German Shepherd Dogs
German Shepherds are fierce but friendly, and have a calm confidence that may seem kind of aloof. When in need, however, a German Shepherd is instantly ready to protect, play a game or perform a task—in some cases as a guard dog, police dog, herder or seeing eye dog. With a strong work ethic and an eager intelligence, they crave challenges.
German Shepherd Pictures
- 60 - 85 pounds
- 23 - 25 inches
Ideal Human Companions
- Energetic people
- Active families
- A-Type Personalities
German Shepherds on Dogster
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- Handsome and well-built
- Intelligent and eager
- Strong-willed and fearless
- Obedient and protective
What They Are Like to Live With
Not to be left alone in the house too long, German Shepherds crave interaction and involvement. They are fiercely protective of their homes and families—sometimes known to “herd” children—and they get along with other pets. Standoffish and detached with strangers or those outside the family unit, they have been known to “over-guard” or bark protectively.
German Shepherds have great instincts and fertile minds. Lots of activity and exercise will make them happy, but tracking, obedience and agility games—or any task-oriented activity—will make them even happier. A bored or neglected German Shepherd may resort to chewing furniture, digging up flowers and other mischief.
Things You Should Know
The benefits of a German Shepherd—loyalty, protectiveness and eagerness, to name a few—come from careful obedience training and authority. Everyone in the household must be prepared to show “authority” and earn the dog’s respect with a firm but loving touch. They do not respond to negativity or anger. Once achieved, this respect may need to be earned again and again.
Shepherds don’t need to be bathed very often, but they tend to shed in great quantities. Brush them daily, outside if possible. Like any large dog, they can handle apartment living quite well but need daily walks and, if possible, vigorous exercise to stay sharp.
Some common health problems include hip and elbow dysplasia, skin allergies and pancreas deficiencies, They normally live up to 12 years.
German Shepherd History
The German Shepherd is a relatively new breed, almost entirely developed in the 20th century. Attempting to create a standard herding dog for his country, German breeder Capt. Max von Stephanitz invented the Deutsche Schäferhunde in 1899 from a mix of early shepherd dogs having various coat lengths, textures, body types and colors. Stephanitz’s aim was to develop a standard sheep-herding dog with the solid intelligence and work ethic to assist farm workers and laborers as well as police and soldiers. Standardized in Germany in 1901, the German Shepherd came to America in 1907 and flourished with the help of organizations like the German Shepherd Dog Club of America.
The Look of a German Shepherd
German Shepherds have a noble, proportioned and commanding look. A typical German Shepherd’s body—slightly longer than tall—is sturdy but lean. It has a slightly convex forehead, long muzzle, pointed ears and almond-shaped eyes that are set (as opposed to protruding) with an amiable expression. The neck slopes down to muscular shoulders and legs. The back legs are solid and the tail bushy. Normally black and tan, sable or just black, they also come in blue and white. They come in three versions: shorthaired (sometimes called rough-coated), medium-haired and longhaired.
Talk About German Shepherds
Regal, stunning and loyal
Want a self esteem booster? Walk a 100 lb white German Shepherd and everyone looks on in awe. Most people are unaware there is a white Shepherd. Regal, stunning, loyal and sometimes goofy, a wonderful pet.
~Diane, owner of a German Shepherd
Beautiful and willing to please
I own a 12-year-old German Shepherd and I love the breed because of their loyalty and willingness to please. They are also beautiful. GSDs, in my experience, can be one- or two-person dogs. They can be aloof with strangers, though not to point of being unfriendly as they can warm up quickly. They are excellent watchdogs, and are willing to do anything to protect their owners. (Though my GSD has tried to hide behind me when at the vet's office, haha.)
A good watchdog doesn't hate people, but will keep an eye on people. However, if raised with the wrong inhibitions, GSDs, just as any breed, can be aggressive. GSDs can be quite energetic and love to play and spend time with their owners. Though some can be laid-back, too.
If you're interested in the breed, be warned: the GSD's double coat needs to be brushed at least once a week, especially when shedding. And believe me, GSDs shed a lot! Mine actually sheds pretty much year-round, but that's probably due to the area I live in, which doesn't have much of a winter.
~Tiffany C., owner of a German Shepherd
Dogs that truly understand you
The breed that I love and will always have as part of my family is the German Shepherd. For me, the eyes say it all. When you look into the eyes of a German Shepherd, you are looking at a peer, a comrade, someone who understands you at your very core. They know who you are capable of being, and they understand when you are not at your best, and they forgive you for it.
Living with a German Shepherd is like living with your best fan, a nanny and someone who would dive into the line of fire for you without a moment's hesitation. The sun rises and sets on you. The rest of the family will be heading to the park or playing at the neighbor's or trying to coax your GSD for a walk, and they will be there, at the doorstep, looking and waiting for you. Their world is not complete without you, and so they watch and they wait until they see you, too, are coming. Living with a GSD is like living with your living, breathing shadow. And a shadow whose only goal is to please you, to serve you and to live in YOUR shadow.
If you think the GSD is the breed for you, you need to ask yourself one question: Am I worthy? The GSD needs you to commit yourself to being worthy of their adoration and intelligence. They are willing to do anything for you, if you can help them understand what that is. The fault, if they cannot do what you want them to do, is not theirs. The fault is your inability to communicate clearly what you want. They can be trained with praise alone - your happiness is enough for them (but bacon is always welcome...). Harshness and physical punishment are not the way for this breed. And they really do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. They are far too intelligent to be left to their own devices - every GSD I have owned has been a master at opening anything and everything from freezer doors to tupperware, double-hinged gates to door knobs. And those toys you pay a fortune for called "indestructible"? Gone in 20 minutes, easy peasy.
The GSD is, for me, the King of dogs. But they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and commitment.
~Lisa, owner of a German Shepherd
Great indoors, but need exercise and training
My five-year-old female German Shepherd was rescued from the pound. She is very sweet and affectionate and likes to put her head on my lap. She is too serious but is learning how to play with other dogs at park. She tried to herd a small dog that looks like a lamb but now leaves her alone.
Jacquie is great indoors, mostly a big couch potato. She seems to be empathetic towards humans in distress. When a character in my son's video game was gasping for breath she approached the TV screen and cocked her head to one side.
I would recommend German Shepherds to people who are willing to give them exercise, training and affection. They are very social and like companionship.
~Mary M., owner of a German Shepherd
Our pride and joy
We have had Labs for 25 years and finally I changed breeds to bring home a GSD that I have desired since childhood. I am able to spend a lot of time with my dogs so I have not had any problems with destruction in our home.
He is way more vocal than I had anticipated, but we are working through that. He is smart and I find that the more I talk to him and use the same words the more he understands what I want. Finnegan is 5 months old and last week went to his first obedience fun match. He did wonderfully but I have spent a lot of time socializing him in public places. I could still tell that without all the time that I put in he would have been really intimidated by the dogs and the noise.
I try to brush him with a Furmanator about every other day. He hasn't started any shedding yet, but I want him to be used to regular grooming because a relatively clean house is important in our family. I love living with Finnegan and if I can't take him with me during the day I look so forward to getting home to him. He is smart and active and not a push-over type dog but he is perfect for us.
~Kimberly B., owner of a German Shepherdg
Give them exercise and love
I got my German Shepherd when I was in my early twenties, I was single and he was my best friend. I had just moved from small town to a big city and when I walked him, people took notice. My guy was friendly, but always looked after me. He was protective, but never aggressive.
You have to be willing to deal with the dog hair. Mine shed everywhere, but it was well worth it. My GS guy ended up with arthritis and had to be put down at 14 years. I've been without him for about 4 years. I now have 2-year-old twin girls and my husband and I are eager to get another dog when they're a bit older. It will most likely be the German Shepherd.
I think the hardest thing for me was the fact that this dog was so proud...when he was getting towards the end of his life, he didn't want my help. I used to think I'd probably not get a big dog again because watching him try to walk up the steps was too much to take. I always wished he was smaller than so I cold pick him up and take him where ever he wanted to go. Writing this now, I still have tears in my eyes. I would recommend this dog to anyone who's willing to give this breed a lot of exercise and love.
~Shelby K., owner of a German Shepherd
Not easy to raise but absolutely worth it
The only breed of dog I was interested in getting was a German Shepherd Dog. I looked at several litters before I found my girl. The parents were both on the premises and had perfect temperaments - they barked at strangers (us) when we arrived but once their humans said it was all right they were willing to be friends. The dogs were not kept in kennel runs. There were four adult dogs, the litter of puppies and three children under the age of thirteen in and out of the house. The house was clean, not immaculate but swept and tidy and there were puppies sleeping under the furniture everywhere. The litter was very uniform without much difference between the pups.
I chose a female as I do not want to breed and I think spayed females make the best pets. We took her home the day she turned 7 weeks. I waited to get a puppy until I retired because I wanted to raise her the absolute best way I could. From my experience I can confidently say that if she had been left alone for long periods as a puppy she would chew everything she could get her teeth on to absolute shreds. I would be sitting on the sofa and she would come sit on my foot lay her head on the sofa, roll her eyes to look adoringly up at me and take the corner of the sofa cushion in her mouth! Since I was there I could stop her, but I know what would have happened if no one was at home! She also chewed my hands for months. She has an incredibly soft mouth and never drew blood, but it took a lot of constant work to break this habit. She licked my fingers for the first time (without food on them) when she was not quite four months old.
She has an incredibly high energy level so I taught her to trot beside my bicycle. At first she just wore a harness attached to the seat post through the rack and we both walked. Once she was used to that I got on and rode slowly along very quiet streets. She likes it now and will crank off three or four miles without hesitation. I have been in the yard with her and when she saw me looking at her she touched the bicycle with her nose and looked at me hopefully.
We tried several activities together before I discovered that what she really, truly loves to do is herd sheep. She is quite well-behaved and tractable at home, but once she saw the sheep it was like she had gone completely insane and forgotten all her training. She is making good progress and may be ready for a trial soon.
She is an absolute delight to live with. Since the breeder kept the puppies clean, housebreaking was a snap. She wet inside three times and never once soiled in the house, ever. When we eat, she lies on her bed. When I sit on the sofa, she lies on my feet. I am sure she knows my feet are cold and need to be warmed. As a puppy she slept in her crate by my side of the bed so that I could let her out when she fussed. Now that she is a big dog, she sleeps on the floor by the bed. When she wants to go out, she wakes up my husband! She gets up with him when he goes to work, and after she goes out, she returns to the bedroom and goes back to sleep until I get up.
One morning he was not paying sufficient attention to the needs of the dog so she picked up the remote for the TV and dropped it by the kitchen door. She sat there waiting for him to come let her out. the remote was not harmed in any way.
Another day my son was home alone (he is in his 20's) and she ran in looking for him. He could see she was carrying something in her mouth and carefully took it from her. It was a sparrow, a little disheveled but unharmed. He walked outside and opened his hands and it flew away.
She stays with a friend when we have to go out of town, and he loves to have her. She has good house manners and is always ready for a game.
This puppy has grown to be the perfect dog for me. I can take her anywhere a dog is allowed to go. She is so intelligent, gentle and funny that I cannot imagine living without her, or one of her kind, underfoot. These are not easy dogs to raise but the effort is absolutely worth it.
~Gail M., owner of a German Shepherd Dog
A companion dog who will be your best friend
My best friend ever, my partner in all of life's ups and downs, my unfailing companion, my protector intelligent and strong, my German Shepherd! Gretta knows what I'm thinking as soon as I do and we are as one. Gretta is my companion dog and sleeps with me, eats at the same time with me, loves to work outside with me, and protects me.
I am her best buddy as well. I provide a safe home with acreage fenced in with a six-foot fence, a pet door, and a house built on a slab so that there will be no steps to have to navigate as we all get older.
The German Shepherd is not for everybody. When you get a Shepherd, you are getting a new family member. These dogs are partners in life and are not inclined to be left alone or confined totally outside. It's important that they be allowed in the house as a part of the household and be included in family activities.
They can also be very protective of their family and their home. The degree of protectiveness can vary. My first Shepherd, whose mother was a German import, was pure defense and wouldn't allow anyone to handle her except for her immediate family. They can also challenge you for the alpha position.
I got my first Shepherd in 1989 and I've not been without these wonderful dogs since. A German Shepherd is a great dog for the right person.
~Viv E., owner of a German Shepherd
A natural, loving guardian
My experience with every German Shepherd I owned was a loving, loyal, and very smart dog that was also very protective of me, the family, and property. Sasha is loving and sweet, gentle with children, yet if I am not home, she will not allow anyone in the house -- and she was never trained, that is natural!
Go for a straight-backed working line and stay away from the sloped-back, show line versions.The showline versions are not as functional and are more prone to hip problems because of the angular back. My last German shepherd, Tank, was a working line, and his hips were excellent until he turned 11 -- it was cancer that did him in.
German shepherds are natural guard dogs. They can be okay with other dogs, but only if socialized. Otherwise, their natural instinct of guarding against threats to their "flock" may have them perceive another dog as a threat. Their bite is a lot stronger than Pitbulls' and can do a lot of damage, so always maintain full control of your dog.
They have a loving, gentle, and loyal side that is unmatched and are ranked the third most intelligent breed in the world! They are excellent with children and will do anything to please their owners.
~Chris C, owner of a German Shepherd
A dog to protect me on camping trips
My family had many dogs growing up, but now that I am out on my own I decided that I needed a dog that would protect me on hikes and camping trips and that would be by my side always. I just bought my first German Shepherd puppy, River, and I cannot believe how intelligent she is. She is smart, and friendly with everyone that she meets.
I work full time, but am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to bring her to work with me. She is so well behaved it blows my mind, and she is not even 9 weeks yet! I took her on her first walk on a leash today by the river and she was absolutely wonderful.
She is a little stinker and likes to see what she can get away with for sure, but has been learning so fast. I can't wait until she is old enough to take on long hiking trails!
~Burgoyne, A, owner of a German Shepherd
My love affair with this breed
I have owned, bred, and shown GSDs for close to 30 years now, and there is no other breed that is so intelligent, loyal, and near to perfect. My dogs have all been family members, rather than "just the dog." They have protected us from harm, guarded our property, babysat the children and grandchildren, shared amazing holidays with us, worked as therapy dogs, excelled as show dogs, worked herding cattle, enriched our lives with their eternal love and devotion. Their progeny have brought joy and pleasure to so many other homes.
German Shepherds are the most noble breed, and don't suffer fools easily. The sky is the limit as to what you can teach them to do, most of the time only having to show them once what exactly it is you want them to do. Easily bored, you have to keep them occupied and challenge them regularly to do new things. Remember that they prefer to be team players rather than solo acts.
~Candyce., owner of German Shepherds