According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the breeds journey began at the beginning of the 20th century in Frankfurt, Germany. A German calvery officer, Captian Max Von Stephanitz, was looking to develop what he said would be the ultimate service dog for hearding sheep. Captian Stephanitz began by mixing various strains of German herding dogs keeping his focus on intelligense and utility. And thus the first-ever German Shepherd was born. His name was Horand Von Grathath, the dark coated tracker was born in 1899.
Soon people recognized the breed's astonishingly good qualities, shortly leading to it's recognition by the AKC in 1907.
Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a delegate from the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, put it this way: "He (Von Stephanitz) loved the breed, and so he got one dog, a German dog, who would be the dog of the country. He wanted to make this the ultimate farm dog, the ultimate hearding dog, the ultimate working dog; a dog for the people."
Over the years, the dog's exceptional physical abilities were further honed. The German Shepherd eventually became one of the smartest and most trainable breeds around. Aside from their traditional job as sheep hearders, German Shepherds were used by law enfocement because of their industrious character. In fact they were the dogs which formed the first-ever K-9 units in German police departments.
During World War 1, the breed would also serve in the German army on the battlefield as messengers, sentries and ammunition carriers. They were even noted to have helped wounded soldiers get to safety.
By the end of the war, both sides ended up impressed by the breed. The British and the Americans began to create their own squads of German Shepherds.
Initially the breed wasn't welcome in the United States. Understandably, opinions on German Shepherds were tied to ill feelings that were caused by the war with Germany. For a period of time, German Shepherds were called "Alsations" to make them more acceptable. Alsation comes from the "Alsace" region of France.
The German Shepherd that Changed Everything
"Rin Tin Tin"
Rin Tin Tin was a famous German Shepherd responsible for the breeds rise in popularity. He was rescued by an American Gi, Lee Duncen, from a damaged kennel in France near the end of the war. Duncan named the dog after a good luck charm that French children often gave to American soldiers.
He brought Rinty, as Duncan nicknamed the dog, back to America where the soldier trained him to work in film. The talented dog eventually got work on silent film sets. Before long he became a succesful movie star with 27 films under his belt.
His fame in the movies helped German Shepherds gain popularity in the United States as well as the rest of the world.
The effects of Rin Tin Tin's trailblazing success can still be seen today. German Shepherds are the second most popular dog breed today right behind Labrador Retrievers.