The Guild of Shepherds & Collies

Is Your German Shepherd a Family Dog or a Guard Dog?

A Family Dog or A Guard Dog? - or Both!

German Shepherd Dogs are the chameleons of the dog world.  We see them on the news sniffing out contraband, as GSDs are a favorite breed of police K9 units, and their deep bark makes them a great four-legged, home security system.  But to Nikki Fox of Livingston, Montana, her German Shepherd, Klaus, is just another member of the family - a furry one.

As she and other GSD enthusiasts have learned, this is a breed that likes to work.  Proud members of the herding breed dog group, German Shepherds enjoy having a purpose, which is just one of the traits that make them both a loyal pet and a great protector.

They’re beautiful, strong and capable, but there’s one more characteristic that sets them apart and makes them successful whether they’re working or just being man’s best friend – their intelligence.  

In fact, that’s the first thing that Nikki mentioned when asked what makes Klaus such a good pet.  “Shepherds are very smart – they key into what you say and what you do,” she explains.  “They can really read a situation.  It’s what makes them trainable.”

And trainability is certainly a key for working German Shepherds.  They need to learn commands and understand body language.  Their keen noses make them equally good at sniffing out drugs and bombs, and finding missing persons or criminals on the run.  That all sounds great, but how does that translate to the average house pet?  

Well, think of it this way. Many other dog owners describe their dogs as cute or cuddly or sweet – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Some even fondly tell stories of how “dumb” their dogs are. But that’s not the case with German Shepherds because intelligent and intuitive are traits that their owners tout with pride.  

“I really appreciate Klaus’s intelligence,” says Nikki, “but there’s more to his personality than that.”   

She says German Shepherds are also known to be loyal, which is one of the main reasons why they’re also so protective of their owners.   Klaus is the third sGSD that Nikki has had and she believes that they’re natural born guard dogs – but that doesn’t make them mean.  “They don’t think like other dogs,” she says.  “They may think to themselves, ‘Do I need to do something here?’ but then they’ll look to their human (owner or trainer) and once they see that you’re okay, they’ll back off and settle down.”

Some people are intimidated by the sheer size of a German Shepherd, as well as their no-nonsense bark.   If you’re looking for a pet, the truth is they aren’t right for everyone.  Owners need to be committed to training and exercising their GSD, and they need to be comfortable in the role of Alpha dog, the one in control.

Those who do own one will tell you that it’s a joy.  “They’re very loving dogs,” says Nikki.  “They have a great temperament and a great sense of humor!”  Sense of humor?   Yup.  Because they have that innate ability to think for themselves, Nikki says, her Shepherds are playful and even fun.  “Klaus has taught me games that he wants to play,” she laughs.  

And what about their herding abilities?  Well, that’s another trait bred into their DNA.  If you’re looking for a dog that can herd (or compete), then you’ve got yourself a winner.  In the case of Nikki’s family, who owns and boards several horses, Klaus is a bit too good at his job.  “He tries to nip at the horses’ hooves to keep them in line – literally,” she says.  “But he’s only doing his job.”

Like most German Shepherd Dogs, his job is many-faceted.  Intelligent and fiercely loyal, the dogs bring out the same traits in their owners – causing many of them to say (emphatically) that their Shepherd is truly man’s best friend.

 

Article By:
Sue Sveum

 

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