GERMAN SHEPHERD! DOG BREED 101 Everything You Need To Know
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Where does the German Shepherd Dog come from? The German Shepherd’s ancestors were the sheepdog breeds native to Southern Germany and the Alsace region of France. Which is why the breed is also known as the “Alsatian”. These sheepdogs had been working together closely with the Sheepherders for hundreds, if not thousands of years. But once the 19th century drew to a close, the “father of the German Shepherd”, Max von Stephanitz, decided that an upgrade was in order. He set out to create the ultimate Sheepherding dog. Focusing on strong, sturdy, and yet agile dogs of wolf-like appearance who could trot for hours, he created the foundation of today’s German Shepherd Dog. But soon it became apparent that this new breed could do much more than just herd sheep. And today, Germany’s most popular dog is used in many disciplines: personal protection, canine sports, police service, and, of course, sheepherding. What is their temperament like? In terms of temperament, there is a distinct difference between working line and show line German Shepherds. Both types can make good family dogs when raised in a home environment. And when provided with the leadership of an experienced owner who takes training and socialising very seriously. Otherwise, these large dogs can become aggressive towards strangers. As an added challenge, dogs of the working line come with an extremely high prey drive. Coupled with their generally high energy-levels, this makes for dogs who are far better suited for active working roles than as indoor pets. For example, such German Shepherds make marvellous sports- and herding dogs as well as homestead-protection dogs. The slightly heavier and much calmer show line German Shepherds can be trained to live predominantly indoors, as they are calmer and more laid-back than the working dogs. However, neither type is the best choice for families with small children: German Shepherds can injure small kids due to their boisterous nature and abrupt movements. And whilst this trait is possible to refine with training, the dog can still get carried away during playtime and accidentally injure a child. When it comes to their protective instincts however, both variants of the German Shepherd are superb. They are equally effective as natural guardians who do not require training to defend their own. In a worst-case scenario (so, basically in a real-life guarding situation such as a home invasion), a well-trained German Shepherd will be easier to control than other large guardian breeds like the Akita, the Rottweiler or the Giant Schnauzer. How intelligent and trainable are German Shepherds? Especially the working line German Shepherds are: EXTREMELY intelligent and trainable! And I am not exaggerating when I say that there is hardly a dog breed on the planet that responds better to training and has a higher level of intelligence. (With the exception of perhaps the Belgian Malinois and the Border Collie.). These dogs are incredibly keen and switched on. Of course, their high prey drive and immense willingness to please their handler make training them even easier. Contrary to the Rottweiler, the Giant Schnauzer and other large breeds originally bred for cattle-herding, German Shepherds are neither stubborn nor independent: Their trainability is flawless. These dogs are natural high achievers when it comes to pretty much any training program you can possibly engage in. Owners and breeders routinely put their German Shepherds through obedience- guard dog and even sheepdog trials. And these dogs take to such training like a duck to water: They perform beautifully in disciplines like French Ring competitions, Schutzhund-Training as well as Companion Dog Training. Especially French Ring is a very demanding canine sport that requires the dog to have extremely high levels of guarding abilities, obedience and impulse control. It is precisely the combination of intelligence and trainability, in combination with the breed’s natural aggression, that make them such outstanding guard- and personal protection dogs. Perhaps even better ones than even the famed Malinois themselves, as the Belgian sheepdog lacks a good part of the natural aggressiveness and guarding instinct of the German Shepherd. Are German Shepherds healthy dogs? In general, German Shepherds are robust and healthy dogs. However, as they are a large breed with a more or less pronounced sloping backline, they can suffer from hip dysplasia. In some cases, the breed also has problems like elbow dysplasia, bloat, degenerative myelopathy and an aggressive form of cancer called Hemangiosarcoma. Therefore, choosing a breeder who tests his breeding stock for dysplasia is very much recommended. German Shepherds females are said to be particularly prone to mammary cancer when not spayed at an early age. The breed’s primary cause of death appears to be cancer, which is why it is especially important to feed them a healthy diet throughout their lives. I personally can highly recommend feeding your dog raw, but if you do not want to do that, choose a high-quality, grain-free kibble to ensure your German Shepherd’s optimal health. The average life span of the breed ranges from 9 and 13 years. How much exercise does the German Shepherd need? As a sheepherding breed, the German Shepherd has been designed to move around for the best part of the day. These dogs clearly are canine athletes and absolutely thrive when provided with a lifestyle that allows them lots of movement throughout the day. Of course, you might not have a flock of sheep to your disposal for your dog to herd, or a large Ranch for it to guard. But worry not, the breed is extremely adaptable and easy to train. For example, they will learn very quickly how to accompany their owners during bicycle rides on a lose leash, and teaching them recall under distraction is not difficult – which then allows you to walk them off-leash and let them enjoy running and playing with other friendly dogs. Also, the breed’s high prey drive works in your favour when it comes to exercising them with ease: A German Shepherd tiring easily of fetching balls, retrieval dummies and other toys is almost unheard of. What are their grooming requirements? German Shepherds are notorious shedders all year round and should be brushed thoroughly every day – and multiple times a day during shedding season. The long-coated version of the German Shepherd requires even more brushing for their coats to stay clean and tidy. During shedding season in spring and autumn, yet more frequent brushing might be required to keep those short hairs from getting onto the floor. Unless, of course, you are equipped with a Furminator! I highly recommend investing in a set of good grooming tools, such as the Furminator to get any dead underwool out, a pin brush to remove lose hairs from the top-coat, and a soft bristle brush for the shorter fur on their head and legs.