Other names: Alsatian
As majestic as he is intelligent, the German Shepherd has many qualities that make him both the ideal pet and working dog. The Alsatian can wear many hats, ranging from a guide dog for the blind, a police dog, a guard dog and even a herding dog. This versatility has made him one of the most represented dogs across the world, and has given him a consistently high spot in the UK’s most popular dog rankings for decades.
Key facts about the German Shepherd
Life expectancy :
Temperament :Affectionate Playful Intelligent
Origins and history
At the end of the 19th century in Germany, when industrialisation was bringing sheep farming to an end, a group of dog lovers decided to come to the rescue of sheepdogs, a precious genetic heritage: they used them to create a multi-talented, beautiful, eclectic and docile dog who was easy to breed and train. It was only upon the cross-breeding of the Württemberg and Thuringe sheepdogs that these dog enthusiasts got this new breed which, thanks to colonel Von Stephanitz and his canine passion, quickly became one of the most loved and widespread dogs in the world. The German Shepherd was officially recognised in 1898.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the German Shepherd
Female : Between 22 and 24 in
Male : Between 24 and 26 in
Female : Between 49 and 71 lb
Male : Between 66 and 88 lb
His coat can be a black or grey unicolour, black with tan markings, brown or yellow, and sometimes light grey. White does not fall under the breed’s official standards.
Type of coat
There are two varieties: short-haired or medium-long to long-haired.
Excluded for a long time, the long-haired German Shepherd was officially recognised as of January 1st 2011.
His coat is double-layered, consisting of an outer coat and undercoat.
For the short-haired breed, his outer coat is dense, straight, soft to the touch and very thick. His undercoat is also thick.
As for his long-haired counterparts, his outer coat is smooth, loose and consists of layers. His undercoat is thick.
His eyes should always be very dark. Light eyes do not adhere to the official standards of the breed.
Also known as the Alsatian, this medium-sized dog is slightly longer than he is tall. He is strong, has a well-proportioned stature and is lean and solid. His back bows in the middle, which is a classic trait of this breed.
Good to know
The German Shepherd family has grown over the years due to the recognition of the breed’s official standards of traits previously considered as flaws. Here are two concrete examples:
The White Swiss Shepherd that was initially a German Shepherd with a white coat. This trait was considered a flaw until 2003, when this breed was officially recognised by the FCI.
The long-haired German Shepherd was also excluded from the breed’s official standards for a number of years. Only in 2011 did the FCI officially recognise this long-haired dog, which was necessary for the breed to participate in competitions and other canine exhibitions.
The German Shepherd’s tenderness is equal to his beauty; he is very attached to his owners and knows how to prove his loyalty to them through courage and affection. He gets on particularly well with children, and will know how to treat them with care.
This dog is particularly happy and playful, appreciating spending time with both young and old to spend up his energy. He also enjoys playing as a means to learn.
Playtime should always be initiated by his master in a controlled manner, as to not over excite this incredibly playful pup.
Naturally well-balanced, the Alsatian can be quiet and calm in the house, as long as his needs for exercise are properly met.
This shepherd dog is talented in a number of areas: he can serve as a good service, guard, rescue and herding dog. His array of skills demonstrates his remarkable ability to adapt and therefore his intelligence.
The speed at which the German Shepherd can understand and process a diverse range of situations is a clear sign of his advanced intelligence.
His versatility has made him one of the most represented dogs across the world.
This dog can have a predatory instinct, especially if it has been reinforced through play. However, this instinct only comes from a desire to protect his loved ones.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Never fearful of or aggressive towards strangers, this dog will be able to assess the proper level of danger in a situation. As long as his first experience with a stranger is normal and healthy, the Alsatian will consider unfamiliar people as members of his social group.
Shy and reserved German Shepherds are considered deviant from the breed’s official standards.
Very attached to his social group, the Alsatian has not inherited independence from his ancestors. He favours the presence of his owners to solitude and his daily objective is always to please them.
Behaviour of the German Shepherd
Getting the German Shepherd used to being alone will allow him to tolerate solitude, but he should never be left for long days.
Easy to train / obedience
Equipped with a remarkable intelligence and attention span, educating this dog won’t be a challenge, as long as his training methods are respectful of the principles of positive education.
Patience, gentleness and determination will be the keys to the results you want with this strong-willed dog.
Training must start early so as not to wait until he has reached his adult size and weight.
Since he is a natural protector, the German Shepherd can sometimes be vocal to warn off the presence of strangers. However, receiving proper training and experiencing a relationship with his owner that is based on trust can help to keep barking at bay.
Tendency to run away
An excellent guard dog, this pet much prefers to stay close to his loved ones in his familiar environment rather than exploring unknown territories.
However, be aware that if your dog is not walked enough, he might decide to wander beyond your four walls in order to satisfy his social and sensory needs.