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German Shepherd Dog: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Written by: Dogster Team

Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

german shepherd dog in the forest

German Shepherd Dog: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

“There are wolves, dogs, and German Shepherd Dogs.” As the early 19th-century adage avers, an unmatched mix of utility, intelligence, and athleticism puts the well-rounded German Shepherd in a class of their own.

They consistently rank among the nation’s top breeds, and they are perfect pets for a broad group of hopeful owners. Find out if the German Shepherd is the right dog for you as we discuss their temperament and traits.

Height: 22–26 inches
Weight: 50–90 pounds
Lifespan: 7–10 years
Colors: Black, gray, sable, liver, blue, black mixed with cream, red, silver, or tan
Suitable for: Active families, experienced dog owners
Temperament: Loyal, loving, intelligent, courageous, confident, trainable, adaptable

Ever since Max von Stephanitz found his first dog, Horand, in 1899, the German Shepherd has had little issue finding their place in a changing world. They began as sheep tenders in northern Germany. Like many working dogs, the form was second to function, and von Stephanitz, the founder of the first GSD breed club, found their work in the field fascinating.

The timing of von Stephanitz’s discovery couldn’t have been better. Sheep raising was declining across Germany when he bought Horand, but with renewed interest, the GSD found favor with elites and the working class alike, earning international acclaim by WWI.

Today, almost any setting has space for this jack-of-all-trades. They’re a natural fit for the home, police work, service work, and much more!

German Shepherd Characteristics

  • Energy: 4.5/5
  • Trainability: 4.5/5
  • Health: 2.5/5
  • Lifespan: 2/5
  • Sociability: 3.5/5

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German Shepherd Puppies

Two little german shepherd puppies sitting on the lawn
Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shuttertstock

German Shepherds are among the top five breeds in the U.S., so finding a reputable breeder or adoptable puppies at shelters in your area shouldn’t take much effort. Careful research is crucial. The GSD’s popularity has led to persistent health problems due to an increased number of unethical breeders. Available health testing and pedigrees, breed knowledge, and involvement in the GSD community are essential signs of authenticity to check for before choosing a breeder.

Once you find a GSD puppy, work on basic obedience and socialization. Puppies from this intelligent breed come full of potential. They have tons of energy, but training is fluid and enjoyable if you can satisfy their exercise demands.

Exposure to novel situations shortly after adoption (i.e., within the first four months of life) is crucial in helping your dog develop a calm and outgoing spirit.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is among the most intelligent and biddable dog breeds. Coupled with their size and athleticism, this trainability has allowed them to excel in numerous working disciplines. They are eager to learn and highly energetic, requiring an owner who can be fun but firm and provide the daily engagement they need to stay obedient.

When they have proper training, ample activity, and a confident leader, the German Shepherd is fiercely loyal and obedient. They make excellent guard dogs. Although they can be aloof with strangers, a well-mannered GSD will follow their owner’s direction and willingly accept others who don’t pose a threat.

German shepherd dog resting in its wooden kennel
Image Credit: pryzmat, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The German Shepherd is one of the top choices for active families. They respect disciplined owners and become highly protective of their crew. They are sweet and gentle with children despite their fearsome reputation.

They remain alert and ready to risk life and limb for their family, with their combined confidence, power, and dedication making them formidable guardians.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

German Shepherds can generally get along with other dogs, especially if introduced at a young age. They’re typically wary of those outside their family but are confident enough to engage with other dogs. Frequent socialization is essential in reducing aggressiveness and inappropriate social behaviors.

As they mature, they become more selective and less tolerant, making ongoing training more valuable. Their high prey drive can cause conflict with smaller animals, such as cats, so creating an accommodating environment, supervision, and training will be crucial if you have a multi-pet household.

Since German Shepherds are traditionally some of the most versatile dogs, their breeding line may affect their prey drive and friendliness with other animals.

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Things to Know When Owning a German Shepherd

German Shepherds are exceptional specimens but require constant effort and an assertive owner to maintain good social manners and remain obedient. They demand direction and accommodations for their energy and intelligence.

As you might expect, they thrive when they have a job. There’s plenty to consider before adopting a German Shepherd, but the proper diet, exercise, and training will keep them healthy, alert, and attentive, providing comfort, security, and companionship for the entire family.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The German Shepherd is large and muscular, requiring a high-quality diet to fuel them throughout the day. Foods should be protein-rich and have a generous blend of omega fatty acids and vitamins for a healthy coat, skin, and bones. The average adult should eat 2–3 cups of dry food daily, split between two meals.

German Shepherd dog lying next to a bowl of kibbles
Image Credit: Snezhana_G, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

Diet and exercise work hand in hand, particularly with an energetic and large dog like the GSD. They are highly active, requiring at least 1–1.5 hours of daily exercise to satisfy their energy levels and to stave off obesity.

Without proper exercise, the German Shepherd can easily become overweight, exacerbating common issues like joint problems and arthritis. Give your dog daily blends of walks, off-leash exercising, high-activity play, and training.

Training 🎾

Just as a GSD can exercise forever, there’s virtually no limit to the training you can (and should) provide. They are exceptionally bright and quick to learn even the most complex tasks. With consistent training, you can fully unlock their seemingly boundless potential.

At the same time, training is necessary to keep your GSD well-mannered, obedient, and agreeable. When you don’t flex those mental muscles, the dog will be more likely to give in to their prey drive, alertness, and other urges.

Enrolling in obedience classes and honing their recall and impulse control will be critical while they’re puppies. In adulthood, they can transition to agility, scent work, and other competition-based activities, which provide novel ways to continue training and bonding with your dog.

Grooming ✂️

German Shepherds have thick double coats with a topcoat consisting of short, medium, or long hair. Brushing every other day will keep shedding to a minimum. A de-shedding tool, undercoat rake, or slicker brush will effortlessly remove loose hair and fur, with the best tool depending on your dog’s coat length.

Your grooming efforts will ramp up considerably during the spring and fall when your GSD blows their coat. Trim the nails monthly, and bathe your German Shepherd every few months to keep their coat and skin healthy.

You should brush their teeth every day or two and check the ears weekly for dirt and buildup to clean out.

brown and black german shepherd running on brown grass field during daytime
Image by Pedro Sanz, Unsplash

Health and Conditions 🏥

German Shepherds are predisposed to several disorders, with many prevalent issues tracing to irresponsible breeding and highlighting the need for comprehensive research when finding a breeder.

Health problems common to the breed include degenerative myelopathy (a neurologic disorder leading to hind leg mobility issues) and elbow and hip dysplasia. German Shepherds also commonly suffer from various GI issues, including bloat and eye disorders.

Minor Conditions
  • Obesity
  • Allergies
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Heart disease
  • Pancreatic acinar atrophy and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Megaesophagus
  • Renal cystadenocarcinoma and nodular dermatofibrosis

Male vs Female

Male and female German Shepherds share many real and perceived differences common to other breeds. Males are taller and heavier than females, bearing thicker muscles and denser bones.

Their personalities are relatively similar, particularly after spaying and neutering. Many owners find males are more outgoing, affectionate, and forceful, while females are moodier yet more relaxed.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the German Shepherd

1. The German Shepherd Is One of Hollywood’s Most Popular Breeds

Following WWI, the popularity of German Shepherds exploded as heroes like Rin Tin Tin took over Hollywood. As it turned out, the GSD’s superior intellect and physical prowess made them the perfect breed to delight directors and impress audiences.

Unlike canine side characters that occasionally steal the show, the German Shepherd Dog is frequently the star. While Rin Tin Tin may be the most famous GSD, the breed has been front and center in numerous productions over the decades, including the K-9 movies with Jim Belushi and the Austrian TV show Kommissar Rex.


2. GSDs Aren’t Welcome Everywhere

Despite being America’s fourth most popular breed, the GSD is also among the least accepted. Apartment-hunting owners may have a more challenging time than expected finding landlords that will allow their dogs, which join Pitbulls and Bulldogs, among others, on restricted breed lists. Many owners of restricted breeds often pay much more monthly for housing than other dog owners.

Beyond the liability issues of an aggressive breed, restrictions are also due to the generally poor fit the GSD makes in an apartment setting. They can be loud barkers because of their protective nature, and their activity levels are often challenging to satisfy in the limited space.


3. German Shepherds Hold Multiple Records

Not every breed appears in the Guinness Book of World Records, and most don’t hold as many records as the German Shepherd. Alongside their notoriety as one of the most intelligent breeds, the German Shepherd breed enjoys several claims to fame, including:

  • A GSD/Lab mix holds a record for having the longest tongue
  • A GSD named Zinzan set the record for the fastest time weaving through 60 poles
  • A trail hunter named Arrow became the first skydiving anti-poaching dog in history
german shepherd dog sniffing the sand
Image Credit: DanaTentis, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

The German Shepherd is a classic breed that can enrich the lives of loving owners and their families, but their obedience doesn’t come easy. You must earn a GSD’s respect and understanding like anything worth having. While loyalty may come easy, you have to work for cooperation daily, but with dedication, assertion, and positivity, you can experience the endearing character and remarkable talent that has made the GSD a top companion for over a century.


Featured Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

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