The German Shepherd has become the second most popular breed of dog in the world, despite only being in existence for just over the last hundred years.
So, it makes sense that there should be some good resources on the breed right?
We had a look around the internet searching terms like ‘German Shepherd Facts’, ‘German Shepherd Information’ and ‘What To Know About German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies’,
We found some great information and facts about German Shepherds – for both adult dogs and puppies.
However, we couldn’t find an easy and simple article outlining everything about German Shepherds we wanted or needed to know.
We decided something needed to be done about that and created this German Shepherd Dogs 101 Guide.
It has an outline of all the basic info to know about this dog breed, as well as resources where you can learn more.
Let’s get into it…
Information & Facts About German Shepherds: Ultimate Guide To GSD Dogs and Puppies
Other Names For The German Shepherd
- Alsatian Wolf Dog,
- Berger Allemand,
- Deutscher Schäferhund,
German Shepherd Origin and History
The German Shepherd originated (surprise, surprise) from Germany in 1899.
They are a part of the herding group of dogs, and in particular sheep tending dogs, that were originally bred to both guide and protect flocks of sheep, and prevent them from damaging crops.
If we want to get technical, Captain Max von Stephanitz is the man credited with being the Godfather/Creator of what we now know as the breed called the German Shepherd.
While at a dog show in 1899, a dog named Hektor Linksrhein caught von Stephanitz’s attention. Von Stephanitz was allegedly in awe of the dog’s intelligence, strength and obedience to it’s master – all qualities he valued for the ideal working dog.
After purchasing the dog, von Stephanitz changed its name to Horand von Grafath, made him the center of his breeding program, and registered him under the new breed registry.
This is where all modern day German Shepherds can trace their ancestry back from.
Horand and his many sons and daughters are where all current day Alsatians get their DNA/ genetic material.
What does a German Shepherd Look Like And How Do They Act? German Shepherd Physical Traits and Facts
a) German Shepherd Physical Traits
As a former captain with the German cavalry, von Stephanitz bred the German Shepherd to be the ultimate working and herding dog.
Their physical traits according to a typical breed standard are highlighted by their medium to large body size, long bodies, blend of strength and agility, elegant movements, and large ears that stand erect.
In reality, breeding with little regulations means that modern day German Shepherds (especially family dogs and pets) are less athletic, more bulky, less driven and may have health problems such as hip or elbow dysplasia.
Their coat is a double coat – which means they have an undercoat for insulation and a top coat to repel water and dirt.
There are officially 11 colors registered by the US AKC, but the most common and popular color of their coats are tan with a black saddle.
Other colour variations can include black and red/brown, pure white/albino, pure black, sable (wolf grey), liver and tan (browny/tinge of pink), and blue (off/dusty black or silver looking – Google it…they look like a werewolf…how cool is that!!).
I’m going to save you the trouble…here’s your werewolf…I mean Blue German Shepherd.
Read more about different color GSDs here:
- The Black German Shepherd Mystery: 5 Mindblowing Answers
- Blue German Shepherd: 7 Secrets, Facts and Information Revealed
- Liver German Shepherd: 7 Answers, Facts and Information Uncovered
- Brindle German Shepherd: 8 Rare Facts and Info
- White German Shepherds: 18 Easy Facts and Info
b) How Old/Long Do German Shepherds Live?
German Shepherds have a lifespan on average up to 9-13 years old.
c) How Much Do German Shepherds Weigh?
Males average 60-65 cms (24-26 in), and 30-40 kg (66-88 lb).
Females average 55-60 cms (22-24 in), and 22-32 kg (49-71 lb).
You can read more about growth of Alsatian Dogs and Puppies in How Big Will My German Shepherd Get?
King German Shepherds get much bigger than this – although they technically fall outside the German Shepherd breed.
You can read more in King German Shepherd: Colossal Guide – 15 Things You Want To Know
d) How Fast Can A German Shepherd Run?
Much has been made of the athleticism of the German Shepherd from a historical standpoint.
Modern day German Shepherds are not slouches, but they aren’t what they used to be either due to loose regulations on breeding – particularly in America.
There are still small pockets of breeders however that self regulate their breeding and produce puppies with rich pedigrees, usually from working line dogs, that are athletic.
One of the cooler facts about a well bred German Shepherd is that they have a running speed that is comparable to the Belgian Malinois dog breed, topping at an impressive speed at around 30mph/40kph.
Both of these breeds are used in the police and military forces (the working line GSDs) because of this speed and athleticism, as well their work ethic and intelligence.
e) Can German Shepherds Swim, and Do They Like Swimming?
Read about this topic in Do German Shepherds Like To Swim? Like, Or Hate Water?
f) How Long Do German Shepherds Sleep?
One of the interesting facts about German Shepherds and large dogs is that in general, they don’t spend a lot of time in deep sleep.
Because of this lack of quality sleep, they have irregular sleeping patterns and can sleep up to 18 hours a day to recharge.
It really does depend on the dog though.
Picking a good bed is important so both you and your GSD get good sleep, and especially for large dogs to both prevent and manage joint problems (hard surfaces are bad for joints).
Read about the dogs beds here:
Types of German Shepherds – Lines, Colors and Coat Length
You can read more about the German Shepherd types in this guide. We discuss:
- North American and Canadian Show Line German Shepherds
- West German Show Line German Shepherds
- West German Working Line German Shepherds
- East German/DDR Working Line German Shepherds
- Czech Working Line German Shepherds
- Black and Tan
- Black and Silver
- Black and Red
- Black and Cream
- Sable (a brown color)
- Short haired (including medium hair/plush hair)
- Long haired
Something important to note about the lines of the German Shepherds is that their listed profiles and characteristics is what they were originally bred for.
In reality, breeding of the lines has been unregulated in most parts, so the modern day German Shepherd can possess any range of characteristics, health status, temperament, drives (both working drives and prey drives) etc.
Only strict breeding programs that have a history of regulated breeding will have a good chance of producing puppies that match the original line profiles.
It’s crazy we’ve had a few ‘experts’ contact us and say something like ‘but, I’ve got a [insert German Shepherd line here], and they are nothing like what you describe. You said they have a hard working temperament and aren’t bred for being around families and my dog is the most loving dog there is.”. Well, duh!!
Your German Shepherd is a result of their ancestry DNA mainly, but also how you socialise, train and treat them. They are unique.
Unless you have a full family tree going all the way back to the first dog in that particular line of GSD, and you are a geneticist, making claims about why your dog is a representation of all dogs in that line of GSD is…well, not the best idea.
Also, when you understand how genetic material works, you’ll understand there’s a chance (albeit a much smaller one than if you have two show line parents for example) if you have two hard edge working line GSDs, that they can give birth to a puppy that may not quite possess the same characteristics, or have latent health defect.
It’s called chance, and it’s called life.
Here is a really good example – Gavel the police dog. From his appearance, he comes from from some form of working line – probably East German/DDR working line.
He probably would have had parents that were both working line parents, and he would have been chosen to enter puppy police dog training based on his pedigree and working line history.
Working line GSDs were renowned for their hardline working edge. So Gavel should be a bad a** mothertrucker right?
Well, he wasn’t quite that.
German Shepherd Puppies – Adopting, and Buying From A Breeder
Yes, German Shepherd puppies are adorable.
But, you’ll also want to be prepared for potty training, basic obedience, socialisation, building a bond with your puppy and managing their chewing.
When it comes to getting a puppy, you can either buy from a breeder or adopt from a rescue or shelter.
Despite the myth, most dogs from shelters are not broken or aggressive. Many are probably the opposite – they are just looking for someone to give their love to.
Thousands of dogs die in shelters and rescues every day – if you are looking for a GSD, strongly consider them.
In terms of breeders, you’ll want to find a breeder that cares more about the dogs than the financial reward of breeding.
Here are some very helpful guides on considerations for breeders and rescues/shelters, and where to find good breeders and shelters/rescues:
- Things To Consider When Adopting or Rescuing A German Shepherd
- What To Look For When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy: Ethical Step By Step Guide
- Where To Find A German Shepherd Rescue or Shelter Near You
- Where To Find The Best German Shepherd Breeders Near You
a) How Much Is a German Shepherd?
On average, you might pay anywhere from $500 to $1500 for a pet, or family dog type German Shepherd from a breeder.
For German Shepherds with pedigrees, papers, working titles, specific lines, and puppies who have a proven regulated breeding history – you can pay thousands of dollars.
Don’t get ripped off or buy from shady or unethical breeders – read this guide carefully.
When adopting a German Shepherd, you might pay anywhere from $50 to $500 – which covers adoption fees.
German Shepherd Temperament, Personality Traits, Characteristics and Behavior
You can read all about Alsatian Temperament in German Shepherd Temperament: 7 Important Things To Know.
But, do German Shepherds make good pets? In short, yes they do.
There is a reason the GSD is the second most popular breed among dog owners.
The first registered German Shepherd, Horand von Grafath, was chosen for his intelligence, strength and ‘obedient fidelity to his master’ – the ideal working dog.
Traditionally, a GSD is characterized by this intelligence, confidence, focus and obedience that is required for working roles.
A GSD ranges from moderate energy levels to extremely energetic. All GSDs require daily exercise of no less than 20-30 minutes.
As discussed in this guide, different lines of GSDs will have their own qualities and temperaments.
And, it depends on your specific GSD’s DNA and how you treat them as to their actual temperament and behavior.
In reality, there has been a lot of breeding between the GSD lines, and even cross breeding (with other breeds) of the modern day GSD.
Depending on the genetics, lineage and the way the puppy is raised, modern GSDs may suffer from health and temperament problems – such as hip dysplasia and an unstable temperament.
The best way to ensure you get what you are looking for in a puppy or new GSD is to do your research.
We’ve written a few informational/educational guides on the following:
- Why Is My German Shepherd So Scared? And How To Fix It
- Why Does My German Shepherd Eat His or Her Poop? 7 Reasons, 5 Solutions
- German Shepherd Aggression, Attacking and Biting: What To Do?
- German Shepherd Dog Anxiety and Separation Anxiety: What Is It, And How To Treat It?
a) Are German Shepherds Good Family Dogs?
GSDs by nature are protective of their territory and very loyal to their owner and immediate family (who they consider as part of their pack).
They will by instinct be alert around strangers and other animals.
Early socialisation, training, and regular exercise and bonding is the key to giving a GSD the best shot to be being a good family dog.
They can become your child’s best friend.
Read more about this topic in Are German Shepherds Good With Kids/Babies, Families and Other Pets?
b) Are German Shepherds Good With Other Dogs?
German Shepherds are fantastic with other dogs as long as you teach them to be that way.
It’s very important to socialize a GSD from a young age (with humans and other dogs), and train a GSD puppy not to be aggressive or defensive in response to everyday or common events.
A German Shepherd’s watchful personality will mean they are naturally cautious around new dogs, and they will usually bark around unfamiliar animals they perceive to be in their territory.
German Shepherd Health Problems
German Shepherds, along with other breeds of larger dogs, experience a higher rate of suffering from hip and elbow dysplasia which may cause arthritis later in the dog’s life (caused mainly by genetics and poor breeding practices).
Hip Dysplasia mainly affects the rear leg joints in middle to older aged dogs, where the joint and surrounding tissue loosens, and the bones in the joint move further apart (the technical term being ‘sublaxation’).
Irregular walking or running action (moving with a ‘gait’ or limp), stiffness in movement, or not being able to move at all, are all symptoms of various progressions of hip dysplasia.
If the dog does not experience pain or discomfort initially, it is likely it will as it ages as arthritis sets in.
Apart from picking your dog from a breeder that certifies the hip history of the puppy’s family tree, hip dysplasia can not be prevented, only managed.
Good nutrition, adequate and proper exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight is a German Shepherd’s best shot at managing hip dysplasia and it’s effects.
Once joint deterioration reaches more significant levels, medical and/or surgical treatment is available to treat the progression of hip dysplasia. Surgery is often too expensive for most pet owners, so treatments like supplements and pain relief are a viable option.
Dogbiz list some of the other more minor health issues you may encounter with your German Shepherd puppy or adult dog, along with suggested remedies.
Being a large dog, German Shepherds can be prone to obesity. Make sure not to overfeed your GSD in terms of amount of food, as well as watching the calorie information of the food you are feeding them.
In the realm of fleas and ticks, GSDs have thick coats which can hide these critters. You should know there is flea prevention which is mandatory, and flea treatment and control for when your GSD actually has a case of fleas.
Doctors Foster and Smith at Pet Education offer qualified advice on most other major and minor dog conditions at Pet Education.
We would like to emphasise that our content is for informational purposes only at The Daily Shep. Always consult a qualified vet concerning the health and well-being of your GSD. This goes for any advice you read on the internet.
Read more about German Shepherd Health and Care in:
- Best Flea Treatment For German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies
- 20 Best Natural and Home Remedies For Fleas On Dogs and German Shepherds
- Best Supplements and Vitamins For German Shepherds With joint Problems
- Why Is My German Shepherd So Itchy?
German Shepherd Water and Feeding Guidelines
1) How Much Water Does A German Shepherd Usually Drink
All dogs need ample clean water to drink. Refill and clean your dog’s water bowl daily, or invest in a water auto filling, or filtering device. Knowing how much water to give your GSD is one of the basic but very important facts about German Shepherd to know.
A GSD puppy needs 4oz/115ml every 2 hours.
A full grown GSD male needs approximately 2000 ml/67 oz per day, whilst females will take around 1600 ml/54 oz.
Other factors that can affect how much water your dog drinks include size, food (wet or dry), age, exercise, weather and medication taken.
We wrote a more comprehensive article on the best water and fountain advice for German Shepherds.
2) German Shepherd Feeding Requirements
We’ve written at length about feeding your German Shepherd in the following guides:
- Dog Food For German Shepherds
- Dog Food For German Shepherd Puppies
- Dog Treats For German Shepherds
- German Shepherd Feeding Guidelines
- Is Breed Specific Dog Food Like Royal Canin Really Better For Your German Shepherd?
Two important notes on feeding are:
- Always get a feeding plan created and approved by your vet
- If you are buying commercial food for your German Shepherd, it is a good idea to make sure the product has been approved by your country’s animal food regulation board (the AAFCO in the US).
You should note that your GSD will require different levels of minerals and vitamins depending on it’s stage of life or health status:
- GSD Puppies –less nutrient rich to prevent large dogs from growing too quick and developing dysplasia
- Adult GSDs – food containing natural joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
- Senior GSDs – require more digestible food richer in nutrients
- Overweight GSDs – food with more fill and less calories
- Pregnant GSDs – balanced high quality diet of proteins, carbs and fats. Premium dog food can work well
Foods you generally want to avoid feeding to your GSD include:
- Grapes and Raisins – Reports have implicated large amounts of grapes and raisins in acute kidney failure in dogs. The kidney shutdown is so dramatic that aggressive treatment may be necessary to save your dog’s life.
- Chocolate – Chocolate, especially baker’s chocolate, can cause a range of problems, including cardiovascular difficulties and even seizures.
- Onions – A quarter cup of onions can induce hemolytic anemia, a severe but usually temporary condition. Serious cases can even require a blood transfusion.
- Corncobs – Some people think it is interesting to watch their dogs deal with corncobs but they can mortally impact the intestines.
If your German Shepherd isn’t touching its food, read more about this in Why Is My German Shepherd So Skinny and Won’t Eat?
German Shepherd Grooming and Appearance
At times you’ll wonder whether you own a German Shepherd or a German Shedder.
German shepherds shed their medium to long haired coats all year round, but also more heavily twice a year.
Brushing your GSD regularly and having a strong vacuum handy is a good idea if you want to minimize hair all over the house and on your clothes.
A regular brush with an undercoat deShedding rake, and a slicker brush will get rid of a TONNE of hair from the coat and minimise your vacuuming.
You can check out some dog brushes suitable for German Shepherds here.
It is important only to bathe your GSD when it really needs it. Bathing him or her too regularly can strip their coat of natural and healthy oils.
Dry food, Chew toys or bones are the best way to keep your GSD’s teeth clean.
a) Do German Shepherds Smell?
German Shepherds are quite clean dogs for among all the dog breeds.
They are not smelly, but like all dog breeds, they do have a ‘doggy smell’ after going a while without a bath – especially if you exercise them regularly like you should be.
One bath every 6-8 weeks should do the trick!
German Shepherd Mental Health, Stimulation and Exercise
One of the cool facts about German Sheherd is they are one of the top three most intelligent dog breeds.
The best way to stimulate your German Shepherd from a young age is to exercise it regularly with a brisk walk, trip to the dog park or run, and of course keep him or her mentally stimulated throughout the day with socialisation, toys and bones.
They require a consistent and firm owner/leader, and because of their strong sense of loyalty, can suffer anxiety if you leave them alone too long.
GSDs generally have high levels of energy and are quite powerful physically.
To satisfy their physical requirements, exercise them at least half hour a day to an hour a day.
Try to assess what drives your GSD might have – both working drives and prey drives. This can help you figure out what you are dealing with mentally for your GSD in particular. If you can’t, get the opinion of a professional trainer.
Read more about German Shepherd Exercise on The Daily Shep in:
- Toys for German Shepherds
- Exercise For German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies: 20 Fun Indoor and Outdoor Exercises
- Camping and Hiking With Your German Shepherd Dog: Top 11 Tips + Checklist
- German Shepherd Schutzhund: Introductory Guide
German Shepherd Behavior and Obedience Training
If you haven’t read it already, have a read of How To Train A German Shepherd: 10 Expert Tips and Advice.
GSD’s should be trained sufficiently and taken to puppy school like any other dog breed.
There are probably three things in particular to be aware of with GSDs from a young age – teach them obedience, socialise them and give them mental stimulation.
Focus on building a bond with your dog.
If not given proper obedience training, in rare cases GSDs can behave aggressively towards strangers (to protect their owner), and assert territory dominance over other people and dogs.
From a young age, GSD’s should be taught the difference between non-threatening dogs, animals and people by exposure to them and socialization.
This is simply letting your dog know acceptable behavior.
It is important as the owner that you assert yourself as the leader of your GSD (be gentle and positive, but firm).
As an alpha breed, your GSD will look to become the alpha of your house if it does not have strong and positive leadership from you.
Furthermore, because GSD’s are so intelligent, they need interesting ways to stay stimulated, especially when left alone – otherwise they can get destructive.
Regular exercise, toys, bones and getting them out of the house will help with this.
GSDs are not naturally dogs with negative behavior traits. A
part from a genetic pre-disposition for aggressive behavior (which can occur in any dog), these traits are brought on mainly by bad breeding, or mistreatment/neglect as a puppy.
Lastly, different lines of GSD’s have different personalities and temperaments.
When you speak to a breeder or adoption centre, let them know if you are looking for more of a family or pet type dog, or a dog with a working edge.
Read more about German Shepherd Obedience and Training in:
- How To Potty Train A German Shepherd Dog Or Puppy
- German Shepherd On Leash Training
- German Shepherd Off Leash Training
- German Shepherd Heeling Training
- German Shepherd In Car Training
- German Shepherd Swimming Training
- Stop Your German Shepherd Jumping On You and Other People + Over The Fence
- Crate Training For German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies
- Train German Shepherd Puppy To Stop Biting
You can also read about the some of the best training equipment for your German Shepherd Dog or Puppy:
- Best Collar For German Shepherd Dog Or Puppy
- Best Harness For German Shepherd Dog or Puppy
- Best Lead or Leash For German Shepherd Dog or Puppy
- Best Crate For German Shepherd Dog or Puppy: Buyer’s Guide
a) Are German Shepherds Easy To Train
Yes. GSDs are eager to please their owners and trainers, and have the capacity to do so because of their high intelligence.
They were bred to be extremely versatile from picking up basic household obedience, all the way up to complicated protection and military based work and specialised training.
You will need persistence and patience though.
Facts About German Shepherds in Modern Society and Roles
Apart from being the second most popular domestic dog breed, German Shepherds play other very important roles in modern society.
GSDs have led the blind, worked with the police (criminal pursuit and drug sniffing) and military, visited the hospitalised/sick as therapy dogs, and of course been used in a herding and working capacity.
German Shepherds have also gained fame and country wide prominence having featured in movie staring roles –Rin Tin Tin, and to search the ruins of the World Trade Centre after the 9/11 Terror Attacks.
Pure Bred German Shepherds, German Shepherd Mixes and Short Haired vs. Long Haired GSDs
1) Miniature German Shepherds
The Miniature German Shepherd isn’t technically a German Shepherd.
It’s likely a cross-breed between a German Shepherd and a smaller dog breed – such as a Poodle or Terrier.
Or, the GSD has dwarfism.
Dwarfism does exist in the German Shepherd, but it’s very rare.
Read more about Miniature German Shepherds at The Daily Shep – Are You Ready For It? That ONE Secret About Miniature German Shepherds.
2) Short Haired vs Long Haired German Shepherds
German Shepherds were bred to have medium length plush coats. But, long haired German Shepherds also exist.
Long haired German Shepherds are rarer and further from the pure breed due to their recessive genes (less likely for long haired genes to get passed on to new litters) and the simple fact there are less breeders.
You can usually tell a long haired German Shepherd apart from a medium or short haired German Shepherd obviously by coat length (long haired GSDs look a lot more fluffy), but long haired GSDs also have sprouts of hair around the insides of their ears and around their toes.
Read more about Long Haired German Shepherds at The Daily Shep in Long Haired German Shepherds: 11 Fast Facts and Info.
3) German Shepherd Mix and Hybrid Dogs
We wrote about German Shepherd Mix and Hybrid Dogs at length at TheDailyShep.com in our article “15 Most Popular German Shepherd Mix and Hybrid Dogs“.
Is a German Shepherd Right for Me?
We put together a quick guide and checklist to help you answer this question:
You can find out more information about upfront costs and yearly owner costs over at German Shepherd Training Info.
Pros and Cons of Owning a German Shepherd
We wrote a list of pros and cons of German Shepherds to give you an equal view on this breed.
Popular German Shepherd Male and Female Puppy Dog Names
We looked at alot of name lists for dogs and German Shepherds on the internet, and they all seemed to regurgitate the same alphabetical lists without giving much guidance on picking a name. Well, we tried to fix that with the following article on The Daily Shep:
You can go through the name lists and ideas by gender, cool, top, touch, cute and more. Happy hunting!
German Shepherd Clubs and Associations
A major club which is often referred to as the parent German Shepherd club in America is The German Shepherd Dog Club of America.
UK residents might try the British Association for German Shepherd Dogs
Australian residents might try the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia
Canadian residents might try the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada
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