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The history of the German Shepherd Dog

The history of the German Shepherd Dog

Prior to the 1989 revolution in the Czech Republic which led to the fall of their communist government, the breeding of German Shepherd Dogs was predominately that of working dogs. What is unique is that this breeding has revolved around one kennel, owned by the Czechoslovakian Army's Pohranicni Straze (Border Patrol).

The Kennel z Pohranicni Straze (Z PS) was founded in the year 1955 for the sole purpose of producing and training dogs that would be exclusively used for the protection of the borders of the Czechoslovakian People's Republic or, since 1968, the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic. Most of the dogs used for breeding were acquired from the territory of former East Germany, as well as dogs from Czechoslovakia that excelled in their character qualities.

The stud dogs, females and puppies were cared after by military service conscripts. The dogs were trained at the Kennels for about 12 months, and then relocated to Border Patrol training facilities (nowadays they're quartered at Czech police training facilities).

The breeding program, established in 1956, has been under the direction of Mr.Jiri Novotny who, since 1981, has been the director of training. The main foundation of the breeding program has been focused on strengthening the power of bones, dark pigmentation, strong nerves and willingness to work in tracking, obedience and defense work.

While the kennel name remains "z Pohranicni Straze", it is now under the Pohranicni Policie (Border Police).

Depended upon Daily

During the years under the communist regime, the Czechoslovakian border patrol and their dogs would apprehend 20 to 30 people on a daily basis. While nine out of ten people would give up when confronted, the dogs were regularly called upon to defend their handlers from those intent on crossing the border, whatever the cost.

Today the Czech Border Police share border stations with their German counter parts who maintain a tight control over economical refugees from former Eastern Block entering Germany. Those who are not given visa's to legally enter Germany attempt to cross this same Czech border. While many are crossing to seek a better life in Western Europe and usually do not resist arrest, an increasing number are connected with organized crime and pose a considerable threat.

The "z Pohranicni Straze" German Shepherd Dogs continue to be called upon to respond daily in high risk, threatening situations. The training courses to prepare them are likewise demanding, as are the requirements for breeding.

 Breeding Facilities

There are three breeding facilities with a total of 80 breeding females that make up the "z Pohranicni Straze" kennel. There are 30 stud dogs, all of which are on active duty with their handlers. The breeding facilities are located within the Czech Border Police compounds in Domazlice, Libejovice and Prackovice. These compounds have high security status, with access to them strictly forbidden to anyone, including Czech Border Police, who do not work at the specific facility.

Obtaining a Pohranicni Straze German Shepherd Dog

There are three ways in which quality dogs from this highly desired "z Pohranicni Straze" kennel are available.

I. Studs Fees: The z Pohranicni Straze kennel breeds their females occasionally to dogs owned by civilians. The stud dogs chosen are outstanding working dogs selected for their ability to consistently produce dogs with exceptional working ability. The owner of the stud has the option of being paid or taking a puppy for payment. Most people take the latter option in order to own a "Z Pohranicni staze" dog.

II. Whelping litters: There are three kennels owned by civilians which the z Pohranicni Straze kennel works closely, Z Jirkova dvora, Jipo-Me and Z Blatenskeho zamku. These kennels, owned by civilians, are at times given the opportunity to take Pohranicni Straze breeding females and whelp the litters. In return, these private kennels keep half of the litter which bears the kennel name "z Pohranicni Straze".

III. Dog for dog: There are also times in which Pohranicni Straze Kennel trades dogs with these three kennels as another way to bring desired dogs and bloodlines into the Pohranicni Straze breeding program.


Center of Breeding

Through these three ways in which civilians have had access to z Pohranicni Straze dogs, the kennel has managed to be at the center of breeding in both the former Czechoslovakia and the present day Czech Republic. Many of these dogs have been purchased by Schutzhund competitors in both Western Europe and the United States, often placing high at championship events.


History of the DDR (East German) German Shepherds

DDR Dogs ?  What is this ?   Another New Breed ?

The popularity of the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) has been growing in numbers since their origin by founder Rittmeister Max von Stephanitz. Little did anyone know what an impact both World Wars would impart on the German Shepherd breed. The German Shepherd was much sought after by the military for their profound working abilities, loyalty , trainability, and their dedication to their owners or handlers. One of the greatest impacts to astound the working dog world and the German Shepherd breed was the onset of the Cold War.

Before the onset of the Cold War, Germany was one nation.  Great Britain, France, The Soviet Union, and the USA were allies during World War II.  As World War II was coming to an end, all 4 Allies occupied Berlin.  At the end of World War II, the city was split into 4 sectors.  A large dispute arose over the boundaries.  Thus began the Cold War with the Soviet Union closing borders; hence the two nations for Germany were formed, West Germany and East Germany ( Deutsches Demokratische Republik the DDR ). 

Many of us remember what communist controlled countries were like. They were not allowed free trade or  contact with the outside world and were dominated by their government over decisions most of us take for granted everyday. So was it also for the breeding kennels in East Germany.  With the border and Berlin Wall up, closed breeding within the DDR kennels kept the dogs at their standards without outside influence. 

 Germany now divided became a satellite state of the communist regime on October 7th, 1949, East Germany is now officially the Deutsches Demokratische Republik - DDR. It didn’t take long for “The Partei” to quickly confiscate and gain control of the German Shepherd pedigree registration and financial administration offices.  With the government’s hand and control over breeding and registration, strong criteria and tests were set forth as many of the dogs would be used for their military purposes. 

Consequently only the best of the best would be suitable for their new duties. Strong bones were needed for the great distances of walking they would endure, exposure to the most ruthless of harsh elements also played a part in the development of structure.  Thus they were very athletic with straight lines and a large intimidating look with large heads, broad shoulders and large chests. Other breeding criteria that differed from West Germany was the DDR dogs could only be bred if they were completely free of HD. Dogs that had fast normal hips or lesser could not be bred.  Dam’s had to appear with her whole litter for an inspection of teeth, ear set, temperament, coat, total overall appearance and males naturally had to have both testicles descended by I year of age. 

Major differences in the working abilities skills tests included a straight wall of 1.5 meters and 1.8 meters instead of the inclined wall now used.  They also had to go walk a balance beam, 10 blinds to search instead of 6, the tracking tests include more corners and angles; the FH 3 contained 16!

The Diensthundefuehrer ( Dog Team Leader ) was in charge of the overall care and training for the border patrol dogs and their handlers.  50% of their training was spent during the night for night maneuver exercises.  The K9 leader had to have basic veterinary knowledge and background in animal handling.  They were also non-commissioned officers.  The handlers had 3 different skill levels. Level -1 the highest and level-3 being a basic skilled handler.  They wore qualification badges or patches on their uniforms.

The Grenztruppen and their dogs watched over minefields, border fences; many people will remember Check Point Charlie and the watch towers.  Many dog runs or fenced pens also were set up throughout the border.  These runs or pens measured about 5 kilometers. Dog runs covered 97 kilometers of the border deploying approximately 1,000 sentry dogs.  The area  fluctuated  between 90- 120 kilometers. 200-250 dog runs  or pens were in Berlin alone!  The dog run comprised of dogs being leashed to a suspended line.  The dogs in the runs or pens were fed only once in a  10 day period to retain their ferociousness.


The Border Patrol Dogs

In 1946, the Soviet Union formed the Grenzschutz Polizei or Border Police.  They were in charge of guarding 1,378 kilometers of East German Border and also responsible for patrolling 165 kilometers of the Berlin Wall.  At the end of their first year of forming there were over 3,000 soldiers comprising the entire unit.  In 1951, their name changes to Deutsches Grenz Polizei.  And again in 1974 the name is changed to Grenztruppen or border troops. Usually 100-160 dogs were assigned to each Grenztruppen battalion.

More than just a sentry dog, they served as tracking dogs, and attack dogs. The border patrol also deployed a special dog pack to find deserters of their “cause” in large area searches such as buildings, timber / woods, or fields.

The end of the Communist Regime

In 1989, the border was opened.  Germany begins it’s initial stages of becoming a unified nation once more.  No longer needed, many of the DDR border patrol dogs were sold, put to sleep, and many abandoned.  The Grenztruppen were officially disbanded on July1,1990.

 There are only a handful of DDR breeders left in the world today.  It would be a shame to see this incredible breed of the working German Shepherd Dogs disappear. With the closed breeding, it has given us the opportunity to preserve the DDR GSDs in it’s most closest form to the standards set forth by the GSD founding father; with their natural defense drive, tracking abilities, temperament and structure.  The DDR border patrol dogs no longer exists, but their great courage, loyalty, working abilities, and devotion to their owner or handler survive throughout their lineage. 

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