The German Shepherd Dog
While famous and used throughout the world as working dogs and family pets, the German Shepherd Dog is considered one of the ‘newer’ dog breeds. Its origins date back to 1899. Max Von Stephanitz, the breed’s creator, was a former cavalry captain and student of the Berlin Vetrinary College. He wanted to create something that would be the image of all working dogs, and while attending a dog show in Germany he saw Hektor Linksrhein, a dog he thought fit the bill quite well. He liked the dog for his strength, intelligence, and loyalty and Max purchased the dog that same day, subsequently renaming him Horand von Grafarth. Horand was the very first German Shepherd Dog, and was placed in a breeding program with other dogs that displayed similar, desired traits. The result, though varying, is today’s German Shepherd Dog. Originally they were bred to be herding dogs but today they excel in a number of sports and activities, such as Schutzhund, agility, flyball, etc.
Ranging from 66 to 88 lbs. and about 21”-26” in height—depending on gender—the German Shepherd is considered a large breed of dog. According to a breed survey, their lifespan is an average of 9.7 years. The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most registered breeds of dog, and they are loved for their strength and intelligence, along with their courage and natural protective ability.
Coat color can vary from the classic black and tan to solid black, with sables and bi-coloured dogs in between. A white coat is somewhat common, though not accepted in a show ring. They come in either standard ‘stock’ coats, or long, plusher coats. Both types are double-coated, as German Shepherds are known to be heavy shedders, too.
There are quite a few different ‘types’ of German Shepherds. They all show a genuine eagerness to please their owner, and are very trainable. The working German Shepherd—coming from lines mostly from East Germany (known as DDR German Shepherds, or Deutshe Demokratishe Republik) and Czechoslovakia—is best suited in a home where it has a purpose, such as Schutzhund or other dog sports. They are known for their high drives and ‘need’ for a job.
Then there are the ‘show lines’, which are mostly American and West German. These dogs have the sharply sloped, much more angulated backs that you do not see in the working lines. These show lines differ from the working lines in regards to appearance. They are longer and leaner than the working dogs, and usually have lowered energy levels and ‘calmer’ temperaments than their working counterparts. This type of German Shepherd also excels at sports and makes a wonderful active companion.
Generally, every German Shepherd has high energy levels, and should be confident dogs that are usually very eager to please and learn. If not socialized properly, the German Shepherd can become over-protective of its family and territory. They also have a somewhat ‘aloof’ personality, and are wary of strangers. When training, they respond best to positive, rewarding methods rather than the ‘firm hand’ many people believe they require.
With the original breeding programs Max von Stephanitz oversaw, defects in the dogs were promptly bred out. Now, however, with much less strict breeding over the years, there are genetic problems such as hip dysplasia, monorchidism, color-paling and weakness of temperament. They are also prone to elbow dysplasia and it isn’t uncommon for a dog to have missing teeth. Sometimes the ears never go up as a puppy, and they remain bent or half-erect after the dog is fully grown.
German Shepherds were bred for their intelligence. People say they will not think twice before giving their life for their owner, as it has happened countless times in police and military work. They are the second most popular breed in the United States alone. If the German Shepherd dog is socialized well as a young puppy, you should have a well-rounded dog on your hands. Aggression and attacks on people or other pets are usually the result of the handling and training from the owner, not the dog.