There's no dog breed quite as recognizable nor as beloved as the German shepherd. The German shepherd is many things: They're our most reliable protectors, our most committed training companions, and our best pals, as large as they are loving. But, despite this Fido's flexibility, there's more to them than meets the eye! Here are some little-known facts about German shepherds that lovers of the breed will appreciate. (Though the first may surprise you!)
1. They herd sheep.
While we know them to be tough police dogs, these pups come from much more wholesome beginnings. Originally, German shepherds were tasked with watching over flocks of sheep and herding them from field to field. This was obviously a job that required quick reflexes and an ability to run at top speed, which this breed proved to be perfect for.
2. They're crazy fast.
Speaking of quick reflexes and top speeds, many don't know just how fast these dogs can go! German shepherds can reach speeds of up to 32 miles per hour at full sprint. It'd be pretty tough to outrun them, which is why they're so well equipped for all the jobs they work in our history, from K9 units to working alongside soldiers in WW1 and WW11. They can't quite outrun a horse, they can certainly keep up with a horse's running speed.
3. They were the original guide dogs.
These days, many service dogs are Labrador retrievers—but service dogs for the visually impaired were originally German shepherds. They were the dogs trained to assist soldiers that had been blinded in World War I, though it isn't too common to see them play the role anymore.
4. They have their own sport.
Not many breeds can say they have their own sport! Because the versatility of this breed is so legendary, German shepherd lovers created a sport called Schutzhund, which translates to "protection dog," designed to showcase their natural abilities. This game is a series of demanding tests in categories like intelligence, courage, and instincts. It's true a sight to see.
5. They're the third smartest breed.
While they're beat out by poodles and border collies, the intelligence of a German shepherd is nothing to scoff at, and they still stand among the smartest dog breeds. Stanley Coren, author of the book "The Intelligence of Dogs," states that German Shepherds will learn a new task after only five repetitions and respond to commands correctly 95% of the time. That's better than a lot of toddlers!
6. They're popular pups.
With its striking appearance and strong personality, it's no surprise that the German shepherd is one of the most popular dogs in the U.S. This is no passing craze either; the German shepherd has consistently ranked top five in the American Kennel Club's list of most popular dog breeds since 2013. Competing against almost 200 other breeds recognized by the AKC, this strong streak is no easy feat!
7. They have a collection of coat colors.
When you picture a German shepherd, a certain coat color most likely comes to mind. Aside from the traditional black and brown combination however, German shepherds come in a variety of other colors. In addition to the five common variants of German shepherd, there are five distinct GSD coat varieties: the Saddle coat German shepherd, Black German shepherd, White German shepherd, and Panda German Shepherd.
German shepherds come in both short to medium-length and long-haired coats, but all of them are double-coated dogs. This means they require frequent brushing, and owners must be willing to deal with every dog owner's worst nightmare, the dreaded 'coat-blow' season.
8. They are loyal to a fault.
The German shepherd is known for being dedicated, loyal, and born for obedience, which is why they are the dog of choice for law enforcement and animal herders alike. They are capable of amazing demonstrations of devotion, seen clearly with Captain, a German shepherd who showcased his unwavering loyalty for his owner even after his death.
When Miguel Guzman, Captain's owner, passed away in 2006, Captain disappeared, leading Guzman's family to believe he had run away. However, when visiting the cemetery months later, they found Captain by Guzman's grave. Captain remained by Guzman's grave for the next 11 years until he himself passed away, showing a German shepherd's loyalty to the people it loves has no bounds.
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