German Shepherd Photo
GERMAN SHEPHERD APPEARANCE:
The German Shepherd is a large, strong, substantial-looking dog. It varies in colour, coming in many different shades, mostly cream (tan) and brown, but also a solid black. The fur can be either short or long haired.
The breed was originated by Captain Max von Stephanitz in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His goal was to breed an all-purpose working dog. Von Stephanitz admired the landrace herding dogs of his native Germany, and believed they had the potential to be all-purpose working dogs. Additionally, he was aware of the declining need for herding dogs and believed that the working abilities of the breed would decline unless it was put to other uses. Von Stephanitz created the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, or SV as the official governing body for the breed. The SV then created the schutzhund trial as a breed test for the German Shepherd Dog, and prohibited the breeding of any dog which could not pass the trial. The schutzhund trial, along with the SV's conviction that "German Shepherd breeding is working dog breeding, or it is not German Shepherd breeding" led to a rapid development of the breed's abilities. After WWI, British and American soldiers, impressed by the abilities of the dog, brought home examples to breed. The breed instantly become popular, both as a family pet and as a working dog. To this day, the German Shepherd Dog is considered one of, if not the most intelligent and versatile breeds in existence.
As is common in many large breeds, German Shepherds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. Other health problems sometimes occurring in the breed are von Willebrand's disease and skin allergies. German Shepherds are also prone to bloat. They have an average lifespan of twelve years.
Well-bred GSDs have powerful jaws and strong teeth, can develop a strong sense of loyalty and obedience, and can be trained to attack and release on command. Poorly bred GSDs such as those from puppy mills can be fearful, overly aggressive, or both. The common misconception that GSDs (like Pit Bulls) are inherently violent is due most often to a combination of poor breeding (bad nerves) and the owner's lack of control/training. Also to blame is the constant media depiction of these dogs as guard or attack dogs, and dogs used by the police, although they are more often used as dogs to search for things, opposed to dogs used for attack.
GSDs' sense of loyalty to, and emotional bond with, their owners is almost impossible to overstate. Separation trauma is one reason they have been used less in guide dog roles in recent years, since that program typically trains dogs from puppyhood under one owner prior to final placement.