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Unveiling the German Shepherd: A Comprehensive Breed Profile and Guide

23/08/2023 - Breed Specific Advice

Established in the 1890s, the German Shepherd Dog is a one of the most recognisable breeds. Developed from German herding dogs and wolf-dogs, GSDs were originally bred to be the perfect herding dog. Today, the are found in many practical roles such as search & rescue, police work, military work and as service dogs – as well as being a popular pet.
The breed was at one time known as the Alsatian – this was due to anti-German sentiment after World War I, when the UK Kennel Club renamed the breed after the French region of Alsace, which borders Germany. The name was changed back five decades later, in 1977, but “Alsatian” was included in parentheses until 2010.
Average Lifespan: 9-13 years
Height: 22-26 inches (55-65cm)
Weight: 49-88lbs (22-40kg)
Temperament: intelligent; curious; protective; biddable
Training Needs at Different Life Stages
During puppyhood, our focus should be on our pup’s socialisation and building their confidence. This is especially important for German Shepherds, due to their guarding instinct. This makes it easy for them to become wary of and reactive to strangers, so it’s important that they get the best of the best when it comes to socialisation during this important period of their life. Our Visitor Training course on our online Dogversity platform is perfect for new GSD owners, to make sure their pup is calm and comfortable with new people arriving in the house.
Socialisation is not just about exposing our dogs to lots of things, people and dogs thoughtlessly – it should be about ensuring they are not overwhelmed, have positive experiences of all these things and learn how to be calm, relaxed and confident around them. This is important for all dogs, but as a sensitive breed it is especially vital for our GSDs that we work hard to teach them not to be worried by strange and novel things. We highly recommend checking out our Noise, Fear and Fireworks course for more information on desensitisation, so you can familiarise yourself with this important process and get ahead of the game! You may also benefit from our course on barking, as German Shepherds can be a vocal breed.
Group classes are a great place to start getting your puppy used to being around other dogs in a controlled environment and learning how to stay engaged and focused on you, as well as instilling a solid training foundation before they have a chance to learn any bad habits!
German Shepherds make for energetic puppies, and it is no secret that they love to bite things! This isn’t a sign that your puppy is a “bad” dog, it is one of many breed traits that make them popular choices as police and military dogs – and only steady, well-trained dogs are suited to that kind of work! Just like those highly trained K9s, we need to make sure our pet GSDs have appropriate outlets for the behaviours they love – so start stocking up on tug toys, now!
Bringing home a new puppy can be overwhelming – check out our Puppy’s First Steps course for all our tips and advice on preparing for your new puppy and getting their training started on the right foot.
Adolescence can be a trying time, both for us and our dogs. Our dogs are still growing and their perceptions and feelings will change as their hormone levels rise. Often, training we thought we had perfected a while ago can start to deteriorate – a reliable recall can become, well, less reliable. This is completely normal, and the best thing we can do is acknowledge this and focus on revising the foundations we worked so hard on during puppyhood.
It can be disheartening to have to pop that longline back on our dogs after months of carefree off-lead walks, but life will become a lot harder if we allow our teenage dogs to practice running off after wildlife or up to every dog they see! You will get back to those idyllic walks soon; as long as you are patient, and remember this important step!
Now is a good time to consider a Masterclass, to brush up on those important life skills!
As we’ve already discussed, socialisation should be at the front of every German Shepherd owner’s mind – as your pups reach adolescence, the world can start to become a less certain place and some of that confidence we’ve worked so hard on may begin to wane. Continued attendance at group classes has been shown to reduce aggression and reactivity in dogs, so this is a wonderful way to continue to support your dog as they enter this tumultuous stage of life.
1 Year Old
This is when your troublesome teen will be reaching physical maturity and you can start to consider more physically demanding activities, such as agility. The solid training you have done over the past year will make it easy to transition into training more for fun than just for practicality – engaged dogs who can work with their human off lead are halfway to Crufts already!
You can also start refining some of the basic training you’ve been working on so far, as your dog starts to mature mentally, too. German Shepherds are renowned as one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds, and they will undoubtedly find themselves work to do if we don’t provide it for them! So, it’s important that we give them plenty of mental stimulation – with so much basic training already under your belt, why not consider Advanced Classes to further your clever pup’s education and keep them busy?
2+ Years Old
You’ve been a dedicated dog owner for the last 24 months, investing time and effort into their ongoing education and development – by now, you should be starting to see the result of all that hard work in the form of an engaged, well-rounded companion. Hopefully those vital foundations that we spent so much time focusing on are starting to feel less like work!
Your clever four-legged friend has dutifully learned everything you’ve imparted on them, and now it’s important that we don’t forget to reward them with continued mental enrichment. We showed them how much fun training could be and, while we may now have reached our own personal training aspirations, they deserve to continuing experiencing the joy of using their nose, brain and body to navigate the world and learn new things.
Activities such as Scent Work and Trick Training are great ways to keep making the most of our precious time with our four-legged friends.
OAP (7+ Years)
As our pups reach their golden years, their needs will change. It’s important we remember to adjust their physical activity to suit their health. This will be different for every dog and doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down – many dogs continue to be active until very late in their lives and it can in fact be beneficial to keep our dogs moving to stave off muscle degeneration and general loss of fitness and mobility. Pay attention to your dog’s behaviour, noting if they are less keen to head out on your longer walking route or seem a bit stiff the next day. Speak with your vet for advice if you are unsure what level of exercise is right for your dog.
Cognitive exercises like puzzle games and scent work are great ways to continue providing your dog with fun enrichment without being too physically demanding.
For any advice or training needs, book our puppy and dog classes or book a 121 for more personalised sessions. 

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