German Shepherd Guide

Canis Lupus

Last updated: September 24, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Rita_Kochmarjova/Shutterstock.com

Highly active and fearless dogs!

German Shepherd Guide Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Canidae
Genus
Canis
Scientific Name
Canis Lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

German Shepherd Guide Conservation Status

German Shepherd Guide Locations

German Shepherd Guide Locations

German Shepherd Guide Facts

Diet
Omnivore
Common Name
German Shepherd
Slogan
Highly active and fearless dogs!
Group
Herd

German Shepherd Guide Physical Characteristics

Skin Type
Hair
Lifespan
12 years
Weight
43kg (95lbs)

German Shepherd Guide as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Shedability
Trainability
Intelligence
Tendency to Chew
Size
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Moderate
Separation Anxiety
High
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
High
Friendly With Other Dogs
Moderate
Pure bred cost to own
$500-$1,500
Dog group
Working
Male weight
75-90 lbs
Female weight
- lbs

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The German shepherd, or Alsatian, as British dog lovers call them, is the second most popular dog breed in the United States.

This working dog from the herding group features a luxurious double coat that can be anywhere from medium to long and comes in a variety of colors such as the traditional black and tan, solid white or solid black. Their exceptional intelligence and adaptability make them well-suited for a wide array of jobs, including police work, service training and, of course, loving companion.

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This breed gets a bad reputation for aggressive behavior, but in reality, these dogs are more aloof with strangers than aggressive. As with any other breed, reputable breeders and early and consistent training determine the dog’s personality. These dogs can alter their personalities to fit their owner and training, so it’s up to the owner to show them how they should behave.

The Different Types of German Shepherd and German Shepherd Mixes

There are quite a few German Shepherd crossbreeds, including:

3 Pros and Cons of Owning a German Shepherd

Pros!Cons!
They are beautiful dogs.
German shepherds are well-known for their thick, luxurious coat and come in a variety of attractive colors like black and tan, solid black and solid white.
They have an aggressive reputation.
Though their reputation isn’t accurate, many people see this breed as aggressive. Due to this misconception, your dog may not be welcome in dog parks, and new friends may be hesitant to visit your home. Your homeowner’s insurance premium could be higher than average as well.
They have a long lifespan.
German shepherds live for about 10 to 14 years, which means you’ll get to enjoy time with your canine companion for years to come.
They shed excessively.
Throughout most of the year, a German shepherd’s hair is manageable when you brush them multiple times a week, but during the two times they shed their coats each year, you’ll need to brush them at least once each day to keep ahead of the shedding.
They are highly intelligent and easy to train.
Unlike most intelligent breeds, German shepherds are eager to please their masters, which makes training them a joy. This trait is what makes them highly skilled working dogs in both service fields and police training.
They can be destructive if they don’t get enough attention.
German shepherds thoroughly attach themselves to their families, so if you leave them home alone for long periods, they will develop separation anxiety. This anxiety can lead to extremely destructive behavior that will not only destroy your home but can cause health issues in your pup as well.

German Shepherd Size and Weight

On average, German shepherds weigh between 75 and 90 pounds and stand 22 to 26 inches high at the shoulder. The males of this breed tend to be larger than the females.

German Shepherd Common Health Issues

Like many purebred dogs, German shepherds are prone to some fairly serious health conditions. One such condition, degenerative myelopathy, is a neurological disease that targets the spinal cord. It tends to come on later in life and leads to reduced mobility.

Health and Entertainment for your German Shepherd Guide

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Bloating is another life-threatening concern for this breed, so owners should establish proper eating routines from an early age. Owners can reduce the occurrence of bloating by feeding smaller meals throughout the day, using a dish that forces a dog to eat slowly, use an elevated feeder and prevent heavy exercise for up to two hours after each meal.

This breed can also develop other serious conditions such as:

  • Epilepsy
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia
  • von Willebrand’s Disease
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Skin allergies
  • Lupus
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Perianal fistulas
  • Pannus
  • Pancreatic enzyme inefficiency
  • Panosteitis

German Shepherd Temperament

This breed has a certain level of dignity that many other breeds don’t possess, which means you’ll have to work for their friendship. Though it may take them longer to bond and make new friends than other dogs, once that friendship is forged, they make extremely loyal companions.

These dogs are one of the most intelligent dog breeds, which makes them excel at any job their owner chooses. They are also quite sensitive and hate being left alone, so if you spend much of your time away from home and can’t take your dog with you, a German shepherd is not the right dog for you.

Aggression in German Shepherds

Another myth is that German shepherds aren’t good with kids. On the contrary, their high energy, extreme trainability and loyalty are all excellent traits for family pets. Due to their adult size and strength, early training and socialization around children are imperative to prevent injuries. It is also vital that parents teach their children how to interact with dogs safely.

Contrary to popular belief, these dogs are not naturally aggressive dogs. One of the biggest myths about this breed is that even if they begin life as docile animals, they will develop aggression. Many times, the public bases its opinion of this breed on dogs that work in jobs that require selective aggressive tendencies, like the kind that is common in police dogs. Training is the most important factor in determining aggression in any dog. Since German shepherds are so adaptable and eager to please, owners can teach them calm behavior just as easily as aggressive behavior. That’s not to say a well-trained German shepherd will never become aggressive; any dog who feels threatened may display aggressive behaviors to defend itself.

Along these lines, German shepherds also have a bad and unfairly earned reputation for biting. This reputation is another behavior that some owners train into their dogs, leaving all German shepherds with a bad rap. In reality, labrador retrievers account for more bites on a yearly basis than German shepherds do. For most dogs, biting occurs when they are afraid, so proper training and socialization are imperative to keep your dog from displaying behaviors that could be deemed aggressive.

How To Take Care of a German Shepherd

If you want the best dog food for your german shepherd first you need to consider whether your dog is still a puppy, an adult, or a senior dog. Smaller breeds mature to adulthood in about 10 months, a little under a year. While larger breeds, like German Shepherds, typically mature at 16 months, or about a year a half. Most breeds are considered a senior at 10 years, though some very large breeds (100lb+) hit that milestone a little earlier around year 8.

Based on the size, coat length, and specific health considerations for german shepherds our team recommends the following:

German shepherds do well on high-quality food formulated especially for large breeds. These dogs tend to have somewhat sensitive stomachs, so they should only eat human food sparingly, if at all. If you do choose to feed your dog table scraps, you should avoid fatty foods and never feed them cooked bones. When dogs eat cooked bones, the bones break into splintery shards that can perforate their stomach or bowels on their way through the digestive system.

The Best Dog Food for German Shepherds

There are many health problems that can plague German Shepherds, so owners have to try their best to find a dog food that has the correct nutritional profile to keep them up and moving.

At A-Z Animals, we’ve taken a look at Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition German Shepherd Loaf in Sauce Wet Dog Food, and we think it could be a good option for your German Shepherd.

First and foremost, this food has glucosamine, calcium, and chondroitin for hips and elbows that hold up under German Shepherds’ frame and keep them mobile. The pork and chicken provide lots of high-quality protein for lean muscle, with other vital nutrients like riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins.

Check Chewy or Amazon for this product.

Overall Best
Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition German Shepherd
  • Rich in fiber
  • Supports muscle and joint health
  • Boosts immunity and muscle and brain growth
  • Especially formulated for German Shepherds
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Best German Shepherd Insurance

Like any other purebred dog, you’ll need to find pet insurance that covers the hereditary genetic disorders associated with a German shepherd.

German Shepherd Maintenance And Grooming

All German shepherds have a thick double coat consisting of a soft, dense undercoat and a coarse, water-resistant topcoat that is medium to long. Their coat is easy to maintain most of the year by brushing them every few days. Twice a year, they go through a major shedding spree called blowing, a month-long process in which they lose their seasonal undercoat. During the blowing season, you will need to brush your dog daily to avoid matting and hair build-up around the house.

Aside from brushing, the maintenance routine for a German shepherd is straightforward. All you need to do is brush their teeth regularly and trim their nails monthly. This breed is fairly clean with only a slight odor, so they only need bathing a few times a year.

German Shepherd Training

Unlike many intelligent breeds, German shepherds are eager to please their owners, which makes them a joy to train. All herding dogs have a certain level of protectiveness toward their families, so proper training and socialization should start immediately to show them that not every stranger means them harm.

German Shepherd Exercise

German shepherds are an active breed and require copious amounts of exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Since these dogs are highly intelligent, their exercise choices need not end at walks or backyard play. Dogs and owners alike can enjoy intellectual and agility-based activities like tracking and herding to create an unbreakable bond between them.

German Shepherd Puppies

As with all puppies, weeks 7 to 12 are the most crucial when it comes to proper socialization for German shepherds. If you want your dog to get along well with children or other pets, this is the optimal window to have them accept other members of their new family without many questions. That’s not to say you can’t teach your dog to get along with kids and other animals down the road, but the more exposure you can give your pup to all types of situations when they are young, the more likely you will be to have a calm, well-adjusted adult dog.

German shepherds don’t become adults until they are about 3 years old, so remember to be patient with your dog even when he looks like he’s outgrown his puppyhood.

German shepherd puppies

Rita_Kochmarjova/Shutterstock.com

German Shepherds And Children

If you raise your German shepherd with children from the start, they get along famously with all members of the family. That said, they are high-energy dogs who don’t always realize how big they are. Owners should take time to teach both dog and child how to safely interact with one another and never leave them unsupervised to avoid accidental injuries.

It is in the nature of a German shepherd to be aloof towards strangers, however, and children are no exception. It is vital for any owner who plans to have their dog around unfamiliar children to socialize them extensively and train them for this task at a young age. At the same time, parents should take care to teach their children the proper way to approach any unknown dog.

Dogs Similar to the German Shepherd

A few breeds that are similar in size or personality to German shepherds are Australian shepherds, Collies and Old English sheepdogs.

Famous German Shepherds

Though there have been quite a number of famous German shepherds throughout history, the one who brought his breed into the spotlight was Rin-Tin-Tin. Corporal Lee Duncan found Rin-Tin-Tin and his littermates during World War 1 in the small French village of Flirey. Duncan raised the pup as his own and taught him an expansive collection of tricks. Rin-Tin-Tin’s impressive intelligence ultimately landed him a number of movie deals. Over the course of his illustrious career, he often played the part of a wolf because movie directors found him much easier to work with than an actual wolf. This famous pup was the original key to the success of the Warner Brothers film company.

A few popular names for theses dogs are:

  • Ruger
  • Bandit
  • Ace
  • Tucker
  • Diesel
  • Maggie
  • Daisy
  • Harley
  • Sasha
  • Lady

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What's the right dog for you?

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If you have kids or existing dogs select:

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The lower energy the better.
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About average energy.
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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

German Shepherd Guide FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the scientific name for a German shepherd?

The scientific name for a German shepherd is Canis lupus familiaris. This breed is also known among British dog lovers as the Alsatian.

How long do German Shepherds live?

German shepherds live for an average of 10 to 14 years.

Are German shepherds aggressive?

Despite pop culture giving them a bad reputation for aggressive behavior, most German Shepherds are more aloof than aggressive. As with any breed, care in breeding, training and socialization is what determines a dog’s behavior.

Do German shepherds make good family dogs?

German Shepherds are loyal, intelligent and eager to please, which makes them excellent family dogs.

How big do German shepherds get?

German Shepherds often weigh between 75 and 90 pounds and stand 22 to 26 inches high at the shoulder. Males are usually bigger than females.

Are Shiloh shepherds and German shepherds the same breed?

No. While Shiloh shepherds and German shepherds look similar and have similar temperaments, they are different breeds. The main difference between them is that German shepherds are purebreds, while Shiloh shepherds are a mixed breed with Alaskan Malamute and German shepherd roots.

Are German Shepherds herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

German Shepherds are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do German Shepherds belong to?

German Shepherds belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What class do German Shepherds belong to?

German Shepherds belong to the class Mammalia.

What phylum to German Shepherds belong to?

German Shepherds belong to the phylum Chordata.

What family do German Shepherds belong to?

German Shepherds belong to the family Canidae.

What order do German Shepherds belong to?

German Shepherds belong to the order Carnivora.

What type of covering do German Shepherds have?

German Shepherds are covered in Hair.

What genus do German Shepherds belong to?

German Shepherds belong to the genus Canis.

What is an interesting fact about German Shepherds?

German Shepherds are highly active and fearless dogs!

What's the difference between German shepherds and king shepherds?

German shepherds are purebred dogs while king shepherds are not. King shepherds are also larger dogs overall.

What's the difference between German Shepherds and Rottweilers?

There are a few key differences between Rottweilers and German Shepherds, namely that Rottweilers grow far larger than German shepherds on average. German Shepherds also have thicker fur compared to the short fur of the Rottweiler.

What's the difference between German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds?

There are many differences between German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds. Australian Shepherds come in more colors and markings than German Shepherds, while German Shepherds grow larger than Australian Shepherds on average.

What's the difference between German Shepherds and golden retrievers?

German Shepherds grow larger than golden retrievers, and they were bred for different purposes. Golden retrievers also have floppy ears, while German Shepherds have pointed ears.

What's the difference between German Shepherds and Norwegian Elkhounds?

German Shepherds are larger than Norwegian Elkhounds, and they also have longer ears and noses. Additionally, Norwegian Elkhounds are an ancient dog breed from Europe, while the German Shepherd originated in Germany during the 1800s.

Which is a better guard dog: Doberman Vs German Shepherd?

The Doberman is the better guard dog due to its size, trainability and adaptability, and temperament.

The Doberman and the German Shepherd are both versatile breeds able to adapt to nearly any situation and anyone with enough training and socialization.

What's the difference between the German Shepherd and the Belgian Shepherd?

The German Shepherd is larger than the Belgian Shepherd, while the Belgian Shepherd is more friendly compared to the aloof German Shepherd. Additionally, these breeds originated in different locations, despite being bred for the same type of work.

What's the difference between the German Shepherd and the Belgian Tervuren?

The German Shepherd is larger than the Belgian Tervuren, while the Tervuren has a slightly longer lifespan. Both of these dogs were bred as herding breeds, though the German Shepherd works in police more than the Belgian Tervuren.

What's the difference between the German Shepherd and the Akita?

The Akita grows larger than the German Shepherd, though their sizes often overlap. In addition, the Akita was originally bred for hunting, while the German Shepherd was originally bred for herding.

What's the difference between German Shepherds and Dutch Shepherds??

The main differences between a German and Dutch Shepherd are their size, coat, lifespan, popularity, country of origin, and price. German Shepherds are larger with shorter lifespans, a wide variety of coat colors, and immense popularity, which leads to most breeders charging less for puppies.

What are the key differences between Catahoula Leopard Dogs and German Shepherds?

The key differences between Catahoula Leopard Dogs and German Shepherds are appearance, coat, temperament, health issues, exercise, and training.

What are the key differences between Beauceron and German Shepherd?

The key difference between a Beauceron and a German Shepherd is temperament. Shepherds tend to be more affectionate and easy to train, while Beaucerons are more independent.

Other important differences include size, appearance, lifespan, trainability, energy level, grooming needs, and drooling level.

What are the differences between German Shepherds and Kangals?

The major difference between German Shepherds and Kangal Shepherds is size. Other key differences include appearance, lifespan, and barking level.

Sources
  1. American Kennel Club, Available here: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog/
  2. Dogtime, Available here: https://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog#/slide/1
  3. Jubilant Pups, Available here: https://jubilantpups.com/owning-a-german-shepherd-pros-and-cons/
  4. Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue, Available here: https://magsr.org/content/gsd-health-issues
  5. Deutscher Schaeferhund, Available here: https://deutscher-schaeferhund.org/german-shepherds-aggressive-myths/
  6. Total German Shepherd, Available here: https://www.total-german-shepherd.com/GSD-development.html
  7. The Happy Puppy Site, Available here: https://thehappypuppysite.com/are-german-shepherds-good-with-kids/#:~:text=German%20Shepherds%20and%20Kids,and%20plenty%20of%20loving%20attention.
  8. War History Online, Available here: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/rin-tin-tin-the-famous-dog.html

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