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German Shepherd dog breed information, Personality, Health, Grooming And Nutrition

Written by: Peter Laskay
Reviewed by: Amber LaRock
Last updated on:
german shepherd

There are almost no people who have never seen a film starring a German Shepherd. This breed is not only in America but one of the best known and most popular dog breeds in the world. This is no coincidence. Its beautiful wolf-like appearance is associated with impressive intelligence and other positive abilities. They are extremely versatile dogs. From my article, you can learn a lot about the history of this breed, personality, grooming and feeding tips, and other useful information. I hope you get to know these dogs better and you get the urge to adopt one of them.

Let’s start!

german shepherd

Basic stats:

  • Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
  • Breed Group: Herding Dogs
  • Weight: 65-90 pounds (male), 50-70 pounds (female)
  • Life span: 7-10 years

About German Shepherds In Brief

The German Shepherd is one of the best-known breeds in the world. It is among the top 10 dogs in the US. In Britain and even some European countries, it is also referred to as Alsatian.

One of the most famous German Shepherds is called Rin Tin Tin. This dog was rescued by Corporal Lee Duncan from a French breeding kennel during World War I. 

When the war was over, Duncan took the puppy to Los Angeles, where he trained him. Soon, Rin Tin Tin became one of the most famous dogs in show business with dozens of film appearances.

These dogs’ performance is great in other jobs as well. Examples include guide dogs, chasing criminals, sniffing out drugs, and military service. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, German Shepherds searched for survivors at the ruins of the World Trade Center. The list could be listed for a long time to come.

From the above, you can see that this breed has plenty of positive traits. But not everyone should buy such a dog. German Shepherds are very energetic and need a lot of exercise. If they don’t get this, they can show bad behavior. Examples include excessive barking and chewing.

They are very suitable for watchdogs, but they are less friendly than other family dogs. Unlike Labrador Retrievers, they are not necessarily kind and friendly to strangers coming to your house. Of course, if they are properly trained at a young age and exposed to a wide variety of situations and people, this behavior can be greatly improved.

In terms of breeding, we distinguish two types of German Shepherds. One is American and the other is German. The goal of American breeders is usually to breed perfect German Shepherds for dog shows. In contrast, German breeders like to breed as talented dogs as possible. (Of course, this does not mean that an American German Shepherd would not be talented or that a German Shepherd from a German breeder would not be beautiful.)

Many people say that American-bred German Shepherds are much calmer. However, many critics argue that these dogs are less suitable for the original German Shepherd jobs. In addition, they are much more prone to show behavioral problems (e.g., separation anxiety).

In contrast, German breeders test German Shepherds in a variety of ways before they start breeding them. These dogs must meet certain physical and mental requirements that are specific to this breed. German Shepherds from German breeders are generally more energetic.

If these differences are important to you and you don’t want to leave to chance what your German Shepherd will be like, be sure to go to the shelter and meet the puppies you will want to choose from.

History Of German Shepherds

The German Shepherd is a not too old dog breed. Its origins date back to 1899. Captain Max von Stephanitz, career captain in the German cavalry, bred these dogs. His goal was to create a breed that would do its job perfectly as a herding dog.

Farmers in Germany have been using dogs to drive and protect their herds for centuries. There were very skillful dogs, and even then there were attempts to breed proper herding canines. However, no one has developed a distinct breed for this purpose.

Stephanitz began his breeding career in 1898. His goal was to create the perfect German herding dog. The British had very talented herding dogs. This is why he studied their breeding techniques. He also tried to visit as many dog ​​shows as possible in Germany to observe the herding dogs there.

Von Stephanitz saw many excellent dogs who had fantastic traits. Examples are intelligence, athleticism, capability, and so on. However, he did not come across a dog that had all the positive traits. Of course, after that, it became an even more important goal for him.

In 1899 he bought a wolf-looking dog named Hektor Linksrhein. The dog (who had a very strong physique and intelligence) was later renamed Horand v Grafeth. Encouraged by success, Stephanitz founded a society called Verein für Deutsche Schaferhunde. He later bred Horand’s descendants here.

Stephanitz saw that due to industrialization, there is less and less need for herding dogs. Therefore, he decided that he needed to develop a breed that could do other jobs well. Examples are police work and military service.

Stephanitz’s German Shepherds served during the First World War as guard dogs, Red Cross dogs, supply carrier, messenger, rescuer, and sentry. (He was able to handle this because of his military connections.)

During the war, everyone in the US noticed the beneficial qualities of German Shepherds. Then these dogs became really popular. (Although they have reached this country before.) Plenty of German Shepherds were taken home by Allied soldiers. One example of this was the five-day-old puppy already mentioned in my article. A Los Angeles corporal took him. This doggie became Rin Tin Tin, a Hollywood star who has appeared in 26 movies.

The Allies loved these German dogs very much, but they did not like the dogs’ German roots. That is, they were not satisfied with anything that had anything to do with Germany. Because of this, the American Kennel Club changed the breed name to Shepherd Dog.

In England, these dogs were named Alsatian Wolf Dogs. This was due to the German-French border area of ​​Alsace-Lorraine. In 1931, the American Kennel Club renamed them to German Shepherds. The British Kennel Club did not make the same move until 1977.

Von Stephanitz wanted to further develop this breed. As dogs started to show various bad traits (inadequate temperament, a tendency to tooth decay), he developed a stricter quality control system. Before breeding, every German Shepherd had to pass plenty of tests. These tests assessed their intelligence, athletics, temperament, and health status.

American breeders were not that strict. They were more interested in appearance, movement, and gait. After all, their goal was to participate and win in dog shows.

After a while, there were huge differences between American and German German Shepherds. The U.S. Army and police began employing German Shepherd working dogs. This was because self-bred dogs failed performance tests and also suffered from various genetic conditions.

The situation has improved in recent decades. American breeders have added dogs brought from Germany to their program. After that, the emphasis was not only on appearance but also on the advantageous abilities typical of German Shepherds.

Some Interesting Facts About German Shepherds

  • Some German Shepherds can be affected with dwarfism

  • There was a play in the mid-80s featuring six German Shepherds

  • The first service dog was a German Shepherd named Buddy

  • A sport named Schutzhund was invented for German Shepherds

  • There is a club called “The Thirteen Club” for senior German Shepherds


The personality of the German Shepherds is special. They don’t make friends easily. However, they will be extremely loyal to the person they like. They are aloof but not aggressive at all. They are very easy-going with their family. They are strong and protective. Because of this, they can be said to be excellent watchdogs.

Because of their high intelligence, they can be taught anything. And they demand all of that, as they are happy to have a job. They don’t like to be alone. They require company, exercise, and a variety of physical and mental stimulation. Without these things, they become bored and frustrated. If a German Shepherd has no task, he will negatively drain his excess energies. Examples include excessive chewing, barking, and other forms of misbehavior.

All dogs need early socialization. German Shepherds are no exception. It is important to expose these dogs to a wide variety of people, animals, situations, and sounds in a timely manner. These things can shape their personality in a very positive way.

german shepherd

Health care

German Shepherds are very healthy dogs. It is practically one of the healthiest breeds. However, there are some diseases to which they are also prone. Not all of the following will occur in your dog; in fact, maybe none of them will occur. However, you should definitely be aware of the risks.

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition. The bottom line is that the femur doesn’t fit perfectly with the hip joint. Symptoms include pain and lameness. Sometimes there are dogs that remain completely asymptomatic. Over time, this disease can even develop into arthritis. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program performs appropriate screening for this disease. Of course, since this is an inherited condition, German Shepherds with hip dysplasia should not be bred.

  • Elbow Dysplasia: It is also an inherited disease. The three bones that make up the elbow grow at different rates, resulting in joint laxity. It occurs mainly in large dogs. The symptoms are pain and lameness. Treatment is determined by your veterinarian and can be surgery or painkillers.

  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: This is called bloat and is a very dangerous condition. It is most common in large, deep-chested dogs. The triggers include one big meal a day, a lot of water after eating, excessive exercise after eating. In these cases, a lot of air can get into the stomach and it will twist. As a result, the blood supply will not be adequate and the blood will not be able to return to the heart normally. The dog’s blood pressure drops and a state of shock can develop. Without medical care, this event can be fatal. Watch for symptoms. These are the distended abdomen, excessive salivation, restlessness, and depression.

  • Degenerative Myelopathy: It is a progressive disease of the spinal cord. It affects the part that sends information about the hind legs to the brain. Dogs with this disease are unable to move their hind legs properly. Worse, they may not be able to walk. There is no cure and treatment for this condition. Most dogs with DM are euthanized. In some cases, this condition can be caused by a lack of certain vitamins (B-12 or E). In this case, proper vitamin supplements can cure the disease.

  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: It is a disease of genetic origin in the pancreas. Cells that produce digestive enzymes are killed, so digestion will be insufficient. Symptoms include gas, loss of appetite, weight loss, and altered stools. This disease is diagnosed with a blood test, and the treatment is also straightforward. Using enzyme supplements solves the problem in most cases.

  • Allergies: Almost all dog breeds are prone to allergies. So it is with German Shepherds. Allergy types and symptoms are similar to people’s. If you see your German Shepherd scratching remarkably a lot or licking his paw, visit your vet.

Feeding and nutrition

German Shepherds are large dogs with a lot of exercise needs. Be sure to adjust your dog’s diet accordingly. The dietary needs are completely different for puppies, adults, and seniors. If you want to be sure, ask your veterinarian or a dog nutritionist for help.

You need to be especially careful with German Shepherd puppies. They grow very quickly between the ages of four and seven months. This makes them very susceptible to various bone diseases. They are worth feeding them high-quality low-calorie foods.

The joints of puppies are fully formed by the age of two. Before this age, do not allow your German Shepherd puppy to play, jump, or run on hard surfaces (e.g. pavement). Instead, aim for the play area to be some sort of soft grassy area.

Being overweight or obese can also cause joint problems and other diseases. Don’t give your dogs a lot of treats. Give them enough exercise, and don’t always leave food in an accessible place for them. Instead, have regular meal times.

german shepherd

Coat And Grooming

German Shepherds were bred to be able to withstand colder weather. Their medium-long double-coat is perfect for this. It protects them from rain, snow, and all other harsh weather conditions.

The coat of these dogs can be varied. Although the “original” German Shepherds have a medium-length double coat, some have long hair. The outer coat is dense and strong. Sometimes it can be wavy. 

The colors and patterns of the coat can be varied. The following colors may occur: black, black and cream, black and red, black and silver, black and tan, blue, gray, liver, sable, and white. (The American Kennel Club does not recognize white as the color of the breed.)

Keeping German Shepherds involves a lot of hair. They shed year-round but shed a lot of hair twice a year. You have to accept that. Maintain, on the other hand, is no problem. By brushing your dog every two to three days, you can prevent a significant amount of hair from getting on your furniture.

Due to the huge amount of hair shedding, German Shepherds do not need to bathe often. Anyway, frequent bathing eliminates healthy oil coats. So make sure you bathe your dog when it’s really necessary.

Nail trimming is very important, it should be done monthly. German Shepherds can be very well trained, but if your dog is afraid of trimming, you may want to get a dog nail grinder. Check your dog’s ears weekly for dirt, bad smell, or redness. Use a well-balanced ear cleaner for dogs. Make sure that no fluid enters the ear canal.

German Shepherd dogs love to chew. This is not a problem either, as a lot of chewing keeps your teeth clean. With dental chew toys or bones, there is less chance of tartar buildup. Sometimes you can even brush your puppy’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste. This will help keep the gums and teeth healthy.


In order for German Shepherds to feel good physically and mentally, they need plenty of exercise. If this is lacking, they will be frustrated and develop undesirable behavior. 

Puppies should also start regular daily walks, as well as play sessions. Do the latter in an area with a secure fence. 

German Shepherds are very fond of dog activities such as agility, herding, tracking, and dock diving. They perform excellently in these and these are fun for both owners and dogs.


Starting obedience training as soon as possible will help our German Shepherd become a well-mannered adult. Early socialization and puppy training classes also help in this

These dogs are extremely intelligent and excellent workers. Consistency and positive rewards are paramount in training. 

A proper German Shepherd harness can be a good idea during training.

German Shepherds are very strongly bonded to their loved ones and families and are happiest with them. They are happy to be involved in any family activity. Visit the German Shepherd Dog Club of America website for more information.

Behavior With Children And Other Pets

German Shepherds get along very well with children if they have received proper training and socialization. They are both caring and protective. However, they are not necessarily friendly at first with every child they do not know. We must not forget that these are large dogs and can even cause damage by accident.

It is very important that you teach not only your dog how to behave with children, but also your children how to behave with dogs. Explain to them where dogs should and should not be caressed, or that they should not be approached while eating, and so on. If you follow this advice, your German Shepherd and your kids will be really good friends.

These dogs can be successfully taught to live with other dogs and pets without any problems. However, without early socialization, this is quite difficult to accomplish. In such cases, you may want to seek the help of a professional trainer.


As you may have noticed, German Shepherds are wonderful creatures with lots of positive traits. Therefore, it is no wonder that this breed has become so famous and popular in the world. If you follow the advice described in this article, you can be sure that you can get the best out of your own dog. I really hope my article got you in the mood to have a German Shepherd of your own.

german shepherd

Frequently Asked Questions About German Shepherds

Is a German Shepherd a good family dog?

German Shepherds are perfect choices for families. They are very gentle companions, yet extremely protective. Of course, a prerequisite for this is proper training and early socialization.

What kind of dog is a German shepherd?

The official classification of this breed is herding dog as it was developed for herding sheep. Nevertheless, these dogs are also very good working dogs.

Can German shepherds stay home alone?

German Shepherds feel best in family companions. For this reason, they should not be left alone. Leave puppies alone for up to 3 hours and adults for up to 4 hours. Before that, provide enough food and exercise.

What is the rarest German shepherd color?

Although the liver-colored coat is quite common in breeds, it is a rare color in German Shepherds.

What is the best age to get a German shepherd puppy?

The most ideal age to adopt a German Shepherd is 7-8 weeks.

Photo of author
Hey, my name is Peter, and I am the owner of this site. I have loved animals since I was a kid. I am constantly training myself; I recently obtained an accredited certificate in pet nutrition. But I am constantly learning about training, grooming for dogs and cats. I am currently a happy owner of two dogs, six cats, and two red-eared sliders. My goal is to provide my visitors with the most authentic information possible on any pet-related topic.
Amber LaRock
Reviewed By An Expert:

My name is Amber, and I am a licensed vet tech with 10 years of experience in the field. I spent the majority of my career working in emergency medicine but recently transitioned to creating accurate pet care information online. There is nothing more important to me than helping pet owners understand their furry friend’s health, and giving you the tools you need to offer your pet the best future possible!

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