German Shepherds - A Quick Overview german shepherds, german shepherd puppy, german shepard puppy, german sheppard puppy German Shepherds - A Quick Overview German Shepherds

The German Shepherd Dog or Alsatian is a breed of dog. Because they are eager to please, they are easily trained in obedience and protection. German Shepherd Dogs are often used as working dogs in many capacities, including search and rescue (SAR) dogs, military dogs, police dogs, or guard dogs. They are also used as assistance dogs (particularly guide dogs), though not as much as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.

Appearance

The German Shepherd Dog is a large, strong, handsome-looking dog. The fur is a double-coat and can be either short or long haired. It varies in color, coming in many different shades, mostly cream (tan) and brown, but also solid black or white. Dogs with coats that have tricolored hair (black and white with either brown or red) are called sable or agouti. Different kennel clubs have different standards for the breed according to size, weight, coat color, and structure.

Common faults

There are several common features that are disqualifying faults in show dogs:

Breed lines

There are several types or lines of GSD and the behavior, abilities, and appearance of each is quite different. The major lines are the international working line, the international show line, and the North American show line.

Dogs from FCI-recognised international working lines are bred primarily for traits involving their working ability rather than appearance, so their appearance can be somewhat varied.

The FCI-recognized international show lines differ in that emphasis is given more to the appearance of the dog when breeding, so they are very consistent in type or appearance.

The North American show lines have also been bred primarily for their looks, but have a markedly different appearance from the international dogs, featuring a noticeably sloped back and sharp angulation of the hock joint. There is a current debate over whether the American show lines still represent the original German Shepherd Dog, or whether the line has become distinct enough that it should be considered a separate breed. Critics of the American line argue that the working ability of these dogs has been lost, and that the angled back is detrimental to the health of the animal. Proponents of the line believe that the altered bone structure of their dogs represents an improvement to the herding ability of the animals.

In the erstwhile GDR, the German Shepherds more closely adhered to the old prewar standard marked by straighter back, longer and denser coat and darker color. These dogs are now praised for breeding working dogs as they are less prone to hip dysplasia. Attempts to preserve this distinct line and raise it to the status of an officially recognized breed ("East German Shepherd Dog") are stalled.

Variant sizes and coats

Some groups or breeders have focused on variants or mutations of the breed that are not recognized by most kennel clubs as acceptable show GSDs but that might eventually become breeds on their own.

White coat

A white (or very light), but not albino, version of the German Shepherd has also always occurred, but was designated a disqualifying fault in the AKC in the late 1960s. The white coat is considered a fault by International (FCI) Fédération Cynologique Internationale breed standards in most parts of the world.

The white coat, however, does not prevent the white-coated German Shepherd Dog from being registered in the AKC as a German Shepherd Dog. White Shepherds hold champion titles in the UKC (United Kennel Club). Now, some breeders selectively breed White Shepherds for their beautiful snowy white coats and physical stature, striving for a Shepherd that closely resembles the original dog; less angular than today's German Shepherd breed. See the WGSDCA or American White Shepherd Association for more detail. However, the white German Shepherd has been recognised by some organisations under the name Berger Blanc Suisse (or White Shepherd Dog).

Long-haired coat

The so-called "long-haired German Shepherd" is considered a "fault" in the German Shepherd Dog breed according to American Kennel Club standards as well as the International (FCI) breed standard. The long hair gene is recessive. Dogs with this coat look somewhat like the Tervueren type of Belgian Shepherd Dog. An example with pictures can be found here. Popular myth holds that long-haired GSDs ("fuzzies") are more affectionate, but there is little evidence for this. Long coats usually have no or little undercoat, thus they can be rather sensitive to extreme weather.

Giant shepherd

Some organizations recognize a deliberately bred, larger variation of the breed as the Shiloh Shepherd Dog or King Shepherd.

Temperament

Well-bred GSDs have powerful jaws and strong teeth, can develop a strong sense of loyalty and obedience, and can be trained to attack and release on command. Poorly bred GSDs such as those from puppy mills can be fearful, overly aggressive, or both. GSDs (like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermanns), are often perceived as inherently dangerous, and are the target of Breed Specific Legislation in several countries. If a GSD is violent or aggressive, it is often due to the combination of poor breeding (bad nerves) and the owner's lack of control or training. GSDs are often used as guard, attack and police dogs, which further contributes to the perception of being a dangerous breed. However, many GSDs function perfectly well as search dogs and family pets, roles where aggressive behavior is unsuitable.

GSDs' sense of loyalty and emotional bond with their owners is almost impossible to overstate. Separation trauma is one reason they are now used less often in guide dog roles, since guide dogs are typically trained from puppyhood by one owner prior to final placement with their employer.

Related Sites

Dee Ganley Dog Training Services - Choosing a Puppy