One of the most common service dog breeds, the German Shepherd is renowned for its loyalty, intelligence, and steadfast nature. Ranking second among the most popular dog breeds in the United States, the German Shepherd has long been a favorite among families, dog show enthusiasts, police and military personnel, and the visually impaired.
The German Shepherd traces its roots back about 100 years ago to herding and farm dogs of Karlsruhe, Germany. An amalgamation of herding and farm dogs, the German Shepherd quickly became highly sought after for its intelligence, strength, and magnificence. Their extremely high intelligence and easy-to-train nature makes them a top pick among police, military, and other service-oriented fields. Often picking up new commands with as few as five repetitions, many German Shepherds can easily retain working vocabularies of over 200 words.
Muscular and evenly proportioned, the German Shepherd has a wedge-shaped head that balances nicely with the rest of its body. Most commonly boasting a black and tan coat, their colors can range between shades of sable to all black. Weighing in between 70 and 95 pounds and standing between 22 to 26 inches high, this medium-large breed is highly active, energetic, and consistent, displaying strong protective instincts. They are fiercely loyal to their owners but can be wary (and even aggressive, depending on their training) towards strangers and those who venture into their territory. Their bark has a ferocious quality to it, an indication of their highly defensive nature and possessive tendencies. Trained properly, German Shepherds are amazing companions—watching over children, keeping families safe, and willingly laying down their lives for their owners. Their heroic character and faithful allegiance has earned them a place in many hearts.
There are many examples of the German Shepherd’s rich heroic history. Bruno was a nine-month old puppy who saved the life of an unconscious 11-year-old boy who was thrown from his bike into a ditch. Bruno licked his face until he regained consciousness and pulled him by the collar towards home until someone saw them and came to their rescue. Nellie from Ontario ran over 3 km to get help after her owner was caught beneath an overturned tractor. Hustler saved his Alberta owner after a fall from a horse left her unable to move, fighting off attacks from two vicious coyotes until they were discovered, nine hours later. Moti was awarded the title “2007 Dog of the Year” after taking a bullet to save her family from a hostile intruder. Moti made a full recovery and saved her entire family from harm. Dog of the Year has been granted to German Shepherds numerous times and there are countless tales of German Shepherds have shown their bravery and valor, saving lives and rescuing humans from danger time after time.
German Shephards have captured hearts with their winsome personalities as well as their heroism, often playing leading roles on the silver screen. Hailed as one of the first canine movie stars, Strongheart was brought to the U.S. by two filmmakers and appeared in many movies, including a White Fang adaptation. His legacy is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as is Rin Tin Tin, another famous movie star with over twenty-five movies to his credit. Not only are German Shepherds natural stars, they are also a favorite of celebrities and luminaries throughout history. John and Jacqueline Kennedy’s dog, Clipper was allowed to greet the presidential couple when the helicopter landed on the White House lawn. When asked by the media what he ate, Mrs. Kennedy memorably replied, “Reporters.” Roy Rogers, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bob Hope, Shania Twain, and George Foreman are just a few of the other celebrities with German Shepherds. One of the most popular German Shepherds of late is Dunder, rocketing to fame in one evening after his owner posted a time-lapse video that compiled daily images captured the first two years of Dunder’s life.
From defending families and entertaining crowds to shepherding livestock and detecting explosives, German Shepherds hold a well-deserved place as the second most popular dog in America. To learn more about this amazing breed, talk with your veterinarian or visit the American Kennel Club at www.akc.org.
If a German Shepherd is in your future, there are several rescue organizations throughout the Greater Phoenix area that specialize in this breed. Here are a few organizations that can help match you with the right companion: Saving Paws Rescue, Southwest German Shepherd Rescue, and Arizona German Shepherd Rescue.