The German Shepherd is a loyal and sensitive dog. Get to know them as a family member or as a working dog.

The German Shepherd Dog
by Kristopher Chambers

The German Shepherd Dog, also known as the Alsatian Shepherd, is the most recognizable dog in the world. It is also one of the most popular. they are famous for their loyalty and sensitivity, as well as their keen senses, physical strength, and beauty. They are well liked both as professional working dogs and as personal companions.

german shepherds These dogs are amazingly versatile. The breed got its name from their early days herding sheep, a task which they still excel at, but they have been used in more ways than any other breed of dog in the world. They are guard dogs, warding off intruders, and seeing-eye dogs, helping people who are blind across the street. They are used professionally by law enforcement to find bombs and track escaped criminals, and by Search and Rescue workers to help locate lost hikers and survivors of natural disasters. A few have even learned to parachute with their owners, riding in special harnesses. In the end, however, they are still perfectly suited for domestic life.

A Shepherds fur may be golden or fawn, sable, all black, or all white. It has a double coat, which acts as good insulation for the dog. This coat also sheds a lot, especially in the Spring and the Fall. However, apart from their shedding habits, they are very clean. They do not drool like some other dogs, and are easily house-trained. They are long lived, sometimes living fourteen years. They are also large, weighing between 60 and 100 lbs, and very strong. If untrained, they could jump on and knock over a child, or even an adult if unprepared. They are known for their gentleness as well as their strength, and when properly trained make excellent pets. This dog breed is protective of their family and wary of strangers, but they are not actively hostile to them, and once you have won them over they will be your friend for life.

While shepherding dogs date back to the bronze age, the breed that was to become the German Shepherd had its origin in Germany in the 19th century. Captain Max von Stephanitz was an avid dog fancier who, in 1895, co-founded the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde, the Society for German Shepherd Dogs. The society was formed on the same day he met Hektor von Linksrhein, a silent wolf-like dog who was to be father of the entire breed. Von Stephanitz bought Hektor, mated him, and much of the early work of the society was devoted to developing the new breed.

Following World War I, the dog shows in England changed the name of the breed to Alsatian to disguise their connection with Germany. This remained all the way till 1978, when it was finally changed back. In America, the German Shepherd was first acknowledged by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a separate breed in 1911. It was popularized during the thirties by Rin Tin Tin, one of the most famous acting dogs, which had a part in over fifty movies.

When choosing a puppy, it is important to think carefully about why one is getting a dog, and be sure to buy a dog that matches this. If buying a dog for show, it should be much more impressive looking than if it is intended for work, or if it is intended only as a domestic companion. It should also match the personality of its prospective owner well. It is a very good idea to buy only from respectable breeders. The American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, and the Kennel Club of Great Britain can assist with this. A good age to pick a puppy is from eight to ten weeks old. By then, they have learned canine socialization skills which will be essential for them later in life. Unlike some breeds, early socialization is an absolute necessity for German Shepherds, and it is absolutely vital that they receive it.

German Shepherds need daily exercise. Not merely daily exercise, but STRENUOUS daily exercise. While a two or three mile walk around the neighborhood might be enough for a puppy or an old dog, an adult might need a good run, a fast session of throw-the-ball, or maybe a jog alongside a bicycle. Be sure to set up a schedule, as dogs are creatures of habit and thrive best if they have a regular schedule. Despite their seemingly boundless energy, puppies are willing to play much longer than they are physically able. Be sure to carefully control the puppy's exercise until it is fully grown.

Feed pups three small meals each day, instead of one large meal. This helps their back grow by decreasing the amount of weight carried in the stomach at any single time. The average adult will eat about 35 to 40 pounds of dry meal a month.

Large, fast-growing dogs, such as German Shepherds, need to be more carefully fed than smaller breeds. Shepherds develop best if they are kept lean until their skeletal development is complete, at about 13 months. If a pup looks well fed it is being OVER fed, if it looks a little thin you are feeding it enough.

A popular alternative to brushing a dog's teeth is to give it a dog biscuit or a large beef bone. However, while this does have some benefit, neither technique can prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, so the teeth should still be manually brushed teeth on a regular schedule, perhaps once a week, using either a toothbrush with baking soda and water, or a veterinary dentifrice.

Bathing a German Shepherd too often will remove the natural oils from it's coat and make it dry and itchy. It should only be given a bath when it is dirty or smells, and only with shampoo made for dogs.

Although it should only be bathed it when its dirty, the coat should be brushed down once a day. This helps to stimulate the release of the dog's natural oils, prevents tangles, and is also a good time to check for parasites. The best way to brush a Shepherd is to back brush, or brush in the opposite direction from the way the coat naturally grows. When finished brushing, it is a good idea to dampen a towel and back rub the coat with it, then leave it damp and let it dry. This should only take a few minutes, and allows the moisture from the towel to collect the dust from the coat, which is definitely desirable.

German Shepherds can pull wagons, find truffles, herd cattle, or act as watchdogs. They can be domestic companions or bring down escaped criminals. Few words sum up the German Shepherd more than those of Elizabeth Stidham, "The loyalty of the German Shepherd is legendary; the depth of its bond to its handler is well documented. Coupling courage with calm confidence, independence with compliance, derring-do with dignity, provides the balance that makes the German Shepherd Dog the world's premier working dog" (Palika 25).

Battaglia, Dr. Carmelo L. "The Proper Care of German Shepherds." New Jersey: T. F. H. Publications Inc. 1998.
Fiorenzo, Fiorene. "The Encyclopedia of Dogs: The Canine Breeds." New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company. 1973.
Hamilton, Fereleth. "The World Encyclopedia of Dogs." New York: World Pub. Co. 1971.
Palika, Liz. "The German Shepherd Dog: An Owner's Guide To A Happy Healthy Pet." New York: Howell Book House. 1995.

*copy of this article is not permitted. It is exclusive to Naturally4Pets.