Otherwise known as the Alsatian, this breed is arguably the most popular worldwide. Founded by Captain Max von Stephanitz in 1899, the German Shepherd was primarily bred as a working dog, developed to be fearless and agile in both military and police work. Highly trainable, the German Shepherd established a shining reputation for itself and was widely utilised in the forces. With the onset of WWI, the German Shepherd was the obvious breed choice for the German army and 48,000 were enlisted as supply delivery dogs. Despite the negative association of the enemy, the German Shepherd retained its concrete reputation across Europe and the United States and remains today one of the most highly sought and valued of dog breeds. The Shepherd was officially registered by the American Kennel Club in 1912.
Athletically built to change direction at full speed, the appearance of the German Shepherd reflects its versatile working capabilities. With a powerful body and head, triangular, upright ears, a domed forehead, a square-cut muzzle, and a black nose, it is a breed that is easily recognised. Boasting a double coat, which is typically medium length (although long-haired examples are seen), the German Shepherd is commonly seen in black and red, or tan, although some rarer varieties include solid black or white, blue, sable and liver. Retaining its original instincts, the modern German Shepherd is widely seen today as a guide dog for the blind, in drug and arms detection, search and rescue, canine sport and military service. Like the Dalmatian, owners of the German Shepherd have described the breed's natural affinity with horses.
Contrary to what some might believe, a socialised and well trained German Shepherd won't be aggressive or highly strung. Instead, one will demonstrate a calm and gentle demeanour, be relaxed around children and engage well in active family life. Inherently loyal, able-minded and adaptable, the German Shepherd is a great all-rounder, providing its needs for regular exercise, mental enrichment and companionship are met. In general, a healthy German Shepherd will weigh 30-40 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years on average.
The German Shepherd is typically healthy and resilient, although a small percentage of the breed are identified with hip dysplasia, arthritis, optical disorders, skin allergies and epilepsy. More serious conditions include von Willebrand's Disease, a bleeding disorder, as well as Degenerative Myelopathy, a neurological disease that leads to eventual paralysis. As with most large-sized breeds, cases of heart disease and digestive problems are well documented in the German Shepherd, with bloat and gastric tortion being potentially fatal if left untreated for too long.