German Shepherd Dog

Breed Group: Herding

Temperament and Behavior

German Shepherd Dogs, or usually just German Shepherds in the US, have been one of the most popular breeds there for longer than any other; 80 plus years and counting. Extremely intelligent and perhaps the easiest of all breeds to train, they serve in every role imaginable. They are exceptional natural watch and guard dogs, willing to give up their lives to protect their family. But, they can be quick to use their booming voice; obedience class can help ensure this does not become a nuisance. Though not as playful as most breeds, they are more active both inside and out than the average dog. Exercise needs are above average too. A long walk twice a day is required. A fenced play area is heartily appreciated. With proper socialization, they make exceptional companion animals. Well-bred German Shepherd Dogs are extremely intelligent, courageous, stable, and loyal. They do well with the entire family and are outstanding with young children. They can be trusted with most non-canine pets if raised with them and are typically observant but not hostile toward strangers. However, some may be aggressive toward other dogs. But these desirable traits may be absent in improperly bred dogs, which, as a result of their popularity, are common. Pay special attention to locating a reputable breeder. Even with dogs from responsible breeders, early socialization and obedience training are needed as German Shepherds are quick, powerful dogs that should be under your control at all times. At least as important as exercise is frequent mental stimulation. They want a job to do, which can include advanced obedience, agility, Schutzhund, or specialty training. There is a variety of the breed which is white in color. These White Shepherds tend to be more mellow, and, though less dominant, they can be stubborn and more vocal.

Physical Characteristics

German Shepherd Dogs average 22 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 75 and 95 pounds. Their hindquarters are lower than their front, giving them a sloping appearance. Coat colors include black and tan, black and red, black and cream, black and silver, all black, or sable. Even though white dogs occur naturally, the AKC does not accept them as meeting the breed standard. White German Shepherd Dogs can be registered with the AKC and entered in obedience, tracking, and agility events but not judged for confirmation (how well a dog’s appearance matches the breed description). However, both the United Kennel Club and the American White Shepherd Association allow them to compete in conformation classes with other White Shepherds. Neat housekeepers beware, German Shepherds are one of the heaviest shedders in all dogdom. They have a thick coat which adds to the hair loss from their continuous shedding that becomes profuse twice a year. Brush them at least every other day and daily during seasonal shedding.

Trainer's Notes

Without socialization, training and regular activities, German Shepherds may become restless, destructive, or nervous. Training requirements for the German Shepherd Dogs are very high and should be taken seriously. White Shepherds have a much greater need for early socialization to counterbalance a tendency to be timid. Neither is recommended for a first-time dog owner.

Photo © by Elf available under the GNUFDL
German Shepherd Dogs

German Shepherd Dog


About 1 in 5 German Shepherds suffer from Hip Dysplasia and another 1 in 5 suffer from Elbow Dysplasia. Bloat and Panosteitis are also significant health problems. Less common are Cataracts, Lumbosacral Stenosis, Cardiomyopathy, and Von Willebrand’s Disease. Issues less severe in nature include Cleft Palate or Lip, Mange, and Seborrhea To fill demand, puppy mills have bred many German Shepherds with health or temperament problems. The importance of researching breeders and parents cannot be overemphasized when considering a puppy. German Shepherd Dogs typically live to about the age of 12.


The American Kennel Club registers about 44,000 German Shepherds a year makinging them one of the top ten most popular dogs in the AKC.

Breed History

The German Shepherd Dog is a fairly recent breed. They were once called Wolf Dogs for their resemblance to their wild cousins. Today, in Europe, they are called Alsatians. German Shepherds were originally bred in Germany to be the perfect herding dog. But during World War I, their guard and search skills were recognized. Now, Shepherds work as herders, service dogs, police dogs, drug, and bomb-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

Additional Information

The German Shepherd breed consists of several lines. The working line is more business-like in demeanor and more variable in appearance. The show line is bred to have a more uniform appearance and are usually more easy going than working lines. There are also differences in European and North American lines. European German Shepherds, sometimes called Alsatians, are stronger, stockier, and bred mostly for work. They are considered genetically healthier than North American dogs who are longer, leaner, and bred more for companionship. Be sure to discuss the role you want a dog to play with the breeders you talk with so you get a dog most likely to meet your needs. German Shepherds have many notable owners including entertainers Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Phyllis Diller, Mike Douglas, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Elton John, David Letterman, Art Linkletter, Jack Paar, Joan Rivers, and Roy Rogers; authors Robert Ludlum and Norman Mailer; artist Pablo Picasso; sports figures Sam Snead, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield; and U.S. presidents Rutherford B Hayes, Herbert Hoover, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Edward VIII was also a German Shepherd owner. The US National Breed Cub is the German Shepherd Dog Club of America.

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