The German shepherd is a breed of medium to large-sized working-dog which originated from Germany (hence its name, which is sometimes abbreviated to GSD for German Shepherd Dog in English). The German shepherds were developed originally for herding sheep, as part of the Herding Group. However, since that time they also play roles in disability assistance, police and military use, search-and-rescue, and acting.
German shepherds most commonly come in sable, all-black or pure-white. They usually have tan and black coloring with a black mask and the classic, black ‘saddle’ or ‘blanket’ over the back. German shepherd coats are accepted in variations of long and medium length. They have two-layer coats, and the undercoat is thick and dense. They have a bushy tail which reaches the hock (a joint between the tarsal bones and tibia of a quadrupedal mammal, such as a horse, dog or cat), strong jaws and a black nose.
The German shepherd is a moderately active and self-assured dog breed. They are excellent guard dogs and suitable for search missions because of their curiosity. They are highly intelligent and obedient, but they can also sometimes become over-protective of family members, especially if they are not socialized correctly. However, they are known to be inclined to become immediate friends with strangers despite the fact that they were reported once to be the breed third most likely to attack a person. They were also reported to have an incredibly strong bite.
Controversy over the German shepherd includes a dispute over soundness in a show-train breed. They were criticized for having a sloping topline which caused poor gait in the hind legs. An orthopedic vet said, remarking on footage of German shepherds in the show ring, that they were ‘not normal.’
German shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence and working ability; they were ranked the breed third in intelligence, behind the border collie and the poodle. Along with their strength, this trait makes the breed desirable for playing roles specifically in the police, guard and search-and-rescue work. Many are famous for taking part as heroes in war.
The AKC (American Kennel Club) sums up the GSD as ‘confident, courageous and smart,’ and the life expectancy is 7-10 years of age.