History of the German Shepherd Dog
The dogs we know as German Shepherd dogs were developed from German working dogs by a German dog breeder Max von Stephanitz (1864 – 1936). Stephanitz set the standards for the breed, and with his colleague, Arthur Meyer, founded the first German Shepherd dog club, the Verein für deutsche Schäferhunde, in 1899.
Stephanitz’s goal was to develop a better and more intelligent working dog for all of Germany. His dog, Horand von Grafrath, was the first breeding stud and is the great granddaddy of today’s German Shepherd dogs. The dogs were also bred to do more than just be shepherds. They were used to deliver messages, do rescues, for sentry duties and as guard dogs during the First World War. Although they wanted a good looking dog, their primary goal was to produce a breed that did its job well. I think they did well in both areas because the modern German Shepherd is a beautiful dog that can be trained to do just about anything.
German Shepherd Dogs as Pets
German Shepherds are very popular as pets and consistently ranks in the top three most popular breeds along with the Labrador and Golden Retriever. It is highly intelligent and shows undying devotion to its master. The very first dog I had as a kid was a German Shepherd mix. When I look at pictures now of that great dog, Lucky, he looks more mix than German Shepherd, but he is the reason I have such great affection for this breed. When I started the first grade in school, Lucky would always walk me to the bus stop and would be waiting for me when I returned. He was always by my side as my best friend and protector.
Before Getting a German Shepherd
If you are thinking of buying a German Shepherd as a pet and you have not previously owned one, talk to experienced owners. The German Shepherd can weigh up to 90 pounds so is not a small dog. They are not naturally aggressive, but can be trained to be a highly effective attack dog. A German Shepherd is naturally protective so you need to make sure it knows that a visitor is not a threat to his family. If you are considering a rescue dog, it is prudent to learn how the dog was trained. If I now lived somewhere a big dog would be practical, I would have the German Shepherd as first on my list of dogs to own.
German Shepherds need a lot of exercise. A bored, lonely dog can be very destructive and can do a lot of damage to your living room. They can also be vocal which may upset your neighbors and may frighten anyone who rings your doorbell. They shed quite a lot so expect plenty of dog hairs and be careful you don’t have dog hair in your pasta. Because of shedding, they are not a good choice for anyone who has dog allergies.
German Shepherd Dogs as Working Dogs
Von Stephanitz’s vision for the German Shepherd was as an intelligent working dog. And they are that. They rank very high in dog intelligence, just behind the Border Collie and Poodle. They are good herding dogs, but are probably better known for their work as guard, rescue and attack dogs. And because they also make excellent pets, they are one of the best all around best dogs in the world (in my opinion).
German Shepherds are very good scent dogs and help controlling the drug traffic. One Mexican German Shepherd, Zuyaqui, captured the most drugs in Mexican police and military history.
German Shepherd Appearance
Most German Shepherds are either tan and black or red and black. More rare color variations include sable, black, white and other varieties. These choices may be nice, but for me the real German Shepherd has to be tan and black.
Dogs bred to show standards such as recognized by The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom, are in conflict with German Shepherd breed clubs about the issue of soundness. The show-strains have been bred with an extremely sloping top-line back that causes poor gait. Working dogs such as those used as service dogs generally have the traditional straight back. I like the straight back.
German Shepherd Dogs as Entertainers
Strongheart, a German Shepherd, was one of the earliest dog movie stars and starred in his first movie in 1921. This was two years before Rin Tin Tin the most famous German Shepherd. Both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
One of the best know German Shepherds to those of my generation is the famous Rin Tin Tin This German Shepherd helped the breed overcome the prejudice against the breed because of war.
Bullet The Wonder Dog was a character on the television series “The Roy Rogers Show” (1951 – 1957). In real life the German Shepherd that played Bullet was also a family pet owned by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Connect With Other German Shepherd Lovers
There are AKC Breed Clubs located in every state and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America, formed in 1913, is the AKC Parent Club representing the breed. Those interested in adopting a rescue can browse the list of affiliated rescues on the American German Shepherd Rescue Association’s website.
Dogs Similar to the German Shepherd
|Breed||Height (Inches)||Weight (Pounds)||Life Expectancy (Years)||Popularity (AKC)||Country of Origin|
|Belgian Malinois||24 - 26||60 - 80||14 - 16||43||Belgium|
|Belgian Tervuren||24 - 26||55 - 75||12 -14||106||Belgium|
|Belgian Sheepdog||24 -26||55 - 75||13 - 14||125||Belgium|
|Bohemian Shepherd||21 - 22||40 - 60||12 -15||Not ranked||Czech Republic|