The German Shepherd was previously called Alsatian, named after Alsace, a region of France which was a part of Germany during both world wars. Alsace, it is believed, is where the breed originated from during the latter half of the 18th century. The breed as we know it today was founded by a German cavalry captain, Max von Stephanitz.
As the name suggests, the German Shepherd was used primarily as a sheep dog in the Germany/France region of Europe.
The German Shepherd is a very intelligent, loyal, fearless and alert and would not hesitate to put themselves between a member of their human family and danger. Because of this strong protective instinct, combined with their eagerness to learn, the breed was used as a security dog and is now a common sight with police forces across the world and of course used in the military.
Its keen sense of smell, agility and intelligence has also meant that the German Shepherd is used in rescue services to sniff out people trapped as well as cadavers. The loyalty and intelligence traits were also exploited and used for a while as guide dogs, but work with Labrador's proved that Labs were better suited to this requirement.