The German Shepherd dog breed is one of the most popular breeds in both England and the United States, consistently occupying the one of the top 5 slots in popularity charts. Originally developed as a herding dog, as well as a guard dog of farmland and homes, these wolf-like shepherd breed is today employed in various capacities as as police dogs and service dogs. They are highly favored as family dogs and companions too. Highly trainable and adaptable, they offer undivided attention to commands, prompt obedience, and reliable protection.
The German Shepherd dog breed has been known by various names over the years, such as Alsatian, Wolf Dog, Schaferhund, etc., and GSD in short. These dogs were originally used to protect crops from flocks of sheep grazing nearby. The dogs would walk around the periphery of the cultivated fields and prevent the sheep from entering the fields and grazing on the crops.
These dogs enjoyed great popularity all through, except during the First and Second World Wars and the period immediately following them. However, they were soon found to be useful in sniffing out drugs, arms, and people from ruins.
They were the most preferred police dog at one time, and were used to track missing persons and in search and rescue operations. They have been found to be useful as service dogs too. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1931.
The German Shepherd dog breed is quite large, measuring 24 to 26 inches at the withers, and weighing 75 to 85 pounds or more. The females may be slightly smaller. The outer coat stands well away from the body, especially around the neck, chest and hind limbs. It makes the dog look larger than it really is, and gives it a wolfish appearance. The long muzzle, sharp eyes, and the large, erect ears give it an alert and intelligent look. The strong, muscular jaws are capable of delivering a bite that is ten times stronger than a human bite.
The body is longer that it is tall; the long neck and the long, fluffy tail adding to the grace and fluidity. It has a double coat that comes in two variations: medium coat and long coat, even though the latter is relatively rare. Tan and black, as well as red and black are the most common coat colors. But some dogs may have solid black, blue, liver, sable or solid white coat.
The German Shepherd dog breed has a highly protective attitude towards the members of its owner’s family and property. They are very suspicious of strangers, and always remain alert and watchful around them, ready for any confrontation, if required. They can be very aggressive, if provoked.
However, with early socialization and training, they get along well with other pets in the household. These dogs are very protective of the little ones in the family, and are especially gentle with them, tolerating quite a bit of rough handling.
They are neither very playful, nor very demonstrative of their affection for the family members. Yet they are unbeatable in their loyalty and commitment to their human pack, hence they make excellent family pets in spite of their relatively serious nature.
Grooming and exercise
The medium long double coat of German Shepherd dog breed requires regular grooming. A thorough brushing two to three times a week should help keep it in good condition and reduce shedding.
These energetic and intelligent dogs require plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Training lessons and well-planned exercise sessions may be adequate to meet their needs and keep the dog healthy and sharp. In addition to daily walks on the leash, opportunities to run free in a secure yard would be ideal.
These dogs can live outdoors round the year with ample protection from extremes of temperature. However, it would be ideal if they get to spend the evenings indoors with the family members.
Common health issues of German Shepherd dog breed
The German Shepherd dog breed is highly susceptible to canine hip dysplasia, as well as elbow dysplasia. This breed is prone to skin disorders and allergies too. Many canine cancers such as hemangiosarcoma are encountered in these dogs. Gastric torsion or bloat is a medical emergency that is potentially fatal if not attended to immediately. This breed is also predisposed to a neurological disorder known as Degenerative Myelopathy.
Regular health checkups to help identify potential disorders and provide timely treatment may contribute to the health and longevity of these dogs. They have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.