German Shepherd: Loved and feared

German Shepherd

Intelligent, willing to learn, alert & sporty companion and working dog

Probably the best-known dog breed in the world, German Shepherds are a popular export. They are loved and feared. As an intelligent and persevering companion, guard and working dog, the German Shepherd is extremely popular and is valued as a very loyal, sensitive and well-balanced family dog and watchdog. However, its reputation is also that of a "tough" and imposing dog, whose image has suffered since the world wars of the last century. Breeders attach importance to different characteristics. Due to overbreeding, many German Shepherds are unfortunately prone to diseases, which should definitely be taken into account when choosing parents for the litter.

Top Facts

  • Loved and feared: a German dog with a bad image
  • Guarding and protective instinct: consistent training necessary
  • Intelligent and capable of learning: but also quickly learns the wrong things
  • Athletic and enduring: athletic owners desired
  • Ill-bred: Keeps a close eye on breeders and parents
  • Confident and courageous: not a beginner's dog

Breed Overview

Height
55,0 - 65,0 cm
Weight
22,0 - 40,0 kg
Life Expectancy
7 - 12 years
Use as
Companion, guard and working dog
Origin
Germany
Coat
mostly medium length stock hair
Personality
intelligent, willing to work, alert, athletic

Personality

More a protection, service and family dog than a herding dog.

It was the original task of the German Shepherd Dog to herd sheep, and to guard both sheep and shepherds (and their property). Therefore, the intelligent, athletic, independent and alert behaviour of the original sheep dogs, coupled with a natural and courageous protective instinct, has already taken root in the German Shepherd’s genetic makeup.

As sheep herding became less and less in-demand, the German Shepherd Dog (DSH = Deutscher Schäferhund) was used as a military, police and protection dog. This is one reason that for many people they seem to command respect in everyday life. As a service dog, the German Shepherd is still the Number One. They are also very popular as companions and family dogs for active people.

Descriptions of the German Shepherd's character mostly refer to the original working and utility dog and less to the family and companion dog in him.

According to the FCI, the German Shepherd Dog should possess the following character traits: "well-balanced, steady of nerves, self-confident, absolutely unselfconscious, unaffected and benign outside a stimulus situation, in addition attentive and leadable. He must possess drive, resilience and self-assurance to be suitable as a companion, guard, protection, service and herding dog."

According to the VDH, the DSH should be "secure and confident". The American Kennel Club calls him confident, courageous and clever.  

Character traits that are important for a working dog, however, can become troublesome in companion dogs in everyday life, especially if the dogs are not socialised and trained.

What should I look out for if I want to keep a German Shepherd?

German Shepherds are very large and, on top of that, alert and confident dogs. Therefore, good socialisation and education from an early age are prerequisites for a well-balanced dog that can also be a companion and family dog which displays good manners everywhere.

In the puppies' first weeks, the breeder is responsible for this socialisation and education. If the puppy is kept in a kennel, it receives far too few impressions of its future environment and cannot get used to it. Are you looking for a family dog? Then the shepherd puppy should have grown up in a family. Then he will be familiar with children, cars, other people, other dogs, everyday noises like the hoover or the lawn mower.

If the future family member does not have the chance to get used to this as a puppy, insecurities can arise later. Future guard dogs also often later live in families and therefore appropriate socialisation from an early age is also very important for them.

The German Shepherd Dog - loved and feared

As an intelligent and persevering companion, protector and working dog, the German Shepherd Dog is very popular. He is also appreciated as a very loyal, sensitive and balanced family dog. At the same time, he is at least respected, if not feared, by many people, and not entirely without reason - look at the dog breed bite statistics. Like all strong, intelligent dogs with a protective instinct, German shepherds can be turned into dangerous fighting machines if they are not properly socialised and trained.

Why does the German Shepherd have a bad reputation? What does this mean for me if I keep a German Shepherd?

Unfortunately, the German Shepherd Dog has a bad reputation, especially in everyday life, and many people are afraid of an encounter with a German Shepherd Dog and behave accordingly (from cautious to aggressive). What is the reason for this?

On the one hand, it may be due to the fact that German shepherds are unfortunately almost always at the top of the bite statistics, at least in Germany. It should be said that there are no uniform statistics for Germany and that of course the number of dogs must be seen in relation to the number of biting incidents; but even if this is taken into account, the German Shepherd is almost always very far ahead in Germany. This means that there are not a few incidents and many people have heard about them.

On the other hand, many people know the German Shepherd as a fierce protection and service dog in the police, and pictures from protection service can be frightening.

Protection service is not a bad thing in itself, as long as you need a working dog, as do the police, military, customs and the like. For a family dog, this training is usually not useful at all. However, protection service is often still recommended for them.

In the past, it was often believed that a German Shepherd needed a "hard hand". Fortunately this is now outdated, but the wrong upbringing is certainly to blame for some of them reacting aggressively.

In everyday life a large, confident and alert dog like the German Shepherd simply has to be very well trained to obey. As an owner, I have to make sure that I can call my dog off at any time and that it does not pose a danger or a threat to others. Unfortunately, the environment feels more threatened by a German Shepherd than by other dog breeds, regardless of whether this is right or wrong. This is why good training that builds trust and a bond with your dog is so important. If these are lacking, a German Shepherd can quickly become a danger on four paws.

Many people approach these canines with prejudice and with fear - fear for their dogs and children or even for themselves. Many owners of German Shepherds are eyed accordingly and have to endure lots of comments. The only thing that helps here is to remain relaxed and, above all, to politely present a well-trained dog. Polite behaviour in the environment is essential to show people that they don't have to be afraid of your dog. For example, you should intervene if your dog rushes towards other smaller dogs, or call your dog when children are around.

How do I train a German Shepherd? Man-dog team instead of subjugation or laissez faire.

Such a large, intelligent and alert dog should maintain balance in all situations and listen to its owner. So far so understandable.

Drill, coercion, pressure and punishment, which were used in many a shepherd dog training for quite a long time and unfortunately can still be seen sometimes, cannot compete with the effectiveness of a joint team effort, where the owner shows the dog safely what behaviour is desired of them.

Unfortunately, German Shepherds were (and sometimes still are) ill-used in dog competitions, entered by those who see them purely as a functional sporting creature and disregard their emotional response. Of course, a German Shepherd should and must be exercised, and dog sports are very suitable for this, but false toughness and ambition are always at the expense of the dog.

I have observed in a German Shepherd club how one of these dogs, before it was to complete an exercise on the field, was made "docile" with hard jerks on the leash and knee jerks. This is very sad and hard to bear and hopefully the exception, but unfortunately not completely atypical in dealing with German Shepherds. With this sort of "education" the result is either an insecure dog that “grovels" or a dog that at some point rebels in frustration and can become aggressive.

In my family, German Shepherds were kept and loved as family dogs for decades. They received absolute top marks as protection and tracking dogs, but in everyday life they were, unfortunately, bullies on a leash who guarded the house a notch too sharply. They were very friendly and even-tempered with me as a child and I was allowed to do everything with them. However, when my mother was left alone in the house once with one of the dogs, she was not allowed to move from the spot until my uncle came back.

Laissez faire is no solution either

If you don't train and educate your German Shepherd and decide to let everything go, the dog decides how it is allowed to behave. This will not be in your interest or in the interest of those around you, even if your German Shepherd is not aggressive.

Nobody wants to see an adult German Shepherd running after a child playing with a ball. No one wants their German Shepherd barking at or even threatening other people in everyday life. Nobody wants their German Shepherd to bark at other dogs on the leash or dominate (or even bite) other dogs. And certainly no one wants their German Shepherd to threaten or snap at their children. That is exactly why the dog must learn to deal calmly with everyday situations and to listen to you. Firstly however, the "do's and don'ts" must be understood and learned by the dog.

Human-dog team best from the beginning

That is why it is so important to socialise German Shepherds with people, the environment and other animals at an early age and to train them in a consistent and loving way. You get the behaviour you reward. Puppy classes and continuous training in obedience etc. help to raise a dog with good manners. After all, German Shepherds are intelligent and quickly understand what you want them to do.


Show and working lines in German Shepherds

There are two main breeding lines in the German Shepherd: the show line and the working line. Dogs from the working line are usually somewhat lighter and more athletic. They are often also more alert; pure working dogs for police and military service also come from this line. They may be suitable for the family, but you should ask about this. The show line is usually somewhat heavier and unfortunately their appearance can be pathologically over-emphasised. This is especially manifested in the strongly sloping back, which often leads to health problems.

These health problems, especially hip dysplasia (HD), are not exclusive to the show line, but are especially prevalent here.

"Alert, courageous, strong protective instinct and lightning-fast reactions": In everyday life, these excellent working dog characteristics can be undesirable.

It can become problematic if the strong dog has not been sufficiently socialised and reacts attentively to all stimuli in its environment. The guarding and protection instinct can become a hindrance if your dog wants to guard you all the time, leaving both you and your dog under constant stress.

A child that cries or runs is eyed suspiciously and followed; people or other dogs coming towards you become a stress factor. The reaction may at first be merely attentive though later, with bad luck, it could range from alert to aggressive. If you do not get your German Shepherd under control, if he does not listen to you and learns not to react to these stimuli, it becomes problematic. Bad experiences are learned just as quickly and lastingly as good experiences, so similar situations can be problematic in the future.

Courageousness also means that your dog does not avoid conflicts but takes a solution into his own paw. This can also lead to undesirable behaviour.

The protection and guard instinct can also come through when it is completely unwanted. Visitors come and your imposing German Shepherd barks or even growls at them. Children walk past your property and are yapped at in fear. You settle down on a bench during a walk and people passing by are barked at by your German Shepherd, or you lie down on a lawn in a city park and your dog sees everyone in the park as an enemy. This can become your German Shepherd’s disposition and it is up to you to steer them in the right direction at an early stage. This often requires experience, or at least a very good trainer to assist you.

Activities and training with the German Shepherd

The German Shepherd needs daily exercise and active occupation; it is not a dog that "walks along the way" and "educates itself". The German Shepherd wants to learn and exercise. As an intelligent and athletic dog, he should be mentally as well as physically exercised.

But all within limits: physical training needs to be built up slowly. You don't want to run a marathon tomorrow if you have only jogged 2 miles today. Nowadays, puppies and young dogs in particular are exercised far too early and far too much. The basic rule for  exercising puppies and young dogs is: less is more. 

Intelligence

The German Shepherd is known for its intelligence and is very versatile.

Attention

The German Shepherd has a strong will to please its owner and is a very attentive and quick learner. This is why consistency and experience in handling and training dogs are important.

Exercise needs

German Shepherds have a lot of energy and a pronounced urge to move. They need at least two hours of exercise daily and additional mental activity.

Time required

The German Shepherd is a medium sized, energetic dog that needs to be exercised both mentally and physically. Since it is a strong dog that learns quickly and sometimes has a pronounced protective instinct, good training and socialisation is important. This takes time.

Training

The German Shepherd enjoys several dog sports and is suitable for many tasks; he is very intelligent, docile and athletic. He learns very quickly, is attentive and wants to please his owner.

He excels in Schutzhund (working dog sport) with its three sub-disciplines: Tracking, obedience and protection work. However, not everyone needs a guard dog so this training is only useful if you want to keep your dog as a guard and protection dog.

Many German Shepherds enjoy these activities and dog sports:

  • German Shepherds have excellent noses, so they enjoy a lot of nose work:
    • Tracking work
    • Dummytraining
    • Search games
    • Mantrailing 
  • Obedience
  • Companion dog test (the training for this is a good basis for obedience)
  • Agility (as long as the joints are healthy and the dog is fully grown)
  • Hoopers
  • Water dog sports
  • Clicker and trick training
  • Long walks and hikes
  • Jogging
  • Running alongside bikes (or even horses)

As working dogs, German Shepherds have the following occupations:

  • Police and army dogs, customs dogs
  • Guard and watch dogs
  • Guide dogs
  • Therapy dogs
  • Herding and flock work (but who still has a flock of sheep?)
  • Rescue and avalanche dogs
  • Drug detection dogs

Suitable for flats

With appropriate mental and physical exercise, a German Shepherd can be suitable for keeping in a flat. But there are some restrictions and things you should consider:

The flat should either be at ground level or accessible by lift. Puppies and young dogs should not climb stairs, so that their soft bones and joints are not overloaded. However, you cannot carry a German Shepherd as a young dog until it is a year old. Large or heavy dog breeds should not have to go up and down several flights of stairs a day, even in adulthood, because of the heavy strain on their bones and joints. And what do you do if the dog is ill or if it can no longer go up and down the stairs as a senior citizen?

In general, it is best to have written permission from the landlord or, in the case of a condominium, from the owners' association. Bear in mind that many people are afraid of German Shepherds. The dog should be particularly well-mannered. Barking can also become a problem in an apartment building if the dog is badly trained and has a strong guarding instinct.

Loyalty & friendliness

The German Shepherd is very loyal and devoted to its owner, and is considered a "one person dog" - a dog that gives loyalty and love to one person.

Hunting drive

Like many dog breeds, the German Shepherd has a prey instinct, but this can be controlled well through consistent training in daily life. Good training from puppyhood onwards is the best prerequisite for this.

Staying alone

Provided the German Shepherd has been able to practise being alone from a young age without developing fears, he can stay alone well.

Dogs should generally not be left alone for longer than four hours.

Barking

There are very alert German Shepherds who are quick to strike; this is in the nature of most as this was historically their job. There are also German Shepherds that are quick to bark in public unless they have been taught good manners, which of course can be taught.

Alertness

The German Shepherd, due to its history and origin, has strong alertness and is very good as a protector if properly trained.

Protecting

German Shepherds are very alert and, because of their size, very capable of protecting their people.

Dog-friendly

As with all dog breeds, early socialisation with lots of positive experiences is the most important requirement for good compatibility with other dogs.

As puppies, German Shepherds should have early and varied contact with their fellow dogs, preferably with well-socialised dogs. A bad experience is quickly stored in their memory and can lead to undesirable behaviour.

By nature, the German Shepherd does not tend to oppress other dogs. However, in the case of conflict, it does not let anyone gets the better of it; this trait can become unpleasant in strong and confident German Shepherds.

Many German Shepherds like to charge at other dogs, but they do not mean any harm. This is very quickly interpreted as an attack and is also rude behaviour. At the same time, German Shepherds themselves do not like it at all when other dogs rush towards them.

Pet-friendly

With early socialisation, the German Shepherd can become accustomed to living with other pets.

However, the prey drive combined with the dog’s size can become a danger to other animals. There are German Shepherds that cuddle intimately with cats in their home and also those that snatch and kill the rabbits in the household as soon as they find the opportunity.

Kid-friendly

A well-socialised and well-behaved German Shepherd makes a very good family dog and gets on well with children.

However, due to the dog’s size alone, care should be taken not to knock children over; children should not be allowed to play with dogs unattended. The guarding instinct can also become problematic when unfamiliar children come to visit.

In a bite statistic from the USA covering the period 1994-2003, bite injuries by German Shepherds unfortunately occurred disproportionately, often involving children.

Openness to strangers

Since the German Shepherd is a guard and protection dog, it will always look at strangers rather suspiciously at first and tend to guard the home. Good socialisation with people from puppyhood onwards is extremely important, as is good training.

Character & Compatibility

Personality
Intelligence
Attention
Exercise needs
Training
Loyalty
Barking
Alertness
Suitable for...
Living in a flat
Hunting
Staying alone
Protecting
Beginners
Compatible with...
Dogs
Other pets
Children
Strangers

Health and Care

Ill-bred: Joint problems and shortened lifespan

Originally, German Shepherds were a healthy and robust dog breed, but due to bad decisions by breeders such as the dropping rear end, more and more diseases occurred in the breed. In the meantime, almost 80 genetic diseases are known in the German Shepherd.

Inbreeding with its hereditary defects and diseases should be avoided. But due to German Shepherds’ great popularity and the associated greed for profit, "Qualzucht" ("torture breeding") has become common.

The introduction by breeders of the sloping back line has limited the German Shepherd’s sportiness and its ability as a working dog. The corresponding diseases occur particularly in the show line but also in the working line.

Unfortunately, serious hip dysplasia (HD) is often associated with the German Shepherd, and rightly so. It has by no means disappeared from breeding. Dogs with HD are still officially permitted for breeding which is really criminal, or at least cruel to animals.

Due to these many diseases, the German Shepherd's life expectancy is below the average of comparable dog breeds.

Therefore, when buying a German Shepherd, pay close attention to the test results of the parents and grandparents. HD medium or "still approved" often occurs and is a warning sign that the breeder is disreputable.


Robustness

A healthy German Shepherd is an extremely robust and active dog. Due to many diseases that can occur in the breed, the German Shepherd's life expectancy is lower than that of comparable dog breeds. Of course, this does not apply to all representatives of this breed.

Health Problems

The following diseases are more common in German Shepherds than in other breeds. Many of them can be tested by reputable breeders so that diseased animals are excluded from breeding. These tests do not eliminate the diseases from occurring, but they reduce the risk.

What should I look out for when buying a German Shepherd?

A very high percentage of breeding German Shepherds are affected by diseases. Therefore, it is especially important to buy a dog only from breeders who can prove that their breeding animals have undergone health tests. You should also look into this carefully, because in official breeding associations it is permissible to breed a dog with HD. Ask to see the parents’ health certificates and tests. You should pay particular attention to the following diseases:

Some very painful musculoskeletal problems are the No.1 health problem in German Shepherds, which has led to the German Shepherd being used less and less as a working dog. Not only is the gait altered by the sloping back line, but other painful clinical pictures also appear:

  • Hip joint dysplasia (HD))
  • Increased tension of the muscles (adductor tendonitis)
  • Elbow dysplasia (ED)
  •  Cauda equina syndrome or degenerative lumbosacral stenosis is a compression of the nerve roots at the end of the spinal cord due to degenerative processes in the spinal column. Diseases of the intervertebral discs usually precede it.
  • Osteochondrosis (OCD), in particular an ossification of the spinal column at the transition to the lumbar spine, which leads to intervertebral discs.

It is important that you look for responsible breeders whose dogs don't have this sloping back.

Other diseases that are more common in German Shepherds than in other breeds are:

  • Congenital Vestibular Syndrome (hereditary disease of the inner ear leading to balance disorders and possible deafness)
  • Chronic inflammatory bowel disease (CED) or also called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • German Shepherd pyoderma
  • German Shepherd keratitis (eye disease)
  • Pituitary dwarfism (CPHD)
  • Hyperuricosuria (HUU) and urate stones
  • Spondylosis
  • Cancers such as mast cell tumours
  • Symmetrical lupoid onychodysrophy (SLO))

Because of these many diseases, the German Shepherd's life expectancy is below the average for comparable dog breeds.

Heat tolerance

Despite their thick coat, German Shepherds can cope well with extreme weather conditions. They can even tolerate the humid heat of a jungle. However, they should be spared hot weather if possible.

Cold tolerance

German Shepherds have a dense coat with undercoat and cope very well with cold. They love snow walks.

Grooming

The German Shepherd does not require a lot of care. The dense, water-repellent coat needs occasional brushing. When the coat changes as summer approaches it should be brushed very thoroughly and more frequently, as German Shepherds tend to shed a lot.

The claws, as with all dogs, should be checked regularly and trimmed if necessary.

Eye, ear and tooth care should be a matter of course for every dog.

Bathing

German Shepherds do not need to be bathed and shampooed regularly. However, if they smell, either because the coat has become too greasy or the dog has rolled around in something smelly, then a bath is due simply from the owner's point of view.

However, the greasy layer protects the dog and thus has its function. You should use a shampoo for dogs that contains as few and natural ingredients as possible and is designed for the pH value of the dog's skin. A shampoo for humans is not.

Combing & Brushing

The German Shepherd sheds, especially when changing coat. A weekly brushing is normally sufficient; during the coat change in spring or autumn the dense coat needs more care. During this time, it can be useful to comb out the undercoat vigorously every 2-3 days with an appropriate grooming tool such as a deep comb with slightly curved ends, and remove the dead hairs. Afterwards, you can brush again with a normal brush to remove the last remaining hairs.

Shedding

The German Shepherd has a tendency to shed; this often becomes very severe when the coat changes.

Clip & Trim

A German Shepherd does not need to be clipped or trimmed.

Hypoallergenic

The German Shepherd has a dense undercoat and undergoes a coat change in spring and autumn. It is not one of the "hypoallergenic" dog breeds, which cause fewer allergies in people. On the contrary, German Shepherds shed a lot, especially during the coat change.

No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic.

Drooling

German Shepherds have a long muzzle and are not prone to drooling.

Health & Care

Health
Robustness
Heat tolerance
Cold tolerance
Health Problems
Hypoallergenic
Grooming
Bathing
Brushing
Shedding
Clipping & Trimming
Drooling

Nutrition

Balanced and natural nutrition - avoid overweightness and too-rapid growth.

The German Shepherd's diet, as with all living creatures, has a very great influence on its health. Therefore, pay attention to an individually adapted, appropriate, balanced and, if possible, natural diet.

With large breeds of dogs especially, you should make sure that puppies and young dogs do not grow too quickly. Joints and bones can tend not to develop healthily, especially if they have a poor disposition. A slow growth curve is particularly important in dogs.

German Shepherds are no more voracious than other dog breeds, but they can tend to become overweight. The owner should act responsibly to ensure that the dog maintains a healthy weight whilst consuming all the important nutrients in optimal amounts and types. German Shepherds in particular, who do not have healthy joints, should have their weight managed strictly so that the joints do not suffer further.

Long-term studies on other dog breeds have shown that overweight dogs can lose up to 20% of their lifespan. Therefore, the amount and type of food provided should definitely be adapted to the dog's size and degree of exercise.

If a German Shepherd is affected by hyperuricosuria, it should be fed a low purine diet to prevent the formation of urinary stones and to protect the kidneys.

Greediness

German Shepherds are not particularly voracious, but they can tend to become overweight. Overweightness should always be avoided, especially in a large and heavy dog.

Appearance

Athletic, medium sized, prick ears, mostly black with reddish brown and yellow markings.

The German Shepherd is medium sized, strong and well-muscled. His body is long rather than high. German Shepherds grow between 55-65 cm tall and weigh about 22-32 kg.

German Shepherds come in three colour varieties. Most commonly they come in black with reddish brown, brown, yellow to light grey markings, but solid black dogs or grey with dark intermixing and black colouring on the back and face are also permitted.

White colouring, on the other hand, is not allowed in the German Shepherd and constitutes a separate FCI breed (Swiss White German Shepherd).

German Shepherds have prick ears and a relatively long and well-furnished tail. The nose must be black.

Eye colour

The eyes of the German Shepherd should be as dark brown as possible.

Coat

The German Shepherd has a very functional coat, which is bred in either ‘stock coat’ or ‘long stock coat’ with a relatively dense undercoat, which protects the German Shepherd from cold as well as from too much heat. It sheds relatively heavily and is not a hypoallergenic dog.

These are the two hair varieties of the German Shepherd that are officially recognised:

  1.  Stockhair (common)
    In the most common variety, the top coat is as dense as possible and rather coarse, yet straight and close-lying. The undercoat is quite dense.
  2.  Longhair (rarer)
    In the Longhair variety, the outer coat is long, soft and not close-lying, with so-called flags on the ears and legs, and a bushy tail with a downward formation of flags. The undercoat is also quite thick..

Coat Colour

According to the breeding standard of the British Kennel Club, the coat of the German Shepherd can occur in these colour combination:

  • Black
  • Black & Gold
  • Black & Tan
  • Dark Sable
  • Gold Sable
  • Grey
  • Grey Sable
  • Sable

    White dogs are not recognised with the German Shepherd in the breeding standard. They are a separate dog breed, the "Swiss White German Shepherds".

History and origin

Popular German export hit and one of the best-known dog breeds worldwide

FCI-Classification

No. 166

Origin

Germany

History

Worldwide, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular and best-known dog breeds, because of its intelligence and sportiness. In the USA, representatives of this breed made a career as movie dogs as early as the 1920s due to their intelligence and good trainability.

The German Shepherd descends from German herding dogs and, due to its intelligence, alertness and willingness to learn, quickly began a career as a police and army dog.

The breeding history of the German Shepherd can be reconstructed quite precisely

Original herding dog: independent, alert, active

The ancestors of the German Shepherd can be traced back to short-haired and stock-haired herding dogs from Germany, which were also found in the rest of Europe and from which later dog breeds developed. The Old German Shepherd Dog, for example, also developed from these German shepherd dogs, but from other breeds as well.

Similar to the Rottweiler, these herding dogs not only had the task of herding and driving the cattle, but also of guarding them and protecting the shepherds and their property from thieves. Therefore, the alert, athletic, independent and courageous behaviour of the original shepherd dogs is also firmly anchored in the German Shepherd.

Planned breeding from 1899 by Rittmeister Max von Stephanitz and Arthur Meyer

Since we know very precisely when and where the breeding of shepherd dogs was started, we can also ascertain that the breeding of these dogs was primarily established with dogs from Southern and Central Germany (Thuringia and Württemberg). The "father of the breed" is considered to be cavalry captain Max von Stephanitz (1864-1936), who together with his friend Artur Mayer started the planned breeding of German Shepherds and founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde on 22.04.1899, of which he was president until shortly before his death in 1935.

Progenitors: Horand and Mari von Grafrath, Lynx von Sparwasser

On 03.04.1897 he acquired the first breeding bitch "Freya v. Grafrath". On 15 January 1898 Max von Stephanitz bought the three-year-old "Hektor von Linksrhein", who was renamed "Horand von Grafrath" and who became the first German Shepherd to be entered in the stud book. His brother "Luchs von Sparwasser" and "Mari von Grafrath" are the progenitor and progenitrix of the breed respectively.

As herding dogs were no longer in such high demand at the beginning of the 20th century due to the decreasing number of sheep herds in Germany, Max von Stephanitz strongly advocated the use of the German Shepherd as a police and military dog in order to save it from extinction and did so with great success.

The image of the German Shepherd had already deteriorated by the time of the First World War.

The German Shepherd was not only considered to be a German original, but also combat-ready and courageous. During the First World War, around 48,000 German Shepherds served in the German army. The German army leaders in World War I, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, both kept German Shepherds. After the First World War, 26,000 dogs were returned to France as part of the reparations payments, intended for the inhabitants of the destroyed areas.

During World War I, the image of the German Shepherd had already become so bad that the French preferred to call this breed "Chien berger d'Alsace", which the British were only too happy to adopt very quickly.

And that is why the breed is still often called "Alsatian" in the UK today. It was not until 1977 that the name "Alsatian" was officially taken back by the British Kennel Clubs. The Americans also dropped the first part of the breed's name after World War I and called them simply "German Shepherds".

The German Shepherd and Propaganda in the Third Reich

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) owned several German Shepherds in his lifetime, which often bore the same names. Thus, three bitches were named Blondi and three males Wolf. His last bitch Blondi became most famous because she died with him. He had the bitch and her son Wolf poisoned before killing himself. Around 30,000 German Shepherds went into service in the Second World War, most of whom lost their lives there.

In the USA, the popularity of German Shepherds increases due to "Rin Tin Tin"

Rin Tin Tin (1918-1932), also known as "Rinty", was a German Shepherd who appeared in 26 films in the 1920s and contributed to the great popularity and awareness of the German Shepherd in the USA and worldwide. Rin Tin Tin was found in rubble by a soldier named Lee Duncan and taken back to the US. Film star Jean Harlow is said to have been present at his death. Even his dog's life was made into a film: "Rin Tin Tin - A Hero on Paws".

Incidentally, the name was later also the inspiration for the not-very-clever guard dog from the Lucky Luke comics: "Rantanplan" was the absolute opposite of the clever Rin Tin Tin.

The German Shepherd "Strongheart" even gets a paw print on the Walk of Fame

"Strongheart" (1917-1929) is another German Shepherd who made a film career in the US and left his paw print on the Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. He died tragically from burns sustained from a fallen film lamp during a movie shoot. A book has been published about his life: "Strongheart - Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen".

Use as a working, protection and companion dog

The German Shepherd is used in many different ways nowadays: as a rescue dog, as a police and army dog, as a guard and guide dog and, of course, as a companion and family dog.

German Shepherd summary

Wanted: Active people with a passion for dog training and sport.

The German Shepherd is an intelligent, alert, eager to learn and quite impressively large dog, but often has a bad reputation. He needs consistent and affectionate training and is certainly not a dog for beginners. As a versatile dog, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular working dog breeds, with a strong guarding instinct. Depending on the breeding line, emphasis is placed on different characteristics. As this fashionable dog is extremely prone to diseases, you should definitely pay attention to a healthy, especially HD-free breeding.

Restrictions

In the UK the German Shepherds do not belong to the so-called dangerous dogs.

If you want to take your German Shepherd with you on the plane, you must make an appointment in advance in the cargo hold. 

They are not allowed on the Eurostar therefore the most convenient way to transport your dog into and out of the UK is by car.

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