German Shepherd facts should be on top of anyone’s Google list before adopting this popular breed. Smart, courageous, and confident, it’s no wonder that German Shepherds consistently rank high among dog owners. Although this breed is quite popular, many owners bite off more than they can chew when they initially adopt one of these guys (I know I did with Miles!).
To avoid a rocky start with this breed – or even worse, returning the dog to the breeder or taking him to the pound – we’re going to cover every single thing you need to know about the German Shepherd before you purchase, or better yet, adopt one of these guys. These German Shepherd facts will help you better understand what you’re getting yourself into before bringing a Shepherd home.
German Shepherd Facts from History to Health
German Shepherds are the consummate working and guard dog. They are known for their versatility, from herding to police and military work. This is largely due to their history and breeding.
History of the German Shepherd
German Shepherds descend from the family of German herding dogs that varied in type from district to district until the late 19th century. At that time, a German cavalry officer, Max von Stephanitz decided to develop the ideal German herder.
Using their combined experience, von Stephanitz and like-minded breeders throughout the country crossed various strains from the northern and central districts of Germany to create the German Shepherd we know today.
German Shepherds were originally bred to be herding dogs. Therefore they needed to possess agility, speed, stealth, intelligence, and laser focus. The implementation of modern livestock management saw an end to the need for Shepherds in the field. That’s when people began to use their vast array of skills in other areas such a guard duty and police work.
One of the most important German Shepherd facts to know is that their skill set is what makes them both incredibly great dogs and incredibly frustrating dogs.
German Shepherds are loyal, intelligent, protective, and focused. They are devoted to their family and will oftentimes instinctively jump into protection mode if they sense danger. This can and does happen even without training.
While these are excellent qualities in a dog, there are some downsides, as well. The intelligence of German Shepherds makes it difficult to train for new dog owners or owners not familiar with the breed. While training generally involves making your dog work to earn your approval, it can sometimes feel like the roles are reversed with the German Shepherd.
In addition, without proper socialization, the protectiveness of the breed can lead to an overly aggressive view of the world. German Shepherds who haven’t been properly socialized with a variety of experiences, people, and animals will often view everyone and everything as a potential threat. This makes socialization a key part of owning this breed.
German Shepherds are a high-energy breed. They were bred to be herders, which means they like to be on the go. With such a high energy level, they need lots of exercise to remain both physically and mentally healthy and happy.
With German Shepherds the old saying “A tired dog is a good dog” definitely holds true. Without proper exercise, German Shepherds are prone to destructive behavior, as they have to get out their energy in some way. Examples include murdering throw pillows or chewing on inappropriate items.
German Shepherd Health
One of the most important German Shepherd facts to know is that this breed is a generally healthy one, prone to relatively few issues. That being said, there are some health issues that are more common in this breed than in others.
Three things that German Shepherds are prone to more than other dogs are degenerative myelopathy and elbow and hip dysplasia.
Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord which affects older dogs. This degenerative disease slowly causes lack of feeling in the dog’s hindquarters, resulting in loss of coordination, wobbliness, and eventually, loss of control of bodily functions.
Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip socket and ball of the thigh bone don’t seat correctly, allowing the hip to become partially or completely dislocated. It’s usually a congenital defect but can be caused by old age.
Similarly, elbow dysplasia is a condition in which the elbow frequently becomes dislocated.
The last health issue that can affect German Shepherds is one that can be a danger to almost all large dog breeds – bloat.
Bloat happens when a dog eats and/or drinks too fast, causing the stomach to distend. It’s a painful condition that can become deadly if the stomach twists. In this case, the stomach actually folds over onto itself, cutting off blood flow. If this occurs, surgery must be performed immediately to save the stomach and the dog’s life.
Like all dogs, German Shepherds require high-quality food to function at their best. Always choose a grain-free food that uses natural sources of protein like real fish, chicken, or beef. Stay away from anything with the words “byproduct”, “corn”, “cornmeal gluten”, and the like.
Grooming a German Shepherd is relatively easy. They only require an occasional bath unless they get dirty outside. They do, however, require frequent brushing. This breed has a double coat. Regular brushing helps keep dead hair removed and the coat healthy. Twice a year, this breed will “blow” its coat and require frequent brushing to get rid of all the hair that will by flying off of him.
General German Shepherd Facts on Care
While not specific to the breed, these facts are ones that all dog owners should remember. Be sure to take your dog to the vet once a year for a checkup, bloodwork, and heartworm test. As he ages into his senior years, he’ll need to have a twice-yearly checkup complete with bloodwork to ensure his continued good help.
In addition, be sure to adequately socialize your German Shepherd puppy. All dogs should be properly socialized, but for a protective breed like the German Shepherd, it’s even more vital. This breed needs to understand that the world is not something from which to constantly protect his family.
Know These German Shepherd Facts Before Adopting
Loving, loyal, intelligent, protective, and incredibly devoted to his family, the German Shepherd makes an excellent family dog, just be sure you know what you’re getting into.
These German Shepherd facts can help you better understand the breed and what you’ll have to do to keep him healthy, happy, and well-adjusted throughout his life.
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