German Shepherd Dog or Alsatian?

In 1926, there were 8,000 registered Alsatians in the United Kingdom, and in the United States that same year, a whopping 36% of total breed registrations could be attributed to this breed.

Today, of course, we know the breed as the fabulous German Shepherd Dog, Alsatian being the name given to the breed by the British who were averse to using the name “German Shepherd” at a time when Germans were their arch-enemy. They took the name from the German French border of Alsace-Lorraine where British forces were locked in a fierce battle with German forces. The breed was even registered with the British Kennel Club as the Alsatian Wolf Dog. The Brits eventually went back using “German Shepherd Dog” in the 1970s, but the Alsatian didn’t go away, and therein lies a debate.

Some people believe that the Alsatian is a German Shepherd is an Alsatian is a German Shepherd. California/Oregon breeder, Lois Schwartz, would disagree. In 1987, she developed  a large companion dog she named the Alsatian, a dog that looks somewhat like a German Shepherd Dog, but with a working drive that pales in comparison to that of a GSD because Schwartz’ breed was created expressly to be a companion and service dog.

Schwartz started with a German shepherd/Alaskan malamute cross to gain the look she wanted, then added English Mastiff, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhound, and Anatolian Shepherd.  Observers will say that the Alsatian is a much larger dog, easily outweighing the German Shepherd by as much as 20 to 40 pounds.

Schwartz has written that she feels the term “purebred” is an outdated, archaic, and “blue blooded”  notion of what makes a pure dog breed, and has suggested instead that the term, “strongbred” better represents what separates her breed from the rest of the purebred dog breeding population. She believes that “strongbred” refers to a modern breed with a documented pedigree in a permanently open studbook regulated by breed clubs. You can read more about her sentiments on this point at the National American Alsatian Breeder’s association here.

It’s worth noting that the idea of the Alsatian may have its roots in the Dire Wolf Project developed by Lois Schwartz when she was Lois Denny.  Her goal was to breed dogs that resembled the prehistoric Dire Wolf, but with a calm, companionable character.  The breed’s original name was the North American Shepalute which was changed to Alsatian Shepalute in 2004.  Six years later, the word, “Shepalute” was removed and the breed was renamed the American Alsatian. One source we found suggests that the original name was dropped because it sounded too much like a crossbreed, and Schwartz was determined to develop a purebred dog with a breed standard.

That we mention the Alsatian on these pages should not be construed as an endorsement. We share information in the spirit of education, and given that the Alsatian and German Shepherd Dog were once regarded as the same breed, we thought a little clarification would be helpful.

Image of an American Alsatian found on Pinterest and happily credited upon receipt of information

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