Dog Review: German Shepherds


German Shepherds are one of the most recognizable breeds of dogs.  They have many distinctive traits such as their pointed ears, curled tails, and dark brown/black coats make them easy to identify.  Odds are you have probably seen one of them around because they are one of the most popular dog breeds to own as a pet. They are the second most popular pet dog breed in the United States and fourth most in the United Kingdom.  They were first recognized in 1899.  They were originally bred to herd sheep, but their many outstanding qualities make them the preferred dog for many other jobs, such as the K-9 unit and disability assistance.

German shepherds are active, medium to large sized dogs measuring at 24-26 in. and 22-24 in. and weigh about 65-85 lbs. and 40-70 lbs for males and females respectively.  They usually have short-hair coats, as the long hair gene is recessive.  Another noticeable feature about their coats is they have a very dense amount of hair around their neck.  This is a trait that has descended from the wild dogs and wolves who used to fight.  This dense patch of hair makes their necks much harder to locate and therefore can be lifesaving if they ever get into a fight with another animal.  The most expressive parts of German Shepherds are their tails and ears. This breed has the most muscles in their ears which allow them to raise or lower them and turn them backwards and forwards depending on how alert they are and what their mood is.  Also, if you are unsure about whether you can approach a German Shepherd or not, their tails give away how they feel about you.  If it is relaxed and sleek, then it would be OK to approach them because they feel comfortable, but if it is curled up and bristly, you should probably keep your distance.

German Shepherds are known for being very intelligent dogs.  It is no surprise that they were specifically bred for that trait of intelligence. In the book The Intelligence of Dogs, author Stanley Coren ranked the breed third for intelligence, behind Border Collies and Poodles. After much experimentation, Coren found that German Shepherds could learn simple tasks after only five repetitions. He also found that in 95% of the scenarios, Shepherds obeyed the first command that they were given.  Pairing this outstanding trait with their strength explains why they are the number one choice for police dogs and search and rescue dogs. They are also extremely curious and willing to learn.

The intelligence and obedience of these dogs are why they make such good family pets.  In addition to learning commands very quickly and obeying commands, they also are fiercely loyal to their owners.  German Shepherds become very protective, even over-protective, of their families and their territories.  They are not likely to make friends with strangers easily and will often bark to try and scare away people they see as a threat to someone or something they care about.  This unfortunately makes you one of the less-liked houses on your block by the postman, but in case there is ever someone trying to break into your house, these dogs will give their lives to protect you.

From years of being standard-issue police dogs and defending their family from anyone they see as a threat, even if they mean no harm, German Shepherds have gotten a bad rap as a bully dog. There are over 4 million cases of dog attacks in the United States every year, and even though German Shepherds are not as likely as other dogs to attack unprovoked,  their aggressive stance and media portrayal makes them seem worse than they actually are to people who do not know much about dogs.  Also, their notorious bite power (238 foot-pounds of force) which ranks in the top five of all breeds of dogs, does not help them gain favor with those less knowledgeable about dogs.  After all is said and done however, German Shepherds are one of the best dogs a family can have as a pet, and the number of households that own them back that up.  I would highly recommend this breed of dog if you were thinking about raising a dog of your own.