The German Shepherd, one of the most echoed names among dog enthusiasts all over the world. Over the years, this large-sized breed has become tremendously popular owing to their boundless loyalty and intelligence. This loyalty and allegiance to their owners have made them a favorable option as a family pet.
Additionally, GSDs, as most people refer to them, are also highly adaptable and resilient which makes them excellent working dogs. Some of its other notable traits include alertness, courage, strength, stamina, and amazing scenting skills.
A Historical Overview
This breed traces its roots in Germany. It was developed in the late 19th century by an alumnus of the Berlin Veterinary College and ex-cavalry captain namely Max von Stephanitz. But what inspired the patriarch of the GSD to develop this breed?
During the mid-1800s, there were attempts in Europe to standardize native dog breeds. Selective breeding was widespread, and locals were looking for specific desirable qualities for various tasks. Shepherds, mainly, wanted a dog that would be fast, intelligent, strong and with a keen smelling sense. They would be used for herding and protecting flocks against predators. However, all these dogs varied significantly both in their ability and appearance.
In 1891, enthusiasts formed the Phylax Society which aimed to eliminate these differences. Captain Max von Stephanitz was a member. Unfortunately, the society was disbanded three years later, but the groundwork for developing the German Shepherd was underway.
When attending a dog show, von Stephanitz came across Hector Linksrhein, a dog which he believed to combine all the attributes of the perfect working dog. Hector was born in a line of herding dogs, resembled a wolf and had an even temperament. He was also intelligent, and robust.
Von Stephanitz admired Hektor and purchased him instantly. Later on, he founded the Society for the German Shepherd Dog, renamed his dog Horand von Grafrath and registered him as the first GSD. Since then, Horand would be the benchmark used by all German Shepherd breeding programs.
Rise of the German Shepherd Dog
The German Shepherd’s unique working abilities saw it being embraced by the various military forces. However, it was during the decline of the First World War that the breed gained international appreciation when soldiers from the war front came back with heroic stories of their service dogs. Additionally, movies featuring Strong heart and the legendary Rin Tin Tin propelled the breed’s name even further.
By 1908, the breed had won the hearts of many Americans and was being imported into the country. The year 1920 is historic for American dog lovers; the first GSD was registered in the US, it went by the name Queen of Switzerland. Later on, German Shepherd known as Sieger Pfeffer von Bern promoted the breed even further by emerging the Grand Victor in the AKC dog shows of 1937 and 1938. Since then, the German Shepherd flame keeps burning and is now recognized as the second most famous breed in the US.
These days, the breed is renowned for its high retention capacity during training for many sophisticated activities. They have become a favorite for the military and police. They are also used for guiding the visually impaired, detecting drugs and contraband, they also form an integral part of most search and rescue teams. However, most of these dogs are acquired as an addition to the family as a loyal friend and protector.
German Shepherd Temperament
In a few words, the German Shepherd can be labeled as an active and self-assured dog. It is also keen to learn and craves to have a purpose. Their element of curiosity makes the dog an excellent guard who is fit to take on search tasks. Proper socialization is paramount to having a German Shepherd that is not over-protective of their territory and family.
They are bold and fearless dogs who will remain friendly to the household pets but may appear as dominant to strange dogs. However, they remain obedient to their owners always and are intelligent enough to tell when you are annoyed. They will also protect you at all costs.
While this dog is sociable and outgoing, they are characterized by a particular aloofness that makes the dog not open to instant and indiscriminate acquaintances. However, even with the aura of suspicion, the dog remains approachable, holds its ground and exudes confidence and readiness to meet proposals without themselves initiating it.
German Shepherd Exercise Requirements
Regarding exercise, GSDs can be termed as the high-maintenance type. The dog, which was originally bred to herd sheep, was meant to trot long distances daily. Therefore, they are very active canines who enjoy running and exploring their surrounding with their sharp smell.
Exercise is a prerequisite for German Shepherds, especially during their growing stage. Active owners can spend more time with their pooch jogging, hiking, picnicking, swimming or going for long walks. You can also utilize a fenced yard to allow your friend to run around the compound without straying. Keeping the dog restrained or locked up in a kennel causes boredom and could lead to a dangerous dog with pent-up energy.
Does the German Shepherd Make A Good Family Dog?
Being a large and active canine, it is imperative that your German Shepherd gets adequate attention, firm guidance and companionship as it grows up. It is very sociable, and isolation will not do it much good. Their build and strength make it easy for them to knock over a child or a senior who may be weak. Not to mention their vigor and biting tendencies may leave a mess on your furniture occasionally.
Often, a GSD will choose someone from the family to be their special companion while still relating well with the other members. They also learn to develop a tolerance for small children and their tendency to poke, grab and mishandle everything.
While occasional baths are needed, a GSD may not require much grooming like clipping. However, members of this breed shed heavily especially during spring which makes regular combing necessary.
German Shepherd Health
This dog can live up to 10 to 12 years on average. Unfortunately, a German Shepherd is prone to various health issues emanating from the inbreeding done to their predecessors. Canine hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are among the typical health issues affecting this beautiful breed. It causes the dog to experience pain in the limbs during old age and can also lead to arthritis.
Von Willebrand Disease is a bleeding disorder, which is also hereditary. GSDs can even get neurological diseases such as degenerative myelopathy. In light of these findings, it is paramount that you make it a habit to visit the veterinarian regularly.
All that said the legacy of the German Shepherd Dog is evident. It remains to be among the best breeds for anyone looking for a protection dog. A competent instructor can help to train your dog in personal protection, and you will be fortunate knowing you have a protector who will fight for you to the death.