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Arguably one of the most recognizable dog breeds, German Shepherds are hard-working, protective, and loyal pooches (who are also easy to fall in love with!). They’re incredibly intelligent and obedient, which is why they’re today’s top choice for police force K-9 units. Because of their vigilant guarding and steadfast, unwavering devotion to their owners, German Shepherds also make wonderful pets for everyday folks. If you’re thinking about adopting one — or simply want to learn more about this breed — here’s what you need to know.
In addition to the traits described above, German Shepherds are affectionate, confident and easygoing dogs. They’re quick to alert their families and owners about perceived dangers, including intruders or wayward strangers, which makes them very popular as guard dogs.
They tend to get along very well with children and other pets, and are very easy to train, as well. In fact, German Shepherds thrive on training, so their owners must be at the ready to keep them mentally stimulated! They also need to get physical every day, which means lots of time spent together playing games, chasing sticks and balls, hiking outdoors, and running around. They are considered a large breed dog, typically weighing in between 50 to 90 pounds, and have a life span of 10 to 13 years.
As you might have guessed, German Shepherds hail from Germany. The breed comes from a type of northwestern European dog that existed in the 1800s referred to as the “continental shepherd dog.” In the late 1800s, the continental shepherd split into three different breeds: a Belgian Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, and — you guessed it — German Shepherd!
To make a long story short (you can read the full history here), a former cavalry officer named Max von Stephanitz recognized the unique and desirable traits of the continental shepherd and bred what we now know as the German Shepherd. From the very beginning, the German Shepherd was used as a loyal and obedient “worker,” and played many roles throughout the country, including a Red Cross dog during World War I, military work, police work, and even in movies (Rin Tin Tin being the most famous).
Common Health Issues
As mentioned, German Shepherds require high amounts of mental and physical stimulation, and they can get bored or unhappy without it. For that reason, this dog breed is recommended for those who already have dog owning and training experience, and for those who have active lifestyles that want the same in their furry companion.
Regarding health vulnerabilities, this breed is susceptible to hip dysplasia, or hip joint malformation that can lead to osteoarthritis; heart disease (common in many large breeds), degenerative myelopathy, a degeneration of the spinal cord that may onset at mid-age; and pancreatic issues, including exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (though German Shepherds respond well to treatment), and pancreatitis (persistent inflammation of the pancreas).
- The German Shepherd takes “being loyal” to a whole new level. They are selective in whom they show affection and loyalty, and are known for displaying utmost fidelity to their primary owner. Even without intense training, they have demonstrated extreme loyalty by taking a bullet for their owner, and running to find help when their owners are stranded.
- German Shepherds are known for their always perked and “on alert” ears, but as puppies their ears are floppy!
- Rin Tin Tin, or “Rinty,” — a canine silent movie star from the 1920s and 30s — is perhaps the most famous German Shepherd in the world. He was fortuitously rescued by an American WWI soldier named Lee Duncan, who introduced him to Hollywood. He appeared in 27 films and remains beloved worldwide!
Are you the proud parent of a German Shepard? Share a pic with us on Instagram by tagging @gohealthypaws. If you haven’t already, look into getting a free quote to help protect not just your pup, but your wallet too.