There were about 7,846 registered German Shepherds in the UK in 2017. Officially recognised as the German Shepherd breed in Germany, with an abbreviated name of GSD, they are some of the most loved and most treasured dogs wherever you are because they are so smart, loyal, and brave.

They are also considered hard-working dogs that are capable of a number of tasks, offering assistance, search and rescue, and drug detection, to name a few.

 

Overview of the German Shepherd Breed

This breed’s history can be traced back to 1899. They were primarily part of a group of dogs that have been developed for herding purposes and were trained to herd flocks of farm animals like cattle, sheep, and the like. They were also trained to protect other animals from wild animals, like wolves, hyenas, and bears because of their strength, agility, obedience, intelligence, and trainability.

It is among the many German Shepherd facts that this strong, independent breed of dogs has served many people in a number of ways. They have served as police dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, drug detectors, search and rescue animals, guard dogs, herding dogs, seeing eye dogs, disability assistance dogs, and more.

The first official breeder of German Shepherds was Max von Stephanitz. He served at the Veterinary College in Berlin where he learned a lot about the science of movement, anatomy, and biology. Everything he learned he was able to apply to dog breeding. He was also the first person to set the breed standard.

Stephanitz was mostly interested in the shepherding dogs. One particular type he was most fond of was the shepherd dogs that had a wolf-like appearance, prick ears, sturdy upper body, a strong willingness to do labour, and a sharp mind. Since there were many types of shepherd dogs, he concluded that a standard has to be introduced.

In 1889, Stephanitz bought his first shepherd dog and changed its name from Hektor Linkrshein to Horand von Grafath, which was the name of a nearby town. He then registered the dog under a new breed registry and later created the standard with his dog being the genetic basis for the breed. It was in that same year when he formed, together with Artur Meyer, the Society for the German Shepherd Dog.

 

Breed characteristics:

Physical Attributes

German Shepherds, also known as Alsatian in some parts of Europe, are medium to large-sized dogs. Males have a standard height at the withers of 60 to 65 cm, and females have 55-60 cm. They have an ideal proportion of 10 to 8.5, making this breed longer, rather than tall.

The breed’s physical characteristics have a domed forehead, long neck, medium-sized eyes, large and erect ears, black nose, and long square-shaped muzzle with mighty jaws. They have distinctive eyes with a self-assured and intelligent look. Their ears are open at the front and are parallel, but are usually pulled back when the dogs are moving. They also have bushy tails that reach the hock.

As for the coat, German Shepherds have a dense two-layer coat with a thick undercoat, which could be either tan/black or red/black. Their coat has body markings that can either be an overall blanket or a classic “saddle.” There are rare variations of coat colour, however, including pure white, liver and blue, sable, and pure black.

The breed comes in two variants: medium and long. The long-hair variety is rare though because the gene is recessive. Although the long-haired German Shepherds are accepted, they are not competed with standard coated dogs under the German and UK Kennel Clubs. In the American Kennel Club, however, they are allowed to compete with standard coated dogs but are considered a fault.

Intelligence

Because German Shepherds were initially bred to be working dogs, keeping one as a pet means you need to ensure that they are kept busy playing and learning. Training sessions are a must, including obedience training that need to start at an early age.

Allowing your dog to socialise as a puppy helps them develop an understanding of what is normal and what is not as they grow older. This also helps them know the difference between a genuine threat and a false alarm.

You should also consider enrolling your GSD in obedience classes while they are young. At this stage, they’ll be easier to train in basic obedience commands. But for your pupper to remember everything that was taught to them, make the experience fun by using the reward system. Give them some treats if they have been good.

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Temperament

Contrary to the popular belief that larger dogs tend to be more aggressive, GSDs are usually calm. This is especially true if they are often exposed to people and other animals. This breed is also quite aloof. Don’t be worried, though, if your new furry buddy isn’t making that much friends at the dog park – that’s a normal GSD behaviour. And despite the Shepherd’s strong facial features, he’s an easy-going and friendly animal for the most part.

It is one of the German Shepherd facts that GSDs love to be kept active at all times. They’ll take pride in doing almost any task. Whether it’s sniffing fire victims under a rubble, detecting drugs and explosives in public areas, assisting blind people, or herding flocks, they’ll be delighted to do those things for their owners.

However, there’s one thing German Shepherds cannot do – being left alone for long periods. If they’re not doing anything that lets them work their brawns and brains, they get frustrated and bored, which explains why there are lots of videos of animals wreaking havoc in their respective homes, aside from barking, of course.

Health and Grooming

Generally, German Shepherds are healthy dogs but are prone to certain health conditions just like other breeds. Some of the associated health risks that every GSD owner needs to be aware of include the following:

  • SiccaroJoint disorders – particularly hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.
  • SiccaroGastric Dilatation-Volvulus – bloating can be especially dangerous for dogs with large, deep-chested breeds.
  • SiccaroEpilepsy – seizures caused by a brain disorder.
  • SiccaroChronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) – degeneration in the nerves of the hind legs could cause weakness and paralysis in the hind limb.
  • SiccaroPanosteitis – an inflammatory bone disease that causes pain and discomfort.
  • SiccaroGastrointestinal problems – such as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).
  • SiccaroAtopy – itching and skin trauma caused by hypersensitivity to allergens.
  • SiccaroHypothyroidism – there is a decreased production of thyroid hormone.

Although some of these diseases are manageable, it’s still important for dog owners to have their pets screened by the British Veterinary Association and the United Kingdom Kennel Club.

Aside from regular vet visits and exercise, it’s also a must for GSDs, as well as other dog breeds, to be groomed properly. Siccaro offers a range of products that can help make grooming a breeze. One of the most useful products you can buy is a dog drying robe, which is made of antibacterial bamboo fabrics. Able to remove 80-90% of water within 15 minutes, it can dry your dog quickly after a bath, a swim, or a sweaty exercise.

Exercise Needs

Another German Shepherd fact is that these dogs should be given over two hours of exercise each day. This means that this breed is ideal for those families with active lifestyles. They can take their dogs hiking, running, and trekking to keep them active and physically fit.

Hiking is one of the most fun activities you can do with your beloved GSD. Aside from being able to work out their strong bodies, this exercise can also help hone their other skills, such as smelling, hearing, and seeing. Be sure to take a first-aid kit with you, and choose a safe spot for your dog to hike on.

Swimming is also a fun and effective way to exercise your German Shepherd as it works out your pup’s bones and muscles. You can also play with your dog with a Frisbee. It’s a fantastic running activity that practices your dog’s ability to catch an object.

Trainability

You’ve probably seen or heard of GSDs being trained for police and military work. In fact, they are considered the top breed to do police work in the UK. This means that they are some of the most clever and trainable dogs in the world.

For your precious dog to be able to use their brain and strength, take them to a professional obedience specialist. Obedience classes will satisfy their need for simulation and training. Plus, the training can lay the groundwork for you once you give your dog instructions at home.

Once they are finished with the obedience training, it’s going to be easy for you to lead your dog at home. It’s imperative that you set a routine for your pup to let them know what they need to do at home. Otherwise, this highly intelligent breed will surprise you with the things that they can do without you teaching them. This includes setting schedules and setting places for your four-legged family member to eat and go potty.

It helps dogs, particularly GSDs, to remember instructions if done with positive reinforcement, like offering a reward for a job done right. On top of that, reward them with praises to let them know that their good behaviour is appreciated.

As for a dog misbehaving, let a few misdoings pass as scolding can cause your dog to develop canine anxiety.

Truth be told…

These German Shepherd facts could definitely help you be a better fur-parent to your most loved dog. Ultimately, your GSD will also be able to live a happier, more fulfilled life.

 
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