--Written By Tiami Coleburg
--Photographed and Co Written By Tanna McGill
For experienced involved dog owners
Average Life Span:
Male and females should weigh between 62 to 80 pounds, height is 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder. The breed is seen larger, but this would not be a breed standard
Color And Coat:
The German Shepherd has a double coat of medium length. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body. This breed requires regular brushing and sheds a lot. The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Black and tan are the most common. The sable, gold with black coloration is seen frequently also. Pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are serious faults. White German Shepherd dogs are not allowed to be shown at AKC events.
Typical Health Problems:
The more frequent health problems found in the breed are: Hip and elbow dysplasia, spinal disorders, low thyroid, skin problems (allergies to fleas, etc), ear infections, canine epilepsy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, panostitis(this seen in large bone dogs.)
The German Shepherd Dog originated in northern Europe around one hundred years ago. The dogs were originally used to protect flocks of sheep and are still used for this purpose. More modern day uses also include: Police K9 work, seeing eye dog.
The German Shepherd breed has a distinctive personality. They should be direct and fearless, but not aggressive. They should be self-confident but often have an aloofness that does not always lend this breed to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The German Shepherd should be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing non aggressive confidence. They generally have a good sense of right and wrong and the ability to tell if something is amiss. They are a loyal and dedicated dog if they have a loyal and dedicated owner.
You will find three distinct "types" of bloodlines in German Shepherds. The working bloodlines, the American show lines, and the German show lines. The show lines tend to be more angulated in the hindquarters. If not from good breed lines this may contribute to health problems such as hip dysplasia and spinal disorders. The working bloodlines are often more dog than the average pet owner can handle. They have been bred for high prey drive and high activity level. If the working dog does not have an outlet for this drive, they will get themselves into trouble (chasing cars, bikes, barking, chewing, aggression, digging and other destructive and unwanted behavior). A shepherd from either working or show lines needs obedience training, proper socialization with both people and other animals, daily exercise and play and they must be a part of your family. These are working dogs that need a job, even if they are to be a family dog. Boredom and loneliness can lead to behavior problems. The German shepherds personality and activity levels vary from dog to dog. Genetics, training, socializing and the care they receive are a large part of the what determines each dogs personality.
Why are these dogs typically in animal shelters?
The majority of German Shepherds in shelters arrive there as strays. Owner turn-ins of German Shepherds to shelters are due to a variety of reasons. Currently, 2 of the most common reasons is that the owner is moving. Rental housing is difficult to find if you live with a German Shepherd. Landlord and insurance restrictions on many breeds, including German Shepherds, are now common. Also, new baby and child versus dog conflicts are another frequent reason.
Other common reasons that owners leave their German Shepherd at a shelter are: Owner's inability to provide for this breed's intense emotional needs, socializing, training requirements and improper behaviors, which usually develop out of frustration, lack of proper training and inadequate exercise. Basically too much dog for an inadequate owner. Behavior problems can range from simple, such as house training, excessive activity level, digging, cat and dog aggression, property damage, to serious, such as human or stranger aggression and fear biting. Serious human or stranger aggression can be caused by their guarding tendencies, lack of socialization, abuse, or bad breeding. Some German Shepherds arrive at shelters because of owner neglect and abuse.
How do these dogs handle rescue or shelter life?
Typically, German Shepherds are not happy in a strange kennel setting. Being an extremely people-oriented breed, separation from their owners can cause severe distress. These dogs have a strong sense of belonging and when taken from their home, they grieve and show this sadness in different ways. Many will bark, cry, scream, pace and show stress or depression. If you go to a shelter to look at a German Shepherd you should ask that the dog be taken out of the kennel allowing you to visit, interact and play with the dog. The first impression, looking through the kennel door, isn't usually the dog's actual personality. However, this breed can do better in a home foster care situation, in part because they tend to bond more quickly with new people in a less stressful environment. How well they tolerate a rescue or shelter depends heavily on the amount of human attention, contact and exercise they receive, as well as on the individual dog's temperament, training levels and past life experience. An unsocialized, untrained German Shepherd will not fare well in the shelter environment. A German Shepherd with a good foundation often will succeed in adapting to the changes that have come into its life. German Shepherds are sometimes shy or reserved in shelter facilities. However, they should not exhibit aggression.
The dog should be easily approached and allow you to pet it and walk it on leash. If a German Shepherd exhibits excessive fear, shyness or skittish behavior it could have some very serious issues and is not safe for the average owner. The dog may not slobber all over you and or be desperate for your approval in the first visit, as they don't tend to seek attention from strangers. If the German Shepherd has a good solid temperament, given some time, it will bond with you and become your friend for life.
Who should own this breed?
A German Shepherd owner should be an extremely responsible person committed to the care, training and exercise of their dog. Such an owner should be knowledgeable about this breed type and the needs of the breed they are taking on. The heroic stories of German Shepherds and their lifesaving work and dedication for mankind are warming to the dog lovers heart. But they can also be misleading as these dog require a lot of time and work. Police dogs, seeing eye dogs, therapy dogs, good citizens award dogs; these dogs all got there with a good, involved owner/handler at the other end of the lead.
Is this breed good with children?
- German Shepherds should never be allowed to roam loose in any public areas, or around strange dogs. German Shepherds should be securely contained when not supervised by an adult.
- The German Shepherd generally does best with a good fenced yard for their safety and exercise.
- These dogs must be included in the everyday activities of the household. If you are thinking of getting a German Shepherd and leaving it in the backyard with limited family contact, then both you and the dog will be miserable!
- These dogs shed a lot. If you are offended by dog hair do not get a Shepherd.
- Some German Shepherds are not good with small animals or cats. They can also have livestock issues, due to their herding instincts.
- These dogs require a large commitment of time and energy from the owner. They do not come as a good to go dog and will be a reflection of the owners effort and commitment.
- This breed should be spayed/neutered. Un neutered males can become male dog aggressive and hard to mange and are predisposed to some cancers. Unspayed females can become moody/difficult and predisposed to uterine problems and cancers.
- Because of the lack of available rentals to high risk breeds, would be German Shepherd owners need to consider the possibility of any future moves that might put their dog's life at risk.
- One of the main keys to successful German Shepherd ownership is ongoing, positive obedience training and socialization.
Children and dogs should never be left alone and unattended, even for a moment. Young children do not have proper dog etiquette and dogs do not understand a child's behavior. This can result in tragedy with any breed of dog. German Shepherds tend to love and be dedicated to their human family and can be especially fond of children. The dogs temperament, socialization, training levels all need to be considered. These dogs can have a natural herding and prey drive instinct that can be a conflict or a danger with children. Like children, each dog is different in personality, energy and patience levels. So, each dog and child relationship should be considered individually.
Is this breed good with other dogs in general?
German Shepherds generally do well with other dogs if they have been socialized and trained properly. Socializing your Shepherd with other dogs is important from day one. For German Shepherds, spaying/neutering is one of the most important keys to having a dog-friendly animal. Pack position is important and will affect and vary each dog's acceptance of other dogs.
How easy is training and house training with this breed?
German Shepherds are highly intelligent and generally, if in tune with their trainer, can learn some tasks in 2 to 10 repetitions. Like humans each dogs abilities, likes and dislikes will vary. In general a learning German Shepherd is a happy German Shepherd. Good training gives the German Shepherd and all dogs the ability to speak the same language with us. These dogs learn so quickly it is pretty easy to confuse or teach them bad habits if one is not careful. Give a German Shepherd good structure, leadership and rules in their life or they will structure their own life, make their own rules. These dogs should attend structured classes with a good instructor. The time required to housetrain a German Shepherd will vary depending on each dog and on the method used. Positive methods and consistency will work best for all training with this breed. Crate training seems to be of great assistance for most dogs in house-breaking.
Socializing this breed?
Socialization is one of the necessary requirements to successful German Shepherd ownership. Training and socializing is a must, not an option with this breed. The unsocialized German Shepherd can be dangerous. The highly intelligent German Shepherd, with it's protective and herding nature, if it is not channeled properly, can lead to serious trouble. This breed when unsocialized and not properly trained can become prone to fear biting, uncontrolled prey drive instincts, inappropriate herding traits, and dangerous guarding instincts. This breed is reserved with change, so they need to be continually exposed to a large variety of environments and experiences. They should be given the social skills and taught manners early on and on a ongoing basis. A German Shepherd should exhibit a reserved-to-friendly personality with strangers. They should not be aggressive. A German Shepherd that shows aggression, excessive shyness, skittish behavior should be evaluated by a professional trainer and behaviorist immediately. The German Shepherd can be the dog and friend of a lifetime in the hands of a loving, committed, involved owner. These amazing dogs are wasted or worse on any lesser owner.