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The Versatility of the German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog doing Barn Hunt.

This article was originally published in Showsight Magazine, September 2014 issue.


The Versatility of the German Shepherd Dog

It has often been said that the GSD is second best at everything—second to the Border Collie in Herding, second to the Bloodhound in Tracking. What the GSD does best is being the most versatile breed. They are intensely loyal and gentle and extremely intelligent. Additionally, the GSD works Search and Rescue, with the police and military and as guide animals and therapy dogs.


There are two types of herding. The C course is a tending course in herding and is a smaller version of the SV’s HGH done internationally. It is meant to simulate the work that dogs perform during the seasonal movement of livestock. It’s a livestock management type of herding historically done by GSDs and Belgians and Briards.

German Shepherd Dog Versatility


It is probably the loneliest performance venue. The purpose of a tracking test is to demonstrate the dog’s ability to recognize and follow human scent which is a skill that is useful in the service of mankind. It requires lots of grassy area and dedication during the wee hours of the morning before work or during the day. This is done internationally.

German Shepherd Dog Versatility


Inspired by working detection dogs, this is considered a fun sport for both dog and human. Any dog with a nose can do this sport and it is taught through fun and games.

German Shepherd Dog Versatility


This is an obedience sport that allows unlimited communication between the dog and handler promoting fun for both dog and handler and requires teamwork and the dog to show it is enjoying itself. Obedience is much more rigid and competitive. In Rally, the judge sets up a course from a stack of signs and the dog and handler must do them all correctly to qualify. The courses change every show. This is done internationally. The World Dog Sport Federation holds international events in Agility, Obedience, Rally and Flying Disc.


Considered the ultimate game for dog and handler, Agility requires the handler to move a lot. The dog is off leash and sent to different obstacles. It is a timed course. This sport is done internationally.

Dock Diving

Dock Diving is a sport where the dog jumps as far as it can jumping after an object (favorite toy) into a body of water. Any breed of dog can do this.

German Shepherd Dog Versatility

Barn Hunt

Barn Hunt is a sport that honors the role of a dog in ridding barns of vermin. No rats are hurt in this venue.

German Shepherd Dog Versatility

Lure Coursing

This is a sport for dogs that involves chasing a mechanically operated lure. Originally the sport showcased sighthounds but many breeds enjoy the sport.


Formerly known as Schutzhund, it is a three part title of protection, tracking and obedience required to be bred in Germany along with a breed survey. This is done internationally. This working dog sport was designed for breed suitability in Germany in the early 1900s. Many other breeds participate in this sport.

German Shepherd Dog Versatility


There is also cart and weight pulling. Weight pulling is a dog sport involving a dog pulling a cart or sled loaded with weight a short distance across dirt/gravel, grass, carpet or snow. Requires a specially fitted harness.

Awards & Eevents

The Total Dog in the GSD breed in the United States is awarded the premier title of AOE—the Award of Excellence which includes: a select title won at the National by a champion of record, OFA hips and Elbows, a Temperament certificate and a performance title. It awards a combination of beauty and brains and addresses the “total dog concept.” The dog should be beautiful, agile, alert, full of life, intelligent and of good temperament. The Tile of PAM seen in front of many of the dogs pictured means Performance Award of Merit. It is the highest award bestowed by the AKC in performance and to be eligible for this award a dog must have completed titles in three different performance events (obedience, tracking, agility, herding) with one of the areas being the highest title possible.

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