Although we doubt that there is anyone that hasn’t heard about German shepherd dog (or GSD), we will use this opportunity to lay some interesting facts about this beautiful breed. German Shepherds are smart, confident, courageous and one of the most famous dog breeds in the world. These dogs excel in everything they are trained to do – guide, assistance work, police and military work, search, herding, rescue, drug detection, obedience, etc. They are very intelligent and great working dogs. You will be surprised by how devoted and courageous they are. Other breed names are GSD, Berger Allemand, Alsatian wolf dog. Although he is one of the best working dog breeds they are great companions. If you are thinking of searching through German Shepherd breeders to find your new companion you will not make a mistake. With this dog, you will get both guardian and companion for life. They have strong protecting instincts and to prevent over-guarding and aggressive behavior, German shepherd dogs should have socialization and obedience training at a young age. These are dogs of action - they need a lot of exercises, otherwise they might misbehave. They go along well with children and other pets if raised with them. German shepherd dogs are very devoted to their family.
History of the breed
German shepherd dogs are, as their name implies, a breed that originated in Germany. Their development started in the late 1800s by crossing various herding breeds. They owe their existence to one man – Captain Max von Stephanitz. Von Stephanitz retired from military life in 1898 and began experimenting with dog breeding to create a superior German herding dog. He studied breeding techniques from the British and he traveled through Germany to attend many dog shows so he could observe German type herding dogs. He noticed many different types of dogs – one was a great herding dog, the other was athletic and the third was intelligent. But what he noticed was that none of these dogs had all those traits together. While attending one dog show he saw a wolfish looking dog and he immediately fell in love so he immediately bought the dog. He wanted for this breed to work as herding dogs but because Germany became more industrialized, the need for such dogs started to fade. He then decided that this breed will continue as a working breed. He used his connections in the military and convince the German government that these dogs should be used in military purposes. During World War I these dogs served as Red Cross dogs, rescuers, messengers, supply carriers and guardians.
Although this dog found their way to the US before the war, this breed became popular after the war. A lot of soldiers took this dogs home. One of these dogs was a puppy who went home with the American corporal who trained him and this dog became one of the Hollywoods most recognizable stars: Rin Tin Tin who started in 27 Holywood movies. Americans were impressed with these dogs, but because of their German roots, they weren’t exactly happy with its name. AKC changed their name to Shepherd dog in 1917, and in England, this dog was renamed to Alsatian Wolf Dog. AKC returned the original breed name in 1931 while the British did the same in 1977.
Von Stephanitz was closely involved in this breed and their development and he was alarmed that some dogs are losing the original characteristics so he developed a system for quality control. Before any breeding, dogs needed to pass numerous tests of intelligence, athleticism, temperament, and health. In the US this was not regulated and many breeders cared only about dogs looks only to win at dog shows.
After World War II American and German dogs started to diverge. At one point Americans started to import these dogs from Germany for police and military purposes because homegrown dogs were failing all tests. In the modern era, American breeders started to breed dogs according to their abilities rather than just looks.
FUN FACT: Many people say that American bred dogs are calmer than the German dogs but critics noted that these dogs lost their traditional working talents and that they are prone to behavior problems.
FUN FACT: The first guide dogs were German shepherd dogs.
Dog breed characteristic
Their imposing size, erect ears, and dark eyes are characteristics by which they are known all over the world. They are muscular and very active dogs.
According to this standard male dogs have height 60 – 65 centimeters (23-26 inches) at the withers and weigh 30 – 40 kilograms (66-88 pounds), while the female dogs can reach a height of 55 – 60 centimeters (21-23 inches) at the withers and can weigh 22 – 32 kilograms (48-70 pounds). They belong to the group 1 (Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs)) – Section 1 (Sheepdogs). They were fully accepted in the FCI in 1955.
German Shepherd dogs belong to the Herding group. Male dogs can reach a height of 61-66 centimeters (24-26 inches) and can weigh 29-41 kilograms (65-90 pounds) while the female dogs can reach a height from 56-61 centimeters (22-24 inches) and can weigh 22-31 kilograms (50-70 pounds). This dog breed was recognized by the AKC in 1908.
GSD - coat and grooming
Because these dogs were originally bred to herd flocks in the harsh climates, their medium-length coat served the purpose. Coat acted as a protection for the dog from the rain, snow, and dirt. There are two variants of the coat: longhaired and the double coat of the medium length. Their ideal coat is the second one – the outer coat lies close to the body and it is dense with strait hair. Their coat comes in the variants of color including black, black and cream, black and silver, black and red, liver, sable. Small white markings on the chest are permissible but not desirable. German Shepherd dogs are easy to maintain but the bad news is that they shed a lot. During the shedding season (twice a year) they will blow a lot of hair at once, so if you want this dog, be prepared to see his hair everywhere. Weekly brushing will keep his hair under control, and during shedding season you will need to brush your dog every day to control the amount the hair that ends up on your furniture and around the house. These dogs will need only an occasional bath to keep them clean. It is not advised to bath your dog too often because that will strip the coat of oils that keep the coat healthy so you don’t need to wash him more than your dog needs it. Trim his nails when needed (if you hear them clicking on the floor) and check his ears for any signs of redness, wax build-up or a bad odor which can indicate an infection. Wipe their ears with the cotton ball soaked with the ph balanced ear cleaner. Because these dogs love to chew, you can give them a bone or a dental chew toy and they will clean their teeth by themselves.
This is a very active dog breed. If you are thinking about getting this dog you need to be sure that you have enough time to fully exercise your dog. They require daily exercise to keep them healthy, happy and in good condition. If you don’t provide them with enough exercise they will become bored and destructive. They need training for both body and mind. You can start exercise your dog while he is a puppy, but don’t over-exercise your dog. Start with a few daily walks, and from time to time allow him a playtime with other dogs. Because their joint and bones are still developing, if you over-exercise them while they are young they can have problems later in life. They are an excellent dog breed to participate in canine sports such as agility, tracking, herding, and dock diving.
FUN FACT: German Shepherd dogs were searching for survivors and comforting rescue workers after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Socialization and training
These dogs are extremely smart and intelligent but they need early socialization like any other dog breed. During training, you need to be consistent and use positive training methods with rewards to get the best results. Because these dogs are bonded to people they are most happy when they are with their family. They thrive to have a job and they can learn almost anything. These dogs are alert and reserved but usually, they are not aggressive. They will not make friends with strangers immediately, but once they do, they will be extremely loyal. Early socialization is a must. Expose your dog to many different people, sights, sounds, and dogs while he is young. This way your dog will learn many different new situations and will grow up to be a well-rounded dog. The only thing that they don’t like is being left alone for a longer period. If you leave them alone without any companion you can expect them to become bored and frustrated. In those cases, they could start chewing things and bark constantly.
FUN FACT: They excel the most at guide and assistance work for the handicapped, police and military service, herding, search and rescue, drug detection, etc.
Because their main purpose was to herd and guard they can be very vocal if people are walking beside the house. Barking will vary from dog to dog but if your dog is an excessive barker and you don’t like it, we recommend seeking professional help.
German Shepherd and kids
If you training your dog and expose him to kids while he is young you can expect a good dog who will enjoy kids' company when he grows up. Germans Shepherds are great companions for the kids and they will be both gentle and protective. He will babysit your kid and protect him from any sighs of trouble. Regarding that, you will need to watch the interaction between dog and the kids because of his size he could easily bump into a kid while playing. Generally, they are trustworthy around other kids they don’t know but you need to be careful.
GSD and other pets
This dog can live with other dogs and animals if they are raised with them from the puppy age. If you bring adult German Shepherd into a home where there are other pets it could be a bit difficult for him to get used to it but it's not impossible. In that case, you might wanna seek professional help and hire a professional trainer to help you with the adaptation.
They live about 10-12 years. However, they are prone to some serious health conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and allergies. Because of these susceptibilities, and because German shepherd dogs are large and powerful and have strong guarding instincts, great care should be taken to purchase German shepherds from reputable breeders. Before purchasing a German shepherd dog, explore carefully all the GSD breeders and make sure to get one from a responsible breeder that can guarantee you a dog that comes from a line of healthy GSD dogs with the characteristics that are significant for the breed.
To be sure that your dog is healthy you can perform hip and elbow evaluation.
The German Shepherd Dog is, as already said, a large, agile, muscular dog of noble character and high intelligence. The German Shepherd Dog has amazing character; loyalty, courage, the ability to learn commands and to be a gentle family pet but also fierce protector are the breeds' best qualities. We advise you to only search GSD breeders on the World Dog Finder website or at the national cynological association of your country. Because this dog breed is so popular many “bad” breeders will try and trick you into buying a dog who is not pureblooded or who will have serious health problems later in life. That is why it is advised to only buy dogs from official and responsible German Shepherd breeders. Most of the good breeders will welcome your questions if you have any and will try to find the best puppy for you and your lifestyle. If you are not interested in buying and you would like to adopt a German Shepherd dog (which we highly recommend) you can search your local shelters because there is a change that GSD dog is waiting to be adopted. If you are decided to get this dog (either buying or adopting) you will not make a mistake. These dogs are great companions who will make your life interesting.
World Dog Finder team