German Shepherd Dogs
As the name suggests, German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) descended from Germany, where they were originally bred as working dogs used for herding sheep. Despite the GSDs popularity both as a family pet and working companion, especially in police and military roles, formal recognition of the breed is relatively new, dating back to the late 19th century. In 1899, when breed standardization was beginning to become common, the necessity of sheepdogs was diminishing. Max von Stephanitz admired the intelligence, strength, and trainability of the common sheepdog, and upon finding the perfect specimen for his ideal breed, he officially created what is now known as the German Shepherd.
Hallmark traits of German Shepherd Dogs are high levels of intelligence and obedience, as well as a tendency to be protective. These characteristics have made GSDs excellent police, military, and guard dogs; as well as family pets. German Shepherds do best in environments where they have a purpose or job to perform, and can become easily bored and destructive if not properly exercised, socialized, and trained. Described as confident and courageous, GSDs do best in environments where owners are confident themselves.
Male German Shepherds should weigh approximately 66 – 88 lbs, while females are slightly smaller, weighing in at 49 – 71 lbs. Their thick double coat sheds heavily and requires regular brushing for upkeep, often with a rake style brush in order to remove loose furs from the undercoat. The GSDs coat can be either medium-length or long, with medium length being more common. The only acceptable coat colors are black and tan or red and tan, with all-black being acceptable in most situations. An all-white, liver, or blue variety is disqualified from competition due to breeding concerns.
From a health perspective, German Shepherds have a number of common issues that pet owners should be aware of. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals estimates that almost 20% of German Shepherds are predisposed to hip dysplasia, while 45% of military or police GSDs suffer from spinal stenosis. German Shepherds may require more frequent ear cleanings, as they are prone to excessive wax build up. New studies have suggested that German Shepherds may suffer from degenerative myelopathy more frequently than other breeds; however, this disease can easily be detected with a DNA saliva test. Overall, when bred properly, German Shepherds can be very healthy dogs with an average life expectancy of nearly 11 years.
According to the American Kennel Club, German Shepherds are the #2 most popular dog breed in the United States, second to Labrador retrievers. Their high energy makes them fantastic running and hiking partners, and their willingness to learn and obey makes them a top choice for obedience, agility, or rally-o trials. Among the most popular of German Shepherds in American history is Rin Tin Tin, who was a Red Cross dog during WWI that later became a canine actor. Since the early 1930’s, German Shepherds have starred in a number of films and television series, including more recent titles such as I Am Legend, The Hills Have Eyes, Love Leads the Way, and K-9.