This is one of several columns dealing with analysis of various types of purebred dogs in present-day society. It will provide a description of the individual breed's purpose, its historical reputation, and the actual observations of this breed at the present time.
The first breed we will examine is German Shepherd Dog.
History and reputation: The German Shepherd Dog has been a working dog whose attributes have served its human companions in many special ways. As a herding sheepdog, this breed must have the courage to protect his flock and to think independently. As a police dog, this breed's courage is of unequaled value, but the independence must be closely attached to both the human handler and the situation. As a leader of the blind, this breed must exercise independent judgment, maintain patience and watchfulness. And, as a Search and Rescue dog, this breed must use its keen sense of scent and tirelessly work toward its goal. There are few breeds as eclectic as the German Shepherd Dog.
Present day: The German Shepherd Dog is a breed that can be aloof to strangers, but is a solid, loving and devoted companion to family members and friends. A gross fault in this breed is fear and/or timidity. High states of anxiety can also be found in the breed at this time, and serious hip related problems are ubiquitous. ALL of this is due to improper, careless and outright horrible breeding by opportunists who wished to satisfy the demand for the breed. These problems are so widespread that the AKC Breed Standard states: "Any of the above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized as very serious faults....."
Recommendations: This breed has always been one of my favorites. I am disgusted by what puppy mill and backyard breeders have done to it. Add to that list so-called dog trainers who have bred solely for the purpose of defense and/or guard work, with no care for temperament or structural integrity! This breed is courageous, full of heart, and will willingly work itself into exhaustion for its owners. To have brought the breed to the point where temperament faults are so enormous is, to me, despicable.
Before you consider the purchase of a German Shepherd Dog, do your homework! Be absolutely certain that the breeder's stock has been carefully screened for hip dysplasure (with OFA certificates, demand to see them.) Also be certain that breeding stock is of sound temperament. Excessive barking, backing off from strangers, unapproachable behaviors, or ANY display of behaviors you do not want in your family dog are serious indications that the breeder is not producing sound puppies. There are few breeds as marvelous as the well-bred German Shepherd Dog. However, over 60% of the dog bites in the United States have been attributed to this breed and its related mixes. Be quite cautious of where you purchase your puppy!