Type: working dog developed for herding sheep
Weight: Male dog – 30–40 kg
Female dog – 22–32 kg
Height: Male dog – 24–26 in / 60–65 cm
Female dog – 22–24 in / 55–60 cm
Appearance: The German Shepherd is a largesized dog with medium or long hair and a thick double coat that sheds all year round. Its colour is most commonly tan/black and red/black. It has a large head with a long squarecut muzzle, a black nose, large erect ears and strong jaws.
Temperament: German Shepherds are a comparatively new breed (being recognised since only 1899). It was bred for intelligence and this is one of the main reasons for its popularity. German shepherds are one of the most instantly recognised and popular breeds in both the United States and the United Kingdom. This dog is so smart that it can learn simple tasks after only five repetitions and obey 95% of commands. German Shepherds are active, selfassured, curious and purposeful.
Skills: As highly obedient and fearless animal, German Shepherds are considered to be the perfect police, military, guard or search and rescue dog, Its intelligence and willingness to learn also makes it a popular choice as a dog actor!
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Kids: German Shepherds are very protective of their family and territory, so can be aggressive towards strangers. When not socialised correctly German Shepherds can be dangerous towards other animals, particularly other dogs and even people. A welltrained and properly socialized German Shepherd is a very safe dog suitable as a family pet and friendly to children.
Common Health Problems: hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis, degenerative myelopathy (a neurological disease), Von Willebrand disease, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Lifespan: Average 10-11 years.
- Age of first trainings: German Shepherds are known for their loyalty, intelligence and obedience. However, it does require training to get the best out of the breed. The period between the second and the sixth month is very important for the relationship between your dog and your family. In general, German Shepherds are easy to train but it requires less work to train your puppy basic obedience, commands and even potty habits if you start early.
- Crate training: Dogs naturally live in dens, which protect them from various treats and keep them warm, dry and safe. Domestic dogs are no different – but instead of dens, they require crates. Crate training helps eliminate destructive behaviour, provides a routine, and most importantly, gives your puppy space where it can feel safe and protected. Crate training will also help you in time, when you need to leave your dog alone at the vet.
- Early Socialisation: German shepherds are social with both people and other animals. However, they have been bred specifically for working dogs, so its crucial to start socialising your puppy with other dogs as early as possible. However, always make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated and safe before letting it play with other dogs. If there are still vaccines to be made, you can socialise it with other people instead – this way you won’t worry about any diseases, and you will help your puppy develop basic social skills at an early age.
- Obedience training: Unlike most breeds of dogs, German Shepherds have a strong desire to appeal to and please their master. This means it is much easier to train your dog – however, you still need to start with obedience training at an early age. Emphasise control and your puppy will quickly learn to respect its owner. Always keep in mind the breed is not originally a family pet but can be taught to be. They are easy going, active and have a strong desire to do what you want them to do.
- Attitude: Always be kind and consistent with your puppy! Compulsion training is a big no, as German Shepherds resist it with their teeth. Remember – they are a great service dog with unique hunting instincts. Be firm but gentle and never forget it has excessive exercise needs due to the breed’s history.
Adult Dog Training
- House rules: Make sure your adult German Shepherd knows and follows all indoor rules. Keep its full attention and be consistent with your training routine. German Shepherds will always follow the Alpha Dog, so you must take the role of the leader. When you gain his respect, you will easily make your dog follow your orders.
- Instincts: German Shepherds have a natural instincts to chase anything. Don’t surpress this instinct – instead, use it and play fetch with your dog on a regular basis.
- Commands: train your dog basic commands such as fetch, sit, stay and heel. Reward obedience with positive reinforcement and applaud good behaviour. Never punish your dog, as it may become even more irritated. However, if your dog expresses negative behaviour, don’t award it either. Never forget to socialise your dog even more—just because he is an “adult” doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy playing with fellow dogs.
- Mental and physical exercise: Plan training sessions on a regular basis so that your dog burns off excess energy. German Shepherds are extremely active and enjoy running, jumping, chasing objects and socialising. Quick clicker training sessions in the park should keep your dog occupied and happy. Never forget rewards for positive behaviour, and always make sure your dog is engaged on both physical and mental level.
The blood lines of German Shepherd can be traced back to Europe during the middle 19th century. Attempts were made to breed dogs with traits that assisted tasks such as herding sheep and protecting flocks from predators. Demand was high for working dogs and service dogs, and thus in Germany local communities selected skills they believe were necessary for such dogs. In 1899, Max von Stephanitz saw such a dog, named Hektor Linkshrein, at an exhibition. Von Stephanitz was pleased with the loyalty, intelligence, speed, strength and keen senses of smell Hektor possessed and bought his immediately. After the purchase, he founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunder (Society for the German Shepherd Dog) and thus Hektor became the first officially recognised German Shepherd.
Etymology of Breed Name and Alternative Names
German Shepherd is not the only name the breed is known as. During World War I, British dog enthusiasts changed the name of the breed to Alsatian Dog to avoid negative connotations. Today German Shepherd can also be listed as:
- Berger Allemand
- Deutscher Schäferhund
German Shepherds were also known as “wolf dogs”, but after numerous campaigns by breeders in the late 20th century, the appendage “wolf” was dropped, as enthusiasts were worried the name might affect the breed’s legality and public perception. The name of the German Shepherd Dogs comes from the original purpose of assisting shepherds in herding and protecting sheep. During the 19th century, all herding dogs in Germany were referred by this name; today, other varieties of such breeds are known as Altdeutsche Schäferhunder, or Old German Shepherd Dog.
Kennel Club’s Standards
By Kennel Club’s standards, the German Shepherd is a large sized dog, between 22 and 26 inches at the withers, and around 25 inches tall. Weight is 30 to 40 kilograms for males and 22 to 32 kilograms for females. The dog has strong jaws with scissor-like bite, medium-sized eyes and large, erected ears.
German Shepherds come in variety of colours, most common of which are black & tan, and black & red. However, all-black and sable coat colours are accepted as well. Blue and liver dogs are considered not to meet the requirements of the Kennel Club; regardless, they still exist in the breed. An all-white variety exists as well but most standards instantly disqualify such dogs.
The coat of German Shepherds is double, with an outer coat which sheds all year round, and a dense undercoat. There are two accepted varieties of the coat—medium and long, with the long-hair gene being recessive, and thus rarer. Long-hair German Shepherds are accepted in the UK Kennels Club.
Quality and Quantity of the Food
Adjust your German Shepherd’s dietary plan according to its age and activity level. Young German Shepherds with plenty of energy to spare need a high-protein and high-calorie diet. With age, the diet has to be adjusted to prevent weight gain, but still remain high in protein. Protein is required for the production of hormones and is essential to German Shepherds, prone to hormonal and endocrine system diseases. This breed also suffers from digestive problems especially chronic diarrhea caused by food intolerances, colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), and pancreatic insufficiency. They need to be fed real food and the main sources of protein should come from animals rather than plants. Avoid an artificial diet consisting of kibble or canned food.
Food to avoid:
- Grapes and grape products (including raisins and wine)
- Garlic and onions
- Macadamia nuts
Lack of enough physical and mental activity can lead to restless and destructive behaviour in German Shepherds. Take your dog on long walks daily, let it jog or run alongside you, and engage it in all sorts of activities to keep their bodies and mind occupied, such as Frisbee catching or ball chasing. Involve them in obedience trainings and let them socialise on the canine playground.
Generally healthy, this natural breed may be prone to certain diseases you should keep in mind.
- Orthopedic diseases: osteochondritis and cruciate ligament rupture occur regularly and cases of Wobbler’s syndrome and hypertrophic osteodystrophy have been reported as well. Panosteitis is another common orthopedic health problem in German Shepherds.
- Autoimmune diseases: if the skin is affected by the autoimmune disorder, perianal fistula, lupus, sebaceous adenitis, nail bed disease, pemphigus, and vitiligo may occur, while degenerative spinal myelopathy, megaesophagus, and myasthenia gravis are results of an autoimmune disease affecting other organs.
- Eye diseases: pannus (which is yet another autoimmune disease) and cataracts (which can cause blindness in Shepherd puppies).
- Hormonal and endocrine system diseases include hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes.
German Shepherds are double-coated: the outer coat is coarse, water-resistant and the undercoat is thick and woolly. They shed profusely, especially in spring, and need to be brushed two-three times a week. This is definitely not a breed for people who cannot put up with dog hair on the furniture, carpets, clothes, etc. German Shepherds may be given an odd bath now and then but frequent bathing can irritate their skin due to oil depletion.