By J. E. Davidson
The handsome German Shepherd dog breed is admired the world over. Highly intelligent dogs, obedient and loyal. German Shepherds are working dogs that can be trained to many tasks. They are prized in police work and military operations, in search and rescue missions, as guide dogs to the blind, and for guarding and herding livestock. In spite of their intimidating reputation, a well-raised German Shepherd can also be a gentle, affectionate family companion and the ideal personal protection dog.
Physical Characteristics of the German Shepherd
The average adult male stands 24" to 26" tall and weighs 77 to 85 pounds, with females slightly smaller. The German Shepherd is a well-muscled dog, solid without being bulky, agile and powerful.
The body is longer than tall, with a deep chest, long neck, and relatively short loins. The back slopes from the long shoulder blades to the withers, with a bushy, slightly curved tail that hangs to the hocks. The head is clean and wedge-shaped, with a moderately arched forehead and long muzzle. The ears are medium-size, carried erect, and taper to a moderate point.
Coat colors are usually black with brown or sable, or all black. Blue, liver, and white are not acceptable for show. The all- white German Shepherd is beginning to be recognized as a separate breed.
Behavior and Temperament
The breed has earned a reputation as vicious dogs who are likely to bite. German Shepherds need to be extensively socialized from puppyhood, and consistent obedience training should begin early to keep their characteristically dominant personalities under control.
A German Shepherd who is poorly socialized may become overly timid and aggressive toward strangers, and may even be a threat to his owner and family. German Shepherds do not respond well to harsh or coercive training. This dog needs a capable owner who can assert gentle authority over his dog and handle him calmly and patiently.
A working dog breed, German Shepherds love strenuous exercise and enjoy a challenge. They are happiest when they have something constructive to do. They’ll enjoy playing frisbee with you, or running alongside as you jog or bicycle. The German Shepherd also excels in obedience and agility trials.
Like many larger dog breeds, German Shepherds have a genetic tendency toward hip and elbow dysplasia. Ask the breeder if the parents are certified OFA Good or better to avoid buying a puppy who is likely to develop dysplasias.
German Shepherds are also prone to digestive problems including bloat and torsion, which can be fatal. Blood disorders, epilepsy, chronic exzema and keratitis are other health concerns. Buy your German Shepherd from a reputable breeder who takes care to avoid producing dogs with inheritable genetic conditions.
Is the German Shepherd Right for my Family?
German Shepherds do best with an owner or family who can provide their dog companion with plenty of opportunities for strenuous exercise and mental stimulation, and will commit to the time, training, and love that this exceptional breed requires to be content. A well-raised and stable German Shepherd generally gets along well with children and other pets in the family, although the breed is not recommended for families with very young children. German Shepherds love to play roughly and may unintentionally harm a small child.
This large breed will do best with a large home and yard to run and play in. They are not overly active indoors, and may do fine in a smaller home or apartment if they have plenty of opportunities for exercise. German Shepherds like to see the world, and love to be taken on excursions away from home. Participating in dog competitions or taking your German Shepherd on a long, brisk, daily walk will satisfy his desires to get out and about.
German Shepherds who are destined to be personal protections dogs or guard dogs should be professionally trained, with the owner participating in the training so he will know how to handle his dog effectively. Although German Shepherds are often trained as attack dogs by the police and military, no average citizen should own such a dog.
This is a general description of the German Shepherd dog breed. Individual dogs within a breed may vary in appearance, temperament, and behavior.