The German Shepherd Dog, also known as an Alsatian, comes literally from the Deutscher Schäferhund. They are a relatively new breed of large-sized dog that dates from the late 19th century. They are part of the Herding group that was originally developed as a working dog for herding sheep.
The German Shepherd’s strength, intelligence and obedience mean they are often employed in police and military roles. They are also one of the most popular breeds around the world.
The breed originates from a dog named Hektor Linksrhein. Von Stephanitz was so impressed that he purchased it and changed the dog’s name to Horand von Grafrath and founded the Society for the German Shepherd Dogs.
Horand became the centre-point of the society’s breeding programs and was bred with many other society member dogs.
The German Shepherd’s popularity has grown rapidly through the 20th Century, although it took dives in popularity in the early days due to poor inbreeding and after the world wars with anti German sentiment. To such an extent that the UK Kennel Club renamed it to “Alsatian Wolf Dog”, but eventually the wolf dog appendage was dropped and, in 1977, the breed officially became the German Shepherd Dog. Their popularity was helped by animal actors Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. It is in most countries the third most popular dog.
They are a large dog of between 55 and 65 centimetres (22 and 26 in) at the withers and weigh between 22 and 40 kilograms (49 and 88 lb).
The German Shepherd’s face has a long square cut muzzle, a doomed forehead, a long neck, strong jaws, large erect ears (that are often pulled back when on the move), black nose and brown, medium-sized eyes, with a bushy tail.
German Shepherds come in a variety of colours, the most common being the tan/black and red/black varieties with black masks and saddles. Rarer variations include the sable, all-black, all-white, liver and blue varieties, which may not fit country breed standards. German Shepherds have a double coat. A thick close dense outer coat, which is shed all year round and a thick undercoat. The long-hair variety is rarer.
Like many working dogs, German Shepherds were bred for their intelligence and are considered to be the third most intelligent breed of dog (Border Collies is deemed to be number one by Stanley Coren in his book The Intelligence of Dogs). This intelligence, combined with their strength, makes the breed desirable as police, guard, and search and rescue dogs, being able to quickly learn various tasks and interpret instructions better than other large breeds.
German Shepherds have a reputation for aggression and have been banned in areas as a result. Statistically , in the United States, they are responsible for more random bites than any other breed, and have a known tendency to attack smaller breeds of dogs. Additionally studies have shown that German Shepherds are the breed third most likely to attack a person and in another report found that German Shepherds accounted for almost half of the dog bites that required medical attention, versus a more typical 20% of bites needing medical attention, not surprising with their powerful jaws and scissor teeth.
The problem is not with the dog, but often with the owners. As with any intelligent, active dog (or person), if they are not regularly active and kept occupied, they can become troublesome. Good dog training and socialisation are crucial for a dog like this. Unlike the collie, whose aggressiveness has been largely bred out from show strains, the German Shepherd has not lost this streak.
They can bond very well with their family, but they can become over-protective both of their family and territory. This can give them an aloof personality. German Shepherds learn well and are highly obedient and not easily distracted, but due to their strong character, you need to be very firm with them.
The German Shepherd will need to have two good walks a day. They are not a dog for a busy family who cannot give them sufficient time and attention.
Poor breeding has led to common health problems such as hip and elbow joint problems (dysplasia) which often causes the dog pain and may cause arthritis. The German Shepherd also suffers from monorchidism (one testicle), weakness of temperament and missing teeth, as well as folded or bent ears which never fully turn up when reaching adulthood. Due to the large and open nature of their ears, Shepherds are also prone to ear infections.
German Shepherds, like many large bodied dogs are prone to bloat. This is a very dangerous and often rapidly fatal problem so, if you think this may be a problem, go straight to the vet. This is a gas build up in the stomach caused by a number of different causes. The symptoms are distress for no apparent reason, a firm distension of the abdomen, general weakness, depression, problems breathing, hypersalivation and retching without vomiting. A high rate of dogs with bloat have cardiac arrhythmias (40 percent in one study), loss of appetite, vomiting and weight loss.
The German Shepherd also suffers from Degenerative Myelopathy. DM is a neurological disease and they are also are predisposed to Von Willebrand Disease, a common inherited bleeding disorder, which shows in varying degrees of bleeding tendency, usually in the form of easy bruising, nosebleeds and bleeding gums.
In spite of these problems, the average lifespan of a German Shepherd is 7 – 10 years, which is normal for a dog of this size.
The German Shepherd Dog has great olfactory sensitivity so is one of the most widely-used breeds in a wide variety of scent-work roles, including search and rescue, cadaver searching, narcotics detection, explosives detection, accelerant detection and mine detection, amongst others.
So a great intelligent dog that will bond well with you, if you have the time and energy for him. Not advised for busy working families.
“I was anxious to hire a cat sitter as this was my first experience but I must say that the service has been exemplary from start to finish with efficient and prompt communication and forms to make sure that all details were arranged. My cat required special vet attention during my absence and this was very well catered for. I received regular updates which reassured me he was in good hand. I came back to a tidy house and a healthy cat and I would definitely use London Cat Sitting again. I found very useful the log of the various duties.” Ms. S.C. and Misty of Queens Park