The German shepherd dog is one of those dog breeds that has become – one might say – more than itself. Not just another breed amongst many, the German Shepherd Dog has become practically iconic. Hailed as the worlds most prominent police and military dog, it is also praised as being energetic, fun-loving, loyal, eager to please, reliable and intelligent, making it an ideal choice for many families with children.
In fact, it is this versatility that in large part is responsible for making the German Shepherd Dog so popular. It has been referred to as the “worlds greatest all-rounder”.
The German Shepherd dog has an impressive number of tricks up its proverbial sleeve. While the popular perception of most dogs come with a specific association, the German Shepherd dog fits neatly into most niches. Unlike e.g. the Bulldogs commonly associated with fighting, Greyhounds with running fast, or Chihuahuas with peeping out of Paris Hiltons handbag, The German Shepherd Dog is easy to imagine in a plethora of scenarios. Right next to the Police Officer on a drug-bust, as the protective guardian of children in the family home, as the alert seeing-dog for the blind, the inexhaustible work-dog on the ranch, the rescue-dog finding people buried in an avalanche etc. For all of these purposes, and many, many more, the German Shepherd Dog turns out to be as well suited as if breed for that purpose alone. From a breeding point of view, this is impressive, by anybody’s standard.
The German Shepherd Dog was further more one of the first dog-breeds that ever received celebrity status through the means of cinema. In 1921 the dog Strongheart was featured in his first movie, “The Silent Call”, which were to become the first of many. The popularity Strongheart gathered in the silent movie industry then paved the way for the incredibly well renowned Rin Tin Tin. He was originally found as a still blind pup under the remains of a bombed kennel in Lorraine (present-day France) in 1918, and he went on to star in over 20 Hollywood feature films. He was one of very few animals to receive his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and was so popular in his day that when he died in 1932, broadcasts was interrupted with a special nation wide news bulletin to carry the message.
It all started in 1800’s, during the height of the Victorian era. The development of the large industrial city came with the decline in populations of predators, coupled with a more efficient dissemination of knowledge concerning genealogy. People were becoming aware of the regional differences in similar dog-breeds, and a growing discussion ensued about how to maximize the observed benefits, and conversely how to eliminate the relative downsides. This lead to the first organized attempts at standardized breeding, and for this purpose the Phylax Society was formed in 1891. The organization was short-lived, and ceased its operation merely three years after its formation, but the story they took part in were nowhere near finished. The next chapter would start in 1899, Karlsruhe, Germany. Here – the story goes – a group of devoted breeders, the most prominent of which being the ex-Phylax Society member Captain Max von Stephanitz, brought fourth a new working dog, initially for the purposes of herding in mind. In actuality, Stephanitz was never part of the breeding of the first German Shepherd dog – named Hektor, but bought him after seeing him in a dog show, where he found him to fulfill all his notions about what a working dog should be. However, the future would turn out to hold significantly more than sheep in store for this particular dog.
Stephanitz changed Hektors name to Horand, and subsequently started the Society for the German Shepherd Dog (Verien fur Deutsche Schäferhunde), an organization that would coordinate the breeding process, arrange shows, act as a buffer of know-how for the dogs etc. Today they keep the registry for all the German Shepherd Dogs, the number of which has grown exponentially. The UK Kennel Club had registered over 8.000 dogs already in 1926, and with the exception of a decline in popularity after the second World War (due to its German associations), that number has been continuously growing ever since.
Already in 1905 the German Shepherd Dog had garnered a very favorable reputation across Europe, and even on the other side of the Atlantic, in North America. There the breed became known as “Alsatian” and so declared by the American Kennel Club in 1918, at the end of the Great War. It would take another 60 years before the name would change back to German Shepherd Dog (Deutsche Schäferhunde), under which it is today known all around the world.
There are problems today with unauthorized breeding by less than serious actors. This can lead to a worsening of the dogs temper, its response to training, and the overall decline in the genetic quality of the breed. So if you are considering becoming an owner of a German Shepherd, it is highly recommended to deal only with experienced and serious breeders, referred to by one of the international organizations that deal with these matters.
The German Shepherd Dog is traditionally a large breed (with males weighing up to 40 Kg) with an average lifespan of around ten years. It has a strong, muscular and well balanced body, making it well adapted for hard labor, under which this highly energetic breed seems to thrive. Dogs that fail to receive the proper exercise can become hyper-active due to bottled up energy, making them very difficult to live harmoniously with. However, dogs that do receive the proper training and treatment normally become highly “service-minded”, and its desire to please humans is one of its most salient characteristics. There are organizations providing this training in practically every city today, and they recommend this – or some suitable alternative – to be an essential part of any healthy German Shepherd Dogs life.
As for offspring, the average litter size is about 5-7 puppies. Letting your female German Shepherd breed however does no favors for your dogs disposition or overall health. In fact, if the goal is not to use your female for a brood bitch or your male as a stud, the recommendation is to have the dog spayed or respectively neutered. Dogs that undergo such procedures often enjoy indirect health benefits, and in male dogs these include increased tolerance towards other male dogs. This – as any dog owner knows – can be a great blessing and spare considerable strain on ones patience.
If you are considering joining the proud ranks of owners of a German Shepherd Dog, then you can look forward to taking part in an experience people all over the world think of with great fondness and love. The German Shepherds willingness to please, loyalty and affection, makes it a partner easy to care for, and the bond many share with their German Shepherd has been described – in a leaflet from the German Shepherd Dog Club of America – as one of the finest experiences of life. If you give your dog the proper attention, training and love, it will prove to be a keen learner, a fearless and alert guardian, a playful comrade, and it will love you back for as long as it lives. The breed is not naturally steered towards establishing deep ties with every person that comes into its life, making it naturally protective against strangers, especially later in life. However, for the ones that it does form a bond with, it tends to be deep and meaningful connections, marked with loyalty and respect.