by Dennis Fisher.


Note:  This article is one of many dealing with every aspect of the German Shepherd Dog - breeding, training, bloodlines, famous German show winners, and a great deal more, that appear on the author, Dennis Fisher's website. Visit  http://www.allaboutgermanshepherddogs.com to see these articles.

This is the breed that has been my personal favorite for many years and I believe with very good reason. 


I am of course biased, but I firmly believe   that there is no breed of dog that can be compared with a well-bred German Shepherd as far as inherent trainability and willingness to learn are concerned.


There is no animal as anxious to please, as easy to train and as adaptable as the well-bred German Shepherd.


But I would like to stress the “well-bred” aspect. And in this regard I must emphasize that I consider  temperament is to a very large extent an inherited trait. 


Of course there are those who would argue that environment is just as important as genes.  I am certainly not disputing the fact  environment is important.  A good dog with a great deal of potential  can be ruined  by being reared in  a completely unsuitable environment


By the same token an insecure, highly -strung, nervous animal,  that has inherited these genetic  qualities from its forbears, can be turned into a reasonably  confident adult with very careful, judicious, patient training.


But, as any  experienced trainers will tell you,  this does require an awful amount of patience and careful handling.  A “well-bred” animal coming from a long line of ancestors with excellent temperaments and an inherited predisposition to respond to training, will require a fraction of time necessary to train.


If I was asked to make an arbitrary assessment percentage- wise of the importance of  hereditary factors as opposed to  environment, I would say that inherited qualities represent not less than 80% as against 20% for environmental factors.


In this respect  I am of course referring to temperament, not conformation.   Conformation, of course, is completely another ball game.  Genes are after referred to the dices of destiny, with good reason. 


 To breed a winning specimen in the highly competitive present-day show  world of the German Shepherd Dog often requires more than intimate  knowledge of the breed and  a great deal of knowledge of the  qualities of the dogs whose names appear in the dog’s pedigrees.  It requires an element of that very elusive factor called “luck”. 


If your objective is to have a German Shepherd that can also do very well in conformation breed competitions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the German Shepherd pup you choose must be the progeny of show winning Champions.


 There are occasions when a dog, whose parents were not top show winners, can  turn  out be a top show winner.   But in virtually every instance the parents were very well-bred animals, typical specimens of the breed and of reasonably good show quality.


Of course many German Shepherds without pedigrees whose background is unknown can turn out to be wonderful companions, excellent guards and marvelous with children.  But  statistics are against you.


Your chance of obtaining an animal with these excellent characteristics are so much greater if you choose an animal whose pedigree reflects these fine qualities in his forbears.


An important  reason why the German Shepherd Dog has always had a special appeal for me, apart from its natural intelligence, is because of the athleticism and agility  of the breed.


When I think of  a German Shepherd in terms of human athletic achievement I always compare it to top a class decathlon athlete.


A decathlon athlete has  to demonstrate a great degree  of  skill in many different areas.  He must be able to run fast in sprints, show stamina in long distance events, jump far in the long jump, jump high in the high jump, show strength in putting the shot  or throwing the discus, and demonstrate that he is capable of all around sporting activity.


If you examine the records of the winning decathlon athletes at the past Olympic games you will find that, with very few exceptions, the winners were big men but not gigantic men.  In boxing parlance they were light-heavyweights or cruiser weights.


To perform the duties that are required of him, a German Shepherd must necessarily be a big dog, large enough to be a good protection dog.  According to the breed standard height can vary from 24 to 26 inches  at the withers.  26 inches  is the maximum permissible height maximum, ie. 65cms.


 In the show ring animals that are more than this maximum are generally penalized. There is a good sound, logical reason for this. To perform his duties which include, guarding property, herding sheep, leading the blind, jumping over fences, apprehending a criminal if necessary, protecting his owner if attacked etc, the Shepherd must be large and strong enough, but not so large that he is clumsy, lumbering or  cumbersome.


A further feature of the German Shepherd dog, that has always been of tremendous appeal to me from an aesthetic point of view,  is the fact that his gait is smooth, harmonious, effortless, like a well-oiled machine.


In fact the construction of the breed as laid down by the standard, places particular emphasis on this.   The reason for the required front and hind angulation, as stipulated in the standard,  is a very practical one.


The requirements are logical and  practical viz. to provide maximum mechanical efficiency.  The structure of the animal is designed to provide ease of movement with the minimum of effort.   The analogy of a well-oiled machine is appropriate.


To refer to the world of   athletics again, the German Shepherd to me is in many respect similar to a  top middle distance, 400 meter runner.   The action is smooth, seemingly effortless.


To use a hackneyed  phrase it represents “poetry in motion”.

Having waxed so lyrical about my favorite breed I must now add a word of caution.


A German Shepherd Dog is not for everyone!  It is not the type of animal  that can be ignored, other than at feeding time,  left in the backyard  to fend for himself.


The German Shepherd  craves  attention.  He wants to be part of the family.   Very often he demands attention, which can be a definite disadvantage if you haven’t the time to give the dog the attention he deserves.


Many other breeds are less demanding and may be more suitable for your own particular requirements.


This doesn’t mean that you have to devote all your spare time training the dog, entering shows or obedience competitions.   But it does mean that you will have to spend a fair amount of time training the German Shepherd in basic obedience.  The dog must learn to respect you.   This is of vital important and comes with training.


But if you  are willing to spend the time and effort in giving the German Shepherd the extra attention he deserves, you will be able to bring  out the exceptionally fine qualities  he has inherited from his ancestors


 You will be rewarded by having  an animal that is  loyal,  affectionate, dependable, devoted to your family, a wonderful companion for your children and above all very protective.  He will be everything you  could possibly want from a dog.