German Shepherd Dog (German: Deutscher Schäferhund), also known as an Alsatian or just the German Shepherd, is a breed of large-sized dog. In the late 1800s, Captain Max von Stephanitz wanted a superior working dog. He used several old farm and herding breeds to produce the German Shepherd Dog. In 1899, the parent club for the breed, the Verein fur Deutsche Scheferhunde, was formed. Under the guidance of the club and Captain Stephanitz, the breed rapidly gained popularity as a versatile and superior working dog. Today, German Shepherd Dog is one of the most recognisable breeds in the world.
German Shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence, a trait for which they are now famous. The German Shepherd dog breed is third most intelligent dog, behind Border Collies and Poodles. They have the ability to learn simple tasks after only few repetitions and obey the first command given most of the time. Coupled with their strength, this trait makes the breed desirable as police, guard, and search and rescue dogs, as they are able to quickly learn various tasks and interpret instructions better than other large breeds.
There are many differences between the two types of German Shepherds seen above – but the most noticeable one is their physical conformation. The physical conformation of German Shepherd dogs from Show Bloodlines is much closer to the ideal described in the breed standard, while German Shepherds from Working Bloodlines are bred with emphasis in their aptitude for the job, rather than in their physical conformation.
The German Shepherd Dog (GSD or, in Great Britain, the Alsatian) is first and foremost a working dog; his temperament and character are his most important traits. German Shepherds are loyal and courageous, and their ability to learn and retain their training is legendary. The German Shepherd’s head is classic, with large upright ears; the eyes are almond-shaped, dark, and alert. Longer than tall, the body is strong and muscular. The front legs are straight, the back legs well angled. The tail is bushy and hangs in a sickle shape. The coat has a straight outer coat and a dense undercoat.
The most recognisable colour pattern is the tan to rust base colour with a black saddle, black muzzle, and black on the ears. Grooming a German Shepherd Dog is not difficult but does require time. The coat is not prone to matting but sheds year-round, with the heaviest shedding in the spring and fall. During shedding seasons, the undercoat comes out in handfuls, and, if not brushed daily, the interior of your home will be covered in puffs of soft undercoat. The German Shepherd Dog’s large upright ears work like radar, catching every sound, but also seem to scoop up dirt, so the ears need to be cleaned twice a week.
The German Shepherd Dog needs vigorous daily exercise. The German Shepherd Dog breed is known for its effortless flying trot, so running alongside your bicycle is great natural exercise. The breed is usually a natural retriever, so games of tennis ball, catch, or flying disc are also great ways to burn off excess energy. German Shepherd Dogs are naturally watchful, protective, and reserved with strangers. Early socialisation is very important for German Shepherd puppies.
German Shepherd Dogs need to meet people of all ages, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds. An under-socialised German Shepherd Dog can be worried, fearful, and shy. Training should also begin early. An intelligent breed, the German Shepherd Dog needs the mental challenge of training long past basic obedience.
German Shepherd Dogs are loyal, dedicated, and will give their all to protect their owner. They are very responsive to training. Their owner must structure the training, provide guidelines for the dog, and then enforce them. A German Shepherd Dog is intelligent enough to get into trouble and can be entirely too much dog for a first-time dog owner.
This breed’s owner must keep the dog active and busy, maintain ongoing training, and be able to channel the dog’s desire to work. A well-trained German Shepherd Dog can be very good with children, although German Shepherd Dog puppies can be quite rambunctious. These dogs are also good with other pets. The breed does, however, have some major health concerns, including bloat, torsion, hip and elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, problems with the pancreas, and allergies.
Note: The modern German Shepherd is criticised for straying away from von Stephanitz’s original ideology for the breed: that German Shepherds should be bred primarily as working dogs, and that breeding should be strictly controlled to eliminate defects quickly. Critics believe that careless breeding has promoted disease and other defects. Under the breeding programs overseen by von Stephanitz, defects were quickly bred out; however, in modern times without regulation on breeding, genetic problems such as colour-paling, hip dysplasia, monorchidism, weakness of temperament, and missing teeth are common, as well as bent or folded ears which never fully turn up when reaching adulthood.