While it might not be the case around the world, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, ranking only behind retrievers and French bulldogs according to the American Kennel Club. Surprisingly, the German Shepherd is a relatively young breed, so its popularity over time has increased rapidly. Let’s take a closer look at the German Shepherd to examine its profile to see if it might be the right fit for your family.
In the late 19th century, herding dogs were extremely important as farming was a much more common occupation. A former cavalry officer in Germany named Max von Stephanitz thought that the working dogs of the time were good, but not quite perfect. He set out to create a breed that had size, speed, and intelligence all wrapped into one to become the standard for the working dog.
With that, von Stephanitz purchased a dog that he believed to be the closest to what he was looking for, naming him Horand von Grafarth. This dog would be used to breed with select females, creating the base for German Shepherds overall. von Stephanitz enlisted the help of several others so that the breed was held up to a certain standard, and the German Shepherd was officially recognized in 1919 after years of proving its worth in the working class.
What German Shepherds Are Known For
As we mentioned, the German Shepherd was created for the primary use of being a working dog. To this day, German Shepherds are a popular breed for many lines of work due to their physical traits and intelligence. Typically, a police department will enlist the help of at least one German Shepherd in its K-9 unit. On top of their ability to chase down escaping criminals, German Shepherds can perform many other tasks for law enforcement. This includes detecting drugs and explosives.
The police aren’t the only ones to use German Shepherds, either. They can be used as rescue or seeing-eye dogs, though not as much as retrievers. The original goal for the German Shepherd was to be a great herding dog, and they’re still a popular breed to do just that.
There seems to be a very mixed bag in regard to a German Shepherd’s temperament. Some, even without training, are extremely gentle while others can be overly aggressive. The aggression can be curbed with a good trainer, and domesticated ones tend not to bite unless provoked.
German Shepherds are known for being very intelligent and obedient, which is why they’re used so frequently as guard dogs. Because of their strong bite, more people are sent to the hospital from German Shepherd bites than any other breed, though their high population numbers tend to skew that into making them considered dangerous as a whole.
Like most other large dogs, a German Shepherd doesn’t have a long life expectancy. On average, a German Shepherd will live for nine to 13 years, though many factors come into play. The size of a German Shepherd can affect its health, especially when it comes to its bones. They are easily affected by arthritis and hip dysplasia, while their body types are also prone to bloat and diabetes.
Types of German Shepherd
Though the standard German Shepherd is easily identifiable, there have been some variants over the years. These are breeds that have been created outside of Germany, and mostly in the United States. These variant breeds include:
- White Shepherd
- White Swiss Shepherd
- King Shepherd
- East-European Shepherd
- Shiloh Shepherd
No matter the type of German Shepherd, they tend to share the same traits. Make sure you have enough time, energy, and patience to commit to training a German Shepherd before adopting one for yourself. They can be a handful, but these loyal dogs make for great companions.