. Once human scent is found, the dogs will bark for alert.

The dog must be able to walk over various terrain and rubble to find the victim. These dogs must be conditioned to extreme working conditions.

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