15 Facts About German Shepherd

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds for years. They went a long way from being a herding dog, helping soldier on the battlefield, to being lovely family members. They are highly adaptive, intelligent and agile. Read on and discover what makes this breed one of the most popular breeds in the States.

This is one of those dog breeds that everyone is familiar with. They are extremely intelligent, easy to train, and massive people-pleasers. They earned their popularity rank by being excellent guard dogs, great in finding things and people, and moreover for their willingness to learn.

So, if you finally decided to get a dog and more specifically a German Shepherd, there are few things that you should know about this confident and agile breed. Moreover, if you are just expanding your horizons on this courageous breed you will enjoy these 15 facts about loyal German Shepherd.

1. German Shepherds Are Really From Germany

The German Shepherd originated from Germany, and that’s how they got their name. Captain Max von Stephanitz developed this dog into a working breed. The main design intention was to create a breed that could lead a large flock of sheep and patrol them. Its believed that von Stephanitz bred different shepherd breeds in order to create the German Shepherd that’s known today to us.

The German Shepherd Dog descends from the family of German herding dogs, and it took 35 years for von Stephanitz and qualified breeders to develop today’s German Shepherd. They even founded a club GSD to promote the breed and refine it. With time it seemed that everyone forgot that they were bred to herd sheep.

GSDs became popular in the States in the early 1900s, thanks to the adventures of canine movie stars Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin. During their early history, their name was changed, so they were known as Alsatian in Britain, during the World War I-era. With the fast development of modern livestock management, von Stephanitz promoted this breed as an ideal K-9 worker.

2. German Shepherd Participated In World War I

Dogs had a big role in WWI. Actually, during the war, millions of animals were used in many different roles in order to help soldiers. So, primarily dogs helped those in the battlefield as well as those at home. At the first place, these hardworking dogs were used to supply German soldiers with food and other supplies. In addition, they were used to help soldiers in the battle. Therefore, it was common to see German Shepherds alongside soldiers in a trench back in 1914.

Also, at the same time ambulance horses carried wounded soldiers, while dogs carried weapons and other heavy loads on more difficult grounds. Simply said, they had to be strong and extremely quiet. During the WWI they were known as ‘mercy dogs’. They served to bring medicine and first aid to wounded soldiers after the battle. In addition, they used to stay next to the wounded soldiers to keep them company as they passed away.

Another Shepherd’s worked as guard dogs or delivered messages. During this time Americans had an opportunity to meet this breed and they loved it so much that they brought some of them back to the States. And that’s how American love toward this intelligent breed begun.

3. They Went Through A Temporary Name Change

Although people in the States and in Europe loved this breed, their name wasn’t as appealing as it was before the WWI begun. After all, anything that had ‘German touch’ was demonized. So, once the wars ended people were still connecting bad things with Germany or anything that was produced or even born in Germany. Therefore, a breed called a ‘German Shepherd’ didn’t seem very appealing.

So, in order to combat this bias, the American Kennel Club called them ‘shepherd dogs’, while in the addition the English Kennel Club called them ‘Alsatian wolf dogs’.

This lasted until 1977. However, there are still people in Europe referring to them as Alsatians to this day.

4. Rin Tin Tin Was The Most Popular German Shepherd

Rin Tin Tin was brought to the States directly from the WWI battlefield. He was saved by Duncan Lee, an American soldier. After the War, Duncan trained the dog to work in silent films, and the dog became an instant hit. He was actually so popular, that whenever Warner Bros. had a financial struggle they would release a Rin Tin Tin movie.

There were even rumors that Rin Tin Tin was voted the best actor of the first Academy Awards in 1929. The truth is that back in the days Rin Tin Tin had no one to compete in terms of popularity. Moreover, in a book ‘Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend’, author Susan Orlean, claims that Rin Tin Tin received the Oscar if he weren’t a dog. So, the Oscar went to Emil Jannings. Again, Susan claims that it was the case simply because Jannings was a human.

5. They Are Really Smart

German Shepherds are known for their intelligence, and with a good reason: after all, they are considered to be the third smartest breed of dog. In order for one breed to be placed in the top tier of intelligence, the breed must be capable to understand a new command after only five repetitions. These active and smart dogs will thrive with experienced owners and with those that are able to give them attention, training, one-on-one time, and moreover focused attention.

However, although this breed is extremely intelligent it doesn’t mean that your Shepherd will know everything from day one. You can’t expect your Shepherd to magically know basic commands. So, he needs to be tough. Basically, your Shepherd will not come understanding when to ‘stop’, ‘start’, ‘lie down’ or even ‘roll over’. Luckily, they are quick learners.

In addition, you should be aware that German Shepherd is constantly learning, so make sure to set the right example for your dog.

6. German Shepherds Are Widely Popular

People love this breed. Therefore, they are hugely popular. Furthermore, they are so popular that they are among top 5 most popular breed by American Kennel Club. Even President John F. Kennedy had a pet German Shepherd Dog, named Clipper.

Actually, their popularity is so high in the States that they are just behind the forever-lovable Labrador. More than half a million videos on this breed on YouTube nowadays talk about their vivid popularity. It seems that cameras are fond of German Shepherds.

In addition, their popularity is great to learn everything about this breed. Moreover, this massive popularity offers a nice insight into how fast they grow from being puppies to full grown adults. Check this 40-second video of Dunder to see how fast they change in just 365 days. Of course, this video went viral.

7. German Shepherds Were First Service Dogs

People may be used to see Labradors as service dogs, but the ‘service dogs’ culture started with German Shepherds. Buddy was the first seeing eye dog to Morris Frank, in 1928. Interestingly, Buddy’s original name was Kiss and it was a she. Buddy was a female. So, why Buddy? They probably wanted to make this big breed more appealing to those in need. Therefore, Buddy was born. After all, we all need a buddy! Buddy was trained in Switzerland, inside the School for service dogs that was run by Dorothy Harrison Eustis.

Morris and Buddy had great success in the States, so Eustis returned to the States to continue her work. Therefore, she worked hard to establish ‘The Seeing Eye’, a school to train more seeing eye dogs. Morris became its managing director, with faithful Buddy at his side. The school is active even today and continues with its service of training dogs for the blind.

8. They Have A Powerful Bite

There is a specific way to measure an animal bite. So, an animal bite is measured in pounds per square inch or PSI. PSI stands for the force of the bite. Basically, PSI was created to calculate the pressure released upon any given point. It’s a commonly used system and it’s easy to understand. If you are not sure how to truly understand PSI, or how to explain it to someone, take the tire for an example, as the average tire’s pressure generally falls around 32 PSI or Pounds Per Square Inch.

In addition, it’s reported that a tiger shark has a bite force of 325, while the gray wolf boasts bites with a PSI of 406. German Shepherds bite is an extremely strong one, is it about 238. German Shepherds are known for being generally passive. However, they can become extremely defensive if they or their families are put in danger.

If you can’t envision how strong their bite actually is, you can see it like this – their bite is so strong that they can break any bone in the human body, or in another animal.

9. They Are Beautiful

German Shepherds are among most beautiful dog breeds ever. They have an amazing coat of beautiful colors. However, be aware that they can shed a lot, especially during seasonal coat blows. Their posture is great, while their body is extremely powerful and agile. Therefore, no wonder that they love being so active and demand spending time outside running or having long walks.

Even their head is described as ‘noble, cleanly chiseled, and strong without coarseness’, and moreover it seems that they are a whole package. And, of course, THOSE EARS!

Even people who are not fond of this breed, if there are any really, cant loathe the beauty of their ears. Their ears are pointed, large, standing up, and parallel to each other – simply said, they add up to their nature that’s always ready for action. However, their ears are floppy down when they are puppies, which makes them look goofy until they reach a certain maturity level.

10. Their Life Expectancy Is 10 Years

If you are a large dog owner, or you are about to become one, you probably know that your beloved pets will die much sooner than smaller breeds. The same rule applies to German Shepherd. It’s still unclear why larger dogs grow up faster and die younger than smaller breeds, but that’s the truth.

It’s common for German Shepherds to die between age 8 to 13, but their life expectancy is 10.95 years. When you take that life span with Shepherds size, you can conclude that it’s kind of normal for a dog for their size. Dogs like Great Dane live even shorten for about 7 years. On the other hand, Poodles are known for living up to 14 years.

However, overall good health condition can lead to longer and happier life, so its crucial to maintain your dogs great health, and take care of their coat (especially that German Shepherds are known for additional shedding), gums, and have regular grooming.

11. They Have A Genetic Predisposition For Hip Problems

Large-breed dogs are known for experiencing hip significant hip issues. That being said, German Shepherds are prone to hip problems. In most cases, German Shepherds are born with a genetic disorder called hip dysplasia, which results in a misaligned hip joint. In addition, they are prone to a condition called Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) as they get older.

In addition, they develop significant pain and weakness in their hips as a result. They are also prone to have allergies such as flea allergies, food allergies, pollen allergies, and atopic dermattitis allergies.

12. They Are K-9 Members

As the world, and Germany especially became more industrialized, the creator of German Shepherds, von Stephanitz realized that the need for his dogs may decline. So, in order to maintain their relevance, he worked closely with police service and other relevant organizations to secure a place for the dogs in the working force.

As they were bred to be active and athletic, it was easy to train them, especially that they were tireless workers with high intelligence. So, thanks to von Stephanitz’s help, the breed survived and gain a new purpose.

So, that’s how K-9 was born. K-9 is a dog police force that is meant to sniff out drugs, and bad guys. They are seriously trained by professionals and know how and when to attach, how to make their opponent on the ground fast bleeding, and even more, they know what to do if their handlers are not nearby. Nowadays, K-9 are not only German Shepherds, but they were the first breed especially trained for the purpose of being a police supporter.

13. They Can Be Affected With Dwarfism

Some of the German Shepherds may be affected with dwarfism, although this is really rare. So, they can have pituitary dwarfism, meaning that they have puppy-like forever look. In addition, they remain small in stature.

Although some people may find their forever puppy-like look adorable, the thing is that although they look adorable, they go through a lot of pain and health issues.

14. They Have Their Own Club

As we mentioned earlier, German Shepherds are known for not having a long life expectancy, so they have special awards for those who are older than 12 years. So, if your German Shepherd is age 12 or even older, then he is eligible to join ‘The Thirteen Club’. The idea of the club is to show recognition to those elderly guards. Moreover, registration is extremely simple – you just have to fill out the application for your dog.

15. They Are Superb Guard Dogs

Although this is the most common fact about them, there is so no harm of pointing it out one more time. They are just great when it comes to guarding the house, the yard, and the family members. Moreover, they are ready to place their own life for owners or family member protection. That’s why they are known as real-life heroes, as the number of German Shepherds already proved that in their world human comes first.

Therefore, it’s common to hear that a German Shepherds saved someone from drowning, from another animal, or went a long distance to help someone. They will protect your house from intruders, and they will protect you, by staying extremely loyal to you at the same time.