The German Shepherd has lived side by side with humans since time immemorial. Today she is one of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds on the planet.
- Breed name: German Shepherd
- Country of origin: Germany
- The time of the birth of the breed: the end of the XIX century
- Weight: 20 – 45 kg
- Height (height at the withers): 55 – 65 cm
- Life span: 10 – 15 years
Brief Description of the Breed
German Shepherds are surprisingly loyal to their owner, intelligent and noble dogs. Appearing in Germany at the end of the 19th century, German Shepherds were mainly acquired as assistants in driving and grazing livestock. But their innate qualities – poise, obedience, the quick reaction in non-standard situations made German Shepherds excellent service dogs, guides for blind and visually impaired people. Often dogs of this breed are acquired for the protection of the territory and as a four-legged friend of the whole family. And in the overwhelming majority of cases, they cope with the assigned tasks perfectly.
The appearance of dogs of this breed is well known to everyone since these animals appear more often than others in television films and serials. The Germans have a proportional build, their structure is strong, muscular. The head of the Sheepdogs has an elongated wedge-shaped shape, the neck is massive, muscular, the lower back is lowered to the croup, the limbs are long, parallel to each other. German Shepherds have more than medium-sized triangular ears, almond-shaped honey-brown eyes, and dark (black) pigmentation on the nose and lips.
German Shepherds can be either long-haired (elongated coarse hair in the ears, tail) and smooth-haired. The prevailing opinion that Longhaired Sheepdogs are mestizo (born from a cross between a German Shepherd and a different breed of dog) is not true, as smooth-haired parents often have long-haired cubs. However, in 2010, Longhaired Sheepdogs were recognized as a separate breed, although the habits and basic character traits of dogs with shorter or longer coats are absolutely identical.
The growth of German Shepherd males reaches 60-65 cm, females – 55-60 cm. The weight of dogs varies from 35 to 45 kg in males and from 20 to 30 kg in females. The color of dogs of this breed is quite diverse – solid black, black with marks of a light (brown, fawn, yellow) shade, black-backed. The life expectancy of German Shepherds is 10-15 years, in rare cases, dogs can cross the 15-year line.
The most significant person, who gave almost 40 years of his life for the benefit of the emergence and prosperity of the breed, is considered to be a retired captain of the German cavalry named Max Emil Frederik von Stephanitz. A military career was chosen by von Stephanitz at the behest of his mother, while he himself dreamed of doing agriculture. More than once the young captain watched the grazing large flocks of sheep and shepherd dogs, which were inferior in size and number to cloven-hoofed dogs. But the dogs coped with the herds entrusted to them brilliantly – without unnecessary fuss, quickly, not allowing the sheep to wander around. At that time (approximately in 1880-1890), all shepherd dogs were called Sheepdogs (from the word shepherd – shepherd), which did not mean that all animals for grazing were of the same breed. Von Stefanitz’s idea was to bring to light such a breed that would combine the best qualities of the Sheepdogs of that time. Moreover, in addition to helping in the shepherd’s business, the dog, according to von Stephanitz, should have had such traits that could become valuable in the business. And these qualities were as follows: endurance, obedience, loyalty, ingenuity, the ability to intercede for the flock and the shepherd.
Von Stephanitz, who left military service, began to closely develop a new breed, founding the famous German Shepherd Society in the 1890s. By crossing the best individuals, the founder of the breed improved the process, noting the slightest nuances that influenced the quality of the offspring. In 1899, von Stephanitz acquired the Shepherd Dog at an exhibition, a dog he named Horand von Grafrath. It was this dog that was entered into the Society’s herd book first, becoming the “father” of German Shepherd Dogs. This animal combined all those qualities that von Stephanitz liked so much and was so necessary for the shepherd’s work. Horand subsequently interbred with females that matched him in type and temperament, and Stefanitz identified defects in puppies, observed the characteristics of young animals. The dogs of the Society constantly participated in exhibitions, where the best representatives of the breed became the winners. The number of members of the society grew over time, and the interest in German Shepherds grew. Gradually, these dogs gained popularity in the ranks of the police, helping to track down criminals. Over time, they began to enter the military service, making a huge contribution during the First World War – they were looking for wounded soldiers, helped in patrolling, guarding.
The founder of the breed personally dealt with the problems of breeding work and maintaining the service qualities of German Shepherd Dogs, when dishonest businessmen tried to cross dogs without the necessary knowledge. The result of uncontrolled work was puppies with an unstable psyche, deviations in physical development. Von Stephanitz made every effort to breed the breed according to the rules. For example, to improve the quality and uniformity of the type of dogs, it was customary to cross closely related individuals. The breed became truly popular in the 1920s, and the decline fell during the Second World War when the society of Germany and the whole world was far from the problems of breeding and improving all breeds of dogs. In 1937, virtually removed by the Nazis from his life’s work, von Stephanitz died. And only in peacetime, after the cessation of hostilities, the followers of his cause revived and preserved the breed bit by bit, thanks to which the German Shepherd Dogs are rightfully the most popular in all countries.
German Shepherds have excellent intelligence, they are obedient, loyal, with proper upbringing, they treat not only the owner but also all family members, do not offend other pets. They are active, playful (even at a respectable age), require frequent communication with a person. Newcomers are treated with caution, but not maliciously as if finding out who is in front of the – friend or foe. They have great intuition and flair. German Shepherds combine two important criteria that make them universal both for service purposes and for anxious friendship with people – these dogs are good-natured, but at the same time clearly understand the tasks assigned to them in the form of protecting life and territories, etc. These dogs have a restrained disposition, in their character, as a rule, there are no special outbursts of negative mood. Those German Shepherds, whose main vocation is to serve in the security forces, are so obedient and sociable that they easily carry out the commands of any person assigned to them. Dogs living in a family become real friends of a person, they quickly get used to the owner, love him to the point of selflessness. Germans can be quite noisy, raising barks when alarmed or alert.
Conditions of Maintenance and Care
Such dogs require an active lifestyle, so the owner should take daily walks with the German (preferably 2-3 times a day for at least 1 hour), outdoor games are required. It is great if the owner of the dog has the opportunity to go to nature (to the forest, park, grove, etc.), these animals feel great in the wild. It is best for such a dog to live with a person who can devote enough time to it for walks and communication.
They can be kept both in the apartment and in outdoor enclosures, provided that the owner takes care of the presence of an insulated booth and the absence of drafts. Sheepdog’s coat is quite thick and long, which, especially during molting, can contribute to the appearance of hair lumps on the floor and furniture. Regular brushing (at least 3-4 times a week), which should be taught from an early age, will help avoid this problem. By the way, the Germans are very fond of the combing procedure, so for them, it will be a combination of business with pleasure. Bathing of dogs should not be carried out more than 2-3 times a year, especially in cases where the animal is not kept in the apartment. The dog’s nails should be trimmed 1-2 times a month, such a procedure can be carried out by the owner himself or be entrusted to a groomer who, along with trimming the nails, will take care of the complex care of the animal. The owner should pay attention to the health of the eyes, ears of the German, monitor the gait, temperature, general condition, and mood of the pet. And on occasion, be sure to contact a veterinarian without trying to self-medicate.
Dry food (preferably super-premium or holistic) is suitable as food for dogs of the German Shepherd breed. If the owner wishes to independently think over the menu for a four-legged friend, it is worth remembering that the dog’s diet must contain natural lean meat (more than 30%), offal, cottage cheese, dairy products, cereals (oatmeal, rice), raw and boiled vegetables. Sharp tubular bones, potatoes, food flavored with spices should be discarded.
The training of a German baby should be started as early as possible. Do not let even a small fluffy ball dictate your terms. A dog that realizes that it is allowed to play pranks will surely grow up to dominate its owner in the future. That is why already from 1.5 – 2 months it is necessary to instill in the animal the rules of good behavior, to teach elementary commands. At the same time, a tasty treat and a kind word should be used as praise for a job well done. Punishing an animal by beating is unacceptable either in childhood or in adulthood. Training can begin from 3-4 months, but in this case, classes should not last long – no more than 15-20 minutes several times a day. Sometimes the training of German Shepherds begins from six months. Whoever the dog’s “teacher” is – a professional instructor or its own owner, it is always necessary that the animal gets along well and obeys its owner first of all. And for this, you should invest a lot of effort in the process of socialization of the puppy. And the sooner the owner begins to instill in the dog obedience lessons, the more efficient the dog will grow up.
Dogs acquired from good breeders are rarely in poor health. Sometimes German Shepherds suffer from dysplasia of the hip joints, but this problem can haunt not only large dogs but also small ones. In Germans, dysplasia in rare cases can take on severe forms. A timely examination by a doctor, X-rays, and proper treatment in the early stages of the disease will allow the dog to live a full life without limping and falling on its paws.
Some German Shepherds have an insatiable appetite, which is not surprising given their love of physical activity. The owner does not have to feed the dog a lot, as Sheepdogs are prone to rapid weight gain and obesity, which leads to many problems. Germans sometimes suffer from diseases caused by inflammation of the ears, so the owner should carefully monitor the dog when it shakes its head or unnaturally tilts it to the side when an uncharacteristic discharge from the ears appears. But in most cases, Sheepdogs are healthy creatures that tolerate temperature changes well, they are physically developed, active. Timely visits to the veterinarian, vaccinations, and parasite prophylaxis allow the owner to have a healthy dog.
- German Shepherds are among the ten most popular dog breeds in the world.
- They proved their responsibility and reliability during the period when they took part in the world wars as guard dogs.
- The Schutzhund training system was developed in 1900 for the training of German Shepherds.
- Max von Stephanitz is known as the “father of the breed”.
- German Shepherds are considered the first guide dogs.
- German Shepherds are distinguished by their sharp minds. They cannot be brought to a state of aggressiveness and nervousness!
- They do not like a monotonous lifestyle, so the animal does not belong to the category of couch potatoes. This is a very active dog that will suit the same active owner.
- They love children. These four-legged ones are an excellent choice for families with children. An important point for such families is the early socialization of the animal.
- Many people mistakenly believe that the German Shepherd can be exclusively black and fawn. In fact, this is not the case. Dogs of this breed can be completely black or have a combination of white and sand or white and black. Unscrupulous dog breeders often try to sell dogs with this color at a higher price, citing the rarity of the color.
- Not a single breed of dog has been so honored that so many films and TV series have been shot about it.