Co-Worker, Family Companion and Guardian
A lot of thought went into breeding the German shepherd dog, now a common international fixture in both the home and workplace.
Due to their intelligence, strength and protective nature, German shepherd dogs are excellent companion dogs as well as very competent working dogs.
Year after year, the German shepherd dog is one of the most registered of breeds, frequently topping the American Kennel Society’s Top 10 Dog Breeds list.
The German shepherd dog was intentionally bred from long-haired, short-haired and wire-haired herding and farm dogs from Wurtemberg, Thurginia, and Bavaria by a dedicated group of breeders in Karlsruhe, Germany, during the late 1800s.
This group of breeders was keen on creating a true “working” dog. In April 1899, Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain and former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, registered a dog named Horan as the first Deutsche Schäferhunde, which means German shepherd dog in English.
Highly active dogs, German shepherds display a willingness to learn and bond well with the people they know, including children. However, they can become over-protective of their family and territory, especially if not socialized correctly.
Regarded as the third most intelligent dog, following the Bordie collie and the poodle, German shepherd dogs are often put to work as guard dogs, police dogs, guide dogs for the blind, and search and rescue dogs, and have been trained by the military to parachute from aircraft.
German shepherd dogs don’t respond well if left alone for long periods of time. Proper socialization from a young age is highly recommended, as is daily exercise and dog obedience training.
Confident, loyal and eager to learn, German shepherd dogs benefit from constant mental stimulation and a loving family.
The average German shepherd dog weighs between 50 and 100 pounds and can have one of a variety of coat colors, the most common being the tan/black and red/black combinations.
Both coat varieties have black masks and black body markings which can range from a classic "saddle" to an over-all "blanket." Rarer color variations include the sable, all-black, all-white, liver, and blue varieties.
While these may be common medical conditions, your German shepherd dog will not necessarily develop any of those listed below.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the hip or elbow joints that cause arthritis. Dogs with either of these conditions usually are obviously lame. Signs may be noted as early as four months of age. Although considered a lifelong problem, most dogs can be helped with surgery.
- von Willebrand's Disease is a common inherited blood disorder, characterized by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII. The main symptom of vWD is excessive bleeding following injury or surgical procedures.
- Panosteitis (also known as “growing pains”, "long bone disease or “pano”) is a common condition of large rapidly growing dogs that causes lameness of the front or rear legs. This painful disorder is most commonly seen in dogs between the ages of five to 12 months. Dogs affected by this condition will grow out of the problem by 18 months of age but they need pain management while the condition is active.
- Degenerative myelopathy is an autoimmune disease in which the dog’s own immune system attacks his central nervous system, leading to progressive neural tissue damage. Initially, it affects the hind legs and causes muscle weakness and a loss of coordination in the hind limbs. The disease is chronic and progressive.
- Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. The symptoms vary in severity but the dog usually foams at the mouth and appears to be chewing on something. Then he will have violent muscle contractions, lose bladder or bowel control and faint.
- Perianal fistulas are chronic and progressive lesions (draining sores) that occur around the anus of middle aged and older German shepherd dogs. Symptoms include constant chewing or licking of the perianal area, and scooting across the floor. Other symptoms may include constipation, diarrhea, or bloody stool. Ulcers bleeding and a foul-smelling discharge may be seen around the anus.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.
Find out the average cost of care for your German shepherd.