East German Shepherd Dogs

Updated on August 7, 2019
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Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

East German Shepherd dogs or DDRs (which stands for Deutsches Demokratische Republik) Shepherds, have become more and more popular over the last few decades. These dogs were incredibly popular during the World Wars and have since made themselves a great name for their ability to work, learn, and provide companionship.

What Is an East German Shepherd?

East German Shepherds, or DDRs, are generally darker than their western counterparts. They usually have big, blocky heads, big bone structures, and lean muscles. Their backs are straight, not sloped, unlike the famous sloped backs of the German Shepherds used in international show lines throughout the world.

These dogs were more bred for their ability to work than for anything else, which means that they have more powerful builds and that they are less susceptible to getting diseases such as hip dysplasia which other breed variations are prone to.

Like any shepherd, they have very high levels of energy and need to be exercised quite often for them to be happy and healthy.

Why the Difference Between East and West?

The reason that there is a difference between the East and West breeds is a result of the Second World War. During this war, Germany was divided into two sides: West and East.

Since there were different living and breeding conditions on either side of the country, the result was that the German Shepherd breed split into two. Both of these respective sides had their own breeds of working dogs and show dogs, each with their own different characteristics.

The majority of East German Shepherds were made to be more aggressive in an attempt to stop people from trying to cross the wall out of East Germany. Others were bred to be used for herding animals, and some of them were used as pets.

Some of the things that are unique about these dogs emerged, because of the way that they are trained. Some of these training tactics are responsible for the strength and loyalty that we still see in these dogs today:

  • Dogs were often made to scale six-foot tall walls so they could capture assailants trying to flee up ladders.

  • Shepherds were trained for extended periods in very rough weather and at low temperatures.
  • Dogs were made to carry heavy weight to build strength and muscle mass.

Dogs With Jobs

You may have noticed that the most popular dogs seen in movies—at least from a few decades ago—were German Shepherds. This is because these dogs were so easy to train. They are smart, loyal, and always eager to learn things.

That doesn’t mean that these dogs were only interested in helping out the police, however. Many East German Shepherd dogs were used for much more serious jobs. These are some of the most important jobs that these dogs have been used for:

  • Border Police dogs: These dogs helped to guard the East German border back in the second World War. This wall was some 850 miles long and needed a lot of very strong, powerful dogs to protect it. They were also known to guard the Berlin Wall, where they would attack deserters.

    After the German borders were finally opened in 1989, many of the dogs that were used to guard these areas were sadly put down. The rest were sold to people who needed guard or attack dogs.
  • Police dogs: German Shepherds have been a staple of the police forces across the world for decades because of their strength, their loyalty, their willingness to learn and the way that they can be trained to be aggressive.

This doesn’t mean that these dogs can’t be held as pets, however. Not all of them are aggressive. In fact, many people have touted them for their ability to make great companions to children and adults alike.

If you’re interested in getting this breed, there are many breeders throughout the world who are working to preserve the breed for people. You should also have a look at the Czech German Shepherd, a subtype of these Eastern-bred dogs.

Now you know that East German Shepherds can be very affectionate and companionable dogs. They still have that roughness and drive combined with high intelligence that makes them ideal for training and doing all kinds of jobs. Give them what they need and you have a friend for life.

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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