Should I get a German Shepherd?
The German Shepherd: a dog synonymous with seriousness and reliability, while all the time oozing an air of confidence and readiness. This might be the reason why so many people find the prospects of owning a German Shepherd so attractive… or it might be that kids from born in the latter half of last century have fallen in love with the German Shepherd by it being portrayed as the ultimate companion by movies and TV series like of Rin Tin Tin and Rex. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that the German Shepherd is all of the above and none of them at all; it is impossible for a dog to be all that, but there is no other breed that can pull it off either.
So what’s the dog behind the legend?
It’s sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to dog breeds like the German Shepherd. Speaking to their owners results in them telling you some fantastic tales of their immense intelligence which might actually be true despite how over the top their words may sound.
In reality, the German Shepherd is an intelligent dog bred in Germany as a working dog to herd livestock. The German Shepherd proved to be willing to please and intelligent enough to become one of the standard dogs that the military and police forces train and use for security purposes. The dog is also commonly used as a protection dog. If its serious look does not hinder an assailant, it certainly has the brawns to stop a man physically. However, despite its serious demeanour, this dog has the right temperament to be a good, reliable family dog. It is therefore no wonder that this dog was considered to be a good family pet a few decades ago.
What else should I consider?
The German Shepherd, being a working dog, needs exercise to stay healthy and in shape. Due to its size and need for movement, it is generally not recommended to keep a German Shepherd in an apartment. They thrive in houses with large gardens and do best on farms where they can do what they do best: help manage and protect livestock.
Due to mainstream popularity and the irresponsible breeding that comes with it, the breed is now afflicted by a number of genetic diseases. These diseases can be: auto-immune diseases of the organs and skin; other skin problems like allergies and pyoderma; digestive problems such as chronic diarrhoea and inflammatory bowel syndrome; a predisposition to bloat; heart diseases; eye diseases and more.
Perhaps the most important breed specific diseases in German Shepherds are orthopaedic ones. As time went by the breeding standard of show type German Shepherds required them to be bred into a permanent prone, lounging position by keeping their legs trailing behind them. This resulted in the modern German Shepherd suffering from a condition called “frog legs” that results in a lot of joint problems and hip dysplasia. However, not everything is lost! There are a lot of breeders that still breed working lines of this magnificent breed. These dogs are bred for health and performance and lack most, if not all, of the above afflictions.
Things are hopefully starting to change and as the toll of breeding for aesthetic reasons is becoming increasingly apparent and the outcry to fix the breed standards are becoming louder, kennel club officials are starting to take heed and keep the health and functionality of the dogs as the most important priority. However change takes time, and until then it is recommended to go for working stock German Shepherd puppies unless you want to specifically use them for show purposes.