The German Shepherd Dog
What is the most recognizable breed in the world?
No! It is not Lassie the Collie.
It is the German Shepherd Dog.
There has not been another breed that is so internationally recognized as the German Shepherd.
Back in the 1890’s a German cavalry officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz was dreaming of creating a working dog that was not only beautiful to look at, but had intelligence, loyalty and perseverance.
While visiting a dog show in 1899, he happened to see a beautiful dog and immediately bought him.
This dog was named Horand von Grafrath. Horand became very famous in Germany because of his beauty and intelligence.
In 1899 von Stephanitz and some other interested parties formed a society known as the Society for German Shepherd Dogs and Horand von Grafrath became the sire for building the breed of German Shepherds.
This society still exists and is the largest and most influential breed club in the world.
The Society was responsible for creating the list of strict breeding standards and guidelines, along with creating a register for German Shepherd Dogs
It established the first German Shepherd Dog Show in 1899 and today it draws people and dogs from all over the world.
In 1908 the AKC registered the first German Shepherd and at that time an American German Shepherd Dog Club was also formed,
However, World War I came upon the world and anything German was quickly frowned upon.
In America the name was changed to Shepherd Dog and the British decided to call the breed the Alsatian Wolfdog.
The war ended and in 1931 the word German was again added to the name.
As the American soldiers returned home from Europe and peace was restored. They brought tales of heroic deeds that these dogs were capable of and slowly but surely, the breed once again regained great popularity.
German Shepherds starred in movies and Rin Tin Tin became a household word. Roy Rogers even had a German Shepherd in his TV series.
German Shepherds were bred originally as sheep herding dogs and even today the herding instinct still comes to light on occasion.
When we think of German Shepherds, our minds click to police dogs, guard dogs and guide dogs as they are great working dogs.
However, they are super great family dogs. Their protective instinct makes them great dogs to have around children.
A German Shepherd has a stable and steady temperament, their loyalty can never be questioned, their intelligence makes them quick learners and they even have common sense.
Granted they are not known to have the “greeting” exuberance that some dogs have; as they do appear at times, aloof and imposing
German Shepherds were bred to herd and protect sheep and the shepherd.
This quality remains and they are protective of their humans, which makes them cautious when a stranger approaches what they consider their “charges.”
Owning a German Shepherd requires a person (family) that has time to devote to training, outdoor activity and has lots of love to give.
Though these are considered working dogs, they are also “people” dogs and need love and attention.
An ignored German Shepherd that has not been given any training or care ultimately becomes a nuisance and ends up in a shelter with little hope of finding a home.
German Shepherds because of their popularity have been bred by many indiscriminate breeders and as a result the puppies are of poor quality and temperament.
If you are thinking of getting a puppy, do your research investigate your breeder, check bloodlines, look at where the dog is kept, see the parents if possible, be certain the puppies are being handled and loved before they are put up for sale.
One of the most important things to remember is that these puppies need to be socialized (all dogs do,) but for a German Shepherd it is extremely important that they be people oriented.
Also, breeders will tell you the American bloodlines are the best.
If you want to show your dog, that is more than likely the truth as the AKC has been known to reject many of the German bred dogs due to conformation.
American bred German Shepherds have a less intense temperament and a more streamlined body.
German bloodlines tend to build a stockier dog that is more suited to be a “working dog” as its temperament is rather intense and they are very high-energy.
That is not to say they would not make great family dogs, it just means that they will require more from you in the line of training, outdoor activity and patience.
On the negative side there are a few things to consider, many cities consider German Shepherds, along with some other breeds as intimidating and aggressive and have put into force very strict rules regarding the housing of such dogs at your home.
Likewise, many insurance companies have declined to insure homes because of what they consider too great a liability if you have a dog that is considered aggressive.
Health wise there are several things to take into consideration; hip and elbow dysplasia are common problems, bloat is another, young puppies (8 to 12 months) can suffer from panosteitis (excessive bone production in the large leg bones. The puppies generally will grow out of it, but it does cause a great deal of pain and some lameness.
Pannus is an eye condition that responds to medication, but can in some cases cause blindness.
A spinal disorder called degenerative myelopathy is fairly common, along with epilepsy and a middle ear disease called peripheral vestibular disease.
I have listed these negatives not to discourage you from getting this wonderful dog, but to alert you to some of the possible problems. Investigating the bloodlines of your puppy and the health of its parents and grandparents is a good place to start.
The German Shepherd Dog is one of the nature’s most unique and wonderful canine gifts. This dog will love you until “death you do part.”
You on the other hand have to be intelligent enough to know what a treasure you have and be willing to devote the time to training, exercising and loving this dog.
If you do not have the time or the ability, do yourself and the dog a favor and get a fish.