The German shepherd dog has an outline of smooth curves on a body that is longer than it is tall. It is strong, agile and substantial. Its gait is exceptionally outreaching and elastic, covering the ground in great strides. It has a double coat, with the outer coat consisting of dense, straight or slightly wavy, harsh, close lying hair of medium length.
Among the most intelligent of breeds, the German shepherd dog is so intent on its mission whatever that may be that it is virtually unsurpassed in working versatility. It is utterly devoted and faithful. Aloof and suspicious toward strangers, it is protective of its home and family. It can be domineering. It can be aggressive toward other dogs, but it is usually good with other pets.
AKC RANKING 4
FAMILY livestock, herding
AREA OF ORIGIN Germany
DATE OF ORIGIN 1800s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION sheep herding, guarding, police dog
TODAY'S FUNCTION police, contraband detection, assistance, herding trials, schutzhund
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 24-26 Weight: 75-95
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 22-24 Weight: 75-95
OTHER NAME Alsatian, Deutscher schaferhund
Energy level Medium energy
Exercise needs High
Playfullness Not very playful
Affection level Moderately affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Shy
Friendliness toward other pets Friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Shy
Ease of training Hard to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Very protective
Grooming needs Low maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Medium tolerance
This breed needs daily mental and physical challenges. It enjoys a good exercise session as well as learning session. It can live outside in temperate to cool climates, but it is family-oriented and does equally well as a house dog. Its coat needs brushing one or two times weekly. Major concerns: CHD, elbow dysplasia
Minor concerns: panosteitis, vWD, progressive posterior paresis, cauda equina, pyotraumatic dermatitis, skin allergies, malignant neoplasms, pannus, cataract, gastric torsion, perianal fistulas, cardiomyopathy
Occasionally seen: pancreatic insufficiency
Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye (blood)
Life span: 10 12 years
Note: GSDs are especially susceptible to a potentially fatal systemic fungal infection from Aspergillus.
Despite an outward appearance slightly resembling a wolf, the German shepherd dog is a fairly recently developed breed and, contrary to na¿ve beliefs, it is no more closely related to the wolf than any other breed of dog. The breed is the result of a conscious effort to produce the ideal shepherd, capable of herding and guarding its flocks. Perhaps never in the history of any breed has such concerted effort been put into improving a dog, mostly due to the formation in 1899 of the Verein fur Deutsche Scharferhunde SV, an organization devoted to overseeing the breeding of the German shepherd. Breeders sought to develop not only a herding dog but also one that could excel at jobs requiring courage, athleticism and intelligence. In short order, the German shepherd had proved itself a more than capable police dog, and subsequent breeding strove to perfect its abilities as an intelligent and fearless companion and guardian. During World War I, it was the obvious choice for a war sentry. At the same time, the AKC changed the breed's name from German sheepdog to shepherd dog, and Britain changed it to Alsatian wolf dog, both attempts to dissociate the dog from its unpopular German roots. The wolf dog was later dropped as it caused many people to fear the breed. In 1931, the AKC restored the breed's name to German shepherd dog. The greatest boon to the shepherd's popularity came in the form of two dogs, both movie stars: Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin. The German shepherd held the number-one spot in American popularity for many years. Although presently it has dropped from the top spot, the German shepherd remains as one of the most versatile dogs ever created, serving as a police dog, war dog, guide dog, search-and-rescue dog, narcotics- or explosives-detecting dog, show dog, guard dog, pet and even shepherd.