The German Shepherd Dog is a large, strong animal often used for guarding or police work. The GSD can be a good family dog if trained properly but needs experienced handling. He relishes training and needs a firm and consistent hand. Some GSDs have a very high working drive and should be avoided when choosing a family pet. Aggression due to fearfulness has also been reported in the breed, therefore great care needs to be taken to ensure sound temperament. The GSD has a thick double coat which sheds fur, so should be groomed at least twice a week. He needs more than two hours exercise every day.
Inbreeding coefficient – COI
(should be as low as possible)
The breed average COI is 3.4%
Health and welfare problems due to conformation
(body shape and physical characteristics)
- The show type GSD sometimes has a steeply sloping back and very angulated hind quarters. There is concern that this may lead to orthopaedic complications.
- The more old fashioned type (previously known as the Alsatian) is more natural looking and somewhat heavier. The modern working GSD is super athletic dog but because of his high working drive, probably would not make a suitable pet dog. Bear this in mind when choosing your breeder and puppy.
- As a deep chested breed, bloat and stomach torsion is a risk (stomach fills with air and can twist – urgent vet treatment is needed).
BVA/KC Health Schemes http://www.bva.co.uk/chs
- Hip dysplasia (malformation of the hip joints causing pain and disability): breed mean score 15.4 (parents should be lower)
- Elbow dysplasia (malformation of the elbow joint causing pain and disability): ideally 0:0
- Eye disease: Non congenital inherited ocular disease (hereditary cataract); Progressive retinal atrophy (gradual loss of vision)
- The GSD is one of the 15 high profile breeds designated by the Kennel Club as requiring particular monitoring by reason of visible conditions which may cause health and welfare concerns.
Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are now available for Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia
DNA tests available
Parents should be tested for:
- Degenerative myelopathy (degenerative disease of the spinal cord, causing hindquarter weakness, loss of feeling and paralysis)
- Pyruvate Kinase deficiency ( a key enzyme deficiency which shortens the lifespan of red blood cells leading to haemolytic anaemia)
- Ivermectin sensitivity
- Mucopolysaccharidosis (rare enzyme deficiency causing damage to bones, joints and organs)
Unofficial (breed club) schemes
- Haemophilia test for males
- Bitches under 2 years not to produce a litter
- No stud dog to be used under 18 months of age
Ask the breeder to show you the certificates for the above tests/screening for both parents (or check the KC’s health test results finder). If any of the above tests have not been considered necessary by the breeder (and there may be good reasons), ask her to explain why.
(for which there are currently no genetic or screening tests for sire and dam)
- Atopy (high sensitivity to pollens and other protein particles, causing intense itching)
- Osteochondrosis (abnormal cartilage in joints, eg, shoulder)
- Cancer: bone, blood
- GSD pyoderma (a pustular condition of the skin)
- Primary seborrhoea (excessively oily skin due to over production of the sebaceous glands)
- Haemophilia A
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (digestive enzyme deficiency, causes hunger, pain, weakness, collapse and death)
- Panosteitis (bone inflammation)
- Lumbosacral disc disease (chronic pain in lumbarsacral area)
- Anal furunculosis (chronic, painful infection of the anal glands caused by an abnormal immune response)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic kerratoconjunctivitis (dry eye)
Ask the breeder about the medical history of the parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Consider carefully whether to purchase a puppy if some of these or other diseases are in the family line.
Ask about the breeder’s policy in cases of serious genetic diseases occurring to your puppy in later life. Good breeders will request to be informed of such events in order to improve future breeding decisions. Some breeders will also agree to contribute towards medical costs or refund purchase price.
You are strongly advised to buy from a breeder who uses (or is prepared to use) the RSPCA / BVA AWF Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack (PIP): www.puppycontract.org.uk
You are also advised to buy from a breeder who follows the Dog Advisory Council’s Standard for Breeders: http://www.dogbreedhealth.com/dac-breeding-standard/