29 Jan 2015
Noble. Loyal. Courageous. German Shepherds (officially known as the German Shepherd Dog by the AKC) are all of these things and more. They’ve been one of the most popular dogs in the United States almost since they were developed, a little over 100 years ago.
The German Shepherd Dog is another rather young breed. They were intentionally created by Captain Max von Stephanitz and others who shared his vision around 1899 in Germany. The breed is derived from old breeds of herding and farm dogs but Capt. Von Stephanitz wanted to develop a new breed that would excel at police work, too. And he succeeded. The breed was still very young in World War I when an American soldier rescued a young German Shepherd pup from a battlefield and brought him back to the U.S. That dog would go on to became famous in early films as Rin Tin Tin. An even earlier German Shepherd film star had been Strongheart, one of the first dogs to star in the movies. Right from the start, Hollywood was fascinated with German Shepherds and the publicity gave a big boost to the new breed. They have remained popular ever since that time.
German Shepherds are loving, energetic, and fun-loving. They are good family dogs and they get along well with children. They are exceptionally loyal and make a good guard dog for the family home. German Shepherds do require a good deal of daily exercise and they need to be groomed regularly. While we think of German Shepherds as police and military dogs, they are descended from herding dogs and they often have an innate desire to herd and organize other pets and family members. They like order and organization. They like to have roles and authority clearly defined in the home. The breed is extremely intelligent and usually easy to train. They tend to be reserved with strangers until they are certain the person is welcome in the home.
German Shepherds stand 22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder. They can weigh between 55 and 95 pounds. Their coat can be a lot of different colors but the most common is tan and black or red and black. Most of the color varieties have black masks on the face and black body markings. These markings can range from the classic saddle to an all-over “blanket.” Rarer color variations include sable, all black, all white, liver, and blue varieties.
The lifespan of the German Shepherd is about 11 years. Like other breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. Hip dysplasia can be a problem in the breed. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, 19.1 percent of German Shepherds which have been tested have some degree of hip dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia can also be a problem in the breed. German Shepherds rank 12th in the OFA database for elbow dysplasia with 19 percent of dogs tested having some degree of elbow dysplasia. Both of these problems can lead to arthritis as the dog ages.
Degenerative spinal stenosis can also be a problem with some dogs. Degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disease, and Von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder, also occur in the breed. In addition, bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus) and ear infections can also occur.
Before getting a German Shepherd puppy you should talk to the breeder and inquire about the health of the parents. Make sure the breeder has tested them for hip and elbow dysplasia. Health tests recommended by the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, and those which are considered optional but suggested, are listed here: http://www.caninehealthinfo.org/brdreqs.html?breed=GS
German Shepherds are one of the most versatile of all dog breeds. With their intelligence and physical abilities, these dogs can excel at nearly every kind of canine sport and activity. They are terrific at obedience, rally, agility, herding, police and military work, Schutzhund, scent work – you name it, German Shepherds can learn how to do it. If you are willing to take the time to train your dog, a German Shepherd will love to learn what you want to teach him. These dogs love to work and learn.