For decades, the German Shepherd has proved themselves to be courageous and loyal companions and working dogs. They've played a valuable role in many official services namely the army and the police. They are extremely intelligent and clever dogs which makes them highly trainable. If fact, if there is one thing these dogs relish it's being taught to do new things.
German Shepherds are strong dogs and when well trained they also make wonderful family pets although they might not be the best choice for first time dog owners. These proud dogs need to be handled firmly yet fairly with some of them preferring to work more than to sit around not doing much at all. It's important to know whether the bloodlines of a German Shepherd lean more towards working rather than being a companion dog which a reputable would be only too happy to tell any potential owners right from the outset of contacting them.
Another fact worth noting is that some German Shepherds can be a little aggressive which is more often than not because they are more timid or fearful by nature and again, it's important to meet both parent dogs of any puppy you may be thinking about buying so you get to see their personalities. A good temperament in both the mother and the father would mean their puppies are more likely to have sound temperaments too.
Sadly, because the breed has been so popular over many years, the problem of inbreeding has been a real issue. This has been highlighted in a study carried out a while back by researchers at Imperial College London which established that the gene pool has been considerably reduced over time which in short means that inbreeding is still a real concern. German Shepherd puppies are more at risk of being born with genetic disorders and they may also not have the sort of kind temperament that's needed in a family pet if they have not be bred responsibly.
Many pedigree dogs are predisposed to certain birth defects and health issues with the Dalmatian being prone to suffer from deafness, the Boxer is known to suffer from heart disease, but with German Shepherds, it's hip dysplasia that's the most commonly seen condition the breed suffers from and again if both parent dogs have badly formed hips, the chances are their puppies will have inherited the condition too.
The more breeders try to achieve certain traits and desirable characteristics in the breed using dogs that are related to each over, which unfortunately does happen, the more chance there is of litters being born with defects and hereditary health disorders. Over generations more puppies are born with problems and genetically inherited disorders simply because the gene pool has become that much more limited. The only way to improve the breed is to use unrelated parent dogs in a breeding programme and this needs to be done over a few generations so there is more chance of puppies being born healthy and less chance of them developing health issues like hip dysplasia.
Because the breed is so prone to develop hip dysplasia which is in fact where their hip joints don't form normally, reputable breeders have the option to have any dogs they hope to use in a breeding programme checked over which is referred to as “hip scoring”. This is a scheme much supported by all German Shepherd clubs and associations as a way of reducing the number of dogs inheriting the disorder from their parents. Only dogs evaluated by the Kennel Club or British Veterinary Association that have well formed hips should be used for breeding, but the cost of having this test is quite high being well over £100 and as such, irresponsible breeders often choose not to have their dogs tested. This is another very good reason why you should never get a German Shepherd puppy from anywhere other than a well established and reputable breeder who is always proud of the puppies they produce.
Because many popular breeds have limited gene pools and to some extent this is also true of the German Shepherd, it can be challenging for breeders to introduce new bloodlines into their breeding programmes. However, it is virtually impossible to know to what extent inbreeding may have on an individual dog, but what is known is that it increases the chances of the dog inheriting genetic health disorders. However, looking at the bigger picture, it also harms a breed as a whole in the long term.
There are many people who breed German Shepherds, but there are lots of breeders who don't take their responsibilities as seriously as they should. If you are thinking about getting a German Shepherd puppy, it's best to read up on all the information about the breed and the various health disorders they are predisposed to suffer from before you contact a breeder. Being armed with as much information as possible helps when it comes to asking all the right questions about parent dogs, their known health disorders if they have any and the bloodlines of any puppies you are considering buying. A reputable and well established breeder would be only too happy to provide all the information you ask for about any dogs they use in their breeding programme over the phone before you even visit them. This is useful because you can then check out the bloodlines on the internet through The Kennel Club or other official German Shepherd Associations based here in the UK.