German Shepherd Dogs and Ticks

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

If you thought your dog’s fleas were bad, then you’ll want to make sure that they don’t get ticks. Fleas might be annoying, but at least they’re small and don’t cause major diseases in most cases. Ticks, on the other hand, are much larger. If left unattended, they can lead your dog to develop a serious illness.

Finding and eliminating ticks can be a bit of a challenge. Not only do you have to search your dog to remove the ticks, but you have to make sure that you remove them from the environment that led to them getting ticks in the first place. In this article, we’re going to discuss the best ways to manage ticks with your shepherd.

About Ticks

Ticks are tiny, blood-sucking bugs that are usually found in wooded areas. They are also sometimes found in the plains. These parasites are not only annoying, they can carry diseases that can be fatal to both dogs and humans.

Once a tick latches on to a dog, it begins to suck blood. It generally takes somewhere between five and six hours for a tick to firmly attach itself to an animal or a human. After this, it begins sucking blood from the creature. It will continue to suck blood for up to 10 days until it becomes full.

Female ticks actually require the blood of a mammal for them to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, the bite of a tick can lead to a number of diseases. Some of the most common tick-borne diseases include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Tick-borne relapsing fever
  • Tularemia
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Babesiosis

Preventing Your Dog From Getting Ticks

Naturally, you’re not going to want to risk your dog getting infected with a tick-borne disease. There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you minimize the risk of contracting any of these illnesses.

  • Make sure that you check your pet for ticks on a daily basis if you live in an area where ticks live or if you’re traveling. This is especially important to do if your dog has been outside, but ticks can also wander inside so it’s important to check them regardless.
  • Get your vet to conduct a tick check every time you get your dog a checkup. Even if you’re diligent, it’s still possible that there could be ticks hiding in hard-to-see areas.
  • Try to get your dog in an environment where ticks are not known to live. If there are ticks in your backyard, for example, consider taking your dog to a safer area to play.

Places to Check for Ticks on Dogs

Ticks can latch on to anywhere on your dog’s body, but there are a few places that you should take extra care to check.

  • Ticks like to latch-up near the ears and behind the ear flaps.
  • You'll find ticks on the eyebrows.
  • Ticks are commonly found near the shoulders and the shoulder blades.
  • Ticks find it easy to attach to the upper leg.

These are just the most common places to look for ticks on dogs. You may find them elsewhere. Be thorough in your investigation.

Our dogs don't have ticks that often. We live in an area where ticks are fairly rare. If we do find them, we use a kind of tick "plier" or puller. With the tool, you can grab the tick, twist, and pull it out completely if you do it the right way. We have another tick removal tool where you don't have to twist but just pull it up. They both work equally well, just make sure you use the right technique for the tool you have.

19 times out of 20 you should get the whole tick out. Always check to make sure that there are no more parts stuck in your dog's skin. I have not seen the same tick tool we have on Amazon, but there seem to be similar tools there. If you don't have one and you need to remove a tick right now, you can use general tweezers, but it's a little more difficult to grab a tick that way.

Products for Managing Ticks

There are a number of different products that can be useful for helping to prevent the chances of your dog getting ticks. These are some of the most popular products.

  • Once-a-month topical insecticides. These products are highly effective at killing ticks and only need to be used once a month. However, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of applying a pesticide that’s fatal to bugs to your own skin, you probably shouldn’t use it on your dog.
  • Powders. There are a number of tick-fighting powders, most of which contain pyrethrin. These are quite easy to use, but they can also make a big mess. Make sure that you only use these in an area where there is a lot of ventilation.
  • Shampoo. Some dog shampoos also contain pyrethrin which can be very useful for helping to ward off ticks.
  • Sprays. There are lots of sprays that can be useful for helping to kill ticks and fleas. Again, these mostly contain pyrethrin.

I don't advice you to use any products without you asking your vet. When your dogs don't have ticks often you should be ok with a simple tick removal tool.

Tick Prevention Is Important

Ticks are a nuisance and a potential danger. It’s important to know how you can avoid them and how to do tick removal from dogs. Hopefully, this article has given you enough information for you to know how to avoid having ticks latch on to your dog.

© 2019 Sam Shepards


  • 1 Description
    • 1.1 Intelligence
  • 2 Temperament
    • 2.1 Aggression and biting
  • 3 Modern breed
    • 3.1 Controversy
  • 4 Variants
    • 4.1 East-European Shepherd
    • 4.2 King Shepherd
    • 4.3 Shiloh Shepherd
    • 4.4 White Shepherd
    • 4.5 White Swiss Shepherd Dog
  • 5 Use as a working dog
  • 6 History
  • 7 Etymology
  • 8 Popularity
  • 9 Health
    • 9.1 Skeletal health and supplementation
  • 10 In popular culture
  • 11 Notable German Shepherds
  • 12 See also
  • 13 References
    • 13.1 Citations
    • 13.2 Bibliography
  • 14 Further reading
  • 15 External links

German Shepherds are medium to large-sized dogs. [6] The breed standard height at the withers is 60–65 cm (24–26 in) for males, and 55–60 cm (22–24 in) for females. [7] [8] [9] German Shepherds are longer than they are tall, with an ideal proportion of 10 to ​ 8 1 ⁄2 . The AKC official breed standard does not set a standard weight range. [10] They have a domed forehead, a long square-cut muzzle with strong jaws and a black nose. The eyes are medium-sized and brown. The ears are large and stand erect, open at the front and parallel, but they often are pulled back during movement. A German Shepherd has a long neck, which is raised when excited and lowered when moving at a fast pace as well as stalking. The tail is bushy and reaches to the hock. [8]

German Shepherds have a double coat which is close and dense with a thick undercoat. The coat is accepted in two variants: medium and long. The gene for long hair is recessive, and therefore the long-haired variety is rarer. Treatment of the long-haired variation differs across standards it is accepted but does not compete against standard-coated dogs under the German and UK Kennel Clubs while it can compete with standard-coated dogs, but is considered a fault, in the American Kennel Club. [8] [10] [11] The FCI accepted the long-haired type in 2010, listing it as the variety b, while the short-haired type is listed as the variety a. [12]

Most commonly, German Shepherds are either tan/black or red/black. Most color varieties have black masks and black body markings which can range from a classic "saddle" to an overall "blanket". Rarer color variations include the sable, pure-black, pure-white, liver, silver, blue, and panda varieties. The all-black and sable varieties are acceptable according to most standards however, the blue and liver are considered to be serious faults and the all-white is grounds for instant disqualification from showing in conformation at All Breed and Specialty Shows. [10]

Male German Shepherd dog with a saddle black-and-tan coat

German Shepherd dog with black mask and sable coat

Solid black German Shepherd dog

Bi-color military working German Shepherd dog

A male German Shepherd showing the long muzzle, black mask and nose and brown, medium-sized eyes

A black and tan long-haired German Shepherd

Black German Shepherd male ca. 6 months old

Intelligence Edit

German Shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence. [13] In a list of breeds most likely to bark as watchdogs, Stanley Coren ranked the breed in second place. [3] Coupled with their strength, this trait makes the breed desirable as police, guard and search and rescue dogs, as they are able to quickly learn various tasks and interpret instructions better than other breeds. [14]

German Shepherds are moderately active dogs and are described in breed standards as self assured. [10] 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 overprotective of their family and territory, especially if not socialized correctly. [15] They are not inclined to become immediate friends with strangers. [16] German Shepherds are highly intelligent and obedient, as well as protective of their owners. [17]

Aggression and biting Edit

While an Australian report from 1999 provides statistics showing that German Shepherds are the breed third most likely to attack a person in some Australian locales, [18] once their popularity is taken into account, the percentages of GSD attacks drops to 38th. [19]

According to the National Geographic Channel television show Dangerous Encounters, the bite of a German Shepherd has a force of over 1,060 newtons (238 lbf) (compared with that of a Rottweiler, over 1,180–1,460 newtons (265–328 lbf), a Pit bull, 1,050 newtons (235 lbf), a Labrador Retriever, of approximately 1,000 newtons (230 lbf), or a human, of approximately 380 newtons (86 lbf)). [20]

The modern German Shepherd breed is criticized by some for straying away from Max von Stephanitz's original ideology that German Shepherds should be bred primarily as working dogs and that breeding should be strictly controlled to eliminate defects quickly. [21] [22] He believed that, above all else, German Shepherds should be bred for intelligence and working ability. [23]

Controversy Edit

The Kennel Club, in the United Kingdom, is involved in a dispute with German Shepherd breed clubs about the issue of soundness in the show strain of the breed. [24] [25] Some show strains have been bred with an extremely roached topline (back) that causes poor gait in the hind legs.

The debate was catalyzed when the issue was raised in the BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which said that critics of the breed describe it as "half dog, half frog." An orthopedic vet remarked on footage of dogs in a show ring that they were "not normal."

The Kennel Club's position is that "this issue of soundness is not a simple difference of opinion, it is the fundamental issue of the breed's essential conformation and movement." [24] The Kennel Club has decided to retrain judges to penalize dogs suffering these problems. [26]

The Kennel Club also recommends testing for haemophilia and hip dysplasia, other common problems with the breed. [27] [28]

East-European Shepherd Edit

The East-European Shepherd is a variety of the German Shepherd bred in the former Soviet Union with the purpose of creating a larger, more cold resistant version of the German Shepherd it lacks the physical deformities bred into western show lines of German Shepherds and has become one of Russia's most popular dog types. [29]

King Shepherd Edit

The King Shepherd is a variety of the German Shepherd bred in the United States, its breeders hoping to rectify the physical deformities that have been bred into the original breed. [30]

Shiloh Shepherd Edit

The Shiloh Shepherd is a variety of the German Shepherd bred in the United States. It was developed in the 1970s and 1980s to correct behavioural and conformational issues that have been bred into modern German Shepherds, and was bred for large size, length of their back, temperament and soundness of hips. [31] [32] It has been recognized by the American Rare Breed Association since 1990. [33]

White Shepherd Edit

The White Shepherd is a variety of the German Shepherd bred in the United States. White coated German Shepherds were once banned from registration in their native Germany, but in the United States and Canada the colouration gained a following and a breed club was formed specifically for white coloured German Shepherds, calling their variety the White Shepherd. The variety is recognized as a separate breed by the United Kennel Club. [34]

White Swiss Shepherd Dog Edit

The White Swiss Shepherd Dog (French: Berger Blanc Suisse, German: Weisser Schweizer Schäferhund, Italian: Pastore Svizzero Bianco) is a variety of the German Shepherd bred in Switzerland. It descends from the American White Shepherds the first stud dog of what became the breed was an American dog born in 1966 and imported to Switzerland. The variety was recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale as a separate breed in 2003, and it is now recognised by a number of national kennel clubs. [34]

German Shepherds are a popular selection for use as working dogs. [35] They are known for being easy to train and good for performing tasks and following instructions. They are especially well known for their police work, being used for tracking criminals, patrolling troubled areas and detection and holding of suspects. Additionally, thousands of German Shepherds have been used by the military. Usually trained for scout duty, they are used to warn soldiers to the presence of enemies or of booby traps or other hazards. [36] German Shepherds have also been trained by military groups to parachute from aircraft [37] or as anti-tank weapons. They were used in World War II as messenger dogs, rescue dogs and personal guard dogs. [23] A number of these dogs were taken home by foreign servicemen, who were impressed by their intelligence. [23]

The German Shepherd is one of the most widely used breeds in a wide variety of scent-work roles. These include search and rescue, cadaver searching, narcotics detection, explosives detection, accelerant detection and mine detection dog, among others. They are suited for these lines of work because of their keen sense of smell and their ability to work regardless of distractions. [36] At one time the German Shepherd was the breed chosen almost exclusively to be used as a guide dog for the visually impaired. When formal guide dog training began in Switzerland in the 1920s under the leadership of Dorothy Eustis, all of the dogs trained were German Shepherd females. [38] An experiment in temperament testing of a group of Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds showed that the Retrievers scored higher on average in emotional stability, ability to recover promptly from frightening situations, cooperative behavior and friendliness while the German Shepherds were superior in aggression and defensive behavior. These results suggested that Labrador Retrievers were more suited to guide dog work while German Shepherds were more suited to police work. [39] Currently, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are more widely used for this work, although there are still German Shepherds being trained. In 2013, about 15% of the dogs trained by Guide Dogs of America are German Shepherds, while the remainder are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. [40] The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the United Kingdom trains some German Shepherds, [41] while the comparable organization in the US only trains Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses between these breeds. [42]

German Shepherds are still used for herding and tending sheep grazing in meadows next to gardens and crop fields. They are expected to patrol the boundaries to keep sheep from trespassing and damaging the crops. In Germany and other places these skills are tested in utility dog trials also known as Herdengebrauchshund (HGH) herding utility dog trials. [43]

One Mexican German Shepherd, Zuyaqui, was dissected and his body put on display at the Sedena's "Narco Museum" in Mexico. He is regarded to be the dog who has captured the most drugs in Mexican police and military history. [44]

A German night-watchman from 1950 with his German Shepherd

Swedish German Shepherds during demonstrations in Stockholm on National Day 2007

German Shepherd Urban Search and Rescue Task Force dog works to uncover survivors at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 attacks

Arpi, a male five-year-old German Shepherd Military Working Dog, locates hidden explosives inside a car during a training exercise

In 2018, a genetic study found that, just prior to 1859, a broadly distributed European herding dog had given rise to the German Shepherd Dog, the French Berger Picard, and the five Italian herding breeds: the Bergamasco Shepherd, Cane Paratore, Lupino del Gigante, Pastore d'Oropa, and the Pastore della Lessinia e del Lagorai. [45]

During the 1850s, attempts were being made to standardize dog breeds. [46] Dogs were being bred to preserve traits that assisted in their job of herding sheep and protecting their flocks from predators. [23] In Germany this was practiced within local communities, where shepherds selected and bred dogs. It was recognized that the breed had the necessary skills for herding sheep, such as intelligence, speed, strength and keen senses of smell. [23] The results were dogs that were able to do such things, but that differed significantly, both in appearance and ability, from one locality to another. [46]

To combat these differences, the Phylax Society was formed in 1891 with the intention of creating standardised development plans for native dog breeds in Germany. [23] The society disbanded after only three years due to ongoing internal conflicts regarding the traits in dogs that the society should promote [23] some members believed dogs should be bred solely for working purposes, while others believed dogs should be bred also for appearance. [47] While unsuccessful in their goal, the Phylax Society had inspired people to pursue standardising dog breeds independently.

With the rise of large, industrialized cities in Germany, the predator population began to decline, rendering sheepdogs unnecessary. [23] At the same time, the awareness of sheepdogs as a versatile, intelligent class of canine began to rise. [23] Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain and former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, was an ex-member of the Phylax Society who firmly believed dogs should be bred for working. [23] He admired the intelligence, strength and ability of Germany's native sheepdogs, but could not find any one single breed that satisfied him as the perfect working dog. [23]

In 1899, Von Stephanitz was attending a dog show when he was shown a dog named Hektor Linksrhein. [23] Hektor was the product of few generations of selective breeding and completely fulfilled what Von Stephanitz believed a working dog should be. He was pleased with the strength of the dog and was so taken by the animal's intelligence, loyalty and beauty, that he purchased him immediately. [46] After purchasing the dog he changed his name to Horand von Grafrath and Von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for German Shepherd Dogs). [46] Horand was declared to be the first German Shepherd Dog and was the first dog added to the society's breed register. [23] In just a few decades of the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde's establishment, the breed became one of the world’s most popular and numerous, a position it has maintained to this day. By 1923, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde claimed 50,000 dues-paying members in more than 500 branches in Germany alone. [48]

Horand became the center-point of the breeding programs and was bred with dogs belonging to other society members that displayed desirable traits and with dogs from Thuringia, Franconia and Wurttemberg. [23] Fathering many pups, Horand's most successful was Hektor von Schwaben. [23] [49] Hektor was inbred with another of Horand's offspring and produced Heinz von Starkenburg, Beowulf and Pilot, who later fathered a total of eighty-four pups, mostly through being inbred with Hektor's other offspring. [23] This inbreeding was deemed necessary in order to fix the traits being sought in the breed. [23] Beowulf's progeny also were inbred and it is from these pups that all German Shepherds draw a genetic link. It is believed the society accomplished its goal mostly due to Von Stephanitz's strong, uncompromising leadership and he is therefore credited with being the creator of the German Shepherd Dog. [50]

During the first half of the twentieth century, the breed came to be strongly identified with Imperial and Nazi Germany, because of its association with purity and militarism. [48] German Shepherds were coveted as " germanische Urhunde", being close to the wolf, and became very fashionable during the Nazi era. [51] Adolf Hitler acquired a German Shepherd named "Prinz" in 1921, during his years of poverty, but he had been forced to lodge the dog elsewhere. However, she managed to escape and return to him. Hitler, who adored the loyalty and obedience of the dog, thereafter developed a great liking for the breed. [52] Hitler kept several more of the breed, including Blondi, who was among several dogs in the Führerbunker during the Battle of Berlin at the end of World War II in Europe. Dogs played a role in Nazi propaganda by portraying Hitler as an animal lover. [51] Preparing for his suicide, Hitler ordered Dr Werner Haase to test a cyanide capsule on Blondi, and the dog died as a result. [53] Erna Flegel, a nurse who worked at the emergency casualty station in the Reich Chancellery stated in 2005 that Blondi's death had affected the people in the bunker more than Eva Braun's suicide. [54] German Shepherds were also used widely as guard dogs at Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. [55]

When the German Shepherd was introduced to the United States it was initially a popular dog. [56] But as the dogs' popularity grew, it became associated as a dangerous breed owned by gangsters and bootleggers. [57] [58] The reputation of the German Shepherds as a dangerous breed had grown to such an extent that it was briefly banned to import them in Australia in 1929. [59] It was even decided that all German Shepherds were to be sterilised. [60]

The breed was named Deutscher Schäferhund by von Stephanitz, literally translating to "German Shepherd Dog". The breed was so named due to its original purpose of assisting shepherds in herding and protecting sheep. At the time, all other herding dogs in Germany were referred to by this name they thus became known as Altdeutsche Schäferhunde, or Old German herding dogs.

The direct translation of the name was adopted for use in the official breed registry however, at the conclusion of World War I, it was believed that the inclusion of the word "German" would harm the breed's popularity, [61] due to the anti-German sentiment of the era. [62] The breed was officially renamed by the UK Kennel Club to "Alsatian Wolf Dog", [61] after the French region of Alsace bordering Germany. [23] This name was also adopted by many other international kennel clubs.

Eventually, the appendage "wolf dog" was dropped, [61] after numerous campaigns by breeders who were worried that becoming known as a wolf-dog hybrid would affect the breed's popularity and legality. [23] The name Alsatian remained for five decades, [61] until 1977, when successful campaigns by dog enthusiasts pressured the British kennel clubs to allow the breed to be registered again as German Shepherds. [63] The word "Alsatian" still appeared in parentheses as part of the formal breed name and was only removed in 2010. [64]

When the UK Kennel accepted registrations in 1919, 54 German Shepherds were registered. By 1926 this number had grown to over 8,000. [46] The breed gained international recognition after the end of World War I. Returning soldiers spoke highly of the breed and animal actors Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart popularised the breed further. [65] The first German Shepherd Dog registered in the United States was Queen of Switzerland. Her offspring suffered from defects as the result of poor breeding, which caused the breed to suffer a decline in popularity during the late 1920s. [65]

Popularity increased again after the German Shepherd Sieger Pfeffer von Bern became the 1937 and 1938 Grand Victor in American Kennel club dog shows, only to suffer another decline at the conclusion of World War II, due to anti-German sentiment. [65] Popularity increased gradually until 1993, when they became the third most popular breed in the United States. As of 2016 [update] , the German Shepherd is the second most popular breed in the US. [65] [66] Additionally, the breed is typically among the most popular in other registries. [65] The German Shepherd Dog's physique is very well suited to competing in shows and competitions, such as agility trials.

Many common ailments of the German Shepherd are a result of the inbreeding practiced early in the breed's life. [67] One such common ailment is hip and elbow dysplasia which may cause the dog to experience pain later on in life and may cause arthritis. [68] A study conducted by the University of Zurich found that 45% of the police working dogs were affected by degenerative spinal stenosis, although a small sample size was used. [69] The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals found that 19.1% of German Shepherd are affected by hip dysplasia. [70] There are, however, ways to help prevent hip dysplasia, including getting a pup from a good breeder, keeping it on a healthy diet, and limiting the amount of jumping or rough play. [71] German Shepherds have low frequency of ear infections, since this breed is well-known for hyperactivity of its cerumen-producing glands. [72] According to a recent survey in the UK, the median life span of German Shepherds is 10.95 years, [73] which is normal for a dog of their size.

Degenerative myelopathy, 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. A small study in the UK showed 16% of young asymptomatic GSDs to be homozygous for the mutation, with a further 38% being carriers. [74] 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 samples from any dog, collected through swabbing the inside of the animal's cheek with a sterile cotton swab. Prospective German Shepherd buyers can now request the test from the breeder or buy from a breeder who is known to test their dogs. [75]

Additionally, German Shepherds have a higher than normal incidence of Von Willebrand disease, a common inherited bleeding disorder, [76] and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), a degenerative disease of the pancreas. It is estimated that 1% of the UK GSD population suffers from this disease. [77] Treatment is usually provided in the form of pancreatic supplements taken with food.

Skeletal health and supplementation Edit

Musculoskeletal disorders are debilitating conditions that are often associated with genetic makeup, malnutrition, and stress-related events. [78] Some breeds like the German shepherd, are predisposed to a variety of different skeletal disorders, including but not limited to: canine hip dysplasia, Cauda equina syndrome, and osteoarthritis. [79] [80] These conditions can be a result of poor breeding or induced by intense exercise and poor diet.

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is an orthopedic condition resulting from abnormal development of the hip joint and surrounding tissue causing the instability and partial dislocation of the hip joint, resulting in pain, inflammation, lameness, and potentially osteoarthritis of the joint. [79] [81] German shepherds are genetically predisposed to CHD and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Germany found its prevalence estimated to be approximately 35% of veterinary cases associated with the disorder. [80]

Osteoarthritis is one of the main contributors of musculoskeletal pain and disabilities that commonly affect German shepherds. [82] [83] Mechanical stress, oxidative damage and inflammatory mediators combine to induce the gradual degeneration of the articular cartilage in the joint, resulting in reduced muscle mass, pain, and locomotion. [82] [84]

Feeding a well-balanced diet designed for large breeds like the German shepherd to ensure adequate growth rates and proper maintenance of musculoskeletal health is essential. [78] Dietary energy levels should be monitored and controlled throughout all life stages and activity levels of the German shepherd to assist in the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disorder symptoms. [78] Several dietary factors play a crucial role in maintaining skeletal health and are described as follows:

Appropriate calcium levels are vital in developing a strong skeletal system and aid in preventing orthopaedic diseases like Canine Hip Dysplasia. [78] Furthermore, the ratio of calcium and phosphorus must be balanced and at a recommended ratio of 1.2:1 to ensure proper bone development and structure. [78] Imbalances in calcium and phosphorus levels can result in various skeletal complications. [78] Excess phosphorus can produce lesions in bones whereas excessive calcium can lead to hypocalcaemia and result in excess bone deposition, interfering with normal bone development. [78] In extreme circumstances of insufficient calcium intake, bone resorption can occur due to the body withdrawing calcium deposits from the skeletal frame as a last resort to fulfill dietary needs. [78]

Omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been shown to be highly effective in the prevention of cartilage catabolism in in vitro models, suggesting that its supplementation in food could aid in decreasing the symptoms of osteoarthritis in German shepherds. [85] Furthermore, EPA and DHA inhibit key regulators of the inflammatory process and suppress their activation which can help alleviate pain and reduce inflamed joints associated with many skeletal disorders. [84] Ensuring an appropriate ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids of approximately 5:1 is very important for inflammation processes. [78] Animals source, specifically marine life such as fish, krill, and mussels, and plant sources such as flaxseed, soybean and canola oil, are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. [84]

Glucosamine is an amino-monosaccharide that naturally occurs in all tissues, particularly in articular cartilage of joints and from the biosynthesis of glucose. [83] Natural synthesis of glucosamine occurs in the extracellular matrix of articular cartilage in joints. [78] However, as a result of damage to the joint or cartilage, there is decreased ability to synthesize glucosamine resulting in the deterioration of the joint, and supplementation is required. [78] Clinical trials of long term administration of glucosamine in German Shepherds have reduced symptoms of degenerative joint disease and accelerated cartilage healing. [86] Anti-inflammatory effects of glucosamine are believed to contribute to the reduction of pain, promote joint recovery and mobility, and prevent further cartilage degradation. [86] Similarly, chondroitin supplementation is proposed to have comparable results in inhibiting degradative enzymes within the cartilage matrix to reduce the effects of osteoarthritis, but further research is required to assess long term benefits. [78]

Vitamins such as A and D also have crucial roles in bone development and maintenance by regulating bone and calcium metabolism. [78] Adequate levels should be incorporated into a German shepherd diet to promote a healthy musculoskeletal system. [78]

German Shepherds have been featured in a wide range of media. [87] In 1921 Strongheart became one of the earliest canine film stars, and was followed in 1922 by Rin Tin Tin, who is considered the most famous German Shepherd. Both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [88]

Batman's dog Ace the Bat-Hound appeared in the Batman comic books, initially in 1955, [89] through 1964. [90] Between 1964 and 2007, his appearances were sporadic.

A German Shepherd named Inspector Rex is the star of an Austrian Police procedural drama program of the same name, which won many awards, where German Shepherd Rex assists the Vienna Kriminalpolizei homicide unit. [91] The show was aired in many languages. [92]

Kántor (Cantor) was a famous and very successful police dog in Hungary in the 1950s and early 1960s. After his death his story was popularized by a two-volume novel by Rudolf Szamos, titled Kántor, the detective (Kántor nyomoz) and Kántor in the metropolis (Kántor a nagyvárosban). The novel wasn't entirely historically accurate. In 1975 a television miniseries titled [Kántor] was also created, which was only very loosely based on the actual dog's story, setting the events more than a decade after the real Kántor died. Nevertheless it became one of the staple productions of Hungarian television history, making German Shepherds the most popular dog breed in the country ever since. [ citation needed ]

Most flea and tick products are not safe to use on puppies until they’ve reached at least seven or eight weeks of age (see chart below). Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a flea and tick preventative to use and advise you on when it’s safe to begin administering it to your puppy.

Product Minimum Age Route Frequency Fleas Ticks
Advantage 7 weeks Topical Monthly X
Advantage Multi 7 weeks/3 lbs. Topical Monthly X
Bravecto 6 months Tablet 12 weeks X X
Capstar 4 weeks/2 lbs. Tablet Varies X
Comfortis 14 weeks Tablet Monthly X
Frontline Plus 8 weeks Topical Monthly X X
Frontline Spray 8 weeks Spray Monthly X X
Frontline Top Spot 8 weeks Topical Monthly X X
K9 Advantix 7 weeks Topical Monthly X X
K9 Advanti II 7 weeks Topical Monthly X X
Promeris 8 weeks Topical Monthly X X
Proticall 4 weeks Topical Monthly X X
Revolution 6 weeks Topical Monthly X X
Sentinel Flavor Tabs 4 weeks/2 lbs. Tablet Monthly X
Seresto 7 weeks Collar 8 months X X
Trifexis 8 weeks Tablet 1 month X
Vectra 3D 7 weeks Topical Monthly X X
Virbac Long Acting KnockOut Spray 6 months Spray 2 weeks X X
Virbac Pyrethrin Drip 12 weeks Dip No more than every 7 days X X

Pros and cons of German Shepherds

The Good

  • Handsome, natural-looking, athletic
  • Thrives on challenging activities and exercise
  • Loyal to his own family
  • Looks imposing and has a reputation that bad guys don't want to fool with, so makes an effective deterrent
  • Highly intelligent and versatile – can learn almost anything

The Bad

  • Can be hard to find one with a family-oriented temperament and a decent chance of staying healthy
  • Needs plenty of exercise and interesting things to do
  • Needs careful socialization
  • Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
  • Potential aggression toward other animals
  • Constant shedding – 365 days a year
  • Legal liabilities (insurance issues, increased chance of lawsuits)
  • High risk of serious health problems

How big are German Shepherds?

Males stand about 24-26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 75-110 pounds.

Females stand about 22-24 inches and weigh 65-90 pounds.

Some German Shepherds are considerably larger than that, but shouldn't be. This breed is supposed to be athletic and agile, not giant-sized and ponderous. Larger dogs can have more joint problems and a shorter lifespan.

Are there different "types" of German Shepherds?

Officially there's only the one breed. But I explained in the Temperament section that there are different lines of German Shepherds with different temperaments. Those lines can also LOOK very different from each other.

Show lines

Those of us who admired the strong, noble look of German Shepherds from decades ago are saddened at what has been done to the appearance of modern show dogs.

If you go to a German Shepherd specialty show in the United States or Canada, you'll see tall narrow bodies, long narrow heads, and such excessive curvature of the rear legs that the dog's back slopes downward from shoulders to tail. You could roll a ball down that back.

In my opinion, these are misshapen caricatures of a German Shepherd. To make matters worse, show lines produce more than their share of spooky and low-intelligence dogs, which is what happens when you over-focus on appearance rather than temperament and trainability.

In contrast, the West German show line has a more normal shape. Best of all, German Shepherds in West Germany cannot win show ring ribbons or be bred without passing a temperament/trainability test.

There are many West German bloodlines in the United States. So if you're interested, you can look for show breeders who emphasize West German lines instead of American/Canadian.

Just be aware that these dogs aren't couch potatoes: they do have plenty of energy and some working drives that will need to be exercised.

Solid black German Shepherds are less common, but when combined with a rugged build, makes for a very handsome dog.

Working/protection lines

I love these lines because the dogs look and behave more like German Shepherds.

It's true that working lines are often too strong-tempered and intense for the average family. But if you're an experienced owner who knows how to be in charge and if you provide firm rules and plenty of physical and mental exercise, working lines can make great companions.

Knowledgeable working dog breeders can point you toward the pups in their litters who are calmer and have less working drive.

In the United States, working lines stem predominantly from West Germany or East Germany.

I don't recommend East German (often called DDR) lines. DDR stands for Deutsches Demokratische Republik, the name by which East Germany was known while the Berlin Wall was up. These dogs were used by the military and border patrol, so they're tough, not recommended for the average family.

Pet lines?

You might be thinking, "Must I choose show line or working line? Isn't there another choice, like a line specifically bred to be a good pet?"

Some breeders blend show and working lines, trying to produce a more moderate build and temperament.

Some breeders emphasize high trainability, competing with their intelligent dogs in non-protection sports such as obedience or agility.

Other breeders emphasize "old style" German Shepherds with a more rugged build. But avoid breeders who boast about their "giant" German Shepherds. Packing more weight onto the frame and joints of a breed that's supposed to be medium to large is a huge (pun intended) mistake.

German Shepherd with long hair. This particular dog has a minimalist long coat – just some ear tufts and a body coat that's slightly longer than normal.

Shorthaired or longhaired

When you're thinking about the different types of German Shepherds, you should also consider the two types of COAT:

The normal coat is short hair. But German Shepherds also come in a longer coat. Both coats are the same breed.

Unfortunately, in the United States, long coats are frowned upon by the official clubs and show-dog breeders. Long-coated dogs can be registered, bred, and shown in certain activities such as obedience and agility. But they're not welcome in the conformation ring, where judging is based on appearance.

Some long-coated Shepherds have essentially a short body coat with only minor feathering around their ears, on the backs of their legs, and on their bum and tail. Other long-coated German Shepherds have long hair across most of their body.

Do long haired German Shepherds have a different build or temperament? Yes, often they do. Because they're not welcome in the conformation ring, their structure hasn't been deformed like that of their shorthaired brothers.

And because they're seldom seen in protection dog sports, their temperament tends to be softer and milder, which fits well into many families.

German Shepherds are active dogs, but should not be hyperactive. Fetch games are a great way to exercise this breed.

How much exercise do German Shepherds need?

German Shepherd puppies and adolescents (up to 18 months old) should have moderate exercise only – multiple walks, fetch games, or (if there is a compatible playmate) playing with another dog.

But the growing bones and ligaments in a young dog can be irreparably damaged by too much exercise or the wrong kind of exercise. At this age, there should be no forced running (beside a jogger or bicyclist). Restrict jumping as much as possible.

Once the dog is mature, the amount of exercise needed will vary according to the dog's energy level. But all German Shepherds, to maintain fitness, need brisk walking every day and all-out running in a safe, enclosed area as often as possible.

Dogs from working lines typically want a lot more exercise.

Mental exercise is even more important for German Shepherds. Mental exercise means the dog gets to participate in interesting activities that keep his intelligent mind stimulated.

This might be a dog sport such as agility, rally obedience, musical freestyle, tracking, flyball, herding, or schutzhund. It might be interactive dog toys, or a homemade obstacle course, or learning tricks, or playing games such as Hide 'n Seek.

Some of these activities are included in my training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.

Handsome black German Shepherd, attentively awaiting your next words.

Are German Shepherds easy to train?

Some are easy to train, while others are more moderate.

As we've seen, different lines have different temperaments. German Shepherds from working lines are typically more assertive and stronger-willed. A "tougher" German Shepherd will be more challenging to train unless you pay closer attention to building the right Leader-Follower relationship with the dog.

That doesn't mean "softer" German Shepherds are automatically easy to train. Some dogs with soft temperaments are skittish or shy, making them just as challenging as a strong-tempered dog.

In general, though, a sound-tempered German Shepherd who is a good fit for family life should be easy to train. Just establish the right Leader-Follower relationship and the dog will be happy to work with you.

This is taught in my puppy training book, Respect Training For Puppies (30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy).

How sociable are German Shepherds?

Are they friendly with strangers?

Most German Shepherds are reserved with strangers. As the breed's national club says, a good German Shepherd has:

"a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them."

As you might imagine, this can be a fine line to walk. Without proper guidance from the owner, a German Shepherd's natural aloofness can morph over the line to suspiciousness, distrust, and even aggression or fearfulness.

When you own an aloof breed, you need to socialize the dog thoroughly. This means a careful program of teaching him to pay attention to you and mind you in the presence of other people and other dogs. He doesn't have to like them, but he must accept them.

One thing I should mention: many German Shepherds who bark and lunge at strangers or other dogs aren't being either protective or aggressive. Rather, this kind of reactivity can be the dog's attempt to hide his own insecurities behind a blustering facade.

At the other end of the spectrum are German Shepherds who tuck their tail between their legs, and try to hide behind you or run away whenever a stranger or another dog approaches. Sometimes this is just inexperience with the world, but sometimes it's an inherited form of shyness. German Shepherds who are genetically shy can be helped by socialization – but not "cured." Yet another reason to be very careful when acquiring this breed.

There are also legal liabilities to consider when you acquire a German Shepherd. For example, your homeowner insurance policy might be cancelled or the rates hiked, because people are often quicker to sue if a "guard dog breed" does anything even remotely questionable.

Are German Shepherds good with children?

If the dog was raised with childen and if the children are well-behaved, most German Shepherds with a normal temperament are fine with them.

But if you have young children, you need to be especially careful about bringing an adult German Shepherd with an unknown background into your home. That dog should have a stellar temperament vouched for by experienced rescue personnel.

Also I wouldn't be comfortable with some high-drive German Shepherds around toddlers. These vigorous, intense dogs could send a toddler flying without even meaning to.

Are German Shepherds good with other pets?

Most German Shepherds are fine with other dogs and cats in their own family, if introduced to them when the dog is young. I've had multiple German Shepherds living harmoniously with my Chihuahuas and cats.

However, some German Shepherds show strong predatory/chasing behavior toward cats and other animals that run.

And some German Shepherds are dominant, or aggressive, toward other dogs of the same sex. My dog Luke, for example, would never dream of harming a female dog – but he would have loved to engage any strange male. Only a firm Respect Training program kept his behavior under control.

Long-coated German Shepherd. Keep their feathering combed out to avoid painful mats and tangles.

Grooming: Do German Shepherds shed a lot? Are they easy to groom?

About shedding.

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that German Shepherds have only one shedding period a year.

The bad news is. their shedding period lasts for 365 days. In other words, German Shepherds shed constantly.

How is this different from most breeds?

Most breeds shed a few hairs here and there throughout the year. But the vast bulk of their shedding occurs only twice a year – for three weeks in the spring as their thicker winter coat switches over to a cooler summer coat, and for three weeks in the fall as the summer coat switches over to a winter coat.

Not German Shepherds. They shed a TON during those spring and fall coat-switching seasons. Plus they shed moderately the rest of the year.

So year-round, you'll find hair on your clothing, on your carpets, and under your refrigerator. Frequent vaccuming will become a way of life.

You might be wondering, "How can a shorthaired dog shed so much?" The answer is that German Shepherds have a double coat. They have a short outer coat (harsh to the touch), plus a woolly undercoat (for insulation). Breeds with a double coat always shed more than breeds who simply have an outer coat but no undercoat.

German Shepherds come in a long coat, as well as a short coat. Both coats shed heavily.

Now, about grooming.

How much grooming is required depends on whether a German Shepherd is shorthaired or longhaired.

We've already talked about the temperament (usually good) of longhaired German Shepherds. As far as grooming goes, they obviously need regular brushing and combing to prevent mats and tangles. The longer the coat, the more work it will be.

But even if your Shepherd has a short coat, you're not off the hook when it comes to brushing. With a constant shedder, you should brush as often as possible to pull out the shed hairs before they end up on your floor and furnishings.

Ironically, longhaired German Shepherds often seem to shed less than the shorthaired. That's because some shed hair gets caught in the long coat instead of falling out. The trade-off is that you need to brush out that accumulated hair regularly or it will tangle and fuse into a matted mess.

Longhaired dogs need trimming

Along with brushing and combing, longhaired German Shepherds need trimming every few months.

Focus on the longish hair around the dog's private parts. Otherwise whenever he goes to the bathroom, the result is going to be unsanitary, both for the dog and for your house. Remember, anything that sticks to long hair eventually ends up on your floor or furnishings. So keep your dog's private parts trimmed short.

How long do German Shepherds live? Are they a healthy breed?

German Shepherds typically live 10-12 years. Some do live to 13 or 14, but usually with chronic health issues such as arthritis.

And sadly, many don't even make it to age 10.

As a long-time German Shepherd owner, I know first-hand how many health problems this breed suffers from. Crippling joint diseases, autoimmune diseases, digestive diseases, skin diseases, heart and eye diseases. truly a breed with serious health problems.

It's a good idea to have pet insurance when you own a German Shepherd.

Here is a complete list of health problems in German Shepherds.

See my advice on → keeping your dog healthy
(feeding, vaccinations, neutering, veterinarians, and more).

The most common color in German Shepherds – black and tan, in the saddleback pattern

What colors do German Shepherds come in?

The most common colors are black and tan, black and red, black and cream, or black and silver. These colors cover the dog in one of these three patterns:

  • Saddleback – the black overlays the dog's back and sides (like a saddle). The rest of the dog is tan, red, cream, or silver. Usually there's some black on the face, as well.
  • Blanketback – the black extends further down the shoulders and hips.
  • Bicolor – like a Doberman or Rottweiler, which is mostly black with small tan/red/cream markings specifically confined to the head, chest, and legs. Honestly I don't know why this pattern is called bicolor, which simply means two colors. As we've just seen, the other two patterns also have just two colors.

Another common color is sable, which is an overall shade of gray, golden, or red, with black-tipped hairs that create a "dusted with black" effect.

A less common, but perfectly acceptable, color is solid black.

"Faulty" colors

Then there are two controversial colors: blue and liver:

  • Blue German Shepherds have inherited a color-modifying gene that changes their black pigment to smoky gray. Many blue dogs look as though they've been dusted with flour.
  • Liver German Shepherds have inherited a color-modifying gene that changes their black pigment to brown (any shade from light to dark).

If a dog has inherited either of these color-modifying genes, all of his black pigment is changed to blue/gray or brown, including his nose and the pads of his feet. For example, if a German Shepherd would have been a black and tan saddleback – except that he inherited a modifying gene – he becomes a blue and tan saddleback, or a liver and tan saddleback.

Blue and liver are considered serious faults by the official German Shepherd clubs and breeders who show their dogs in the conformation ring. But you can still register these dogs and compete with them in activities such as obedience and agility.

Controversial color: solid white

As with blue and liver, you can register a white German Shepherd and show him in competitive activities such as obedience and agility. But you can't show him in the conformation ring.

Why? Well, the Powers-That-Be say white is an unacceptable color because German Shepherds were developed to be herding and guard dogs. White dogs, they say, are too visible to make effective guard dogs. On the other hand, white dogs blend in too much with the sheep or snow instead of being clearly visible to the human shepherd.

If you love the white color, you might be pleased to hear that White Shepherd enthusiasts have formed their own club, which holds its own conformation shows.

Do German Shepherd ears stand up on their own, or do they have to be cut or taped to make them stand up?

Ah, you're thinking about cropping, a surgical procedure to make the ears stand up. That's done with Doberman Pinschers, but not with German Shepherds. A Shepherd puppy's ears prick up naturally – they're never cropped.

German Shepherd puppy with perfectly normal ears at this age. If the pup inherited normal genes, the other ear should come up shortly.

But German Shepherd puppies aren't born with pricked ears. In some pups, the ears start to prick up at 6 or 8 weeks old, while others don't start until 12 or 14 weeks old.

Often the ears don't go up smoothly. In other words, they don't suddenly pop straight up. Typically one ear will go up halfway, and stay like that for a few days. Then the other ear may start to prick while the first ear straightens all the way up. A few days later, just as the second ear straightens up, the first one suddenly flops back down.

This can be a trying time for new owners who worry that their pup's ears will never stand properly. Rest assured, it's normal for German Shepherd puppy ears to go up and down for a month or two, especially during the teething period.

Unfortunately, some puppies do inherit poor genes for ear strength and often those ears will never come all the way up. They're called "soft ears." Sometimes taping a weak ear can help it stand erect, but often not.

I had a German Shepherd with one soft ear. It flopped sideways on top of his head, while the other ear stood up beautifully. Of course I loved him dearly anyway!

Most German Shepherd puppies start out with floppy ears and dark coloration.

German Shepherd Puppies

If you already have a German Shepherd puppy.

Congratulations! I'll be happy to show you how to raise and train your new family member.

  • Take a peek at my best-selling puppy training book, Respect Training for Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy.
  • Or check out my training tips to teach your German Shepherd puppy to be well-behaved.
  • Also see my advice on German Shepherd health care, including feeding and vaccinations

If you don't have a German Shepherd puppy, but you want one.

I can help you with that, too.

German Shepherds are extremely common in the United States, the 2nd most common of all breeds.

So they're very easy to find. The problem is finding one with the best chances of developing a stable temperament and the best chances of staying healthy through the years.

First, you need to think about the different types of German Shepherds we talked about earlier. The different temperament types and the different build and coat types.

You'll remember. show lines, working lines, old-style lines, longhaired lines, solid white lines. one German Shepherd can be very different from another.

Or you can just hop onto Craigslist and buy a puppy from someone who "just breeds pets" or "just had one litter." But should you?

Not unless the seller has done the proper health certifications on the puppy's parents . One huge difference between a responsible breeder and an irresponsible "puppy producer" is – health certifications.

Both parents of a German Shepherd puppy should have OFA certificates for hips, elbows, and heart. One parent should have a certificate showing them to be clear of degenerative myelopathy. This is the fastest way to rule out all the bad breeders. No certificates equals irresponsible breeding.

BOTH PARENTS of a German Shepherd puppy should have:

  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) or PennHip certifying the dog to have normal hips
  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) certifying the dog to have normal elbows
  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) or a report from a veterinary cardiologist – dated within the past year – certifying that the dog has had an Advanced Cardiac Exam and has a normal heart

Also, at least ONE PARENT of a German Shepherd puppy should have:

  • a DNA test proving they are Normal/Clear of a severe neurological disease called degenerative myelopathy. Many years ago, I had a dear German Shepherd with this devastating disease. Believe me, you do not want to go through that.

If a seller can't show you those certificates, the puppies are higher risk for health problems. You might choose to accept that risk. But then you need to be willing (and able) to pay a couple thousand bucks for future surgeries and lifelong meds if your German Shepherd ends up crippled, paralyzed, or stricken with heart disease.

How do I adopt a German Shepherd?

Because of their popularity, and because so many owners acquire one without doing diligent research, German Shepherds are often available from dog rescue groups.

German Shepherd crosses and mixes are frequently found in animal shelters.

However, shelter personnel can be over-zealous in labeling every medium- to large dog with a vaguely shepherd-ish look as a "German Shepherd cross." Be aware that a dog can look like a German Shepherd without having any Shepherd genes at all.

Did you know there's a quick and simple DNA test that can tell you definitively which breeds make up any given dog?

What breeds are similar to German Shepherds?

The Shiloh Shepherd looks like a large German Shepherd, which is not surprising since the Shiloh was developed 50 years ago by crossing German Shepherds with larger breeds. Compared to German Shepherds, Shiloh Shepherds tend to have a calmer, more easygoing personality.

Compared to German Shepherds, most White Shepherds have a softer, more sensitive personality. White Shepherds are fine watchdogs, but seldom aggressive. In fact, if a White Shepherd is going to have any temperament fault, it's more likely to be timidity or skittishness.

The Belgian Shepherd is recommended only for experienced owners. Compared to the German Shepherd, a Belgian is more agile, graceful, and elegant. Belgian Shepherds are highly intelligent, but also easily bored and prone to obsessive behaviors. This is a demanding breed that needs ongoing supervision and structured activities.

About the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

Watch the video: Funny and Cute German Shepherd Puppies Compilation #1 - Cutest GSD (July 2021).