Breed Information

The following items are extracts from " The German Shepherd Puppy Booklet 2001 Edition" . They have been reproduced with the kind permission of the author Dr. Karen Hedberg BVSc.

The purpose of these extracts is to provide information that will enable the prospective purchaser of a German Shepherd Dog to make an informed decision. We love our German Shepherds and for us there simply is no other breed. They are a loyal companion and a great family pet. However, being an active and intelligent breed they do require ample exercise and mental stimulation. Therefore, they are not suitable for all dog loving households.


The German Shepherd Dog has a great following world-wide and is a very versatile all round working and companion dog. The breed has the largest number of registrations, which reflects it's popularity and usefulness. As a working dog, the GSD is used by the armed services and police, for protection, herding, tracking, rescue work and as a guide dog for the blind. However, by far the largest number are owned by Shepherd enthusiasts as beloved family pets.


The German Shepherd is a relatively recently developed breed with the breed formally fixing it's characteristics in the 1890's by Captain von Stephanitz in Germany. Captain von Stephanitz developed the breed and established the breed club (the SV), the association which gave it's support to the developing and perfecting of the breed as a great all round working dog. With the passing years the development of its physical characteristics was accompanied by a notable diversification in the use of the GSD. It's character, particularly its power of attention, it's faithfulness and its courage, and acuteness of its senses have made the GSD capable of carrying out the most varied tasks.

Qualities of intelligence are accorded considerable importance, as a fine looking dog with poor temperament is always less appreciated than a dog physically less beautiful but having a temperament enabling him to properly fulfill the tasks assigned to him. This is why the GSD is given official tests to determine the stability of the temperament. Trials in obedience and tracking help to determine the intelligence of the dog.

German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard FCI, WUSV & SV (abbreviated)

General Appearance

The immediate impression of the appearance of the German Shepherd Dog is of a dog slightly long in comparison to it's height, with a powerful and well muscled body. The relation between height and length and the position and symmetry of the limbs (angulation) is so interelated as to enable a far reaching and enduring gait. The coat should be waterproof. A beautiful appearance is desirable but this is secondary to his usefulness as a working dog. Sexual characteristics must be well defined ie; the masculinity of the male and the femininity of the female must unmistakable.

A true to type German Shepherd Dog gives an impression of innate strength, intelligence and suppleness, with harmonious proportions and nothing either overdone or lacking. His whole manner should make it perfectly clear that he is sound in mind and body, and has the physical and mental attributes to make him always ready for tireless action as a working dog.

With an abundance of vitality he must be tractable enough to adapt himself to each situation and to carry out his work willingly and with enthusiasm. He must possess the courage and determination to defend himself, his master or his masters possessions, should the need arise. He must be observant, obedient and a pleasant member of the household, quiet in his own environment, especially with children and other animals, and at ease with adults.

Overall he should present a harmonious picture of innate nobility, alertness and self-confidence.


The main characteristics of the German Shepherd Dog are :- steadiness of nerves, attentiveness, loyalty, calm self-assurance, alertness and tractability as well as courage with physical resilience and scenting ability. These characteristics are necessary for a versatile working dog. Nervousness, over-aggressiveness and shyness are very serious faults.

Colour in the GSD

The GSD has two main colours - black and tan (or gold) and sable. The black and tan is in a saddle pattern, with a black mask on the face. Extensive black down the legs is called a bi-coloured dog. Black exists but is really a very extensive bi-coloured dog and usually some tan is present on the feet.

Sable dogs have an underlying gold or grey colouration with black tipping of the ends of the topcoat. The under coat is an even gold or grey. Sables are often called red, gold or grey depending on the depth of colour of the undercoat.

Height - The height range for dogs is 60-65 cm as measured at the shoulder, bitches 55-60 cm. One centimetre above and below this range is accepted. Any increase in the range detracts from the workability, maneuverability and breeding value of the animal.

Aims and Objectives of the GSD Clubs and National Council

The GSD Clubs and National Council have been established to promote the breeding, exhibition and improvement of the German Shepherd. There are National schemes which promote these aims which include the tattoo scheme, Hip Dysplasia 'A' stamp scheme, the Elbow Dysplasia 'Z' stamp scheme, haemophilia (H neg) and Breed Survey.

The Tattoo Scheme

This is a nation wide scheme whereby a unique tattoo is placed in the right ear of puppies at the age of 7- 8 weeks. The tattoo is made up of 3 letters (identifying the kennel prefix, unique to that kennel in Australia), followed by a 3 digit number indicating the puppy number bred by that kennel. Both state and national records are kept and this tattoo is then used as the means of identification for the purpose of hip, elbow, haemophilia and breed survey schemes. It also means the dog is very traceable in the event of loss or theft via its tattoo throughout Australia.

In some states there is now a requirement for council registration of microchip identification as well.

The Hip Dysplasia Scheme

Again nation wide, involves the X-raying of breeding stock over the age of 12 months. Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder found in many of the larger and heavier boned breeds and by definition means an ill fitting hip.

Various enviromental factors such as weight, rate of growth, dietary aspects and amount of exercise can all affect the severity and the age at which this condition is seen. By X-raying stock and gathering genetic information the National Council is assisting to lower the incidence of this problem within the breed and give breeders valuable information in selecting sires who are producing good hips.

When a dog is over 12 months of age and presented for hip X-ray, the dog is anaesthetized and the tattoo in the right ear is checked and noted on the X-ray plate along with registered name, number etc. The plate is then read by a radiologist and the plate is scored. Hips are scored from a 0 for a faultless hip to a maximum of 53 for a severely dysplastic hip. The total score for both hips is then out of 106.

An 'A' stamp is issued to any dog who receives a score of 8 or less in any one hip with a maximum of 3 allowed in any one area. Scores of 9 and up (per hip) result in a fail. The results are all correlated so that statistics of the breed average and that of the major sires can be calculated in an effort to improve the breed average and avoid poor hip producing lines.

The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

The elbows are usually X-rayed at the same time as the hips, ie. over the age of 12 months. The presence of a ununited anconeal process is noted as are any arthritic changes. The plates are read by a radiologist and graded Normal (no arthritic change), Grade 1 (up to 2mm arthritic change), or Grade 2 (up to 5mm arthritic change). Any elbow with more than 5mm of arthritic change or an ununited anconeal process are failed.

Those dogs that pass the elbow scheme are given the 'Z' Stamp.

The Haemophilia Scheme

Is a method of keeping this bleeding disorder to an absolute minimum within the breed. This genetic problem has been spread within the breed mainly through the effects of one dog, Canto vd Wienerau. The disease causes a failure of the blood to clot after an accident or knock. The number of animals which are carriers is quite small and a regulation of testing all males prior to breeding has virtually eliminated the problem in Australia. Top stud dogs are tested as they can have a widespread effect on our bloodlines. Male dogs tested negative have a H Neg when advertising.

The Breed Survey Scheme

Has been set up to evaluate the quality of the breeding stock throughout Australia. All dogs presented for survey must be over 18 months of age, tattooed, X-rayed and have passed their 'A' and 'Z' stamps, and present a five generation pedigree. The dogs are all weighed, measured and examined for correctness of dentition, construction and soundness of nerves (this involves a gun test and a crowd test)

Class 1 animals are considered well above the breed average with no major faults; Class 11 animals are considered above average which have minor constructional or dentition faults.

Once again we thank Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc for allowing us to reproduce these extracts from "The German Shepherd Puppy Booklet 2001 Edition".

We provide a copy of the current GSDL booklet to all our puppy buyers.

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