The German Shepherd is a breed of medium to large-sized working dog that originated in Germany. In the English language, the breed’s officially recognized name is German Shepherd Dog (sometimes abbreviated as GSD). The breed was officially known as the Alsatian in Britain until 1977 when its name was changed back to German Shepherd. The German Shepherd is a relatively new breed of dog, with their origin dating to 1899. As part of the Herding Group, German Shepherds are working dogs developed originally for herding sheep.
German Shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence, a trait for which they are now famous. In the book The Intelligence of Dogs, author Stanley Coren ranked the breed third for intelligence, behind Border Collies and Poodles.
While an Australian report from 1999 provides statistics showing that German Shepherds are the breed third most likely to attack a person in some Australian locales, once their popularity is taken into account, the percentages of GSD attacks drops to 38th.
Many common ailments of the German Shepherd are a result of the inbreeding practiced early in the breed’s life. One such common ailment is hip and elbow dysplasia which may cause the dog to experience pain later on in life and may cause arthritis.
In the 1800s northwest Europe (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands) the most common dog used to herd sheep and protect the homes was the so-called “continental shepherd dog”. These dogs all looked very similar at that time, and it was around 1890 that the three breeds (Belgian Shepherd, German Shepherd and Dutch Shepherd) went their separate ways.