The VZH Breeding Initiative
Before you read this article, do keep in mind that we are not referring to AKC breeders nor the AKC version of the German Shepherd Dog. We are referring here to Authentic German Shepherd Dogs produced in Europe, or such dogs produced by the very few Qualified GSD breeders in the United States, who are importing breed quality dogs, and breeding to the European standard.
For three decades, VZH bred the Authentic European black and red West German GSD. However in 2020, we made a major change in our breeding program, which is taking this breed to the next level. An approach that we hope will be followed by the other Qualified breeding programs in the World. The following explains it all.
There was only one GSD in Europe prior to 1949. After the wall went up in 1949, thus separating Germany and creating the Eastern bloc, the breed became two distinct sub species – the West German Shepherd and the East German / DDR / Czech GSDs. Many, even in Europe, refer to the two subspecies as Show and Working lines. If you have read much about the German Shepherd Dog, you have seen this verbiage, however those terms are incorrect, as both subspecies are Working dogs and both are bred and evaluated for conformation qualities. Old School Europeans, and we at VZH, refer to the two subspecies as Hochzught ( the West German GSDs ) and Leistungszught ( the East German / DDR / Czechs ). After 1949, the Leistungszught was also bred in West Germany, however not to complicate this, and make this easier, for this article we will refer to the Hochzught as the West German Shepherd, and the Leistungszucht as the East German / DDR / Czech German Shepherds.
The divide was OK , or tolerable until around the mid-1990s to early 2000s , then too much focus on confirmation and line-breeding, and too much focus on the pet market in America and Asia, has significantly lowered the quality of both subspecies. We will add here that the divide did not occur all at once. It began in 1949 and it was not until over two decades later, the early 1970s, that there would be a complete divide, which resulted in two distinct Authentc European German Shepherd Dogs.
There have been a handful of breeders in the world who have stayed on the straight and narrow, thus producing the GSD as it was meant to be, including VZH. However, this has become more and more difficult, as when we need to purchase new dogs to be a part of this, they can hardly be found, only the pretty dogs, bred for the pet market, and thus lacking the intelligence, instincts, ambition, health and stamina, that made the GSD… a GSD. This is why the Police and Military have all but abandoned this breed. While VZH primarily places our dogs into Companion / Family homes, if a dog doesn’t have the aforementioned attributes, then it isn’t really a GSD. In addition to losing those qualities, line breeding, while increasing the chances for the better genes, also increases the chance for the less desired genes, and downright bad genes, know as double copies of negative genes. Qualified breeders know where the bad genes are and we breed around them, but with the overall gene pool being more and more reduced, it is getting more and more difficult to avoid such genes.
So it has been know for many years that the breed needs to be brought back together, thus undivided. However for a modern breeder to bring the two subspecies back together as one, after being separated over 50 years ago… how exactly does a breeder accomplish this? It would surely take a Breeder with vast knowledge in genetics, genetic expression, pedigrees, lineage, and the bio-mechanics of the breed to accomplish such. Imagine trying to mix two types of a dish, with all different ingredients, and two distinct flavors into one that still looks and taste good. While other breeders in the World have tried this over the last several years without success, VZH has been watching and learning. So it was realized in early 2020, that it was our turn. When a Friend, Mentor and high level Breeder in Europe learned that we were doing this, he told me, “Edward your dogs are the most sought after in the United States and no nobody is complaining. Why ruin what you have accomplished? Just go with it and do the best you can.” My response, “Because it’s not an option, and I’m prepared to go down with the Ship.”
We will go back here and discuss what happened to both subspecies. This breed of course began as herding dogs, to help early 20th century German Sheep Farmers to keep track of their herds, and to keep predators from attacking the sheep. It was then discovered in WWI, the usefulness and tasks that this young breed could achieve. As the industrial revolution evolved in Germany, and less of a need for herding dogs, and more of a need for Law Enforcement dogs, the breed then began to be used for those purposes. During these early decades of the breed, it was well known by those closely working with these dogs, the very good therapeutic and companion qualities that the German Shepherd Dog has, how good they were for Families, including children.
As the breed evolved and continued to be used by Police and Militaries Worldwide, the overall usefulness of the breed and their qualities became well known. Soldiers going back to their home lands after WWI and WWII, telling what they had seen and experienced from the German Shepherd Dog. Then television shows like Rin Tin Tin, and again the stories that Soldiers took home from Vietnam about these dogs, thus over these decades there became such a Worldwide demand for this breed. However the demand from Civilians ( the Pet-Companion market ) who were willing to pay large sums for these dogs, vastly overtook the demand from Police, Military, and Search and Rescue Organizations, who also operate on a budget, and can only pay so much for dogs. However, the Civilian market wanted a dog that looked like a GSD, that acted like a Cocker Spaniel, thus not wanting the drives and instincts that again, make the breed what it is, and thus so good. The solution here would have been to evaluate all puppies at 7-8 weeks of age, as VZH and any Qualified breeding program would do, and then after thoroughly evaluating the potential new Owners, thus custom match each puppy or dog, to the appropriate person and or environment.
However Greed set in, so the heck with the time involved with evaluations, there was just too much money coming at breeders, so they just bred for the Civilian Market, and moved puppies and dogs as fast as they could. During the latter part of the 20th Century, we also began to see less effort by the European Registries who had always monitored and governed Breeders. The same with Trainers, with Working Titles being handed out to dogs, who couldn’t actually work. It all has became about money, and thus so much of the good about this breed has died. But as it has been said, Greed is a terminal disease…
We want to be clear here: Both subspecies were good for decades, it was not until the 1990s that the West German dogs began to wain, and not until the early 2000s that we saw this with the East German dogs. We want to be clear about something else: To this day, there are still excellent dogs thus being produced in both subspecies that are as good as the breed was before the divide, however these dogs are super rare. We are also talking about dogs coming from only a handful of breeders in the World, thus by those who are truly Qualified to produce these dogs, are driven by an immense passion for this breed, that have never allowed greed or any type of focus on money to be a part of their breeding program.
So in early 2020, I ( Edward Denny ) began searching and searching for the right East German / Czech Male, to cover our West German Girls. I already knew he must be an all black, thus not to create havoc within the genetic color codes. The genetic color codes of the GSD are complex, so rather than use several paragraphs, charts and such to try and explain it to you, we will just hit the high points here. The West German GSD is either black and red or black and tan. The East German / Czechs are sable, black / sable, black and tan, bi-color and all black. All of these colors are good and attractive, however, from a genetic standpoint, all of the East German / Czech colors do not mix well with the West German black and red.
In many cases, breeding some colors of the East German / Czechs with West Germans can create havoc within the genetic color codes. While a black and tan or bi-color East German Czech could work, this all needs to begin with all black Males, thus crossing with the black and red females. We will add here that in crossing an all black with a red and black, the entire litter will be Red and Black. Occasionally, we will have all blacks or black sable, when we cross Ciro with our black sable girl from Czech, Fara.
After a base of breeding an all Black male, to red and black females is established, then dogs of other colors from the East German / Czech species can be brought in. Again, we could go on and on here, start splitting hairs ( no pun intended ), and explain about the genetic color codes, but hope this covers it.
The need for an all black, East German / Czech Male however created even more of a challenge as all black is the most recessive ( rarest color ) among German Shepherd dogs. So I was looking and looking at Males in Europe, and had initially saw Ciro Betiseb and passed on him due to my own ignorance. Then it finally hit me like a ton of bricks. He was the dog. From his conformation to his demeanor. From his work ethic to his specific genetic make-up, and fortunately nobody had met the price on him. So I wired the money to Europe as fast as I could. Its been mostly Ramen noodles and cornbread for me since I acquired Ciro, but I would do it all over again.
Ciro was born to a small scale breeding / training kennel in Krupina, a small town in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia. Realizing that they had a big-time dog that would bring big money from somewhere in the World, they took Ciro to major European Working dog broker, from whom he was purchased. Ciro’s lineage is a mix of German Schutzhund, DDR, and Czech / Pohranicni Straze German Shepherd Dogs. His Sire line is from the only Cordon An-Sat direct Sire line still in existence today, as it was from Cordons daughters, or thru his son Tom Z Pohranicni Straze, and thru Tom’s daughters, that most of Cordon’s genetics went forward. Cordon was a legendary Police dog in the Czech Republic, and it was thru this Sire line that so many of his direct Male prodigy was used by the Pohranicni Straze, from which Ciro hails. Ciro’s Dam is Beta Batipet, a very hard working Female, and one of the very few females to have achieved an SVV3, Police / Military training regiment rating in Europe. You can read more about Ciro on our Sire’s page.
Regarding the Gentleman in Europe who told me that I was likely destroying our breeding program in attempting to re-integrate, after I sent him pictures and videos of my own 6 month old Ciro / West German cross, as well as other pictures and videos of Ciro / West German prodigy, he told me, “You nailed it.” In fact, as of the writing of this article in April 2021, there have 5 crosses with Ciro and our West German Girls. We, our mentors in Europe, and most importantly VZH Clients, are elated with what we are seeing from this prodigy.
Regarding me ( Edward Denny ) being the Breeder with the vast knowledge and such to accomplish this… Nope, not me… I’m just lucky or blessed. God has always looked out for me with these dogs. He knows this breed needs me… LOL, in reality he knows I need this breed.
We hope that other Qualified German Shepherd Breeders, those who have a fire burning inside for this breed, will follow suit. We hope that all other so called German Shepherd Breeders, especially the AKC breeders, will either stop their exploitation, ignorance, and greed, or learn something from this article, continue to educate themselves about German Shepherd Dogs, or again, just stop the carnage.
The pictures directly below this article are as follows: Significant German Shepherd Dog from when the breed was undivided ( Top ), Significant West German GSDs after the divide ( Middle ) and Significant East German / DDR / Czech GSDs after the divide ( Bottom ).
Thank you for reading, and God Bless You.