The German Shepherd, commonly known as an Alsatian, is one of the most recognisable dog breeds in the world. It’s also one of the most popular in the UK, Ireland and the USA. This breed is strong, intelligent and loyal, which goes part of the way to explaining why it’s so loved around the world. One of the most famous German Shepherds in the world was Rin Tin Tin; a puppy saved from a warzone by Corporal Lee Duncan in World War I. Rin Tin Tin appeared in dozens of movies and paved the way for this breed to become a star.
German Shepherds were first bred back in the 1800s, by a German cavalry captain Max Von Stephanitz. The idea was to create a dog that was both courageous and loyal, which is exactly what they have done with this esteemed breed. They are now one of the most widely used dogs for a wide range of jobs, from working in the police force to herding stock. And, they’re great family pets on top of all this. Let’s take a look at some German Shepherd facts, to see why this breed is so popular.
Size and Weight
A fully grown German Shepherd dog is quite a large breed. The males can stand 24 to 26 inches tall, with the female not far behind at 22 to 24 inches, The weight of a German Shepherd can vary from 75 to 95 pounds, when they reach adulthood.
You’ll find that a German Shepherd makes a wonderful family pet, due to their protective and intelligent personalities. Many people are worried that these dogs can get aggressive, but that is often not the case at all. In fact, you’ll find that German Shepherds tend to be disinterested in other animals for the most part. It takes them a little while to make friends, but they’re relentlessly loyal when they do. Most of the time, these dogs are extremely easy going and friendly. If they feel threatened then they can become protective of their owners or handlers. This is one of the reasons why many people use German Shepherds as watch dogs! They’re quick to learn and will pick up new commands with ease. They love company and don’t do so well when left alone for long periods of time. If a German Shepherd dog feels bored or frustrated then they’re likely to bark or chew. Make sure you can give this breed enough attention, to stop this from happening.
Training and Temperament
As mentioned, this breed is extremely intelligent. You should, therefore, find German Shepherd training is quite easy to do! They have a high learning ability and a sharp memory, which means that it shouldn’t be too tricky to teach them a range of commands. Once they begin to trust you, they’ll be forever loyal to you. This means that they will hang on your every word and be eager to get things right. German Shepherds are one of the easiest dogs to train, due to their impressive intelligence levels.
As for the German Shepherd temperament, you will find that they’re not as highly strung as we’re made to believe. They thoroughly enjoy having a job to do and will want to be mentally stimulated as much as possible. The only drawback with this is that they can become bored, lonely or depressed if not given enough attention. It’s a good idea to invest in toys such as a KONG to keep them busy. German Shepherds have a natural instinct to be protective and will do anything to keep their owners safe. They’ll risk their lives in order to save their human pack, if necessary. With the right training you won’t see any aggressive behaviour from a German Shepherd, unless they or their owner is threatened. This is why they make such excellent police and armed forces dogs. It’s a good idea to socialise this breed early on, so that they get used to other people and animals. This will also prevent any of the aggressive behaviour that some people worry about. As long as you provide the right German Shepherd training from the outset, then you will never have any issues with this loyal pet.
Children and Other Pets
As mentioned in the German Shepherd temperament and training section, you need to socialise these dogs early on. From puppyhood where possible! This will ensure they get used to other animals, and don’t see them as a threat. If you have rescued a German Shepherd then it’s a good idea to find out whether they are used to other animals or children. It can be a lot harder to teach this dog if it’s already set in its ways. You can introduce an older dog to other animals, but it will take them some time to get used to it.
As for children, you can be sure that they’ll make perfect babysitters! Again, this requires a bit of training on your part, but these dogs are quick to learn. Make sure that your German Shepherd has plenty of exposure to children and has been trained to respond to your commands. They will be as loyal to your children as they are to you. The only thing to watch out for is their size. They can be prone to knocking over little ones, albeit not deliberately.
Nutrition and Feeding
German Shepherds are large dogs, so don’t be surprised when they need a lot of feeding. It’s important to remember that each dog will have different needs when it comes to nutrition and feeding; even if they’re the same breed. It’s normally recommended that a dog of this size has around 3-4 cups of dry food every day. The general rule of thumb is one cup per 10 pounds of dog, so this may need adapting depending on their weight. Royal Canin offer dry food specifically for German Shepherds; packed with all the right nutrients. Make sure that you split this into two meals - one in the morning and one in the evening. A puppy will generally need different food, in order to help them grow strong and healthy. Products such as Royal Canin German Shepherd Junior have been specifically designed for younger dogs. Although dry food is preferable, some people also mix in wet food for moister meals. If you wish to feed your dog wet food as well, it’s recommended you opt for premium brands with a high meat content. Naturo offer a range of wet food choices, that would be perfect for a German Shepherd. Look for high quality products, that are packed full of the right nutrition. These dogs need a lot of energy!
Coat and Grooming
You will find that the coat and colouring of this breed can vary quite a lot. The most common is a medium length fur coat, that’s in two layers; the outer coat can sometimes be wiry and dense, whereas the inner layer is much softer. You can get a long haired German Shepherd, which will have a much thicker coat. At the same time, you’ll also find the odd short haired German Shepherd here and there. Generally, they will have medium length coat that is black with a secondary colour. You can find German Shepherds that are black and cream, black and tan, black and silver, black and red, and even white. The most common will be either black and cream or black and tan, although we’re now seeing more white German Shepherds around.
These dogs are quite prone to shedding all year round, which means that it’s recommended you spend a fair amount of time grooming your pet. Around two times a year, your German Shepherd will also shed a lot of hair at once. This is called ‘blowing’ and is almost unavoidable. There are ways to reduce the amount of fur your pet sheds, however. Regular brushing is a must if you have a long haired German Shepherd. Especially as the fur can get matted if not looked after. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of brushing every other day, or at least three to four times a week. You should also brush a short haired German Shepherd relatively often; twice a week should be enough. Try to resist the urge to bathe your dog regularly, as this can actually make shedding worse. It strips the coat of its natural oils, which can then leave their fur looking dull or tired.
Along with keeping the coat brushed, make sure you trim their nails around once a month. Keep an eye on your pet’s ears for any signs of dirt or redness, which could be an infection. As your German Shepherd loves to chew, it’s quite easy to keep their teeth clean. Invest in some dental chew toys and treats to kill two birds with one stone.
A German Shepherd is a big dog, that needs a lot of things to do. Therefore, regular exercise is an absolute must.The Kennel Club recommend that you exercise this breed for at least two hours every day. That means getting up early and taking them out, no excuses! If you don’t then you could see some of the problems we mentioned earlier, including barking and chewing. If you have a German Shepherd in Ireland then you’ll be spoilt for choice with places to take them. You can also buy your dog a Boomer Ball, which will keep them busy for hours. Long walks and regular playtime will keep your pup happy.
The average life expectancy of a German Shepherd is around 13 years. There are some hereditary diseases which are particularly common in this breed, that you should keep an eye out for. Digestive problems and bloating can happen if they’re not getting the right nutrition. Flea allergies and eczema can also be quite common, so if you notice any itching or skin problems then it is best to get them checked. Overall, you should have a healthy and happy family pet for over 10 years.