German Shepherd – Gentle Giants and Naughty Additions to Your Home!
German Shepherd dogs, also known as Alsatians, are some of the most popular dog breeds out there. These dogs are fierce, loyal, beautiful, loving and extremely wary of strangers. German Shepherds are known to be some of the best guard dogs there are. These dogs are also great worker dogs. Employed in various sectors such as the police and defence forces as K9 units, as therapy dogs for people suffering from disorders and disease, as search and rescue dogs, and even as drug sniffer dogs, German Shepherd dogs have proven themselves beyond obedient.
These are medium to large sized dogs, and only came into existence in 1899. The strength and agility of a German Shepherd is unmatched by any other breed of dogs. Along with this, Alsatians are also known for being intelligent, strong and highly trainable. These are one master dogs and do not often take well to more than one authority figures. However, once a German Shepherd has chosen his master, he will become as much a part of the family as his master’s own children. German Shepherds have a habit of becoming notorious and naughty, but only in spurts.
German Shepherds are the second most registered breed with the American Kennel Club. These dogs are most preferred for disability assistance services and rescue operations which require sniffer dogs to sniff out living victims out of rubble.
The body of a German Shepherd is streamlined and built for athletic excellence.
German Shepherds come with many variants of coats, length of hair, colour of coat and physical characteristics. Single coated German Shepherd dogs can look slimmer with an edge of agility, while German Shepherd dogs with longer coats tend to look more ferocious. The most common colour of coat for German Shepherds is black and brown or a combination of the two.
In a study conducted in 2018, it was discovered that the distribution of a certain breed of European herding dogs has given birth to the German Shepherd gene pool, French Berger Picard and five Italian herding dog breeds.
In the 1800’s, German Shepherd dogs and their other counterpart were used as guard dogs and Shepherding dogs. In the same century, the practice of preserving certain traits in dogs became commonplace. The preservation of a herding dog with traits needed for the dog to protect the sheep or cattle from predators was conducted.
The debate then began on whether dogs should commonly be bred for appearance or also for utility. German Shepherds were bred for the betterment of the work scenario for dogs, these animals were bred to be strong, intelligent, with keen senses of smell and a great speed.
Interestingly, in 1899, a German man by the name of Von Stephanitz, a strong believer of selective breeding of dogs, who was unable to find the perfect dog for himself, attended a dog show where he was introduced to a dog named Hektor Linksrhein. Stephanitz purchased this dog and opened a registry for all German Shepherds. This was registered as the first German Shepherd dog. From here, it was inbreeding after inbreeding, until the perfect herding and working dog was created in the form of the German Shepherds we see today. These dogs are the result of years of struggle while Germany grappled with the loss of cattle and the onset of the industrialization and modernization of businesses.
German Shepherd dogs are fairly active dogs and have a relatively self-assured vibe to them. They are always looking to be of some use or purpose to their families such as guarding their families, smaller pets, children or even toys. They are highly perceptive dogs and should not be underestimated.
German Shepherds are not very friendly towards strangers at first, and are susceptible to biting and showing aggression. They are protective of their owners and do not appreciate being undermined for their strength. These dogs are more serious and focused than other more docile breeds like Labradors or pugs.
Here are some features of a German Shepherd dog’s personality that you should keep in mind before deciding to bring one into your home:
- German Shepherds bite. These dogs are aggressive. Even their playful bites can turn into gashes of flesh wounds. Don’t believe us? Don’t try it out without protective gear on!
- They are also overly protective dogs and are very territorial. German Shepherds can perceive you as a threat even if you go to affectionately touch their humans.
- Obedience and high intelligence are the most common qualities that show in a German Shepherd. They require some mental as well as physical stimulation. So let your German Shepherd run free in a park every few days!
- These dogs are not friendly towards strangers. German Shepherds do not take well to a human who smells peculiarly from their family. This is what makes them excellent guard dogs or military dogs.
- Sniffer dogs require to have a very keen sense of smell and German Shepherds fit the bill perfectly. This is why generally, either Labradors or German Shepherds, are trained to sniff for drugs at the airport or other places of importance.
- German Shepherd dogs require socialization to begin at an early stage where the dog is introduced to strange and foreign objects and is taught not to fear them.
- German Shepherds are not fond of solitude. They may require to take their own space from time to time, but do not do well in isolation such as experienced when they are tied up and left outside the home. This behaviour can turn a German Shepherd violent.
Training a German Shepherd
A German Shepherd dog is not that much different from other, friendlier breeds of dogs. Training them can be difficult as they are highly intelligent and apply their own brain into their actions. However, their intelligence can also prove to be beneficial to training as that makes them perceptive and quick learners.
Typically, at the age of 6-8 months, your puppy should be able to identify his own name and know when he is being called. Once he recognizes that, he will learn to decipher between the voice of his master and that of anyone else. This will help in the training process which must begin within the first 8 months of the puppy’s birth.
Training can be done for the following commands:
- Basic commands – Basic commands such as to sit, stop, eat, heel, stay etc. need to be taught to your dog earlier on. It will take them a few tires to get used to the terms and understand what they mean, but do not relent. Use these key terms to motivate your dog to follow your commands.
- Guard Training – Guard training your dog to be ferocious towards strangers can be wonderfully secure, but it can also make your dog annoyed with strangers in general. This kind of training is best left to the experts.
- Food Bowl Training – Many times, German Shepherd puppies tend to be extremely guarded about their food and mealtimes. This means that they are susceptible to attacking their humans if touched or bothered while eating. Training your dog against this is easily done with love and care.
Seeking professional help when it comes to dog training is very important. At home, lessons need to be taught with love, firmness and positive reinforcement, and the scolding should be left for puppy preschool.
Some things to keep in mind while training your German Shepherd are:
- Do not spend more than 20 minutes on a session without a break.
- Give enough appreciation for your dog to know he is doing something right, and a vehement denial of what is wrong. This will be an early lesson on what the dog can do to make you happy.
- Use treats to incentivize training for your dog/puppy. Reaffirm that they are a sweet dog who is loved while giving them the treat.
Eventually, your dog will take to this training and with an advanced course at the puppy kindergarten, they will be good to go!
- Size and Weight
Male German Shepherds measure between 24-26 inches whereas females only stand from ground to shoulders at a height of 22-24 inches. Their weight varies from 77 to 85 pounds on an average, with 95 being the upper limit. The typical German Shepherd stance that these dogs tend to be in may make them seem short, but once they pull themselves to their full height on their hind legs, it isn’t hard to adjudge their physical prowess.
- Colour and Coat
A German Shepherd dog’s coat may either be a single or a double coat. A single coat is one where the hair length is average to short naturally, and a double coat is one where the hair is longer and coarser, as well as thicker in density. The coat of a German Shepherd can vary anywhere between a light, hazel brown, to a dark black. Mostly, it is a combination of more than one colour on a dog.
- Genetic Characteristics
Genetically, German Shepherds are known to be very affectionate with their masters and family, even making close friends with the children and younger members. However, they are not friendly to different pets, or dogs of another breed. These dogs are extremely playful and need lots of exercise, but are not the most energetic.
- Running Ability
A German Shepherd needs to run. These dogs can run at the speeds of 30-50 miles per hour. These dogs can run competitively, or be used to hunt quick animals.
- Other Characteristics
German Shepherd dogs are as adorable or ferocious as their masters. They are highly trainable and intelligent dogs. If you tie them up and simply reward them for barking at a stranger, they will understand you and continue the habit consciously. However, German Shepherd dogs become docile with age.
- Life Span
The average lifespan of a German Shepherd dog ranges between 7-10 years, but a healthy environment, lots of exercise and nutritious food can bring the lifespan up to 14 years as well.
Since German Shepherds are usually heavily inbred to preserve the traits of the dog, they are prone to some illnesses and genetic disorders. These can be prevented by giving them inoculations in time, or maintaining a good exercise and meal routine. Some problems your dog might face are:
- Cataracts – Cataract is a retinal disease wherein a thin film of white grows on the lenses of the eyes, rendering the dog almost completely blind. This can be easily countered with a short, minor surgery.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia – This is a genetic tendency in German Shepherd dogs which is the leading cause of arthritis. The gentle slope of the hind legs of the dogs is a reason for this disorder.
- Degenerative Spinal Stenosis – If caught early, injections are available for the prevention of pain in old dogs. Surgeries are also conducted on the younger dogs that suffer from degenerative diseases. However, this is not possible for older dogs, and many times there is not much time to react before the dog begins to suffer.
- Eating Habits – Since Huskies were bred to not be picky eaters, in urban settings, they are most prone to be garbage divers and can eat almost anything.
- Ear Infections – Solely due to the shape of their ears, German Shepherds are very prone to ear infections. These can get annoying for the dogs as constant itchiness can be experienced. With their long nails and rough paws, the dog will try to scratch their ears, and sometimes cause damage to the ear drum in the bargain. Even a little collection of debris, ear wax or moisture on the opening of the ear canal can cause this.
German Shepherds are also susceptible to degenerative myelopathy, which is a neurological disease. This can be checked for by doing an inexpensive saliva test. They tend to have weaker kidneys and pancreas, and a severely disease prone bone structure.
A purebred German Shepherd dog will have very peculiar traits. These can include:
- Erect and pointy ears – A German Shepherd’s ears go up and down many times during the ages of 4 weeks to about 8 months. This is not a weird characteristic of just your dog, but a mark of pedigree on the whole breed.
- Head Tilt – German Shepherds have a signature head tilt which they do in order to show their excitement, curiosity etc.
- Circular Markings – German Shepherds have two circular markings on the nape of their necks, tucked away under their chins. This is another mark of being a purebred German Shepherd.
- Hind Leg Tilt – The typical posture of a German Shepherd is not the same as other dogs. These dogs have a particular manner of standing with a tilt in their hind legs. This tilt is the leading cause of spinal and bone disorders in German Shepherds, but is another sign of purebred dogs.
One dog may or may not possess all of these traits at once. However, just because a dog is not purebred does not mean that he is a pariah. Unbred dogs can be as much a delight as any purebred!
German Shepherds require a fair amount of exercise to keep them fit. This is due to the plethora of health problems that they encounter in their old age. Fitness and nutrition is very important for all dogs as their health is our primary concern. The amount of food fed to your German Shepherd should be regulated to three meals a day, with one meal simply serving as a snack between breakfast and dinner.
Protein and bone strengthening foods should be fed to your dog so that their bones are less likely to bear the brunt of their genetics.
Playing and laughing with your dog can be a lot of fun, but rough play with German Shepherds can cause for their ears to droop and their bones to wilt. These are not ideal situations and should be prevented at all times. Make sure you know where your dog is going to play, and if they hurt themselves, be ready to react fast!
Finding Your German Shepherd
You can find yourself a trusty husky companion via many routes.
- Purchase from Breeder
If you are approaching a breeder in order to purchase a German Shepherd, check the reliability of your breeder. Ask him questions about the training, raising and loving of a German Shepherd. Decipher if he is a reliable source for maintaining your dog’s health in the future or not. Breeders who practically force you to take the puppy home rather than nurturing it may be in the business only for the money and is not the right choice.
Call for the health records and pedigree registration of your German Shepherd before purchasing the dog and bringing him home. Health risks such as non-compliance with inoculations and untimely exposure to the surroundings of the outside environment can lead to your puppy passing away or living in sickness.
If you are going to adopt a German Shepherd from a local dog shelter or adoption centre, you will have to fulfil a few additional responsibilities. These will include you taking the time to have your dog medically checked for lice and ticks, to infections in the ear, body, wounds, bone health and additional disorders which show up with age. Adopting a grown up German Shepherd can be difficult as the dog takes time to reorient himself to new surroundings, but once comfortable and assured that he is loved and wanted, you will be graced with cuddles for days!
Be assured that bringing a German Shepherd into your home will be the best decision you have ever taken. This is not only because you will gain a fruitful member of the family, but also because you will be showered with the kind of love and loyalty you cannot imagine. Fill your home with laughter, happiness and loads of barking – bring home a German Shepherd today!