It is not exactly the end of the German Shepherd, more of a slow fade. This is likely to be helpful to the breed in the long run.
The breed reached it
Susan Orlean, New York Times, 8 October 2011 (hat tip: NC)
[D]ogs are not brands. Unlike Prada backpacks or Jimmy Choo shoes, demand for a certain breed can’t be relieved by merely ramping up production. Unscrupulous kennel owners and pet shops start producing puppies as fast as they can, even when the genetic mixes they’re creating aren’t healthy. Responsible American breeders soon noticed the dogs were showing an alarming rate of hip and eye problems, and they asked experts from Germany to tour kennels here and make recommendations for sorting out the genetic mess.
That intervention set things right, but the popularity of the breed remained. If there was a slight lull for German shepherds in the ’30s, it passed quickly when they were named the Army’s official mascots in World War II, with Rin Tin Tin as the spokes dog for the War Dog program; this, coupled with the hit ’50s television show “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” made German shepherds the ultimate American dog.
Demand for the breed, and the cruel practices that drove its supply, continued in the postwar years. “Success, like a chicken bone, is bad for dogs,” began a story in Life magazine called “Sad Degeneration of Our Dogs,” which ran in 1958. “The higher a dog rises in public favor, the more devastating its downfall. None has soared higher or fallen harder than the German shepherd."
The German Shepherd breed was not that old. The very heavy interbreeding from a relatively small stock is guaranteed to bring out malign recessive traits. And as the article notes, the more popular the dog, the bigger the problem.
The article ends on this note:
But there is good news about this bad news, if you are a lover of the breed, because less visibility, especially in inspiring roles as public servants, is likely to mean less demand for the dogs. That means less reason to produce too many puppies, which is the best thing that can happen to any purebred dogs.