Highly intelligent and loyal, German Shepherds (also known as Alsatians) are known for their good temperament, trainability and endurance. German Shepherds can for instance understand new commands in less than 5 repetitions and obey the first command 95% of the time or more with the right training? This is why they are often associated with law enforcement and high-stress situations. People’s perception can often be of aggressive behaviour if they haven’t met a civilian German Shepherd before. However this only happens due to poor or nasty training on an individuals’ part, or the fact that they are trained for the forces to disarm criminals and detain them so they don’t escape.
As the name suggests, the ‘shepherd’ means they were originally herding and farm dogs. However, they are widely used for other respected work such as tactical manoeuvres with the military, finding missing persons, explosives, gas leaks, drugs, and even decomposing bodies due to their heightened sense of smell, physical strength and stamina. They also help with Red Cross deliveries. They can even be taught more than one language for commands so suspects on the run, in airports, hostage situations, or at schools, have no idea what the dog is being told and how it will react.
Real life German Shepherd heroes include Trakr who rescued the last survivor of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, Buddy who was the first trained guide dog in America, and Chips who is the most famous World War II war dog whose heroic exploits included his assault on an Italian machine-gun nest and helping to take ten enemy Italian soldiers captive. There have also been many famous German Shepherds (due to their intelligence and skill set) in television and film including ‘Inspector Rex’, ‘The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin’, ‘The Roy Rogers Show’, ‘The Littlest Hobo’, ‘I am Legend’, and ‘K-9’ starring James Belushi. Even Batman had Ace the Bat Hound who appeared sporadically in Batman comics over the years.
Weighing anywhere from 22kg to 40kg, German Shepherds are two to three times heavier than a Japanese Spitz by comparison. They are classified as medium to large sized double-coated dogs. They are also a long dog so if you live in a pokey studio with a fold out bed, you probably should look for a dog smaller in size as German Shepherds love to spread out. They usually live between 9 and 13 years and female Shepherds can produce up to 9 offspring in a litter.
As far as health issues go, German Shepherds are genetically predisposed to Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and Osteoarthritis, so it is essential to watch their dietary intake by including Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, krill, mussels, flaxseed, and soybean. Vitamin A and D also contribute crucial roles in bone development and maintenance by regulating bone and calcium metabolism.
Overall German Shepherds are loyal dogs who have lots of love and care to give, but who will also protect their owners at any cost. They do however require more attention, exercise, and training than smaller double-coated breeds, so if you are a new dog owner, this is definitely something to consider and do more research on – but it is worth it!