German Shepherd Overview
- Dog Breed:
- German Shepherd
- Breed Group:
- Herding Group
- Intelligent, loyal, courageous, versatile, friendly
- 22 to 26 inches
- 50-90 pounds
- Life Span:
- 7-10 years
- Coat Colors:
- Bi-colour, black, black and cream, black and red, black and silver, black and tan, blue, gray, liver, sable, white
- Area of Origin:
- Best For:
- Experienced dog owners
German Shepherd Characteristics
German Shepherd Gallery
About The German Shepherd
A working breed of high intelligence
Easy to train
The second most popular herding breed and a top ten dog in the United States
Best suited to an experienced owner
Considered one of the most popular dog types today, the German Shepherd Dog is a working breed of extremely high intelligence. Renowned for their intense dedication to their family members, the German Shepherd Dog excels at many different disciplines. The German Shepherd Dog is a versatile breed that is easy to train, making it well-suited to many different activities including police and military work, herding, scent detection, dog performance sports, and search and rescue efforts. However, the German Shepherd’s most cherished role is that of a loyal family pet.
The German Shepherd Dog, sometimes also referred to as an Alsatian, is the second most popular breed in the herding group and enjoys its ranking as one of the ten most popular breeds in the United States. The breed increased its profile when a baby puppy born in France was adopted by a man named Corporal Lee Duncan during World War I. When the war ended, Corporal Duncan returned to his home in California, bringing his puppy with him. That puppy grew up to become Rin Tin Tin, one of the most well-known and beloved German Shepherds of all time.
A breed highly prized for its bravery, the German Shepherd Dog is also known for its heroism. Many German Shepherds are involved in search and rescue efforts, including combing through the wreckage of the World Trade Center attacks in search of survivors. In addition to their rescue work at Ground Zero following 9/11, many German Shepherds also served as a great comfort to families in distress over their lost loved ones.
The German Shepherd Dog is much-loved breed; however, this dog type is best suited to an experienced owner. Since the German Shepherd was originally intended to serve as a working dog, the breed is known to possess an intense drive which must be satisfied through regular vigorous activity and appropriate mental stimulation. German Shepherds who do not receive sufficient exercise can easily fall into nuisance behaviours and can become destructive.
Though a hallmark of the breed is its friendly nature, German Shepherd Dogs can be wary of strangers. This makes them well-suited to work as guard dogs; however, can be a problem in homes that regularly entertain visitors. Early socialization can help the German Shepherd Dog view family company as friends and not foes.
In choosing a German Shepherd puppy, families will discover there are several different lines, resulting in dogs which can differ in temperament, working ability, and appearance. American-bred German Shepherd Dogs tend to favour a specific look which is highly desirable in the show ring. Many claim that these dogs lack the original drive for work so highly prized in the breed in its original home of Germany. It is believed that American-bred German Shepherds possess a calmer demeanour and can be prone to struggling with separation anxiety.
By comparison, German breeders apply their focus to producing German Shepherd Dogs that retain their working ability while still maintaining the distinctive looks that are a hallmark of the breed. German Shepherd breeders residing and breeding in Germany are required to prove their breeding stock through a number of breed-specific tests prior to receiving permission for a dog to be used in their breeding program. These dogs tend more towards a penchant for higher energy and intense drive.
The German Shepherd Dog bonds very deeply to its people and is best suited to living indoors. Since the breed is known to form strong attachments to its family, the German Shepherd is not a breed that thrives when expected to spend much time alone.
German Shepherd Breed History
Originated in Germany
Varied greatly in appearance and type until the 1800’s
Original purpose to herd sheep
Became popular in the United States in the 1900’s due to German Shepherds made famous in pop culture such as Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart
Named Deutshe Schaferhund in its original country, the German Shepherd Dog enjoys a rich heritage of many different herding breeds which also descended from its native Germany. The German Shepherd was a breed that varied greatly in appearance and type until the 1800’s when efforts were made to produce dogs that conformed to a specific standard to ensure consistency.
In the late 1800’s, Captain Max von Stephanitz, an officer of the German armed forces, undertook his vision of producing a German dog that would be ideally suited to work as a herder. To achieve his goal, Mr. Von Stephanitz partnered with other likeminded breeders, bringing together lines from both the north and central portions of the country. These thoughtful breed pairings resulted in the creation of the stock that would lay the foundation for the German Shepherd Dog we know and love today.
Mr. Von Stephanitz is credited with co-founding a breed club that was dedicated to the history, preservation, and development of the breed. A vital role of this club was to promote the versatility of the German Shepherd Dog. A dog whose original purpose was to herd sheep, the German Shepherd’s qualities that made it an excellent herding dog could also be applied to a wide number of activities including protection work and dog performance sports.
It was not until the 1900’s that the German Shepherd Dog reached its highest popularity in the United States. Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart were two dogs featured in movies and TV shows which helped to increase the breed’s appeal with the public. Unfortunately, over the years, the German Shepherd Dog has received negative publicity due to its roots in Germany. For this reason, during World War I, the German Shepherd Dog was often referred to as the Alsatian to help remove any negative connotations as a result of its country of origin.
Over time, the use of dogs for herding livestock fell out of vogue in favour of more modern systems of guardianship. To promote the desirability of the breed and its wonderful traits, Mr. Von Stephanitz began to showcase his breeding stock as the ideal canine working dog. Though originally intended for use as a herding breed; today, the German Shepherd Dog is the most highly desired breed for police and military work.
German Shepherd Size & Weight
A large breed dog
Males stand between 24”-26” and weigh between 65-90 pounds
Females reach a height of 22”-24” and weigh between 50-70 lbs
Care must be taken to maintain a good body condition
The German Shepherd Dog is considered a large breed. The average male German Shepherd will reach an adult height of 24”-26” and a mature weight of between 65-90 lbs. By comparison, adult female German Shepherds are typically 22”-24” at the shoulder with a weight range of 50-70 pounds. The breed is known to have a life expectancy of between 7-10 years.
Owning a large breed dog does mean that costs are often higher due to the dog’s size and nutritional needs. Though a high-quality canine diet will cost more money, the dog will need to eat less of it to feel satisfied, thus increasing its overall value.
Large breed dogs need items that are appropriate to their size such as collars, dog beds, and crates. Even medication amounts must be higher to meet the needs of a large dog such as a German Shepherd. Dog owners must be prepared for the additional costs associated with owning and loving a breed that falls within this size category.
German Shepherd Personality & Temperament
High energy levels
Requires an active lifestyle
Greets new people with wariness
Friendly and affectionate with loved ones
The German Shepherd is a working breed that is known for its high intelligence. Dogs that possess this trait require regular physical and mental exercise to remain content. A breed with high energy levels, the German Shepherd Dog requires an active lifestyle to satisfy its drive and prevent the development of undesirable behaviours such as barking, digging, or chewing.
By nature, the German Shepherd is aloof with strangers and greets new people with wariness and a sense of unease. Though affectionate and loving with their families, the German Shepherd needs time to learn to trust strangers. To help this breed learn to more readily accept new people, early socialization to a variety of different people, dogs, and scenarios is essential. Obedience training can also assist with teaching the German Shepherd Dog socially appropriate behaviours to utilize when meeting strangers.
The German Shepherd Dog can be quite playful but also possesses a serious side. This can be attributed to the breed’s roots as a working dog, a job the dog undertook with great focus. The German Shepherd possesses the courage to excel as a guard dog and will eagerly provide protection for its family. However, it is important to note that this breed should never be tethered to a post as this can lead to barrier aggression.
A breed that is well-renowned for its abiding love for children, the German Shepherd Dog is gentle and appropriate with the littlest family members in its home. Though there will be little difficulty in integrating a German Shepherd pup into a home with children, all interactions should be carefully supervised to ensure the safety of both the child and the dog. All children should also be taught to respect and handle the dog appropriately.
German Shepherds can display aggression towards other pets. The best course of action to prevent this is early socialization to other animals which most often begins in the breeder’s home. To introduce a German Shepherd pup into a home with other pets, it is recommended that the initial greetings occur in a neutral location such as a public park. Be sure to introduce each pet to the new dog one at a time before allowing all dogs to meet as a group.
The German Shepherd Dog is not suited to apartment living due to its high energy requirements. A home with a large fenced yard is preferable; however, so long as the dog is taken for daily exercise, a fenced space for play is not strictly necessary.
A breed with a thick double coat, the German Shepherd Dog can easily weather inclement outdoor conditions. However, its attachment to its family makes the breed better suited to life indoors. This intense bond also makes the breed ill-suited to large amounts of time spent on its own.
German Shepherd Health & Grooming
Few health concerns
Sheds a lot
Regular grooming necessary
Not prone to drooling
The German Shepherd Dog is a breed that typically enjoys good health. There are only three genetic diseases which can be common to the breed. These include hip and elbow dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy. These three diseases are most often inherited and can be screened for via genetic testing prior to breeding two dogs together.
Another health condition which can befall the German Shepherd is bloat, a problem which can be common in large breed dogs. It is not known what causes bloat, and it is highly unlikely that there is a genetic component to this serious medical issue.
The German Shepherd’s thick double coat sheds in large amounts, so potential owners should be prepared to commit to a regular regimen of grooming. The breed standard calls for a coat comprised of medium-length hair which should lie near to the skin. The coat consists of two parts: a topcoat and a soft undercoat.
To help maintain the coat of the German Shepherd Dog and reduce shedding, this breed should be thoroughly brushed with a pin brush several times each week. It is important to note that the German Shepherd will blow its coat several times each year. During this seasonal shedding, an immense amount of hair will be emitted into the home environment. Brushing should be increased to a daily basis at this time.
A breed not prone to becoming dirty or smelly, the German Shepherd can be bathed on an as needed basis. Nails should be trimmed as often as is necessary to prevent excessive growth. Regular dental care will prevent the development of periodontal disease.
The German Shepherd Dog is not known to be a drooler.
Care must be taken to maintain a healthy weight for this breed. Since the German Shepherd Dog can be prone to such painful health conditions as hip and elbow dysplasia, it is important to achieve an excellent body condition to help prevent the development of disease.
German Shepherd Training
A willing training partner
Responds best to positive training
Puppy socialization classes and crate training recommended
Not prey driven
A breed of exceptional intelligence, the German Shepherd Dog is an enthusiastic and willing training partner. A dog that requires little motivation to learn, the German Shepherd can easily master the basic obedience commands in as little as a few weeks with consistent practice.
This dog breed responds best to positive training which is reinforced through the judicious use of treats and praise. Puppy socialization classes are recommended to encourage healthy relationships with other dogs.
Since the German Shepherd can easily develop separation anxiety, crate training is suggested. Teaching a puppy to enjoy his crate is an effective means to promote feelings of happiness and well-being when alone time is necessary.
German Shepherd puppies are known for being quite mouthy. It is best to curb this behaviour by redirecting the dog towards something that is more appropriate for chewing such as a toy or bone.
A herding breed, the German Shepherd possesses the desire to round up family pets in one central location rather than to seek opportunities to chase prey. The breed can be quite noisy, enjoying the opportunity to bark when it is presented.
German Shepherd Exercise Requirements
A willing training partner
Responds best to positive training
Puppy socialization classes and crate training recommended
Not prey driven
The German Shepherd Dog is a breed with high activity requirements. Potential owners must be prepared to commit to a daily schedule of rigorous exercise to satisfy this breed’s natural drive. The German Shepherd is an athletic dog that excels at sports such as running, hiking, agility, herding, and tracking. To ensure a contented, healthy dog, 45 minutes to an hour of daily vigorous exercise is recommended.
The German Shepherd enjoys play time with its family but is not an overly playful breed once the puppy years have passed.
German Shepherd Diet & Feeding
High quality diet that is age appropriate and nutritionally balanced
Puppies should eat puppy food
Adults require an adult formulation
Adjust amounts according to activity level
The German Shepherd Dog benefits from a high-quality diet that is nutritionally balanced, age appropriate, and rich with lean proteins. A veterinarian can best recommend the specific formulation for the dog’s unique needs.
Puppies should always be fed puppy food since it is specifically formulated to meet the needs of a growing puppy. A diet that is not properly balanced can lead to rapid bone growth which can cause permanent structural issues. Likewise, adult dogs should always be fed a diet appropriate for their age and health condition.
To determine the amount of food the dog should eat, it is best to read the recommended serving sizes provided on the food’s packaging. This can serve as a general guideline but will need to be adjusted for dogs that are highly active or that are more sedentary.