What Were German Shepherds Bred For?
The German Shepherd has always been a working dog and its temperament, trainability, and physical appearance have been strategically developed over the years through selective breeding and specialized training. Before the 1800s, sheep herding dogs were rarely bred and only those that worked well and were intelligent were chosen to breed. In 1899, a strict breeding program was undertaken in Germany by Captain Max von Stephanitz to develop the current shepherd dog into a more perfected herding dog with adaptability and intelligence. The popularity of the German Shepherd progressed rapidly throughout the world in the early 1900s. The breed became most popular among Americans because of film stars like Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart. As the need for herding dogs declined, von Stephanitz was determined to maintain the traits of the breed, and advocated for use of German Shepherds by law enforcement and the military. Today, the breed is employed for scent tracking of criminals, drugs, weapons, bombs, and missing persons.