The German Shepherd Dog is a large and strong dog. The fur is a doublecoat
and can be either short or long haired. Although the black and tan
saddle may be most recognizable, German Shepherds come in a variety of
colors and patterns. Two toned German Shepherds can be black and tan,
black and red, black and brown, black and silver, black and cream, blue and
tan, or liver and tan. Solid colors may be black and solid white or any of the
dilutes (liver, blue, or cream).
German Shepherds are powerful dogs with a high level of intelligence and
trainability, but as with most dogs they can become dangerous or
destructive if raised improperly. With their uncommon strength, agility and
strong sense of loyalty, they can be trained to attack and release on
command. Poorly bred GSDs can be fearful, overly aggressive, or both. GSDs are often perceived as inherently
dangerous, and are the target of Breed Specific Legislation in several countries. If a GSD is violent or aggressive,
it is often due to the combination of poor breeding and the owner's lack of control, training, and socialization.
GSDs are often used as guard, seeing eye, and police dogs and more specifically search and rescue, narcotics
dogs, and bomb scenting dogs which further contributes to the misguided perception that they are a dangerous
breed. However, many GSDs function perfectly well as search dogs and family pets.
As is common of many large breeds, German Shepherds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. German
Shepherds, like all large bodied dogs, are also prone to bloat.
The original purpose for the German Shepherd Dog was to herd sheep, cattle, or other animals that might
require the assistance of a shepherd. As the breed multiplied and society became more industrialized,
opportunities to work with livestock became more scarce. The breed organization in Germany decided to look
for other useful outlets for these dogs' talents, and soon they were working for law enforcement and the
military. Now the GSD is more often found working as a guard dog, police dog, detection dog, search and
rescue dog, or companion pet than in the field working sheep. The German Shepherd dog lacks the "eye" of
Border Collies or other similar breeds possess. They are trained to follow their instinct, which for the GSD is to "work the furrow," meaning that they will patrol a boundary all day and restrict the animals being herded from
entering or leaving the designated area. It is this instinct that has made the breed superb guard dogs, protecting
their flock (or family). While in the presence of other dogs German Shepherds may try to herd them, though this
attempt is usually futile. A German Shepherd Dog's instinct to herd might manifest itself by the dog's closely
watching or even nipping at members of its family while on walks. The dog might attempt to lead people to what
it perceives is the correct location, even going so far as to gently take a hand in his teeth to lead the person.
With some training, this can become a trick, sometimes known as "walk the human.".
The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most widely-used breeds in a wide variety of scent-work roles. These
include search and rescue, cadaver searching, narcotics detection, explosives detection, accelerant detection,
and mine detection dog, amongst others. They are suited for these lines of work because of their keen sense of
smell and their ability to work regardless of distractions.
German Shepherds have featured in a range of media. Strongheart the German Shepherd was one of the earliest
canine film stars and was followed by Rin Tin Tin, who is now acclaimed as being the most famous German
Shepherd. Both are credited with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.