Breed of the Week: German Shepherd Dog

It’s a bit late due to it being Memorial Day and all the time spent with the family, plus a very slow internet connection, but here it is.  This week, in honor of Memorial Day and all the military service dogs who have given their lives in war, we are taking a look at the German Shepherd Dog as one of the most common breeds chosen for military service.

Creek Defender

The German Shepherd Dog, or GSD for short, is one of the most popular dog breeds in the US.  In the UK it’s known as the Alsation or the Alsation wolf dog, it’s also known as the Berger Allemand, and Deutscher Schäferhund or just Schäferhund.  As one might imagine, the GSD originated in Germany, although it was not used as a military dog until some time later.  German Shepherd agilityThe GSD was bred first as a sheep herding dog.  Later, people started to recognize its loyalty, intelligence, trainability, obedience, strength, and courage as qualities that made them perfect for many other jobs such as therapy work, guide dogs for the blind, service work for those with disabilities, search and rescue, police work, and military service.  The GSD also excels in dog sports like agility, obedience, and herding trials.

However, the GSD is not for everyone.  Although they are very trainable, they also get bored easily due to their intelligence and do not like being left on their own for long periods of time, both of which can cause destructive behaviors.  Most GSDs need a job to do as they were bred to be a working dog and still retain those traits that made them such excellent herding dogs.  They also need plenty of exercise as many GSDs have high energy levels and may become bored and frustrated otherwise.

The GSD serves as a great watch dog.  They’re aloof and reserved with strangers, though should not be aggressive unless trained to be so on command if being used as a guard, police, or military dog.  With those the GSD considers to be their family, they are friendly and relaxed.  However, one should be aware that GSDs can become over-protective if not properly socialized as a puppy and given continued socialization as they get older.

Those known as Alsations many will see differ somewhat from the US bred German Shepherd Dog.  This is due to Americans breeding more for looks and conformation and those in the UK breeding more for intelligence and working ability.  There has been some controversy surrounding the breeding of GSDs in the US with concerns being raised about the GSDs severely sloped back where the UK GSD, or Alsation, has a much straighter back.

German Shepherd show quality
German Shepherd Dog (US)
German Shepherd Alsation
Alsation (UK)

What a difference, right?

The German Shepherd Dog boasts a double coat, meaning he has a softer and denser undercoat, and a coarser and longer outer coat.  Most GSDs have a medium-length coat, but there is a recessive gene for long hair.  The recessive gene makes long-haired GSDs more rare.  The GSD sheds year-round and is often affectionately, or exasperatedly, given the nickname “German shedder.”  They generally “blow” their coat twice a year, which means they’ll have a couple really heavy shedding periods in a year.  Keep this in mind if you intend to purchase or adopt a GSD.

The most common coat colors seen in GSDs are tan and black or red and black.  However, GSDs can come in a variety of colors including black, cream and black, black and silver, blue, gray, liver, sable, and white.  White GSDs are not recognized by the American Kennel Club and, therefore, cannot compete in conformation shows.

If you are considering purchasing or adopting (please adopt!) this wonderful breed of dog, please do your research!  The GSD really is not for everyone.  German Shepherd Dogs are highly intelligent and intensely loyal, but they are also high energy and get bored easily, which can cause them to engage in destructive behaviors if they’re not given enough exercise or a job to do.  They are also heavy shedders and, if hair is a concern for your family (my mom dislikes dogs that shed a lot), this should be taken into consideration.

Fun Fact:  The popular dog “Rin Tin Tin” was a German Shepherd Dog an American corporal from Los Angeles rescued from a bomb-riddled kennel in France as a 5-day-old puppy.  The corporal brought the puppy home, trained him, and that puppy later went on to appear in 26 movies, becoming one of Hollywood’s most recognizable canine stars.

Do you or have you owned a German Shepherd Dog?  Please tell us about him/her in the comments below!  I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.

Have suggestions?  Comment below!

Have a breed you’d like to see featured in our next Breed of the Week?  Leave your suggestion in the comments below!

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