Articles of Interest


A Brief History of the GSD in South Africa
The Sloping Back / High Wither Controversy
Hip Dysplasia (HD) Facts
Training your dog in the Federation – what’s it all about?

Health Issues in Perspective
Finding & Selecting the Right German Shepherd Puppy
The Responsibilities of the Breeder

The following articles are available by downloadable Pdf only:

HD Literature Review by FJ v Kraayenburg Nov 2014


A Brief History of the GSD in South Africa

By Frikkie van Kraayenburg, President GSDF

Download as Pdf

The German Shepherd Dog Federation of South Africa

The development of a dedicated specialist organisation for the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) breed began with the formation of the German Shepherd Dog Breeders Association (GSDBA) cc 1970. It was under this name that the organisation became a founder member of the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Associations (WUSV) cc 1972.

Originally part of the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA), the GSDBA voted on 17 November 1984 to terminate their affiliation with the KUSA. This was because it had become clear that the breed could not develop and flourish under an All-Breed regime where non-GSD people took the decisions for GSDs. The aim was to form an independent specialist registering authority for GSDs in South Africa in which only GSD fanciers decided on how to develop the breed. This was to be along the lines promoted by the mother organisation for GSD in Germany, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV), within South African interests and requirements.

Legal wrangles concerning the validity of the disaffiliation in 1984 resulted in the founding of the German Shepherd Dog Federation of South Africa (GSDF) in April 1985. At this time the breed was split between the GSDF and a group claiming to be the management of the GSDBA within the KUSA.

About 1992 the SV decided that the GSDF was the most appropriate vehicle to take the German Shepherd Dog Breed forward in South Africa. As a result of this decision the GSDF became the only specialist organisation for GSDs recognised by the WUSV. This momentous decision resulted in the few remaining important GSD breeders in KUSA joining the GSDF and the breed once again united within the GSDF. Because it was the official WUSV member, the GSDBA was incorporated into the GSDF and the GSDF was recognised by the WUSV as the only officially recognised WUSV member in South Africa.

The German Shepherd Dog

In relative terms the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is one of the world's youngest breeds, the first animals having been registered in 1899 after the founding of the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) with Capt. Max von Stephanitz as its first president.

The original intention was to develop a herding breed suitable for working with German sheep. The often quoted statement by von Stephanitz "To breed a German Shepherd Dog is to breed a Working Dog" actually refers to herding only.

What made working with sheep in Germany different from virtually anywhere else in the world are two-fold: a) German Sheep are generally big and powerful, with rams weighing up to 160kg and ewes 120kg and b) the main requirement was to keep sheep in a relative small grazing area. This required a trotting dog with great endurance. It is still the dog we select for in the breedring today.

In Germany farmers typically live in a village with the farmland surrounding the village. Individually owned farmland is seldom protected by fences and the sheep farmer had to constantly ensure that his sheep did not stray onto a neighbour's crops. During the early development of the breed, von Stephanitz collected as many dogs actively working with sheep as he could and began breeding a specific type, which was to consolidate in the German Shepherd Dog breed we know today.

There were also attempts made to incorporate the Scottish and Border Collie, but these breeds proved too small and light to handle the German sheep. They were more suited to gather the smaller English and Scottish sheep roaming the moors. The incorporation of some German Sheep Herding dogs with long coats and even curly hair explain the various coat types in the breed even today.

In von Stephanitz's day, protection work was limited to the police and armed forces. Civilians were only allowed to train and compete in protection dog tests after World War II when safety became an issue. The Protection Dog Test (Schutzhund or SchH) was only established in the middle 1950's. This test later became the IPO and IGP tests after it became unfashionable to train dogs for protection against people. The Breed Survey was initiated around 1930 and the courage test of the day was limited to teasing a dog with a sack to see if it would hold its ground and not retreat.

The first GSDs imported into South Africa were from the United Kingdom. This was because the KUSA, which was the only registering authority in South Africa at the time, stemmed from there. However, there was never any temperament selection, nor any minimum breeding requirements, as in the mother country and the dogs in South Africa predictably inherited the problems that developed in England, where the breed became known as the "Alsatian".  Older people will remember the bad reputation the breed had as a biter of owners and children.

During the 1970's a few GSDs were imported from Germany. It became quite a debate as to which was the best, the English type (Alsatian), the German type or the combination. With the formation of the GSDF there was a clear intent to phase out the English based GSDs and replace them with the German type. By 1990 this changeover had been completed and all the temperament problems associated with the breed disappeared in tandem.

In South Africa today the breed is unsurpassed as a healthy, family protection dog. GSDs are not suitable as protectors of property in the absence of a human handler. They generally react to aggression only and will often allow a non-aggressive burglar unfettered access. Dogs that will protect property in the absence of a handler are usually dangerous, and that is not what we want for our breed.



The Sloping Back / High Wither Controversy

By FJ van Kraayenburg

Download as Pdf

The modern German Shepherd has attracted considerable uninformed comment criticising the high wither accompanied by a supposedly sloping and/or curved backline of the breed.

Unfortunately, German Shepherd enthusiasts have added to this perception of abnormality or unnaturalness by exaggerating these aspects when photographing or showing their dogs. Anatomical evaluation of a German Shepherd Dog requires, amongst others, that a dog be posed in a certain way to evaluate the various angulations required for movement.  Fig. 1 and fig. 2 are of the same dog. In fig. 1 the dog stands naturally and in fig. 2 the dog is posed.

Well known American Biokinetologist, Ricardo Carbajal, has made a study of the breed in relation to its anatomy as related to its function. He has concluded that the modern anatomical shape of the dog in itself poses no health risk whatsoever. Also, contrary to such perceptions, he has proved that the modern German Shepherd Dog is unlikely to be affected by the problems seen in some breeds with straight or hollow backs.

He points out an engineering fact that, if one was to build a bridge supported on only two points, the strongest structure is one that curves slightly upwards (fig. 3). This is because a force applied in direction ‘a’ is dissipated in directions ‘b’ rather than downwards.

His studies further indicate that a downward instability in the back of a dog is naturally compensated for by calcium deposits in the lower areas of the vertebrae, (donated by ‘a’ in fig.4) and leads to arthritis. The dog with a slightly upwardly curved back as illustrated in fig.3 would be free of this problem as the back would remain more stable in movement.

This author has also personally confirmed with Prof Lubbe, former specialist in canine back problems at the University of Pretoria Veterinary faculty at Onderstepoort, that back problems in German Shepherds significantly declined since 1980 in accordance with the selection for a slight upwardly curved back.

Biologically the spine is designed to bend forward rather than backwards. This is true for humans as well as animals and is the result of the anatomical construction of the vertebrae. It is easy to bend forwards and roll oneself into a ball, but it is impossible to do so backwards. A rugby player tackled from the front in the stomach area might be winded, but there is no danger to his back if he is bent forward in the tackle. Conversely, a tackle from the back causing the spine to bend backwards could result in serious injury.

Observing a dog jumping will show the spine curving upwards in the jump, not downwards. A dog with a slightly upward curved spine will thus find it easier to jump than a dog with a hollow back.

A high wither in a dog is simply the result of longer dorsal spines of the lumbar (chest) vertebrae. Longer spines provide for more muscle attachment and add to the stability of the back. There is no health hazard here!



Hip Dysplasia Facts

Download Pdf

Frikkie van Kraayenburg BSc (Genetics) and MSc (Mammalogy), Univ. of Pretoria

The German Shepherd Dog Federation of South Africa (GSDF) has been running a compulsory Hip Dysplasia Scheme since its inception in 1984. X-rays of more than 10,000 dogs have been examined during this time. Only dogs that pass the scheme may breed. The above facts have inter alia emerged from studies based on the results. The author designed the scheme at its inception and has been closely involved with its monitoring.



Training your dog in the Federation – what’s it all about?

By Alan Biesman-Simons

Download Pdf

To help newcomers I think it is important to try and put the training of your dog into some perspective and to briefly outline for you what it’s all about.

First and foremost, it is the role of clubs within the German Shepherd Dog Federation to provide training that meets the needs of anybody who owns a German Shepherd Dog whatever that need might be.

The objective of the Federation is firstly to ensure that we breed dogs that are healthy and of good temperament, and secondly to provide an infrastructure that enables these dogs to develop to this potential.

It’s the second aspect that this article attempts to deal with.

Ninety-nine percent of the German Shepherd Dogs that are bred in South Africa are purchased by people as companions for themselves or their families and what they require is a dog that is obedient, manageable, tolerant of children, accepting of their guests, but at the same time protective of their property and the family when required.

People want a dog that is fun to have around but that is not neurotic and destructive of their property. They want a dog that comes when they call it, doesn’t bark for no reason and is confident and outgoing.

A small percentage of the people purchasing a German Shepherd Dog purchase a dog for the express purposes of participating in training competitions.

Another small percentage of the people purchasing a companion dog find an interest in training competitions once they start training and become aware of this environment.

Another larger percentage discovers the world of the show ring.

Most join a training club simply because they believe their dog needs some form of training.

So it’s very clear that the objectives of the German Shepherd Dog Federation clubs are to provide an infrastructure that enables the development of this type of temperament in the dogs owned by this large proportion of the owners of German Shepherd Dogs.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that the German Shepherd Dog has been bred as an extremely versatile working dog and that it is important that we maintain these characteristics.

To achieve all of these objectives training consists of a number of elements.

Firstly, and most importantly, it consists of a socialization element. This should start as young as possible and its purpose is to expose puppies to other dogs, people, children, and different situations in a controlled environment where it can be ensured that these are all positive experiences. In this way puppies can grow up self-assured and contented.

During this critical stage of development, time is spent on building a good bond with the owner and teaching the dog basic exercises like coming eagerly when they are called and sitting and lying down on command. Another emphasis of this training is building a strong desire for a play object which will be used as a motivation and reward in their later training.

The other elements of the training are obedience or control work, protection work and tracking.

To give this training some form of structure and purpose the GSD Federation has adopted the training test framework used internationally by working dog fraternities. These tests are the Begleithund (BH-VT) and IPO/IGP tests.

Loosely translated from the German, Begleithund means companion dog. The BH-VT test consists of a test of a basic level of obedience i.e. walking at heel with the handler on and off a leash, staying in a sitting position when left by the handler, staying lying down when left by the handler and then running to the handler when called, and staying in a down position away from the handler whilst another dog does the other exercises in the near vicinity.

In the other part of the BH-VT test the dog is observed walking next to the handler, sitting and lying down in a busy public place. The dog is also left alone tied to a pole in a public place whilst another dog is walked past it.

The overall purpose of the test is to evaluate the dog’s trainability and temperament. It has a very practical relevance to all owners’ needs and therefore ideally suited to the objectives of the Federation’s training infrastructure.

It is within the reach of all people and all dogs and therefore everyone is encouraged to participate in these tests. The other beauty of the BH test is that it is not a competition and therefore people participate in a great spirit of camaraderie.

Participation in these tests is not a prerequisite for training in a GSD Federation club. It simply gives some goal to the training and is a means of evaluating progress, apart from being good fun.

One of the other elements of the training is the protection work. It is very important to understand what we are trying to achieve with this part of the training and why we encourage all dogs to participate besides the fact that they really, really enjoy it.

The most important thing to understand is that the ultimate objective is to test the dogs’ natural instincts to chase and catch (prey drive) and its self-confidence and ability to handle pressure. This is evaluated during the Breed Survey and IPO/IGP test and is described as TSB which is the abbreviation for the German, Triebveranlagung (instinctive behaviour), Selbstsicherheit (self-confidence) and Belastbarkeit (ability to cope with stress).

With the correct approach to protection training we help to shape the dogs’ self-confidence and ability to handle stress. Given that we are talking about the training of a breed of dog that is naturally protective, it is very important that the dog is self-confident and does not feel the need to protect itself in circumstances where it is not required.

We want a protection dog but at the same time we want a dog that will accept our guests and children’s friends into our households and that we can take out in public places. In other words, we want a self-confident dog that can easily discern when its protective behaviour is required or not.  

I won’t go into great detail about instinctive behaviour, drives, etc. as I am simply trying to outline why we structure our training in a particular way. It also explains why, even if you never participate in any formal test, be it a breed survey or IPO trial, it is useful to participate in this aspect of the training that is provided.

It also explains why it is every Federation club’s obligation to provide this for all club members whether they participate in formal tests or not.

I have mentioned the Breed Survey. This is an overall evaluation of a dog’s suitability for breeding and includes an evaluation of the dogs desirable instinctive behaviour, self-confidence and ability to handle stress, and the dog’s anatomical structure. This is the description you will find under the name of the parents in your dog’s pedigree. 

Again this is something we try to encourage as many owners as possible to try and achieve.  

The IGP test, formerly Schutzhund, SchH (Protection dog test) and later IPO (International Working Dog Test) is for those with a serious interest in training and competing in trials. The GSDF provides the test framework. It includes tracking, control and protection work sections. Together with walking at heel, stay and recall exercises, the control section also includes retrieving and agility exercises.  It is ideally suited to the versatility of the German Shepherd Dog and is the ultimate goal owners can work towards.

I am not going to go into much detail regarding tracking, but this refers to the dog’s scenting faculties. In the tracking section of the IPO tests we evaluate the dog’s ability to follow the scent path left by a person walking through a field and to identify articles dropped by the person. Tracking is a very rewarding form of training both from the dog’s perspective and the owner’s but is less important from the perspective of shaping the temperament required by the average German Shepherd Dog owner.

In conclusion, I want to stress that the purpose of the training provided by the GSD Federation’s clubs is to ensure that the German Shepherd Dogs we train develop to the potential inherent in their genes and are a credit to the breed.

It is not our aim to force anybody to participate in any form of test or competition, rather we want to encourage everyone who owns a German Shepherd Dog to feel free to go to any GSD Federation club and feel comfortable that the training meets their needs.



German Shepherd Dog Health Issues in Perspective

Download Pdf

Contrary to public perception, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is not plagued by Hip Dysplasia (HD).

According to the statistics of the authoritative Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFFA), there are about 39 other breeds of dogs with worse Hip Dysplasia than GSD's. The HD statistics of the various breeds can be accessed here. There has been no meaningful change in the overall ranking of the GSD over the last 25 years in spite of the attempts at selecting against the disease being far more severe.

Of the other genetic diseases monitored, the GSD ranks 54th out 67 with regard to Patellar Laxation, 54th out of 63 with regard to congenital cardiac problems, 43rd out of 67 monitored for Thyroid problems and 8th out of 101 with regard to Elbow Dysplasia (ED). There are no diseases listed specifically prevalent in GSD's and it is clear that the canine diseases that do affect GSD's also affect other breeds to an even greater extent.

Unfortunately, the OFFA does not provide statistics by country or by organisation, and thus there is no information pertaining to the prevalence of diseases of dogs bred under compulsory minimum rules and monitoring such as those imposed by the German Shepherd Dog Federation of SA (GSDF) or dogs bred without any control whatsoever.

In the GSDF, club Breed Supervisors and tattooists are compelled to report any genetically based diseases they come upon. Breeders are also encouraged to report genetic problems. If it becomes apparent that an animal produces too high an incidence of a debilitating disease, the animal may be disqualified from breeding.

A culture exists in the GSDF whereby breeders will generally replace any dog found to have a disqualifying fault or serious genetic disease, and breeders are thus very careful in planning their breeding so as to avoid genetic problems. It is important to note that the breeder is not compelled to replace such dogs unless priorly agreed to. Significantly the Consumer Protection Act excludes animals, specifically because animal breeding can be expected to produce the occasional problem.

HD has been controlled on a compulsory basis since the inception of the GSDF in 1984. The GSDF was one of the first organisations to introduce compulsory HD monitoring. Only animals that have passed the GSDF’s HD scheme are allowed to breed. Nevertheless, the prevalence of HD in the GSDF is considerably less than that expected from the OFFA’s statistics. In practice less than 1% of dogs bred in the GSDF develop clinical systems of HD during their working lives, i.e. before the age of eight.

Like humans, old dogs develop all sorts of bone and joint problems. When dogs over eight years old develop arthritis or rheumatism, it should not be confused with defects such as Hip Dysplasia: it's simply old age. HD is official defined as a developmental disease before the age of two years old.

The incidence of Elbow Dysplasia (ED) is very low in the GSDF: less than 20 dogs are known to have developed clinical symptoms of the disease over the last 23 years. X-raying is voluntary, but the National Breed Supervisor is compelled to report any dog suspected of the disease for investigation. If the dog is found to have ED, it is immediately banned from breeding. Any dog that has had an operation on the elbow that may have been the result of ED, or that may disguise any ED present, is also banned from breeding.

Note: The Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OF FA) was founded in 1966 with the primary object to collate and disseminate information concerning orthopaedic and genetic diseases of animals, particularly dogs and cats. Its web site can be visited at



Finding & Selecting the Right German Shepherd Puppy

By Sonia van Kraayenburg
First Published as a series in Animal Talk November to February 2012

Download as PDF

In South Africa, the only German Shepherd Dog registrations that are internationally recognized are those registered by the German Shepherd Dog Federation and the KUSA, with the Federation being the preferred organization registering more than 90%. The Federation’s International credentials are set out in the Breeders Section: It is the only South African authority that sets compulsory minimum breeding standards designed to protect the Public.

The Federation recognizes dogs bred under KUSA jurisdiction, but these dogs may not necessary qualify to breed under the Federation umbrella. Potential buyers of puppies who wish to participate in the Federation are advised to check beforehand whether the puppy they intend buying will qualify.

This three-part series explains how to evaluate breeders and how to utilize the various qualifications in order to determine parental quality.

Part I: Evaluating a Breeder

It can sometimes be difficult to determine from breeders’ adverts whether you will be getting value for money. Some breeders simply charge what the top breeders charge without correlating puppy prices to the quality of the parents or the “back-up” services offered. Buying the most expensive puppy does not necessarily mean getting the best. To make an informed decision prospective buyers need to be aware of what the various qualifications awarded to dogs and breeders actually mean.

Good puppies can be obtained from small and/or new breeders, particularly if they are breeding under the umbrella of a club or an experienced breeder. However, they may not be able to offer the guarantees offered by the bigger breeders, who will normally replace puppies with disqualifying faults, and this should be reflected in the price. Keep in mind that no matter how strictly a breeder selects the parents, a perfect puppy or a show winner cannot be guaranteed. This is why animal breeding is not covered under the Consumer Protection Act.

The expected quality of a puppy can be assessed by evaluating the following:

Show Gradings

Puppies from parents with high gradings are more likely to be of superior anatomical quality than puppies from parents with the minimum accepted grading of G (Good). Particularly the sire should have a high grading of at least V (Excellent). The highest grading bitches under two can be awarded is SG (Very Good).

Pink Pedigrees vs. White Pedigrees

Breeders sometimes advertise that their puppies have pink pedigrees. This means that both the sire and the dam have been Breed Surveyed and have passed a strict temperament test which includes protection work.  Although all serious breeders strive towards surveying their stock, a puppy with a pink pedigree is not necessarily superior to one with a white pedigree. Puppies of surveyed, G graded parents will still have pink pedigrees even though both parents are of the minimum anatomical standard. Conversely, a very good non-surveyed young bitch mated to a VA or VA(SA) male may have superior puppies even though they have white pedigrees.  It is advisable to personally check the temperaments of non-surveyed parents.

Breeders Medals

A breeder earns points (once off) for qualifications achieved by animals they have bred and medals are awarded accordingly. These achievements should, however, be assessed in terms of how prolific a breeder breeds and the proportion of animals bred and shown that achieve high awards. For example, if a high proportion of those shown are graded V and are Breed Surveyed, it can be assumed that the breeder breeds a high average anatomical quality and temperament. Conversely, if only a small proportion achieve V gradings and the balance lesser gradings, it can be concluded that the average anatomical being bred is relatively low. These medals can also be seen as a measure of experience: it takes years of dedication and hard work to achieve a Diamond Award.

The Top Twenty Competition

This competition was designed to encourage breeders to get as many dogs of their breeding participating in shows and obtain additional qualifications. The competition does not necessarily imply that the winner is the best as it is linked to numbers and participation. It differs from the Breeders Medals in that an individual dog earns points for its breeder, its sire and its dam each time it competes in a 12 month cycle.

A new breeder will only feature in this competition once he has bred enough animals old enough to compete and qualify for additional qualifications. For example, animals may only be entered in a Breed Survey if older than 20 months. However, the results reflect that the more established breeder is serious and works hard at getting offspring into the public eye and qualified.

Similarly a young or a recently imported animal will need two to three years to feature in this competition. A sire’s number of studs also has a huge impact on his standing in the Top Twenty Sires competition. Of significance is the fact that a successful sire will be in high demand and thus have more offspring, helping him in the rankings. Likewise a successful brood bitch is more likely to have her puppies shown and thus gain points to advance in the rankings.

Part 2 – Correlating Puppy Price to Quality

You always get what you pay for ….?!  WRONG!

It is easy to recognise why a Mercedes should cost more than a Golf. However, with puppies it is more difficult and a perspective buyer can easily be misled into paying more than he should.

The German Shepherd Dog Federation protects puppy buyers in two ways: by setting compulsory minimum breeding standards and by providing information. However, the mere fact that a puppy is Federation registered is sadly no guarantee that that the buyer is actually getting value for money. This is because some breeders simply set their prices according to what top breeders charge without providing the same quality, after sales service and guarantee.

To ensure value for money, it is essential that the prospective buyer do some homework and avail himself of the information obtainable through the Federation system. Not doing so can lead to costly mistakes.

The Meaning of a “Guarantee”

If a product is guaranteed, it does not mean that nothing can go wrong: only that the seller or manufacturer will make good either by repairing or replacing a defective product. The Consumer Protection Act protects consumers in that the buyer of a defective product can, within six months of purchase, demand a refund of the original purchase price, repair or a replacement. Significantly the buyer cannot demand compensation for indirect damages, damage caused by the buyer or costs incurred while the product was in his possession.

The dog breeder is at a disadvantage compared to a producer of hard goods as many things can go wrong that were impossible to determine at puppy-hood; and thus could not have been prevented by quality control. Dogs are biological entities subjected to a host of genetic variables that sometimes only become apparent later. Add to this the complication that genetics is only a potential, and that the environment provided by the buyer will in most cases influence the physical manifestation thereof.

Consider Hip Dysplasia (HD), which is not a problem confined to German Shepherds: at least 40 other breeds are more susceptible to the problem. Manifestation of HD can be environmental and is not necessarily genetic: it is thus possible that the buyer can unwittingly cause the problem by incorrect feeding or exercise, or the dog may injure itself. In spite of this, most Federation breeders will guarantee their puppies in that they will replace if the puppy fails the Federation’s HD scheme before two years of age. No breeder can guarantee that a puppy is “HD free”: this is just not possible.

Most large breeders will offer a replacement guarantee if a puppy manifests a disqualifying fault as per the Federation’s rules and regulations. Understandably it is not always possible or practical for a small breeder to do the same and he should charge less to compensate.

The Quality of the Parents

Buying a puppy is always risky and the way to limit this risk is to buy a puppy out of parents that actually manifest the required traits. For example, if you want a beautiful well-constructed dog that will protect you and your family, it is unlikely that a puppy from “G” graded parents lacking in confidence will fulfil your expectations. Risk can only be eliminated through the expensive option of buying an adult dog with all the required qualities and training.

The average quality of a litter is almost always lower than the average quality of the parents. It is possible to get a good puppy from mediocre parents and vice versa, but the odds are against it. Therefore, the higher the quality of the parents, the higher the quality of the puppies is likely to be, and the higher the price should be. To fully maximize the potential of your puppy, it will be up to you to provide the correct environment, rearing and training.

Part 3 – Correlating puppy Price to Show Gradings

In the Federation dogs can enter various tests and events and qualifications so received are then added to their names as a record of their achievements. E.g. *Akio von Arlette, “a”, SchH1, Körkl 1 (For Life), VA(SA). In order to properly evaluate the qualities and abilities of a dog, an understanding of these qualifications is required. Show awards are discussed here with the other qualifications discussed in Part 4.

Sieger (fem. “Siegerin”): German for Champion. In KUSA, as in most All-Breed organizations, the title of Champion essentially is awarded after a dog earns points over a range of shows. It does not refer to a specific event and the title is awarded for life.

In the Federation a Champion is the winner of a major class at the annual National Breed Show. The title is therefore awarded for a specific event in a defined year. To avoid confusion with the KUSA system, the Federation awards the title of “Sieger” instead.

VA: “Excellent Select” grading a German Shepherd can be awarded at the German Sieger Show or by special permission of the WUSV. Not awarded in South Africa.

VA(SA): “Excellent Select” grading awarded at the Federation’s National Breed Show. The grading is awarded to the very best dogs and bitches over 24 months which have previously passed a recognised HD scheme, are Breed Surveyed and pass the protection-work at the show “TSB* Pronounced”.

V(NBS): “Excellent” grading awarded at the National Breed Show to animals over 24 months which meet the strictest Breed Standard requirements regarding conformation, appearance and temperament and have passed a recognised HD scheme. In addition, males must pass the protection-work “TSB* Pronounced” and females at least “TSB* Present”;

V:  “Excellent” grading awarded at any show to animals over 24 months which meet the same standards of a V(NBS) with the exception that no protection-work test is required.

SG: “Very Good” grading awarded to animals over 12 months which meet the Breed Standard in most requirements regarding construction, appearance and temperament.

G: “Good” grading awarded to animals over 12 months with small failures regarding construction or appearance, but that largely meet the Breed Standard and have no disqualifying faults.

Bear in mind that bitches may have a litter at 22 months, which is younger than the minimum age of two years when an animal may be graded V. It is therefore possible that a young bitch of superior quality may only have been graded SG. As every animal is issued with a grading card at every show with the placing and grading awarded, her show results will provide proof of her anatomical quality.

In contrast a male may only mate bitches once it is two years old and thus should have been graded V by the time his first puppies are registered.

Bear in mind is that animals in possession of a V(NBS) or VA(SA) had to pass a protection-work test under difficult circumstances to be awarded the grading. Therefore, not only are these animals superior in anatomical conformation, but their temperaments and protection ability have been vigorously tested. Expect to pay more for puppies from such animals.

At the bottom of the scale are the G graded parents. As a G grading is the minimum grading that allows an animal to breed, puppies from such parents represent the bottom end of the market, no matter what other qualifications their parents may have.

A male can mate 60 to 90 bitches in a single year while a bitch is limited to two litters. Therefore always be stricter in the selection of the male. There is no excuse to breed with a G or SG graded male as there are sufficient top males available in South Africa.

Part 4 – Correlating puppy Price to Qualifications

Federation dogs enter various tests and events and qualifications are then added to their names as a record of their achievements: e.g. *Akio von Arlett, “a”, SchH1, Angekört 1 (For Life), VA(SA). To properly evaluate the qualities and abilities of a dog, an understanding of these qualifications is required. Show gradings, the basis for evaluating anatomical quality, were discussed in the previous issue.

The Breed Survey

The Breed Survey is a dog’s most important qualification and puppies from breed surveyed parents are issued with special (pink) pedigrees. The survey is divided into three parts: a basic temperament test which includes a gun-sure test, protection-work in which the dog has to attack and apprehend an aggressive man and a detailed anatomical description. In the latter the dog is also measured and weighed.
An “*” preceding a dog’s name indicates a valid survey. The first time a dog passes, the qualification is awarded for two years and the second time “For Life”.  Until 2010 two classes were awarded: Körkl 1 or Körkl 2. “Körklasse” (Körkl) is “Breed Survey Class” in German. To be awarded Körkl 1 a dog had to pass the protection-work “TSB Pronounced”.

Since 2010 only one class is awarded and a breed surveyed dog is referred to as “Angekört” (Breed Surveyed in German). As it is very important whether a dog passed “TSB1 Pronounced”, peruse the survey document.

The protection-work is the defining factor that determines whether a dog passes or fails. It is significant that immediately after biting, at the peak of its aggression, the dog’s tattoo number is checked by a non-aggressive person, and unprovoked aggression towards him results in disqualification. This “test” is probably responsible for the breed’s innate ability to distinguish when to bite and when not to.

Disqualifying anatomical faults and gross over-size also fails the dog. The Surveyor also has to identify the dog’s particular virtues and faults and make a breeding recommendation.

The Breed Survey is an excellent temperament test and serves as a basis for breeding, and together with the Show Grading indicates the quality of a dog.

Hip Dysplasia (HD)

A+, A0 or A-: Passing grades within the Federation’s HD Scheme.
“a”: Passed the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) HD Scheme in Germany. Passing grades are “Normal”, “Fast Normal” (Near Normal) or Noch Zugelassen (Still Good Enough).

Thirty years of data (± 50,000 dogs) shows no correlation in the HD status of parents to their offspring. As only animals that have passed the HD scheme are allowed to breed, the actual grading of the parents can thus be ignored.

Some Common Working Titles Recognised by the Federation

IAD (formerly AD): The 20 Km endurance test

BH-VT (formerly BH): Begleithund (Companion Dog) test consists of two phases, basic obedience and a relatively strict temperament test in a shopping centre where the dog has to demonstrate stability in public without its handler supporting it. A prerequisite for male dogs to enter a Breed Survey.

IGP (formerly Schutzhund / IPO): Training test consisting of tracking, advanced obedience and protection work. Over-emphasized in importance by some as these tests measure handler capability rather than temperament or working ability.


One male can sire 90 litters a year and a bitch can only have two: always be stricter selecting the male.

Evaluate a dog’s qualifications together rather than in isolation: each assesses a different aspect. The Show Grading and the Breed Survey are the most important.
Ideally the sire of puppies in the upper price bracket should be “Angekört, TSB* Pronounced” and “VA(SA)”; or at least V(NBS) supported by a relatively high placing. This automatically means the dog has AD and BH which are prerequisites. Remember that every dog also has a mother.

The minimum grading required to breed is G, and puppies from G parents represent the bottom end of the market, irrespective of any other qualifications. There is no excuse to breed with a G graded male.

Also of value is the breeder’s guarantee and ability to properly inform the buyer how to raise a puppy, what vaccinations and deworming the puppy has had and what after sales support will occur.
It is possible to get a good puppy from mediocre parents and vice versa, but the odds are against it. Therefore, the higher the quality of the parents, the higher the quality of the puppies is likely to be.

Finally, to fully maximise the potential of your puppy, it will be up to the buyer to provide the correct environment, rearing and training.

*TSB = Trieb, Sicherherheit & Belastbarkeit or Drive, Self-assurance & Stress Tolerance



The Responsibilities of the Breeder

Chris Thompson, National Breed Supervisor
25 February 2021

The very reason for the founding of the GSD Federation was to ensure that breeding of German Shepherd Dogs is done in a structured and responsible manner.

The responsibility of the breeder however goes much further than just ensuring that the dogs used for breeding conform to the minimum requirements. The breeders also need to ensure that the puppy they are supplying is healthy, correctly vaccinated and de-wormed, clean and well socialised. It is also essential that the breeder must do their best to educate the new owner and refer them to Federation clubs in their area for puppy training and socialising.

We understand that times are tough, and breeders often really need to sell their puppies as quickly as possible, but are urging our breeders to please act in an ethical, responsible manner. Often the new owner will promise to sterilise the animals concerned, but then life happens and wham, next thing we hear of unregistrable puppies. Please therefore consider the following when doing a sale:

Please act ethically and thus help ensure that no unwanted German Shepherd Dogs end up in shelters around the country.