He's your friend, your soul mate, your superhero in a fur coat: your German Shepherd. The German Shepherd Dog is the most influential dog of the twentieth century---perhaps of all history.
Yet the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is a young breed, created around 1900 by Max von Stephanitz. The Shepherd's first job was to control huge flocks of sheep by constantly patrolling their perimeter, sort of like a moving fence. When the demand for that job declined they joined the military and police force. By World War they were the military dog of choice, searching for wounded soldiers, laying communication lines, delivering messages and standing guard. Many came to America with returning soldiers after the war. Best known was Rin Tin Tin, star of 29 movies. He propelled the GSD to the top of the popularity charts.
Known for their courage, intelligence and loyalty, German Shepherd Dogs have saved the lives of countless troops, police and citizens, and have enriched the lives of countless families. Your promise is to enrich your Shepherd's life equally with training, exercise, games, care and love. And toys---lots of tough toys!
German Shepherd Dogs have a reputation as the poster dog of hip dysplasia, although the truth is, many breeds are much higher on the list of affected dogs. Still, hip dysplasia, as well as elbow dysplasia, are concerns. Feeding a diet formulated for large-breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size---just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also vital for protecting joint health. Because many German Shepherds have coat and skin problems, we suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, a fatty-acid supplement.
One of the GSD's most dangerous potential problems is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that need immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.
Coat care is simple. Brush once a week. During shedding season, use a comb or tool designed to remove excess undercoat. Many German Shepherds have problems with allergies, seborrhea or smelly coats. Allergies can be soothed by avocado oil or oatmeal-based shampoos and rinses. Deodorizing shampoos can cut the grease and make your dog smell better. Lick granulomas, in which the dog creates a raw sore by constantly licking the same area, are a problem in the breed, but can often be thwarted using anti-lick sprays.
Dogs with allergies also often have itchy goopy ears. An ear cleanser can make them look and smell better, and should also be used before instilling any medications in the ears. If the goop returns, see your veterinarian.
Brush the teeth daily.
Use a heavy-duty nail clipper to keep the nails short.
As your Shepherd ages, he is more likely to be affected by arthritic changes. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him young at heart and in body well into old age.