As their name implies, German Shepherds were bred as herding dogs. As such they were bred to work closely with people and to control large moving masses. Herding dogs were bred to work and need work; if you don’t provide them with it they will find their own work to do. Also bred to think independently at times, these dogs can be smart problem solvers.
From their background as herders, you can expect these dogs to chase moving objects like bicycles and cars. They also have a tendency to nip at running children the same way they would nip at the heels of livestock. This is known as movement-stimulated nipping.
German Shepherds are very intelligent and versatile. They can be trained to be police dogs, guide dogs, seeing-eye dogs, protection dogs and so on. They can make wonderful companions. Even though highly trainable, German Shepherds require professional assistance at least for the first two years. They need constant, daily training and socialization sessions. Intensive early socialization is required to offset the problems of shyness and noise sensitivity that is common among all herding breeds. One should definitely not reward aggression or cowardice in this breed. Male German Shepherds should be neutered early.
German Shepherds have been an extremely popular breed for many years which has led to problems associated with overbreeding and poor breeding. Widespread genetic and temperament problems has left the Shepherd breed abounding with dogs who suffer from health and behaviour problems, excessive shyness and aggression. German Shepherds often become over attached to their owners which leads to separation anxiety, over protectiveness and fear of new situations.
The average height of a German Shepherd is between 22-26 inches and their average weight ranges from 65-100 pounds. Some, of course, can get much larger than this. Most Shepherds are black and tan in colour, but some can be solid black, white, or gray. These dogs are double-coated breeds and as such shed profusely. When shedding occurs, usually in the spring and fall, German Shepherds need to be brushed daily. Shedding lasts a couple of weeks, during which time the dogs will shed an amazing amount of hair.
As previously mentioned, these dogs need work and that translates into plenty of exercise. At least two sessions per day would be a minimum requirement. Daily training sessions would also be highly recommended.
Due to the high volume of breeding over the years, the behaviour of German Shepherds around children and other pets can be quite unpredictable. Some dogs can be fantastic around kids and pets and others can be the opposite. Some of this behaviour can be attributed to inherited traits but training and early socialization also play an important role here.
German Shepherds are prone to a vast array of health concerns. Here is a small list: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, spinal degeneration, auto-immune disease, thyroid dysfunction, subaortic stenosis, skin disorders and gastrointestinal problems. Poor temperament has now become so common that a stable, confident and calm Shepherd is a very pleasant surprise.
At their best, German Shepherds are second-to-none for their companionship and devotion. They can be trained to do almost anything. It is a sad situation that these good specimens are hard to find with so many unhealthy and unstable dogs out there.
By Michael Russell