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 in general.
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 as we come across relevant and helpful information and facts, 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
Other Names For A German Shepherd
Alsatian Wolf Dog,
What Types Of German Shepherds Actually Exist?
German Shepherd History, Origin & Development
German Shepherds as we know them today were first bred around 1899 in Germany
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
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
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
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
By 2 weeks old, a German Shepherd puppy will be around 16-19 lbs
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
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 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
How Fast Can German Shepherds 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 usually aren’t what they used to be either due to loose regulations on breeding – particularly in America.
A German Shepherd’s athleticism and physical traits depends on how it’s been bred.
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.
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
Different German Shepherds will have different working, prey, defence and other drives
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.
Your German Shepherd is a result of their ancestry DNA mainly, but also how you socialise, train and treat them.
Each dog might have different individual characteristics, traits, personalities, and so on.
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.
German Shepherd Working Ability & Show Performance
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/Diet, & Water Intake
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
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
Are German Shepherds Smart?
German Shepherd Training And Obedience
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
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 Buying 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
Read about some of the most common mix breeds of GSDs – 15 Most Popular German Shepherd Mix and Hybrid Dogs
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
German Shepherd Clubs and Associations
American German Shepherd Rescue Association
The AGSRA is a fund raising group that makes funds available to qualified German Shepherd rescue organizations and align with their overall goal of operating programs which protect the German Shepherd Dog from suffering cruelty, homelessness, ignorance, neglect and misuse.
German Shepherd Dog Club of America
A major club which is often referred to as the parent German Shepherd club in America is The German Shepherd Dog Club of America.
American Kennel Club (German Shepherds)
The AKC contains some great starter breed information about German Shepherds aswell as some good resources for finding German Shepherd clubs, breeders, rescues etc.
United Schutzhund Clubs of America
Since 1975, the USCA has been the national organization dedicated to preserving the German Shepherd dog’s working heritage through Schutzhund training and breed surveys.
American German Shepherd Dog Charitable Foundation
The AGSDCF helps fund research studies aimed at reducing the incidence of medical conditions in the German Shepherd Dog and improving the effectiveness of treatment of many types of medical conditions.
The Kennel Club UK (German Shepherds)
Has a wealth of information for German Shepherds in the UK, including but not limited to:
- German Shepherd Breed Information
- German Shepherd Breed Rescues
- German Shepherd Dog Clubs, Associations and Training Clubs
British Association for German Shepherd Dogs
One of the more prominent German Shepherd Clubs in the UK.
German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia
One of the prominent German Shepherd Dog Clubs in Australia.
German Shepherd Dog League of NSW
Dog League in NSW in Australia.
German Shepherd Dog Club of Victoria
Non-profit German Shepherd organisation/club in Victoria.
German Shepherd Dog Association of Western Australia
Dog association offering information on German Shepherd dogs – based in WA.
German Shepherd Dog Club of SA
Non-profit German Shepherd organisation/club in SA
The German Shepherd Dog Club Of Queensland
Non-profit German Shepherd organisation/club in Queensland
German Shepherd Dog Club Tasmania
German Shepherd dog club in Tasmania.
ACT German Shepherd Dog Association
ACT German Shepherd Dog Club.
Australian National Kennel Council
Information of the German Shepherd dog breed and relevant standards.
German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada
GSDCC is recognized as the national or parent German Shepherd dog club of Canada.
Canadian Kennel Club (German Shepherds)
The CKC contains some good resources for finding a German Shepherd breeder or blub near you in Canada.
German Shepherd Schutzhund Club of Canada
The GSSCC is Canada’s national Schutzhund club.
Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde
The Original German Shepherd Club located in Germany, where the SV German Shepherd Standard was born.
What Might Be Some Popular Names For Popular German Shepherds?
This guide outlines what might be some popular or common dog names:
You can go through the name lists and ideas by gender, cool, top, touch, cute and more.
Is a German Shepherd Right for Me?
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, if you choose a GSD, it’s not like you would be making an uncommon decision in terms of the type of dog breed you are choosing.
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.
Potential 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.
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