Rin Tin Tin, a pup found in a World War I battle zone, became the world’s first canine movie star, forever marking the German Shepherd Dog as one of the most easily recognized breeds. From his imposing size to his erect ears and dark, intelligent eyes, he has achieved legendary status as the ideal canine. A versatile, athletic and fearless working dog, the Shepherd has done just about every job a dog can do, from leading the blind and detecting illicit drugs to bringing down fleeing criminals and serving in the armed forces. An energetic, loyal and devoted companion, the German Shepherd isn’t a breed but a lifestyle.
The abilities of this breed go far beyond its origin as a herding dog. The German Shepherd has made a name for himself as a police and military dog, guide and assistance dog, search and rescue dog, and detector dog. He has excelled in every canine sport, including agility, obedience, rally, tracking and, of course, herding. German Shepherds still work livestock on farms and ranches around the world, including the United States. If you have horses, they will trot alongside you while you ride and help you put the horses back in the barn when you’re done.
Did You Know?
During World War I, Americans weren’t the biggest fans of Germany, so the AKC renamed the breed Shepherd Dog. Similarly, the English started calling them Alsatian Wolf Dogs. Nowadays, many Europeans still call the breed Alsatians.
It takes some dedication to live with a German Shepherd. Be prepared to provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. A half-hour walk twice a day, plus a vigorous play or training session, is a good start.
The protective but loving German Shepherd is a great choice for families with children, but singles and couples who love the outdoors also match up well with this breed. With sufficient exercise and opportunities to use their considerable athleticism and brains, these versatile companions can handle anything from a small city apartment to a vast ranch. They’re not suited for life in the backyard or a doghouse, but need to live indoors as a member of the family.
Other Quick Facts
- The German Shepherd is highly intelligent and will not be content to live life as a couch potato. He’s a dog of action, and he needs to live with an active person who will give him a job worthy of his talents.
- German Shepherds love children and make great family dogs when they are given early socialization and training.
- Most of us think of the German Shepherd as a black and tan dog, but they can also be sable and solid black. Dogs with white, blue or liver-colored coats are frowned upon by breeders, so don’t fall for marketing claims that those colors are “rare” and command a higher price.
- A German Shepherd should never be shy, nervous or aggressive.