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What's In a Name?

By Jean Reeves, 35 year White Shepherd Enthusiast & owner of Royal Acres

Originally Published in WHITE SWISS WORLD Magazine Issue #1 in July 2021

Though most everyone knows the history and origin of the White Swiss Shepherd/

Berger Blanc Suisse/White Shepherd (WSS/BBS/WS), there continues to be many misconceptions concerning which dogs and what bloodlines actually belong to the breed and how new bloodlines are added to any breed associated with the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale).

The FCI is not in itself a registry, but the governing body of organizations that register

purebred dogs. One kennel organization from each country is recognized by the FCI as the official registering body acceptable to be used in the FCI organization. The FCI organization has written rules and procedures that grant ability for each country to decide if they will allow open stud books through initial registration.

Here in the US – it is the American Kennel Club (AKC) that is officially recognized as the registry for FCI purposes. However, the AKC, as well as the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Kennel Club are not actual member FCI registries and therefore, do not adhere to the rules and regulations of the FCI itself. The US (AKC) Canada (CKC) and the United Kingdom (KC) do not recognize all the breeds that are official breeds in FCI. What this means for the WSS/BBS/WS is that the AKC and CKC currently do not and are not required to recognize the breed, and they can continue to register white coated dogs as German Shepherds. The Kennel Club of the UK has recognized the WSS/BBS/WS in 2017 and will register them as such, and not as German Shepherds any longer.

Though all FCI affiliated countries will accept AKC paperwork to be used for registering

each breed of dog into its correct breed, the AKC does not yet recognize the WSS/BBS/WS. AKC registers WSS/BBS/WS as German Shepherd Dogs, even though the color white is a

disqualification to the breed standard of the GSD. White is also a disqualification to the GSD

standard in all FCI countries. AKC and CKC will still register a dog with a disqualification to the breed standard. FCI does not allow disqualified faults to be registered. Thus, other countries cannot register our US and Canadian whites as GSD. Most countries will also not use AKC papers to register a white GSD as a WSS/BSS/WS, though some countries do still allow this practice.

The actual FCI affiliated registry for the United States is the Federacion Canofila de Puerto Rico (FCPR). WSS/BBS/WS living in the United States and Canada should be registered with the FCPR if they are to maintain their international affiliation with the White Swiss Shepherd (WSS/BBS/WS) breed. Registering a WSS/BBS/WS with the American or Canadian Kennel Club will transfer their breed status to German Shepherd Dog. It is unknown if those dogs who have been registered as GSD will ever have the opportunity to change their AKC/CKC registrations back to WSS/BBS/WS when the breed is eventually recognized and we are able to move forward with recognition with AKC.

Continuing to register WSS/BBS/WS as German Shepherds through AKC continues

to bind them to the GSD as a disqualifying fault for the unforeseen future, slowing the

possibility of recognition as a separate breed here in the United States. Canada and the United States are the only countries in the world still registering whites as GSD. In actuality it is only by choice of the owner, as there are other options for registration such as the FCPR and the United Kennel Club.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) considers the White Shepherd and the White Swiss Shepherd to be the same breed. They are registered together as one breed and will continue to be the same breed, separate from the GSD. Breeders here in the US, with many generations white to white bloodlines also consider these dogs a separate breed from the GSD. The breed

standard between the FCI and UKC are actually very close in consistency. Breed standards

will vary from one organization to another. Each organization requires its own breed standard

to be written to its requirements, even though each standard may vary slightly, the breed

remains the united.

For instance, the German Shepherd has its own standard with the parent club in

Germany – the SV (Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhund). It has a different standard with the

AKC and another with the FCI. Each organization requires its own standard of the breed,

usually with minor difference and its own style or “type” but the dogs remain the same breed.

Though some breeders prefer one type over another type, the breed is not broken down into

separate parts. They remain one breed with each breeder given the opportunity to breed the

“type” that they prefer to promote and own.

UKC accepted the White Shepherds (WSS/BBS) before the breed began its journey

to acceptance with the FCI. Some of the traditions of the GSD breed carried over to the show ring in the form of how the dogs are presented. It is still acceptable to show the breed in a three point stack, although the four point stack is also acceptable in the UKC show ring and in many cases preferred. Some dogs are built more appropriately for the four point stack and should be presented as such.

To recap the breeds history – of course our white dogs began as a part of the German

Shepherd breed. The color white was mostly eliminated from all FCI registering countries because white is considered an undesirable color to the breed and deemed a disqualification. FCI does not allow registration of disqualifying faults. Eventually white coated dogs could rarely be found in the GSD breed in countries following FCI guidelines. However, breeders here in the US and Canada continued to see value and importance of the white coated dogs and many continued to breed and improve the stock as time progressed. Most adhering to white only crosses to improve pigmentation and remove cream coloring from coats. The color white does mask coloration in dark dogs, increasing the chance of producing faded pigmentation and coat colors.

Eventually, others around the world also took interest in these gorgeous white coated

dogs and began to import them back to other countries from the US and Canada. FCI would not allow them to be registered as German Shepherds as it is against their regulations to register disqualifying faults to any breed. Breeders in many countries joined together to have the white dogs recognized as a separate breed. They were at first naming them the American/Canadian White Shepherd.

During this same timeframe here in the US and Canada, white GSD enthusiasts realized

that separation from the GSD breed in AKC would be a very long-term project and it was not going to be achieved anytime in the near future, so the United Kennel Club (UKC) was approached. UKC is a very old and well-respected organization, hosting conformation and performance shows across the country. UKC fully accepted the White Shepherd as a distinct breed apart from the GSD in 1999. For the first time anywhere in the world, our white dogs were offered a large, all breed venue for conformation shows and awards.

In 2003, the FCI organization began accepting the breed into registration, renaming

them Berger Blanc Suisse (White Swiss Shepherd) for the Swiss parent club that first organized a registry and approached their country for recognition. During this timeframe, many more white coated dogs were exported from the US and Canada throughout the world to help expand the gene pool around the globe. Full acceptance with FCI occurred in 2011.

So, what’s in a name? While it is true that the need for separation from the GSD is real

and continues today, the WSS/BSS/WS is a very new, young, developing breed. Comparing this breed to other breeds that have been in existence for hundreds of years, we are just at the cusp of existence in the purebred dog world. Our breeds bloodlines from FCI countries can easily be traced back, with not that many generations, to the same bloodlines and ancestors that appear in American/Canadian white bloodlines. No matter what name they are called, WSS/BBS/WS are, in reality, all from the same genetic background.

Another interesting fact has come to light in recent years is DNA breed type testing. Our

white coated dogs are now moving away from the GSD gene pool in DNA sequencing and can be distinguished as a separate group. Some dogs, from both FCI countries as well as US and Canadian born dogs are testing completely as WSS/BBS/WS. There are some dogs

who from both domestic and foreign bloodlines that still carry some GSD in their DNA sequencing – but there appears to be little difference between DNA of white coated dogs who are many generations white to white breeding. In recent testing genetic diversity has shown to be basically the same between imported and domestic whites here in the US.

As stewards of this new and blossoming breed we should always look to the future. Our bloodlines and pedigrees intertwine throughout our short history between American, Canadian and foreign born dogs. It is important for our breed to find and use diversity, breed out health problems, focus on great temperaments. It is extremely important to remember – the breed is very young and it is still in its development stages. Inclusion of as many healthy bloodlines as possible should be of top priority. There should not be exclusion of any bloodline that has good substance and structure, is healthy, well mannered, fits the breed standard and that could be a benefit to the breed.

We are all working toward the common goal of worldwide recognition that is so well deserved for our beautiful breed, no matter what name they are given or what side of the ocean they were born. This special breed is onward to greatness!

Jean's bitch, UKC CH Royal Wild Imagination, otherwise known as "Image." American bred and lineage, Image is sired by AWSA/WSCC CH UKC GRCH Royal Sir Isaac's IQ UCD CD UAGI TT CGC, otherwise known as "Isaac," an extremely well known male who appears in many pedigrees of today's American and European White Swiss Shepherd/White Shepherd lines.

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