German Shepherds originated in Germany, as their name suggests, and they’re often known as the GSD, Deutscher Schaferhund or Alsatian. The breed’s officially recognized name is German Shepherd Dog. Originally, they were bred to help with sheep herding and over time, they became well known for their stable temperament and sound judgment. Eventually, these traits resulted in them being used as search and rescue dogs, guide dogs and police dogs. They are naturally protective, which means they must be well trained while they are young so they learn to differentiate between unwelcome and welcome guests. Since they need room to run and plenty of exercise, they are great choices for families that have plenty of time to spend with the dogs, ensuring they get the exercise they need. With proper socialization and training, the German Shepherd makes a wonderful canine companion.
Near the end of the 19th century, the German Shepherd was first developed in the country of Germany. The ancestors of these dogs were crosses of several native dogs found in central and northern Germany. These dogs were developed to help with sheep herding, moving along the flocks edges, guiding strays back to the herd using stealthy, steady movements. The original parent club for German Shepherds was the German Shepherd Dog Club, which was founded back in 1899. It wasn’t until the 1900s that these dogs started to become popular around the world. During World War I, over 400,000 German Shepherds were “enlisted” in Germany’s Army and they were also used to assist the Royal Air Force and Army during the Second World War. In 1913, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America was started.
Before 1915, a German Shepherd could have three different types of coats, including a wirehaired, longhaired and smooth-haired coat. Today, the wirehaired coats are never seen. From time to time, longhaired German Shepherds are born. However, the show ring in the U.S. doesn’t accept longhaired GSDs.
German Shepherds have a muscled, agile and strong appearance. They are very muscular and athletic, boasting a curved silhouette. They have a wedge-shaped, long muzzle that has a black nose. Their teeth meet in a unique scissor bite. Their eyes are almond-shaped, very dark, expressive and alert. Their saber tails are bushy and hang down to their hocks. These dogs can come in many different colors, although white German Shepherds aren’t accepted by the standards of the American Kennel Club.
The German Shepherd has a double coat, and most have hair of medium-length. Their coat may be wiry, wavy or straight and they come in many different color patterns and colors. Some colors include black and red, black and tan, liver, blue, sable, bray, black and silver, black and black and cream.
Males generally stand at about 24-26 inches and weigh between 75-90 pounds. German Shepherd females are about 22-24 inches tall and weigh between 50-70 pounds. A lesser known fact is that these dogs should be longer than they are tall and the idea proportions are considered 10:8.5.
German Shepherd Temperament
Courage, obedience and strength are key characteristics of a German Shepherd’s personality. They are also well-known for their focus, intelligence, loyalty and tenacity. Although they are often used as protective guard dogs and they were bred as herders, they make great companions for families. Their distinct personality includes self-confidence and fearlessness and they are often aloof with strangers and are reluctant to build friendships. However, once these dogs choose to befriend you, they are devoted for life. Their protective nature makes them great guard dogs and family dogs, but owners need to make sure that neither timidity nor aggression is tolerated.
These large, energetic dogs are composed and restrained. In most cases, they are faithful and patient, although they can be bold. They enjoy taking part in family activities, such as swimming, running and hiking. They do well with regular walks, although they aren’t an ideal choice for individuals living in small apartments.
Mental exercise is essential for the German Shepherd. They are very intelligent and require mental exercise to combat boredom. They love working with owners and enjoy obedience training, agility courses and more. Since they are so alert and smart, they are easy to train and can learn nearly any task. However, they need to be trained while they are young and require kind, firm and consistent handling.
The German Shepherd does shed heavily and often leaves hair behind. They usually blow the entire coat a couple times each year. Regular brushes can help reduce the amount of hair that ends up on furniture or floors. When these dogs blow their coat, they require daily brushing.
It’s important to avoid bathing a German Shepherd too often. They should only be bathed when necessary, since bathing too often can strip the essential oils from their beautiful coat. While they shed constantly, they are very clean and usually only need baths every couple months.
Owners need to check their ears weekly to look for any signs of wax buildup, infection or irritation. Ears should be cleansed regularly using a cotton ball and a cleansing solution approved by a vet. Nails need trimmed monthly and teeth should be brushed weekly.
Because of their intelligence, the German Shepherd dogs are a popular choice for those looking for working dogs. They are often used for police work, including detecting drugs, tracking criminals and more. The military often uses German Shepherds, using them as rescue dogs and personal guard dogs. They are also trained by the military to parachute with soldiers and to do scout duty.
Because of their keen nose, they are one of the most popular breeds to use in scent-work roles. This often includes narcotics detection, accelerant detection, explosives detection, mine detection, cadaver searching and search and rescue. They are able to work despite distractions, which makes them an excellent choice for these working roles.
German Shepherds are still used today as guide dogs, although Golden Retrievers and Labradors are now a more popular choice for this type of work. Still today, the German Shepherd is used for tending sheep and herding sheep in various places across the world.
German Shepherds generally live to be between 10-13 years old. Common health problems they experience are thought to come from inbreeding, which occurred during the early years of the breed. Elbow and hip dysplasia both are common in this breed, which may result in arthritis and pain later in life. Degenerative spinal stenosis is also a problem often seen in these dogs. Other breed health concerns to consider include cataracts, hypothyroidism, allergies, footpad disorders, nasal cavity tumors, Cushing’s disease and tricuspid dysplasia.