A Loyal Friend: The German Shepherd Dog
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The name is literal: German Shepherd Dogs were born and bred to herd and protect sheep in nineteenth century Germany. Before 1899, many towns in Germany had their own version of a German Shepherd Dog. Eventually, a group of breeders led by Captain Max von Stephanitz created the current German Shepherd breed by combining dogs from several different towns.
Today, German Shepherds are a favorite breed – in fact, they are the second most popular breed in America. They’ve been featured in movies like Rin-Tin-Tin and because of their ability to learn quickly, and follow instructions, along with their innate loyalty and protective instincts, they are favored among police and military organizations.
German Shepherds are pretty large dogs. Here are some common physical traits:
- Weight: 49-88 lbs.
- Height: 21-26 in.
- Coat: Coarse and dense double coat
- Color: Black and tan
- Lifespan: 9-10
What are they like?
Like a lot of dogs that were originally used for herding livestock, German Shepherds are alert, active, and athletic. They’re very durable and are fantastic outdoor dogs, and this is one reason they’re popular: they’re great for people who love to get outside and hike, run, or swim! German Shepherds are also confident dogs –fearless but not hostile, they hold their ground and are considered reliable guard dogs.
German Shepherds bond well with others, especially the leader of the household, thought they are a bit shy around strangers and it can take some time for them to warm up.
They’re very smart dogs as well, known for both loyalty and being highly trainable. Given the right amount of training and attention, they can be great family dogs!
The German Shepherd breed is not considered unhealthy. However, German Shepherds are prone to a variety of medical conditions:
- Bloat, which can lead to gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV)
- Hip dysplasia
- Degenerative myelopathy
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
Right for you?
Before you take home that adorable, fuzzy little German Shepherd puppy, it’s important to think hard about what you’re getting into. Here are some considerations to make:
- German Shepherds require lots of commitment. They have a lot of energy and need to exercise every day. And a walk around the block is not enough – playing fetch, letting them run, or other activities that let them burn off a lot of steam are a must. If you’re not an active person and a daily exercise routine for your dog isn’t realistic, the German Shepherd probably isn’t right for you.
- Time and effort into training is also really important. German Shepherds are smart dogs and need both direction and discipline. If they don’t have something to occupy them or don’t know who’s boss, the results can be chaotic. If you are timid and unable to put your foot down and control your dog, a German Shepherd is a bad idea.
- Shedding. German Shepherds are heavy shedders! If you are very conscious about the appearance of your home and don’t like the idea of dog hair blanketing your floors and furniture, the German Shepherd is not the dog for you.
- There’s a chance your dog will have some health problems. Indiscriminate breeding has led to a higher level of hereditary diseases in German Shepherds than other breeds. You should be prepared to pay for veterinary care and live with a dog that may slow down as the years pass.
German Shepherds can be great, loyal dogs. When trained and disciplined well, they can make excellent family dogs, especially for active folks. For more information about the breed, be sure to talk with your veterinarian.