German Shepherd : appearance, character, training, diseases, breeding

The German Shepherd is one of  the most popular and feared guard dog breeds , but also a cute four-legged friend to cuddle. In fact it is the first that comes to mind when one thinks of a  defense dog . Looking similar to that of a wolf, in reality he can also be docile and affectionate with his masters. Let’s get to know its characteristics, breeding and nature better.

History of the German Shepherd

The birth of the German shepherd as a breed is traced back only to the end of the 1800s. The theater is obviously Germany, more precisely the city of Dresden.

Here the Prussian army captain Max Von Stephanitz began to combine crosses between German shepherd dogs to obtain particularly robust and resistant working dogs.

In 1899 the breed standards were defined and at the same time the German Shepherd Dog Union was founded.

Despite being a fairly recent breed, today it is the most widespread in the world.

In Italy it appears only in 1906, during the International Dog Show in Milan, but they began to be really known by our compatriots only after the Second World War.

Characteristics of the German Shepherd breed

The German Shepherd is a large, strong and muscular dog. Agile, resistant and with a very beautiful print. He has always stood out for having a very balanced , solid, active temperament and very faithful to his master.

Its characteristics have made it the ideal dog par excellence for a multitude of tasks and tasks. Let’s take a closer look at its physical characteristics and character :

Physical characteristics of the German Shepherd

  • General Appearance : Strong in appearance, slightly longer than tall, vigorous, muscular, and solidly built. It is a dog with a slightly elongated body, strong, with good muscles, dry bones and a firm general structure.
  • Size and size : Large.
  • Height at the withers : 60-65 cm (Male) and 55-60 cm (Female).
  • Weight : 30-40 kg (Male) and 22-32 kg (Female).
  • Body : The body structure is slightly elongated, with robust limbs and a muscular and firm body. The upper line runs without interruption from the implantation of the neck on the withers, well defined, and on the back, very slightly sloping to the croup, which is also slightly sloping. His back is firm, robust and muscular, with a broad back. The rump is long and slopes slightly towards the line of the tail.
  • Head : It is wedge-shaped and measures approximately 40% of the height at the withers. It is not rough, nor is it too long. It is moderately wide between the ears. Seen from the front and from the sides, the forehead is slightly arched and does not have a median furrow, or it is not very marked.
  • Skull : It is almost as wide as it is long, and, seen from above, tapers progressively from the ears towards the nose and slopes down at the muzzle. The cranial region is roughly the same proportions as the facial region.
  • Muzzle : Wedge-shaped and with a straight nose, the lips are dark, firm and well attached.
  • Nose : Black in color.
  • Eyes : Almond-shaped, set obliquely and never protruding, they are generally quite dark in color, although there are specimens that have clear, penetrating eyes, but these do not negatively affect the dog’s expression.
  • Ears : They are of medium size, erect, open forwards and carried evenly (neither turned nor sideways). They are pointed with canopy facing the front.
  • Nose-frontal depression (stop): It is moderate.
  • Jaws : It has strong and well developed jaws, so that the teeth are deeply embedded in the dental arch. The teeth are healthy and complete (42 teeth), and the bite is scissors.
  • Neck : It is strong, muscular and without a double chin. On the horizontal, the angulation with the body is about 45º.
  • Chest : Quite wide and with a very long sternum, it is very noticeable. The ribs are moderately rounded.
  • Forelimbs : They are straight and absolutely parallel seen from the front. Shoulders. The shoulder blade and arm are usually at a right angle. Forearms and arms straight and parallel to each other, dry and very muscular. The shoulder blade and the arm are of the same length and are firmly attached to the body by means of good musculature. The elbows are usually neither turned in nor out.
  • Hind limbs : Seen from behind they are parallel and have a somewhat collected position. The legs with strong and muscular thighs, measure almost like the metatarsal. The hocks are strong and firm, with the metatarsal perpendicular under the hock.
  • Feet : Rounded and compact, slightly arched, with strong toes and good, thick and resistant foot pads. The nails are strong and dark.
  • Tail : Well covered with hair, especially in the lower part, reaching at least to the hock. Generally, if the dog is at rest, it usually hangs and forms a slight curve at the end. On the other hand, when he is in movement or in attention, he lifts it, without exceeding the dorsal line.
  • Skin : It is loosely fitted, without forming folds.
  • Hair : Semi – long, with abundant undercoat and black color, with reddish brown markings, brown, yellow and gray. It has a double coat, with undercoat and a very dense, straight, hard external amount and well attached to the body. It is shorter on the head, the inside of the ears, the front parts of the extremities, the feet and the fingers; and longer and denser on the neck and on the back of the limbs, where it reaches the carpal and tarsal joints. Moderate “trouser” shape behind the thighs.
  • Color : The German Shepherd can be totally black or gray, or black with reddish-brown, brown, yellow and even light gray markings. Gray dogs are tinged with black, with a black cloak and mask. The undercoat has a light gray tone.
  • Movement : The angulation and the length of the limbs are so well related to each other that, without noticeable alteration of the upper line, the dog can push the hind limb under the body and reach the same distance with the fore limb. The trot, his natural gait, is calm and fluid. The animal walks flat on the ground and with a long reach, giving the feeling that it does not take any effort to move forward.

Character of the German Shepherd

What character has the German Shepherd ? Well, it is very intelligent, faithful, attentive and good for family life, it is a perfect dog for guarding or herding . Brave, with an instinct for combat, he responds well to training.

A breed originally dedicated to herding and selected for decades for its aptitude for work, its virtues as a guardian are more than evident; However, the German Shepherd also fulfills perfectly as a companion dog .It is a very balanced animal in every way and suitable to be a good pet . The specific and distinctive temperament of this breed is one of the values ​​on which its immense popularity is based, since it is a frank, noble and loyal animal, very close to its owner and to the entire family with which it lives.

He is vigilant and protective, but, in addition, obeying his instinct, he acts in a reasoned manner at all times. The German Shepherd is courageous, possesses commendable courage and, in the course of his work, is thoughtful, methodical and analytical in whatever situation he may have to deal with.

When he is working, he does not let anything distract him from his task, since his greatest satisfaction is to please his master or his guide , but when leisure times come, the German shepherd knows how to enjoy them together with his owner, to whom he feels intimately linked.As a utility dog ​​par excellence, the character of the German shepherd is one of the pillars of this breed, therefore, true lovers of this dog, which are distributed all over the world, strive to use for breeding only those specimens that have demonstrated in a convincing way to be worthy possessors of the temperament expected of every good German shepherd , which means ruling out shy, aggressive, fearful or unbalanced dogs.

The first breeders of this breed set a goal: to develop their usefulness and intelligence, while beauty became, almost from the first moment, a secondary matter.

Thus, over the years we have worked to achieve the ideal German shepherd : a balanced, courageous dog, but not for that reason with a criminal and aggressive instinct, as is often the case in some guard and defense breeds.

In addition, to obtain a useful, faithful and compliant dog with its tasks, tireless worker and good companion of man, the balance must not only be psychic, but also physical, since it is necessary that the dog be strong and healthy, capable of doing its I work for many years.

The different uses of the German shepherd are, in fact, given by the temperament of the dog : balanced, firm nerves, confident and self-assured, easy-going and benign, but brave and bellicose in the face of provocation, attentive and easy to train, although rude and with a certain inclination to combat. Such qualities make it an ideal animal as a companion , guardian, shepherd, protection and service dog.

The specimens of this breed have been almost from their first days one of the most faithful companions of the security forces and the army , with whom they have performed the work of police dog and drug and explosives detection, and their work is especially recognized in the search for antipersonnel mines.

It has been one of the most used dogs in warfare, for example, it accompanied German troops in the two world wars and, due to its dexterity, is currently present in armies around the world .

The German Shepherd is not the classic dog that wakes up in the morning and spends the rest of the day lazing around, or that hangs out wandering around. The breed is endowed with a natural intelligence and a privileged mental capacity.

He was born to work, learn, protect, shepherd. In fact, if he is not provided with a constructive activity, he will be in charge of using his energies in more destructive tasks out of boredom .

  • Energy: High level. Very active both mentally and physically Needs frequent exercise.
  • Temperament: He is balanced, with firm nerves and a lot of self-assurance; easy-going, benign in demeanor except when provoked, attentive and easy to train.
  • Adaptability: High. It adapts well to urban life, although it prefers open spaces.
  • Sociability: High. He is very addicted to his master and family, and is protective of children.
  • Health: Good. It is a rustic and robust dog, although it has a tendency to suffer from some hereditary diseases.
  • Longevity: Medium. It can live 10 to 12 years.
  • Utility: Very versatile. It can work as a shepherd dog, guide dog, handicapped and deaf guide, guard dog, police dog, narcotics and explosives detection, and missing persons locator.
  • Utilization: Grazing, guarding and service.
  • Other names: German Shepherd Dog / Berger allemand / Deutscher Scháferhund.

German shepherd puppy

Being perhaps the most famous breed in the world, it can be mistakenly thought that it is an animal suitable to belong to anyone. Nothing is further from reality.

While the breed stands out for its extraordinary adaptability , the dog’s needs should not be overlooked.It will not be suitable for individuals or families who do not have enough time to provide you with a daily activity and give you the opportunity to develop your work potential.

Otherwise, and if he is not kept mentally balanced , the German Shepherd, who is still a large dog, with a robust physique and strong temperament, with innate guarding, protection and herding instincts, can become a dangerous animal.

Not only is it not advisable, but it is seriously counterproductive, to confine a German Shepherd locked up in a chenill or behind a house fence.

Anyone who wants to have a simple companion dog, or an animal that does not give too much work and that can be spent long periods alone, taking care of the house, should forget about this breed in their preferences.

German shepherd puppies

It is advisable to educate German Shepherd puppies very early if you want to achieve perfect socialization . Indeed, the strong and determined character of the German Shepherd and his great personality can make the task difficult if it is started in later stages.

The German Shepherd, as a breed, has limitless training possibilities . Discipline marks their character and becomes a fundamental part of their psychic development.

The stability and balance inherent to the character of the German Shepherd are confirmed by statistics: out of every ten trained dogs in the world, seven are of this breed.

The German Shepherd enjoys the privilege of being the symbol of all canine qualities, a well-deserved honor, as it is the dog best adapted to human societies .

German Shepherd Education and Training

It is one of the breeds most devoted to learning processes , since it enjoys learning something as much or more than at work itself.

Cognitive ability and ease of learning are one of the most precious genetic characteristics of the German Shepherd , so promoting development is a must for every owner of a breed.

For his character, it is nefarious to limit his activity to intimidating strangers with his presence. The German Shepherd needs to learn, train and work to develop fully, physically and psychologically.

In addition, despite its strong, balanced and ascetic temperament, this breed needs the company of its master and family.

Indeed, it is a working dog, but it is not an independent dog, and when all its capabilities shine best is when it shows and develops them in perfect combination with its guide, that is, its master, or its trainer.

Therefore, the German shepherd, in addition to being the useful dog par excellence, can also be an extraordinary companion animal as long as its physical and mental balance is completely satisfactory.

Owning a German Shepherd can be challenging. Whoever wants to be must deserve it, and for this they must be willing to facilitate and stimulate the development of the immense capacities of the specimens of this breed.

Indeed, it is necessary to consider that in the world there are almost 400 officially recognized dog breeds, each of them with different physical characteristics and temperaments , and that all of them perform the original function for which they were developed.

It is true that, over time, these functions have been expanded or adapted to new possibilities and diverse activities.

However, this is a dog that works and learns every day of its life and that does so with a single objective: to serve the master or guide with whom it maintains a close and permanent relationship.

With the family, the German Shepherd could not be more faithful and affectionate . Coexistence is splendid when the puppy’s socialization is carried out in close contact with the children, also educating them in respect for the dog and other animals.

If the children are older, it is advisable to make them responsible as soon as possible for the care of the puppy , for example, entrusting them to take care of providing water and food to your pet, and taking it to the veterinarian in the regulatory visits.

The same qualities of love and fidelity that have led the breed to identify with its master make the German Shepherd the perfect animal for professional work.

In 1914, during the First World War, the breed was successfully incorporated into the war effort and became popular as a working dog among the European armies, thus beginning its international expansion; Today, it is a true treasure in peacetime for the services it provides to society.

In addition to his traditional herding role, which he has never abandoned, he has excelled in jobs as diverse as seeing-eye dog for the blind, assistance for the deaf and disabled , disaster rescue , therapy with the sick , the elderly and autistic children , as well as in social reintegration programs for prisoners and adolescents with problems.

In many of these works it was the first breed of dog to be used successfully; This is the case of guide dogs, a task in which he stood out long before the retrievers ( Golden retrievers and labrador retrievers), today so closely linked to this activity.

The same has happened with the so-called catastrophe dogs and with all activities originating within the armed forces of any country: explosives detection , border control , public order aid , etc. The slightest doubt is that it is the number one “military dog” in the world.

The German shepherd is also no stranger to more playful tasks, such as sports work disciplines or agility , in addition to participating in beauty contests.

A commendable work developed by the World Union of the German Shepherd and the different national clubs has made the fans of the breed understand the work as something intimately linked to it; thus, any specimen that wants to be used for reproduction must overcome the different “schools” of work established on an international scale.

From this work other disciplines and competitions emerge later in which the German Shepherd clearly stands out, such as the tracking , protection or obedience tests .

The tenacity and dedication in the work of the German Shepherd have elevated him to the rank of specialist whatever the job he develops; therefore, each individual must receive specific training destined to carry out their work with excellence.

This dog is meticulous and conscientious both in learning and in translating it at work . He is orderly, disciplined and obedient, and never shows stubbornness or rebellion, unless given contradictory orders. Therefore, once immersed in completing a task, you will try to do it perfectly.

The German Shepherd is a large, strong and vigorous dog. From the first moment he must be taught to support the driving on the leash and to maintain permanent contact with his guide.

Regardless of whether or not you want to use the dog in sports or selective breeding activities, it is highly recommended that the owner of a specimen of this breed attend a basic training course .

In this way you will be able to get a better performance from the dog’s natural abilities. Also, a greater physical and psychological balance in the animal will be promoted.

In addition, with routine work, even at a primary level and without great demands, you will contribute to the completion of the psychic development of the dog. With the consequent benefit for daily life and the relationship of the dog with the family.

There is a training test called schutzhund which, for the German shepherd, is the test par excellence. It encompasses tracking, obedience, protection and defense exercises in three different degrees of difficulty.

The minimum age to participate in this test is 14 months and only individuals who provide evidence that they do not exceed the degree of hip dysplasia established as a limit by international standards can do so.

Thus, health and temperament come together in the selection criteria of the breed. Due to the popularity of the German Shepherd, this type of test, which is held on a national and international scale, is attended by many participants and true professionals in the field.

The German shepherd also stands out in herding tests , which are very popular in Germany and truly spectacular, since in them the dogs, working in pairs, manage herds of up to 200 sheep.

However, for this breed the traditional work of herding has been almost totally confined to Germany, and it is very difficult to see a German shepherd working as a sheepdog outside his native country.

German Shepherd diet

It must be said that the German Shepherd has a very delicate digestive system, which is why it is essential that the food it receives is highly digestive , with high-quality proteins and a moderate level of fiber .

It is good to divide the daily ration into two meals, and it is advisable not to feed the dog immediately after exercising or in the hottest hours of the summer.

An excellent diet is the best preventive medicine that can be applied to a dog. At present there are very high quality diets on the market adapted to the vital needs of each animal and almost each breed.

In fact, given its great popularity and its special dietary requirements, almost all the major animal feed brands have products specifically developed for the German Shepherd in their catalog .

In the same way, all kinds of vitamin and mineral supplements are offered, but it is advisable to follow the veterinarian’s instructions in this matter.

Due to the demands of rapid and intense growth, it is advisable to keep the German Shepherd on a puppy diet until 18 months of age.

As a general rule, the dog should be fed three times a day until 8 or 9 months. Then switch to the two feedings for the rest of his life, an ideal frequency for the German Shepherd, which is prone to gastric problems.

Finally, and very important: a German Shepherd should never be obese, especially during the development stage.

An overweight animal will suffer increased stress and strain on its joints. Favoring with it, the wear of the same and the appearance of degenerative processes such as arthritis or osteoarthritis. The sudden and excessive growth of the puppies as well as overfeeding should also be avoided.

German Shepherd breed health

The German Shepherd is a dog that has been selected for work. Therefore, it is a particularly healthy animal. Its life expectancy is high for a large breed dog, as it can live from 10 to 12 years.

As this breed is one of the most controlled and subject to health statistics in the world, on many occasions it is cited as being prone to certain diseases, such as hip dysplasia , which is far from being exact.

Indeed, although it is true that it usually appears in many statistics, it is no less healthy than other races that do not appear in them because they are not so rigorously monitored.

Some of the diseases that the German Shepherd can suffer, such as those that affect the joints or bone structure , are genetic. That is, they are associated with the morphology of the breed and its development.

For example, an eight-week-old puppy usually weighs an average of six kilos, but grows so fast that in only about 10 months it multiplies its weight by seven.

This rapidity of growth entails great physical stress that affects this entire stage, during which it is essential to guarantee optimal conditions for the dog to grow up healthy. These are: abundant feeding , adequate exercise and routine veterinary checks. The breed also suffers from a certain sensitivity to some foods, so in this matter it is necessary to be advised by professionals.

German Shepherd care

The German Shepherd should visit the vet at least once a year. To, along with the mandatory vaccinations, check his ears and mouth, clean them, if necessary, and subject him to the appropriate deworming. The periodicity of these will vary depending on the type of life and the environment in which the dog lives.

The veterinarian, moreover, will keep the owner of the dog up to date with the sanitary and legal provisions. For example, in the field of identification chips, currently mandatory.

When it comes to coat care and hygiene, this breed does not need to bathe frequently. It does require daily brushing to remove the dense dead undercoat and thus keep the coat healthy and in good condition.

Indeed, the coat of the German Shepherd is thick and very abundant, and a well-groomed dog should not show bald spots, sebum or unpleasant odors. If he is used to the brushing ritual from a puppy , the dog will have it as part of his routine and will lend himself to it willingly.

It is convenient to monitor the appearance of skin ailments and visit the veterinarian, who will easily solve the problem with the appropriate medication. And it must also be taken into account that healthy and shiny hair often depends on an adequate diet.

Health and care of the coat are the fundamental factors to preserve the splendid image of the German Shepherd, a representative of the majestic dog breeds, full of energy and pride, the paradigm of man’s best friend.

Diseases of the German Shepherd

Although the German Shepherd is a rather healthy breed and generally little affected by serious diseases, there are also in his case some pathologies that are more recurrent than others. Let’s see what they are.

  • Hip dysplasia : it is a hereditary pathology on which it is necessary to intervene surgically or with drugs to decrease the pain it causes. Hip dysplasia leads to lameness and pain and can eventually lead to arthritis.
  • Gastric Dilation-Torsion : Commonly affects large dogs, such as golden retrievers , as well as German Shepherds. It is a disease that occurs suddenly and can lead to death if not recognized and treated promptly. Gastric dilation, more precisely, occurs when the stomach is clogged with accumulation of gas and liquids. Gastric torsion, on the other hand, is an occlusion (also known as volvulus) due to a twist of a loop of the intestine.
  • Generative myelopathy : Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord, specifically the part of the cord that communicates information about the hind legs to the brain. The disease progresses to the point where the dog is no longer able to walk. It is a disease linked to imbalances in the immune system, which in turn can depend on various factors. It is generally treated by administering antioxidants, such as vitamin E or B, but there is no standard therapy, valid for all cases.

German Shepherd : breeding

Given the great diffusion of the breed, German shepherd puppies are often found without pedigree and passed off as top quality dogs.  We must also pay close attention to ads found on the internet, on behalf of individuals.

When a puppy is sold to you, it is essential that the breeder has already registered it in the canine registry , carrying out the necessary medical examinations and routine vaccinations . Together with these documents, the pedigree and genealogy of the dog will also be delivered.

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