The German Shepherd has lived side by side with humans since time immemorial. Today she is one of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds on the planet.
The German Shepherd is a regular at the top of the rankings of the smartest, most loyal, most trainable pets. The noble “faces” of these dogs often appear in news stories, on newspaper pages, and even in the title roles of various TV shows. But the main vocation of the Germans is not an acting career, but the maintenance of order. They serve in the police, border, and customs units, and assist in search and rescue operations. And at home, representatives of this breed protect the peace and property of the owners, give their owners a lot of positive emotions.
To trace the history of some breeds (for example, the Doberman and Airedale Terrier, which “hail” from the XIX century, or the Old English Bulldog bred in 1970), it is enough to turn to official documents and eyewitness accounts. With German Shepherds, the situation is completely different. According to researchers, the beginning of the chain of their immediate ancestors should be sought in the depths of centuries.
Archaeological finds indicate that even in the 4th millennium BC, animals lived on the territory of the modern Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany, the skeleton of which has many features similar to shepherd dogs. These were the consequences of the evolution of wild individuals who chose life near the sites of ancient tribes and became dependent on humans. It is assumed that even then some primitive selection was carried out, in the process of which the largest and most obedient puppies were selected.
The now non-existent small Indian wolf was increasingly moving away from its “free” relatives and gradually turned into the so-called dogs of the Bronze Age. The needs of people have changed over time. Not only farmers but also pastoralists were in one way or another tied to a certain area. This means that four-legged satellites have new functions. In the Middle Ages, Hogwarts was bred throughout Europe. This German word is translated as “guardian of the yard”, but dogs were engaged not only in the protection of the real estate.
Domesticated livestock needed reliable protection from ruthless predators and hunters for other people’s property. Given the growing number of herds and flocks, it was simply impossible to cope with such a task with the help of shepherds. It was then that the yard dogs came to the rescue. Of course, not everyone was suitable for such work, but only the smartest and hardy. They began to be selected and trained specialists. And everything special is valuable, because already in the 7th century, according to the laws of the ancient Germanic tribe of Alemans, a severe punishment awaited the culprit for killing a shepherd’s dog.
Of course, animals of the early Middle Ages, and many later eras, outwardly resembled little modern representatives of the breed. Fundamentally important for the so-called primitive German shepherd dogs were considered not the shape of the head and the setting of the tail, but the corresponding intelligence, rather large dimensions, and “psychological portrait”. The fact is that the way of life of the shepherds presupposed prolonged isolation, during the grazing season, the animals actually contacted exclusively with “their” person and had to not only obey him unquestioningly but also become good companions to him.
By the 18th century, the situation had changed somewhat. Two regional types of German shepherd dogs took shape at once – the semi-long-haired Thuringian pale-gray color with a curling tail and the long-haired Württemberg black or red color with semi-erect ears. They also differed in character: the former was called active animals, prone to loud and frequent barking, and the latter could boast of calmness and endurance. In the name of a common cause, breeders from the central and southwestern lands decided to join forces.
The result of the painstaking work of enthusiasts was presented to the general public only at the end of the 19th century. At the 1882 Hannover Dog Show, Baron von Knigge brought two of his pets, the males Greif and the Cuirass, later the owners of the Hannau kennel fueled interest in the new breed, who showed the public an impressive pair – large and well-built Pollux and Prima. It was thanks to them that almost two dozen champions and winners of exhibitions of subsequent decades were born.
In 1891, the creation of the first German Shepherd Society was announced. The organization “Phylax” did not last long but managed to approve the breed standard. The next significant event is the exhibition in the small town of Karlsruhe on the German-French border. The event would have remained unnoticed by anyone if it had not been possible to see an outstanding representative of the old format type. And not among the participants!
Hector von Lierckenhain merely entertained visitors with a demonstration of herding skills. By a happy coincidence, a retired military man Max von Stephanitz and his friend Arthur Meyer passed by, who devoted their free time to breeding German shepherds and immediately noticed the perfect appearance of the dog, which was in no way inferior to his working qualities. The owner, however, did not want to part with his pet just like that, it took several weeks to negotiate.
Having got the ideal “German”, von Stephanitz entered his first number in the breeding book under a new name – Horand von Grafrath. At the same time, a large-scale search for similar types of bitches begins. The efforts were rewarded, in the litters received from Horand a sufficient number of worthy successors of the breed were born. Most of the modern purebred lines are somehow connected with his son Hector von Schwaben, grandchildren Pilot, Beowulf, Heinz von Starkenburg. The breeding of today’s recognizable black and yellow dogs began with Hettel von Uckermark, the son of Roland von Starkenburg. Another outstanding representative of the breed is called Claudio von Boxberg, who became the winner of the international show in 1925 and laid the foundation for new breeding lines.
Max von Stefanitz died in 1936. There is an opinion that this was indirectly facilitated by the attacks of members of the National Socialist Party, who did not want to popularize German Shepherds outside Germany and even threatened the enthusiast with imprisonment in a concentration camp. During the Second World War, many nurseries were destroyed, many animals died, and no one cared about the purity of the blood of the remaining ones. But several valuable representatives of the breed were preserved, and in peacetime, the followers of von Stephanitz continued to work on the development of the breed. The exhibitions resumed in 1946, and five years later a new hero appeared at one of them – the champion Rolf von Osnabrücker, the founder of modern “high breeding” lines.
Back in April 1899, the German Shepherd Owners’ Union was created. The activities of von Stephanitz, Meyer, and other leaders were aimed mainly at maintaining the purity of the blood, which would be confirmed by the relevant documents, encouraging outstanding breeders and developing the working qualities of the breed. The organization still exists, and in May 1968 an international association was founded, which is today known as the World Union of German Shepherd Associations, and brings together 89 national unions from 82 countries.
German Shepherds are of medium size. The growth of a dog at the withers is 60-65 cm, weight is 30-40 kg, bitches are 5 cm lower and 8 kg lighter. The proportional relationship between height and weight is important. The dog is slightly elongated, strong and muscular, built firmly, but the skeleton is not coarse.
The length of the head is 40% of the height at the withers. The shape is wedge-shaped, but not too elongated, moderately wide between the ears. The forehead is slightly convex. The ratio of the cranial and facial parts is 1: 1. The transition between them is expressed smoothly.
In the German Shepherd, the length of the neck is approximately equal to the length of the head. Strong and muscular, very agile.
The eyes are oval, set slightly obliquely, not protruding, of medium size. The color is dark.
The nose is of a classic shape, without a clear dividing line. The nose is black.
The upper and lower jaws of the German Shepherd are well developed. The teeth are strong, the dental formula is complete. The lips fit snugly against the jaws. Scissor bite.
The ears of the German Shepherd are large, erect, triangular in shape, directed parallel. The auricles are open forward. The ear cartilage is elastic, without kinks or bends.
The ribcage is long, wide, and deep. The line of the back runs down from the withers to the rump. The withers are strong, the back is wide and strong, the croup is sloping, with an imperceptible transition to the base of the tail.
The tail of German Shepherds is relatively long, slightly curved, in the usual position, it is lowered down. Fluffy, with longer hair on the lower part of the tail.
The forelegs are straight and parallel when viewed from the front. Strong and muscular. The shoulder blades and humerus are the same length and are connected at right angles. The hind legs are slightly set back, straight and parallel when viewed from behind. The thigh and lower leg are of the same length, connected at an angle of 120 °. Strong and muscular. The front legs are rounded, the toes are arched. The hind feet are compact, the toes are slightly arched.
The neck is double, with a dense, straight, coarse topcoat and a thick undercoat.
Black with reddish-brown, brown, yellow to light gray tan color. Solid black or solid gray. The Zone Gray Sheepdogs display a black saddlecloth and mask.
Without exception, all owners of German Shepherds call them faithful, intelligent, calm, and obedient animals. A stable animal psyche and a correct upbringing are the keys to a wonderful character.
The high intelligence of the Germans is not accompanied by the desire for independence and stubbornness, they easily and with pleasure master new games, teams, territories. Dogs do not like loneliness, but patiently await the return of the owner. For a good mood and normal health, they are in dire need of human society, including long walks and outdoor games.
One of the important features of the German Shepherd is innate protective instincts, therefore, they are wary of strangers in the home and even during a walk, although they never show aggression without a reason. Devotion to the owner and family of these pets is raised to the level of the absolute, they are ready to sacrifice themselves, protecting the household from danger, and they assess the degree of danger instantly and adequately.
German Shepherds love children and play with them with pleasure. However, it is not recommended to leave babies alone with a dog – if only because of the difference in size and weight. The shepherd is tolerant of other animals in the house, friendly relations are possible if they grow up together.
As mentioned above, German Shepherds are intelligent and easily trained animals. But raising a large dog should never be left to chance. From the first months of life, in the form of interesting games and tasks, the fulfillment of which is accompanied by the receipt of a treat, the puppy gets an idea of the permissible norms of behavior and important commands.
The owner should demonstrate his authority without resorting to shouting and physical strength. If it seems to you that significant deviations appear in the behavior of the puppy, which you cannot cope with yourself, be sure to seek help from a specialist dog handler.
Of course, not every German shepherd becomes a service dog and protects order in special units. But even a pet needs to understand and adequately respond to the main commands: “Come to me!”, “Place!”, “You can’t!”, “Near!”, “Sit!”, “Lie down!”, “Take a walk!”, “ Aport! ”
When the skeleton of the puppy is strong enough, you can start overcoming obstacles (be sure to take into account the correspondence of the height to the growth and the capabilities of the pet). The fundamental point is teaching the dog to walk on a leash, and from six months – in a muzzle. It is better to do this gradually and do not forget about the tasty reward for obedience.
It is important to remember that German Shepherds reach psychological maturity quite late, by the age of three. A young dog, in size quite corresponding to the breed standard, remains internally vulnerable, requiring care and approval from a puppy.
Features of the structure of wool allow the German shepherd to live both indoors and in the yard. In the second case, you need a spacious aviary with an insulated booth. In addition, it is advisable to at least partially protect the aviary from precipitation and wind.
Immediately after the dog appears in the house, determine its own place for it, where the bedding or mattress, toys will lie. There should be no direct sources of heat and drafts in the immediate vicinity. Natural materials are preferred for the bed, which do not require complex cleaning. A sufficient number of toys will protect furniture and shoes from sharp teeth.
The main aspect of proper maintenance of any dog is a balanced diet, which will ensure normal development and good health for life. The easiest way to guarantee a complete diet can be premium and super-premium ready-made feeds for the respective age category, and adult animals – taking into account special needs. With a “natural” diet, it is important to follow the veterinarian’s recommended protein to fiber ratio. And, of course, you cannot feed the shepherd with scraps from the human table, because its digestive system is not ready to work with fatty, fried, salty foods and spices. Freshwater must be available at all times.
As it gets dirty (but not too often), bathe your dog in warm water with special shampoos. Combing is carried out once or twice a week, during the period of seasonal molting, the procedure has to be performed more often. The condition of the ears, eyes, mouth, and nasal passages should be monitored regularly.
It is recommended to visit your veterinarian for a routine check-up at least 2-3 times a year.
The average life span of a German Shepherd is 9-13 years.
Difficulties in the formation of the breed and forced inbreeding led to the emergence of several serious diseases. Some are manifested even in puppyhood: growth hormone deficiency, diabetes, leukemia, eosinophilic panosteitis (intermittent claudication), intestinal intussusception, pyoderma (purulent skin lesions).
Later, allergies, hip dysplasia, diseases of the intervertebral discs, arthritis, dystrophy of the cornea of the eye, epilepsy, cataracts, pancreatic insufficiency, dysplasia of the tricuspid or mitral heart valve, aortic stenosis (narrowing of the vascular opening), exudative pericarditis (inflammation of the external membranes), cancer, hind limb paralysis.
Under the influence of external factors, ear and eye infections, dermatitis, volvulus, bloating and others can begin.
At the first sign of poor health, you need to go to a veterinary clinic, where they can make the correct diagnosis and start treatment. In addition, it is important to see a doctor regularly for routine check-ups – especially for puppies in active growth and dogs over 7 years of age.
How to choose a puppy?
The above-mentioned features of appearance and character refer to purebred German shepherds, that is, to those whose pedigree has been confirmed by official documents for several generations. Half-breeds can certainly be wonderful and loyal pets, but they are still completely different dogs.
Future owners who are interested in a particular breed should look for a puppy only from trusted breeders and in kennels with an excellent reputation. So you can be sure of the absence of genetic diseases and the “trademark” stability of the psyche, which is so important for a large pet.
Responsible breeders do not sell puppies that are less than 8-10 weeks old to buyers. By this time, the little German is already confidently on his feet, responds to his own name, and is ready to start training.
If a dog is purchased not for breeding and participation in exhibitions, the main selection criteria are its health and friendliness. The indicators of the first are considered to be good appetite, playfulness, clean eyes, nose and ears, shiny coat, elastic stomach without signs of bloating. A young German shepherd should not be afraid of calmly behaving people or reacting aggressively to attempts to approach.
It is also better to “get acquainted” with the parents to have an idea of the heredity of the future pet and to look at the conditions of keeping the mother with the babies. Cleanliness, adequate space, quality food and toys, and timely vaccinations are undeniable evidence in favor of the breeder.