Many different clubs have been formed over the past years to support one or more aspects of the German shepherd. Some clubs are geared toward sport dogs (Schutzhund, or as renamed in 2004, Vielseitigkeitspruefung für Gebrauchshunde [VPG], which means “working dog sport”). These clubs are focused on training for competitions that include tracking, obedience, and protection. Using play drives and positive reinforcement, they are trained to grab and hold the padded arm of the helper, or training assistant. For these dogs, the protection phase of Schutzhund competition is a game. If a person's arm is not padded and the dog is ordered to attack that individual, the German shepherd is likely to do nothing except become very confused.
Other associations, such as the United States Police Canine Association and the Canadian Police Canine Association, are specifically for working K-9s. Working shepherds, those serving in the military, police, and other government agencies, require all the drives and characteristics that the sport shepherd possesses, and then some. Specifically, K-9s must possess a higher level of confidence than sport dogs to execute their training in totally unfamiliar scenarios, not just practice fields in which the testing setup is always the same. K-9s must be trustworthy and friendly in large crowds of people, but they must also be able to switch into protection mode at a signal from the handler or if the handler is attacked.
Verein Für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV)
In addition to serving as the oldest German shepherd registry in the world (started in 1899), the SV offers conformation shows, Schutzhund trials, and “breed surveys,” in which a dog is tested to see if she has the correct temperament and drive to work as a K-9.
German Shepherd Club of America
The German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) is the U.S. parent club for the German shepherd. It is not a registry — dogs are registered through the American Kennel Club. As the parent breed club, it is the club that is recognized by the AKC. The GSDCA was formed in 1913 and was incorporated in 1916.
Working Dog Association
The Working Dog Association (WDA), founded in 1982, is an offshoot of the GSDCA. The purpose of the WDA is to promote the “total” dog: the German shepherd that can do it all — succeed in working trials as well as in the conformation ring. The WDA hosts Schutzhund trials, conformation shows, and breed surveys.
The Deutscher Verband der Gebrauchshundsportvereine (DVG), or The German Club for the Working Sport Dog, was founded in Germany in 1947. The DVG is dedicated to the sport of Schutzhund and is not a registry. The branch of the DVG in the United States is called the DVG-America.
United Schutzhund Clubs of America
The United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA) emphasizes the total, working German shepherd. It holds Schutzhund trials, conformation shows, and breed surveys. Both the GSDCA's and the USA's breed standards closely follow that of the SV.