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Meet the Breeds: The German Shepherd

Meet the Breeds: The German Shepherd

One of the most well-liked dog breeds in America is the German Shepherd, also known as the Alsatian. The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) excels at almost anything they are trained to do, including guide and assistance work for the disabled, police K-9 and military service, herding, search and rescue, narcotics detection, competitive training, and — perhaps most importantly — true companionship.

Key Traits of a German Shepherd

Ket Traits of a German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is characterized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as having a weather-resistant coat. They have robust, well-muscled bodies that are slightly longer than their height. A lengthy, durable gait is formed by the link between the fore and hindquarters' height, length, posture, and structure.

Height: An adult German Shepherd can stand as high as 22-26 inches.

Weight: A fully-grown German Shepherd ideally weighs between 65 to 90 pounds for males and around 50 to 70 pounds for females.

Lifespan: The life expectancy of a German Shepherd is 10 to 14 years.

Appearance: The German Shepherd Dog has a symmetrical build. The large head naturally narrows to a pointy muzzle, and the ears are relatively large and upright. The tail is bushy and curved downward, while the back is level and muscular. The dense double coat might be black, tan, black and tan, or gray and is thick and rough.

Temperament: German Shepherds are steady, loyal, self-assured, courageous, and tractable. A well-brought-up GSD is never nervous, over-aggressive, or shy.


Where did the German Shepherd Originate?

Where Did the German Shepherd Originate

The German Shepherd Dog's descendants served people as servants and companions for hundreds of years. The modern GSD was introduced in Germany in 1899 and bred from older shepherds and farm dogs. The breed's origin is attributed to Captain Max von Stephanitz.

The word "German" was omitted during World Wars I and II, and the breed was known as the shepherd dog or the Alsatian instead. Early in the 20th century, the German Shepherd gained popularity nationwide. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1908.


Physical Traits of a German Shepherd

Physical Traits of the German Shepherd Breed

Numerous physical characteristics set a purebred German Shepherd apart from other dogs. 

Ears: They have erect ears carried upright and nearly parallel (not tilted inwards). They taper to a point and have an orifice in the front.

Mouth: Jaws should be well developed. Upper teeth nearly overlap lower teeth in a complete, regular scissor bite parallel to the jaws.

Eyes: Almond-shaped, medium in size, and never protruding. Dark brown eyes are desired, while lighter shades are accepted as long as the expression is decent and the head's overall harmony is not ruined. The eyes are lively, wise, and confident.

Head: The wedge-shaped head is relatively broad between the ears, proportionate in size to the body without being overly extended. The forehead has a slightly domed appearance from the front and the side. It has no or minimal indication of a center furrow.

Nose: GSDs often have long, straight muzzles and a square, mostly black nose.

Coat Length: The double coat on most German Shepherds is of medium length. The outer coat is usually dense and straight, but some may have a slight wave.

Coat Color: German Shepherd coats come in a wide range of colors, including bi-color, black and tan, black and cream, black and red, and black and silver (black with a few areas of brown or tan). Additionally, they might be white, sable, or even silver.

Tail: At least to the hock in length, with ideal hair reaching the middle of the metatarsal. Typically, the tail should never rise above the back level and hang in a slight saber-like curve at rest.


Behavior and Training Tips for German Shepherd

German Shepherd Lying on Grass

The German Shepherd has a well-balanced temperament, is steady of nerves, self-assured, entirely at peace unless provoked, and vigilant and straightforward to train. The breed is suitable as a companion, watchdog, protection, service, and herding dog. They possess innate drive, resilience, and self-confidence.

This breed is naturally reserved and aloof, especially around strangers. However, they are also:

  • Hyper-intelligent
  • Powerful and athletic
  • Diligent
  • Loyal

German Shepherds get along well with children and other pets if raised with them, but they are wary of strangers due to their guarding instincts.


German Shepherd in Training

Proper training for your German Shepherd is essential. Training must always involve positive reinforcement with treats, toys, and lots of praise. An untrained dog can be chaotic because they are a large puppy wary of strangers. Because of this, their training should begin as soon as possible.

Introduce your German Shepherd puppy to new experiences and objects by socializing with other animals and people. Puppy school is also a great way to socialize with other dogs and start their obedience training all in one place. Obedience training typically includes skills such as sitting, staying, and coming and how to walk nicely on a leash.

Being bred to herd cattle, shepherds are frequently nippers as puppies. Therefore, you may have to deal with the teething stage for roughly six months. Although it might be adorable when they're young, German Shepherds have powerful jaws, so it's crucial to teach your puppy not to bite while they're still young.

Work on their sniffing abilities with puzzle toys and sniffing walks when you are at home. Agility, tracking, and herding competitions are excellent opportunities to train your dog, get some exercise, and develop your relationship. Remember that an active German Shepherd is the most exemplary German Shepherd and providing them with stimulating activities will significantly improve their life.


Two German Shepherds Running with Stick

German Shepherds have a lot of energy, and you need to use it to keep your dog in good behavior. Allocate time for daily activities that require mental and physical focus. These exercises may include:

  • Fetch
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Running Uphill
  • Hide and Seek
  • Weave Poles

The ideal daily activity for most German Shepherds should be at least two hours. Daily walks (45–60 minutes), purposeful movement (45–60 minutes), and mental stimulation (30-45 minutes) should all be part of it. To figure out how much exercise your dog requires, consider their age, health, and energy level.

Caring and Management Tips for German Shepherds

German Shepherd in Bath

Grooming and Fur Brushing

A German Shepherd has two coats, as well as thick body fur. They also shed hair all year long. Because of this, regular grooming and brushing are needed.

Ideal grooming tools to have with you are:

  • Pin Brush
  • Matting Comb
  • Nail Clipper
  • Dog Blow Dryer

A GSD will need to be brushed three to four times per week. This will keep their fur smooth and clear of straggly hair and prevent dirt buildup. If your German Shepherd is active and frequently exercises, be sure to groom them daily. They also need to have their undercoat blown twice a year.

Nail Trim

Long toenails can hurt you and your dog. Check the toenails weekly. If their toenails have gotten too long, cut them. When cutting your dog's toenails, proceed with extreme caution. Your dog could suffer an injury and bleed if you make the cut too deep. In case of a cut, apply styptic powder to the bleeding region.


Your German Shepherd shouldn't take a lot of baths. Bathing your dog too frequently will cause dry, flaking, and itchy skin. You can wash your dog once a month or after very strenuous workouts. Give them more frequent baths if they have developed fleas, and use an anti-flea shampoo or spray. Avoid using strong washes on your dog's skin because doing so could harm their health.


General Health

German Shepherd Getting a Toothbrush

Ear Care

If neglected for an extended period, a German Shepherd's ears may get oily and gather excessive dirt or debris. By regularly checking your dog's ears, you can avoid this. If cleaning is required, use only ear drops and cotton pads (not Q-tips or cotton swabs) to remove any excess dirt. Avoid washing your German Shepherd's ears with water. Cleaning your dog's ears once a week is recommended.

Oral Care

Brushing your pet's teeth at least once a week will aid in the prevention of tartar accumulation and the reduction of bad breath. To prevent periodontitis:

  1. Brush the outside of each tooth separately, and massage the gum line softly.
  2. Rinse with water.
  3. Use a kid-sized toothbrush and dog toothpaste; never use human toothpaste on your German Shepherd!

Diet & Care

Your German Shepherd will require up to two cups of dry dog food twice a day, but this will vary depending on the dog's size, activity level, age, and other factors. Check the food label for suggested serving size, or consult with your vet to be sure. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water.

GSDs tend to bloat, so watch what they eat and how often. Being overweight will limit your dog's lifespan, so keep an eye on their weight and take care of any issues early on.


Common Health Problems of German Shepherds

German Shepherd Getting Vet Checkup

There are many common health issues with the German Shepherd. They can be due to inbreeding in the early stages of the breed standard and throughout their history. Of course, not all health issues are directly related to inbreeding. Some are simply a result of these dogs' size, the type of activity they perform, or the fact that they are dogs.

The most common health issues that German Shepherds suffer include:

Hip Dysplasia

A hereditary disorder known as hip dysplasia causes the femur to not fit tightly inside the pelvic socket of the hip joint. It may or may not show any clinical symptoms. On one or both of their rear legs, some dogs are painful and lame. Arthritis may appear as the dog ages.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a disorder that commonly affects large-breed dogs. The three bones that make up the dog's elbow have three different growth rates, resulting in joint laxity and painful lameness. Your veterinarian might advise either surgery to fix the issue or painkillers to lessen the discomfort.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This disease is a neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord and can cause paralysis of the hind legs. The early indicators of degenerative myelopathy are trouble standing up and weakness in the back legs. There is presently no cure for it. Physical therapy can assist with sustaining the muscles and extending leg function.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus causes the abdomen to enlarge and twist. This condition can be life-threatening in dogs. Take your dog to the doctor immediately if their tummy quickly expands or if they start to whine when you press on it.


Some German Shepherds experience a range of allergies, including contact and food allergies. Dog allergy symptoms are comparable to human allergy symptoms. If your German Shepherd is frequently itching, licking their paws, or touching their face, assume an allergy and have your veterinarian examine them.


What Type of Owners Will Do Well with a German Shepherd?

Look no further than a German Shepherd if you're seeking a pet that can pick up lots of tricks! German Shepherds typically create strong ties with their owners and are devoted, caring companions. They are ideal for energetic people or families who enjoy being outside and playing games.

We advise picking a breed with a more laid-back temperament and softer activity requirements if you're unsure about long walks and training.

German Shepherds are canines that bark pretty loudly. This can be resolved with some early reward-based training, but be aware that these methods are not the best for young, hyperactive kids.

German Shepherd and Woman in Forest

Is a German Shepherd a Perfect Match for You?

You might consider getting a German Shepherd if you want a dog that:

  • Is Athletic and Good Looking
  • Is Intelligent and Highly Trainable
  • Is Affectionate with Family and Kids
  • Is Highly Adaptable
  • Is Extremely Loyal

However, if you prefer not to deal with…

  • Sweeping and Vacuuming Dog Fur
  • High-Energy Dogs
  • Chewing
  • Can Inherit Breed-Related Disorders
  • Loud Barks

Then, sadly, a German Shepherd may not be suitable for you.


FAQs About the German Shepherd Breed

Are German Shepherds suitable as family pets?

If properly taught and socialized, German Shepherds make terrific companions for children. Children must be taught the proper ways to interact with dogs, such as avoiding entering their territory without permission.

How come the German Shepherd is so thin?

German shepherds shouldn't be too underweight for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • Parasites or worms
  • Dental problems that make eating unpleasant
  • Not getting enough nutrients through food

Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately for a checkup to figure out what's happening.

Are German Shepherds allergy-friendly?

The German Shepherd breed sheds heavily and continuously throughout the year. They are a breed to avoid if you suffer from allergies since their shedding can scatter pet dander around your house.

How fast is a German shepherd?

German shepherds have a top speed of 30 mph.

Are German Shepherds aggressive animals?

German Shepherds have many outstanding qualities, like being active and passionately loyal. However, their protectiveness may swiftly turn hostile, especially if they have not had the proper training, handling, or socialization.

Luckily, the GSD is brilliant and easy to train. Should you need help, however, consider using a remote training e-collar to supplement dog training. Here are our top picks for the best shock collars for a German Shepherd.


  1. SportDog SD-425X FieldTrainer Remote Training Collar
SportDog 425X FieldTrainer Remote Training Collar
SportDog shock collars were specifically designed for hunting dogs. However, they also make very good basic dog training e-collars. The FieldTrainer 425X remote trainer is a great entry-level e-collar. It's one of the smallest and lightest shock collars available today and comes with a 500-yard range that's ideal for home and yard training. Choose from static, vibration, and tone correction options. Perfect for dogs as small as 8 pounds.
  1. SportDog SD-825X SportHunter Remote Training Collar
SportDOG SD-825X SportHunter 825X Remote Training Collar

The big brother to the 425X, the SportDog SportHunter 825X has a longer range at half a mile. It also features 21 levels of continuous static stimulation,7 levels of momentary stimulation, vibration, and tone. This SportDog e-collar is fully waterproof with low to medium power outputs, making it a fantastic option for training hunting dogs or for basic obedience training.


  1. K-9 Handler K9-800 Remote Training Collar by E-Collar Technologies
K-9 Handler K9-800 Remote Training Collar by E-Collar Technologies
Educator shock collars have risen in popularity in the last few years, with the ET-300 Mini Educator leading the way. The vibrant yellow remote transmitter is eye-catching. The same stopwatch style remote is also available in the K-9 Handler K9-800 remote trainer. But the best feature of this ecollar is the bungee that adds some stretch to the collar. This is especially beneficial if you have a pet that's prone to pulling. Available in 33-inch and 37-inch lengths.
  1. Dogtra 1900S Remote Training Collar Black Edition
Dogtra 1900S Black Edition Remote Training Collar
Dogtra shock collars are some of the best, most dependable, and most durable remote trainers you can find. These e collars can last years and years. Arguably their most popular, the 1900S series is a fantastic collar for basic training, hunting dog training, even K-9 and service dog training. The regular 1900S has a range of 3/4-mile while the black edition is good up to a range of 1-mile.
  1. Boss Educator ET-800 Remote Training Collar by E-Collar Technologies
Boss Educator ET-800 Remote Dog Training Collar Black by E-Collar Technologies

The Boss Educator ET-800 looks very similar to the K-9 Handler, with one key difference. The biothane collar does not have the bungee. This e-collar features a 1-mile range, 100 levels of static stimulation, vibration, and tone. Best for dogs 20 pounds and up.


  1. Easy Educator EZ-900 Remote Training Collar by E-Collar Technologies
Easy Educator EZ-900 Remote Dog Training Collar Yellow by E-Collar Technologies
The Easy Educator EZ-900 is one of only two Educator remote trainers that are do not have the distinctive round remote transmitter. Instead, the EZ-900 transmitter looks quite similar to typical e-collar remotes, albeit with rounded edges. This remote training collar is a powerhouse with 100 levels of static stimulation and 5 stimulation modes. The vibration function can be set to 5 different modes and the tone function has volume control. The EZ-900 is expandable to a 2-dog system, although 3-dog (EZ-903) and 4-dog (EZ-904) versions are also available.
  1. Dogtra Pathfinder 2 Remote Training Collar with GPS
Dogtra Pathfinder 2 Remote Training Collar
The Dogtra Pathfinder 2 is easily one of the pricier e-collars around. However, this remote trainer isn't your regular e-collar. The Pathfinder 2 comes with GPS functionality. If you have a dog that's prone to bolting or if you plan to take your pet hunting, this collar will ensure you always know where they are. The best part? You can also control the collar from your smartphone.


If annoying barking is a problem with your pet, here are some of the best bark collars for large dogs that may help:

  1. SportDog SBC-R No Bark Collar

SportDOG SBC-R No Bark Collar 

The SportDOG SBC-R is designed to end your German Shepherd's bothersome barking reliably and securely. It includes three (3) training modes: temperament learning, progressive correction, user-selected correction mode, and ten (10) stimulation levels. The exclusive Silent Partner technology recognizes and learns the characteristics of your dog's bark to ensure that correction is only given when your dog barks. 


  1. Dogtra YS600 No Bark Collar
Dogtra YS600 No Bark Collar

The Dogtra YS600 is a remote e-collar suitable for large, stubborn working dogs weighing 35 pounds or more. The YS600 comes in a sleek design with a powerful yet smaller and lighter bark sensor. It has vibration and 10 manual adjustable intensity stimulation settings that offer a wide range of output for any temperament, including the most persistent barking dogs. The Dogtra YS600 bark control collar can be recharged using the new 2-hour fast-charge battery.


  1. Barkless Pro BP-504 No Bark Collar by E-Collar Technologies
E-collar Technologies BP-504 Barkless Pro Anti Bark Collar No Bark Collar

E-Collar Technologies' only entry to the no bark collar space is the backless Pro BP-504. This anti bark collar has 9 static stimulation levels with 3 sensitivity levels from low to high. Waterproof and shock-resistant, the BP-504 has a bark counter feature to track your pet's barking behavior, letting you make more accurate adjustments. It's one of the best bang for your buck (bark for your buck?) collars you can get.


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