Do you have a German Shepherd? Are you considering getting one? Or do you just want to learn more about the breed? Whatever drew you to this post, I think you’ll find that the following offers a lot of interesting facts about German Shepherds. Some might just serve as reminders of things you already knew (or suspected), but others might actually surprise you.
So, keep reading. The following are 15 interesting facts about the German Shepherd, one of the most popular breeds in America.
1. German Shepherds Came by Their Name in an Interesting Way
You have probably often heard the German Shepherd referred to as the GSD – an acronym for “German Shepherd Dog.” Why? We don’t say “Standard Poodle Dog,” or “Cocker Spaniel Dog,” or “Chihuahua Dog,” so why “German Shepherd Dog?”
It’s simple – when the term was coined, it was to avoid confusion between dogs and humans. Back when the breed was first developed, people said “German Shepherd Dog” to distinguish the breed from… well, from German shepherds! In other words, German people who worked herding sheep.
2. German Shepherds Are Very Popular
The German Shepherd is the second most popular dog in the United States (the Golden Retriever takes the top spot).
In Germany, there are approximately a quarter of a million German Shepherds, and the breed produces about 15,000 puppies in any given year.
Oddly enough, despite the popularity of the breed, the German Shepherd has only once won the title of Best in Breed at the Westminster Dog Show.
3. German Shepherds Are Extremely Brave and Compassionate
German Shepherds served their countries in both World Wars, on both sides. German Shepherds also served in Vietnam, and in fact, a Shepherd named Kaiser is believed to be the first German Shepherd killed in the line of duty. He died in Vietnam, trying to lick his soldier’s hand. Another German Shepherd, Nemo, took a gunshot to the eye in Vietnam, but still managed to attack the enemy, allowing his soldier enough time to escape.
German Shepherds were also used extensively in rescue work following the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11, working tirelessly to find survivors, and also to provide comfort to those left behind.
4. German Shepherds Are Highly Intelligent
The German Shepherd is considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds. Only the Poodle and the Border Collie outrank the shepherd. One of the most amazing and interesting facts about German Shepherds is that they are known to obey commands the first time, about 95% of the time. Most dogs don’t have that kind of focus. Additionally, you usually only have to show a GSD how to do something five times before he gets the concept – most breeds require a lot more reinforcement.
5. German Shepherds Are Remarkably Loyal
German Shepherds bond hard and fast to their people. In fact, a German Shepherd named Capitan was so bonded to his Argentinian owner, that when his human died, Capitan never forgot him – he left his new home every day, for six years, to go and sit by his master’s grave.
6. German Shepherds Have Some Really Unique Names
I was surprised to find out that one of the most interesting facts about German Shepherds is that their owners seem to really go out of their way to come up with interesting names for their dogs. Forget “Rex” and “Brandy” and “Bear” and all those over-used names – here are some of the most common German Shepherd names. I think you’ll actually find that they’re pretty uncommon!
- Aldo – It means “wise and old.”
- London – This is taken from a Canadian TV show, “The Littlest Hobo.” There were actually several “Londons” used in the making of the series, which was so popular that many German Shepherd owners appropriated the name for their own dogs.
- Ferguson – It means “strong and noble.”
- Herz – It means “brave and hardy.”
- Adolphina – It means “noble hero.”
- Dina – It means “warrior of the people.”
- Berthold – It means “bright ruler.”
- Elsa – It means “princess,” and no, that’s not a “Frozen” reference!
- Mallory – It means “wise in battle.”
These are just a few “common but uncommon” German Shepherd names that I’ve found online. I’ve also known German Shepherds with unusual names like Heimdall, Wotan, Douglas, Regis, Shalla, Patrika and Enid. To say the least, German Shepherd owners can be pretty inventive when it comes to names!
7. German Shepherds Are Handsome, Substantial Dogs
Some interesting facts about German Shepherds that you might not have known relate to size and build. The typical adult German Shepherd stands 24-26 inches at the shoulder if it’s a male, and 22-24 inches if it’s a female. The weight for a German Shepherd of either gender is 75-95 pounds.
8. A German Shepherd’s Ears Change with Age
We usually think of German Shepherds as having pointed ears. But one of the interesting facts about German Shepherds is that they’re actually born with floppy ears! The ears don’t begin to stand until the dog gets older, and cartilage in the ears grows and stiffens, causing the ears to perk up.
9. German Shepherds Have an Amazing Sense of Smell
The German Shepherd has the fourth best sense of smell of any dog breed, losing out only to the Basset Hound, Beagle and Bloodhound. The German Shepherd’s nose actually has no fewer than 225,000,000 scent receptors. To put this in its proper context, the human nose has only around 400.
10. German Shepherds Are Often Misjudged
Sometimes, it seems as though every large breed has to get a “turn” at being reviled. Most recently, it’s been Pit Bull types and Rottweilers, but it wasn’t all that long ago that German Shepherds were believed to be inherently vicious. One of the most interesting facts about the German Shepherd’s personality is that this is not a dog that’s generally aggressive, despite the reputation.
A German Shepherd might be a bit aloof, and might want to take a bit of time to decide whether he wants to be your friend, but once he does decide that you’re “friend material,” you’re friends for life.
GSDs are also very protective of their humans, and good with children.
11. German Shepherds Can Be Needy
German Shepherds thrive on companionship, and don’t enjoy being left alone. In fact, if you leave your GSD alone for too long, there’s a chance that he will become destructive.
12. German Shepherds Are Typically Healthy
As a breed, German Shepherds aren’t all that prone to illnesses or disorders. However, that said, you should keep a close eye on your GSD between the ages of four and seven months, which is when they’ll put on a lot of growth. If they grow too fast, they can develop bone disorders. The best course of action is to feed a quality diet with about 22-24% protein and 12-15% fat to prevent your puppy from growing too quickly. Also, don’t let your GSD play on hard surfaces until he’s at least two years old. This is because if he’s constantly coming down on hard surfaces, it can damage his young, under-developed joints.
13. The Coats Go “Kaboom!” Twice a Year
I’ve often heard German Shepherds referred to a “German Shedders.” This is because they shed all year, but they also go through a period of extreme shedding twice a year. So, if you have a GSD, you’re going to want to brush regularly.
That said, it’s also an interesting fact about German Shepherds that they really don’t need to be bathed all that much – in fact, they’re pretty much “self-cleaning.” You’ll only need to bathe your GSD if he gets into something particularly nasty. Too much bathing can actually dry out your dog’s skin and lead to dryness and itching.
14. German Shepherds Need Really Tough Toys
German Shepherds have incredible jaw pressure, and can destroy toys and other objects in no time flat. There’s no such thing as a totally chew-proof dog toy, but I find that the Kong Classic Dog Toy for large breeds can provide a lot of enjoyment for a long time, even for very vigorous chewers.
15. German Shepherds Are Surprisingly Long-Lived
Many large breeds simply don’t live that long. I know that with my Boxers, anything I get beyond nine years is going to be a bonus. It’s the same for my friend Neila and her Rottweilers. GSDs, though, are an exception. I find one of the most interesting facts about German Shepherds to be that they can actually live 10-14 years, and sometimes even longer!
Well, there you go – 15 interesting facts about German Shepherds. So, have you fallen in love with the breed? Want to learn more?
The Final Word
If you want to find out more about this remarkable breed, check out German Shepherd Clubs in your area, and get up close and personal with a Shepherd or two. You might find that the German Shepherd is the perfect dog for you and your family.
You might also investigate rescue groups, if you’re accustomed to handling dogs and would like to help a German Shepherd who needs a forever home. These dogs have so much love to give, and often find themselves in shelters or rescue facilities through no fault of their own.
Even if you decide that a Shepherd isn’t right for you, I hope you’ve enjoyed these fun and interesting facts about German Shepherds. I’d love to hear from people who have, have had, or have known German Shepherds, too. What do you love about the breed? What makes German Shepherds interesting, fun and lovable? Leave a comment!