The German Shepherd Dog is a popular large breed dog that originated in Germany in 1899. German Shepherds are part of the working dog group and was developed originally for herding and guarding sheep. Because of their strength, intelligence and abilities in obedience training they are often employed in police and military roles around the world.
German Shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence, a trait for which they are now famous. In the book The Intelligence of Dogs, author Stanley Coren ranked the breed third for intelligence, behind Border Collies and Poodles.In his studies, he found that they had the ability to learn simple tasks after only five repetitions and obeyed the first command 95% of the time. Because they are able to quickly learn various tasks and interpret instructions better than other large breeds, they are esirable as police, guard, and search and rescue dogs.
German Shepherd are highly active, self-assured dogs. The breed is marked by a willingness to learn and an eagerness to have a purpose. They are curious which makes them excellent guard dogs and suitable for search missions. They can become over-protective of their family and territory, especially if not socialized correctly. They are not inclined to become immediate friends with strangers. Shepherds are highly intelligent and obedient.
Many common ailments of the German Shepherds are a result of the inbreeding. One very common ailment is hip and elbow dysplasia which may lead to the dog experiencing pain in later life, and may cause arthritis. A study by the University of Zurich in police working dogs found that 45% were affected by degenerative spinal stenosis, although the sample studied was small. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals found that 19.1% of German Shepherd are affected by hip dysplasia. Due to the large and open nature of their ears, Shepherds are prone to ear infections. German Shepherds, like all large bodied dogs, are also prone to bloat.
According to a survey in the UK, the average life span of German Shepherds is 10 years,which is normal for a dog of their size. Degenerative myelopathy (CDRM), a neurological disease, occurs with enough regularity specifically in the breed to suggest that the breed is predisposed to it. A very inexpensive DNA saliva test is now available to screen for Degenerative Myelopathy. The test screens for the mutated gene that has been seen in dogs with degenerative myelopathy. Now that a test is available the disease can be bred out of breeds with a high preponderance. The test is only recommended for predisposed breeds, but can be performed on DNA from any dog on samples collected through swabbing the inside of the animal’s cheek with a sterile cotton swab.