Courageous, intelligent and loyal to a fault, the German Shepherd is considered by many to be the pinnacle of canine evolution. Whether sniffing for drugs or a heart attack, there is no better working companion than the German Shepherd.
As the name implies, German Shepherds are medium-large dogs initially bred to herd sheep in pre-World War I Europe. Since then, the intelligent and remarkably capable breed has acquired an extensive resume.
Renowned for their loyal demeanor and trainability, German Shepherds have seen service everywhere from the beaches of Normandy to the daycare playground. From watchdogs to lap dogs, German Shepherds are the perfect canine companion.
German Shepherd adults are proud, keen working dogs with long, pointed ears that sit high on their noble head, and are bred to be loyal, intelligent and incredibly capable working dogs, but they are also irresistibly cute when they are puppies.
German Shepherd puppies are adorably energetic balls of fluff, born with bent ears that pop up individually between 8 weeks and 6 months of age.
Puppies are born in litters of 4 - 9 in a variety of coat colors and lengths. Puppies with tufted ears and fur between the pads of their feet are considered long-haired German Shepherds.
German Shepherds are remarkably trainable which is a trait that has endeared the breed to everyone from the military to the Handicapable. German Shepherd puppies start out small (7- 9 pounds) but grow rapidly, along with their appetite.
Like all puppies, German Shepherds can be strong-willed and stubborn the longer they go without training which is why it is important to start training your puppy early.
The German Shepherd belongs to the herding group of dogs, a pastoral breed group trained, or specifically bred for the purpose of herding animals.
The German Shepherd shares the herding group of dogs with other breeds like the Border Collie and the Belgian Shepherd. Though assigned similar working roles, every herding breed has a different herding method.
Heelers, like Corgis and Australian Cattle Dogs, nip at the feet of cattle to herd them in the desired direction.
Tenders, like the German Shepherd, create a “living fence” with their body to prevent cattle from trampling crops. Unlike the some of the smaller Heelers, German Shepherds could also serve as diligent watchdogs and even defend their heard from ravenous wolves and other predators.
A breed standard details the appearance and temperament of an officially recognized breed.
The pedigree of the German Shepherd is formally recognized by all breed experts and kennel clubs and therefore subject to a detailed breed standard.
Every German Shepherd is easily recognizable as male, or female and should appear agile, strong and alert. Adults are well muscled, exhibiting an even development of the forequarter and hindquarter.
The breed is longer than tall, with a definitive lack of sharp angles. Instead, German Shepherds exhibit smooth curves resulting from their muscular fitness.
German Shepherds possess a clean, well-defined head which contributes to the breeds noble overall appearance.
The dog’s head should be raised high when at attention or excited, and carried forward, slightly higher than the shoulders when relaxed.
The head is in proportion to the body with a keen expression and medium-sized, almond-shaped, brown eyes.
Ears are pointed and carried erect in proportion with the skull., open toward the front, and carried erect.
The muzzle is long, parallel to the top line of the skull, and topped with a wet black nose. Jaws are strong with a set of 42 highly developed teeth.
The body of a German Shepherd should give the overall impression of depth, and lean-muscled agility.
The German Shepherd is strong bodied with a long, muscular neck proportionate to the head.
The top line is higher than the slope of the back which is straight and well developed. Dogs should exhibit a deep chest that is powerfully muscled and carried well down between the legs.
The forequarters of the German Shepherd begin at the shoulder blades which are long and jointed to the arm at a near right angle.
Both the upper arm and shoulder blade should be well muscled with straight forelegs when viewed from all sides.
German Shepherds possess short, compact feet with arched toes and thick nails. Hind feet should resemble front feet.
The thigh is well muscled and formed at a right angle to the body. The upper thigh should run parallel to the shoulder blade, while the lower thigh should parallel the upper arm.
The German Shepherd possesses a characteristically “saber-shaped” tail, which curves in a gentle arch that is accentuated when the dog is excited.
The tail is bushy and should begin at the last vertebra near the hock-joint.
The ideal German Shepherd coat consists of a dense outer layer of medium length slightly wavy fur. Fur should lay close to the body and feel wiry in texture.
The head, face, legs, and paws are layered in short fur that grows thicker as it progresses from the neck to the hindquarters.
Shepherds may exhibit a variety of coat colors, including tan-black or red-black, as well as a variety of lengths, including long-haired.
German Shepherd males stand 24 to 26 inches tall and should weigh between 66 and 88 pounds.
Female German Shepherds stand 22 to 24 inches tall and should weigh no more than 71 pounds.
The German Shepherd temperament resembles the stereotype of a courageous, loyal canine companion.
German Shepherds are keen hunters, with a strong pack mentality. Intelligent and characteristically loyal, the German Shepherd is valued for its tenacity and selfless personality.
German Shepherds are known to be fearless, self-confident and to possess the instincts of an agile hunter, guardian and loyal canine companion.
German Shepherds are generally considered a healthy breed. However, like most purebreds, German Shepherds are susceptible to a variety of hereditary diseases common in medium and large dogs.
German Shepherds are relatively long-lived when compared to many large dog breeds.
The life expectancy of the German Shepherd is between 9 and 13 years.
On average, German Shepherds live 10.5 years; however, German Shepherd females typically outlive males by nearly two years.
The best way to ensure a long, happy and healthy life for your German Shepherd is to provide a safe environment, regular exercise, mental stimulation, and a nutritious diet.
Caring for a German Shepherds requires a lot of love and determination. German Shepherds need regular exercise, a balanced diet, and mental stimulation through social activity.
German Shepherds are strong, active dogs who need space to run and play. Backyards and dog parks are great places to exercise your German Shepherd and provide them with regular outdoor activity.
German Shepherds also carry a thick coat that sheds often. Regular grooming is required to prevent overgrowth and matting, as well as to reduce the amount of fur and dander in your home.
German Shepherds are social animals who need regular interaction with humans and other dogs to instill positive behavior.
German Shepherds that are frequently kept at home are less likely to gain the experience needed to feel safe in a given environment; therefore, prone to act out when presented with new situations, people, or pets.
Large, intelligent dog breeds such as the German Shepherd are also prone to separation anxiety when left alone for an extended period of time.
While separated from your German Shepherd, it’s always a good idea to ensure they have plenty of toys and distractions in the dog's environment. Otherwise, owners run the risk of an unfortunate chewing accident with family valuables.
German Shepherds are sharp, high energy predators who require a regular protein-heavy diet to fuel their agile bodies. Like all dogs, German Shepherds are purely carnivorous. They will never need gluten, wheat or grain, nor are they likely to benefit from artificial ingredients.
During the weaning stage, it is imperative that a German Shepherd puppy’s diet consists primarily of their mother’s milk, from which they receive 90% of their natural defenses.
Beginning at 6 to 8 weeks, German Shepherd puppies are gradually transitioned from their mother’s milk to solid food over a period of 3 weeks.
After 8 weeks, it’s essential that German Shepherd puppies learn that food will no longer be provided constantly throughout the day.
Instill a feeding schedule by feeding your German Shepherd puppy moistened dry puppy food, 3 to 5 times per day for no longer than 10 minutes per feeding. After 10 minutes remove their food even if they haven't finished, though 10 minutes should provide enough time for your puppy to consume the entire meal.
Adult German Shepherds are energetic creatures who require a power-packed, protein-rich diet to fuel their energetic lives and support greater quality of life.
Vets recommend a diet consisting of 22% protein and foods rich in healthy, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. A German Shepherd’s diet should also contain a healthy fat content of 5%-8%.
Healthy fat supports a German Shepherd’s ability to regulate its body temperature, which is critically important considering the breed's reputation for shedding.
Senior German Shepherds, like all elderly dogs, require a special diet rich in nutrients that support joint, bone and digestive health.
However, every dog is different. Before starting your elderly dog on a new diet, we recommend that you speak with your veterinarian to establish a diet that supports their needs specifically.
Quick Tip: German Shepherds rarely turn down a snack, which is why obesity is a common problem found throughout the breed. Owners should avoid feeding their German Shepherds from the table.
German Shepherds are infamous for shedding. They change their coats twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Thus, regular grooming is essential, especially for dog owners with allergies.
German Shepherds are born with a double coat, which serves to insulate the dog from harsh weather. However, the German Shepherds beautiful double coat is also infamous for shredding.
Thus, a frequent regimen of grooming is essential to prevent excessive dog fur from overcoming your home, and allergies.
Start the grooming process by thoroughly brushing your German Shepherd’s coat to remove loose fur, knots, and tangles. Brushing should also be done 3-4 times per week.
Once you have thoroughly brushed your German Shepherd's coat the next step in the grooming process is to bath them in warm, soapy water.
The German Shepherd coat is loaded with natural oils which promote a healthy coat and skin.
However, over-bathing the GSD coat strips the natural oils and leaves the skin dry. Therefore, a bath is only essential once every 4-5 months.
Utilize bath time to check your German Shepherds teeth, toenails and ears for cuts, irritation or infection. Assuming all is well, brush your GSD’s teeth, clean their ears and remove excess fur. Don't forget to clip their nails. Be careful not to nick the quick within every toenail.
Quick Tip: German Shepherds are tough, stoic and live to please. Thus, they may not always show outward signs of exertion, pain or irritation until it is too late. Be sure to check your GSD for irritation, and injury regularly.
How much exercise does a German Shepherd need? The short answer is; a lot.
German Shepherds are large, active and intelligent dogs who were bred to do a job. Therefore, to stay healthy and socialized, German Shepherds require regular physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Hikes, swimming, fetch and long runs are a fantastic way to provide your German Shepherd puppy with physical exercise and mental stimulation.
German Shepherds are among the most intelligent working breeds and possess an astounding ability to understand new commands.
In fact, studies have shown that the German Shepherd can understand new commands in less than five repetitions and execute new commands on the first try 95% of the time.
The most important thing to remember when housebreaking a German Shepherd puppy is that German Shepherds, like all dog breeds, operate based on their instincts. Their instincts are influenced by the emotions of their owners.
To ensure a smooth and successful housebreaking process, owners should be patient and consistent. Use the same words and phrases to indicate when, where and how you want your puppy to do its business.
It can take up to 6 months to fully housebreak a German Shepherd puppy. A German Shepherd puppy’s intelligence and eagerness to please means they are relatively easy to obedience train.
Use basic reward-based training principles like “sit” and “stay.” Every time your German Shepherd correctly executes a command reward them with a treat to reinforce the behavior.
The optimal time to socialize a German Shepherd puppy is between 1 and 2 months. Daily walks are a great way for your puppy to explore their surroundings, including other dogs and people while feeling secure in your presence, but keep your German Shepherd on a short leash at first.
German Shepherds are incredibly affectionate, social and friendly, and puppies respond to calm confidence. Stay calm and firm in your commands with your German Shepherd and they will be socializing in no time.
Try and avoid using punishment as a training method. You want your dog to behave because they desire to please you, not because they fear you.
Train your German Shepherd with brief, but frequent sessions and never forget to end a training session on a positive note.
Is a German Shepherd a good family dog? Absolutely. German Shepherds are incredibly affectionate, loyal and gentle when properly trained, housebroken and socialized.
Can a German Shepherd be left alone during the day? Yes. Though it is not uncommon for large dogs like the German Shepherd to exhibit separation anxiety if left alone for more than a few hours at a time.
Are German shepherds known to be aggressive? No. However, like all dogs, a German Shepherd’s personality and temperament significantly depend on its home life, training and level of socialization.
It is essential that your German Shepherd is regularly fed a healthy diet, housed indoors, and regularly socialized with other dogs, humans, and especially children to ensure friendly, obedient and loyal behavior.
Are male or female German Shepherds more protective? The protective and loyal temperament of the German Shepherd is not dependent on the sex of the dog.
Are German Shepherds affectionate? German Shepherds can be incredibly affectionate.
How many hours a day will a German Shepherd sleep? The average dog sleeps between 12 and 14 hours per day.
Are German shepherds indoor or outdoor dogs? German Shepherds can and do live outside; however, we recommend housing your German Shepherd indoors.
Are male or female German Shepherds easier to train? In general, female German Shepherds are known to be slightly easier to train than male German Shepherds.
Do I want a male or female German Shepherd? The answer to this question is strictly up to preference. It is true that female German Shepherds tend to be easier to train than males.
However, the German Shepherd breed as a whole is proven to be one of the most intelligent, obedient and capable dog breeds in the world.
Do German Shepherds require a lot of attention? Every dog breed requires the love and affection of their owner, as well as regular exercise and socialization. Like all large dogs, German Shepherds thrive on positive reinforcement and plenty of affection.
Capt. Max von Stephanitz is credited with the phrase “utility is the true criterion of beauty.”
Applying that standard, Capt. Max von Stephanitz and a group of German breeders known as the Phylax Society combined their resources to foster and standardize canine breeds native to Germany.
The German Shepherd was born from a joining of a vast selection of herding dogs into one, incredibly capable and competent herding breed. The German Shepherds popularity exploded across pre-World War I Europe, eventually making its way to the United Kingdom where registrations were first accepted for the breed in 1919.
American soldiers returning from World War I regaled the homefront with stories of the breeds prowess on the battlefield. Soon after the breed found Hollywood spotlight from canine actors like Strongheart and the world-famous Rin Tin Tin.
The German Shepherd breed was well on its way to claiming popularity in the United States when a string of anti-German sentiment resulting from the outbreak of World War II led to the breeds decline in popularity.
However, it wasn’t long before the resilient canine was back on its way to popularity; eventually reaching the second most popular breed in the United States. The German Shepherd is now one of the most iconic breeds in the US, in part due to its fantastic ability to combine the traits of a capable working dog and an affectionate pet.