The German Shepherd is an active, loyal, and all-around wonderful dog. This breed can do it all, but remember, they need a lot of training and exercise.
Well, the name says it all! The German Shepherd is a herding breed from Germany. Also known as Deutscher Schaferhund, literally meaning German Shepherd Dog (GSD), the German Shepherd was listed as the second most popular purebred of 2011 despite only being recognized as a purebred since 1899. The breed's popularity really skyrocketed as a result of the TV series, Rin Tin Tin, and the German Shepherd's service in WWI.
Originally, the German Shepherd was bred specifically for herding and guarding sheep, but they're used for many other purposes today! German Shepherds make great police and military dogs, guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, and therapy dogs.
Smart as They Come
The German Shepherd is an EXTREMELY intelligent and highly trainable dog. In fact, in that regard, they are ranked third highest among all other breeds, with only the Border Collie and Poodle beating them out. In addition, they are extremely confident, affectionate, and playful with friends and family. However, having been bred to protect a herd, the German Shepherd does have a tendency to mistrust strangers. Luckily, with proper early socialization this can be overcome and the German Shepherd can be a fantastic companion - even with children and other animals!
Their intelligence is off the charts and they are great at picking up commands and hand signals. Not only are they exceptionally quick learners, but they're also eager people pleasers.
German Shepherds average a height of about 22 to 26" and can weigh anywhere from 60 to 140 lbs. Typically, they are large, muscular, powerful dogs!
Their activity level is high, making them a breed that enjoys a lot of time playing and being outside. They also enjoy serving, so some form work or competitive sport would be a great way to keep your German Shepherd healthy and happy! At the very least, a 30-minute walk two to three times a day is a must for this breed. Without this, behavioral problems can develop. German Shepherds don't mix well with apartment living and will not be happy left home alone for many hours.
When they are not worked with, trained, or exercised properly, this breed can make life miserable for those around them, but this isn't the fault of the dog. They just weren't bred to lie around on the couch all day - they need lots of physical and intellectual stimulation. If denied this stimulation, Germans will entertain themselves, which can lead to destructive and aggressive behavior - especially if they are not properly socialized.
Large prick ears and a black "mask" on the face are trademarks of the German Shepherd. While they actually come in a variety of colors, they are best known for their tan/black or red/black markings.
White German Shepherds
While white German Shepherds do exist, they are considered by some to have faults in their gene line and may be disqualified for showing in some organizations. Regardless of color, they all have a thick double coat that is absolutely beautiful and sheds year round. To keep their coat (and your home) clean, daily brushings (sometimes a 2-3 times a day) will be required.
This breed has issues with hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (inability to properly digest food due to a lack of digestive enzymes made by the pancreas), and bloating (an abundance of air, fluid, or foam in the stomach). German Shepherds generally live between 9 and 13 years.
As you begin looking for an German Shepherd, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year, there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!
At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.
On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!
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Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005