German Shepherd dogs were originally bred for herding purposes, so they need to be kept occupied both mentally and physically and require at least 1-2 hours of exercise per day to make sure they aren’t bored stiff.

The German Shepherd, by classification, is a working dog that was originally raised for roundups, however, they are a true utility breed and have been used in many jobs that require fitness, including law enforcement, guard dogs and in search and rescue work.

Do German Shepherd Dogs need a lot of exercise?

German Shepherd Jumping

The short answer is “Yes”, German Shepherds are exceedingly active, high energy dogs and require large amounts of movement every day of energy burning activities.

When it comes to exercise and your German Shepherd, the more the better. If they don’t get the exercise they need to release their pent-up energy they can become destructive or develop behavior issues.

It is highly recommended that if you cannot give your GSD the physical and mental exercise on a daily basis, you should choose an alternative breed.

How to exercise a GSD?

Because German Shepherds are so spirited, strong-minded and have bucket loads of energy, you need to find activities that can burn energy in a short period of time and develop skills.

This can include a high-intensity game or doggy strength training to keep their muscles in peak condition. By making the muscles stronger they will support the joints and tendons which helps prevent injury.

There are three key types of exercises and activities you must provide your German Shepherd every day.

  • Daily walk- 45-60 minutes minimum
  • Purposeful High-Intensity- games, tug-o-war and agility training
  • Mental stimulation- puzzles or obedience training

One of the chief responsibilities of being a new dog owner is ensuring that Fido gets plenty of daily exercises to prevent unscrupulous behavior.

Failure to do so will result in you finding your favorite running shoes shredded to bits or your backyard suddenly riddled by custom dug holes.

Running with Your GSD

German Shepherd Running

German shepherds make great running partners when properly physically conditioned over time.

Talk to your dog’s veterinarian and get the OK before embarking on a new exercise plan.

Though exercise needs are based on age, breed, size and overall health, GSD’s are a breed in the hunting, working or herding group, making them ideal for long periods of moving.

If your GSD is younger than 1 year to 18 months of age, use caution against any long distance running while bones are growing, the respiratory system is building and growth plates are closing.

If you’re given the all-clear by the vet, start slow and notice your dog’s response; add mileage as they get stronger and endurance levels build.

Starting with short runs is not only safer for the dog, but makes the new process enjoyable for you both.

Allow for a warm-up and cool-down periods before and after your run. Walking to the park or around the block beforehand should prepare the muscles for a light jog.

Dogs won’t naturally overdo exercise like humans, so it’s important to read your pet’s behavior and watch for signs that he isn’t up to a jog or that he’s reached his limits.

Always keep in mind your own running/conditioning process—and those days you just don’t feel like running, do a walk instead of a run that day, or do shorter, more frequent walks rather than one long one.

A dog with a sore limb or a stomach ache or a dog that is just generally tired won’t make a good running companion for that day. Watch his response to movement and react accordingly.

Over Exercised Dog Symptoms

German Shepherd Laying On Grass

German Shepherds can go hard and keep going, often not knowing when to stop.

With any dog, it is possible to over-exercise them, especially in hot weather. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog that has overdone it.

Overexertion Signals

  • Excessive panting during or after the exertion
  • Extreme thirst
  • Lagging behind
  • Lameness, limping or a reluctance to move in usual ways
  • Appearing overtired post-exercise or sleeping or laying down more than normal
  • Reluctance to go out for a run
  • Missing mastered cues or commands

The most common dangers associated with exercising with your dog are heat stroke, pad abrasions, and muscle soreness. When in doubt, exercise during nonpeak heat hours, early in the morning or late in the evening.

If you notice your dog is showing early signs of heat stroke, stop and take a break. Be sure to always provide your dog with ample water. And when in doubt, walk home, give it a try the next day.

Also, keep in mind that dogs overheat quicker than humans.

Fur, limited heat loss from sweat evaporation, an inability to self-regulate their pace, an eager-to-please character and the extra pounds all contribute to a possible heat stroke victim.

Signs of Heat Stroke

  • Vomiting
  • Malaise/lethargy
  • Excessive panting
  • Dark red or dark pink gums
  • Collapse
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Diarrhea, progressing to bloody diarrhea
  • Bruising
  • Kidney failure
  • Difficulty breathing

Surface Issues

German Shepherd Paws

Anything that’s considered decent for your joints is good for your dogs’ joints, which means running on any soft ground surface (beach, grass, dirt trails) is better than unforgiving asphalt.

You can wear protective shoes to protect your feet and a myriad dog shoes and booties are contrived to protect dogs’ footpads against surface heat, road/trail debris, and ice and snow.

Unfortunately, not all products fit great, and some dogs can’t stand to wear them.

In areas where snow and ice are common, wash your dog’s paws immediately after a run, as salt and other chemicals can be toxic—particularly for if your dog is a licker.

During hotter summer months, if you’re not going to walk on grass, a dirt trail or at the beach, face your palm down flat on the pavement to test the surface temperature—you might be surprised by the amount of heat.

If your hand doesn’t burn after keeping it in place, your dog’s pads are safe.

Always check your GSD’s paws during run breaks and post-exercise sessions. While pads are tougher than human feet and have reduced pain sensation, abrasions and paw pads are painful!

Remember as they age to adjust your expectations as your dog transitions into his senior years. In spirit, they want to join you just as much as ever, but their body isn’t quite up to the task.

However, dogs with osteoarthritis or orthopedic problems still need regular exercise but once a dog has developed osteoarthritis, the constant pounding of running is painful.

Slow your pace so your dog can walk quickly beside you. Take walks in the park or at the beach. Swimming is an excellent alternative once your dog passes the point of “sore” return on bones and joints.

Dogs that remain trim live longer and suffer less from osteoarthritis and other physical issues.

Dog Playgrounds

German Shepherd Puppy In Dog Park

GSD’s require space to exercise, sometimes a ton of it.

Not everyone has a wild. One option, if your yard is smaller is to build an agility course for them to run through.

Taking the dogs out to a park is really a wonderful way to get in good, intense exercise but it depends on the dog, depends on the park and depends on the laws in your area (off leash laws)

As far as dog parks go German shepherds usually are not there to play with other dogs, they’re there to play with you and the other dogs in “your pack”.

Dog parks are a good idea as puppies because they can blow off that adolescent energy and is the only thing that really exhausts them, and puppies tend to do very well socially.

German Shepherd Training

Because male GSDs are, by nature, stubborn and more dominant, they are much more difficult to train compared to female shepherds.

Begin training your dog from a young age. Start by keeping the training session shorts and involve tons of treats.

Female German shepherd dogs are easier to train and make better contenders for sporting competitions, such as for agility and obedience events.

Both male and female dogs cannot stand being left alone or unexercised for long periods of time, therefore only adopt the German shepherd breed if you do not have a busy schedule and can spend the time to train them properly.

How to use Positive Reward Based Training

German Shepherd Waiting For A Treat

Rewards and positive reinforcement are powerful tools in dog training.

Reward-based training is about setting your dog up for success. Treats are usually the foundation of positive dog training or positive reinforcement training.

Reward-based learning is centered on the dog earning rewards for correct behavior. The rewards are known as primary reinforces and these can be food rewards, toy rewards, play sessions, physical or verbal praise.

Reinforced behaviors tend to be repeated and behavior that is not enforced will eventually die out.

This is a very simplified explanation of reward-based training, there are many degrees and a new GSD owner should further research the subject.

The Power of Food

All dogs like food, but not all dogs like toys, play sessions or a lot of coddling.

This makes food the most effective tool in the toolbox for reward based training.

A food treat can be delivered quickly to reward behavior and if it’s the right size and not too hard or crumbly your dog will quickly devour it and be ready to focus on the training session again.

Food is also a great way for beginner owners and dogs to take the first step into reward-based training.

It’s not uncommon for owners to mix up training with food, toy or play rewards as their dog becomes more experienced and skilled in training.

Two key things to keep in mind with food rewards are; they need to be high-value treats, to keep your dog engaged.

And size does matter; too insignificant or too large of a treat will make your dog lose focus and disconnect with the training.

Let’s quickly look at how you can find out which treats your dog considers high value or simply likes best:

  • Hold a treat in your hand, close enough to your dog’s nose for him to smell it but out of his grasp.
  • Then set it down on the floor in front of him, still keeping it out of his reach.
  • Do the same with another treat of a different kind.  For example; a meat dog biscuit for the first treat and a piece of cheese for the second treat.
  • Now allow your dog access to the treats to see which one he eats first.

You should do this a few times and change around the flavor and position of the treats.  Keep tabs on your dog’s choices and you’ll quickly find out which ones they like best.

Later in the training process, you can add two or more different treats into the mix and follow the same steps. This way your dog will help you assign values to the treats.

Training that requires a higher level of motivation will need a higher value treat.  With useful information from your dog about treat values, you can make the best choice for a specific level of training.

Do GSD’s like to play with other dogs?

Labrador And German Shepherd

This is determined on a case by case basis and is highly dependent on the temperament and training of the dog in question.

In general, you want to provide the opportunity for your German Shepherd to play with other dogs as much as possible.

This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills.

Not all German Shepherds are dog-friendly however, so ensure yours is given ample opportunities to socialize to prevent the possibility of fighting or aggressive outbursts.

What does GSD like to play with?

The German Shepherd is also very intelligent so it is important to challenge their minds.

They learn new skills quickly making them easy to train with the right guidance.

Playing games of any kind with your German Shepherd is really good for them and builds up your relationship.

Remember, first of all, dogs are social creatures by nature and playing is one important element in developing and maintaining their social relationships.

Playing games is a proven fundamental way of “modeling” real-life behaviors and can be beneficial to their overall quality of life.

Learning Activities

Teaching your German shepherd new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment.

A popular game that they will love and involves learning cues is to teach them the names of their toys then hide them and request they only retrieve toys by name.

Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names so this can take up a ton of time.

Types of Toys

German Shepherd Holding Toy In Mouth

Since GSD’s are large-sized dogs and powerful in physique, you’ll need dog toys that won’t be shredded to pieces in 3 minutes.

They are also highly intellectual, so don’t forget to add a variety of interactive toys to the list to stave off boredom.

These are the different types of German Shepherd dog toys we recommend you try out:

  • Tug toys: They are constructed to be strong and long-lasting for hard biting and tugging. This is a great option for pups, as tug toys build up teeth. Our go-to toys: Pet Artist 3 Tug Toy or Puller Training Rings
  • Puzzle/interactive: These toys are made to challenge a dog cerebrally and often incorporate treats as a reward. Our go-to toys: Hide-a-Squirrel or Kong Extreme Goodie Medium
  • Teething/Chew: Durable and made from thick rubber or plastic, this is a great puppy German Shepherd toy and beneficial for dental health. Our go-to toys:  Kong Classic or NylaBone DuraChew
  • Soft/plush: These are comfort toys. Go for a plush toy with no stuffing to prevent a mess. Our go-to toys: Zippy Paws No Stuffing Plush Toy
  • Training toys: These will keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated; great for new dogs learning to obey commands. Our go-to toys:  Chuckit! Ultra Ball. HDP 18 Ft. Dog Training Tunnel

Conclusion

Remember, the German Shepherd dog is high energy, strong and has levels of stamina beyond most of its owners.

They are also very smart and need to have their minds occupied constantly with activities.

Dog owners who regularly exercise with their German shepherd dog develop better communication with, understanding of, and respect for, their loyal companion.

Playing fun games, running or other kinds of training allow you and your German Shepherd a chance to blow off steam and spend a little bit of time together in an otherwise tedious week.

It is vital to provide sufficient physical and mental exercises and activity to release pent-up energy and avert boredom. This can lead to behavior issues such as barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.

The cost of not doing so can be an unhappy and frustrated dog as well as the owner.

If you’ve selected a German Shepherd to be a part of your family, congratulations!

Not only are German Shepherds a great family dog, but they are also very low maintenance and easy to care for.

However, just because they are low maintenance dogs, doesn’t mean that you can just skip the grooming.

Dogs of all breeds, no matter how low maintenance, will benefit from even some basic grooming from time to time. Your German Shepherd is no exception.

Their beautiful double coat does need brushing and some occasional extra care, to help keep your German Shepherd healthy and looking amazing.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the grooming guide, we got you covered:

German Shepherd Grooming Guide
 

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Hair Care for Your German Shepherd

German Shepherd Laying In Grass

Your German Shepherd was bred with a beautiful double coat.

This coat consists of two layers: a soft downy undercoat and a coarse, longer coat of guard hairs.

Each part of their coat provides protection for your dog against the elements and assists them with properly regulating their body temperature.

So it is important that you know how to properly care for this special coat that works so hard to protect your German Shepherd.

Diet

This isn’t part of grooming but it is an important part of keeping your German Shepherd’s hair healthy.

Make sure that your German Shepherd is eating high-quality dog food with plenty of protein, fats, and nutrients. This will ensure that their whole body is healthy.

A healthy body will keep your German Shepherd’s coat and skin healthy too, which is the most basic way to care for their beautiful coat.

Olive oil and molasses are good additions to your dog’s regular food to help with coat and skin health.

For more suggestions of the best foods for your German Shepherd, check out our Best Foods buying guide.

Brushing

Using Brush On German Shepherd

The double coat of your German Shepherd requires some effort to keep it looking great.

Frequent brushing will keep your German Shepherd’s coat looking great and free from mats, dirt and debris.

In general, a good rule of thumb for brushing your German Shepherd is to make this a weekly process.

Daily would be best, but it is understandable that for most people, brushing your dog every day can be a bit challenging, especially with kids, work and other life commitments.

Brushing can be a great way to introduce your older kids to pet care and give your children a connection to their dog.

Just make sure you keep a close eye on both your kids and your pup to make sure everyone is interacting together, safely.

Brushing your German Shepherd requires some good brushes. You may want to have a variety of brushes and combs for different parts of your German Shepherd’s coat.

Our buying guide for the best brushes for your German Shepherd is a great place to start when it comes to selecting the right brush for your dog, and the type of coat it has.

Trimming/Clipping

In general, your German Shepherd shouldn’t need to have its coat trimmed or clipped.

German Shepherds with long coats could benefit from some occasional trimming around their ears and on their paws.

Trimming long hair from the tops and bottom of your dog’s paws can give them some extra traction if your home has hardwood or tile floors, which can be slippery under furry feet.

Trimming or clipping your German Shepherd can also be helpful if you have pots that get matted and you have a hard time removing the mats in other ways.

Trimming and clipping is a grooming task that should be done in moderation. There should never be a time when your German Shepherd should be shaved completely.

Most veterinarians will tell you that even in the summer time, your German Shepherd needs that thick coat.

Shaving your German Shepherd changes its body’s ability to naturally regulate body temperature.

Additionally, shaving off your German Shepherd’s coat eliminates the only protection your dog has from the sun and ultra-violet rays.

In a way, your dog’s coat works as a winter coat, an air conditioner, and a bottle of sunscreen all in one.

Dematting

Using Dematting Comb On Dog

Dematting can be a real pain, and if you are at this point, it is probably a good idea that you start a regular routine of brushing your German Shepherd.

If your German Shepherd needs to be dematted, you will want to use special dematting combs.

These combs have wavy, widely spaced, metal fingers. Each finger has a sharp blade that cuts through the mat while the wavy part of the finger “wiggles” its way through the mat, separating the hairs.

Check out the buying guide for the best dematting comb for your German Shepherd.

Dematting takes time and patience, and if done in a rush or with the wrong tools, it can cause discomfort for your dog.

Your German Shepherd will likely avoid or become nervous if you do this process incorrectly, so if you are not comfortable with dematting your dog, you may want to consider using a professional groomer to do the work instead.

If mats are close to the skin or are covering a substantial amount of their body, you may want to consider shaving off the matted areas.

This will stop the mats from pulling on your dog’s skin and is a quick way to resolve a serious matting issue.

However, make sure you are only trimming away areas that really need it. You shouldn’t completely shave your dog.

Deshedding

Shedding is a fact with German Shepherds.

They will constantly shed the long, coarse guard hairs. However, twice a year, your German Shepherd will shed the soft undercoat, in preparation for the coming seasons.

Your dog will need some help getting rid of the shedding undercoat. Buying an undercoat rake, a specific type of grooming comb will allow you to easily pull out the shedding undercoat without pulling.

Deshedding your dog serves a couple of purposes: First, it helps your dog get rid of summer or winter hair that it no longer needs.

Removing this hair will allow healthy new undercoat to grow in without being tied up with the old coat.

This is how matting occurs, and as we’ve mentioned previously, matting can be very painful for your dog and can cause a variety of skin issues.

Second, deshedding saves your carpet, furniture, and clothing from the mass of hair that your German Shepherd will be losing.

It’s not going to be a completely perfect fix, but if you make deshedding a normal routine along with frequent brushing, your home, and your clothes won’t give away that you own a German Shepherd.

Bathing Your German Shepherd

German Shepherd Bathing

Giving your German Shepherd a bath is a job that, fortunately, you don’t have to undertake too often.

German Shepherds have a naturally clean coat, with minimal oils, so, two or three baths a year can be all you need to do.

However, bathing your German Shepherd more frequently can help with shedding.

Many German Shepherd owners like to bathe their dogs monthly, just as a way of getting rid of more hair, and to reduce the risks of matting.

Getting a reluctant or large German Shepherd into a bathtub can be challenging.

If you live in a warmer climate, and it is possible, it is usually easier to wash your German Shepherd, outdoors. Some German Shepherd owners prefer to use self-service dog washes.

These facilities provide walk-in wash stations that don’t require you to lift or use mind tricks to get your German Shepherd into a bathtub, which can be worth the small fee you pay to use these facilities.

However, if all else fails, your bathtub will work just fine, just make sure you have a good way to block the drain from any hair that may wash from your German Shepherd, to avoid clogging the drain.

Before you bathe your German Shepherd, make a trip to your local pet supply store and pick up a bottle of dog/pet shampoo.

If you have a long-haired German Shepherd you may also want to pick up a bottle of pet conditioner as well. These products are gentle on your dog’s skin, and will not cause rashes or itchy spots.

If your German Shepherd has been itchy or suffers from dry skin, look for a shampoo with oatmeal, which can soothe itchy spots and moisturize skin.

You should never use human shampoos on your German Shepherd, as they can irritate their skin and eyes, which defeats the purpose of bathing your dog.

A couple of other helpful hints

  • Don’t be afraid to use lots of shampoos. Your German Shepherd’s course, thick hair can be difficult to work up a lather in. Suds grab onto dirt and debris, so it’s important to work up a good lather. This means you are likely to use a lot of shampoos.
  • Rinse really well. It’s helpful if you have a hand-held sprayer to rinse your German Shepherd off with. It will allow you to rinse well in the “hard to reach” spots, like under the legs, under the tail and under the neck. These are also the spots where skin can be extra sensitive, so making sure you rinse well is important.
  • Don’t forget to dry your dog. In the summer, a good towel dry is probably fine. Warm temperatures and sun will help your dog dry quickly without needing a dryer. However, when the weather is colder, it’s a good idea to take the time to dry your dog with a dryer. Yes, this will take some time, but your dog will appreciate being warm after their bath.
  • Then brush. Don’t forget to brush your dog after a bath to get rid of tangles that can quickly turn to mats.

Brushing your German Shepherd’s Teeth

Brushing German Shepherd Teeth

There was a time when brushing your dog’s teeth was unheard of. Today, dental care for your dog is as diverse and as important as dental care for your own teeth.

For a long time, when the family dog was given the scraps and bones from the meats we ate, brushing their teeth was not necessary.

They naturally scraped plaque buildup off of their teeth, just by chewing on a bone. Today our dogs see fewer and fewer bones, so we need to help them clean their teeth.

Dogs are prone to the same dental conditions we are, like cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Brushing your dog’s teeth will help them avoid these uncomfortable issues.

If you can, and if your German Shepherd is a puppy, you should start now, brushing their teeth.

The younger they are when you start this process, the more comfortable they will become, over time with this task, which can be awkward.

This isn’t to say that your dog will “love” having their teeth brushed, but they will learn to tolerate the activity.

In an ideal world, we would brush our German Shepherd’s teeth daily. However, this is likely a reality for most dog owners. So brushing weekly is usually sufficient for keeping your dog’s teeth clean.

Brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth will require a toothbrush and if you want, toothpaste.

Make sure that you use dog/pet toothpaste, not people toothpaste since human toothpaste has ingredients that can be bad for dogs.

You can use a human toothbrush for your dog, and for larger breed dogs, like German Shepherds, it’s not a bad idea, since the long handle will allow you to easily reach back teeth.

Make sure you use a soft or extra soft-bristled toothbrush, so you don’t hurt your dog’s teeth. You can also buy toothbrushes at the pet supply store.

Since you aren’t likely to want or have time to brush your dog’s teeth every day, you may want to invest in a chew toy for your German Shepherd that also works to clean their teeth.

These toys can be filled with treats or peanut butter, and function to clean your dog’s teeth, while at the same time entertaining them.

This is a good alternative to brushing if you can’t brush your dog’s teeth every day.

Trimming your German Shepherd’s Nails

Trimming German Shepherd Nails

This is a task that many dog owners avoid. It can be a challenging task, and if done incorrectly can cause your German Shepherd pain and discomfort.

However, it is an incredibly important grooming task and one that shouldn’t be avoided.

When your dog runs and plays, especially on hard ground, concrete or asphalt, they will naturally wear down their nails.

However, if your dog is only on soft surfaces like grass or sand, this is harder to do, so trimming your German Shepherd’s nails becomes a necessary grooming task.

Nail trimming also becomes important for older dogs who may not be as active as they once were.

Why is nail trimming so important?

Well, if your German Shepherd’s nails grow too long, it can impact the way the walk. This can cause injury to joints and a gait that is unnatural and unhealthy for your dog.

Long nails are also prone to catching on things, which can injure your dog.

Finally, if you have slick flooring in your home, nails that are too long can cause your dog to be unstable walking through your home and can damage the flooring.

If you are trimming your dog’s nails at home, make sure that you have a high-quality nail trimmer. There are a variety of trimmer styles on the market, select the one that is easiest for you to handle.

Also make sure that the trimmer is made for larger breed dogs, ensuring that their nail will fit properly in the trimmer. Trimmers that are too small can hurt your dog.

A trimmer that has a trimming guide is also a good idea since it will help you avoid cutting your German Shepherd’s nails too short.

With all of that said, if you aren’t comfortable trimming your German Shepherd’s nails, it is a service that most vet offices provide, for a reasonable cost. Nail trimming is also an ala carte item for many groomers.

Paying a professional to do this task will ensure that it is done correctly and won’t cause your pup any discomfort.

Wrapping it Up

Grooming is an important part of having a healthy German Shepherd.

However, it’s a task that many people aren’t willing or have the time to take on.

Professional groomers are a great option if you would rather not take on the big stuff like bathing, dematting or nail trimming for your German Shepherd.

Just make sure you do your research and pick a groomer that is insured, has good references, and has been properly educated on handling dogs, and appropriate grooming techniques.

However, using a groomer doesn’t mean you can skip the basics. Don’t forget to brush your German Shepherd frequently to avoid matting and a constant mess of hair on you and around your home.

A police dog sometimes referred to as a K9, is a dog that is specifically taught to assist police officers and other law-enforcement agents.

Their jobs can include: searching for drugs, detecting explosives, locating missing persons, finding evidence, and chasing down suspects.

Police dogs are trained by verbal commands and hand gestures depending on the job requirements. Generally the top K9 breeds are the German shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhound and Dutch shepherd.

What makes German Shepherds good police dogs?

German shepards excelent police dogs

German shepherds are valued as police dogs for their trainability, loyalty, and courage.

Described as approachable – quietly standing their ground and showing confidence and readiness to demonstrate their effectiveness and intelligence, the German shepherd is a perfect breed as a guardian and hunter when the occasion demands.

The best asset for police duties is a dog’s sense of smell.

Among all the German Shepherds’ capabilities, their ability to detect very faint odors and to discriminate between very slight differences in chemical composition makes them valued team members.

Dogs, in general, are reported to have ten to twenty times the number of receptors in their nose which far exceeds a human officer’s sense of smell.

This ability makes German shepherds ideal for tasks such as tracking, detecting explosives and locating victims.

Many K9 dogs are used to detect illegal substances such as drugs or paraphernalia which may be carried on a suspect or in their luggage.

Many police dogs are specifically trained to detect marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamines.

German shepherds are utilized in many other ways such as:

  • Apprehension dogs – This dog is used to locate and subdue suspects or enemies
  • Patrol dog – dogs fully trained and skilled in tracking
  • Handler protection
  • Off-leash obedience
  • Area and building search
  • Criminal deterrence

All of these qualities have been bred into German Shepherd Dogs for over several decades, winning the admiration of police units in practically every country of the globe as K9 dogs, protectors, and loyal companions.

Story behind the K9

bloodhounds where the first k9s

Dogs have been used in law enforcement and military for hundreds of years.

In France, dogs were used as early as the 14th century for tracking. Bloodhounds were used for hunting down fugitives in Scotland and in London in the 19th century.

Night watchmen were provided with firearms and dogs to protect themselves from criminals and help combat crime.

One of the first attempts to use dogs for police work was in 1889 in London, two bloodhounds were trained to aid in apprehending the serial killer Jack the Ripper.

A police department in Ghent, Belgium introduced the first organized police dog service program in 1899.

However, it was in Continental Europe that K9 dogs were first used on a large scale. Police in France began using dogs against roaming criminal gangs at night.

These approaches soon spread to Austria-Hungary and Germany. In Germany, the initial field testing took place with experiments in dog breeding and regimented training.

The German police selected the German Shepherd Dog as the best breed for police work and opened up the first dog training school in 1920.

The school focused on systematically training dogs in obedience to their officers and tracking and confronting criminals.

In Britain in 1908, the North Eastern Railway Police were among the first to use police dogs to put a stop to theft from docks and by 1910, railway police units were experimenting with a variety of dog breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and German shepherds.

Famous K9 dogs

famous k9 in history

The German shepherd, as well as other breeds, are commonplace as K9 units become more prevalent in society.

Some have risen above and beyond the call of duty both in military services and law enforcement.

Below are a few of the most famous K9 dogs that you should be familiar with.

Rin-Tin-Tin The most legendary police dog of all who was a trained German shepherd K9 who was abandoned by retreating German soldiers in 1918. An American sergeant took him to the United States, where he went on to star in a television series and 122 films.

Chips – Chips a mix of German shepherd, collie and husky, was a trained sentry dog for United States Army, and essentially the most awarded war dog from World War II.

This American service dog singlehandedly attacked a hidden German gun nest during World War II, served as a guard dog during a conference between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and even bit Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945.

He was awarded the Silver Star, a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart during the war and has been awarded Great Britain’s most prestigious medal for animal bravery.

Chips, posthumously also received the Dickin Medal for his canine bravery

Kaiser – A German shepherd who served in Vietnam did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in 12 major operations. Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during the Vietnam War.

Mattie – A black Labrador retriever with the Connecticut State Police, was trained to sniff out evidence of arson.

Mattie could identify several different chemical accelerants. She was the first operational accelerant detection dog in the country, and possibly in the world when she went on duty in 1986.

Roles and Duties for Military Working Dogs

dogs usage in the military

Throughout history, dogs have been deployed on the battlefields around the globe.

In addition to being valued combat soldiers, adding dogs as team supporters can enhance the capabilities of the entire squad by providing additional assets.

They possess olfactory sensory and visual abilities that are well above that of a human, they can go into spaces soldiers cannot, and can often frighten and subdue an enemy combatant more rapidly without using lethal force.

Because of these traits, they have been successfully deployed for numerous military duties and roles by modern military branches.

Over the years dogs have had many roles with the military, but in more modern times, specific responsibilities have been defined where dogs can provide the best assets to the roles they are assigned.

Here are some examples of assignments for K9’s in the military.

Sentry Dogs – Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers of the approach or presence of enemies and are utilized for guarding airports, military bases, and other vital installations.

These dogs are worked on a short leash and are taught to give warning by growling, alerting or barking.

They are especially valuable for working in the dark when an attack from cover or the rear is most likely. Their use has proved them to be valuable in any place where security against enemy soldiers must be maintained.

Scout or Patrol Dogs – In addition to the skills for sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs are proficient to work in silence to aid in the detection of ambushes and other enemy forces within a particular area.

The presence of the dogs with patrols greatly lessened the danger of ambush and tended to boost morale.

Mine Dogs – These dogs, also called mine detection dogs or “M-Dog”, have been trained to find trip wires, booby traps, metallic and nonmetallic mines.

Casualty Dogs – Casualty Dogs, similar to search and rescue dogs, are trained to search for and report victims in places that are difficult to locate or larger areas.

Explosives Detection – In the modern warfare, a common threat to soldiers and civilians are explosives hidden on a roadside, in a vehicle, or strapped in a vest.

Explosive detection canines are trained to detect the distinct scent of chemicals used in these explosives. With their greater sense of smell it is very difficult to conceal explosives in a way a dog cannot detect.

German Shepherd Dogs as Search and Rescue

German Shepherd Dogs As Search And Rescue

A search and rescue (SAR) dog is a specialized canine used to locate suspects or find missing people or items.

Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and Saint Bernard’s have all seen action in this role.

Search and rescue is yet another duty that German Shepherds shine in performing.

German Shepherds can be trained for several different aspects common to successful search and rescue missions due to their ability to learn quickly, ignore distractions and get to business.

SAR dogs are specifically trained to utilize their superior sense of smell, night vision, profound hearing, and stamina to locate missing persons or victims of accidents.

With that powerful nose and ability to navigate a variety of environments, search and rescue dogs are an integral part of teams extraordinary abilities to reduce the amount of time spent searching for victims.

Their ability to save lives is well acknowledged and it has been estimated that a single SAR dog is as effective in locating a human subject as 20-30 humans trained in searches.

Conclusion

From tactical K9 units to Special Forces teams’ dogs have played an important part in the success these divisions of law enforcement have gained.

While the Belgian Malinois and other breeds make great police and military K9’s, a well-trained German shepherd is just as reliable and more robust, making them a very popular dog of choice for duty.

There are many different colors of German Shepherds that are recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Each color has its own specific traits and uniqueness.

However, there are some interesting facts about the coloring of German Shepherds that make them even more unique than some other breeds of dogs.

German Shepherds are one of the few breeds of dogs who’s puppies change color as they grow to adults.

This is a trait that is common in only a few other breeds of dogs, and it makes German Shepherds unique and extra interesting.

These color changes can, however, make it challenging when you are puppy shopping, especially if you are looking for a particular color. 

Here are some common questions about the coloring of the German Shepherd dog.

How Often Do German Shepherd Dogs “Change” Their Coat?

color change of a puppy

German Shepherd dogs will change their coat color fairly consistently from the time they are born until they are about 2 years old.

This change in color is the most dramatic during the first 8 weeks of life.

During this time German Shepherd puppies will change from their birth color to the young coat that will resemble their coat as an adult.

This means that their soft puppy fluff will change color for some breeds, and will also start to change in texture.

Over the first two years of life, your German Shepherd puppy will change its coat frequently.

These changes will alter the coat color, growing in the color and pattern that your dog will possess for the bulk of its adult life.

During this time your German Shepherd will also lose the soft coat of a puppy, and grow a more dense, coarse coat of an adult.

You will also start to see your puppy’s coat develop the distinct traits of the short, medium or long coat.

Changes in coat length, coarseness and color will progress during the normal pattern of molt. You will notice obvious patterns of shedding or molting in your German Shepherd, generally, two times per year.

Most dogs, molt during the fall and during the spring. Your German Shepherd puppy will also molt during these times, and until it is around 2 years old, you will notice changes in your dog’s coat color and texture.

It is important that you are diligent during these times of molt with grooming your German Shepherd dog, especially if your dog is long coated.

German Shepherds, especially long coated German Shepherds, are prone to matting due to their coarse coat texture.

Matting can be painful for your dog, so make sure that you brush them often during these times of molting.

Good grooming of your German Shepherd during molt will also help to keep your home free from excessive amounts of hair.

Change in Color of Older German Shepherd Dogs

As your German Shepherd dog ages, you may notice that their coat will change as well.

The changes that you will notice in the color of your German Shepherd dog will be subtle and are similar to the coat color changes that most dog owners will notice with their pets.

You shouldn’t be alarmed to see that your German Shepherd is changing color as it ages.

Just like people, German Shepherds will start to show a greying of hair as they age. You will notice this change, particularly around their eyes and muzzle.

This change will be particularly noticeable on German Shepherds that have dark faces, or on black German Shepherds.

Besides the graying of the face, you may notice that your German Shepherd’s coat becomes less lustrous and duller as they start to age.

This change in their coat may make your German Shepherd look less colorful than they did as a younger dog.

Along with graying and a dulling of the coat, you may notice that your German Shepherd is losing more hair, and their coat seems thinner, as they get older.

This, like a change in face colors and a duller appearance are natural progressions of aging.

However, if you notice that these changes happen very rapidly, you may want to visit your veterinarian. Rapid changes in color or coat thickness can be in an indication of a more serious problem.

If your German Shepherd starts losing hair in thick patches or has rapid change in color this could indicate health problems like thyroid issues, cancer, or liver issues.

As a German Shepherd owner, you may not be able to stop the natural change in coat color as your dog ages, but you can take steps to help keep their coat soft and thicker as they age.

Adding fish oils and natural fats to your dog’s diet can help them retain more of their coat as they age, and can help keep a German Shepherd’s coat soft and shiny, despite their age.

German Shepherds are great family companions, and they have many unique traits that make them amazing, special dogs.

Their coloring and change in color as they grow is one of the most interesting and unique features of the German Shepherd.

As we’ve learned, this change in color is well known within the German Shepherd community. However, it can make it more challenging if you are new to the breed and are looking to buy a puppy of a specific color.

In the long Run

German Shephards Colors in the long run

Our advice when you are shopping for a German Shepherd puppy, in a specific color is to work with a reputable breeder.

Good breeders will be able to help a new German Shepherd owner or one that is looking for a particular color, find the right puppy to add to their family.

And remember, rapid changes in color can be a sign of serious health problems, and should be addressed by your veterinarian.

However, it’s expected that your young German Shepherd will change color, losing their puppy coat and growing their adult coat, and older dogs will grey.

These are the natural color changes you can expect with your healthy German Shepherd dog.