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The German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherds, also known as Alsatian, are medium-large dogs. Males generally range between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 70-90 pounds. Females generally range 22-24 inches and 60-80 pounds. Some shepherds may be a bit smaller, and some, may be as large as 30 inches and weigh as much as 140 pounds.

The colors of German Shepherds are black and tan (with the tan portion ranging from a light cream to a deep red-depending upon the individual dog); solid black; white; bi-color (a black dog with tan legs); black and silver; blue (which looks like a very muted, grayish black and tan); sable. In a sable, just the tip of each hair is colored. Their almond-shaped eyes are medium to dark brown, and they have a black nose.

Double-coated shepherds have a soft wooly undercoat and an outer coat of longer, harsher guard hairs. Shepherds can be coated normally or can be long coated or open coated. Long coats have about the same coat as a Belgian Tervuren. Open coats have no undercoat and usually have softer guard hairs. Even with the double coated German Shepherds, it is recommended that they reside indoors as a family member.

Shepherds should be brushed or raked daily to reduce shedding--which can be substantial. Although they shed year round, shepherds shed most heavily twice a year when blowing their coat (lose and replace the undercoat). To prevent dry skin and itchiness, shepherds should be bathed no more than every 4-6 weeks.

Although one or both ears on some adult shepherds don't stand, their large ears usually stand naturally-not cropped. Their ears hang down when they are born and begin to go up at approximately 2-4 months. They may flop back down when heavy-duty teething begins around 4-6 months of age. The tail should hang down to the ground when they dog is at rest and should be carried in a slight upward curve when the dog is in motion. Although not common, some shepherds have a ring tail (carried in a ring).

German Shepherds are very intelligent, responsive dogs. Originally bred to make most of their own decisions as herding dogs, German Shepherds have the ability to think for themselves and, therefore, will assume the leadership role if not trained in obedience and given firm rules that are not to be broken. They take to obedience training quite well and excel as guide dogs, assistance dogs for the physically challenged, search and rescue dogs, police patrol dogs, narcotics dogs, agility dogs, etc.

Because they are territorial and protective, German Shepherds are natural guard dogs. They instinctively protect their home and family from danger. Because they bark when they hear anyone or anything, they need to be supervised in densely populated areas to avoid disturbing neighbors. Games of retrieval are a good way to distract them and give them exercise when in a fenced yard. When adult shepherds are adopted, they should be kept under close supervision for about a month as they may try, out of loyalty, to escape in search of former owners before bonding to you.

German Shepherds are energetic dogs and need routine exercise. A brisk half hour walk about twice a day is needed unless they are given a lot of interactive playtime by their owners on a daily basis. If given sufficient exercise, shepherds adapt well to apartment living.

They  need to be socialized well and early in lots of different physical environments. They are naturally aloof with strangers, and some can be a bit suspicious of strangers if not exposed to people outside the family at an early age. Some shepherds are overly aggressive, and some are very shy. Although it can be genetic, this usually is due to poor or no training. A stable shepherd is a true best friend--extremely loyal, intelligent, affectionate, protective and responsive.

Properly socialized, shepherds are usually excellent with children, affectionate and loving with their families, accepting of family friends, aloof with strangers, and good with cats if raised with them. Some shepherds   may show some dog aggression--especially males toward other males. Shepherds need a lot of human companionship. They should never be chained outside or kenneled as they will suffer emotionally.

Possible health problems include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, skin allergies, bloat, and spinal myelopathy (incurable paralysis of the hind legs). Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is common in German Shepherds although they usually do not exhibit the traditional symptoms of excess weight, laziness or sluggishness, or coat and skin problems. Thyroid problems may not occur until they are at least 4 years old. Annual blood tests are recommended to help prevent associated effects on their immune system.

German Shepherds usually live approximately 10-12 years though many have lived to 14 or 15.

This information on the German Shepherd Dog Breed was supplied by Project Breed Directory- Green Book Edition, with prior permission to use on our web site.


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