German Shepherd Dogs:


Is it possible  to have a top class breed specimen that can  win working trials and also do well in Schutzhund?


                                          by Dennis Fisher



It definitely is possible. 


There are German Shepherds dogs, I have known, that have excelled in the show ring and have achieved high honors in working trials.  In addition to these exceptionally fine qualities, because of their very strong, in-born protective instincts, they have also been wonderful guardians of the home.  Truly all-purpose dogs, which is the vision von Stephanitz, the founder of the breeder originally had in mind


I truly believe it is possible. But I must qualify this statement.  The possibility of owning an exceptional all-purpose dog like this today, is highly unlikely.  


Why is this so?   There is a very simple answer to this question.  For a number of years  there has been sharp disagreement and conflict in Germany – the home of the breed – between so called “show breeders” and “working dog” breeders.  


In recent years the majority of German breeders – with very few exceptions - have focused their efforts on conformation and competing in the Show ring rather than working trials.   Working ability, to a large extent, has been neglected.

This is understandable.   Winning top honors in the breed ring has always been regarded as being of primary importance. It results in national and international recognition.  Furthermore, the financial aspect cannot be overlooked.   Top animals fetch astronomical prices from overseas buyers.

Any overseas visitor who attends the national, annual German Shepherd Dog breed show – known as the S.V BUNDESSIEGERZUCHTSCHAU - usually held in a gigantic football stadium in different venues in Germany each year, is absolutely amazed at the thousands of visitors it attracts from every corner of the world.

At every annual  “Sieger” show,  the title of “Sieger” is awarded to the winning male and the title of “Siegerin” to the winning bitch.

Quite apart from the top winning male, even animals finishing in the top twenty positions are often bought by  overseas buyers – from countries like Japan, South America, England, Taiwan, the United States, and – more recently Eastern European countries – for prices  one usually associates with a top model motor car!

Is it any wonder that most  breeders concentrate on breeding a dog that can win top  honors in the breed ring rather than working trials.   

The controlling body for German Shepherds in Germany, the S.V. (Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde)  is very much aware of this sharp division between working dog breeders and those  who concentrate on  producing animals who will win in the conformation classes.

It is a problem that is receiving attention.  But it is a problem that is very difficult indeed to resolve.

The S.V. is also well aware that in recent years there has been a  deterioration in  the temperaments of many  dogs being bred.  Many dogs, even those coming from the most successful top winning bloodlines, lack the boldness and courage  that was once one of the most important attributes  of the best German Shepherd Dog specimens and considered to be an essential feature of the breed.

It is unfair to suggest that temperament is overlooked completely. No animal with a unsound temperament could ever be placed in a top position at a Sieger Show.   But insufficient attention is placed on soundness of temperament.

Attempts were made to assess the temperament at Sieger Shows by the introduction of the "Test of Courage".    Animals who do not demonstrate pronounced  "fighting sprit"  are not considered for top honors. But the "courage test" cannot be regarded as  a completely reliable test of temperament.

Animals are trained to bite the protected arm of an “assailant”. But there are occasions in which some dogs appear to regard the entire exercise as an enjoyable game.  One is left with the distinct impression that if the “assailant” were to discard the “arm” and throw it to the ground, the dog would be quite satisfied to continue biting the padded object rather than attack the man.

 There have been occasions when people, who have  purchased  dogs from Germany, with papers proving they will  willingly  bite the padded arm of an “assailant”,  are surprised to find that when an intruder has entered their home – without a padded “arm” – the dog has not reacted as they were mistakenly led to believe  he would!  

Training qualification can also not always be relied  upon.  The  fact that  a winning show dog has a SchH 111 training  classification,  is  also not always a  reliable indication  that the  dog has all the qualities required  of a successful working animal – or even  that the dog has a strong protective instinct.   It is very seldom that the actual qualifying  scores  receive any prominence.


There are many  working dog enthusiasts who maintain  the modern show winning  the Shepherd has not improved in so far as working temperament is concerned.   It is for this reason that most German Shepherd dog breeders of working stock  in Germany today  hardly ever use show winning animals in their breeding programs. 

When one  examines  the pedigrees  of  open class (conformation)  show winners  at Sieger  shows held  over the past five  years and compares  this with the pedigrees of  entrants in the " Bundessiegerprufung" – the competiton held for working dogs - one is struck by the fact that there is hardly any meeting ground

An examination of the bloodlines of all entrants, quite apart from  top winners in  the Bundessiegerprufung,   is  noticeable for an almost complete absence of the names of top conformation show winners.

With very few exceptions, it  is very rare  for the same  dog to compete in both  the conformation class and the working class.

This division between Show bloodlines and  Working Dog bloodlines did not always exist.   If one goes back  quite a few years in the examination of  pedigrees of winning show dogs, one will find that very often their offspring featured very prominently  as successful competitors in working trials.

To return to the question posed at the beginning of this article: “Is it possible to have an all-purpose animal that is a top class show specimen, an excellent guard dog and a winner in obedience working trials?”

Yes, it is possible!  Dog of this exceptional quality do exist – even today!  Many of them also  have the prepotency to reproduce similar qualities to their own  in their offspring.

But if you are someone who has genuine  ambitions to own a  super dog  like this, before you go ahead and buy a German Shepherd Dog, you will have to spend a great deal of time and effort learning more about the breed, especially about the bloodlines of the top winning dogs.

         Make it your business to ask questions from knowledgeable people who have been involved in this
        fascinating hobby for years.  Many of them will be only too pleased to help you.

        Note:  This article is one of many dealing with every aspect of the German Shepherd Dog -
          breeding, training, bloodlines, famous German show winners, and a great deal more, that
          appear on the author, Dennis Fisher's website.
          Visit to see these articles.