At first glance, you see the German Shepherd, you think it is an aggressive dog.
However, this is far from the truth because under this tough exterior lies a loving and caring dog who would do anything for their families and friends.
Here are the top facts and myths about German Shepherds that will definitely make you change the way that you think about the German Shepherd breed.
15 Facts about German Shepherds
1.) Germans standardized the breed
In 1889, a breeder called Max Von Stephanitz saw a yellow and black dog at a dog show and was fascinated with the dog’s intelligence and discipline.
Amazed by the dog’s intelligence and discipline, he bought the dog and changed their name from Hektor Linksrhein to Horand von Grafrath.
Then, he founded the German Shepherd Dog Club
Horand was declared the first German Shepherd and was the first dog added to the society’s breed register.
Max Von Stephanitz made it the club’s mission to breed German Shepherds for the purpose of utility and intelligence while looks and attractiveness came in second.
When Germany became more industrialized, Max Von Stephanitz had to find a way to keep the German Shepherd presence in Germany.
Today, because of their intelligence and usefulness, they work in police work and as service workers.
2.) German Shepherds had a critical role during World War 1
During World War 1, the Germans had good use of the German Shepherd; they used the German Shepherd as a war dog. Some of the roles they had were messengers, guard dogs, and ammunition carriers.
They were also capable of leading soldiers who were wounded and blinded of the battlefield.
However, the breed became less desirable than they have been for the past 4 years.
The American Kennel Club changed the name of the German Shepherd dog to Shepherd dog.
Also, the German Shepherd Club of America became the Shepherd Club of America.
Because Germany and Britain weren’t allies during World War 1, the British changed the breed name to Alsatian.
All of this was done because the other countries didn’t want to become associated with Germany in any way.
3.) The breed as a whole went through a temporary name change
It all started during World War 1 where dogs were used by different opposing sides, mainly Germany and Britain.
Because this breed came from Germany, these dogs were called German Shepherds.
German Shepherds are one of the intelligent, fastest, easy to train, fearless, and protective breed.
They were used in detecting mines, passing messages, and were part of the red cross where they gave first aid and helped the wounded.
However, the British people didn’t want to call them German Shepherds because they were called from their enemy, Germany.
So they came up with a new name to not associate with Germany in any way. They named them “Alsatian”.
The name came from an area called Alsace-Lorraine which is a German-French border.
They changed the name due to two reasons; the first reason is that they hated Germany. The second reason is that they wanted to protect the German Shepherd breed from the people in Britain.
This caused major confusion between this dog breed; some thought that they were two different breeds at the time of the war.
4.) German Shepherds can work many roles
As mentioned during War World 1, German Shepherds aided the soldiers and helped the wounded. They also had roles as guard dogs, mine detectors, and messengers.
Thus, German Shepherds had many critical roles that helped soldiers during the war.
Because of their intelligence and high adaptability, they have many other roles in today’s times.
Here are the roles of a German Shepherd dog:
Military and police dogs
Because of their strong bodies and intelligence, they fit this role perfectly.
Oftentimes, military and police dogs undergo very hard training facing hard obstacles that some dogs can’t take right on.
Because of that reason, dogs are carefully selected and observed to see whether they are right for the role or not.
The German Shepherd breed proved that they are strong and smart enough for this role.
Some of the jobs that military and police dogs do are bomb detection, apprehension, act as a deterrent and protective dog, and much more.
Search and rescue dogs
German Shepherds make excellent search and rescue dogs because of their precise tracking ability and a keen sense of smell.
Search and rescue dogs have the job of tracking and finding missing people in hazardous events such as natural disasters through using their tracking skills and a strong sense of smell.
German Shepherds are known to possess these qualities. They are also well-balanced in their temperament and have the endurance to tolerate and move through tough times so they are able to rescue people.
Also, because of their strong noses and natural detection ability, they can excel in the detection work of bombs, drugs, human remains, and arson.
These brave dogs are often put in very dangerous situations and risk their lives to save their human handlers.
However, before they can fit this role, they have to be trained to be ready to work as detection dogs.
Therapy and service dogs
The German Shepherd’s temperament is very calm and stable which makes them excellent therapy dogs.
They can help hospital patients, children with disabilities, and senior people by providing support and minimizing their stress levels.
This breed can also work as service dogs because of their strong nerves, even temperament, and a strong sense of work.
Thus, they can work as guide dogs assisting the blind and helping them out, aid in alerting a person of an incoming seizure while helping them, help out in mobility, and much more.
Protection and guard dogs
German Shepherds make great protection and guard dogs due to their natural protective instinct, courage, and loyalty for their families.
With some training though, your dog can actually become an even better protective guard dog.
These protective dogs are trained to scare off intruders as they are visual deterrents and will attack anyone who they think will harm their families.
To train a German Shepherd for this role, it will require you to invent real-life scenarios and train them near the area that your dog is going to protect.
5.) Some German Shepherds may have dwarfism
Some German Shepherds may have dwarfism which is a genetic disorder found in purebred German Shepherds.
In this condition, your German Shepherd has a reduction in the production of growth hormones so they stop growing at an early age.
Even though they look adorable and cute, they come with a lot of health problems. They have problems such as infertility, a shortened life span, and problems with growing skin, fur, and teeth.
These German Shepherds do suffer throughout their life from these problems.
6.) The breed is very popular and taken care of in America especially senior German Shepherds
In 2017, according to the American Kennel Club, German Shepherds ranked number 2 in the list of the most popular breeds in America.
They are very popular because of their intelligence, loyalty, confidence, courage, and caring nature that they have.
The German Shepherd is very protective and will do whatever they can to protect their family and friends.
They have a beautiful coat that comes with different coat combinations and colors.
As for senior German Shepherds, they are not forgotten and have their own club. Their club name is called ” The Thirteen Club”.
It’s a club made by the German Club of America and is for German Shepherd dogs aged twelve or over that age.
7.) It is also a very popular breed around the world in many countries
Not only is the breed popular in the United States, but it is also popular in many other countries.
The German Shepherd as a breed is very popular in Germany. There are over 250,000 purebred German Shepherds registered in Germany.
There is an estimation that about 15,000 German Shepherd puppies are born each year.
This breed is also popular in the United Kingdom where it is the 7th most popular dog breed registered with the Kennel Club.
There are also people who train or breed these dogs around the world.
These people are called fanciers and there is an estimate of about 78 countries around the world that have registered German Shepherds fanciers.
Throughout the years, the popularity of the German Shepherds is increasing that there is a World Union of German Shepherds Dog Clubs.
8.) German Shepherds are the third intelligent breed in the world
German Shepherds are known to be very intelligent. They are among the top three intelligent breeds in the world ranking third.
The first two breeds that are considered more intelligent than the German Shepherd are the Border Collies and Poodles.
Even though these two breeds rank higher in intelligence, the German Shepherd is highly trainable than both of them.
According to findings that measured the mental abilities of a German Shepherd, their mental abilities equaled to that of a 2-year-old.
They have a really strong memory that is both fast and retentive. This helps them to easily remember commands and tricks that you are teaching them.
This strong memory comes from the time that a German Shepherd had to use it for herding and as a working dog.
Their strong memory and intelligence allow them to only learn a simple task after only five repetitions. Therefore, they are really fast learners and can easily learn commands and tricks.
9.) Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart, German Shepherds, starred in movies
Strongheart was a German Shepherd who starred in many movies. They were the first German Shepherd to do so.
They were raised and born in Germany and assigned to the German military during World War 1.
They were spotted by a famous director who was searching for a dog, both fearless and courageous, who would star in movies.
In the beginning, Strongheart had a problem of socializing with other people because of their vigorous police training and little human interaction.
Step by step, they were more comfortable with people and went on to stare in many movies.
Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd who was the first rescue in the United States rescued by an American soldier during World War 1.
Despite the breed originating from Germany, Rin Tin Tin didn’t come from Germany instead they were bred and rescued from France.
Because of their intelligence and talent, they went on to star at 27 movies. In 2011, Rin Tin Tin won the Legacy Award from the American Humane Association.
They also have a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.
10.) German Shepherds were the first guide dogs
Before there were guide dogs, people with disabilities especially visually impaired who couldn’t walk in public or hold jobs. They were totally depended on people on every aspect of their lives.
Morris Frank was one of the people who was visually impaired. He met Buddy, a German Shepherd who was trained to be a guide dog.
Buddy managed to successfully guide Morris and became the first guide dog ever. The German Shepherd started the first service dog movement that we have today.
11.) They are very heroic
German Shepherds are very protective of their families and friends. There have been stories where German Shepherds risked their lives to protect their families.
One of these stories is about a German Shepherd named Haus who threw themselves in front of a rattlesnake that was about to bite Molly, a member of their family.
Haus was bitten three times by the snake. Vets thought that the dog was going to die but miraculously, they survived.
13.) A sport was invented specifically for German Shepherds
Schutzhund was a sport created for German Shepherds. Also, there was a club called the United Shutzhund Club of America that was created in their honor.
According to the club, the sport was designed to test your dog’s natural abilities and identify dogs that are unstable or untrainable.
The sport also tests your German Shepherd’s intelligence, sense of smell, perseverance, and courage and utility.
It is divided into three tracks where the first is tracking, the second is obedience, and the third is protection work.
Now, many other breeds are competing in this sport despite it being very tough.
14.) They offer the ultimate support and will help you reach your goal
German Shepherds are very supportive of their loved ones.
Even though they are wary of strangers when they first meet them, once they get comfortable around them and know them, they become loyal for life and very supportive dogs.
Speaking of being supportive, there was a story about a man named George Foreman who trained alongside his German Shepherd to prepare himself for the heavyweight championship.
They would take long runs and walks alongside each other and train with each other. As George became stronger, his German Shepherd was the only one able to keep up with him.
All this effort paid off when he became the heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist.
15.) The German Shepherd breed has 11 recognized colors
The most common color of a German Shepherd is tan and black. German Shepherds also come in either black or white.
However, there are eleven colors recognized by the American Kennel Club. They are:
- Tan and black
- Black and cream
- Black and red
- Black and silver
10 Myths about German Shepherds
1.) German Shepherd puppies are great for children
Even though, at first, you may think that putting a German Shepherd puppy and a child together is a good idea. In reality, it isn’t a very good idea.
By putting a German Shepherd puppy and a child together, there will be chaos.
It’s like putting a dog with no impulse control and sense of the world with an undisciplined toddler who might accidentally hurt your puppy or get hurt.
This isn’t to say that German Shepherd’s puppies are aggressive rather most puppies have the tendency to bite and chew on things due to their teething.
It is completely harmless for adults and won’t cause them any harm; however, it will cause harm for children by damaging their soft skin.
Your child may also cause harm to your puppy by accidentally playing with them roughly.
So, what’s the solution? If it happens that you get a German Shepherd puppy and you have children, it is best to monitor them both for any accidents.
You also have the other option of getting a puppy when your children are older or get an older dog for your children. An older dog will know how to play with your child without causing them any harm.
2.) Training your German Shepherd will prevent them from running away from an unfenced yard
This is one of the most popular myths about German Shepherds.
By leaving your German Shepherd unrestrained in an unfenced yard, there is a high chance that your dog will get hit by a car, be stolen, or become poisoned from eating food in the garbage.
The solution involves either putting your German Shepherd in a fenced yard or on a leash so they don’t escape if there is no fence.
This is really important especially for dogs who are strays or owner surrenders.
Owner surrenders have an urge to escape the first chance that they get to look for their previous dog parents.
3.) German Shepherds are aggressive and can attack their dog parents without a reason
Many people believe that German Shepherds are aggressive. This mainly comes from people who don’t understand and know the breed thoroughly.
Another source of this misconception is that the German Shepherds worked in military and police work so they must be aggressive.
Because of this misconception, many people become afraid of a German Shepherd when they hear them bark or look at them.
This is totally untrue as German Shepherds are one of the most loving and caring dog breeds.
Like any dog, being aggressive or not comes down to the way that your dog was raised, loved, and trained.
If they were raised in a happy and loving home, they will grow to be balanced and loving. However, if they were abused and treated badly, they will either become very fearful or aggressive.
So do German Shepherds intentionally bite their dog parents?
Even though there have been cases of German Shepherd biting their dog parents, these cases are often the result of the dog feeling afraid or sensing a threat so they are protecting themselves.
An example would be a dog parent who constantly abuses their dog. A German Shepherd may attack their dog parent in this situation.
Your German Shepherd will protect themselves even if the threat comes from their dog parent.
4.) German Shepherds aren’t good with other dogs
Many dog parents think that a German Shepherd’s appearance and big size cause them to scare off dogs and not get along with other dogs.
The truth is that, like all dogs, if they are socialized and trained to be around dogs from an early age, they will definitely know how to interact and be friendly with them.
Even if they are adult German Shepherds, you can still teach them to socialize with other dogs. However, it will definitely take more time than when they are puppies.
Females German Shepherds are known to be a bit feisty around other dogs than male German Shepherds.
But again with proper socialization, you can definitely minimize aggression and not getting along with other dogs.
If you want to help your German Shepherd to get along with other dogs, you have to let them meet other dogs in a neutral environment.
Also, you have to let your dog be on a leash so if they unexpectedly become aggressive with other dogs, you can stop them and correct their behavior.
5.) German Shepherds are biters
This is a very common myth about German Shepherds. The origin of the myth comes from the aggressive jobs that they do and their size which intimidates people.
The truth is that German Shepherds are generally not known for being biters. Biting comes from poor socialization and training which leads your dog to bite.
According to the AKC, German Shepherds bites make up only less than 2 % of reported dog bites.
If it happens that your German Shepherd bites, it is most likely due to reasons such as feeling afraid or threatened.
6.) German Shepherds are not good with kids
With the exception of puppies, adult and senior German Shepherds are pretty great at dealing with kids.
The myth came from people fearing the German Shepherd’s large menacing size and appearance where they can easily knock down kids and bite them.
This is totally untrue as German Shepherds are very great with kids.
According to the AKC, German Shepherds scored as one of the highest popular breeds in the category of being a family dog and companion.
German Shepherds benefit from early training and socialization so they can better deal with people and kids.
Unlike German Shepherd puppies, they will understand and know how to deal with kids.
You have to also teach your kids what behaviors they shouldn’t do that will irritate and annoy your German Shepherd.
If your kids are a bit older, try to include them in the training.
Both will benefit from this exercise; your kids will learn how to train and deal with your dog while your German Shepherd will learn the training and become accustomed to your kids.
7.) German Shepherds are not smart
This myth comes from the fact that, at times, your German Shepherd may become disinterested and unfocused. However, this is far from the truth which is that they are very selective of what captures their attention.
As a breed, the German Shepherd ranks the third smartest breed in the world.
They are fast learners who don’t require lots of repetition to learn new commands and tricks.
8.) Female German Shepherds don’t have dominance issues
This myth isn’t true. As female German Shepherds can be more dominant than male German Shepherds.
In fact, male German Shepherds are mellow and laid-back in nature while female German Shepherds are hyper and more dominant.
If you spay or neuter your German Shepherd, whether female or male, their dominance issues will be minimized.
9.) Older German Shepherd dogs are harder to deal with than puppies
Puppies are cute and adorable until their bodies mature. When they do mature, your dog will experience innate behavioral problems such as attacking other dogs and biting other people.
The best solution is to properly socialize and train them to be with other people and dogs.
On the other hand, older German Shepherds, when they are properly trained and socialized, don’t pose these types of problems.
They are actually friendly, loyal, and very caring toward their families and loved ones.
10.) German Shepherds are hard to get and find
The German Shepherd is a very popular dog breed. They are found in many places and around the world.
Therefore, they aren’t rare and can be found as purebreds.
These are the top facts and myths about German Shepherds. The facts are truly amazing while the myths have deeper opposing facts behind them.
To know more about the comparison between long-haired and short-haired German Shepherd, check Long Haired VS Short haired German Shepherd Dog Comparison