Animal-World > Dogs > Herding Dogs > German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd

Alsation, GSD, Deutscher Schaferhund

Family: Canidae German Sheperd, Long Haired German ShepherdCanis lupus familiarisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Justin Brough
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Your comments concerning breed standard height/weight for German Shepherds is a colossal joke.Show people,breeders have ruined the breed...period. Furthermore,... (more)  F.D.Maloney

   The German Shepherd is a well-balanced dog in both temperament and physical appearance.

The German Shepherd dog is more even-tempered than some of the other herding breeds. Whether you have a long haired German Shepherd or a short haired German Shepherd, these handsome dogs make an excellent family pet. It is also highly intelligent and trainable, making it a great herding and work dog. These qualities make this breed a favorite of many dog enthusiasts.

The German Shepherd, or GSD, is a highly trainable, intelligent, and loyal breed. It is generally friendly and even-tempered, though is a protective guard dog when needed. Its trainable nature makes it a great pick for a range of work or competitions. Due to its well-balanced nature and many positive qualities, it is a highly favored dog by many pet owners throughout the world.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: lupus familiaris
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Common Name(s)   German Shepherd Dog, Alsation, GSD, Deutscher Schaferhund

Breed Type   This breed is a member of the herding dogs. These dogs were bred for herding cattle or sheep, which explains many of their characteristics. They are extremely active, intelligent, and driven to work. If not provided with an organized activity, such as herding trials or Flyball, these dogs are likely to find something less desirable to do, such as digging up gardens or chewing on shoes. Herding dogs are still currently used to herd livestock, but they can also be great pets for active owners with the time and energy to meet their needs.

Background   The German Shepherd was bred from a variety of shepherd dogs, including long-haired, short-haired, and wire-haired types, in the 1890's by a group of dog enthusiasts in Germany called the Phylanx Society. However, the group did not last long enough to establish the German Shepherd as a new breed. Rather, it was Captain Max von Stephanitz who recognized the valuable qualities of the breed and formed the first German Shepherd Society (Verein fur deutsche Schaferhunde) in 1899. The original dog was named Hektor Linksrhein and renamed Horand v Grafeth by von Stephanitz.
  The breeding programs that ensued sought to maintain the main qualities of utility and intelligence that were present in this first specimen. These qualities have made the German Shepherd not only an excellent sheep herder, but also an exceptional police, military, guide, and search and rescue dog.

Description   The German Shepherd is a large, muscular dog, weighing 60-140 pounds and measuring 22 to 26 from paw to shoulder with females slightly smaller than males. The ears are large and stand straight up, the eyes are dark and almond-shaped, and the nose is black. The neck is long, as well as the tail, which is set low and curves slightly.
  The coat can be medium or long in length, but the medium-length variety is more widely accepted by shows. The coat is generally straight, though it can be slightly wavy. Color types include black, black and tan, and sable, cream, and white, though the cream and white varieties are not accepted by many breeders and registries. This breed's lifespan is 10-15 years.

Care and Feeding   This breed requires no special diet and moderate grooming. It sheds throughout the year, needing weekly grooming, except in the summer, when shedding is more profuse and daily brushing is appropriate.
  German shepherds need regular checkups. Vaccinations are due as follows:

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo, and Corona virus (DHLPPC)
  • 10-12 weeks: Second DHLPPC
  • 14-16 weeks: Third DHLPPC and rabies
  • Annually: DHLPPC and rabies booster

Housing Your Dog   German shepherds can adapt to city, suburban, or rural life, though they need a large area in order to accommodate their high activity level.

Social Behaviors   This German Shepherd is friendly with people it knows. It can be wary of strangers, though it warms up to them quickly. It will show aggression when it feels the need to protect someone. Its even temperament makes it a great guide dog, since that line of work requires work in the community around many people.

Handling and Training   The German Shepherd benefits from socialization and a basic training program. It responds much better to treats and affection for desirable behaviors than punishment for undesirable behaviors.

Activities   This breed needs activity for both its body and mind. Daily walks are appreciated, but it also needs some sort of mental activity, such as playing Frisbee or training for agility trials if not employed in regular work.

Breeding/Reproduction   This breed has an average litter size of 5-10 pups.

Common Health Problems   German Shepherds are at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Hip and elbow dysplasia, caused by looseness in the hip or elbow joint, can cause discomfort after exercise, an altered gait, and even an inability to walk. A veterinarian can diagnose and prescribe treatment for this disease, which may include weight management, exercise, massage, supplements, and surgery.

Availability   German Shepherds are readily available from breeders found locally or on the internet. Prices range from around $100 for an adult pet, $250-$600 for pet quality puppies, and $700-1500 for show or breeder quality puppies.

References Fletcher, W. R. (1977). Dogs of the World. Toronto: Ridge Press.
Larkin, P. (2002). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs: Dog Breeds & Dog Care. London: Hermes House.
Mehus-Roe, K. (2005). Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog. Irvine, California: Bowtie Press.
Tortora, D. F., Ph.D. (1980). The Right Dog for You: Choosing a Breed that Matches Your Personality, Family, and Lifestyle. New York: Simon & Schuster.
History of the Breed, http://www.germanshepherds.com/thegsd/history/ (2008), Germanshepherds.com. Author: Ruth Bratcher

Lastest Animal Stories on German Shepherd Dog

F.D.Maloney - 2013-06-15
Your comments concerning breed standard height/weight for German Shepherds is a colossal joke.Show people,breeders have ruined the breed...period. Furthermore, using policemen,of all groups, as knowing anything or having a bond with their dogs is a poor example of dunderheads understanding such highly intelligent creatures. Sending their partners into harms way,routinely..is the epitome of cowardice. I have owned one German Shepherd Dog at a time for 50 years and each of them were my constant companions[pink papered]between 28 and 31 at the withers and weighing a lean 100 to 120..straight backed and gorgeous'best friends'several had movie roles and did tv commercials.God's Creatures.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-06-17
    Dog 'breed standards' refer to what the various breed clubs have set as their guidelines for specific externally observable qualities in a dog, such as appearance, movement, and temperament. The standards vary from one club to another and many dogs are also outside these standards, so won't be used to show or for judging. Theses standards also have little bearing on the quality or ability of any individual dog being kept as pet or for working. Although some people do enjoy sharing info about standards here (most likely for a particular club), the article doesn't list standards for any  particular clubs. If you want that  info your best bet is to get it directly from the breed club your interested in, for example, here's a link to the German Shepard breed standards set by the American Kennel Club,
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The Whisperer - 2009-05-19
Socialization is a must, the more positive experiences around different people, different animals, sights, noises, etc that a GSD puppy experiences as he grows up, the more confident and stable in temperament that dog will be.

Obedience training is also a must. A GSD is much like a smart 3-year old child, he will test you to see what he can get away with and push you as far as you let him. Positive consistent obedience training until a dog reliably and quickly obeys you, will help you and your dog form a good master=dog bond, can PREVENT many problems from occurring and in some cases may even save your dog's life. Once you've lived with a well-trained dog, you will never want to live with an untrained dog again!!!
A GSD NEEDS things such as obedience exercises to learn and do, to keep him from getting bored. A bored dog, especially one used to doing as it pleases, is likely to wreak havoc on its environment as it digs, howls, barks, chews things up, and engages in other undesirable behaviors to relieve its boredom.


GSDs come in a variety of colors and patterns. The dominant pattern for distribution of the black markings over the red/tan/cream/silver ground color of the GSD, is the agouti (called sable in the USA and grau or gray in Germany=neither which correctly describes the pattern). Second to agouti is the two-tone pattern with the two colors, the ground color and the black markings being fairly clearly divided (the familiar black and tan dog is of this pattern). Third comes the darker dogs, blankets and bicolors (for which there is no standardized degree of black, thus what different people claim is a blanket or a bi, may differ from others opinions of what constitutes a blanket or bi. Most recessive in this series is the solid black which frequently isn't actually solid black but shows hints of ground color, often called shadings or bleedthrough, in the lower legs, inside of the hindlegs, and around the anus.

The ground colors are red/tan/cream and silver, with variations in intensity and clarity. Puppies ground colors are usually muddied, with grayish tinges, and intensify and get clearer as the puppy grows. The marking color is usually black, although there are two different recessive dilutions, liver and blue. Liver or blue merely changes the black pigment on a GSD to blue or liver.

An agouti/sable puppy is born fairly dark, then the black tipping fades until the puppy at 7 to 8 weeks of age is a dull grayish tan with very little black on it. The black tipping comes back in and the puppy darkens again at around 4 months of age. There is another stage at around 7 months of age where the black tipping in an agouti/sable puppy fades again, but the second fading of the black is much less obvious than the first one. After that the puppy's color will get richer and darker and as an adult the puppy will overall be approximately as dark as he was as a newborn. There is also some minor seasonal variation in the appearance of the black tipping. An agouti/sable may appear lighter in overall color in the winter when he has a lot of undercoat, and darker in the summer when all that light undercoat has shed out!

A two-tone puppy is born much darker than he will be as an adult. As the puppy grows, the ground color (red/tan/cream/silver) steadily spreads upward and outward. Thus, a puppy that is destined to be a saddle black and tan adult, will be quite dark with the black color extending to the elbows and will steadily keep getting lighter in appearance until he reaches his adult saddle pattern.

White is on a totally separate locus. A white GSD is a GSD of any of the possible agouti series colors/pattern combinations from agouti/sable to solid black, that has its pattern and colors masked by the white gene, just as if you would drop a white sheet over the dog. White dogs whose ground colors are genetically reds or rich tans, tend to have reddish, orangish, etc tinges in their coats. Whiter whites are usually genetically creams and silvers (ground colors are what affects the degree of white in a white dog, not the black marking color/pattern)

Mutations in colors/patterns are always possible in the GSD, just as they are in any species. Recent color/pattern mutations include the Panda shepherd, a mutation for large white markings and sometimes change of eye color to blue and also at least two instances, one positively confirmed by DNA, of spontaneous mutation of ground color to brindle.

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GSDGenes - 2010-09-06
A GSD should NEVER weigh 140 pounds! The breed wasn't meant to be gigantic. Neither the AKC or SV breed standard calls for a dog taller than 26 inches at the withers for a male, 24 for a female. GSDs are meant to be agile and versatile, in fact some of the most knowledgeable police or working dog handlers will tell you the best working dog is a small quick tough bitch. Dogs within the standard of size are much better able to do such tasks as search and rescue, especially in sites such as WTC 911 where dogs had to be small enough to get into small openings and agile enough to balance themselves on precarious footing. Standard size dogs are also more adept at drug searches because a smaller dog is more agile and athletic and can go where a dog who is too large cannot go.
Oversize also contributes to health and soundness problems. Contrary to popular belief, the GSD is not one of the breeds most prone to hip dysplasia. Breeds such as the St. Bernard and English Bulldog top the list, dogs who are broad and heavy in body build.
Many people exaggerate the size of their GSDs too. Who is going to check and see if someone's claimed 140 lb dog really weighs that much?
Longcoated GSDs appear to be larger and heavier boned because of the illusion of size added by the longer coat and heavier quantity of undercoat. Likewise a very short slick coated GSD can appear small and fine boned because of the short slick coat.

  • Editor's Note - 2010-09-06
    That does seem to be very large! Here's what we know from the experts...

    The American Kennel Club (AKA) does not have a weight for these dogs, either on their website, nor in their official publication "The Complete Dog Book / American Kennel Club" (20th Edition). In the standards for the German Shepherd they do state "...ranging in size from 22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder"

    60 to 140 pounds, however is stated as the lower and upper weight limit for these dogs by author Kristine Mehus-Roe in her book "Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog".
  • Rebecca - 2010-11-12
    I have a 90lbs 3yr female. She looks huge *L* specially as she is a black longcoat. All her siblings are large, her sire being a big male (he'd be over close to 120lbs. She is from working lines, some of her siblings work in security etc. My girl is a pet but does do obedience training, which she loves!
  • Bekas - 2013-05-20
    My family has had four genrations of GSDs. Each one was a delight and joy .once they were about 18 months old. Puppy obedience school is essential and you must have someone in the house who is Alpha. We found that the dogs did well when they sort of belonged to a single family member, particularly when it came to going to obedience school. By dog #2 we figured it out.You do need patience with puppies. One jumped up on a child's desk and chewed up her homework. (The dog really did eat the homework. She had to redo the chewed/torn pages, but was allowed to take a few pages with teeth marks as evidence.) Shoes were found with pieces missing in the back of closets. Digging was a past time of one of the dogs. We woke up one morning to find the arm of a sofa slightly munched.But yes they are wonderful with kids and love to play chase and tumble and being in a tent made from two dining room chairs. Lots of great memories.My dad now has a Rottweiler that stole his heart the day my brother brought him home as a puppy. The puppy parked himself on my dad's foot & fell asleep.Dogs are the best;-)
  • Chance - 2013-05-22
    Every dog and breed is different but 95% of the time the dog is mean is becsuae it was trained to be or it was raised bad most people think Pitt bulls are all vicious killers witch is so not true its how u raise them. German shepherd s are the 3rd most wanted dog in the country and the first in military and police work, that's got to mean something!
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Lee - 2012-10-29
I want to know if the Snow Shepherd and White German Shepherd is the same breed?

  • Charlie Roche - 2012-10-29
    Yes, they are the same breed and frequently called a white snow german shepherd.  It is a reference to the color - not the breed. Actually white was one of the orignal colors of the breed.  They are gorgeous.
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Tristan - 2012-12-29
I bought my 3rd german shepherd.His mom was quite small about 17-18 inches but the dad was 24-26 inches,how big would the puupy be?

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bev jennings - 2010-10-08
Where did the name german shepard come from?

  • Charlie Roche - 2012-09-26
    The german Shepherd is a pup that has its roots based in german and it was originally bred as a working dog for herding.  So it got the name German Shepherd.  They are wonderful dogs - so smart.
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