An incredibly popular dog who is renowned for its bravery and versatility, the German Shepherd is well known around the world. Their black and tan coat and deep brown eyes are quickly recognisable.
This dog is colloquially known as the ‘Alsatian’ and has worked for the police force, the military and as a search and rescue dog. Intelligent and eager to please, they make a brilliant worker. Sadly, the breed is plagued with medical issues and many older German Shepherds will suffer with joint pain and mobility problems.
Though the German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, they have only been in existence for about 150 years. As is clear from the use of the word ‘Shepherd’ in their name, they were once employed by farmers to guide and protect their livestock.
It’s hard to mention the history of the German Shepherd without hitting upon Max von Stephanitz. He worked hard to establish the breed from a selection of Shepherd type breeds that he found to possess several desirable characteristics. A lot of inbreeding took place in order to establish the breed and this is probably part of the reason for the many genetic health issues from which they suffer.
A well-muscled and large dog, the German Shepherd can reach heights of 65cm and weights of 45kg. Males tend to be noticeably bigger than females. Sadly, there was a tendency for breeding these dogs with sloping hips which has led to a lot of orthopaedic issues. In recent years, there has been a call to reverse this trend.
Their coat is a double coat that is thick and offers ample protection from the harsh weather conditions they would have experienced during German winters outside.
There’s a reason why so many people are loyal to the German Shepherd breed. They have a wonderful temperament when adequately trained and socialised. Clever, quick to learn and faithful to their owner, they are a real joy to be around.
While their intelligence can be a bonus, it is also a double-edged sword. It isn’t always easy to keep the German Shepherd occupied and many will become bored and frustrated if not provided with plenty to keep them busy. They love to be challenged and to engage their brain.
It is the sad truth that the German Shepherd is one of the most ‘unhealthy’ pedigrees that there is. This is despite the fact that they are not a brachycephalic or dwarf breed (both types which are known for their health problems). The German Shepherd can suffer from a huge variety of medical issues, some of which can be very serious:
A wonderful dog to train, in the right hands, the German Shepherd will go far. A combination of loyalty to their owner, a respectful nature and an intelligence that is rare among dogs, the German Shepherd excels in many disciplines.
They do require a firm and consistent approach and can develop behavioural issues without adequate training.
The thick coat of the German Shepherd should be brushed every couple of days to help spread their natural oils along their fur.
This active dog requires exercise in spades. They won’t be content with the same boring walk each day and thrive when given lots of different things to do. We should aim for a minimum of two hours exercise each day. Keep it varied by playing frisbee or catch, going for a swim or a hike or even making a makeshift agility course in your back garden.
It is important to focus on the health of the German Shepherd and to tailor their diet to their medical needs. For example, those with hip dysplasia will benefit greatly from a diet that contains joint supplements and that aims to keep them trim. Supplements containing Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Collagen (such as Mobile Bones) are a sensible choice for most.
You'll find a handy feeding calculator on every product page here at Pooch & Mutt to help you identify how much of our health led recipes are right for the age, size and weight of your dog.