Other names: Alsatian
Wamiz's Top Breed
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
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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.
Like any working dog, this furry friend will need to be both mentally and physically stimulated as regularly as possible. If this need is not met, he can become destructive in order to pass the time and burn off his excess energy.
Greedy / Gluttony
As a big eater, this dog will never turn his nose up at food. His large appetite means that he can be very motivated by treats during his training.
The Alsatian is protective above all else. His loyalty towards his social group and his tremendous bravery make him an excellent guard dog.
However, if this courageous dog is not trained and socialised with consistency and positivity, this trait can turn aggressive.
Due to the success and popularity of the Alsatian, this situation is quite frequent, as people often take on this breed without proper preparation.
First-time owners can achieve success with a German Shepherd, but it is essential that they do their research before regarding his temperament and the possible consequences of not training him from a young age.
They might even benefit from the help of a professional trainer, in order to make sure the Alsatian puppy receives all the necessary training he needs.
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German Shepherd in a flat
This shepherd dog is made for living in rural areas with regular access to outside spaces. He really enjoys coming and going between the house and the garden.
However, his impressive ability to adapt means that he can accommodate an urban lifestyle in a flat, as long as his needs for exercise are met.
Whether he resides in a house with a garden or in a flat, this active dog will need to be walked multiple times a day, as well as presented with regular mentally and physically-stimulating activities that have a sensory and social element.
Need for exercise / Sporty
As a working dog, the German Shepherd will not be fulfilled unless he is useful to his master. Therefore, he should be engaged in an array of activities that respond to his needs.
Agility training, tracking, bite work, racing and mantrailing are all activities that can provide this dog with proper mental and physical stimulation in a sensorial way.
Other than these frequent activities, you should also walk him 1-2 times a day, garden or not. A simple 15-minute round-the-block walk will not be enough to fulfil his exercise needs.
Travelling / easy to transport
Transporting this dog is not an easy feat, but note that some female German Shepherds are relatively small (around 48 lbs).
German Shepherd and cats
If you’re looking for a harmonious cohabitation between this dog and a cat, it will be necessary to get these pets used to each other from a young age. If they grow up together, they will be much more at ease around each other.
The German Shepherd puppy will want to play with his feline counterparts, while an adult will be more ignorant around them.
German Shepherd and dogs
This dog must be socialised early in order to ensure he has an established understanding of the canine code, so that he is able to communicate with other dogs.
Regular, positive and monitored encounters will be indispensable, especially during the first few months of the puppy’s life.
German Shepherd and children
Being very close to and also very protective of children, the Alsatian’s playful and joyful character suits life with kids perfectly well.
To make sure that everything goes smoothly, some house rules should be established and respected. For example:
- Don’t disturb the dog while he is in his basket
- Don’t treat him like a teddy bear
- Don’t leave him alone and unwatched with children
- Teach the children the dog’s warning signs
German Shepherd and the elderly
The strength of this dog coupled with his intense need for exercise makes this dog-owner pairing very risky and illogical.
The price of a German Shepherd varies according to his origins, coat, age and sex. You should budget around £620 to £900 for a dog registered with the KC.
You should set aside around £55 a month to provide your dog with a high-quality diet and respond to his basic needs (vaccinations, deworming, anti-parasites).
The grooming of a German Shepherd isn’t difficult, but it should be regular, especially for long-haired types.
He should be brushed on a weekly basis to keep his coat shiny and protective.
However, be aware that grooming that is too frequent (especially baths) can actually weaken his weather-resistant coat.
It’s necessary to pay particular attention to this dog’s ears: they should be cleaned regularly to avoid infection.
His claws should also be regularly clipped, as they can grow very quickly.
The German Shepherd’s hair loss is constant, especially for dogs living predominantly inside. In spring and autumn, his significant shedding will require an almost daily brush to get rid of excess hair.
Nutrition of the German Shepherd
Whether dry food, raw meat or home-cooked meals, his daily food rations should be adapted to his age, activity level and health condition.
Premium quality food should always be prioritised. Shop-bought biscuits from large supermarkets are to be avoided.
The German Shepherd puppy will require an array of nutrients that can accomodate his fast growth, particularly between 4 and 7 months-old.
This dog can eat between 1-2 times a day, but he should never be left with a full bowl for him where he can help himself. For medium to large dogs, it is advised to put his bowl on a raised platform to facilitate digestion.
Health of the German Shepherd
The German Shepherd can live up to 13 years.
Strong / robust
The German Shepherd is often considered as a sensitive dog, but as long as he was properly bred, he will be very resilient.
His popularity is such that he is studied much more closely than most other dogs. As a result, he is subjected to a number of pathologies that are common in medium and large dogs, such as dysplasia.
The heat doesn’t scare off this dog, nor does it prevent him in excelling in his many different disciplines.
His double-layered coat gives him good protection against adverse weather conditions. He isn’t put off by the cold or humidity.
Tendency to put on weight
His greediness would have the potential to get the better of him if it wasn’t for his incredibly active nature.
However, you should pay close attention to German Shepherds who engage in less exercise than they should.
- Hip dysplasia (despite the efforts of breeders)
- Expansion/twisting of the stomach
- Von Willebrand disease (hereditary hemorrhagic disorder)
- Degenerative myelopathy (genetic disorder leading to complete paralysis of the animal)
- Anal fistulas (disorder of the immune system)
- Epilepsy (Disorder of the nervous system)
- Hemangiosarcoma (aggressive cancerous tumour)
- Osteosarcoma (tumour of the bones)