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The German Shepherd – The Right Dog for You?

January 05, 2020 5 min read

The German Shepherd – The Right Dog for You?

The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is known for their loyalty, temperament, and strong protective instincts. But is it the right dog for you? Read on to learn about their history, unique personality, special needs in terms of care, and whether the German Shepherd is the right dog for you and your family.

 

The German Shepherd in Short

 

Origin

Germany

Shedding

Heavily, twice a year

Group

Herding Dog

Barking Behaviour

Low

Life Span

9 - 13 years

Drooling Behaviour

Low

Size

Female: 55 - 60 cm (21 - 23 in)
Male: 60 -70 cm (23 - 27 in)

Social Needs

Moderate

Weight

Female: 22 - 32 kg (48 - 70 lbs)
Male: 30 - 40 kg (66 - 88 lbs)

Required Exercise

min. 40 minutes/day

Coat

Can be either medium-length or long.
Thick, harsh, and dense double coat.

Characteristics

Loyal, courageous, calm, guardian instincts, intelligent

Colours

Most commonly black with red-brown, tan to light-grey markings and their distinctive black saddle pattern on their back and a black mask on their face.
Other colours are all black or grey with markings.

Suitability

Working Dog,
Service Dog,
Assistance Dog,
Family Dog,
Herding Dog,
Guard Dog,
Sports Dog

 

 

Origin and History

 

From the name, you can probably assume that the German Shepherd originated from Germany. You would be correct. This breed goes as far back as the 7th century and was mainly used as herding and watchdogs.

 

Germany

The German Shepherd breed, as we know them today, started in 1871 by Captain Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz, a member of the German cavalry. His ambitions were to breed the world’s best working dog for herding purposes with a focus on obedience, exceptional physical condition, and focus.

 

America

In America, even though the German Shepherd was around before World War I, it only became popular when soldiers brought the breed home with them after the war ended. They were renowned for their incredible service to American soldiers. Some of their fame can also be attributed to the well-known Hollywood star Rin Tin Tin. In 1999 the German Shepherd was the most popular dog breed in the US and as of 2019, it is number 2 on the list of the most popular dog breeds in America

 

Australia

In 1904 the German Shepherd arrived in Australia along with other “German Sheep Dogs”. Only 25 years later in 1929, the import of this breed was prohibited by the Australian Federal Government because it was assumed to be dangerous. In 1972 the ban was repealed, and by 1999 the breed became the most registered dog across the country.

 

United Kingdom

1919 was the first year the German Shepherd was registered in the UK. Since the word ‘German’ had a negative connotation after World War I and II, this dog breed was referred to as Alsatian – which is the name used to this day by many people in the UK. Over time the German Shepherd’s popularity increased tremendously in the UK, not just as a family dog, but also as a working and security dog, especially in the police force. This was predominately due to their well-honed protective instincts.

 

The Head of a German Shepherd Dog

Nature and Personality

 

German Shepherds are extremely intelligent, and they like to be challenged. The range of things a German Shepherd can be trained to do is extremely impressive. They have an imposing character, show courage and confidence and are truehearted.

 

Since GSDs are known to be loyal protectors, they are often thought as a guard, military, or police dogs. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t be great family dogs. The story of a German Shepherd named Gavel serves as proof of this. He failed to become a police dog because he was too “nice” for the job.

 

Even though GSDs are loyal and protective of their family, they will need some time to get closer to you. However, once you warm to their heart, it belongs to you forever. To strangers, they tend to be distant, reserved and cautious.

 

 

Suitable for Children

Because German Shepherds are so intelligent, they know their boundaries and strength, which is especially important when they are around younger children. So yes, German Shepherds can be ideal family-with-children-dogs, but they also get along with other dogs and pets. Generally, they are very sweet-natured and will always protect their family and even put their life on the line, without hesitation, to protect the ones they love.

 

German Shepherd Dog Laying on tiles 

Responsibilities and Caretaking

 

Training and Exercise

This dog breed is very active, energetic and therefore requires proper training and exercise. Daily walks of at least 40 minutes is a must for this dog breed.

 

You need to challenge your GSD. Mentally stimulating games, learning new tricks, commands and tolling around in nature is what they love most.

 

Because they are very smart, they can easily be trained at home, but it is advisable to take your German Shepherd to puppy school so they get socialised and challenged at the right level.

 

As adults, they should get lots of physical exercises. However, they should not be overstrained in their youth as this can result in joint problems later in their life. 

 

These dogs shouldn’t be kept in small apartments. The best environment is a large yard where they can toll around. An active family that loves swimming, hiking and being in nature would be most suited for this agile dog breed. 

 

 

Feeding Requirements

German Shepherds are known for developing joint issues in their adulthood. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet and feed them only the highest quality food. Maintaining a healthy diet whilst they are still puppies helps to reduce their joint problems in old age.

 

You should feed your dog twice a day with high-quality dry food.

 

Grooming and Teeth

The very thick and dense double coat is characteristic of German Shepherds. It is water-resistant and protects them from the cold. Unfortunately, they also shed their coat continuously throughout the year – and twice yearly the shedding is heavy.  

 

They need to be brushed at least 3-4 times a week, but daily when the season calls for it. 

 

You should also brush their teeth 2-3 times a week at a minimum, but better daily, so tartar and bacterial build-up are reduced.

 

German Shepherd Puppy Sitting Down 

Early Socialisation

It is very important to start socialising your German Shepherd from a young age. As this dog breed is extremely protective and has a lot of temperament, they should be exposed to other people and dogs from an early age. This helps to curb the development of unruly and aggressive behaviour towards others.

 

 

Common Health Problems

 

Sadly, German Shepherds have some breeding related health problems. That’s why you should buy your puppy from a recognized breeder that regularly checks their dogs for health issues.

 

Most common genetic health issues:

Arthritis

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM),

Hemangiosarcoma

Hip Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia

Haemophilia in males

Digestive issues like Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Panosteitis (Bone Inflammation)

Perianal Fistula

 

German Shepherd Dog laying down on the grass

With the right care and lifestyle, this dog breed will reward you with its unconditional love and unique personality. They will be a lifelong loyal companion to you and your family.

 


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