Working German Shepherd Dogs, Not Just a Pretty Face

Working German Shepherd Dogs

This is my beautiful boy, Baymax. He is nine months old, and a lovable handful. He came into my life suddenly and with a vigor, I was not quite prepared for when he was just six weeks old. He was (and is) like no other dog I’ve ever had. So, I did research on German Shepherd Dogs. A LOT of research, and learned a great deal about this unique breed.

Working German Shepherd Dogs
Photo: BAYMAX, Mila Sanchez

German Shepherd Dogs are a breed that stands out among the rest. They are highly intelligent, have an enduring work ethic, and are steadfastly loyal. While they can make a great house pet, they really thrive as working dogs. They need mental exercise just as much as they need physical exercise, and putting them to work fulfills both those needs. German Shepherds can be trained in a number of different fields and are successful in each of them.

Working German Shepherd Dogs
Photo: BAYMAX, Mila Sanchez

“I’m ready to work!”

Law Enforcement

The work field most synonymous with German Shepherds is law enforcement. Because of their high working drive and loyalty, they are the number one preferred breed for police forces around the world. The K-9 Unit system is usually one officer/handler to one dog, and the bond between them creates an unstoppable team. German Shepherds are unique in that they can be successfully trained to perform a number of work duties such as criminal apprehension, defense, search and rescue, and cadaver searches. They are also well adept at drug and explosive detection, making them excellent U.S. Customs assets in addition to police work.


For the same reasons that German Shepherd Dogs are the preferred choice for law enforcement, they are also favored as military dogs. Their ability to adapt to many different environments, as well as their intelligence and dedication, make them perfect for military conditions.

Historically, German Shepherd Dogs began their work in the German Military in World War I, and by World War II, they were utilized by the United States Military as well. They were used as messengers, allowing soldiers to discretely communicate. They were also utilized as guard and rescue dogs. Today they continue their military service with added abilities like explosive and weapon detection. Once they are retired, they can be adopted by their handlers, which is preferred, as the bond, they form during their service years is extremely strong.

Guide Dogs

While the typical image of a seeing-eye dog is that of a Labrador or Golden Retriever, German Shepherds were actually the first breed to be trained as guide dogs . Back in the early 1900’s, an American woman named Dorothy Harrison Eustis was breeding and training German Shepherds in the Swiss Alps. After an article was published on her work training dogs to guide veterans who were blinded by mustard gas, a blind man named Morris Frank contacted Dorothy and asked her to train a dog for him. She invited him to Switzerland to train with a dog he named Buddy. Morris and Buddy returned to the U.S and were intricate in opening doors for guide dog access and providing a new way for blind people to become independent. Dorothy and Morris eventually opened “The Seeing Eye,” an organization for breeding and training guide dogs that still exists today. German Shepherds are still used as seeing eye dogs, though at a lesser rate than before, as their strong will and stubbornness results in a lower success rate than Retrievers.


Being that they are most known for their law enforcement and guide dog work, it’s sometimes easy to forget that German Shepherds are just that: shepherds. German Shepherd Dogs were originally bred as herding dogs . In 1899, the first Deutscher Schäferhund (lit. translated German Shepherd Dog, making it the only breed to have “dog in its official name) was bought and named by Max von Stephanitz. He prized the dog by because of its endurance and ability to protect and direct herds, as well as its natural beauty. The German Shepherd Dog still has a natural instinct to herd and protect, and makes an excellent choice for a farm dog.

With the versatility of German Shepherds, it’s obvious why they are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. While their beauty alone is enough to admire them, their many attributes make them the perfect dog for just about any line of work, or even just as a family pet.


Mila Sanchez is a writer and recent college graduate with a BA in Linguistics. Her ambitions in life include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog,

Guest Writer: Mila Sanchez is a writer and recent college graduate with a BA in Linguistics. Her ambitions in life include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. See tons of pictures of Baymax on her Instagram: Mila Sanchez


Other Articles by Mila Sanchez:

Therapy Dogs Have Many Uses: Animal Assisted Therapy
4 Different Ways to Exercise Your Dog
Pet-Friendly Workplace Trend is Growing



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23 thoughts on “Working German Shepherd Dogs, Not Just a Pretty Face”

  1. Wow I loved this. While I knew that the GSD had been trained in all of these jobs, I just never added up all the things they were capable of doing. I also didn’t know the background of when they started being trained in these jobs.

    Thanks for sharing this and for joining the Pet Blogger Showcase.

    • Haha. I notice a lot of people misspell “shepherd”. I always have to make a conscious effort whenever I write or type it down. Just remember they’re herders (herd). That’s how I do it. Don’t be a stranger!

  2. Love this: I’m so used to seeing Border Collies herding that I forget about the German Shepard as one of the original herding dogs. I would like to see more German Shepards as working farm dogs. I bet this used to be the case and over time, less so… Love this working breed.

    • Hey, thanks for stopping by, Christine. It’s true one sees Border Collies herding more than German Shepherds. They would be lovely to see working out in the field, wouldn’t it? Shepherds aren’t guide dogs as much as they were at one time either. Shame. I’m off to read your post Q&A with Wonder Dogs Superfoods Come again!

  3. My second dog (really, it was my brother’s dog) was a German Shepherd Dog. My brother was a state trooper, and he brought home a puppy from the police dog’s litter! I’ve always had an affinity for Shepherds ever since.

  4. For being an animal lover, I’m embarrassed to admit that I totally disregarded the “shepherd” part of the name. I’ve always admired them – even though I know a decent number of people who are afraid of them (I don’t understand!!!) – they are the most beautiful dogs in just about every way. I’m so glad we found each other through the Pet Showcase … after looking around and signing up for e-mail notifications, I know I’ll be back frequently. I love learning about everything – but especially animals and not well known species. You had me at “A is for Axolotl Salamander.” 🙂

    • Hi there! Welcome! I noticed earlier that you had signed up for my email subscription. I’ll try not to let you down. I love researching and learning about oddball animals and sharing them with my readers. The A-Z Collection of Animals was put together last year. I’m going through them now and revamping a bit, adding bits and pieces here and there. It’s fun. As for the “shepherd” part of the GSD name, I knew it was true with my Star. She used to nip at my heels when she was a puppy, herding me I guess. They’re by far my most favorite dog. If I ever get another dog, it’s going to be a Shepherd. Thanks for visiting. I look forward to seeing each other around. Peace. 🙂

  5. When I grew up, guide dogs were only German Sheppards. Then they went through a ‘bad rap’ period where I think they were being too inbred. Sasha, my dog Victor’s best friend (and my ex’s dog), is part Sheppard part Malinois and she’s incredibly shy and gentle.

    • Nice to hear from you, Sherri. Yes, my German Shepherd was shy and very gentle too. She was just a big baby, like most Shepherds tend to be, surprisingly. They did get a bad rap for a while there. Too bad about that. Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you’ll come again.

  6. I’ve worked with quite a few German shepherd, as well as plenty of GSD mixes. They are very lovely dogs, very smart and loyal!

    I’m not sure I agree with your comment about “stubbornness.” In my experience, stubbornness usually has less to do with the particular dog, and more to do with the trainer’s lack of patience and lack of skill.

    • Hi Mary. I appreciate your comment about stubbornness being more to do with the trainer’s lack of patience and skill. I think you’re probably right, as I look back at my own training session with my German Shepherd many years ago. Thanks for stopping by!

    • That was actually told to me by a family who trains seeing eye dogs with one of the major organizations. They said that German Shepherds have a lower success rate, so they (the organization) have moved away from training German Shepherds and stick with the Golden and Labrador Retrievers, unless a special request or need comes up. The stubbornness could be from the work not being active enough for them, unlike police work which is highly active. Just using my own shepherd as an example, he is most well behaved when he has been thoroughly worn out, which is hard to do sometimes with his endless energy.

      I have had and trained a number of dogs in my life, and my GSD is the most stubborn I’ve had, and he’s been the hardest to train. I love him dearly, but I have had to put in 10 times the work than I have had to before. It’s worth all the work, though. He is a great dog <3

      • Yes, I know what you mean about German Shepherds needing to have a more active training to keep them interested. My German Shepherd was a whiz at agility training. She could do everything and anything. But walk and “heel” was more challenging. Thanks for your comment!

  7. German Shepherds are the best!! I fell in love with them as a kid, because there was a TV show where a GSD helped a detective solve crimes. It was so awesome! I’ve loved them ever since, but I’ve never owned one (yet). They really are such a versatile breed & seeing them in action takes my breath away!

    • Yes, I agree with you, Luna. German Shepherds are the best. I’ve always loved them. As a youngster, my brother-in-law had a bunch and I always pretended they were mine. I finally got one as an adult. She was one of the best dogs I’ve ever had. If I ever get another dog, it will be a GSD, hands down. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment too!


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