The History of the German Shepherd Dog in Australia.

It might be argued with some truth that dogs of over a century ago can have little influence on any breed as it is known today.  Do they deserve to be forgotten? Indeed no ! These dogs of almost a century ago were the basic structure on which the dogs we love and admire now were built, and the story of their development, and the faith and determination of those who devoted their energies to this task should be an inspiration to us forever.


The earliest report of an imported “ German Sheep Dog “ was in 1904 in Western Australia and it was not until 1920-25 that interest was aroused and further dogs were imported and the breed then known in England and consequently Australia as the “ Alsatian Wolf Dog or Wolfhound “ started to become popular.  The name was changed to “Alsatian Dog “in England around 1920 as the reference to wolf was as distasteful as was the word “ German “ at the end of the World War 1.


During the mid 1920s the Graziers Federal Council of Australia and other parties claimed that the “ Alsatian Dog “ represented a threat, that the dog was vicious, it had wolf blood in its veins, it was a sheep killer and if crossed with the dingo it would be dangerous.  Despite professional advice which repudiated these claims, the Federal Government passed an import ban on the 24th July 1928 which was imposed on 2nd May 1929.  This ban although initially for 5 years was not eased until 1972 and not repealed until 5th March 1974!


The year 1925 saw the breed’s official Australian history begin with the importation of the Crufts winner Ito of Fallowdale into Australia.  Also on the same boat was Pinkerton Rhoda.  As a number of further importations followed, graziers and pastoralists in Australia began to express concerns that the breed was dangerous.  This was partly based on the British re-naming of the breed, Alsatian Wolf-Dog.  Australian graziers and pastoralists started to express fears that German Shepherds would mate with dingos and produce a powerful and intelligent sheep killer.  Powerful lobby groups such as the Western Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Society started to call for the breed to be declared a dangerous noxious pest. 


On 29th February 1929 the dog KCC Ch.Claus von Eulengarten arrived in Melbourne.  He was the 26th German Shepherd dog imported into Australia and was not only a show champion, but also a trained Police Dog.


The year 1929 also saw the Australian Government respond to the continued fears of the graziers and pastoralists by placing a directive against the import of the breed into Australia.  The Government then passed legislation in the next few years to officially legislate against the importation of the German Shepherds into Australia.  At this stage only about 55 to 60 official imports had entered Australia.


The early 1930’s saw the popularity and the numbers of German Shepherds wain.  This meant that purist breeders were able to slowly rebuild the reputation and standing of the German Shepherd.  The outbreak of the Second World War saw the German Shepherd pressed into military service in large numbers.  The breeding stock in Germany was greatly reduced, as large numbers of dogs were lost during the war.  The tragedy of war once again highlighted the breed’s useful qualities and helped to restore the reputation of the German Shepherd.  This conflict also saw large numbers of dogs being trained to detect the presence of various types of unexploded devices. This activity has evolved into today’s explosive and drug detector dog programs, which have been extremely effective for law enforcement agencies world wide.


The years following the second World War saw worldwide resurgence in the popularity of the German Shepherd.  The situation in Australia, sadly, has not improved with the import ban still in place.  The lack of new bloodlines made it difficult for Australian breeders to make improvements to the breed and Australian German Shepherds were unable to progress to the level of those found in Europe.  Breeders in Australia had to make the most of a bad situation and struggled on.  However, breed clubs such as the German Shepherd Dog Club of Qld (Inc), and other groups started to promote the positive aspects of the breed.  They hoped that common sense would win through and that the import ban would be lifted in the future.


In 1963,  the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia (GSDCA) was formed with the intentions of improving the standing of the German Shepherd and removing impediments, such as the Federal Government import ban.  Owners of German Shepherds in Western Australia and the Northern Territory were not even allowed to breed from their existing stock.


Through various lobbying of the Australian Government a one year trial lifting of the ban on importing the breed into Australia commenced during 1973.  The then Customs Minister, Mr.Lionel Murphy, saw that the ban was ludicrous, and through the help of other politicians such as Mr.Don Chipp (current Patron of the GSDCA), was able to allay fears of the farmers and graziers.   The trial was a success and in 1974 the import ban was permanently lifted.  At last breeders were allowed to bring in new blood lines from Europe which allowed great advancement and improvement in the quality of the breed in Australia.   1974 also saw the formation of the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs, with the aim to promote breeding and training according to German standards.  This organization was formed out of the former European Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs due to the wishes of non-European clubs.

In the immediate years that followed the lifting of the ban a steady improvement of the standard German Shepherds found in Australia took place.  The importing of new blood lines made available to Australian breeders the genetic material that they required to advance the breed and this has enabled them to move towards the standard of dogs found in Germany.  In fact in an ironic twist the federal Government during the early 1980’s funded the Kamarn Breeders Foundation Ltd which produced about 70 litters of German Shepherds.  A large number of these puppies went on to become working dogs such as police, service dogs and guide dogs.  After three years of grants the Federal Government removed support and the program eventually ceased.  We can only wonder how much more contribution could have been made to the Australian Community by the breed if the Federal Government had supported the breed earlier.  The Australian Customs Service currently benefits from a breeding program of Labrador Retrievers funded by the Federal Government.  The Defence Force is currently in the very early stages of their own breeding program utlising German Shepherds and Malinois


Whilst the import ban was in effect, it is a credit to the breeders within Australia that the German Shepherd Dog survived and remained as one of the most popular dog breeds within this country. During the late 1950s and early 1960s the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia was formed with German Shepherd Clubs within most states.  It was through the efforts of these clubs and the dedicated breeders that this ban was finally lifted.


The breeding of the German Shepherd Dog in Australia has progressed rapidly, assisted by the introduction of imported bloodlines, since the lifting of the import ban.  Now the standard of German Shepherd Dogs are comparable with the best in the world and the breed has undoubtedly remained one of the most popular and versatile breeds within Australia. 


In 1993 the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia with the assistance of the Australian Kennel Council (ANKC), took advantage of an opportunity to revert to the Country of Origin standards and adopted the full FCI and SV Breed Standard.  These recent developments and various German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia breed improvement schemes have resulted in a vastly improved quality of the German Shepherd Dog in Australia, from that available prior to the lifting of the import ban.


1976 Australian Gold Medal winning dog Ingo v Hafenlohrtal ‘a’ Sch II (Imp GMY) Breed Survey Class I


1976 Gold Winning Bitch in Australia Silvy Dell’ Alta Quercia (Imp Itly) Breed Survey Class I.


Ch.*Iwan v Lechtal’a’’Z’(Imp GMY) KKL.1 – a dog of great influence here in Australia in the recent years.

Iwan’s show career in Australia included:

Gold Medal 1998 National

Sieger 1998 Main Breed Show

Silver Medal 1999 National

Silver Medal 2000 National






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