The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

The Purebred German Shepherd Dog

Information and Pictures

A black and tan German Shepherd laying down in green grass with a wooden privacy fence behind her
Other Names
  • Alsatian
  • Deutscher Schaferhund
  • GSD
  • German Shepherd
Pronunciation

Ger-man shep-herdSpeaker

Description

The German Shepherd Dog is well proportioned and very strong. The GSD has a sturdy, muscular, slightly elongated body with a light, solid bone structure. The head should be in proportion to its body, and the forehead a little rounded. The nose is most often black, however, blue or liver still do sometimes occur, but are considered a fault and cannot be shown. The teeth meet in a strong scissors bite. The dark eyes are almond-shaped, and never protruding. The ears are wide at the base, pointed, upright and turned forward. The ears of puppies under six months may droop slightly. The bushy tail reaches below the hocks and hangs down when the dog is at rest. The front legs and shoulders are muscular and the thighs are thick and sturdy. The round feet have very hard soles. There are three varieties of the German Shepherd: double coat, plush coat and longhaired coat. The coat most often comes in black with tan, sable or all black, but also can come in white, blue and liver, but those colors are considered a fault according to most standards. The white GSD dogs are recognized as a separate breed by some clubs and are being called the American White Shepherd. A piebald color has also occurred in a single GSD bloodline that is now being called a Panda Shepherd. A Panda is 35% white the remainder of color is black and tan, and has no white German Shepherds in its ancestry.

Temperament

Often used as working dogs, German Shepherds are courageous, keen, alert and fearless. Cheerful, obedient and eager to learn. Tranquil, confident, serious and clever. GSDs are extremely faithful, and brave. They will not think twice about giving their lives for their human pack. They have a high learning ability. German Shepherds love to be close to their families, but can be wary of strangers. This breed needs his people and should not be left isolated for long periods of time. They only bark when they feel it is necessary. Often used as police dogs, the German Shepherd has a very strong protective instinct, and is extremely loyal to its handler. Socialize this breed well starting at puppyhood. Aggression and attacks on people are due to poor handling and training. Problems arise when an owner allows the dog to believe he is pack leader over humans and/or does not give the dog the mental and physical daily exercise it needs to be stable. This breed needs owners who are naturally authoritative over the dog in a calm, but firm, confident and consistent way. A stable, well-adjusted, and trained dog is for the most part generally good with other pets and excellent with children in the family. They must be firmly trained in obedience from an early age. German Shepherds with passive owners and/or whose instincts are not being met can become timid, skittish and may be prone to fear biting and develop a guarding issue. They should be trained and socialized from an early age. German Shepherds will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, however they will also not respond well to harsh discipline. Owners need to have an air of natural authority to their demeanor. Do not treat this dog as if he were human. Learn canine instincts and treat the dog accordingly. German Shepherds are one of the smartest and most trainable breeds. With this highly skilled working dog comes a drive to have a job and a task in life and a consistent pack leader to show them guidance. They need somewhere to channel their mental and physical energy. This is not a breed that will be happy simply lying around your living room or locked out in the backyard. The breed is so intelligent and learns so readily that it has been used as a sheepdog, guard dog, in police work, as a guide for the blind, in search and rescue service, and in the military. The German Shepherd also excels in many other dog activities including Schutzhund, tracking, obedience, agility, flyball and ring sport. His fine nose can sniff out drugs and intruders, and can alert handlers to the presence of underground mines in time to avoid detonation, or gas leaks in a pipe buried 15 feet underground. The German Shepherd is also a popular show and family companion.

Height, Weight

Height: Males 24 - 26 inches (60 - 65 cm) Females 22 - 24 inches (55 - 60 cm)
Weight: 77 - 85 pounds (35 - 40 kg)

Health Problems

Indiscriminate breeding has led to hereditary diseases such as hip and elbow dysplasia, blood disorders, digestive problems, bloat, epilepsy, chronic eczema, keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), dwarfism and flea allergies. Also prone to splenic tumors (tumors on the spleen), DM (degenerative myelitis), EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), and perianal fistulas and Von Willebrand's disease.

Living Conditions

The German Shepherd will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors and do best with at least a large yard.

Exercise

German Shepherd Dogs love strenuous activity, preferably combined with training of some kind, for these dogs are very intelligent and crave a good challenge. They need to be taken on a daily, brisk, long walk, jog or run alongside you when you bicycle. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog's mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. Most shepherds love to play ball or Frisbee. Ten to fifteen minutes of fetching along with daily pack walks will tire your dog out quite nicely as well as give him a sense of purpose. Whether it is ball chasing, Frisbee catching, obedience training, participation in a canine playgroup or just taking long walks/jogs, you must be willing to provide some form of daily, constructive exercise. The daily exercise must always include daily walks/jogs to satisfy the dog’s migration instinct. If under-exercised and/or mentally challenged, this breed can become restless and destructive. Does best with a job to do.

Life Expectancy

Around 13 years.

Litter Size

About 6 to 10 puppies

Grooming

This breed sheds bits of hair constantly and is a seasonally heavy shedder. They should be brushed daily or you will have hair all over your home. Bathe only when necessary; over bathing can cause skin irritation from oil depletion. Check ears and trim claws regularly.

Origin

In Karlsruhe, Germany, Captian Max von Stephanitz and other dedicated breeders produced a responsive, obedient and handsome German Shepherd using longhaired, shorthaired and wire-haired local herding and farm dogs from Wurtemberg, Thurginia and Bavaria. The dogs were presented at Hanover in 1882, and the shorthaired variety was first presented in Berlin in 1889. In April 1899, von Stephanitz registered a dog named Horan as the first Deutsche Schäferhunde, which means “German Shepherd Dog” in English. Until 1915, both longhaired and wire-haired varieties were shown. Today, in most countries, only the short coat is recognized for show purposes. The first GSD was shown in America in 1907 and the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1908. The German Shepherd Dogs used in movies Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart brought a lot of attention to the breed, making it very popular.

Group

Herding, AKC Herding

Recognition
  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • GSDCA = German Shepherd Dog Club of America
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club
A black and tan German Shepherd puppy is sitting in grass

Max the German Shepherd as a puppy at 3 months old from Pakistan—"I got him from my friend when he was only one week old"

A thick coated, large breed dog with big prick ears sitting down on a balcony a few floors up with a parking lot below him looking up at the camera

Titan the German Shepherd puppy at 6 months old.

Close Up - The head of a black and tan German Shepherd in the woods. Its mouth is open and its tongue is out

"This is Lewis, our five-year-old German Shepherd Dog. He is the most faithful and loving dog you could ever wish for. He loves long walks in the hills where we live in Scotland, but when at home is totally undemanding. If in the house he will watch with interest any task being undertaken, if out in the garden he quite happily watches us build our house—while occasionally being distracted by the resident martins and swallows, or bees!! When young, he had nervous aggression problems and we were advised to have him destroyed. Obviously we had no intention of that happening and we persevered with his training. He can now be handled without problem when at the vet, but is also a good guard dog around our garden and home. We are very proud of him for both the progress he has made with his temperament and because he is such a handsome boy. We used various training techniques, but feel we gained such invaluable advice into dog behaviour from Cesar Millan. A big thank you from us both, we have a gorgeous dog and love him to bits."

A black German Shepherd is standing in a field in front of a chain link fence. Its mouth is open and its tongue is out

"This is Blixem, my black 5-year-old, 35-kg (77 pounds) German Shepherd from RSA KZN, a working police dog. He is trained in obedience and aggression used in the tracking of fleeing suspects on foot. He has been awarded the best dog during his training in terms of obedience, aggression and tracking. He is sociable and loves to be pampered. His motivation is my personal attention and time dedicated to him which has contributed to the close bond we have. His understanding in our communication is amazing."

A tan and black, large breed dog with gray on her muzzle, a long tail, long snout, dark eyes and a black nose standing outside in front of a flower garden

Akela the German Shepherd at 9 years old

A black and tan German Shepherd is standing on the back of a boat. There is a person next to it

Adult working rescue German Shepherd Dog at 1 year old

A black and tan German Shepherd is standing in a field. Its mouth is open and its tongue is out. There is a person in red pants behind it.

Photo courtesy of Vom Haus Drage Kennel & Pet Resort

A longhaired tan German Shepherd is standing in grass. Its mouth is open and tongue is hanging out

Lupo the longhaired German Shepherd at 9 months—see Lupo growing-up

Action shot - A black and tan German Shepherd is running through a yard with all of its paws off the ground.

Prudy the German Shepherd is about 5 years old in this picture and, as always, chasing a tennis ball.

A black and tan German Shepherd is laying next to a black and tan with white Panda Shepherd in front of tall grass. There mouthes are open and tongues are out.

Riza (left) at 1 year and 6 months old and Hitman (right) at 6 months old—Hitman is what is called a Panda Shepherd. It is a color mutation in the purebred German Shepherd Dog occurring in a single bloodline.

See more examples of the German Shepherd