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German Shepherd’s, GSD’s, or even Alsatians, are one of the most popular and most easily recognised breeds in the world.
There is sometimes confusion between the titles German Shepherd and Alsatian with some people believing that that one of them has a long coat whilst the other does not. This is in fact incorrect, the correct title is the "German Shepherd", however many people do call them Alsatians, but both names refer to the same dog breed. German Shepherd dogs obtained their new title during World War One when Germany was our enemy and anything German was taboo. To avoid the persecution of the breed the dogs were renamed Alsatians after the area from which they originated, Alsace. Nominally regarded as belonging to France, the area was often annexed to Germany as the region was under dispute for a long time but reference to Alsace was acceptable. By 1977 pressure from breeders resulted in the original name of German Shepherd being reintroduced and it is this name by which the breed is known today.
Despite the change of name the overall look of the breed has not changed too much although there was a period of time when a sloping back was desirable. This trait resulted in health problems and has gradually been bred out of today’s GSD although there are still several other health issues as with most pure breed dogs. Colour wise, GSD’s are usually tan and black or red and black although variations do occur and he may have a long or short coat. As long as you don’t wish to show or breed from your German Shepherd then his colour and fur type won’t matter; more important is his temperament.
In general the German Shepherd is a calm, intelligent dog, easy to train and curious. He will protect his family and territory although this can become a problem if he is not socialised and trained correctly and over protection can lead to aggression. To prevent this, your GSD should know when and what he can and can’t protect. A fine example of his protective nature is in his role as a working dog, particularly with the police. The bond between dog and handler has to be a strong one so that the police dog knows his place when it matters. Police dogs live with their handler and family so it is important that he knows when he is working and when he is not. Usually very trustworthy in this regard, even a police dog is safe around people and children when not working. Your GSD may only be a pet but even so he needs some kind of job. He is energetic and intelligent and his talents should be put to good use or he may be unhappy.
One of my German Shepherds had the job of carrying and looking after a toy. She would walk for miles with her ‘tug o war’ toy dangling from her bottom canine tooth and if she inadvertently dropped it whilst following a scent or completing some other responsible task she would not rest until she found it again. She took her job very seriously. Another job of hers, self appointed this time, was to break up any skirmishes between other dogs on the field where she was exercised. The way she would do this was to march between them and stand there – they always stopped! She did not have to do anything else as she had presence and this is one of the most attractive traits of the breed in my opinion. However not all dogs of a certain breed have the same personality as I’m sure we all know and appreciate but it does help to know the rudiments of the personality of the dog you are going to own.
My second GSD is very different from my first. Very different! Like her predecessor she has a sense of humour but unlike her predecessor she is not calm and collected. In fact she can appear to be a bit wild and she is not taking to having a job so easily. I have tried many different jobs for her but to no avail. She would rather run around, jump through windows, or play chase with her best friend, Laddie. She is not a typical German Shepherd although the basic personality traits of guarding are there. She is not curious and has not been easy to train. She is usually very, very lively when outside and very calm when at home. She doesn’t bark when someone comes to the door but barks manically when she wants other dogs to chase her or when she thinks I have stopped long enough chatting to some other dog walker! She appears to alternate between being very intelligent and being dumb. At her training class the trainer noticed that she wasn’t taking her commands from me but was watching what the other dogs were doing then following suit! Is that clever or dumb? She is totally at the mercy of my tiny Jack Russell who gets the better of her every time and can easily make her give up her bed and forbids her from touching any of the toys. Is that clever or dumb?
By the age of three most GSD’s have calmed down and matured. By the age of five or six they are in their prime and look regal and beautiful which makes them a very attractive dog to own. A word of warning though - a German Shepherd is not the ideal dog for a first time dog owner; he needs an experienced, calm and strong owner to get the best out of him as he can be challenging. To summarise – an extract from the well known ‘How Many Dogs Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb’ German Shepherd: I’ll change it as soon as I’ve led these people from the dark, checked to make sure I haven’t missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation’ That is a typical German Shepherd!
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