Why Are German Shepherds So Popular?

German Shepherd Dogs consistently make the AKC's annual list of most popular breeds. And it's no wonder. Their loyalty, courage, confidence, ability to learn, and willingness to protect their people is like no other breed. See some of the highlights in the history of our love affair with GSDs:

1899. Max von Stephanitz, a Prussian cavalry officer considered the father of the modern German Shepherd, finds his dream dog: Horand von Grafrath. “The entire dog was one live wire,” Stephanitz wrote, “with a boundless and irrepressible zest for living.” Stephanitz’s ideas have guided GSD breeders ever since.

1914. During World War I, troops from several nations observe the boundless work drive and versatility of GSDs working as military K-9s. In the coming decades, the GSD becomes the dog of choice for armies and police forces around the world.

1921. Strongheart makes his screen debut. A police dog turned actor, Strongheart becomes the first dog to become a genuine movie star. His success opens the door for an even bigger star, Rin Tin Tin. Their movies endear the breed to audiences around the world.

1928. A GSD named Buddy, owned by a blind WWI veteran named Morris Frank, becomes the first Seeing Eye Dog. “Buddy delivered to me the divine gift of freedom,” Frank says.  

1987. Ch. Altana’s Mystique is born. The female GSD goes on to become the Guinness World Records “Top Show Dog of All Time,” with 275 all-breed Bests in Show and 30 specialty-show wins.

2001. In the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, the world watches as GSD search-and-rescue dogs work the toxic rubble, looking for survivors and human remains. Among the many GSDs who became famous in those dark days was Appollo, the NYPD K-9 who won an AKC Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE). See moving portraits of 9/11 dogs here.

Originally published in AKC Family Dog.

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