The first German Shepherd was named Hektor. Hektor was thought to be an excellent example of a sheep herding dog and in 1899 a German named Rittmeister Max von Stephanitz renamed Hektor, Horand von Grafath, and registered him as the first German Shepherd in the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany. Von Stephanitz brought the breed back into popularity so much that approximately 48,000 German Shepherds were "enlisted" in World War I.
The German Shepherd breed is registered in the herding group by the American Kennel Club because of its skill in sheep herding. However, German Shepherd dogs are used for many other purposes today. They are the most common dogs used by police and military for protection and tracking and by the visually impaired as guides. German shepherds are highly intelligent, fiercely loyal, and are at their best when put to work. They can be trained to do multiple tasks. Of course, German Shepherds are also excellent family dogs especially for protection and home security. A German Shepherd breeder may specialize in training this breed in any of the above areas.
A good German Shepherd breeder will be able to provide you with documentation of the dog's pedigree and medical history. Because German Shepherds are prone to many skeletal disorders, especially of the hip, the breeder should also include a warranty or statement that the dog has been evaluated for these issues. Getting documentation is also a good way to make sure your Shepherd is purebred as well determining what accomplishments the dog has in his ancestry. Most German Shepherds are trained and certified in many areas and a pedigree will list these achievements.
Make sure you know how to properly care for your German Shepherd and ask advice from the breeder on diet, exercise, and general training. A reputable breeder should have his or her own kennel and your German Shepherd should have received daily socialization, exercise and grooming as well as good nutrition and exposure to other animals. Lastly, make sure you have a purpose for buying a German Shepherd. This intelligent, hard-working breed is happiest when its owner gives it daily tasks to complete.
An alternative to buying a purebred puppy from a German Shepherd breeder is buying from a rescue center. Rescue centers save purebred dogs from abuse and abandonment. The centers socialize rescues and foster or adopt dogs out to appropriate, loving owners. Rescue centers are often either run by or affiliated with reputable breeders. A sure-fire way to tell a good breeder from bad is to see how involved they are with their dogs. Good German Shepherd breeders love German Shepherds!
Unfortunately, many German Shepherds, among other dog breeds, are raised in what are termed puppy mills, where breeders continuously make the dogs produce litters with no regard for the adult's health and happiness. Breeders who run illegal puppy mills are even worse than those trying to sell fake purebred dogs.
To recap, a reputable German Shepherd breeder will have his or her own kennel, will provide documentation of lineage and health information, and will be affiliated with a rescue center, ASPCA, or other agencies that support animals.
Responsible German Shepherd breeders only sell authentic German Shepherd dogs. This article provides German Shepherd information and explains the difference between a reputable vs. illicit German Shepherd breeder.