Originally bred to assist shepherds with herding and protecting sheep and other livestock, the German Shepherd is an exceptionally intelligent working dog breed. They excel as guardians in positions of service and make for loving and loyal additions to the family. Both females and males of this breed tend to have strong, muscular features, thick coats, and sharp intelligence. The steadfast nature that this breed is well known for. But some features set the sexes apart. So, what are the differences between a male vs. female German Shepherd?
Comparing a Male and Female German Shepherd
|Male German Shepherd||Female German Shepherd|
|Size||24-26 in. at shoulders, 65-90 lbs.||22-24 in. at shoulders, 50-70 lbs.|
|Physical Traits||Broader features||Narrower features|
|Reproduction||Fertile at 6 mo., sexual maturity at 12-15 mo., fertile anytime.||Fertile at first heat cycle at 9-12 mo., sexual maturity at 2 years. Fertile only during heat cycles every 6 mo.|
|Health||Risks of early neutering: increased risk of joint disorders||Risks of early spaying: increased risk of joint disorders, urinary incontinence|
|Temperament||Higher boldness & aggression tend toward playful companionship||Less boldness & aggression, Tend toward cooperative companionship|
|Training||Highly trainable, may require more patience and persistence||Highly trainable, learn quickly|
Key Differences Between a Male and Female German Shepherd
The key differences between male vs. female german shepherds are their size, physical traits, reproductive role, health considerations, temperament and responses to training.
While male and female German Shepherds look identical to the untrained eye, we’ll discuss some subtle differences in size and appearance that can help you to tell them apart. Their reproductive roles are clearly distinct, with males responsible for fertilization during mating and females taking the role of carrying, birthing and nursing the pups. Males and females reach sexual maturity at different ages. There are specific health considerations to be aware of that vary between the sexes. Temperament and response to training may also vary slightly. Let’s take a closer look at these differences between a male vs. female German Shepherd.
Male vs. Female German Shepherd: Size
The German Shepherd is a medium-sized, powerful and well-muscled dog breed. According to the breed standard, male German Shepherds are 24 to 26 inches tall at the shoulders, while females stand 22 to 24 inches. Males within the standard range will weigh between 65 and 90 pounds. Females are typically lighter, weighing in at 50 to 70 pounds. German shepherds of both sexes will reach their full adult height by the time they are 10-18 months old but may continue to fill out until 3 years of age.
Male vs. Female German Shepherd: Physical Traits
In addition to being taller and heavier, males are also broader and more muscular than females. Male German Shepherds tend to have larger and broader heads and a thicker, more muscular build overall. Female German Shepherds are also muscular but tend to have more narrow features than males.
Male vs. Female German Shepherd: Reproduction
The most notable difference between male and female German Shepherds is their reproductive systems and roles. If you plan to breed your German Shepherd, you may want to check out the AKC’s guide to responsible breeding. Male German Shepherds become fertile at about 6 months and reach sexual maturity at 12 to 15 months. While males can mate at any time, females are only fertile when they are in heat. A female German Shepherd will experience her first heat cycle at 9 to 12 months old. On average, she will go into heat every 6 months or so. The fertile stage of this cycle will last from 4 to 15 days. If you aren’t planning for puppies, make sure to keep your female German Shepard away from male dogs at this time.
Male vs. Female German Shepherd: Health Considerations
It is a widespread practice to neuter male dogs and spay female dogs to prevent overpopulation or to reduce unwanted behaviors. It’s not uncommon for this to be done before 6 months, but waiting until your dog is at least a year old is much safer, as gonadal hormones are vital to healthy growth and development.
A study in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Science found that neutering or spaying before 12 months of age triples the risk of joint disorders for both male and female German Shepherds. The study also found that urinary incontinence was a significant risk for female German Shepherds with early spaying.
Male vs Female German Shepherd: Temperament
German Shepherds, as a whole, are hard-working, loyal and intelligent dogs. They are known to be fearless and confident and tend to be aloof with strangers. Their protective and dependable nature makes them a great option for families, and they are excellent guard dogs. They quietly stand their ground with eager and alert dispositions. While differences in temperament typically come down to the individual dog and its unique makeup, there are some general sex-based trends.
Neither male nor female German Shepherds deserve a reputation for aggression. However, studies do suggest that male German Shepherds demonstrate higher levels of boldness and aggression than their female counterparts. It’s expected that in some contexts, such as protecting offspring, females would show higher aggression. They also find that in terms of engaging with human companions, females are more likely to participate in cooperative tasks, while males are more likely to engage in play.
Male vs Female German Shepherd: Response to Training
German Shepherds, whether male or female, respond exceptionally well to training. Early socialization is key and puppy training classes early can be vital to success. Continued obedience training through early adulthood will allow your German Shepherd to mature into a well-mannered adult and reach his or her full potential. German Shepherds of both sexes respond well to consistency and reward-based training. While both are highly intelligent and eager to learn, female German Shepherds may be easier to train. Male German Shepherds might tend to compete for the dominant position and require more patience and persistence.
Male German Shepherds are most often trained for the roles of guard dog and protector, working dogs in herding, police and military work, and guide dogs. Female German Shepherds excel in protective roles, agility contests, sporting events and as family companions. While one or the other sex may be chosen more often for a particular role, male and female German Shepherds can adapt to any of these roles. Both male and female German Shepherds make for hard-working partners, dependable protectors, and loyal companions.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Dolores M. Harvey/Shutterstock.com
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