The Joys And Challenges Of Owning A German Shepherd Dog

What You Should Know Before Getting a German Shepherd

german shepherd

The German Shepherd, or now more correctly known as the German Shepherd Dog or GSD, is a very popular breed that’s easy to recognize. Although the breed is often depicted as a police dog or a guard dog, the origins of the GSD was a farm dog that excelled in working with sheep as both a herding dog and a flock guardian.

The GSD was originally bred for performance and not for a breed standard. They were developed in Germany in the mid to late part of the 19th century. In 1899 a military officer, Max von Stephanitz, actually developed the breed as it is now recognized.

The German Shepherd was recognized as a dog breed in Germany and was used as a military dog in the World War l. At the same time, these dogs were also used by the Red Cross and the police throughout Europe. It was smart, highly trainable and fearless, even in combat situations. While there were some of these dogs in the USA in the early part of the 1900s, it was really the efforts of American soldiers to bring these dogs home that sparked the popularity of the breed.

The Characteristics

Today’s GSDs are still the same loyal, courageous and highly intelligent dogs they have always been. While they are still used as police and military dogs, they are equally effective as guide and assistance dogs, bomb and drug dogs, as well as wonderful family pets, guard dogs and companions.

A well-bred and trained GSD is a true companion and loyal friend. When raised with children and other pets and well socialized they are calm and friendly dogs, unless they sense danger or threat to their family.

The breed is highly intelligent and will quickly catch on to what makes the owners happy. They are generally very accepting of new people once they are determined to be “safe” and not a threat. As they are used for guide and assistance dogs, they are good in urban areas but also great as dogs that love to be outdoors.


The key to working with a GSD is to be consistent, firm and responsive in treating. These are not a dog that responds to yelling, inconsistency and any type of punishment. They are highly motivated by praise and recognition for a job well done.

The GSD is not a breed that is recommended for someone new to dogs as their natural intelligence can make them challenging to train. They need to have mental stimulation and will always find a job to do to help out the family. Puppy obedience classes and ongoing training and socialization are important for this breed, and it is something they will really enjoy.

They can become easily bored with the same routine but excel at obedience and agility work and love to play a variety of games. They can also be taught to herd and track, which makes them a very versatile breed.

General Care

The GSD is a large breed that will mature at 75-90 pounds with females smaller than males. These are dogs that need regular exercise as well as mental stimulation. They have a medium length, double coat and will be heavy shedders, particularly in the spring and fall when the blow the thick, wooly undercoat.

The breed does have some significant health issues, including hip dysplasia and epilepsy, so it is important to buy from a reputable breeder who has tested the puppies for known health issues.

Otherwise, the breed is an excellent dog for families that are familiar with working dogs and want a loyal, loving companion. They are also a playful dog and can be clownish and entertaining, particularly in their younger years.

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