Thinking of German Shepherd puppies for yourself or your family? If so, there is a lot you need to know before you make the decision to add this amazing breed to your family.
To start, you will need to be aware of the German Shepherd Breed Standard, which will include information about the health, temperament, and overall look that is expected of this breed.
German Shepherd Dog: Breed Standard
Most people are not aware that there are two types of German Shepherd Dogs. In the United States we are used to the American Kennel Club standard and representation of the breed.
However, the AKC standard is not actually the nationally accepted standard for the German Shepherd. As mentioned before, there are two types of German Shepherd Dogs, the American “Rin Tin Tin” looking dog, and the true German Shepherd Dog still seen all over Europe today.
The History of the German Shepherd
The German Shepherd Dog was created in 1899 by a German ex-cavalry captain named Max von Stephanitz.
He strongly believed that dogs should be bred for work and with a purpose, not just looks, as is common with AKC dogs. He worked tirelessly over the next decade to perfect the dog that Europe proudly calls the German Shepherd Dog today.
The breed he created has very specific requirements for temperament as well as requirements for how the dog is built. These standards and requirements are set forth by Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, the original club organization of the German Shepherd Dog in Germany.
German Shepherd Dog: General Appearance
The German Shepherd Dog is medium sized, slightly longer than tall, strong and well muscled, and very firm looking. Males should be between 60-65 cm tall and females 55-60 cm tall, both should be slightly longer than they are tall.
German Shepherd Head and Teeth
The German Shepherd head should be wedge-shaped and in harmony with the dog’s size. It should be wide and slope down to a wedge shaped muzzle with strong jaws and strong scissor grip teeth. The nose should be black and will look much like a Roman nose with a straight bridge.
German Shepherd Ears and Coat
The ears should be medium sized, upright, and carried erect and perpendicular to each other. Most people will recognize this German Shepherd head and body type anywhere.
The correct coat of a German Shepherd Dog is not the usual tan with a black saddle that you will see in American Shepherds. The predominant coat color and type for a German Shepherd dog is sable with a double coat that is tight to the body and not fluffy or long.
Overall, your German Shepherd Dog should look strong, firm, well muscled, with a deep barrel shaped chest. It should be a lean and athletic looking dog, not thick or large. Most importantly your German Shepherd Dog should have a very specific temperament.
German Shepherd Temperament
Another distinguishing characteristic difference between the American Shepherd and the German Shepherd Dog is the temperament requirements of the breed.
The German Shepherd should appear poised, calm, self confident, absolutely at ease, and good natured, but also attentive and willing to serve. Most importantly, he must have courage, fighting drive, and hardness in order to serve as companion, watchdog, protection dog, service, dog, and herding dog.
You might notice that AKC requirements for temperament will not include the requirements for courage, hardness, or fighting drive.
The true German Shepherd Dog is a utility dog that was bred for working. They should never be afraid or nervous of a new situation, and should never respond to fear or nervousness with aggression or biting. This brings us to the biggest question for most people.
Are German Shepherd Dogs Good With Kids?
Whether your German Shepherd Dog is good with kids depends entirely upon two very important things: where your dog came from and how he is raised.
The majority of people will assume that because of the popularity of the breed and how many households in America you will find one in that this must be a great dog for families. For the most part, the German Shepherd Dog is a perfect family pet, given that the dog comes from the right place and is raised properly.
Because of the working nature of the breed, he is considered high energy and very intelligent. This means that mental and physical exercise are paramount in owning this breed. Aside from exercise, proper discipline and training is necessary.
Not only do you want a well behaved dog for your family, but you have to remember that your dog will be anywhere from 60 - 90 lbs, depending on if you have a male or female. It is best to have your dog under control at all times so as not to feed into the social stigma of powerful breed dogs being bad dogs.
Proper training and discipline will go a very long way in ensuring that your dog will always be a great pet for your family and community. As far as exercise is concerned, a simple walk once a day will not work for this breed.
Even your American show line shepherd will need more than that to stay in good mental and physical condition. To avoid most behavioral problems, it is best to prepare yourself for high impact exercise such as hiking, biking, and dog sports.
If your family or children are active and would like to participate in a dog sport with your German Shepherd Dog, this is a great family pet to have. The foremost dog sport for the German Shepherd Dog is Schutzhund.
You will almost never see an American Shepherd doing this sport as they are not the proper breed standard and are usually physically incapable of performing the required tasks due to the American idea of what a German Shepherd should look like. However, it is still a great sport to look into for German Shepherd Dogs as well as many other large powerful dog breeds.
What is Schutzhund?
The importance of getting the proper German Shepherd Dog shines through in the sport of Schutzhund.
It was originally developed in the early 1900s as a breed suitability test for German Shepherd Dogs. Today the same requirements still stand and many other breeds area able to participate. In Schutzhund, your German Shepherd Dog will be required to pass three phases: tracking, obedience, and protection.
Each phase is difficult and demanding, but most people find it rewarding for themselves and their dogs. For complete descriptions of each phase, it is recommended that you visit the United Schutzhund Clubs of America website. This club is a German Shepherd Dog club as well as a club devoted to the preservation of the true German Shepherd Dog in America through the use of Schutzhund.
On this site you will find a lot of information regarding the German Shepherd Dog breed and the sport of Schutzhund, all taken from the laws and regulations set forth by the parent organizations in Germany and Europe. No matter the activity you choose for your dog, be sure that it takes into account the German Shepherd Dog’s abilities and strengths.
German Shepherd Facts and Information
Now that you know a lot about where German Shepherd Dogs come from and what they are capable of, you will need to know about any possible health issues as well as where to get a German Shepherd puppy.
Because of the popularity of this breed in America, the German Shepherd Dog has been over bred in the US without consideration for health or proper temperament. No longer will you find in America what Max von Stephanitz had intended to be the perfect utility dog.
The most common concerns with German Shepherd Dogs today are elbow and hip dysplaysia, Degenerative Myleopothy, and Von Willebrand Disease. Thankfully, all of these problems can be avoided with proper breeding and blood testing of the breeding stock. The average lifespan of a German Shepherd Dog is between 9 and 12 years depending on breed quality and care.
So, Where Do You Get Your German Shepherd Puppy?
The most important thing is to first decide whether you want this breed for looks or for what the breed has to offer. If you are looking for the camera ready “Rin Tin Tin” American version, make sure you check with the American Kennel Club website for reputable breeders.
Make sure your American Shepherd breeder is active with the breed either in dog sports or the show ring. And be sure that they will allow you to visit the facility and see both parents in person.
The breeder you choose should ask you a lot of questions and should even require that you fill out an application and pass a screening before allowing one of their puppies to go home with your family. Anyone who does not show this much concern for where their puppy is going, is NOT the breeder for you.
The same requirements will go for your breeder of a European working line German Shepherd Dog. These breeders will often be very involved in the sport of Schutzhund and will even have dogs that are titled in this sport.
Most breeders of working German Shepherd Dogs will not breed a specific dog unless they have been fully titled in Schutzhund and have passed all possible screening and blood tests to ensure a healthy and well balanced dog.
Just be sure that no matter where you get your new German Shepherd puppy from that you ask if the dogs have been blood tested and are cleared for the Degenerative Myleopothy, Von Willebrand Disease, and hip/elbow dysplaysia.
The best start for your family is to get a healthy and balanced puppy from the very beginning. Your breeder should be very involved in choosing which puppy is best for you and will be sure to include a health guarantee contract that you will both sign. If you do not see any of the care and attentiveness mentioned above, get out of there quick!
Avoid newspaper or on-line ads for puppies, as well as websites with lots of pictures of dogs but no real knowledge of the breed or health guarantees.
Start your search on the AKC or United Schutzhund Clubs of America website to find reputable breeders in the US. At this point you have nearly all the information you need to decide if a German Shepherd puppy is right for you. Good luck in your search for the right puppy and be sure to do more research before deciding on perfect German Shepherd puppies for your family.