German shepherd dogs (commonly referred to as GSDs) are an incredibly popular breed in the US and one of the best all-purpose workers! This breed is confident, loyal, brave, and very intelligent. Their personalities make this breed a great working dog as service/therapy dogs, search and rescue, or even police dogs! Standing 22-26 inches at the shoulder and weighing 50-90 pounds, these dogs are quite large and a bit aloof but still make great family pets if trained and socialized properly.
As you might surmise from the name, German Shepherds initially came from Germany. Their ancestors were herding dogs that varied slightly between districts and during the last few years of the 1800s, a German cavalry officer decided to work on developing the ideal German herder. The officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz, and others cross-bred various herding dogs from northern and central districts in Germany. The result was what eventually became the German Shepherd!
German Shepherds are smart and emotionally sensitive dogs with a high learning ability and an eagerness to please. Because of that, consistent and positive training is key to keep a German Shepherd on their best behavior. Without a definitive pack leader in the house, exercise, and training, a German Shepherd can become timid, skittish, and more prone to fear biting. Additionally, they also have a loud bark and tend to express their boredom through barking.
Like other herding and working dogs, GSDs prefer to be with their people and are active dogs. This means that for the most part, they won’t like being left alone for too long or being couch potatoes. So life as a backyard dog or with little exercise and enrichment is not suited for GSDs. Daily walks, hikes, runs, or other activities like fetch, puzzle toys, and agility/obedience courses are all great options to keep a German Shepherd happy and healthy! And as mentioned, this breed thrives when given a job to do and they are incredibly intelligent. Some work as service or therapy dogs; others work as search and rescue; and even more work as police or drug detection dogs.
In addition to high energy levels and intelligence, German Shepherds also tend to shed a lot year-round and are generally prone to some health issues. Their double coats are generally medium in length and come in a variety of colors (black, black/cream, black/red, black/tan, blue, grey, sable, and white). GSDs do shed year-round and their coat blows (sheds a lot) twice a year. Generally, you’ll need to brush them 2-3 times a week and daily when they blow. They’ll only need baths when absolutely needed.
Hip and elbow dysplasia are common in this breed and affect the hip and elbow joints. This happens when these joints develop abnormally then gradually deteriorate and the joints start to fail. Other potential health problems include bloat, epilepsy, allergies, and more. Annual vet visits will be important in making sure that your German Shepherd is healthy.
Ultimately, German Shepherds can be fantastic additions to a home or family. With plenty of exercise, training, and enrichment, these dogs are fun and intelligent companions. If you are looking for a smart and emotionally sensitive dog to run or hike with, a German Shepherd would be an amazing addition to your family.