The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is a very strong and alert breed. They have a noble appearance with a strong and chiseled head. They have medium sized eyes that are dark and almond shaped. Their ears are somewhat pointed and open toward the front. They stand very erect when at attention. Their skulls are sloped into a long wedge shaped muzzle. Their noses are black and they have strongly developed jaws with teeth that meet in a scissors bite. The GSD has a strong neck that is muscular and long, but always in proportion to the rest of his body. Their chests are deep and filled out. Their legs are strong and muscular and their feet are short and compact. GSDs should always be longer than they are tall. The most desirable proportion is 10 to 8 1/2 length in proportion to height. A female German Shepherd Dog should look decidedly female, and a male German Shepherd Dog should look decidedly male, particularly when you look at their heads. Today, there are German lines of this breed and American lines. The German lines of the German Shepherd Dog tend to be larger dogs with a broader head and darker coat. Dogs with the American line are typically smaller and have less sloping in their hips, which is a traditional German Shepherd Dog characteristic. American lines also show more silver with black coat coloring, whereas the German lines are nearly always black and tan.
The German Shepherd Dog has a medium length double coat, which sheds constantly. During seasonal changes, shedding will be even heavier. The undercoat is typically a silvery gray and should not be visible through the outer coat. Their outer coat is very dense and has a somewhat coarse feeling to it. The hair is straight and lies close to the body. You will sometimes find longer hair on the rear of the legs. Hair is thicker and longer around the neck. White is considered an improper color in this breed because being colored white would prevent a German Shepherd Dog from excelling at tasks for which the dog was bred. The dogs were originally bred as mountain herding dogs - and a white coat would have been invisible in the snow. In addition, they were bred to be watchdogs, another task where the color white is inappropriate because it makes the dog too visible. However, there is a separate breed called the White German Shepherd. It is not recognized by the AKC, but is recognized by the UKC.
The German Shepherd Dog breed is an adaptation of the mountain sheepdog of Germany, altered for work as a military dog around 1880. Three regions of Germany became famous for breeding these dogs; Wurttemberg, Thuringia and Bavaria. The dogs from these areas, including long hair, short hair and wire haired herding dogs were used to produce the German shepherd we know today. Captain Max Von Stephanitz is often referred to as the "Father of the German Shepherd". In April 1899, he registered a dog named Horan as the first Deutsche Schaferhunde, which means German Shepherd Dog, so the word "dog" is actually part of the breed's name. In 1925 he wrote a book, "The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture", which immortalized the breed. Von Stephanitz was a noted disciplinarian and headed the Society for the Promotion of the Breeding of German Shepherd Dogs from its founding in 1899 until 1935. He guided and directed an intensive-breeding program to fix type and was adamant in his demands for utility and intelligence. Even today, this breed of dog is known for being one that is very reliable in terms of behaving and performing to type. After WWII, the popularity waned due to their association with Hitler and his reign of terror. It was during these post WWII years that the British changed the dog\'s name to Alsatian, and then later to Alsatian Wolf Dog, to remove the stigma of having the word German in their name. In America the breed was well established before World War I. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America came into being in 1913 with 26 members. Today local clubs together with the Parent Club continue to guide the breeding of this dog. Until 1915, both longhaired and wirehaired varieties were exhibited. Today, in most countries, only the short coat is recognized for show purposes. When you choose your own German Shepherd Dog, choosing a reputable breeder is paramount. These dogs have been consistently popular for many years, and there have been many suspect breeding programs created as a result. When dogs are poorly bred, they are subject to health problems like hip dysplasia and are often not representative of the true nature of the breed. For example, GSDs are occasionally prone to skittishness. This behavior is far from the norm of this typically steady and calm breed. Reputable breeders, if they had a skittish puppy, would never breed it, in an attempt to breed this behavior out, rather than in. Breeders looking just to make a quick buck, however, are not so careful about how their dogs are bred.
The German Shepherd Dog has a distinct personality. They are confident and strong in their behavior as well as in their appearance. They are typically fearless, but they are also fiercely loyal and protective. They are extremely eager to please, particularly once you've established yourself as the "alpha dog." A GSD will fight to the death for the life of his owner and is strong enough that he may well win the battle. They can appear somewhat aloof, particularly with strangers, and they take time to get to know new people before they let their guard down. This dog is incredibly alert - he never misses anything that goes on around him, which is one of the reasons this breed makes the perfect watchdog. Once bonded to an owner, a GSD makes a wonderful companion. Many people think of this breed as simply a watchdog or police dog, but they actually make great family pets if they are properly trained. They are loyal and protective, but also sweet and loving with their families. They are very good with children and do quite well with other pets in the home. They do not like to be left alone for long periods of time, so they should be allowed to interact with their families on a regular basis. This breed has a very calm and steady temperament, so once trained, they can be relied on to behave appropriately wherever you take them. The GSD's body and strength make it well suited for working and they have been used for years as working dogs. They are often used for police work, as security dogs, as herding dogs, as service dogs for the blind and hearing impaired and as military dogs. This dog's intelligence, sense of smell and work ethic make him suited to nearly any task you'd choose to train him for.
German Shepherd Dogs are prone to hip dysplasia. This problem is mostly the result of indiscriminate breeding programs. Before purchasing a GSD puppy, be certain that both parents have their hips certified OFA good at the very least. They are also prone to blood disorders, digestive problems and chronic eczema. However, if you choose your dog from a reputable breeder, he should be overall healthy.
Your German shepherd Dog will benefit from a quick brushing about twice a week. If he is not brushed regularly, you will find lots of short dark hairs in your house, and you may also find that his undercoat, particularly on his stomach and around his neck becomes matted. Find a brush that is good at removing hair, as wells as one that your dog enjoys being brushed with. During the shedding season, you'll want to use a shedding blade or rake daily to keep the excess hair at bay. The blade should be placed on the GSD and lightly pulled back in the direction of the hair growth, with only the slightest pressure. Shedding rakes are particularly helpful because they also massage the skin and distribute the oil throughout the coat. Occasionally, you can scissor any long hairs under the GSD's feet even with the pads and trim the hair on the back of the hock with thinning shears to neaten the overall appearance of the feet and to keep the hair in that area from becoming matted. GSDs should be bathed as needed. However, bathing too often can cause the natural oil in their fur to become depleted. When you do bathe them, using a slicker brush after their bath is particularly effective. You will get a lot of excess hair off right after bathing. Once the dog is dry, they look great if their coat is finished by shining it with a chamois cloth for shine. Some owners also spray on a light coat of mink oil at this time.
The German Shepherd Dog is a strong and athletic breed, and need considerable exercise. A large yard for running or daily walks with their owner will keep them healthy and strong. Because of their intelligence, they love a challenge and will do quite well at many different activities including agility training, tracking and obedience training. In addition to providing the mental challenge this dog needs, these activities ensure that he gets proper exercise, as well.
The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most intelligent breeds of dog and one of the easiest to train. Training should begin at a young age, and should be handled with patience and consistency. Because they are so intelligent, it's important to train them firmly from the very beginning. However, overly harsh correction will only make the dog stubborn and willful, so it's best that you be patient and praise his good efforts. He will likely housetrain very quickly, particularly if you crate train him. Being highly intelligent, the breed always enjoys a mental challenge. He can be trained to do nearly anything - a fact that is proven by the many jobs they've had over the years. Many people associate GSDs with being aggressive watchdogs, but this behavior is the result of training. A GSD will always be protective of his family and will always be wary of strangers, but they are not aggressive by nature. Because they are wary of strangers, socialization should begin at an early age. It is important for your GSD to be intuitive about your reactions to people who come into your home. Once your dog learns your reactions, he will gauge his own, and your friends will be his friends. However, if he senses that you're concerned, he'll be concerned and as protective as he believes is required. This is one dog that will consistently take cues from his owner. So, over time, the two of you will become fast friends and you'll be able to rely on your GSD's behavior. Playing games and participating in activities is an important part of bonding with your GSD. He will want to be active, and will enjoy participating in activities with you. Because of his great sense of smell, "find" is a perfect game for this breed. But, he'll also love to fetch and play ball and Frisbee. GSDs have a great sense of humor, so you'll both get lots of enjoyment out of simply having fun together. The GSD is a very fast runner and also has great endurance. If you're a runner, this dog will be your best running companion!