The German Shepherd Dog: An Overview

The German Shepherd is a herding dog, originally bred from sheep tending stock in rural Germany. The founder of the breed was Cavalry Captain Max Von Stephanitz, who almost single handedly developed the breed through judicious inbreeding and line breeding, from 1899 to 1936. He bred dogs specifically for working ability and temperament.

The adult shepherd weighs an average of 80-90 pounds for males, and 60-70 pounds for females. The standard calls for moderation, with dogs standing 26" tall for males and 24" tall for females (at the withers), despite the modern tendency to breed oversized dogs. The colors range from solid black, black and tan, black and silver, sable (red, brown or grey), white, blue and liver. White, blue and liver are considered faulty and undesirable. The AKC will register white dogs however they are not allowed to compete in AKC breed conformation shows, registered white dogs may compete in performance events i.e. obedience, tracking. Blue and liver colors are very rare, and non-registerable.

The proper German shepherd temperament is described as noble, courageous, protective, loyal, highly intelligent, easily trainable, friendly - yet not lending itself to indiscriminate friendships. Its nobility is difficult to define yet unmistakable when present. Temperament faults would include, shyness, overly aggressive, overly excitable, insecure or easily frightened. They should adapt well to both family and single life, and are happiest when included as full-fledged family members. These are not dogs who enjoy a sedentary lifestyle, but are bred to work, and excel in service capacities (Guide dogs, Police dogs, Search and Rescue etc.). They make excellent companion dogs, and although require basic training, are exceptionally intelligent, and very willing to learn and please. Temperament is inherited.

Some common genetic faults include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, thyroid problems and a form of hemophilia, Von Willebrands disease. Ideally dogs should come from ancestors free of any of these faults for at least 5-6 generations as sometimes it takes that long for problems to surface. If people decide to buy a dog or puppy, we suggest that they buy only from a REPUTABLE BREEDER, not someone who is just "making puppies." The breeder should be able to tell you their dog's strengths, faults, and what they are breeding to improve. All dogs should come from OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified parents and ancestors certified as at least "fair," and preferably as "good" or excellent." This will "stack the genetic deck" for healthy bone structures, free from disease and pain. Remember that there are no perfect dogs! A reputable breeder of any type of dog gives a written contract, which includes a clause, that the breeder should be contacted first if there are any problems with the puppy or in the event that you can no longer keep or care for the puppy. A good breeder stands behind their puppies for their lifetime.