Formed from a variety of different types of shepherd dogs, the German Shepherd Dog (or GSD) can trace its origins back to the 7th century. Its appearance, almost wolf-like, would suggest an even earlier ancestry. Originally bred for herding, this breed has been used more extensively in this century for guard and protection work. It is also used as a guide dog in the United States and has an honourable career with both police and armed forces. Finally, one cannot forget its frequent television and film appearances. At the end of the 19th century, Rittmeister Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz dedicated himself to the refinement and protection of the GSD. GSDs were first shown in 1882, and in 1899, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde, which is the German breed club for GSDs, was formed. It was through this club and the work of the Rittmeister that GSDs were developed for use with the police and armed forces, thus saving the breed from extinction during the difficult times at the beginning of the 20th century. During World War I the Germans used GSDs as messenger dogs and to locate the wounded. Allied soldiers admired the dogs’ intelligence and courage and brought many of them home after the war, thus establishing the breed in other countries. However, it is felt that the best GSDs still come from Germany.
GSD's are one of the most easily recognised breeds in the world. Their appearance should be of a muscular, alert dog with a noble and aloof attitude. The dogs are agile and well balanced in the fore and hindquarters and carry themselves with pride. Although substantially built, these dogs are not square but made up of smooth curves, the length being greater than the height. Their coats are impressive: the outer coat being hard, coarse and flat hair with a thick undercoat. They have a wonderful long reach with their front legs, covering the ground in a smooth, graceful manner.
|Colour||The colours the GSD comes in are are black, ash and iron gray with brown, yellow or light brown markings. Black is the most common major coat colour. White GSDs do occur but are not accepted in the show ring.|
|Coat Length||Short Medium|
|Weight/Height Range||Ideally dogs measure between 60-65cms at the withers and weigh around 36kgs. Bitches measure beween 55-60cms at the withers and weigh around 30kgs.|
|Ailments||As stated earlier, irresponsible breeding has led to some health problems. The most prevalent of these is Hip Dysplasia. To overcome this problem, the Kennel Club instituted a hip-scoring scheme in 1983. Another bone disease that can affect fast growing, large dogs, as GSDs are, is panosteitis, males are affected more often than females. Bloat is a disease of deep-chested dogs but can often be prevented with careful husbandry. Cutaneous vasculopathy affects GSD puppies causing crusty ears, tail and swollen, cracked pads. Congenital heart problems have also been found in German Shepherd Dogs.|
|Breed Classification||German Shepherd Dogs belong to the pastoral group and are used as companions, guard dogs, sniffer dogs, police dogs, guide dogs and, of course, sheepdogs. They are also popular in the show-ring.|
Feeding & Ownership
You must be very careful to avoid overfeeding with this breed. Also, many dogs have skin problems and may need to be on special diets.
|Food Cost||$15 to $20|
|Other Expenses||GSD's should not be too expensive to keep as long as you have followed the recommended feeding programme as puppies. Failure to do so could result in excessive veterinary fees.|
As a pet, the GSD will demand a lot of your time. It is a highly intelligent breed and as such, needs a great deal of mental stimulation. The GSD will develop a very close bond with his handler and will want to be with him/her as much as possible. They will accept children if the children give them respect and do not torment them. Although this breed of dog does need a lot of attention, he will give back one hundred fold with loyalty and incorruptible guarding skills. On the other hand, if you do not take the time to socialise and train a GSD, there will be problems with self-confidence and unruliness.
|Intelligence||It is a highly intelligent breed and as such, needs a great deal of mental stimulation. Obedience classes will be enjoyed by the GSD and he should prove to be a stellar pupil. This dog is eager to learn and very responsive to training, especially voice commands given with the appropriate intonation. It is best to work with reward-method training as beating an already timid dog into submission is likely to backfire. From basic obedience, the GSD can go onto learn agility, tracking, rescue work or personal protection work; he excels at all these skills.|
|Suitability for Children||Medium|
|Tendency to Bark||High|
|Overall Exercise Requirement||The young pup should be exercised with some discretion to avoid long-term damage to still soft and forming joints. As the dog ages, it will require longer walks but must first have the solid bone structure established.|
|Suitability as a Guard Dog||High|
|Ease of Transportation||Low|
|Level of Aggression||High|
|Other Animal Compatibility||Low|
Grooming should also be done every day, with a vigourous brushing to remove any dead or loose hairs. If it is a longhaired GSD, combing will also be necessary. No trimming is required and bathing should only be done as needed. This is a shedding dog but the more you groom it, the less it will shed.
|Grooming Requirements||Once a week|
|Amount of Hair Shed||Heavy|