The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is one of the most recognizable breeds in the world. Black German Shepherds are stunning examples of dog breeding taken to a high level.
This versatile dog excels in demanding jobs that enhance our lives in ways that seem almost impossible. The German Shepherd is probably the dog you think of first for police and military work, guard and protection duty, and as service dogs for the blind and disabled. They love to be useful.
A solid black shepherd is an elegant creature. Sometimes marketed as a rare breed, they are simply one of the many color variations of the German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard. This document describes in great detail what the perfect specimen of the breed should look like.
White is the only color that disqualifies a GSD from the show ring. Otherwise, all German Shepherd colors are allowed, but darker and richer colors are preferred. Black is a perfectly wonderful color for a GSD. They look downright regal and carry themselves like royalty.
When it comes to coat color inheritance in dogs, black is usually expressed by a dominant gene. It's different for the GSD. Here, the black coat results from recessive genes being inherited, one each from both the father and the mother. So, two black dogs can produce black pups, and so can two dogs of any other color when the recessive genes are paired. Puppies of all colors can be born into the same litter.
What Does a Black German Shepherd Look Like?
Physically, a black German Shepherd is identical to the more familiar black and tan or black and sable varieties in every way except color. Some people think that they look more like wolves than most dog breeds.
The word noble is often used to describe these dogs, and it's accurate. A well-put-together German Shepherd is a magnificent specimen of canine athleticism.
They are medium-sized dogs, standing 22 to 26 inches tall, with males being two inches taller on average. They weigh from 50 to 90 pounds, with the males again being larger and stockier.
A German Shepherd is longer than it is tall, with a straight back that slopes to the hindquarters. The tail is bushy and long.
It's a muscular animal that moves easily and freely. This is a working dog, and they are built to be athletic. Even the most feminine of German Shepherds look strong and capable.
Perhaps their most striking feature is the alert look of intelligence and courage in their dark eyes. They are also thinking dogs, with well-developed sensory organs. The nose is moderately long to better pick up a scent, and the ears are large and erect to locate sounds more easily.
The overall appearance of a black German Shepherd should be one of calm alertness, physical balance and strength. They are solid animals with an air of superiority about them — as it should be. They've earned the accolades.
What is the History of the Black German Shepherd?
The breed originated in 1889 when Captain Max von Stephanitz decided to develop a breed of herding dog that was intelligent, mentally sound, and able to work without a lot of training or human intervention. Coat color was not an important quality to be considered.
By selectively breeding individuals that had the characteristics that he valued, the German cavalry officer soon produced a line of dogs that met his exacting standards. Solid black dogs have always shown up in the breed.
The GSD was introduced to America in 1907 and recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1908. It's been consistently ranked in the top five breeds for popularity ever since, except for a short period after World War I when everything of German origin was suspect.
While originally used for herding sheep, it soon became obvious that the dogs were capable of doing so much more. Trained in police and military work, the dogs performed spectacularly. Trained to carry messages and ammunition, detect explosives, and stand sentry duty, the GSD was an invaluable asset to the German military—something that would make it hard for everyone to accept them. The English called them Alsatians to avoid the connection to Germany.
American soldiers returning home after World War I praised their intelligence and courage. Some dogs were imported after the war, including a pup that had been abandoned with his mother at the end of the war. That pup grew up to star in motion pictures and television as Rin Tin Tin, following the paw prints of another GSD named Strongheart.
Because of their popularity, the GSD was nearly ruined by careless breeding. Puppy mills are not a new scourge in the dog breeding world. Unethical people found that they could sell a lot of poor-quality puppies for a lot of money. The breed suffered from its popularity.
But ethical breeders were working to ensure the quality of the dogs. And they continued to find new and different jobs for them to do. The very first seeing-eye dog was a German Shepherd, a job they still excel at today.
German Shepherds became even more popular after World War II. Since many good dogs died in the wars or just afterward due to starvation, it took a concerted effort to reestablish the breed in much the same way as the original was created. Dog lovers began to breed the best of the best, saving the remarkable breed from extinction.
Today's GSD is just as intelligent, courageous, loyal, and noble as ever. If anything, the breed has gotten better looking than the original version. A well-bred GSD is a true thing of beauty and black-coated shepherds are gorgeous.
What is the GSD Personality and Temperament Like?
To quote the breed standard, "The ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character..."
This says a lot about the breed. They are gentle with the people they know and watchful of strangers. In a working dog, aloofness is a valued character trait. And they certainly are capable of defending their family and property from both human and animal predators.
The German Shepherd is fearless and self-confident. They're smart enough to be easily trained to do any task possible for a dog. They're even smart enough to disobey commands when necessary. Guide dogs, for instance, will refuse to move forward if doing so will put their owner in danger.
At home, the GSD is a delightful member of the family. They are known as good dogs with children and make excellent pets for active households. Even highly trained police dogs often live within the family home. They know when they are on duty and when they are not.
Poorly bred and poorly socialized dogs can become over-reactive. Timid animals may be especially prone to bad behavior out of fear and nervousness. No GSD should be either aggressive or timid. Both are serious faults, and any dog with those qualities should not be bred.
Choosing an ethical breeder is a critical step in getting a quality puppy. Temperament is an inherited quality, and a good breeder will only sell puppies with the correct genetic background. This is especially important when looking for a rarer black GSD. It's easy to overlook faults when the supply is limited.
Training and Exercise for the Black German Shepherd
It's been mentioned that German Shepherds are smart dogs. This makes them easy to train, but it also makes training all the more important. Untrained smart dogs get into trouble.
Basic obedience is the minimum training that any dog should have. Since the GSD was bred to be a working dog, it needs a job. Untrained and bored smart dogs get into a lot of trouble. So train them to do a job. It doesn't have to be in police work. They still make excellent farm dogs, love obedience and agility trials, make great search and rescue dogs, and are wonderful service dogs.
They do need a fair amount of exercise to keep them healthy. They are great hiking or running companions and will join in any outdoor activities with their people. Long walks and big yards are essential for their mental health. German Shepherds also love playing with a flirt pole which helps them exercise mentally and physically.
Health and Care of the Black German Shepherd
Proper nutrition is so important for a dog's well-being at all stages of life. Growing puppies have special requirements so that their bones form properly and they get sufficient nutrition for their developing brains and muscles.
The GSD is a medium-sized, active dog, so the correct amounts of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and other nutrients are critical. Switch to adult dog food once your puppy has matured. Ask your vet when to make the change.
Feed quality dog food in the amounts and at the times your veterinarian recommends. Avoid trendy grain-free dog foods, as those have been shown to cause health problems in some dogs.
Ample amounts of clean water should be available at all times. This is especially important in hot weather.
All dogs need regular veterinary care, which includes routine vaccinations, parasite prevention, dental care, and monitoring of general health and wellness. Black German Shepherds do not require any special care because of their coat color.
What Common and Known Health Issues Do Black German Shepherds Have?
As a breed, the GSD is known to suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, which is described as the joints not fitting together properly. At best, it results in pain and arthritis in the joints. At worst, it becomes crippling. It is an inherited issue, and responsible breeders test for it in both the male and the female before breeding them.
Making sure that puppies get the right nutrition and don't put too much stress on the joints is also important. Damage to joints can cause lifelong pain.
There's a problem with the spinal cord and back called degenerative myelopathy that causes difficulty walking and eventual paralysis. It's also inherited and shows up in older dogs. It, too, can be tested for.
The blood clotting disorder, Von Willebrand’s disease, can occur in the GSD. DNA testing can pick up this inherited disease, too.
There are a few other rare genetic diseases that can crop up in the breed, but the ones mentioned are the most common.
The inbreeding that occurred after World War II to save the breed is probably responsible for the tendency toward inherited diseases. Inbreeding, or the breeding of closely related individuals, intensifies both the good and the bad qualities of a bloodline. Today, ethical breeders can test for problematic genes and avoid passing them on to future generations.
Some bloodlines are known to have extremely sloped, or roached, backs. Many people find this aesthetically pleasing, but others believe it is detrimental to the health and utility of the breed. It certainly seems to affect the hips in a way that looks painful when they move.
One problem that is not inherited is the tendency to bloat. German Shepherds have deep chests, which make them susceptible. This is a life-threatening condition that can happen when dogs eat too much or too fast. The stomach can twist and block the intestinal tract. This is an emergency!
How Much Grooming Will a Black German Shepherd Need?
German Shepherds are double-coated dogs. They shed a lot! And they shed year-round. It's worse during the spring and fall seasonal changes, but it's fair to say that they shed all the time. This makes them a poor choice for people with allergies to dog hair and dander, or those who just can not abide by dog hair on the furniture.
While it's impossible to stop a dog from shedding, some things can make it easier to deal with.
First, make sure the dog is getting high-quality food with enough fat and essential fatty acids. A healthy dog does shed less than an unhealthy one, and good nutrition keeps a dog's fur in prime condition. Your vet might recommend a vitamin supplement if needed to boost your dog's health.
Next, collect the best grooming tools for double-coated dogs. Regular brushing—sometimes every day —with a de-shedding tool will collect a lot of dead hair. Many owners swear by the Furminator brush, which can be found wherever grooming tools are sold. Learn how to use it properly so that it doesn't damage the dog's coat.
German Shepherds do not need to be bathed often. When needed, use shampoos specially made for dogs. Prescription shampoos may be needed for itchy skin conditions and should be used according to directions. Some special dog shampoos claim to reduce shedding, but they have mixed reviews.
All dogs need regular nail trimming. Ask your vet for instructions and train your dog to accept having its feet handled. Long nails are uncomfortable for a dog and it's easy to keep them trimmed if you start early and are careful not to cut into the quick.
German Shepherds should not be clipped during the summer. Their double coats protect from heat as well as from cold.
How Long Does a German Shepherd Live?
The well-bred GSD should live around 8 to 11 years. Barring accidents and the health issues mentioned earlier, they are generally healthy dogs.
As with humans, growing older does come with more challenges. We all slow down and need more time to recuperate from strenuous activity. Our vision and hearing get a little less acute. And we need fewer calories than we did in our youth.
Older dogs don't typically need the same diet that adult dogs do, so switching to dog food specifically made for seniors will help keep off excess weight.
Your veterinarian will suggest accommodations for those natural changes and will be alert for potential health issues that are more common in older dogs. Be sure to mention any changes that you note and do not hesitate to call your vet for advice if you are not sure about what is happening with your older pet.
Old dogs still have lots of love to give and we owe them a soft place to rest when they slow down.
Is a Black German Shepherd the Right Dog for Everyone?
The GSD is not the best dog for inexperienced owners. As mentioned above, they are super smart and need a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation. That's a lot to take on for a first-time dog owner.
They are also strong dogs that can be a little stubborn. Timid owners may not have the ability to correctly train and handle a German Shepherd. They want to have confidence in their owners and can become dominating if they don't respect you.
The GSD is not a breed that can be left in a kennel for days. They need daily exercise and attention. They are not couch potatoes. If you work long hours away from home, there are probably better breeds for you to consider. A German Shepherd wants to be with its family.
The GSD is not perfect for everyone.
If you are able and willing to properly train and care for an active, strong, and intelligent dog, then a black German Shepherd could be the perfect dog for you.
It's a dog that will delight in learning new things and in being your shadow everywhere you go. And if you can put it to work at a job, the GSD will be very happy indeed.
Black German Shepherds are loyal companions that want to be involved in every part of your life. They are affectionate with friends and protective of family. Those are the attributes that we find most attractive in our canine companions.
The black GSD has those qualities combined with keen intelligence and an enthusiastic willingness to work hard at any task we give them.
Captain von Stephanitz can be proud of how his canine creation has turned out!
For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.
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