Do you know who Max von Stephanitz is? Chances are, if you do, then you are a German Shepherd owner, or are at least very familiar with the German Shepherd Dog breed.
So who exactly was von Stephanitz? All the information that I found about Max states that he was born to a wealthy family in Germany. Ultimately, he became a member of the German calvary (where he eventually received the rank of Captain) and spent a lot of time working at a Veterinary College in Berlin in his earliest days.
It was at this time that his interest in animal biology and anatomy really grew and he also became very interested in the science of animal motion and movement. And all of the information that he learned while at the veterinary hospital was of great benefit to him later on, especially in relationship to the breeding of dogs.
But in case you don't know anything else about Max, let me fill you in a little more about him. He was born on December 30, 1864 and he died on April 22, 1936. A life long animal lover, he is also credited as being the father and the originator of the German Shepherd dog breed.
Have you ever played the game where you made a list of all the famous dead people that you would like to speak to? If I were playing that game, Max von Stephanitz would certainly be high on my list of individuals to reach.
In fact, I'd like to give him a hug. Why? Because he is THE one person who is completely responsible for my being able to own one of the most intelligent and amazing dogs in the world! And I have had the opportunity to own and be loved by quite a few of them!
Max von Stephanitz was particularly interested in the shepherd dogs of his native Germany. Not so much for their basic look, but especially for their innate intelligence and also their ability to work with little instruction. He was also really interested in the sheep herding dogs in his local area because they were such great working dogs. But he was very aware of the fact that there was no standard breed of German shepherd herding dog.
It's a well-known fact that von Stephanitz purchased property in the early 1890s near the town of Grafrath in Germany - and it is at this time that he began experimenting with breeding dogs. And it was because of the fact that there was no one standard breed of German Shepherd dog that Max decided to begin creating an "ideal dog" – one that was really intelligent, that had pricked ears like a wolf, that had a terrific sense of smell - but most of all, maintained a strong work ethnic.
Another thing von Stephanitz really enjoyed doing was attending dog shows. And it was while attending a dog show one day, that one dog in particular finally caught his eye. This dog, he felt, already inherently embodied many of the traits that he felt were so necessary in his idea of the "ultimate working" dog.
He was already familiar with this dog which had a wolf like look to it - intelligent, easily trained (he was already a trained shepherd dog), with pricked ears, a gray coat with a yellow tint to it, a powerful demeanor and all the main characteristics of von Stephanitz' ideal working dog. Needless to say, he bought this dog named Hektor Linksrhein right away and immediately renamed him Horand von Grafrath.
Max von Stephanitz also immediately went out and officially registered him making Horand the first official German Shepherd Dog in the entire world! So this is how the German Shepherd Dog breed came to be. Max bred Horand, his number one stud dog, to a wide variety of bitches creating a number of litters of offspring in the hopes of creating puppies that maintained many of the characteristics of their father.
Shortly thereafter in the spring of 1899, von Stephanitz founded the German Shepherd Dog Club, called the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde in German, also known as the SV along with his friend, Artur Meyer. Are you familiar with the SV? Well you should be because is the parent club of the German Shepherd Dog breed. Max became the first president of this dog club and continued to work toward a standardized German Shepherd dog breed for the rest of his life.
As a result of this German Shepherd club they also formed a breed standard and developed a breed register. Additionally, they (the S.V.) later created a breed survey book. The reason for this was to determine whether a dog was suitable for breeding based on their physical and mental capabilities, not just on dog show wins. And to this day, the S.V. is the largest, dog breed club in the world.
Max von Stephanitz envisioned a dog breed that could do other jobs too such as sentry work, guard duties, message delivery and rescue work and as a result the German Shepherd dog was introduced to both military and police forces all over Germany. In fact during World War One the German Shepherd dog was used quite a bit - you could say it had its "debut" during World War I. And it's working capabilities here further allowed it to be used very frequently during other wartime and police skirmishes.
In 1901 the sport of Schutzhund was born and the first Schutzhund trial (aka, competition) was held in Germany. In case you're not familiar with it, Schutzhund is a sort of dog sport where the dogs are tested in various abilities and skills such as tracking, obedience and also, the well known protection phase. And this dog sport has grown in popularity so much so that this is one of the most popular competitions there are worldwide and it is open now to other dog breeds as well. All thanks to the vision of one Max von Stephanitz.
" The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them." -- Stanley Coren
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Thank you for this web site. Very informative and well written. I
often advise my shepherd people to visit here for information. Again
Laura Page Warden
What a fabulous website!!! I really enjoyed reading about the history of the dogs. There is a ton of helpful information on here and defiantly something for every reader to enjoy!!!
Recently got a GSD again. Last time had GSD no internet etc. Cant believe how much info for free. Kenneth
I love and appreciate the helpful advice I found on your website!