The Downfall of German Shepherds and the Uprising of Belgian Malinois
Who wouldn’t want to have a puppy throw up in their lap about halfway through an hour long drive to get back home from picking him up? For my tenth birthday my present was a German shepherd, and I named him Striker due to the bowling party that I would be having the next day. I have always been fascinated with the breed, and that fascination only grew after Striker’s premature death in 2012.
The average life expectancy for a German shepherd is ten-twelve years. I received Striker for my birthday in 2007, and came home from school to find that he had passed in 2012. I have always wondered why his life was shorter than it should have been, with regular veterinarian visits and no noticeable shifts in his behavior. Last year I had the opportunity to construct a contrast paper on any subject of my choosing. After finding out that the Belgian Malinois is a very similar breed to a German shepherd, I decided to write my contrast paper on the two breeds. Through the research I conducted to write the contrast paper I found that the area with the most difference between the two breeds is that of health concerns. There are many different health issues that can rise in a German shepherd including hip related issues, knee and ankle problems, shoulder problems, etc. The health risks are partly to blame for the shift in popularity to the Belgian Malinois.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be in the veterinary field, with my fascination of German shepherds being part of what led me to the field. I have recently been obtaining volunteer hours at a veterinary clinic as a requirement to apply for a veterinarian technician program. One of the days that I was at the office a family brought in their German shepherd. The veterinarian had me assist her with the patient throughout the process of an annual visit. After the family left, the veterinarian began a conversation with me about the breed. She told me about more of the health concerns involved with the breed including gastric imbalances, many different sight insufficiencies, and degradation of nerve cells. Most of the concerns arose during the times when they were being overbred due to the influence of Rin Tin Tin, the German shepherd who became a role model for the breed and induced the rising popularity of the breed. That day was the first I had heard of Rin Tin Tin. She continued to tell me about how she believes that the strain placed on the breed through the use of K-9 units contributed to the rise of the health concerns, and she believes that the same thing may happen to the Belgian Malinois.
The annotated bibliography below includes four intermingling writings. Susan Orlean is driven by her interest in how the influence of Rin Tin Tin has effected the American culture. Orlean promotes inspiration in others with her intensive study of Rin Tin Tin, including Heller McAlpin. Kristen Grieshaber found interest in the shift from German shepherd to Belgian Malinois’. Grieshaber would most likely be intrigued by Orleans works due to being able to have yet another reason leading to the shift. Benton Smith, who is drawn to the daily life of a Belgian Malinois as a canine officer, would more than likely find Orlean, McAlpin, and Grieshaber’s works to be good background information for his interest in the canine unit.
Grieshaber, Kristen. “German Police Phasing Out Namesake German Shepherd Dogs; Belgian Variety More Suitable.” Canadian Press, The (n.d.) Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
Grieshaber reports simply on the shift from German shepherds to Belgian Malinois as the primary breed used in canine units. She takes the statements from different people involved in the subject to come up with some reasons that this may be happening. Some of the reasons found are that Malinois are more protective, mobile, and may stay in service longer. Nothing negative is said about German Shepherds; however, it states that Malinois are the better investment.
McAlpin, Heller. “Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.” Christian Science Monitor 27 Sept. 2011: N.PAG. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
McAlpin tells of the journey of Susan Orlean, an American journalist, through her fascination with Rin Tin Tin. Rin Tin Tin was a German shepherd who was found by Lee Duncan and served as the mascot of World War II, an income source for Duncan, and a loyal friend to Duncan. Rin Tin Tin becomes a model for the breed, and encourages the use of German shepherd in the K-9 Corps. McAlpin speaks on how involved and consumed Orlean was in her work on the subject and how many benefits came from her work ranging from cultural icons to the film industry. McAlpin is surprised by what endures in the American culture, and the repercussions of such phenomenon.
Orlean, Susan. “Why German Shepherds have had Their Day.” New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) ed. Oct 09 2011. ProQuest. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
Orlean wrote an op ed piece for the New York Times on how the media has influenced an epidemic of breeding has created many problems for German shepherds. She tells of how German Shepherds becoming the face of World War II, and becoming a factor in the media due to Rin Tin Tin, an overbreeding force was placed on the breed. This overbreeding created many health issues to arise in the breed. Overbreeding became such a problem that the best thing that could happen for the breed would be a downfall, which is exactly what happened. The Belgian Malinois began to overtake the popularity and use of the German Shepherds. She also makes the powerful point that people need to stop following the media when it comes to animals because after there is a release of a movie with a dog as a lead, then there is a spike in the want for that breed of dog in the public. Often the owners may come to find that they liked the dog better in the movie than in their house, which adds to the crowding in animal shelters.
Smith, Benton. “24 Hours in the Life of a K-9 Unit.” Times-News, The (Twin Falls, ID) 06 Aug. 2015: Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 11 Apr. 2016
Smith tells the schedule of a day with Jeske handling Drago, a Belgian Malinois. Smith writes down the extensive hourly details of a twenty-four hour period that Drago performs. The dog is required to obtain at least sixteen hours of training a month on top of his duty hours. Drago is often spread thin because he is the only canine on duty during his shift. Drago is down for the night by 9 p.m. and up to begin a new day full of work at 4 in the morning.