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German Shepherd

German Shepherd

Photo by vetstreet



The German Shepard is one of the most easily recognized breeds.  From its large size to its erect ears and dark, intelligent eyes, the German shepherd has achieved legendary status as the ideal canine.  It belongs to the herding group of working dogs, originally developed in Germany to guard and herd a shepherd’s flock, which makes this dog as intelligent as it is versatile.  The German Shepherd has a sturdy, muscular, slightly elongated body with a light, solid bone structure.  The head should be proportional to its body, and the forehead a little rounded.  The nose is most often black, however, blue or liver still do occur, but are considered a fault according to most standards.  The teeth meet in a strong scissors bite.  The front legs and shoulders are muscular and the thighs are thick and sturdy.  The tail is bushy and reaches below the hocks and hangs down when the dog is at rest.  There are three varieties of the coat; double coat, plush coat, and longhaired coat.  The most common coats are the black and tan, Sable or all black, but they can also come in white, blue and liver, however these colors are considered less desirable.


As the name suggest the German Shepherd originated in Germany, where it was created in the nineteenth century. The dogs were bred to preserve traits that assisted in their job of herding sheep and protecting the flocks from predators.  This breeding technique was practiced in local communities, where shepherds selectively bred dogs that had the necessary skills for herding sheep, such as intelligence, speed, strength, and keen sense of smell.  The results of this breeding practice were dogs that were able to do such things, but that differed significantly, both in appearance and ability, from one locality to another. With the rise of large industrialized cities in Germany, the predator population began to decline, rendering the sheepdog unnecessary. At the same time, awareness of the dog’s versatility and intelligence began to rise. Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain and former veterinarian student admired the traits of these dogs.  He believed that dogs should be bred to work, but could not find one that he was satisfied with, as the perfect working dog.  In 1899, while attending a dog show Stephanitz was shown a dog named Hektor Linksrhein that completely fulfilled what Max von Stepanitz thought a working dog should be. He purchased that dog, founded the Society for the German Shepherd Dog, and that dog was the first German shepherd added the society’s registry.


German Shepherds are typically very alert, obedient, and eager to learn, making them easy to train.  Instinctively loyal, it is naturally protective of its home and family and will alert you to strangers and intruders, however if you invited someone into you home the dog will accept them also. It will get along with other pets especially if brought up through puppyhood. The German Shepherd needs a job to do; these are working dogs and thrive on physical and mental stimulation.  They do not need to live in a house with a back yard, but if they do live in an apartment or condominium, frequent walks or hikes will be required or they get bored and will exhibit destructive behavior. This breed sheds bits of hair constantly and is a seasonally heavy shedder.  The key to having an ideal German Shepherd is breeding and environment. Whether you want a German Shepherd as a companion, show dog, competition dog or all three, look for one whose parents have nice personality and who have been well socialized from an early age.


The life expectancy of this breed is around 13 years.  German Shepherd are known to suffer from hip dysplasia (abnormal development at the macroscopic or microscopic level) as well as other conditions such as Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease including irregular heart beat) and Panosteitis (refers to a painful condition characterized by limping or lameness).


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