Breed Love: German shepherd

Gorgeous German shepherd. Source: Flickr, user tobiasaustli

I love almost all of the dogs from the herding group. I think I’d be perfectly happy to own almost any of those dogs (even though border collies and Australian cattle dogs could drive me batty with their laser-like intensity). When my husband, Guion, announced that he wanted a German shepherd dog (GSD), I found myself taking quickly to the idea, even though I’d never considered getting a German shepherd for myself. Guion spent a lot of time on a farm in Ireland with a venerable GSD named Reuben. Guion loved Reuben so much that he put his wolfish face on the cover of his first demo album. Then we ended up getting a betta fish, which Guion promptly christened Reuben, after the beautiful dog we could not yet get.

Clearly, Guion had a lot of love for this dog and thus, an attraction to the breed. As per my inclination, I started studying up on GSDs. The more I read about German shepherds, the more impressed I am with them. I think a lot of people feel this way about the breed. They’re one of the most popular dog breeds in America today and they’re often the top choice of police forces, guide dog agencies, and the U.S. military. I like to think of GSDs as the super-athletes of the dog world. They are extremely intelligent, strong, loyal, and athletic and you could probably train them to do anything you wanted them to do. Like make you pancakes in the morning. I bet your GSD could do it.

German shepherd puppy. Source: Flickr, user Ollie3003

My dear friend Anna has a sweet, small female GSD named Heidi. We spent an afternoon romping with Heidi in the Rivanna River and the fields around Pen Park and had the best time with her. Heidi possessed seemingly tireless energy. You could not possibly throw enough sticks in the river for her to retrieve. After we got tired of that, she jumped out of the river, followed us up the trail and quickly found a felled TREE to carry around. Seriously. This was a 10-foot log she was toting around. Girl had brawn! (The photo of Heidi and her portable tree is actually the background of my phone right now. It’s amazing.) Even though I haven’t spent much time with other GSDs, I felt like Heidi was a good example of one aspect of this breed: They do not get tired easily. This is an aspect that both attracts and worries me about this breed. But then again, most herding dogs fit this description.

I really would love to get a German shepherd one day. I’m also trawling the many excellent GSD rescue groups in Virginia from time to time and often see a dog that catches my eye. It’s hard not to be enchanted by these smart and noble dogs!

From what little I know now, here is my rudimentary pro and con list for the German shepherd:

GSD pros:

  • Extremely intelligent and highly trainable.
  • Can do just about anything.
  • Great watchdogs.
  • Loyal.
  • Good with kids, when socialized with them.
  • Athletic.

GSD cons:

  • Extremely intelligent and strong. This isn’t a con, but it does mean that I can be easily intimidated by them, which is not a great way to be with your dog.
  • Aggression issues, if poorly bred and poorly socialized.
  • Litany of serious and tragic health issues. A healthy purebred GSD is regrettably rare these days and you’ll pay a pretty penny for a well-bred puppy ($1,500 and up).

Tell me about German shepherds. Should we get one? Is it risky to try to adopt one from a rescue group? I think about this a lot but I often wonder if it is a bad idea for someone who is inexperienced with GSDs.

Meanwhile, you can keep up with the other breeds that strike my fancy through my other Breed Love posts. More to come!

German shepherd links:


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