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German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog (GSD), (German: Deutscher Schäferhund) is a breed of large-sized dog which originates from Germany. German Shepherds are a fairly new breed of dog, with their origins only dating back to 1899. A member of the herding group, shepherds are working dogs developed originally for herding sheep. They are strong, intelligent and obediant dogs which sees them often employed in Police and military roles, in forces around the world. They are popular as pets and guard dogs because of their loyal and protective nature.

German Shepherds are a large-breed dog which are generally between 23 and 25 in (60 to 65 cm) at the withers and weigh between 65 and 88 lb (30 to 40 kg). The ideal height is 25″ (63 cm), according to Kennel Club standards. They have a domed forehead, a long square-cut muzzle and a black nose. The jaws are strong, with a scissor-like bite. The eyes are medium-sized and brown with a lively, intelligent and self-assured look. The ears are large and stand erect, open at the front and parallel, they are often pulled back during movement. They have a long neck, which is raised when excited and lowered when moving at a fast pace. The tail is bushy and reaches to the hock.

German Shepherds can be multiple colours, the most common of which is the tan variety with a black saddle and light-grey markings. Rarer variations include the sable, all-Black, all-White, liver and blue varieties. The all-Black variety is mostly acceptable; however, the blue and liver are considered to be serious faults and the all-White is grounds for instant disqualification in some standards. This is because the white coat is more visible, making the dog a poor guard dog, and is harder to see in conditions such as snow.

German Shepherds sport a double coat. The outer coat, which is shed all year round, is close and dense with a thick undercoat. The coat is accepted in two variants; medium and long. The long-hair gene is recessive, making the long-hair variety rarer. Treatment of the long-hair variation differs across standards; they are accepted under the German and UK Kennel Clubs but are considered a fault in the American Kennel Club.

Shepherds were specifically bred for their intelligence, a trait they are now renowned for. They are considered to be the third most intelligent breed of dog, behind Border Collies and Poodles. In the book The Intelligence of Dogs, author Stanley Coren ranked the breed third for intelligence. He found that they had the ability to learn simple tasks after only five repetitions and obeyed the first command given 95% of the time. This trait makes the breed desirable as Police, guard and rescue dogs.

There are two prominent variations of German Shepherds, neither of which are accepted by the American, UK or German Kennel Clubs. The variations are unofficially named King Shepherd and East German (or "DDR") Shepherd Dog.

East German Shepherd
The East Shepherd Dog (also DDR Shepher Dog) originated in the German Democratic Republic. The breed was never entirely different and was not recognised by the German Shepherd Breeding Association (Schäferhundverein). The breeds no longer exists but some modern dogs may be able to be traced back to DDR bloodlines. The last East German Shepherd Dog show was held in 1989.

King Shepherd
King Shepherds are a crossbreed between German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, and Great Pyrenees. The breed was created by American breeders David Turkheimer and Shelley Watts-Cross, with the intention of creating a very large and strong breed of dog, free of the genetic ailments that effect German Shepherds. King Shepherds can grow to be twice as big as German Shepherds.


German Shepherd
Other names: Deutscher Schäferhund, Schäferhund, Alsatian, Berger Allemand, GSD
Country of origin: Germany

German Shepherds are highly active dogs, fearless but not hostile and are often described in breed standards as self-assured and never shy. The breed is marked by a willingness to learn and an eagerness to have a purpose. Shepherds can become over-protective of their family and territory, especially if not socialised correctly. Due to their loyal nature Shepherds bond well with children they know. While typically approachable, Shepherds do not become immediate friends with strangers. German Shepherds are highly obedient and not easily distracted, but due to their self-strong will must be trained by a firm hand.

The average lifespan of a German Shepherd is 11-12 years, which is normal for a dog of their size.

Many of the German Shepherds common ailments are a result of required inbreeding early in the breeds creation. One such common issue is hip and elbow dysplasia which can lead to the dog experiencing pain in later life, lameness and can cause arthritis. Due to the large and open nature of their ears, Shepherds are also prone to ear infections.

Other health problems sometimes occurring in the breed are von Willebrand's disease, skin allergies and canine degenerative myelopathy. German Shepherds, like all large bodied dogs, are also prone to bloat.

The German Shepherd dog is one of the most widely-used breeds in a wide variety of scent-work roles. These include search and rescue, cadaver searching, narcotics detection, explosives detection, accelerant detection, and mine detection dog, amongst others.


The original idea of the breed dates back to 1891, when the Phylax Society was formed with the intention of standardising German dog breeds. The society disbanded in 1894 and was superseded by the Society for the German Shepherd Dog (Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde), founded in 1899. The chair-person of the society was Max von Stephanitz, the man now credited with being the creator of the breed. The first known German Shepherd Dog was Horand v Grafrath, which von Stephanitz purchased at a market, after being impressed by the dogs intelligence. Grafrath was later used as the basis for all future Society breeding programs.

The English Kennel Club first accepted registrations for the breed in 1919. Originally 54 dogs were registered, this number inflated to over 8000 in 1926. German Shepherds are currently the third most popular breed in America.

After World War I there was belief that the popularity of the breed would diminish given the anti-German sentiment of the era. The breed was officially renamed to "Alsatian Wolf Dog", this name remained until 1977 when the British Kennel Club allowed Alsatians to be registered as German Shepherds.

The modern breed
The modern German Shepherd is criticised for straying away from von Stephanitz's original ideology for the breed.[b] It is believed that careless breeding has promoted disease and other defects. Under the breeding programs, overseen by von Stephanitz, defects were quickly bred out, however in modern times without regulation on breeding, genetic problems such as colour-paling, monorchidism, weakness of temperament and missing teeth are common.