Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
German Shepherd Dog
|German Shepherd Dog|
|Country of origin|
|Classification and breed standards|
The German Shepherd Dog (known also as the Alsatian or Schäfer(hund)) is an intelligent breed of dog. Because they are eager to please, they are easily trained in obedience and protection. German Shepherd Dogs are often used as working dogs in many capacities, including search and rescue (SAR), military, police or guard dogs. They are also used as assistance dogs / service dogs (such as guide dogs), though not as much as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
The German Sheperd is a large, strong substanstial looking dog. It varies in colour, coming in many different shades, mostly cream (tan) and brown.
(A separate coat appearance, the so-called "long-haired German Shepherd," is not usually considered a recognized breed. The long hair gene is recessive. In appearance they look somewhat like the Tervueren type of Belgian Shepherd Dog. An example with pictures can be found here)
Differences among lines
There are several types or lines of GSD and the behavior, abilities, and appearance of each is quite different. The major lines are the international working line, the international show line , and the North American show line.
Dogs from working lines are bred primarily for traits involving their working ability rather than appearance, so their appearance can be somewhat varied.
The international show lines differ in that more emphasis is given to the appearance of the dog when breeding, so they are very consistent in type or appearance.
The North American show lines have also been bred primarily for their looks, but have a markedly different appearance from the international dogs, featuring a noticably sloped back and sharp angulation of the hock joint. There is a current debate over whether the American show lines still represent the original German Shepherd Dog, or whether the line has become distinct enough that it should be considered a separate breed. Critics of the American line argue that the working ability of these dogs has been lost, and that the angled back is detrimental to the health of the animal. Proponents of the line believe that the altered bone structure of their dogs represents an improvement to the herding ability of the animals.
Well-bred GSDs have powerful jaws and strong teeth, can develop a strong sense of loyalty and obedience, and can be trained to attack and release on command. Poorly bred GSDs such as those from puppy mills can be fearful, overly aggressive, or both. The common misconception that GSDs are inherently violent is due most often to poor training.
Differences among lines
The different types or lines of GSD display differences not only in appearance but also in ability and temperament.
Dogs from working lines have very high energy, and have been bred to have a natural drive for protection, tracking, and obedience. They are bred primarily for consistent temperament, working drive, and intelligence. These dogs can be used as pets, but will be unhappy if not exercised daily or trained to do a job of some sort.
The international show lines tend to have less energy and less working ability. These dogs can make excellent pets, provided that a poor breeder has not sacrificed consistent temperament or health in the quest for good looks.
As is common in many large breeds, German Shepherds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. Other health problems sometimes occurring in the breed are von Willebrand's disease and skin allergies. German Shepherds are also prone to bloat. They have an average lifespan of twelve years.
The breed was originated by Captain Max von Stephanitz in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His goal was to breed an all-purpose working dog. Capt. von Stephanitz admired the landrace herding dogs of his native Germany, and believed they had the potential to be all-purpose working dogs. Additionally, he was aware of the declining need for herding dogs and believed that the breed would not survive unless it was put to other uses.
The proper English name for the breed is German Shepherd Dog but they are usually informally referred to as GSDs or simply German Shepherds, although Alsatian also is commonly used in the UK (the reason for the alternative name is historical: during World Wars 1 and 2 Germany was out of favour in the UK and many names were translated or anglicised).
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