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Getting to know the German Shepherd

Confident. Courageous. Smart. Those are three of the terms the American Kennel Club uses to describe the majestic German Shepherd Dog or GSD. Breed enthusiasts explain they are that and much more.

History of the German Sheperd

As descendants of a family of German herding dogs from the late 19th century, the German Shepherd’s original job was to herd sheep. In the 1800’s, German cavalry officer Captain Max von Stephanitz was determined to develop an ideal herding dog and began a breeding program that resulted in today’s German Shepherd.

Officer von Stephanitz championed the first-ever club devoted to the breed and spent more than thirty years promoting and defining the breed. In the early 1900s, the breed gained in popularity in the US due (in part) to the movie Rin-Tin-Tin.

Today’s German Shepherds exhibit versatility in intelligence, speed, agility, and stealth—and at times, it is easy to forget they were originally bred to herd sheep. Also, through von Stephanitz’s shrewd promotion of the breed, they came to be known as ideal canine workers. German Shepherds are the preferred dog breed for military units and police departments around the world; and they made up the majority of search and rescue dogs who searched for survivors in the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster.

German Shepherd Characteristics

According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog breed. Fiercely loyal, courageous and intelligent enough to assimilate and retain training for myriad special services. German Shepherds are sought after to act as service dogs, agility dogs, obedience dogs, and especially police dogs. They are extremely loyal, committed to their task, and a ferocious fighter if called upon.

Additional Facts About German Shepherd

German Shepherds:

  • Live between seven to ten years
  • Weigh between fifty and ninety pounds—females are slightly smaller and lighter
  • Have a medium-length, double coat that requires regular brushing every couple of days
  • Shed their coat once or twice a year
  • Are a active and athletic breed, requiring daily exercise for his physical and mental wellbeing
  • Prone to bad habits if bored, frustrated, and not exercised frequently enough.
  • Loves to participate in agility, herding, tracking, and even dock diving
  • Considered family- and child-friendly dogs if properly socialized

Behavior and Health of the German Shepherd

German Shepherds can suffer separation anxiety and prefer to be with family. If left home alone frequently, he may develop separation anxiety. Keep him engaged with puzzle toys and consider crate training for longer periods alone to alleviate anxious behaviors.

This breed is suspicious of strangers and will not make visitors to you home feel welcome. Socialization and introduction to new people should be frequent and regular from the day you bring your German Shepherd home.

German Shepherds are prone to specific health issues—including elbow and hip dysplasia (joint deterioration), degenerative myelopathy, and bloating.

Is A German Shepherd Right For Your Family?

A German Shepherd may not be the dog for you if he will be left home alone for long periods of time. Known as a one-man dog, the German Shepherd displays fierce loyalty and fidelity to his owner or main caretaker. However, the breed will bond with all of “his people” and makes an ideal family pet if they are properly trained and socialized as puppies.

Continued training ensures your German Shepherd will grow into a well-mannered and adaptable adult. Positive, consistent and reward-based training will produce a dog who responds well to commands and who will be able to adapt to either being a family pet or a hard-working highly trained service dog. 

When getting a German Shepherd, look for a rescue organization or obtain one from a reputable breeder. Sign him up for training classes as soon as possible and make certain the entire family is involved in his care, training and daily exercise.

If you’re looking for a dog your children can bond with and can act as a watchdog, the German Shepherd Dog may be ideal pet for your family!

Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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