The Ultimate Australian Guide To German Shepherds
The German Shepherd is a popular breed of dog, loved for its intelligence, loyalty, and obedience. Renowned for being a versatile working dog, it’s an excellent family protector as well. Moreover, these dogs make wonderful pets with the proper training and socialization.
German Shepherd Breed History
Max von Stephanitz developed the German Shepherd breed in Germany in the late 19th century. Von Stephanitz wanted to create a breed of trainable, adaptable dogs that could be used as guard dogs, general-purpose working dogs, and herding dogs. He believed that the existing breeds at the time were not up to standard. Consequently, he set out to create a new breed that would meet his requirements.
The first German Shepherd, named Horand von Grafrath, was registered with the German Kennel Club in 1899. Horand was the son of a Thuringian herding dog and a Württemberg police dog, and became the foundation for the German Shepherd breed.
German Shepherds were used by the German army in World War I as search and rescue, sentry, and messenger dogs. After the war, they became popular as police and guard dogs due to their keen sense of smell and natural protective instincts. They were also used in search and rescue operations and as guide dogs for the blind.
The early 1900s saw the arrival of German Shepherds in Australia, which quickly captured the hearts of many people and gained popularity as working dogs. Known for their trainability, intelligence, and loyalty, German Shepherds were utilized in numerous fields. Due to their gentle and affectionate temperament, they became the preferred choice for households as family pets.
German Shepherd Appearance
German Shepherds are a highly recognizable breed of dog, known for their striking appearance that radiates strength, confidence, and a sense of purpose. One of their most notable features is their wedge-shaped head, which narrows to a long and straight black nose.
Their dark, almond-shaped eyes are set well apart and have an attentive, observant look. Additionally, their pointed ears stand upright, which further enhances their alert and attentive appearance.
The body of the German Shepherd is strong and muscular, with a straight back and a deep chest. They move with tremendous grace and agility thanks to their long, muscular legs and broad, powerful shoulders. Their body structure is well-balanced, offering a good combination of speed and endurance, which makes them versatile in a range of activities.
German Shepherd Coat Colour and Grooming
German Shepherds are known for their striking appearance and unique coat that comes in a range of colours such as sable, tan, and black. However, the black and tan colour is widely recognized in this highly popular breed of dog.
Proper grooming is necessary to preserve the German Shepherd's double coat, which is made up of a longer, coarser outer coat and a thick, softer undercoat. Frequent brushing with a metal comb and slicker brush is necessary to eliminate dead hair and avoid matting.
German Shepherds have a significant amount of hair that they shed, so brushing them at least twice a week can help them maintain a healthy, glossy coat.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to bathe German Shepherds every few months to maintain their hygiene and attractiveness, but excessive bathing can strip their coat of natural oils, leading to dry and itchy skin. It is advised to use a gentle wash and conditioner made especially for dogs to prevent this problem.
German Shepherd Size
German Shepherds can grow quite large. During the first six months of their lives, male German Shepherds can grow to an average height of 53 cm to 61 cm, while females can grow to an average height of 48 cm to 56 cm.
By the age of one, male German Shepherds typically achieve their full height of 61 cm to 66 cm and can weigh anywhere between 30 kg to 40 kg. Female German Shepherds, on the other hand, reach their full height of 56 to 61 cm and weigh between 22 kg to 32 kg by the age of one.
German Shepherds continue to develop both physically and mentally until they reach two years of age. During this time, they may continue to gain weight and fill out their muscles. German Shepherds are regarded as fully mature after two years of age.
The size and development of a German Shepherd can be influenced by genetics, diet, and activity. Proper nutrition and exercise will ensure that a German Shepherd reaches their full potential size and maintains good health throughout their life.
Breed Pros and Cons
German Shepherd Pros
Most of the pros associated with German Shepherds come from their loyalty and intelligence. However, they also possess other traits:
- Highly trainable
- Easily acquire skills
As mentioned, German Shepherds are renowned for their loyalty and protectiveness towards their families. Natural guardians, they will go to great lengths to defend their loved ones if they sense a threat. Their strong protective instincts also make them excellent watchdogs. German Shepherds are known to form strong bonds with their owners and are always eager to please them.
Intelligence and Skills
One of the smartest breeds, German Shepherds are renowned for their rapid learning. They’re highly trainable and thrive at both basic obedience training and more difficult exercises like agility, tracking, and search and rescue. Their intelligence also makes them great problem solvers and they’re often used in law enforcement and military operations.
German Shepherds are a multipurpose breed that excels in a variety of jobs, including herding, search and rescue, police work, and therapy dog work. They can survive in both urban and rural areas and are able to adapt to different environments. Their versatility also makes them great family pets as they can thrive in different living situations and activities.
Activity and Health
As an athletic breed, German Shepherds need a lot of activity to keep healthy and happy. They take pleasure in going on walks, hikes, and playing fetch. Regular exercise not only keeps them physically fit but also mentally stimulated, preventing destructive behaviour. They’re great companions for active individuals or families who enjoy outdoor activities.
German Shepherds typically have a lifespan of 9 to 13 years and are considered a healthy breed. They can live long, healthy lives if given the right care. Although prone to various health problems including hip dysplasia and bloat, these problems can be offset with good breeding methods and routine veterinary exams. A healthy diet and regular exercise are also crucial for maintaining their well-being.
Overall, German Shepherds are a fantastic breed for those willing to put in the time and effort to properly train and care for them. They are loyal, intelligent, and versatile dogs that make excellent companions for the right owner.
German Shepherd Cons
While being loyal and intelligent, German Shepherds do have some shortcomings:
- Can shed hair everywhere
- Potentially aggressive
- Can experience separation anxiety
- Require regular exercise
- May chew household items
- Susceptible to hip dysplasia
German Shepherd Shedding
German Shepherds are notorious for shedding hair, which can be a major concern for some owners. They have a double coat that sheds heavily twice a year and even more frequently if they’re not properly groomed.
Owners must be prepared to brush their dogs regularly to minimize shedding and prevent matting. However, despite the shedding, German Shepherds are still popular pets due to their many other desirable traits.
German Shepherd Mental Issues
Another potential issue with German Shepherds is their tendency toward aggression. While they’re known for their devotion and protective nature, they can also be territorial and possessive. Therefore, it is crucial to socialize German Shepherds from a young age and train them to behave appropriately in different situations. Early training and socialization can help prevent aggressive behaviour from developing.
Separation anxiety is another common issue with German Shepherds. Social animals, they can become attached to their owners, which can lead to anxiety when left alone for extended periods. Separation anxiety can lead to destructive behaviour, including chewing and scratching furniture or other items in the home.
It’s essential to gradually introduce your German Shepherd to being alone and provide them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation when you’re away.
German Shepherd Health
To ensure the well-being of your future pet, it’s important to verify that the breeder has taken appropriate measures to minimize the likelihood of hip dysplasia in their breeding program. This includes testing the parents' hips and taking appropriate steps to reduce the risk of their puppies developing the condition. German Shepherds can also suffer from other health problems, such as bloat, and it's important to provide them with regular veterinary care and a healthy diet to maintain their well-being.
German Shepherd Personality
German Shepherds are renowned for having distinctive personalities that make them wonderful family pets.
If they’re raised around kids and other animals, they usually get along well with them. However, they could be wary of strangers because of their innate protective tendencies. Although this trait makes them excellent watchdogs and protectors, it calls for thorough socialization beginning at a young age to prevent overly protective or violent behaviour.
The intelligence and trainability of the German Shepherd breed are two of its most notable characteristics. Given that they’re among the smartest canine breeds, they perform admirably in a variety of capacities, including those related to law enforcement, search and rescue, and service dogs.
With proper training and socialization, they can quickly learn and master new skills and commands. However, it's important to note that some poorly bred German Shepherds can be highly strung and nervous, which can lead to overprotective and aggressive behaviour. When they’re not properly socialized or trained, this risk increases.
It should also be noted that there are restrictions on the ownership and breeding of German Shepherds due to concerns about their temperament and potential for aggression. In the state of Victoria, for example, German Shepherds are classified as a "restricted breed" under the Domestic Animals Act and require special permits and conditions for ownership.
Proper breeding procedures can lessen the likelihood of temperament problems, but it's still important to pick a reliable breeder and provide your pet with the right training and socialization to avoid these issues.
German Shepherd Health
German Shepherds are generally a healthy breed, but like all breeds, they are prone to certain health issues. Here are some of the most common health problems that German Shepherds may face.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that affects the hip joint in German Shepherds. This occurs when the hip joint doesn't develop properly, leading to loosening and unstable hip joints. This may eventually result in arthritis and pain, making it difficult to run and walk.
The condition is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors and is more common in larger dog breeds. Symptoms of hip dysplasia can be noticed as early as four months of age, and a veterinarian can use x-rays to diagnose the problem. Treatment options include administering painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs and repairing or replacing the hip joint through surgery.
German Shepherds can develop degenerative myelopathy, a neurological condition that damages the spinal cord. The condition is caused by a genetic mutation that affects the myelin sheath, a protective covering around the nerves in the spinal cord. As a result, the nerves gradually degrade, resulting in weakness and ultimately paralysis in the back legs.
There is no cure for the sickness, which can’t be reversed. The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms and enhance the dog’s quality of life. Physical treatment, anti-inflammatory drugs, and the usage of mobility aids like carts fall into this category.
Skin allergies, which can result in itching, redness, and hot spots, may be common in German Shepherds. Allergies can be caused by a variety of factors, including food, environmental allergens such as pollen and dust, and flea bites. Symptoms include itching, scratching, redness, and hair loss.
Medication to reduce inflammation and irritation, medicated shampoos for bathing, and, if possible, identifying the allergen are all possible forms of treatment.
Bloat happens when the stomach twists from the pressure of gas and blocks the passage of blood to the organs. Eating too quickly, exercising too soon after eating, or consuming too much water all at once are common causes of the syndrome.
Symptoms include agitation, drooling, abdominal bloating, and breathing difficulties. Surgery may be required to untwist the stomach and restore blood flow in cases of severe bloating.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can affect German Shepherds. The pancreas is responsible for producing enzymes that help digest food. When it becomes inflamed, these enzymes can leak out into the surrounding tissue, causing damage and inflammation.
Vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, and loss of appetite are among the symptoms. Obesity, high-fat diets, and specific drugs can lead to pancreatitis. A low-fat diet, hydration therapy, and pain- and inflammation-relieving medications are possible forms of treatment.
EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency)
EPI is a condition in which the pancreas fails to produce adequate digestive enzymes. Malnutrition, weight loss, and diarrhea may result from this ailment.
EPI is frequently brought on by an autoimmune disorder when the pancreas is attacked by the immune system, resulting in damage and malfunction. Enzyme replacement therapy, which involves adding enzymes to the dog’s diet to help with digestion, is a common form of treatment.
Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects the blood vessels in German Shepherds. The condition is aggressive and can spread quickly to other parts of the body, making it harder to cure. Lethargy, loss of appetite, and abdominal puffiness are examples of the symptoms.
Despite the various treatment options available, such as chemotherapy, surgery to remove the damaged tissue, and more, treating Hemangiosarcoma remains a challenging task. However, with a comprehensive treatment plan that involves both medical and holistic approaches, it is possible to manage the disease and improve the dog’s quality of life.
German Shepherd Care
German Shepherds are active dogs that require proper care to stay healthy and happy. As an owner, there are several things you can do to ensure your dog stays in good health.
Regular exercise is important for German Shepherds to maintain their physical and mental health. These dogs are energetic and enjoy playing fetch, jogging, and other strenuous activities. Try to give your dog at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day and switch up the exercises to keep him interested and challenged.
Everyday grooming is essential to keep your German Shepherd looking and feeling its best. Brush their coat regularly to prevent matting and shedding and bathe them when necessary to keep the coat clean and shiny. To avoid infections, keep their ears dry and clean, and routinely trim their nails.
Just like humans, dental care is an important part of a German Shepherd’s overall health. Neglecting their teeth can lead to dental problems, bad breath, and even more serious health issues such as infections and tooth loss.
Brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth regularly is the best way to maintain good oral hygiene. Start by using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs. Brush their teeth gently, focusing on the gum line and back teeth where plaque and tartar tend to accumulate.
German Shepherds should also have their nails trimmed regularly to prevent overgrowth, which can be uncomfortable and even painful for the dog. The frequency of nail trimming will depend on how quickly your dog’s nails grow. As a general rule, every 6-10 weeks is recommended. Be sure to use proper nail clippers and avoid cutting the quick, which is the pink part of the nail that contains blood vessels.
German Shepherd Feeding
When it comes to food, select a high-quality, nutrient-rich dog food that’s specifically formulated for the German Shepherd’s size and activity level. Read the ingredients list carefully and choose a food that contains high-quality sources of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Many commercial dog foods contain fillers and additives that can be harmful to your dog’s health.
It’s crucial to feed your German Shepherd the right amount of food. Underfeeding can result in malnutrition and other health concerns, while overfeeding can cause obesity. It’s also important to consider the frequency of feeding.
Most adult German Shepherds require two meals per day, while puppies may require more frequent feedings. In addition, it’s important to provide your dog with fresh, clean water at all times.
Your German Shepherd’s health and well-being ultimately depend on you feeding them a nutritious, balanced diet. If you feed them high-quality dog food and provide them with regular mental and physical stimulation, your German Shepherd will lead a long, healthy, and happy life.
Suitability With Children and Other Pets
When properly taught and socialized from a young age, German Shepherds can make wonderful family pets. Often protective of their families, they can also be patient and gentle with children. However, due to their size and strength, it’s important to supervise interactions between children and German Shepherds to prevent accidental injuries.
When it comes to other pets, German Shepherds can be territorial and may not get along well with other dogs or animals. Due to their intense hunting drive, they could view smaller pets like cats or rabbits as prey to pursue or hunt. To ensure everyone’s safety, it’s crucial to introduce a German Shepherd to other pets gradually and under strict observation.
Australian Rescue Groups and Breeders
Australia has numerous breeders and rescue groups that specialize in German Shepherds. Below are some examples of such dedicated services:
Owning a German Shepherd requires commitment, patience, and dedication, but the rewards of a loyal and loving companion are well worth it. With proper care and attention, your German Shepherd can thrive and become a beloved member of your family for years to come.