I am a true East German Shepherd. I was born and raised there. I did an apprenticeship as a shepherd in this part of Germany. I made a living for more than 6 years in East Germany tending sheep.
Before I start with my article I would like you to pardon me that I won't call the GSDs from East Germany what they are commonly called. The double "D" followed by the "R" are not what this "country" was like: It wasn't German or democratic or a republic.
In my article you will miss objectivity. In fact, I will be as subjective as I possibly can because I intend to write about my very own experience since I grew up and worked with GSDs in Eastern Germany until 1990, when I moved to West Germany and then to the United States.
If you, the reader, are a big fan of "The" East German Shepherd Dog, you might not want to continue reading. I will not only say that "The" GSD from East Germany doesn't exist, I will also try to pull the dogs down from the pedestal where many would like to see them.
What does "The" German Shepherd Dog from East Germany actually mean? Well, it is a stereotype and generalizing may sometimes come in handy but seldom fits the truth. In East Germany existed such a variety of different kinds of GSDs that it is worth it to take a closer look.
First of all, there were the GSDs used for herding. Just like in West Germany, it was the minority among herding dogs but they were used. (The majority is the GSD's ancestors, the Old German Shepherd Dogs - Altdeutsche Schaeferhunde). Many of the GSDs used for herding were without papers. However, the breeding was still consistent, it was done with thinking and it included all the things that we do today, including line breeding. A pedigree simply didn't matter to many sheep herders. I myself used to own two of these GSDs. They were my first and they were good, confident, diligent and healthy.
A great number of German Shepherd Dog people were "in for the sport". They did mainly Schutzhund or went to shows, had fun with the dogs and just liked the breed. The dogs in Schutzhund, and now I will generalize myself a bit, were in my opinion a bit more aggressive and not that willing to obey in comparison to the West German dogs that I have seen. Of course, that is an observation I made.
There were pet GSDs also but not in great numbers.
There is a darker side to the breeding and training of GSDs in East Germany also. A number of dogs were used by the police and particularly by the Border Police. Big deal, happens in other countries too, doesn't it? However, the dogs used by the police were mainly used against the citizens, not to protect them. The dogs used by the Border Police were used to keep us East Germans in, not to keep illegal immigrants out or to protect the border to the outside.
These dogs were purely bred and trained for aggression. Anything else didn't seem to matter. A great number of them that I have seen in my hometown and during my apprenticeship near the border to West Germany were these aggressive man hunters, systematically bred and trained for aggression to be used against their own people. It had system, that was the system. Where are those dogs now?
Since September 1995 East German native Ulf Kintzel has resided in Sussex County, New Jersey
with his German Shepherd Dogs. He manages White Clover Sheep Farm,
where he teaches the unique sheep herding style called tending.
Browse other informative articles in the NWK9 Reading Room. . . .