WHITE SHEPHERDS WORLDWIDE,  PART 3

Ronda Beaupre

 

WHERE DID "WHITE" COME FROM?    When Max Von Stephanitz selected the foundation stock in 1899 for German Shepherds, the new breed he was developing, some dogs that carried the white coat color gene were used.  It was known from the beginning that the gene for white coats was present in the gene pool.  It was not a surprise when two carriers would produce a white dog.  White dogs were registered along with their dark littermates.  It wasn't until around the 1920's that white dogs were discriminated against. 

 

WHITE IS BAD.     There are many reasons proposed why white coats should be any less desirable than dark ones.  For each one, there is an equally good reason why whites should be preferred OVER darks.  In my opinion, there is only one reason that I have heard in 20 years that actually sounds like the truth:  The leadership of the SV (the founding breed club for German Shepherds) decided in the 1920's to make the breed more uniform in appearance.  They discouraged all colors except black & tan.  The strict control and power that the SV has over the breeders in Germany enabled the SV to reduce the frequency of all other colors in the gene pool,  and they stopped registering white dogs altogether.   The influence of the SV was extended to all nations who were members of the FCI (a type of World Kennel Club).  This brought about the gradual extermination of the white color gene in most countries. 

 

FREEDOM IS BAD.  When German Shepherds were imported into America, they were registered with the American Kennel Club, which is not a member of the FCI.  The AKC does not give any power to the American breed clubs to control breeders.  The breeders are free to breed any two AKC registered dogs (of the same breed) together and register any resulting puppies with the AKC.  The AKC does not care about the parent's health or suitability for breeding, as long as they are AKC registered. This freedom can be abused by those who don't x-ray hips before breeding, or who breed dogs with poor temperament or with major faults.  There are no penalties for breeding ugly, shy, aggressive, or dysplastic dogs with various health problems.   People are not required to belong to a breed club.  Even if they do belong to a breed club, the club is powerless to control anyone's breeding practices.  The most a club can do is require people to sign a code of ethics, and then discipline or expel a person from the club for violating the code.  This would not affect a person's right to breed and register dogs with the AKC.

 

FREEDOM IS GOOD.    Does this mean ALL American dogs are ugly, dysplastic, or plagued with health or temperament problems?  Of course not.  There are many responsible, ethical breeders who are doing an excellent job!  Puppy buyers are becoming educated to ask the right questions to find the more responsible, ethical, and successful breeders.  The breeders who are not responsible and ethical, will find it  more difficult to sell their puppies.  When German Shepherds came to America, they were free of the SV domination and people were free to breed any color they wanted. The number of white dogs increased.  If the German Shepherd Dog Club of America had the power, they also would refuse to allow breeding of white dogs and the white German Shepherd would be nearly extinct in America too.  The freedom that the American's have from the control and domination of the all powerful breed clubs, has saved the white colored German Shepherd from extinction! 

 

EUROPEANS BENEFIT FROM AMERICAN'S FREEDOM     In the 1970's, Individuals traveling from America to Europe brought individual white German Shepherds to Europe with them.  Some were bred together in Europe and produced pups.  Because of the breed standards in various countries prohibiting whites, they could not be registered as German Shepherds.  Perhaps in an effort to obtain some respectability and unique identity, when white German Shepherds were re-introduced to Europe, they were called American Canadian White Shepherds.  This may have confused some people, who to this day think the white German Shepherd is a different breed, somehow incorporating Arctic Wolf blood, samoyeds, or some other such nonsense.  Because the white color had been virtually eliminated from the European German Shepherd gene pool, no one had seen a white German Shepherd in several decades.  People had a hard time believing that these were indeed German Shepherds.  It didn't help that the American German Shepherd had evolved slightly differently over the years, and the temperament and structure were no longer typically "German". 

 

THE AMERICAN'S FREEDOM RESULTS IN MORE VARIETY OF TYPE AND QUALITY     The white color was a fault in the AKC German Shepherd breed standard.  People who purposely breed dogs with faults were not welcomed into German Shepherd breed clubs.  Then the German Shepherd Dog Club of America changed the breed standard to make white a disqualifying fault in 1968.  White dogs were thus prohibited from competing  at AKC conformation shows starting in 1968.  Discouraged from participation in breed clubs and banned from shows, many breeders of whites were without guidance or education concerning structure, gait, and temperament characteristics a good German Shepherd should have.  Most bred the dogs according to each individual's own preferences, likes and dislikes.  The strong willed, dominant, high drive working attitude of most German lines did not suit most American's family lifestyle, training experience, or needs.  The over angulation that was becoming so popular in the AKC  German Shepherd show ring appeared to be crippling deformities to most of the American public.  And of course the American tradition of "bigger is Better" played a role in many people's breeding choices.   Consequently, there developed a wide variety of type, temperament, and size among white German Shepherds. 

 

WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD CLUBS FORM     In 1975 or so, the first American club for white German Shepherds was formed.  Shows were organized.  Newsletters were published.  A breed standard was adopted.  A point system for earning Championships was instituted.  Although they were not American Kennel Club shows or championships, people once more had an opportunity to compete and become educated.  The shows and championships were not AKC sanctioned, because the AKC recognizes only one parent club per breed.  Since white German Shepherds are registered with the AKC as German Shepherds, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America is the only club for the breed that the AKC will recognize.  It is unfortunate that the only AKC breed club for the white German Shepherd wants nothing to do with them!   As with all dog clubs, various personalities and power struggles within the White German Shepherd Dog Club International have hindered and reduced some of the potential good that was possible.  Nevertheless, over the years, progress is evident in both breeder knowledge and the quality of the dogs.  Over the years, dogs attending shows have become more uniform in type, temperament, size, and health.  Several clubs are now available.  Many clubs are promoting the dogs as "German Shepherds, now and forever" regardless of the disqualified status of the white color.  The American White Shepherd Association  and the United White Shepherd Club are the only American clubs to actively promote and seek recognition for whites as a separate breed of dog, as in Europe.  So now there is more opportunity for everyone who wants to be involved to find a club that they can agree with and be part of. 

 

BUYER BEWARE! , THE PRICE OF FREEDOM     There are still many breeders who do not x-ray hips, and are not involved in clubs or showing.  They have dogs with type, size, health or temperament outside the NORMAL range specified by the breed standard.  This must be accepted as the price of freedom.  The wise shopper will compare many breeders and learn what questions to ask to reveal those less knowledgeable or less ethical breeders.  The price of a puppy is NOT a good indication of quality.  There are breeders who fall into both categories who are overpriced!  There are also breeders in both categories who are very reasonably priced.  Try to see through the sales pitch of the good salesman to find the answers to your questions that will tell you which are which.  Check for AKC and OFA certificates, champion or working titles in the pedigree, parents temperaments, health and size characteristics, a guarantee, a contract, and a health record.  A responsible breeder will ask you questions about your experience, your family, your home, and maybe even your financial wherewithal to cope with routine veterinary expenses.  They should be able to provide references and names of satisfied customers.  They should also be willing to counsel and advise you about health or behavior problems you may have after the sale. 

 

WHERE ARE WHITES GOING?   If the AKC will recognize the White Shepherd as a separate breed, They will be able to show at any AKC show and earn championships.  This will provide learning opportunities for people in parts of the US where there are no White Shepherd club shows at present.  When White Shepherds are registered as a separate breed in more and more countries around the world, it will encourage the exchange of breeding stock and traveling to international shows.  These new bloodlines and competitions will promote improvements in temperament and conformation worldwide.   In the end, White Shepherds around the world become better dogs.

 

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  2007  by Ronda Beaupre,  REGALWISE SHEPHERDS, 
1700 N Washington LN, Abilene, KS 67410  

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  This site created June 4, 1999.       
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