We wanted to have a place where we could put all the most fun, interesting and need-to-know facts about the German Shepherd dog breed.
So, we thought, why not put together a big list of these German Shepherd facts and information for owners and GSD dog lovers (and for us!).
Below is over 100 of the best German Shepherd facts and information we know about that everyone else might like to know!
(P.S. – we will continue to add to this list so feel free to come back whenever you like for fresh and interesting information)
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
The Awesome List of Over 100 German Shepherd Facts & Information
German Shepherd History, Origin & Development
- German Shepherds as we know them today were first bred around 1899 in Germany
- The breed’s founder was a man name Captain Max von Stephanitz
- Around the same time he started the first German Shepherd club – the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog – referred to as SV for short).
- German Shepherds were bred as the ‘ideal and versatile working dog’
- German Shepherds belong to the herding dog category – a working dog category
- German Shepherds were originally bred from three non-standardised types of Shepherds found in small regions in Germany – the Thuringian, the Wurttemberg sheep dog and the Swabian service dog. These three dog types are where the German Shepherd got it’s physical and mental characteristics from – here is a good guide on the physical and mental traits of the 3 original regional Shepherd dogs
- The most infamous sire was the dog Max saw at a dog show – Hektor Linksrhein – who he purchased and changed it’s name to Horand von Grafrath
- It is thought the first German Shepherd was exported to the US in Pennsylvania around 1907, and shortly thereafter started winning US dog shows
- Both the World Wars saw the German Shepherd dog population significantly decrease and neglected in Germany due to various factors – with a decrease in resources like food and supplies in the country being a big one in Germany
- The World Wars also saw the popularity of the dog breed decrease in allied countries like the US and the UK – due to a negative association and connotation with anything German. Dog clubs and registries in the UK in particular partly or wholly changed the German Shepherd breed name to Alsatian
- The word/name ‘Alsatian’ is believed to have been given to the dog by the UK armed forces, and named after the Alsace region of the Alsace-Lorraine area on the German/French border.
- By the 1970’s/80’s – most UK clubs and registries had removed the Alsatian name from the breed reference as the German word association/stigma disolved
- The end of World War II in 1945 saw Germany divided into East and West Germany not long after – this is where the East German/DDR working bloodline, and West German Working bloodline, and West German show bloodline developed
- The term DDR comes from the official name of East Germany during this time, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)
- After World War II also around the time that German Shepherds gradually began gaining popularity around the rest of the world again, and in America, the American line German Shepherds began to bred (intentionally or unintentionally) to look noticeably different to the German bred lines
- In 1955/56, the Kennel z Pohranicni Straze was formed to breed dogs for Czechoslovakian Army’s Pohranicni Straze (Border Patrol). This is where Czech German Shepherd working lines developed from
- East German/DDR working lines and their closed breeding were heavily neglected after the unification of German in 1989/90 – many of these dogs were sold, put to sleep, and many abandoned because there really wasn’t a strong use for them anymore. This is why East German/DDR lines are so rare in modern times
- Czech German Shepherd working lines were thought to originally be bred from a mix of East/DDR bloodlines, and local Czech working dogs that possessed desirable traits
- In modern times – the German Shepherd breed varies greatly in physical and mental traits due to unregulated breeding and breeding between the lines – particularly in America
- An East/DDR working line German Shepherd as they were originally bred might be characterised by their dark sable pigmentation, thick and stocky heads and bodies, dense bone structure, great strength and stamina, strong nerves, hard working edge and working ability, and straight backs. They were originally bred to assist the East German military
- A West German Working line German Shepherd as they were originally bred might have been characterised by their dark pigmentation, working type bodies, good physical capabilities, working ability and straight back. They were originally bred as working dogs for dog sports, dog events and real working applications like assisting the West German law enforcement
- A Czech working line German Shepherd as they were originally bred were very similar to East German/DDR German Shepherds. Notable differences include a still dark but lighter sable pigmentation, an emphasis on assisting the Czech border patrol in patrolling and apprehending illegal border crossers
- A West German show line German Shepherd as they were originally bred were bred for their appearance and show conformance primarily, but also had to pass health, temperament and working ability requirements. They generally have a black and red coat coloration, with narrower bodies than the working lines, and more angulated backs (but not as much as the American lines)
- The American and Canadian Show line German Shepherds were really only bred with a focus on being family pets or being show dogs. The show dogs were bred for their physical conformance to show standards i.e. looking to standard and having the right movement/gait. There was less significance placed on working ability and health. This is the line known for the black and tan or black and cream color, narrow face and narrow bone structure, and very angulated backs and dropped hips
- There are two significant German Shepherd breed standards in the world – the European FCI German Shepherd breed standard, and the American AKC German Shepherd breed standard
- The breed standards might read similarly in certain aspects, but they are interpreted quite differently. The European German Shepherds are judged on their appearance, working ability, stable temperament and health (free from genetic disorders like hip and elbow dysplasia). The American German Shepherd are judged almost solely on their physical appearance and gait (like the flying trot) for show standards and conformance
- The last significant updates of the breed standards occurred through the 19070’s to 1990’s (with the SV again in 2008).
- The topline (the hips, back etc.) of the German Shepherd breed has evolved perhaps more drastically than most breeds over the years from relatively straight to angulated – particularly in the American lines
- It is estimated in the USA, based JUST on dog breed registration numbers and % of the AKC, there is around 3.5 million German Shepherds as of 2017 – so there’s many German Shepherds and German Shepherd owners out there
German Shepherd Physical Traits
- German Shepherds are classified as a large breed of dog
- German Shepherds have a life expectancy of around 9-13 years on average
- Males might average 24-26 inches in height (60-65 cms), and 66-88 lbs in weight (30-40 kg)
- Females might average 22-24 inches in height (55-60 cms), and 49-71 lbs in weight (22-32 kg)
- There are Giant German Shepherds that are similar in size to giant breed dogs
- There are Miniature German Shepherds that are a result of dwarfism or mix breeds
- A GSD puppy will usually double its birth size in the first week
- By 2 weeks old, a German Shepherd puppy will be around 16-19 lbs
- A GSD will increase in size 5-10% monthly up until the age of about 1 year or 12 months
- German Shepherds reach sexual maturity at around 2-3 years old
- A GSD ends up at around 70 times the size of its original birth height and weight when fully developed
- German Shepherds are known for their large erect ears that stand up
- German Shepherds most commonly are known for their tan and black, or red and black coats and saddle pattern
- There are many coat color variations of the German Shepherd – Black and Tan, Black and Silver, Black and Red, Black and Cream, Black , Bi-Color, Blue, Gray, Liver, Sable (a brown color), Agouti, White, Brindle
- There are several coat patterns of the German Shepherd – Saddle back pattern, Blanket back pattern, Bi color pattern, Solid pattern, Sable pattern and Panda pattern
- Bi color German Shepherd puppies can change or modify color up until about 2 years of age when their color sets
- Some German Shepherds like an all white color German Shepherd are born white and stay white
- German Shepherds mainly have double coats, but there are single coat German Shepherds too. The undercoat is soft and for insulation and keeping the dog warm in cold weather, whilst the outercoat is wiry and protects the dog against the weather (rain), bugs, dirt and other external environmental factors
- German Shepherds tend to shed consistently all year around, and very heavily when blowing their coats twice a year between seasons. So, they shed a lot
- A good undercoat deShedding tool and slicker brush for the top coat, when grooming your GSD 2 to 3 times a week, should save you a heap of vacuuming and picking up dog hairs inside
- There are 4 unofficial coat lengths of the German Shepherd, and two common stock coats/designer coats
- There is the Short length coat German Shepherd with an undercoat (around 1 inch in length)
- There is the Medium length coat German Shepherd with undercoat, often referred to as a plush coat. This is the most common coat and is the desired type of coat for dog shows (around 1 to 2 inches in length)
- There is the Long length coat German Shepherd with an undercoat (around 2 inches or longer, and thick)
- There is the Long length coat German Shepherd without an undercoat (around 2 inches or longer, and thick – missing an undercoat for insulation/weather protection)
- German Shepherds as a breed are notorious for having developed the genetic disorders of Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia
- Other issues or variations health wise and physically of the breed over the years are the lines not looking like they originally did, colour-paling, monorchidism, a whole range of temperaments and weakness of temperament, bent or folded ears which never fully turn up when reaching adulthood
- There are 4 common ways you might be able to check a German Shepherd puppy or dog is a purebred
German Shepherd Temperament
- A German Shepherd’s temperament is mainly a result of the DNA passed onto the puppy and their parents
- As the German Shepherd grows and develops mentally, how they are treated by other dogs and humans, and how they are socialised can affect how they behave and think further to their genetic makeup
- German Shepherds are usually loving, loyal and protective around their immediate family – especially kids and children
- German Shepherds are generally wary around humans they haven’t met before, and other animals
- Different German Shepherds will have different working, prey, defence and other drives
German Shepherd Working Ability & Show Performance
- German Shepherds are used extensively as police dogs
- German Shepherds are used across a wide range of other professional and sports working applications like the military, search and rescue, detection, herding, service work, tracking, protection work, guard work, entertainment and acting, therapy dogs, Schutzhund/IPO, agility, PSA, French Ring/Mondio Ring, Rally-O, nose work, dock diving, barn hunt, flyball, lure coursing, weight pulling, disc sports
- German Shepherds are also great in show events – winning the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
German Shepherd Care & Exercise
- German Shepherds need daily exercise of at least 20-30 minutes
- German Shepherds tend to get bored or anxious when left alone for too long – make sure you spend proper time with them and leave them with toys and things to do when you are gone to prevent destructive behavior
- German Shepherds have ongoing costs like time investment, regular vet checks, dog food, registration, accessories like leads, collar, harnesses, dog bed, bowls etc., dog insurance, dog training fees + more
German Shepherd Feeding & Water
- Professional advice from your vet, and the instructions on the dog food you feed your puppy or dog are the best ways to determine what to feed your German Shepherd
- An average German Shepherd puppy of between 10 lb to 30 lb (4.5kg to 14 kg) you might feed 1-2 cups of food daily (3.5 to 7 oz / 100 g to 200 g), and be fed three times to four times a day
- There are German Shepherd puppy dog food formulations which you generally feed a German Shepherd until around 15 months of age before switching to adult dog food (but read the dog food instructions and ask you vet)
- An average adult German Shepherd of between 60 lb to 90 lb (27kg to 40kg) can be fed twice a day, and might be fed 3-5 cups of dog food daily(10.5 to 17.5 oz / 300 g to 500 g).
- 15 to 18 months is also roughly the time when you puppy switches from solid puppy food to an adult dog food formula.
- German Shepherds at different stages of life and with different health requirements might have different diets such as Seniors, Pregnant, Allergic/Sensitive, Sick, Special Health Requirements
- The best dog food diet for most German Shepherd might be a balanced diet with meat as the primary ingredient – and few processed ingredients or artificial preservatives
- There are also big dog diets that help with joint health – they might contain natural joint supplements like Chondroitin, MSM and Glucosamine
- German Shepherd breed specific dog foods may not be any better for your dog than normal generic breed dog foods
- You might consider not making dog treats any more than 10% of your dog’s total food intake for the day
- An adult German Shepherd might drink 49-90 ounces of water daily (1.5 to 2.5 litres) to maintain good health as an adult. Puppies might drink less. Water depends on amount of exercise, weather and individual dogs + other factors
German Shepherd Training And Obedience
- German Shepherds according to a big case study/analysis of dog obedience assessments are one of the top 3 intelligent breeds among all dogs
- A German Shepherd won’t have the full or ideal attention span for advanced training until about 2 or 3 years old when they mature
- A good basis an owner can provide for a German Shepherd puppy in terms of training and obedience would be potty training, crate training, puppy school, socialise with other humans, small children, other animals, basic Obedience and commands – site, stay, drop, leave it and come, teach on and off leash obedience, build a bond by playing together and exercising regularly, be a strong leader, but patient, positive and consistent, expose puppy to different stimulus and situations
German Shepherd Puppies
- German Shepherd puppies are born blind and deaf – at least with their ears and eyes sealed
- Between 0-2 weeks, German Shepherd puppies will still mostly drink non solid food like their mother’s milk
- A German Shepherd puppy’s teeth will begin grow in between 2 to 4 weeks
- Between 4-8 weeks old a German Shepherd puppy will be weaned onto semi solid puppy food, and a German Shepherd puppy will begin teething
- By about the age of 3 months old a German Shepherd puppy’s adult canine and incisor teeth are usually in place
- German Shepherd puppies finish teething by the age of about 6 months old, when Permanent molars, premolars and the big carnassial tooth are grown in
- German Shepherd Puppies have 28 teeth, and when finished with teething will have 42 permanent adult teeth
- A German Shepherd’s ears will be in their final position (erect or floppy) by the age of around 6 months old when they finish teething
- A German Shepherd’s ear position are determined mainly by genes
- A German Shepherd puppy should significantly finish biting/chewing by the age of 6 months old when they finish teething, but may not stop puppy type mouthing behavior until the age of 2 to 3 years old when they fully mature sexually
- German Shepherd spaying and neutering usually happens at around 6 to 9 months for most family owned German Shepherds – but, there are arguments for neutering in particular after 1 year of age to prevent certain health conditions in large breed dogs like GSDs
- The adolescent stage is when your puppy will begin to mature sexually up until about 2 or 3 years old – which means lots of hormones flying around. Males may try to hump everything, mark their territory on everything by leaving their scent, and may try to establish dominance over other dogs. Females may be inconsistent with their temperament, and might try to escape the yard.
German Shepherd Breeders, and German Shepherd Puppies For Sale
- In the modern day, there are three main types of German Shepherd breeders – top level specialised breeders (usually breeding and dogs are their sole profession and they have 10+ years experience), advanced hobbyist breeders (usually breed from their home or semi professionally but have good ethics, knowledge and good experience in breeding), and backyard breeders (little to no experience in breeding, might be in breeding just to make money like pet shops, put dogs at risk of temperament and health defects as well as homelessness, might be a dog owner who didn’t get their dog spayed and their dog had pups). Read more about the ethics of buying a puppy here, and where you might start in finding ethical German Shepherd puppies for sale near you here
- Good breeders care about the health and temperament of the dog, care that the owner is suitable for the dog and vice versa, and offer a guarantee on the puppies in case a latent health defect or temperament arises
- There are some top quality breeders that reside outside of the US, Germany and Czech Republic – Australia, Canada, the UK are all countries where there are regulated and high quality breeding programs
- A regular family pet type German Shepherd puppy may cost you anywhere from $500 to $1500. But, there are many factors like geographic location, demand/supply, pedigree, titles etc. that can change price
- Some breeders have reported a German Shepherd mother having up to 15 puppies in one litter
German Shepherd Adoption – Rescues, Shelters & Re-homing
- Thousands of German Shepherds go homeless and have to be euthanized in shelters and rescues each year. Many of these dogs don’t have behavioral issues, but are in fact sociable, loving and looking for an owner to love them
- You can read this guide on Things To Consider When Adopting or Rescuing A German Shepherd, and if it interests you, check out Where To Find A German Shepherd Rescue or Shelter Near You if you want to look into adopting a German Shepherd
- A dog from an adoption centre will cost you between $50 to $500 to cover adoption costs
- If you need to re-home or your are taking on a re-homed German Shepherd – be aware of how to do this process safely – read this guide for an idea of where to start
German Shepherd Mix Breeds and Cross Breeds
- Two highly popular mix breeds of German Shepherds are the German Shepherd Husky Mix, and the German Shepherd Labrador Mix
- Two examples of developmental breeds that have used German Shepherds as foundation breeding stock are the Shiloh Shepherd and the King Shepherd
- There are both pros and cons to having purebred German Shepherds compared to mix breed German Shepherds – read more about purebred vs. mix breed German Shepherds here
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