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German Shepherd - Meet The World's Leading Military, Police and Guard Dog

Updated on January 29, 2015

German Shepherds are approachable, strong, muscular, fearless, protector and a loving family companion. They are energetic, fun-loving, fond of children and loyal. How many breeds can claim all of this? In the past two years they have come in 2nd place behind the Labrador Retriever on the AKC registration list. In addition, how about their handsome rugged good looks? If they were a man they would be on every macho male billboard advertising the latest most popular product. Their breed name is German Shepherd Dog, I'm not sure why the dog part is there, isn't that obvious? Other breeds in the top 75 ranking that have dog added to their official name are Bernese Mountain Dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs and Australian Cattle Dogs.

If you were to get a German Shepherd which color would you pick?

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A GERMAN German Shepherd



German Shepherds are relatively a new breed originally from Karlsruhe, Germany in 1899. I guess that's where the German part of their name comes from. They are from older breeds of herding dogs. The German Shepherd first came to the United States in 1907. Due to their trainability, intelligence, strength and obedience they became widely used for Police, military, search and rescue and guard dogs.

German Shepherd's became less popular after World War I and World War II due to the anti-german sentiment at the time. The UK Kennel Club actually removed the word German and changed the breed's name to Alsatian Wolf Dog after the first war. The new name was also adopted by many other kennel clubs. The new name lasted until 1977 after pressure from breeders and enthusiasts to change it back to German Shepherd. The name Alsatian is still used by many overseas.

AKC 2013 Breed Registration Rankings

Labrador Retriever
German Shepherd Dog
Golden Retrievers

Military Shepherd


German Shepherd's Personality

Stanley Coren's, The Intelligence of Dogs, has the German Shepherd ranked as #3 for intelligence behind Border Collies and Poodles. Coren noted that they obeyed the first command 95% of the time. Due to their straight A smarts and strength military, police and security companies use German Shepherds for their missions and protection.

Another reason for their guard dog use is because they can become over-protective of their territory and family and they are not quick to become immediate friends with the unknown. For this reason, like with any dog, proper training and social skills are important.

German Shepherds are curious, willing to learn and have an eagerness to have a purpose. They can work regardless of distractions.

Only 15% of the guide dogs used in the United states are German Shepherds. Most guide dogs are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. This not because a shepherd is unable to this job but it's because they have better skills suited for military, police and guard work. Earlier experiments have shown retrievers can recover faster from a frightening situation while German Shepherds were superior in aggression and defensive behavior.


Size and Shape

A German Shepherd is usually about 22-26" tall. Most of the females are at the lower range (22"-24") and the males at the higher range (24"-26"). Their length measurement is longer than their height. The shepherd's weight can vary widely with males normally anywhere from 66-88 pounds and females from 49-71 pounds.

A Shepherd's head is proportionate to the body, strong, chiseled and noble. Their muzzle is long and strong and parallel with the topline of their skull. Their ears are moderately pointed, do not hang and are proportionate with the skull. The shepherd's neck is clean-cut and relatively strong and muscular and proportionate in size to the head. Their eyes are very dark, do not protrude and are almond-shaped. The chest is deep, well filled, never shallow and carried well forward. Their torso topline is mostly straight, very strong and does not sag. Their body is solid but not too bulky. The tail is always bushy and longer than shorter. The Shepherd's front legs and shoulders are well muscled and strong. Their rear legs are broad with the upper and lower parts well muscled. The feet are short and compact with thick pads and firm short nails.

White? Are you sure you're a German Shepherd?



The most popular colors for a shepherd are black and tan. Other colors are pure-black, pure-white, sable, liver, black with reddish and black with silver. Most color variations usually have a black mask and black body markings. Sable color is either darker or lighter shades. In the show dog world richer colors are better while washed-out colors and blues or livers are not preferred. A white dog is disqualified. White is a masking gene which hides the true color of the dog. A dog with the white color is genetically a black and tan dog. There is also a panda color. This is a white head and neck, black body with brown markings. Panda color is a genetic mutation.


German Shepherds have a double coat of medium hair. Their outer coat is usually more dense, straight and lies close to the body. Their head, legs and paws have shorter hair than on their neck and body. The hair on the rear legs is longer than the front. The outer coat sheds year round so expect a lot brushing, grooming and sweeping. As with any breed, check with your veterinarian for expert advice on the right comb and shedding tool to use.

Black Puppy



Early in the breed's life there was a lot of inbreeding. This practice is the cause of many of their ailments.

Shepherds are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia which can cause pain and arthritis later in life. This is the most common ailments for them.

The breed has a higher rate of a neurological disease called Degenerative myelopathy. This is a progressive disease of the canine spinal cord which usually occurs after seven years and occurs most often in the german shepherd Dog. This disease cannot be cured and is irreversible.

German Shepherds also have a higher than normal incidence of a common inherited bleeding disorder, exocrine pancreatic. Treatment with supplements given with food.

Due to their pointy ears, infections are unlikely because the ear canal will not hold moisture or debris.

If you are getting ready to add a new dog to the family or want to try a different breed why not give a German Shedpherd some thought? It's hard to beat the guard dog and companion combination.

If you have a German shepherd I'm sure you have some interesting stories to tell about your dog. Feel free to add a short story to the comment section below, I would love to hear them.

Adolf Hitler with a German Shepherd


German Shepherd Fun Facts

  • The most famous German Shepherd is Rin Tin Tin.
  • Both Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In the Batman Comics, Batman's dog Ace was a German Shepherd.
  • Life span is 9-13 years.
  • Hitler attempted to train Shepherds to talk and read. If you want to know if he was successful just ask a German Shepherd and you will find the answer.
  • In some places, german Shepherds are still used for herding and tending sheep.


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