German Shepherd

AKC Group: Herding

The German Shepherd was adapted from the mountain sheepdog of Germany to work as a military dog around 1880. Captain Max Von Stephanitz is referred to as the “Father of the German Shepherd.” In April 1889, he registered a dog named Horan as the first Deutsche Schaferhunde, which translates to “German Shepherd Dog.” The popularity of the breed waned after World War II due to their association with Hitler. The British changed their name to Alsatian in order to remove the German stigma.

Size: 22 to 26 high; 45 to 70 pounds

Color: Black and tan; black; gray; silver; red.

Life span: 12 to 15 years

Health problems: Spinal problems, bloat, torsion, hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), pancreas problems and eye problems. (When choosing a purebred German Shepherd, carefully do your homework on the breeder. Some breeders are just out to make a buck and do not care about the dog’s health — hence, the number of health problems German Shepherds can experience.)

One of the most popular dog breeds, German Shepherds are lively, loyal, intelligent dogs. Obedient, quick to learn and possessing an ability to be easily trained, German Shepherds often (still) find work alongside military or police personnel. They’re alert, active, lively, independent, high energy, confident, courageous dogs. Some lines can be aloof and serious while others are dominant and sharp. They do best with an experienced handler. They need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation; they will not do well with being isolated or neglected. They love children and love to please. They may chase smaller animals (so socialize early). They may be aggressive or dominant with other canines of the same sex. Some German Shepherds whine excessively.

German Shepherds are powerful, handsome dogs with a well-built, athletic body. His coat is straight, hard and medium in length. He has a dense undercoat and erect ears. Brush him every couple of days to control normal shedding. He does shed seasonally, so more attention will need to paid during those times. He tends to shed heavily year round though (this is why he needs frequent brushing).

Begin training at a young age with consistency and patience. Use firm training methods, without harshness. Being harsh will only make a German Shepherd stubborn. He will learn housebreaking early and easily. They enjoy mental challenges, so this is a breed that can learn almost anything. This is not normally an aggressive dog, unless he is taught to be; though he is protective. When someone (friend or foe) comes to your home, your German Shepherd will pick up on your feelings and react accordingly. German Shepherds love to play and will keep your entertained for hours. You’ll be able to engage in any activity — they also love to run. If you do too, take him with you.