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#3: German Shepherd

The German Shepherd (GermanDeutscher SchäferhundGerman pronunciation: [ˈʃɛːfɐˌhʊnt]) is a breed of large-sized working dog that originated in Germany. The breed's officially recognized name is German Shepherd Dog in the English language, sometimes abbreviated as "GSD", and was also formerly known as the Alsatian and Alsatian Wolf Dog in Britain.[4] The German Shepherd is a relatively new breed of dog, with their origin dating to 1899. As part of the Herding Group, German Shepherds are working dogs developed originally for herding sheep. Since that time, however, because of their strength, intelligence, trainability and obedience, German Shepherds around the world are often the preferred breed for many types of work, including assistancesearch-and-rescue, police and military roles, and even acting.[5] The German Shepherd is the second-most popular breed of dog in the United States[6] and fourth-most popular in the United Kingdom.[7]

Description

German Shepherds have black masks and black body markings.

German Shepherds are large-sized dogs. The breed standard height at the withers is 60–65 cm (24–26 in) for males and 55–60 cm (22–24 in) for females.[1][8][9] The weight standard is 30–40 kilograms (66–88 lb) for males and 22–32 kilograms (49–71 lb) for females.[1] They have a domed forehead, a long square-cut muzzle and a black nose. The jaws are strong, with a scissor-like bite. The eyes are medium-sized and brown with a lively, intelligent and self-assured look. The ears are large and stand erect, open at the front and parallel, but they often are pulled back during movement. They have a long neck, which is raised when excited and lowered when moving at a fast pace. The tail is bushy and reaches to the hock.[8]

German Shepherds have a variety of colors, the most common of which are tan/black and red/black. Most color varieties have black masks and black body markings which can range from a classic "saddle" to an over-all "blanket." Rarer colour variations include the sable, pure-black, pure-white, liver and blue varieties. The all-black and sable varieties are acceptable according to most standards; however, the blue and liver are considered to be serious faults and the all-white is grounds for instant disqualification from showing in conformation at All Breed and Specialty Shows.[10]

German Shepherds sport a double coat. The outer coat, which sheds all year round, is close and dense with a thick undercoat. The coat is accepted in two variants; medium and long. The long-hair gene is recessive, making the long-hair variety rarer. Treatment of the long-hair variation differs across standards; they are accepted but not competed with standard coated dogs under the German and UK Kennel Clubs while they can compete with standard coated dogs but are considered a fault in the American Kennel Club.[8][10][11] The FCI accepted the long-haired type in 2010, listing it as the variety b - while short-haired type is listed as the variety a.[12]

Intelligence

German Shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence,[13] a trait for which they are now famous.[5] In the book The Intelligence of Dogs, author Stanley Coren ranked the breed third for intelligence, behind Border Collies and Poodles.[14][15] He found that they had the ability to learn simple tasks after only five repetitions and obeyed the first command given 95% of the time.[5] Coupled with their strength, this trait makes the breed desirable as policeguard and search and rescue dogs, as they are able to quickly learn various tasks and interpret instructions better than other large breeds.[16]

Temperament

A German Shepherd with a baby

German Shepherds are highly active dogs and described in breed standards as self-assured.[10] The breed is marked by a willingness to learn and an eagerness to have a purpose. They are curious, which makes them excellent guard dogs and suitable for search missions. They can become over-protective of their family and territory, especially if not socialized correctly. They are not inclined to become immediate friends with strangers.[17]German Shepherds are highly intelligent and obedient.[18]

Aggression and biting

Well-trained and socialized German Shepherds have a reputation of being very safe. However, in the United States, one 1996 source suggested that German Shepherds are responsible for more reported bitings than any other breed and have a tendency to attack smaller breeds of dogs.[19] An Australian report from 1999 provides statistics showing that German Shepherds are the breed third most likely to attack a person in some Australian locales.[20]

According to the National Geographic Channel television show Dangerous Encounters, the bite of a German Shepherd has a force of over 1,060 newtons (238 lbf) (compared with that of a Rottweiler, over 1,180–1,460 newtons (265–328 lbf), a Pit bull, 1,050 newtons (235 lbf), a Labrador Retriever, of approximately 1,000 newtons (230 lbf), or a human, of approximately 380 newtons (86 lbf)).[21]

Modern breed

The modern German Shepherd breed is criticized by some for straying away from von Stephanitz's original ideology for the breed:[22] that German Shepherds should be bred primarily as working dogs and that breeding should be strictly controlled to eliminate defects quickly.[23] He believed that, above all else, German Shepherds should be bred for intelligence and working ability.[24] Although the show dogs have been bred for traits that do not help or even hurt their working abilities, and many pets have misbred by irresponsible breeders who have caused many diseases for the breed, the working dogs, such as the ones used by police and militaries, have maintained their performance and stuck to the original intentions of the breed.

Some critics believe that careless breeding has promoted disease and other defects.[22] Under the breeding programs overseen by von Stephanitz, defects were quickly bred out.

Controversy

The show-line dogs usually have an extremely sloping topline

The Kennel Club, in the United Kingdom, is involved in a dispute with German Shepherd breed clubs about the issue of soundness in the show-strain breed.[25] The show-strains have been bred with an extremely sloping topline (back) that causes poor gait in the hind legs. Working-pedigree lines, such as those in common use as service dogs, generally retain the traditional straight back of the breed.

The debate was catalyzed when the issue was raised in the BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which said that critics of the breed describe it as "half dog, half frog". An orthopedic vet remarked on footage of dogs in a show ring that they were "not normal".

The Kennel Club's position is that "this issue of soundness is not a simple difference of opinion, it is the fundamental issue of the breed's essential conformation and movement."[25] The Kennel Club has decided to retrain judges to penalize dogs suffering these problems.[26]

It is also insisting on more testing for hemophilia and hip dysplasia, other common problems with the breed.

Use as working dog

German Shepherd at an agility competition
A German Shepherd swimming

German Shepherds are a popular selection for use as working dogs. They are especially well known for their police work, being used for tracking criminals, patrolling troubled areas and detection and holding of suspects. Additionally thousands of German Shepherds have been used by the military. Usually trained for scout duty, they are used to warn soldiers to the presence of enemies or of booby traps or other hazards.[27] German Shepherds have also been trained by military groups to parachute from aircraft[28] or as anti-tank weapons. They were used in World War II as messenger dogs, rescue dogs and personal guard dogs.[24] A number of these dogs were taken home by foreign servicemen, who were impressed by its intelligence.[24]

The German Shepherd is one of the most widely used breeds in a wide variety of scent-work roles. These include search and rescuecadaver searchingnarcotics detection, explosives detectionaccelerant detection and mine detection dog, among others. They are suited for these lines of work because of their keen sense of smell and their ability to work regardless of distractions.[27] At one time the German Shepherd was the breed chosen almost exclusively to be used as a guide dog for the visually impaired. When formal guide dog training began in Switzerland in the 1920s under the leadership of Dorothy Eustis, all of the dogs trained were German Shepherd females.[29] An experiment in temperament testing of a group of Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds showed that the Retrievers scored higher on average in emotional stability and ability to recover promptly from frightening situations, cooperative behavior and friendliness; while the German Shepherds were superior in aggression and defensive behavior. These results suggested that Labrador Retrievers were more suited to guide dog work while German Shepherds were more suited to police work.[30] Currently, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are more widely used for this work, although there are still German Shepherds being trained. In 2013, about 15% of the dogs trained by Guide Dogs of America are German Shepherds, while the remainder are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.[31] The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the United Kingdom states that crosses between Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers make the best guide dogs, although they also train some German Shepherds, as well as some other breeds.[32] Guide Dogs for the Blind in the United States trains only Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses between these breeds.[33] Guide Dogs Queensland in Australia also trains only Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.[34]

German Shepherds are still used for herding and tending sheep grazing in meadows next to gardens and crop fields. They are expected to patrol the boundaries to keep sheep from trespassing and damaging the crops. In Germany and other places these skills are tested in utility dog trials also known as HGH (Herdengebrauchshund) herding utility dog trials.[35]

History

Illustration of a German Shepherd from 1909

In Europe during the 1850s, attempts were being made to standardize breeds.[36] The dogs were bred to preserve traits that assisted in their job of herding sheep and protecting flocks from predators.[24] In Germany this was practiced within local communities, where shepherds selected and bred dogs. It was recognized that the breed had the necessary skills for herding sheep, such as intelligence, speed, strength and keen senses of smell.[24] The results were dogs that were able to do such things, but that differed significantly, both in appearance and ability, from one locality to another.[36]

To combat these differences, the Phylax Society was formed in 1891 with the intention of creating standardised development plans for native dog breeds in Germany.[24] The society disbanded after only three years due to ongoing internal conflicts regarding the traits in dogs that the society should promote;[24] some members believed dogs should be bred solely for working purposes, while others believed dogs should be bred also for appearance.[37] While unsuccessful in their goal, the Phylax Society had inspired people to pursue standardising dog breeds independently.

With the rise of large, industrialized cities in Germany, the predator population began to decline, rendering sheepdogs unnecessary.[24] At the same time, the awareness of sheepdogs as a versatile, intelligent class of canine began to rise.[24] Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain and former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, was an ex-member of the Phylax Society who firmly believed dogs should be bred for working.[24] He admired the intelligence, strength and ability of Germany's native sheepdogs, but could not find any one single breed that satisfied him as the perfect working dog.[24]

In 1899, Von Stephanitz was attending a dog show when he was shown a dog named Hektor Linksrhein.[24] Hektor was the product of few generations of selective breeding and completely fulfilled what Von Stephanitz believed a working dog should be. He was pleased with the strength of the dog and was so taken by the animal's intelligence, loyalty and beauty, that he purchased him immediately.[36] After purchasing the dog he changed his name to Horand von Grafrath and Von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog).[36]Horand was declared to be the first German Shepherd Dog and was the first dog added to the society's breed register.[24]

Horand became the centre-point of the breeding programs and was bred with dogs belonging to other society members that displayed desirable traits and with dogs from ThuringiaFranconia and Wurttemberg.

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