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.

Hip Dysplasia (Dogs)

A dog’s hip joint attaches the hind leg to his body via a ball and socket joint. The ball portion is the head of the femur while the socket (known as acetabulum) is located on the pelvis. In a normal joint, the ball rotates freely within the socket because the bones are shaped to perfectly match each other and the socket surrounds the ball. As well, the two bones are held together by a strong ligament which attaches the femoral head to the acetabulum. In addition, the joint capsule, a strong band of connective tissue, encircles the two bones for further stability. The area where the acetabulum and the femur touch is called the articular surface. It is perfectly smooth and cushioned with a layer of spongy cartilage. A highly viscous fluid contained in the joint lubricates the articular surface. In a normal dog, all of these factors work together to cause his hip joint to function smoothly.

Hip dysplasia is associated with an abnormal joint structure, laxity of the muscles, connective tissue or ligaments that would normally support the hip joint. As joint laxity develops, the bones lose contact with each other. The separation of the two bones is called a subluxation. Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips, but as they age (due to genetic and possibly other factors), the soft tissues surrounding the joints develop abnormally. Hip dysplasia can be bilateral (affecting both hips).

Normal hip joint

Hip dysplasia joint

A dog can develop hip dysplasia at any age, but it often shows up in middle age or his senior years. Without intervention, a dog may eventually become unable to walk. The symptoms are similar to arthritis. A dog will often walk or run with an altered gait. They may resist movements that flex or extend their rear legs. Usually, he will run with a “bunny-hopping” gait. They may show stiffness or pain in their rear legs after exercise or first thing in the morning. They may have difficulty climbing stairs. A dog may limp and be less willing to participate in normal activities. At first, you may attribute this to normal changes of aging. As the condition progresses, most dogs will lose muscle tones and require assistance to get up.

Hip dysplasia occurs in dogs, cats and even humans. It is primarily a disease of large or giant dog breeds. It is most often seen in German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers and Saint Bernards. Hip dysplasia can be seen in medium-sized breeds and rarely occurs in small breeds. It primarily occurs in purebred dogs, but may happen in a mixed breed, if the crossbreed is of two breeds prone to developing hip dysplasia.

It is difficult to breed hip dysplasia out of a bloodline because though it may occur doesn’t mean it will. Obesity has been shown to increase the severity of hip dysplasia. Another factor shown to increase the development (in dogs prone to hip dysplasia) in rapid growth from free feeding between the age of three months to ten months. Feeding your dog a complete and balanced diet is also essential as a diet too low in calcium and other nutrients has been shown responsible for the development of hip dysplasia. If your dog is prone to developing the disease, don’t over exercise him as a puppy, Maintaining good muscle mass is essential for decreasing a dog’s chances to developing hip dysplasia. Moderate exercise that strengthen his gluteal muscles (running or swimming) is recommended.

Your dog will be diagnosed by his vet via a physical exam and, most likely, x-rays. So how can you help your dog? There’s nothing you can do about his genes, but you can certainly control his weight. Maintaining your dog’s recommended weight may be the single most important treatment you can do for him. If your dog will require surgery or medical treatments later, they will be far successful if your dog is at his optimal weight. Daily exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. If your dog is already showing signs of arthritis or hip dysplasia, you may need an individualized exercise plan, but it’s the second most important thing you can do for him. People experiencing arthritis feel more symptoms in cold or damp weather. This is true for Fido too. Giving him a sweater for outdoor time or even increasingly the temperature of your home and providing him with a warm, fleecy bed or blanket can ease his symptoms.  Massage or physical therapy can help to relax his stiff muscles and promote a good range of motion for his joints. (Start slowly to build his trust.) You may eventually need to provide your dog with ramps in order to avoid stairs.

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Belgian Malinois

AKC Group: Herding

Originally one variety of the Belgium Shepherd dog, the Malinois was developed in the 1900s in the city of Malines to be an intelligent, loyal dog for herding purposes.

Size: 22 to 26 inches tall, 55 to 75 pounds.

Color: Fawn to mahogany, all colors have black-tipped hairs with a black mask and ears.

Life span: 12 to 14 years.

Health problems: Nothing major has been noted. Minor complaints include skin allergies, eye problems, hip or elbow dysplasia. Excessive shyness or aggression are common if not properly socialized or trained.

These alert, high energy dogs are popular with law enforcement and the military. Protective, territorial and they bond to one or two very strongly for their whole life are traits that law enforcement want. They love to run and play and, trust me, you will tire out long before a Malinois.

Malinois are often mistaken for German Shepherds. Malinois are described as more elegant and lighter-boned than the Germans. Malinois are square-looking and carry themselves with a regal deportment. Strong, agile and muscular, Malinois are full of life. They have almond-shaped eyes; stiff, erect, equilateral triangle-shaped ears and a level back. His tail is raised with a slight curl.

Loving and playful, fully expect your Malinois to act out during his first year of life. This is normal, but you’ll have to stop it so it doesn’t become a fact of life as an adult. They will go through various behavior patterns in the first year. They’re just trying to learn what’s acceptable behavior. You’ll need to encourage exactly the behavior you want. (This is another trait that helps Malinois be beneficial to law enforcement.) Don’t be too harsh, too firm or too soft with them, a Malinois needs firm, loving and consistent training. Malinois have the ability to pick up human moods and will react accordingly.

Malinois also need adequate socialization to overcome their natural shyness. If they are raised with other dogs, or even cats, a Malinois will do well with them. They may revert to dominance over other dogs though. If your Malinois doesn’t outgrow his natural shyness or aggression, seek the help of a professional behaviorist or trainer.

The smooth (shorthaired) coat of a Malinois requires little effort. A regular brushing and a bath when absolutely necessary is all it takes. They do shed heavily twice a year.