- In late 1800s Germany, herdsmen needed a dog that could take command of large flocks of sheep, preventing the sheep from wandering into fields, driving them from one area to another, protecting them from marauders, and acting as a sort of moving fence by constantly patrolling along the flock's perimeter.
- Captain Max von Stephanitz determined to create a sheepherding strain of dog that consistently combined the assets needed to perform all of these functions.
- In 1899, Captain von Stephanitz found such a dog, which he named Horand van Grafrath. The Captain founded a club devoted to the new breed, and registered Horand as the first Deutsche Schaferhunde.
- Under the Captain's guidance, the breed quickly became unrivaled at herding large flocks, but at the same time, large flocks were becoming less common. So Captain von Stephanitz reinvented the breed, focusing on obedience and protectiveness. He then promoted them as police and military dogs. When World War I broke out, the German Shepherd's feats eclipsed those of any other military dogs ever used.
- The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1908, but failed to make much of an impact until after World War I. During the war, their name had been shortened in America from German Sheepdog to simply Shepherd Dog in order to distance them from Germany.
- Soldiers returning to their homelands after the war often did so with tales of these astounding dogs. Some even brought dogs back as well. Rin Tin Tin was one such dog.
- Hollywood stars Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin cemented the breed in the hearts of movie goers. Such was his popularity, Rin Tin Tin is credited as the actor that saved Warner Brothers.
- In 1925, the German Shepherd became the most popular dog in America, a position it held until 1936.
- It has been one of the most popular breeds in America since then, and remains a popular service and military dog.
German Shepherd Behavior Concerns
- Makes a devoted and protective companion.
- Generally gentle with children, but may be overly protective.
- A one family dog, tending to be aloof toward and suspicious of strangers. It needs early socialization so that it willingly accepts new people.
- Does best with reward-based training involving food or games.
- Its aptitude for learning and its serious attitude about any job have made it a dependable breed for a variety of jobs.
- Does not tend to make dog friends easily, but is pretty good with other household pets.
- Enjoys mental and physical challenges.
- Some owners train their dogs in Schutzhund, a sport that combines obedience, tracking, and protection.
German Shepherd Suggested Exercises
- Makes a calm but alert housedog given daily outings.
- Needs daily walks, jogs, hikes or play sessions.
- Running, jogging and retrieving are favored methods of exercise.
- Obedience training, agility training or other mental exercise is also vital.
German Shepherd Grooming
Suggested German Shepherd Nutritional Needs
- German Shepherds tend to stay in good weight. Young dogs can be thin, but they will generally gain weight without any special diet as they mature.
- Adult dogs should be fed a balanced diet, with restricted calories if the dog starts to gain too much weight.
- Puppies should be fed a large-breed growth food, which slows their growing rate, but not final size. This has been shown to decrease the incidence or severity of hip dysplasia in adults.