Why one of these dog breeds is the victim of unfair stereotyping

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German shepherds have an unfair reputation and have fallen victim to false stereotypes, according to the British charity, Guide Dogs.

The world’s first formally trained guide dog was a German shepherd, with the UK’s first guide dog in 1931 also a member of the breed.

The German shepherd: a victim of stereotyping.Credit: Alamy

But in the modern world, the typical guide dog is the labrador, while German shepherds are synonymous with the military and the police.

Data from a Guide Dogs survey have shown that more than a third of Britons think that German shepherds are frightening, mostly because of their large size and wolf-like face.

But Tim Stafford, the director of canine affairs at Guide Dogs, said he believed that the breed is misunderstood and is trying to rebrand its image.

He added that around one in 20 guide dogs in the UK is a German shepherd.

Mr Stafford said that thousands of injured war veterans were paired with German shepherds in the 1920s and 30s as “they were already being used in the military so everybody knew the dogs were highly intelligent”.

However, labradors and golden retrievers also became good options, leading to the “Big Three” of guide dog breeds that still persists today, he said.

German shepherds are about 50 per cent heavier than a labrador at roughly 45kg, and their power makes them ideal security animals.

However, this has contributed to the narrative that the breed is aggressive and unsuitable for certain owners and homes.

Mr Stafford said: “People often look at German shepherds and think they must be aggressive because they have seen them as a police dog, or seen them on the TV working as a military dog.”

He added that this reputation is undeserved; while the breed is large and powerful, it is also clever, loyal and loving.

The charity says the police dog image of the breed is affecting its ability to get people to look after German shepherd puppies during their training.

Volunteers care for the animals when they are young and being trained, but Guide Dogs says some carers are reluctant to have the dog in their home.

Elaine Perry, 57, from North Lanarkshire, has a German shepherd guide dog, three-year-old Arthur, who is “an exceptionally clever guide dog and will focus brilliantly in busy places”.

But Ms Perry said people are warier of Arthur than her two previous guide dogs, which were other breeds.

Lesley and Steve Cox volunteer to look after some guide dogs, including a German shepherd called Unity.

They said: “[Unity] has the sweetest nature and loves everyone instantly. Nevertheless, people are frightened of her. Every day, without fail, people walk far away from us.”

Telegraph, London

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