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The Real German Shepherd Dog

"The most striking features of the correctly bred German Shepherd is firmness of nerves, attentiveness, unschockability, tractability, watchfulness, reliability and incorruptibility together with courage, fighting tenacity and hardness" - Max von Stephanitz, creator of the German Shepherd Dog.

Firmness of nerves

The word "firm" is defined as being "resistant to external pressure", "indicating resiliency", and "securely fixed in place".

But I am having trouble accurately defining "nerves"....

One of the functions of the nervous system is to detect change in the environment and respond appropriately.

A second function of the nervous system is that it also controls the emotional and behavioural response to stress or pressure.

Nerve, or nerve strength could be defined as the dog's ability to handle and navigate environmental changes.

"Changes" may be normal, every day occurrences that pose no real danger, such as new people, dogs, different surroundings, sounds, surfaces, etc. Strong nerves will allow the dog to react appropriately and navigate these changes with little effort, and without being phased by it. Weaker nerves will cause the dog to become stressed, and impair the normal functioning of the dog.

"Changes" may also come in the form of an actual or real threat, and/or pressure. In this case strong nerves will allow the dog to remain calm and composed. If a dog is able to remain calm and composed when under stress, he is able to think more clearly and make better decisions.

So, the first component of nerve strength is whether or not the dog is phased at all by none threatening environmental changes. The second component is the dog's ability to maintain composure when actually faced with real danger/threat...

Thus, firm nerves would mean a pressure resistant, resilient and fixed ability to appropriately navigate & handle environmental change, stress and pressure.


To be attentive means to be observant, watchful, and alert of the surroundings.

I feel like I should say more about attentiveness, but really what more is there to say? The dog must be alert to his surroundings. Not worried, but alert.


To be shocked means to be startled or surprised. Unshockability is to be unable to be shocked (startled or surprised), and goes hand in hand with firm nerves. The dog must have a clear mind with a stable temperament that cannot easily be moved or shaken.


Tractability means the dog must be easy to control, manage and teach.


Watchfulness is similar to attentiveness in that it means to be alert and "on guard".


A reliable dog is a dog you can depend on and trust that his work/behaviour will be consistent, regardless of the change of situation or environment. It is a dog that can perform his duty "reliably" despite a change in the circumstances or context.

Many dogs can perform when in a familiar situation, but fall apart when taken out of their comfort zone. Once again we see how "reliability" ties in with the firmness of the nerves.


The best way for me to describe incorruptibility would be to say that the dog cannot be bribed or coaxed to do anything other than the task he had been given to do. He must always stay focused on his work, disregarding any and all "temptations" that may want to lure him away from the purpose he had been given.


Despite what many may think, courage is NOT the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to move forward, in spite of fear. It is the ability to face fear or danger with confidence and resolution.

It is the mental strength that enables the dog to persevere and thereby withstand the danger and/or fear.

Fighting Tenacity

Fighting is an attempt to gain power over an adversary.

Fighting is not to be confused with defending. "Defense" is the willingness to engage in battle in order to keep safe that which you value, from danger, attack or harm. Defending is done out of necessity. When a dog is defending he is doing so because he has to, or he will risk losing that which he values.

But when fighting the dog is doing so because he believes he has a chance at dominating and overpowering his adversary, and he finds joy and pleasure in the challenge. He does not do it because he has to. He does it because he wants to.

Tenacity is the quality of being persistent and relentless. In other words, the dog does not quit.

To fight with tenacity requires the dog to have a "fight or die" mentality. Something that is extremely rare and hard to find.


Hardness in dog training terminology usually refers to the dog's ability to take corrections/pain/ pressure from the handler, without any change in his desire to work. It means the dog is not fragile/brittle, soft or sensitive, but can withstand hard corrections and negative feedback. It means the dog has a firm character that is resistant to handler pressure.

The above traits are not characteristic of the German Shepherd dog...they are characteristic of the CORRECTLY BRED German Shepherd dog; something that is sadly not easy to find in today's day & age.

It is my hope that writing and talking about this will raise some awareness and educate the public so that people may make better buying decisions. It is the ongoing support of aimless breeding that is causing the slow destruction of what is arguably the greatest breed ever created, the German Shepherd Dog.

~ ❤ ❤ ❤~

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