The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is known for his loyalty, trustworthiness, intelligence and affinity for people. These qualities have helped make the German Shepherd Dog one of the most popular breeds of companion dog throughout the world.
As the name suggests, the German Shepherd Dog originated in Germany where it evolved from herding dogs that were used to tend and protect sheep.
The German Shepherd is a relatively new breed, dating back to 1899, and he owes his existence to one man: Captain Max von Stephanitz, a career captain in the German cavalry with a goal of creating a German breed that would be unmatched as a herding dog.
The dogs were recognised as being excellent guard and attack dogs and were used by the police and the military. Consequently, there were 48,000 Shepherds enlisted in the German army during the First World War. After the First World War English owners changed the name to Alsatian because nobody wanted to be associated with anything German. However, now with the war long over, the breed has changed back to its original name and the German Shepherd Dog has become one of the world’s most widely recognised breeds.
German Shepherds first arrived in Australia between 1923 and 1929 but then the government imposed import bans which were not lifted until 1972 because the dogs were believed to be dangerous.
APPEARANCEThe true colour of a German Shepherd is not known until the puppy coat is shed and the full adult coat has grown. However the German Shepherd Dog’s coat is generally a mixture of black, fawn and gold.
Pure black German Shepherds are also available, but white is considered undesirable in show ring dogs.
Weight: Males 30-40 kg; Females 22 – 32 kg
Height: Males 60-65 cm; Females 55 – 60 cm
For the full breed standard, visit the ANKC website.
German Shepherd Dogs have suffered an image problem which was in part deserved. Many years ago there were significant problems in the breed with temperament. Today however, as a result of the work done by the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia, the temperament of these dogs is excellent.
The German Shepherd personality is aloof but not usually aggressive. He's a reserved dog; he doesn't make friends immediately, but once he does, he's extremely loyal. With his family he's easy-going and approachable, but when threatened he can be strong and protective, making him an excellent watchdog.
German Shepherds bred by breeders, members of German Shepherd Clubs affiliated with the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia, are loyal, loving and intelligent dogs who are willing to do anything for the people they love to the point of giving their own lives. Although the dogs are good with children, they should not be left alone with small children because both dogs and puppies can be boisterous.
German Shepherds are used in police work, including tracking and searching for guns and drugs. They are excellent at obedience work, make good companions, guide dogs and guard dogs. The dogs can also be involved in schutzhund, a sport where dogs attack on command.
German Shepherd Dogs can be prone to health problems including hip and elbow dysplasia.
In Australia, the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia introduced and controls a number of Breed Improvement Schemes that are designed to reduce the incidence of diseases with a possible genetic link, by selecting for breeding only those animals which pass stringent selection tests.
The A-stamp Certificate system was designed to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia, a crippling disease of the hind legs. A similar certificate system (Z-stamp) exists for elbow dysplasia. People buying puppies should ensure they view both A and Z certificates to ensure parents have been breed surveyed.
The pups are breed surveyed through the local German Shepherd Clubs and the paperwork is issued by the Council.
German Shepherds can also suffer from a variety of skin allergies - such as dermatitis or Hot Spots - which can be caused by flea bites, food allergies or allergens.
German Shepherds isn't the breed for you if you're away from home frequently or for long periods of time. When left alone they can become anxious or bored, and are likely to express their worry in ways you don't like: barking, chewing or digging.
German Shepherds can be aloof and suspicious of strangers. To raise a social and well-behaved dog, expose your puppy to many experiences, places, and people.
Obedience training, starting with puppy classes, is essential for getting him used to other people and dogs, as well as teaching him basic canine manners.
The German Shepherd needs little grooming, however, during the seasonal change from winter to summer it is often necessary to strip out the dead, woolly coat. This should be done as quickly as possible with a rubber brush specifically designed for the job.
German Shepherds are reliable, intelligent and responsive to training. They need obedience training early in life, particularly those that are boisterous, strong minded and dominating. Well socialised German Shepherd Dogs are easier to introduce to new people and situations and make a more stable companion.
- Temperament: Loyal, protective, intelligent
- Lifespan: 10-14 years
- Maintenance: Low
- Recommended for: active families with older children
For more information on the breed, please contact:
ACT German Shepherd Dog Association Inc.
German Shepherd Dog League of NSW Inc.
Newcastle & Hunter Region German Shepherd Dog Club
German Shepherd Dog Club of Queensland Inc.
German Shepherd Dog Club of South Australia Inc.
German Shepherd Dog Club of the Northern Territory
German Shepherd Dog Club of Victoria
German Shepherd Dog Club of Western Australia Inc.
If you'd like to rehome a German Shepherd, please contact:
Sweet Shepherd Rescue Australia Inc.
German Shepherd Rescue Victoria
GSDs in Need Australia