The German Shepherd Dog Breed in 1927 America

Discover how the German Shepherd Dog was viewed when the breed was 60 years old compared to how this beloved breed is viewed today.

By Dog World Eds. | Posted: Dec 23, 2012, 8 a.m. EST

From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the longest published dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

The case of the shepherd dog or police dog in America is one of confusion. The breed is known as German Shepherd Dog in Germany, Shepherd Dog in the United States, Alsatian in Canada and Alsatian Wolfdog in England and France.

At this time in England, there is a discussion in the public press regarding the alleged wolf blood of the breed. This breed now leads in the number of registrations of pedigreed dogs in England; it has done so for almost two years in the United States.

[May I say, at this time, that the subject of dogs is like that of women and that of religion – everybody has his own opinion, everybody’s opinion is correct in his own estimation, and everybody else’s option is entirely wrong.] – not necessary.      

The shepherd or police dog as he is today was developed as early as 1870 in Germany through selective breeding from herding dogs. The breeding is a matter of public record from that date to the present. Not an instance of inbreeding with wolves is noted in these public records and, of course, would not appear there as only the offspring of pure blooded dogs could be registered.

The charge of wolf blood in the breed has been influenced by two accidental facts. The first of these is that the popular color of the police dog or shepherd dog for many years was the wolf gray. Within the last few years the fashion has changed to black and tan, or all black. The official standard of the breed permits almost any color. As I stated, it happens that the wolf color has been popular. All of us will agree that color does not affect the disposition or bloodlines of the dog.
The second accidental condition is that the shepherd dog has been popularized in the movies. In plots used by the movies, the breed often has been represented as living with the wolves and as inbreeding with wolves. This is mainly a matter of plot making, in order to present an interesting tale. The general public has gotten most of its ideas about shepherd dogs from the movies.

I am sure that all of us like the movies, but that none of us would care to accept them as final authority on everything shown in their films.
In all of the records of shepherd dog breeding for 57 years, there is not the least trace of crossing with wolves or of wolves’ blood. A female dog bred to a wolf will have offspring but its offspring in turn is hybrid or muleish -- that is, in turn cannot produce offspring.
Further, the eye of the wolf is oblique or slanting; this never occurs in any breed of dog. Surely if there is wolf blood in the shepherd, out of the thousands of shepherd dogs, at least a few should have this characteristic of their ancestors. Not one of them ever had the slanting eye of the wolf.

The wolf never barks; it howls. Surely this characteristic also should be seen in at least a few of the shepherds if the shepherd has wolf blood.
The shepherd or police dog for generations was used in Germany, the country of its origin, chiefly as an outdoor and herding dog. Being brought into the States and apartment houses, as he has been in America, he may not have adjusted himself entirely to this new and cramped mode of living. He quickly is adjusting himself.

In America today, in selective breeding, the closest attention is being paid to mating the temperament or good disposition. Attacks by dogs upon children and other human beings are liable to be misrepresented or exaggerated. In not a few cases the children tease or incite the dog.

Some people also have a seemingly inborn fear of dogs. The dog is to be judged as a dog and not held to any higher standards.

The shepherd or police dog is being bred, as I stated, with emphasis upon disposition. It is likely that after a few years, when the breed has ceased to be a novelty, much of the present misunderstanding regarding the breed will disappear. The police dog, just like a dog of any of the other breeds, is a gentle, loyal, safe companion for children and adults, if he has had the opportunity to have human companionship and training.


Excerpted from Dog World magazine, April 1927. For back issues of Dog World, click here.


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