Common names: Alsatian
Dog Breed Group: Herding
Life span: 10-13 years
Weight: 50-90 pounds
Height: 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder
Officially known as Alsatian in the UK, this breed is a medium to a large-sized working dog that originated in Germany. Although having a primitive, wolf-like appearance, the German shepherd is relatively a modern breed, with their origin dating to 1899. German shepherds were originally developed to be a dog specializing in herding sheep. However, because of their intelligence and trainability, they are now often recognized as an all-rounder dog, capable of any type of work such as disability assistance, search-and-rescue, and police and military roles. They are commonly used as house guards because of their territorial trait and their wariness to strangers; they will not hesitate to attack someone if they see them as a threat. Consequently, this attitude makes them perfect life companions as this breed possesses the gentleness towards their owners as well as the willingness to risk its life for them.
As a medium to large-sized dogs, German shepherds have bodies that are longer than they are tall, with an ideal proportion of 10 to 8 and a half. They have a double coat which has two variants: medium and long. The long-hair gene is recessive, making the long-hair variant variety rarer.
German shepherds are relatively healthy dogs, but like all breeds, they are prone to certain health conditions. Hip and elbow dysplasia are not common to this breed, but they can have it, so owners must be fully aware before considering this type of dog. The most dangerous, however, for German shepherds is a condition called Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. Commonly known as bloat, this is a sudden and life-threatening swelling of the abdomen, and owners should educate themselves about what to do should bloat occur.
The breed possesses a medium to long-length double coat consisting of a dense outer coat with a softer undercoat. The breed is easy to maintain, usually requiring just a quick brushing every few days or so to help remove loose hairs, but they do shed more profusely once or twice a year. During these periods, it is important to have frequent brushing sessions to minimize the amount of hair that ends up around the house and on the furniture. German shepherds only need an occasional bath. As for nails, make sure to trim or grind them every month as overly long nails can cause pain and discomfort.
Full of energy and athleticism, German shepherds require a lot of exercise and attention for his physical and mental well-being. A dog, especially this breed, which is not exercised enough, will channel its energy towards destructive behaviors. As a puppy, it is good to start with short daily walks and play sessions in a well-fenced area. Providing activities such as agility, herding, and tracking can benefit not only the dog but the owner as well. Lastly, it is important to not let the dog off the leash, as even the best-trained German shepherds can get distracted and not follow every command.
Make sure to give them high-quality dog food appropriate for the dog’s age, as this type of food will have all the nutrients the breed needs. Table scraps can upset their digestive system, so only give them sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high-fat content. Dog treats and biscuits can be used for training. If you are feeding a high-quality food, vitamin and mineral supplements are not necessary, although small quantities can help in their growth.
- The first-ever service dog was a German Shepherd named Buddy in the 1920s. She was the first seeing eye dog and was called “a divine gift of freedom” by her handler, Morris Frank.
- When formal guide dog training began in Switzerland in the 1920s, all of the dogs trained were German Shepherds.