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Breed Series

German Shepherd

german shepherd laying on grass

If any dog breed is most deserving of the award for being loyal, noble, and most resourceful, the German Shepherd is most suitable. Also called the Alsatian or Alsatian wolf-dog, German Shepherds are undoubtedly one of the famous dog breeds in existence with a history going as far as the 1800s. 

It is considered as one of the most desired dog types for its physical appearance, high trainability, high loyalty, and high defensiveness. German Shepherds have excelled in a wide range of tasks and are also popularly used in war, tracking, herding, protection, and a guide for the disabled. They have a lifespan of 10 to 13 years, allowing you to give the best of belly rubs for a long time.

With shining and vibrantly colored coats adorned with flowing lines, the German Shepherd is a beauty to behold. They possess erect ears built to listen attentively, eyes designed to hold love and admiration for its owner, and a long sweeping tail that tell their feelings.

However, this perfect dog breed requires plenty of space for exercise as it genetically possesses a high amount of energy that needs to be expelled regularly. Like every being they are wary of new environments; though once they get adjusted, they thrive.

German Shepherd's loyalty, vigilance, courage, ability to discern and listen, intelligence, and ability to blend well with other species has made them the top choice for war, guidance, and other important services.

The German Shepherd is known to be loyal and protective as the wield the skills to defend their owners from harm. This feature descends from their ability to defend the sheep from powerful predators like bears. As herding dogs, they are very confident and intelligent, making them the perfect dog breed for guidance and leadership. 

History

The present-day German Shepherd owes its existence to a popular breeder in the 1800s, Captain Max von Stephanitz. As Germany's industrialization progressed, it gave rise to more mechanical and industrialized developments. This in return reduces the appearance of powerful predatory animals, allowing the progress of farming and herding.

Originally, dogs were bred and crossbred to assist in herding and also protect the flock from any impending predator. In a bid to improve herding activities, breeders would meet to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the available herding dogs and proffer ways to genetically improve them by rebreeding. The features provided by breeders for their ideal breeding dog were intelligence, responsiveness, vigor, ability to pick up scents, loyalty, and speed.

This allowed breeding processes to spring up in Germany and neighboring countries. However, the resulting breeds could only have some of these features or perform limited herding activities. Hence an association, called the Phylax Society, was set up to settle the differences in 1891. However, the group disbanded due to internal disagreement amongst members concerning the main purpose of dog breeding in 1894. The dissolution subsequently started an independent and standardized breeding culture from which the German Shepherd breed came.

During this era was Captain Max von Stephanitz, a breeder known for his strength, intelligence, and most importantly his ability to produce fine dog breeds. He was a former Calvary captain, an alumnus of the Berlin Veterinary College, and a member of the disbanded Phylax Society who strongly believed dogs should be bred for what they can offer and their beauty.

He was in great pursuit of the perfect breeding dog, unfortunately, he was yet to find any dog that caught his eye. However, in the mid-months of 1899, he decided to visit a friend who attended a dog show. There, he found the dog with all his listed features and bought the dog right away for more experiments. Today he is the founder of the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, a society for German Shepherd Dogs. 

The dog was called Hektor Linksrhein and was later named Horand v Grafeth by Von Stephanitz and became the first breed to be registered as a German Shepherd. This breed was admired by many breeders and became exemplary of the present-day German Shepherd. 

Personality

German Shepherd's loyalty, vigilance, courage, ability to discern and listen, intelligence, and ability to blend well with other species made them the top choice for war, guidance, and other important services.

The German Shepherd is known to be loyal and protective as the wield the skills to defend their owners from harm. This feature descends from their ability to defend the sheep from power predators like bears. As herding dogs, they are very confident and intelligent, making them the perfect dog breed for guidance and leadership. 

Integrating with a new environment might seem difficult for most German Shepherds. But once they do, they immediately commit and make immediate friendships with their friends and families. German Shepherds possess highly developed senses, making them watchful to every sight and sound in their surroundings.

They can be willful and require training to adhere to instructions. This training should be done while they are young to ensure it is properly instilled.

They love companionship and are often known to sense and copy their owner’s mood. They also love humor and game and enjoy playing fetch or tug, often wearing the owner’s out. Unlike most dog breeds, German Shepherds are not relatively high maintenance dogs and can fit easily in any environment, be it, a tiny space or a mansion.

Appearance

Size

Depending on their predecessors, German Shepherds can be medium to large-sized with an average height of 25 inches for males and 23 inches for females. In respect to proportion, German Shepherds are bigger in width than in height with an ideal width to height ratio of 1.175.

Weight

The average weight of a mature male German Shepherd is 35kg while the female's weight is 28kg. This weight range may vary depending on several factors like feeding and exercise.

Coat

German Shepherds are double-coated dog breeds. Double coated dog breeds have one exterior coat and one thick undercoat which is densely overlapped. This allows them to trap in heat during cold conditions fasters and quicker than single-coated dog breeds. Genetically, German Shepherds have two coat variants: medium and long. However, the long coat gene is recessive and rarely shows in most German Shepherds. The average coat length is 1.5 inches.

The coat can come in a wide range of colors and is often a combination of two or more colors. It is also rare to find a mono-colored coat like plain white or black, silver, blue, and panda spotted, however, German Shepherd coats can come in colors like red and black, tan and black, sable.

Body

Their body consists of lean muscles that are connected throughout the trunk. Their backs are strong and broad and connect to a small waist that leads to the limbs. This structure allows for flexibility during movement and helps them during racing.

Limbs

The fire and hind limbs are broad, long in length, and strong. They contain lean muscles that connect to the trunk and joints that allow for movement in different directions. German Shepherd feet as round with closely-held, slightly-arched, and strong toes resting on a shock-proof pad. 

At rest, German Shepherd tails are slightly curved; during movement, it is raised. It is bushy and reaches the hock.

Head 

Most German Shepherds have a dome-like shaped forehead with a skull shape equal to the size of the body. The head is long, lean, and broad at the back. They possess a mouth filled with pointy incisors and canines that point outward and upward. They are carefully arranged to allow for eating and breaking bones.

German Shepherds have a lean-filled cheek with a strong muzzle and over the long overshot nose. Their eye socket contains medium-sized almond-shaped eyeballs (Iris) which can be brown, black, or any other color. The neck is strong and filled with lean muscles that gracefully connect the head to the body.

Grown German Shepherd have large and erect ears that are open and points towards the sky. The ears contain cartilages that allow for flexing and relaxing. Although, their puppies have hanging ears until maturity begins.

Exercise requirement

German Shepherds are very active and need constant activities to use up their energy. Not only do they need exercise for mental stimulation, but they also need proper training to guide their behavior and improve their socialization.

Depending on your dog, you may need an hour of intense exercise or mere minutes of walking. Also, factors like their health, food intake, and energy level need to be put into consideration.

A mature German Shepherd needs at least 80 minutes of exercise every day consisting of running, walking, associating, and of course, lots of belly rubs.

On the other hand, German Shepherd puppies for not need exercise as much as adults and are recommended to have at most 10 minutes per day. Exceeding this stipulated time can cause joint problems or mobility issues in the future.

The recommended exercise or forms of exercise needs to ensure their speed, strength, agility, socializing skills, and obedience is tested regularly. There are different types of required exercise ranging from visiting the park to familiarizing your dog with new people, new animals, and new environments that can stimulate them mentally. A visit to the park will help them understand other dogs' behavior, teaching proper behavior in return.

Obedience training imbibes proper manners and skills. It is one of the mandatory exercises that will provide training to your dogs and can be done by you or preferably an obedience school.

Outdoor games like fetch, football, Disc dog, and agility training helps improve speed, command, and promote the owner-dog relationship.

Tricks training is not limited to sitting, standing, or paw. German Shepherds are more than that and can perform a spectrum of commands taught properly. Ensure you break down complex tricks into small steps and give lots of encouragement during training.

Walking is an exercise requirement needed by every dog and should be done by every dog owner. Most dog owners take walking further by hiking. Hiking provides a new environment constantly and allows your dog to smell new things and explore new places.

Care

German Shepherds need healthy food designed especially for their breeds. Avoid the urge to give them table scraps of people's food even if they beg for it. Ensure their meals contain animal protein as it increases their joint flexibility band mobility. Do away with corn and ensure you feed them with homemade meals to ensure it has all the required nutrients.

Dogs need clean water after a dry or wet meal. Ensure you provide a clean, accessible water source for drinking. Ensure your dog takes a little amount of fluid several times a day than taking a huge gulp once a day to avoid bloating.

To avoid bloating, divide your dog's meals into smaller portions and serve them hours from their first meal. A huge meal once a day can cause bowel issues and bloat.

Feed your dog with the correct amount of feed as directed by the veterinarian. This is to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding. Make sure they have a lot of space to play and also avoid exercise immediately after eating.

Health

Like every living being, the German Shepherd is also prone to ailments and many of these ailments were a result of inbreeding. Their lean bones are prone to arthritis and one in 10 German Shepherds get dysplasia and degenerative spinal stenosis. 

To prevent this disease from occurring, ensure you limit the strenuous activities of your pup as excess tension or pressure can cause limbs or spinal issues. Fill their meal with proteins and bone-building nutrients and ensure they do not come to form a parent with a high risk of having dysplasia.

They also suffer from Von Willebrand disease, a genetic bleeding disease, and a lot of musculoskeletal diseases. Although the occurrence of these diseases can be slim to high in several dogs, a constant visit to the veterinarian can help limit their occurrence. Also, get your dogs spayed or neutered if you intend on keeping only them as a pet.

Ensure your German Shepherd constantly takes dietary medications that will help strengthen their bones and immune system. Medications like calcium tablets, phosphorus supplements, medications containing Omega 3 fatty acids, Glucosamine medications, and Vitamins  A to D will help improve their health.

Grooming

German Shepherds a double-coated and need to be groomed properly and constantly. Ensure you brush their coat at least 3 to 4 times daily to remove dead hairs, dander, and any underlying dirt stuck between the coat. 

Although cleanliness is advised, constant bathing can be detrimental to them. It can irritate their skin, strip off their natural oils, and cause other damages to their coat; hence, they need to be bathed only when it is needed. 

Their active nature makes them prone to injuries; dog owners should ensure they are checking their paws for any injury to avoid infections.

Ensure the coat is groomed with a brush is designed to bring comfort to their coat and underlying skin. It should also remove the top coat and undercoat simultaneously. When brushing start by getting them comfort either by standing most preferred) or laying down. Take the brush and start from the neck and down to the tail following the course of their coat arrangement. Repeat this process until there is little or no shedding. Do this to the other side and spray with a dog-friendly perfume.

Use clippers designed for dogs' paws and remove long claws. Avoid clipping too short to their mail beds as this can cause injuries and give room to infections. Also, avoid using human clippers as they cause discomfort to your dog.

Do not have your dog's coat, only on the grounds of a veterinarian recommendation. Shaving your dog's coat can mess with the natural temperature regulation, cut into their skin, and cause several health issues in the long run.