The incredible beauty, intelligence and versatility of German shepherds make them one of the most beloved dogs in the world. In this article, we bring you 9 interesting facts about German Shepherds that are not only fascinating, but also highly informative in terms of their history, loyalty, intelligence and much more.
Originally bred for herding.
The German shepherd dog is currently a multi-purpose working breed – working various roles including herding, guarding, police, military and guide-dog work. But did you know they were originally bred as medium-sized dogs for herding sheep and protecting flocks from predators? It wasn’t until later where their popularity as a guard dog led them to being bred for a larger size and a more confident demeanor.
Various breed name changes
After World War I and II, it was common for allied countries to disassociate with anything containing “German” in its name. Thus, the American Kennel Club renamed the breed to simply “Shepherd Dog” in 1917. In Great Britain and various European countries, the name was changed to Alsatian. Only in 1977 the name was officially changed back to “German Shepherd” by the breed club.
Fun Fact: German Shepherd Dog, Alsatian, Alsatian Wolf Dog, Deutscher Schäferhund are all names used to refer to today’s German Shepherd Dog.
They are extremely intelligent and loyal.
The versatility that German shepherds demonstrate in their abilities is not by mere chance, this is due to the breed’s incredible cognitive physical and emotional capacities. According to canine psychologist Stanley Coren, German shepherds rank 3rd for most ‘intelligent’ dog breed, this is taking into consideration several aspects: adaptive, working and instinctive intelligence. Additionally, their nature is alert, balanced, friendly and extremely loyal to their guardians.
Among the most popular breed in the world.
German shepherd dogs have consistently ranked as the 2nd most popular breed in the US for almost a decade. This can be largely attributed to the breed’s great character, high intelligence, great sensitivity and an obedient temperament, easily making them one of the most well-loved dogs.
The German shepherd has been successful in film.
Rin Tin Tin was perhaps the most famous German shepherd in any artistic medium. He was considered an international star in motion pictures, even earning himself a star on the Hollywood walk of fame! The breed has been featured in over 80+ movies, being portrayed as faithful companions and friends, but also heroes. Some iconic movies including German shepherd’s include – Inspector Rex, Terminator, I Am Legend and K-9.
They participated in both world wars.
Over 50,000 military dogs served in World War 1, simply proving how valuable canines can be on the battlefield. German Shepherds first introduced in the battlefields of WW1 in 1917 by the German army. During this period, they were in their infantry stage and the German army was unsure how they would fit in the context. During the hard years of conflict, the German shepherds were used to send messages, locate wounded soldiers, gave mortally wounds soldiers company during their last moments and patrol along with the soldiers.
They are strong dogs but experience health problems.
German shepherds are powerful dogs, boasting an average lifespan of 9-12 years. However, the breed is uniquely vulnerable to hereditary conditions, as well as other health concerns that are prevalent in large dog breeds. Below is a list of the most common health issues faced by German shepherds.
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Gastric bloating
- Torsion (twisting of the stomach)
- Degenerative myelopathy (disease of the spinal cord)
They were the first guide dogs in history.
Since the origins of contemporary guide dogs in World War 1, guide dogs have provided independence and companionship for returning veterans with vision loss. The idea of training German Shepherds to serve as guide dogs was initially sparked when German doctor, Gerhard Stalling, observed his German shepherd assisting a blind veteran at a hospital. Running with the idea, Stalling was able to raise funds to open the world’s first guide dog school in 1916.
Fun fact: The first dogs to officially help the blind in the UK were 4 German Shepherds named Judy, Meta, Folly and Flash.
Eight different coat colours + 4 rare colours
Not every German Shepherd is the stereotypical tan with a black “saddle” and a black “mask”, in fact, there are 8 common colour patterns and 4 controversial rare colours.
- Black and Tan
- Black and Red
- Bicolor (black with cream-colored heels)
- Liver and Tan
- Sable or Gray