Arguably one of the intelligent, hard-working, devoted and courageous of all the dog species is German Shepherd. This breed is of medium to large height that originated in Germany. German Shepherd are agile, muscular dog, confident and extremely loyal to their owners. It is also a very popular dog in most parts of the world ranking 2nd in most registered breed by American Kennel Club.
They typically have a height 55-65 cm and weighs around 65-90 pounds (Males) and 50-70 pounds (Females). Characterized by wide and wedge shaped head they also have a dense and hard coat. Big dogs have a long descendent tail with big ears. Because of their versatile nature they are preferred for many types of work like disability assistance, search and rescue and police and military roles.
Personality and Temperament of German Shepherds
German Shepherds are generally medium to large sized dogs with height ranging from 24-26 inches for males and 22-24 inches for females. The weight usually varies from 30-40 kg for males and 22-32 kg for females. The head is wedge shaped with medium sized eyes but are not protruding and a doomed forehead. They have big and open ears standing perpendicular to each other which often stands erect. But they eventually fall down when they move at fast pace.
Also they have characteristic long and bushy tail which touches the hock. The GSD have a wide variety of coats and colors. However they have a double coated fur the outer coat that is coarse, dense and lies close to the body but with a softer and lighter undercoat. Most of them are available in tan/black or red/black with a rarer variety available in sable, pure black, pure white or pure black colors.
German Shepherds are highly intelligent, loyal and obedient by nature. Because of this they are mostly used for high pressure jobs that require next level problem solving like police and search and rescue operations. They are extremely confident and keen observers and courageous thus making them a versatile companion.
German Shepherds are known to be very protective of their family and territory. They are not very friendly with strangers. Its important to teach and learn to socialize them from early age otherwise they tend to become aggressive later. But at the same time, they are also very sweet, silly and playful as well.
History of German Shepherd
With the rise in Industrial cities around the world in France, Holland, United Kingdom meant there was a decline in predator dogs. Around 1850 there was a growing need for standardizing breeds of dogs. The dogs were bred to preserve traits that assisted humans in herding sheep and also protecting them from invaders or predators.
In Germany the local communities selected and bred dogs that had features of herding sheep particularly intelligence, speed, strength and keen sense of smell. This led to development of Phylax society in 1891 which got disbanded within 3 years of commencement. During this time Capt. Max von Stephanitz a former member of Phylax society came into existence who is also considered to be creator of this breed.
Max von Stephanitz an ex-cavalry and former student of Berlin Veterinary college believed that dogs should be bred for herding. In the year when 1899 when he was visiting a dog show he was shown a dog named Hector Linksrhein who was carefully created after few generations of selective breeding. He was pleased with the intelligence, loyalty and beauty and later named him Horand von Grafrath. Horand is considered to be the first modern day German Shepherd dog. Worldwide interest slowly began to rise in 1900’s and this was recognized by American Kennel Club in 1908. In modern times this is one of the most popular dog breeds in many countries. Adolf Hitler bought a German Shepherd named ‘Prinz’ in 1921.
Health and Lifespan
Many common ailments of the German Shepherd are a result of breeding practiced in early breed’s life. According to a recent survey the median lifespan of GSD is 10.95 years. German Shepherds do suffer from certain breed related disorders and owners must be aware of it. Here are some common diseases and their details.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
One of the most common problems related to GSD is Hip and Bone Dysplasia as also seen in many medium and large size dogs. Hip joint is a ball and socket joint and abnormalities in either the ball or socket causes malformation leading to instability. This may lead to abnormal wear and cause Osteoarthritis. Elbow Dysplasia is a condition which results from fragment of bone that does not fuse during the dog’s development causing intermittent lameness. Often such cases may worsen with time and make it difficult or uncomfortable to work. Since this genetic disease therefore a careful breeding and proper post-natal care is mandatory to check this disease.
Read also: Health Benefits of Exercising and 7 Ways to Exercise with your dog
Bloat or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)
Bloat occurs when either food, fluids or air build up inside dog’s digestive tract and this causes gases to build up inside the stomach. When this occurs and the dog cannot dispel the gas through the usual methods this often causes bloat. This may lead to twisting of stomach and cause blocking of esophagus and exit thus stopping blood flow and infection. If you see your dog eating grass or trying to vomit this might be the condition. This is life threatening and taken to vet immediately.
Megaesophagus (Greek meaning Large) is a condition in which the esophagus becomes limp and the digested food not pass through. Affected dogs often begin to show signs, vomiting and regurgitation when they weaned to a solid diet. They mainly remain malnourished and experience weight loss and aspiration pneumonia. Treatment is generally long and usually involves liquid diets and elevated feedings.
Degenerative Myelopathy is a neurologic disease and is a recessive genetic disorder found in German Shepherd dog. Often it is difficult to distinguish from other forms of spinal cord problems. This is genetic disease and mostly diagnosed with histological exam of spinal cord issue often causing weakness and may lead to paralysis. This also results in lack of coordination causing affected pups to drag their legs and limp.
Many German shepherds have this seizure disorder and often this is a genetic disease and is incurable. Lifelong medication is generally necessary to keep seizures under control.
Commonly known as ‘Pano’ by veterinary doctors. Its generally not exclusive to large or giant breed dogs usually between 5 and 14 months of age. Often characterized by ‘wandering lameness’ and it can cause complete or partial lameness in any leg. Owners can often characterize this disease when they notice their dogs using only three of his four legs or otherwise limping. While this can be painful but in no means permanent and disappear around a year to two years of age.
For all this diseases owners must take these seriously and visit a veterinary doctor to prevent any further complications.
GSD are double coated with thick fur and improper care can lead to them falling ill. If your dog is generally active and exercises a lot groom him regularly. However, if your dog doesn’t go out a lot they can be brushed twice a week. Use a combination of dematting comb along with a slicker brush to achieve best results. Since GSD have thick dense coarse protective outer fur make sure not to cut the outer layer completely as this will expose the inner skin thus causing sunburns.
Do not hold back if you think your dog needs a bath. As GSD have lot of natural oils in it bath with good quality dog shampoo is necessity. Make sure to blow his hair with his high velocity hair drier after a bath. GSD shed twice a year during fall and spring and this is the time you need to brush and groom him everyday. Shedding during spring allows the dog to get rid of his winter coat to itself getting overheated during summers and the same happens in fall to shed his lightweight fur to make way for thick winter coat.
German Shepherds are well known for their devotion to their families and they will always be your side. They are very affectionate, loyal and protective of their owners thus making them great guard dogs. It’s always good to have GSD as your house will always be protected and you will feel secure. They are great for apartment living and also get along well with young ones. They should be trained from an early age to be disciplined and obedient. Also, they should be socialized properly as this will help them to be friendly with others when they grow up. Shepherds are natural working dogs and they can also accompany you carrying goods and this makes them more connected to family.
Around the world German Shepherds are known for their bold and fierce nature and are used in variety of activities be it military ,rescue operations or police jobs. But they are sweet innocent and loving by nature also. No doubt they are the most loyal to their boss and can do anything to protect their family.
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