Breed GroupPastoral/Herding
Life Span10 to 14 years
Height1ft10” to 2ft2”
Weight75 to 95lb
Best ForObedience, intelligence, loyalty, protection.

German Shepherd Breed Guide

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German Shepherd Overview

Dog Breed:
German Shepherd
Breed Group:
Commonly trained working and service dogs assisting the military, police, drug detection units, etc. as well as people who are disabled or handicapped. A high-energy, highly trainable breed that is loyal and affectionate to their family but also suitable as a watchdog.
1ft10” to 2ft2”
75 to 95lb
Life Span:
10 to 14 years
Coat Colors:
Black and tan, sable, black, black and silver, grey, red and black.
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Obedience, intelligence, loyalty, protection.

German Shepherd Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The German Shepherd

  • Intelligent and highly trainable

  • Loyal and affectionate

  • Not a good choice for those with allergies or poor mobility

German Shepherds are a much-loved breed, known for their trainability and their many versatile roles as service dogs. Their intelligence makes them useful working dogs, but also means that once trained they can live alongside a family in harmony.

Although German Shepherds are an affectionate breed, they do take some time to warm up to new people and new dogs. Once given that time to bond, they are affectionate and friendly companions who thrive in a family environment and are great with children. Their alertness and curiosity, as well as their tendency to protect their family, means that they are often selected as watchdogs.

German Shepherds are easy to groom, tolerating regular brushing, however, they do shed a lot of hair. Therefore, they may not be a great choice for those with allergies or those who are particularly house proud.

The German Shepherd’s high energy levels mean that they require regular exercise, and they are a large, strong breed, so they are not ideal for older owners or those who struggle with mobility. If you don’t meet a German Shepherd’s exercise needs, they’re very likely to develop unwanted behaviors like barking, chewing, and other destruction.

German Shepherd Breed History

  • Originally used as herding dogs

  • Popularity soared when German Shepherds were used in the movies

  • Often used as a working breed

German Shepherds originated in Germany, where they were originally used to herd and protect livestock, mainly sheep. Their trainability, high energy levels, and alertness made them perfect for this role, and the same qualities make them excellent service and working dogs now. They were brought over from Germany in the 20th century, and their roles soon expanded from herders to searchers, sniffers, guard dogs, and guide dogs.

German Shepherds have an excellent sense of smell, which has led to them being selected for work with the police, drug investigators, and even search and rescue. A lot of the breed’s popularity comes from the acknowledgment of their heroic and loyal work.

In the early 20th century, German Shepherds were first used in the film industry. Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart were the first doggy film stars! When their popularity peaked during the First World War, where their courage and loyalty were noticed, they became commonly known as Alsatians, to lose the perceived negative connection with Germany.

German Shepherd Size & Weight

  • Large breed dog

  • They can weigh between 55 and 95lbs

  • 1ft10” to 2ft2” shoulder height, with males reaching taller heights than females

The German Shepherd is usually considered a large breed dog, with most dogs weighing at least 55lb (25kg) and many weighing nearer 75lb (35kg). They are muscularly built, with a strong frame, but remain agile.

German Shepherd Personality & Temperament

  • Affectionate, not aggressive

  • Alert and protective

  • Fun and playful

It’s a common misconception that German Shepherds are intrinsically aggressive, however, this is not the case. German Shepherds can be excellent family pets, as they are friendly, affectionate, and good with children. It is certainly true that they are wary initially, both with new experiences and new people, and they can be trained to be ‘aggressive’ both as police and guard dogs. But once comfortable with people or dogs, they are not aggressive.

Their limitless energy and friendly nature make them a great companion for playtime. German Shepherds will enjoy playing regularly with balls, tug toys, frisbees, and any other toys you can lay your hands on. They enjoy spending time interacting with their owners, and can be great company, as well as great fitness partners!

German Shepherds also make excellent watchdogs. Their curiosity and initial wariness with strangers and new situations mean that they are very well suited to guarding and will naturally protect their family. However, if these traits and behaviors are encouraged to the extreme, they will become less suitable to be a family pet over time.

When you take on a German Shepherd, you should be clear about whether you intend them to be a guard dog or a family pet, which will be crucial to ensure that behavior problems do not arise. The German Shepherd’s suspicious and wary nature can be a concern if you are taking one on as a family pet, but if you expose them to new people and new experiences regularly, they will gain confidence and trust.

German Shepherd Health & Grooming

  • Prone to hip dysplasia

  • Moderate grooming needs due to long coat

  • Predisposed to Degenerative Myelopathy

German Shepherds are, as a breed, prone to hip dysplasia, where the hip joints develop with a poor conformation, leading to hip instability, pain, and muscle wastage. There is now a scheme monitoring the breeding of German Shepherds where the parents can be hip-scored, ensuring that only those with the best hip conformations are used for breeding. In time this should help to reduce the number of dogs affected by hip dysplasia. More recently, a similar condition affecting the elbows has also been recognized in the breed, and the same control methods are in place. When buying a German Shepherd puppy, you should ask about the hip scores of both parents.

Sadly, German Shepherd Dogs also have a predisposition for Degenerative Myelopathy, a condition affecting the spine which causes gradual loss of feeling and use of their back legs. This can start as a bit of a wobble or incoordination of the back legs when walking, but over time it progresses to the point where affected dogs can no longer walk. Unfortunately, this condition often leads to affected dogs being put to sleep once their quality of life is affected.

German Shepherds have a long, thick hair coat. They require regular brushing to remove the dead hair and stop mats from forming, and they shed a lot of hair. They are prone to skin irritations and infections, especially around their bottom, so keeping the hair around their back end short is advisable to help reduce these issues.

German Shepherd Training

  • Clever and energetic

  • Prone to close bonding, so socialization very important

  • Herding instincts can take over

German Shepherds are clever and energetic dogs, which makes them easy to train. Because of their loyalty and alertness, once bonded they give their owners their full attention, meaning they can follow commands with reasonable ease, where other dogs may get overwhelmed or distracted.

The armed forces and police are just some of the services that have taken advantage of the breed’s intelligence, energy, and strength, by providing more advanced training. It is in a German Shepherd’s nature to protect, therefore they can also be trained to be very effective watchdogs and guard dogs.

The herding instinct is strong, and these dogs are therefore prone to chasing livestock. Focus training on an excellent recall.

Socialization to new people and situations is essential for German Shepherds, who are prone to close bonding with family and being wary of others. Similarly, practice at being left alone for periods of time is important with young dogs to reduce the development of separation anxiety.

German Shepherd Exercise Requirements

  • Clever and energetic

  • Prone to close bonding, so socialization very important

  • Herding instincts can take over

German Shepherds are high-energy dogs. If they are not given the opportunity to use this energy outdoors, or on a walk, they will likely display unwanted behaviors in the home, like chewing or excessive barking.

Exactly how many walks a German Shepherd needs depends on the type of walk. They will do best with regular off lead walks, with the opportunity to run or play. As a general rule, a German Shepherd would need a minimum of an hour and a half of daily walking, split into two or three walks. However, they would be able to cope with much longer walks or runs, if their joints are healthy.

German Shepherds need additional mental stimulation, as their high intelligence can get them into trouble. Training, puzzle toys, and games at home will help to keep a German Shepherd stimulated, happy, and healthy.

German Shepherd Diet & Feeding

  • Need a high quality complete diet

  • Prone to obesity if not exercised enough

  • Consider a large breed diet, especially in growing puppies

Due to their size as well as their energy levels, German Shepherds will benefit from a high-quality diet, with good levels of protein and carbohydrate. A complete diet formulated specifically for large breeds or working dogs would be a good choice. The recommended diet would also depend on the life stage and should be reviewed as the puppy grows into an adult dog.

German Shepherds are prone to pancreatic issues, where the pancreas gland is unable to produce the digestive enzymes needed to digest fat. If you notice weight loss, diarrhea, and reduced appetite, it could be a sign of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, and supplements as well as managing the amount of fat in the diet will be required.

Be aware that although German Shepherds have a lot of energy as a breed, they can still be overfed if their exercise levels are not adequate. There must be a balance between food intake and exercise, especially if your dog has mobility issues like hip or elbow dysplasia, that affect their ability to do long walks.

German Shepherd Rescue Groups

The German Shepherd is now a much sought-after dog in the UK, and there are several rescue groups across the country. The details of German Shepherds that need a new home can be found on the following UK based German Shepherd rescue pages:

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