The Greatness of German Shepherds
Updated: Feb 3
The Popularity of German Shepherds
For more than 100 years, the German Shepherd has stood tall as one of the world’s most distinctive and desirable dog breeds. Attentive, intelligent, strong, and fast, their instincts, looks, and numerous other traits make them popular worldwide both as pets, working class, and show dogs.
German Shepherd History
Initially bred in Germany in the 1800s, the German Shepherd (also known as Alsatian) was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1908. As the name suggests, German Shepherds were originally used as herding dogs. From there, the breed’s popularity only grew stateside, thanks in part to Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd who starred in more than 25 movies during the early 20th century.
Rin Tin Tin’s cinematic escapades showed off a variety of feats of strength and agility, making him just as strong a screen presence as his human co-stars. And the breed’s popularity only grew when people realized that the dog’s intelligence and charisma were more than just movie magic.
German Shepherds captured the hearts of American moviegoers and remain one of the most popular breeds in the US. And for good reason! Loyal, strong, and sharp as a tack, this proud breed has good looks to boot. With proper care, German Shepherds make great pets.
Types of German Shepherd
In general, the main distinction between German Shepherds is between the American and German bloodlines. American German Shepherds are generally bred for show, so they are built more for their looks than their strength. As such, working German Shepherds are typically from the German lines.
Difference Between East & West German Shepherds
Beyond simply short vs long-haired, there is an important distinction between East and West German Shepherds. Essentially, it comes down to what the lines are bred for.
West German Shepherds
West German Shepherds are bred for their looks and can be shown. Their backs don’t have the aggressive slope of their American brethren, but more so than the East German Shepherds.
East German Shepherds
East German Shepherds are typically not bred for show. This means they don’t have the downward-sloping backs seen in show dogs. These dogs tend to be favored for working applications, but still have a similar temperament to other German Shepherds.
German Shepherds come in both short-hair and long-hair varieties. Adding to the confusion between these is the fact that both short and long haired are considered the same breed. For that reason, it is important to research the lineage before adopting a German Shepherd, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Czech line German Shepherds
All GSD’s including dogs with a Czech heritage, ultimately lead back to Germany.
Prior to the 1989 revolution in the Czech Republic which led to the fall of their communist government, the breeding of German Shepherd Dogs was predominately that of working dogs. What is unique is that this breeding has revolved around one kennel, owned by the Czechoslovakian Army's Pohranicni Straze (Border Patrol). The Kennel z Pohranicni Straze (Z PS) was founded in the year 1955 for the sole purpose of producing and training dogs that would be exclusively used for the protection of the borders of the Czechoslovakian People's Republic or, since 1968, the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic. Most of the dogs used for breeding were acquired from the territory of former East Germany, as well as dogs from Czechoslovakia that excelled in their character qualities. The stud dogs, females and puppies were cared for by military service conscripts. The dogs were trained at the Kennels for about 12 months, and then relocated to Border Patrol training facilities (nowadays they're quartered at Czech police training facilities). Conditions were very trying for the dogs, temperatures typically being well below zero, with extremely deep snow being commonplace.
These dogs had to be extremely hardy and needed a quality coat to survive these conditions. The breeding program, established in 1956, had various objectives, including strengthening the power of bones, and producing dogs with dark pigmentation, strong nerves and a willingness to work. While the kennel name remains "z Pohranicni Straze", it is now under the Pohranicni Policie (Border Police).
Dos & Don'ts of German Shepherd Ownership.
Do: Socialize them early
Because of their immense strength and protective instincts, they should be socialized early with both people and other dogs. This will help them to be more understanding and accepting of “outsiders” While German Shepherds are a loving and protective breed by nature, it is important that they're socialized.
Otherwise you could have a dog that is aggressive and a potential liability with visitors or strangers while out and about. Still, these types of behaviors are typically only seen in abused or neglected German Shepherds. When in a loving, understanding home, German Shepherds are sweet family dogs.
Do: Keep Up with Grooming
German Shepherds have beautiful coats, but unfortunately their thick fur tends to shed quite a bit. Whether short or long hair, German Shepherds tend to shed a lot, so frequent brushing and vacuuming are a must.
Don’t: Neglect your German Shepherd’s Exercise
German Shepherds need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Playing with them gives them plenty to think about and do, and keeps them occupied. A bored or lonely German Shepherd can be destructive and disobedient. However, until your German Shepherd is fully grown, limit the amount of jumping it does. Too much jumping strain can cause permanent damage to a German Shepherd puppy’s growing skeleton.
German Shepherd Appearance
While overall German Shepherd size varies a bit by sex and genetics, in general, adult German Shepherds stand around two feet at the shoulders. The average weight of an adult German Shepherd also varies by sex, with males typically weighing between 65-90 lbs. and females weighing from 50-70 lbs.
As puppies, German Shepherds have floppy ears, rather than the signature pointed ears of adults. German Shepherds become fully grown after 1.5 to 2 years.
German Shepherds come in a variety of colors, from single shades like gray, black, sable, and white, to two tone combinations of black and colors like tan and red.
Why German Shepherds Make Good Pets
This loyal breed really feels like a member of the family. German Shepherds are eager to please and protective of their “pack” which makes them great home guard dogs. German Shepherds are quick learners, as well. Because of their speed, strength, and willingness to learn and respond to commands, it’s no surprise that German Shepherds are one of the world’s most common police and military dogs.
Many of the traits that make German Shepherds such great police dogs also make them great family dogs. With proper training and discipline, German Shepherds are compassionate energetic companions, especially when trained by a professional dog trainer.
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