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COMMENTARY
Thanks, Max
By Julia Priest

"...obedient to the slightest nod when at his master’s side; but when left to himself, the maddest rascal, the wildest ruffian and an incorrigible provoker of strife. Never idle. Always on the go; well disposed to harmless people, but no cringer, mad on children and always -in love. What could have become of such a dog if we had only at that time the military or police service training?"

What, indeed. Captain Max von Stephanitz here describes the character of the first officially registered German Shepherd Dog, Horand von Grafrath, SZ1. This is the dog he hoped would spawn a race of serviceable, obedient, and delightful animals rummaged from the various disparate types and styles of generic “shepherd dogs’ used throughout Europe and especially in the various provinces of north and south Germany.

Von Stephanitz had a vision of creating a foundation of such quality that the traits of this first sire would be infused in the stock to come, and that the utility, intelligence, courage, and faithfulness of these animals would continue to breed true for the future. For generations they had worked in the fields tending and moving, guarding and controlling sheep and other stock for their human masters. When industry commenced to limit the need for so many sheep and so many dogs, new jobs were discovered for the capable canines and the schutzhund test was devised to measure their worth.

Assisting the police in finding and capturing criminals developed alongside military work locating injured soldiers and scouting and patrolling territory. To this day, the German Shepherd Dog is the most popular and widely used Police Service Dog in the world. Now our breed is used and excels worldwide in these areas as well:

  • Search and rescue amid avalanche and disaster, wilderness and rubble,
  • Detection of narcotics, contraband, evidence, and explosives
  • Competitive obedience, Agility, and Schutzhund sport
  • Livestock work in action and in competition
  • Therapy, Guide, and Assistance work
  • Formal protection and guard work
  • And most of all as family guardians and companions

As we celebrate our first hundred years and look forward to the promise of history to be made in the twenty-first century, we can be proud of what has been created and what the breed has become. The German Shepherd Dog is nothing short of the most serviceable dog developed by man, and we owe it all to the vision and persistence of a German Cavalry officer born in the nineteenth century, who was reported to have pleaded on his deathbed:

"Take this trouble for me: Make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog, for I have struggled all my life long for that aim."

This 1999 USA National Schutzhund and Police Championship celebrates that goal, and showcases some of the very best specimens, bred, trained, and honed for the work they were born by design to do. To you the competitors, exhibitors, and fans of the German Shepherd Dog who have come here from all over the country and the world let us say, “Welcome”, and to Captain Max von Stephanitz, let us all give heartfelt gratitude. Vielen danke, Herr Rittmeister. Thanks, Max.

Copyright 1999 Julia G. Priest; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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