Written by Vet Tech

German Shepherd – The Ultimate Guide

Amber LaRock
Written by: Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Learn why German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world with this ultimate guide. Moreover, discover how loyal they are and how bad the shedding really is.
Dog Breed Group:
Herding Dogs
1 foot, 10 inches to 2 feet, 2 inches tall at the shoulder
75 to 95 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 14 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The German Shepherd has found its way into the homes of dog lovers around the world.

Aside from their ability to be loyal pets, is their readiness to be professional working dogs as well. With their fierce loyalty and impressive work ethic, they have secured their spot in the hearts of many.

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes the German Shepherd such a versatile breed, and the qualities they possess.

History Of The German Shepherd

The German Shepherd originated in Germany in the late 1800s, when they were in need of the perfect working dog. By combining local farming and herding dogs, they were able to create a breed that was responsive, obedient, and equally beautiful.

Once the GSD gained popularity in Germany, they were introduced to the United States by soldiers returning from World War 1.

The soldiers spoke of the incredible dogs they met during their time overseas, and the impressive qualities that they possess.

It wasn’t long before the German Shepherd hit the big screen in popular war movies, and became one of America’s most popular breeds. To this day, the GSD is a beloved breed to many.

German Shepherd Physical Appearance

The German Shepherd can weigh anywhere from 50-90 pounds and typically stand between 22 to 26 inches in height. The variation in size involves the possible size different in males and females, and the differences in physical activity that each Shepherd may participate in.

The German Shepherd Dog is known for their sloping body that slants backward, and their slender yet powerful frame. Though they are often slim, they are still quite muscular. They are considered an ideal athlete for these reasons.

Aside from their frame, is the signature look of their alert and pointed ears. Though they may not peak until adulthood, their ears will soon point forward with authority.

The German Shepherd has a plush double coat that comes in a variety of different colors. Though their most common coat is brown and black, they can come in the liver, white, tan, and all black.

If you ever plan to have your GSD in the show, it’s important to keep in mind that though the options of coat color can be beautiful, only some colors are recognized as a breed standard.

If your German Shepherd is white, blue, or liver, their color will not be recognized in the show ring. Therefore, you should be aware of different types and breeds of German Shepherd.

German Shepherd Temperament

The German Shepherd’s ability to be such a successful working dog is due to their loyalty, obedience, and confident attitude.

They truly love to work, and they are happiest when they are being raised in a stimulating environment.

When they are in a home that exercises them daily and works to keep them busy, they are the perfect companion. Their need to please will keep them by your side, and their loyalty will make for a companion for life.

Loyalty is in a German Shepherd’s DNA, and they will gladly stand with you through any endeavor.

Though the German Shepherd has a list of admirable qualities, they do have some traits that pose a challenge.

With their level of confidence, it takes an experienced dog owner to successfully raise a German Shepherd. Their confidence can result in them attempting to overpower their owners, so it’s best for them to grow with an owner that is firm and consistent in their training process.

This breed is so highly trainable, that they can be trained for a number of different dog sports, such as agility and even hunting sports.

As long ad you are a strong leader to your Shepherd, you will have a calm, clever, and loyal furry friend.

German Shepherd Qualities That Stand Out

If you’ve considered bringing a German Shepherd into your home, you may have heard of the qualities that make German Shepherds one of the world’s favorite breeds. Some of these attributes in detail include:

Loyalty: German Shepherds are a loyal breed that is known to create a significant bond with their families.

Their loyalty to their families and home is the reason they are known to be guard dogs, and often feel an intense need to protect their loved ones.

Work ethic: German Shepherds are ingrained with a need to get the job done.

With originally being bred for work purposes, their desire to work is in their DNA. Their love of work is the reason behind their worldwide positions as herding dogs, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, and a number of other roles.

Intelligence: The German Shepherd was ranked the 3rd most intelligent dog in a study that involved 100 breeds. Their level of intelligence makes them incredibly versatile and gives them the ability to perform in a number of environments.

They are happiest when they are learning, so they are quick to pick up new tasks and challenges. Their intelligence is one of the main reasons that they are used as working dogs all over the world.

Athleticism: Their muscular yet slender bodies allow for them to be fast, agile, and participate in a number of physical activities.

When in good health, German Shepherds have been known to work long hours without tiring and continue until they get the job done.

Overall Health Of The German Shepherd

While German Shepherds are known to live a healthy life of anywhere from 10-13 years, there are a few known medical conditions that this breed is prone to. Some of those include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: Dysplasia is a structural problem of the joint that can result in the joint grinding down over time. Due to unethical breeding, German Shepherds are especially prone to this condition. With the wearing down of the joints, dogs with this condition can experience severe pain and lameness. Some symptoms include pain, limping, lameness, slowing down with time, limited range of motion, and looseness of the joint.
  • Gastric bloat: Gastric bloat is possible in dogs with a deep chest, which German Shepherds have. In this condition, the stomach flips, cutting off the circulation of blood flow. Not only is this incredibly painful, but it is considered the most dior of all veterinary emergencies. If it’s not treated immediately, it is a fatal condition.
  • Epilepsy: Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that generally affects dogs from 1-5 years of age. Dogs with this condition can experience seizures that will need to be managed with daily medication.
  • Pannus: Pannus is an auto-immune disorder that affects the eye. This disorder can result in blindness over time, so it’s important to receive treatment when symptoms first arise. Symptoms include eye irritation, redness of the eye, swelling, eye discoloration, and eye discharge.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is the deterioration of the cartilage between the bones and joints, which can result in the grinding of joints. This can cause severe pain in the later stages, and difficulty getting around.

Training Your German Shepherd

Training your German Shepherd should come easily, as they love to learn. They are happiest in an environment in which they can grow, making the training process enjoyable for a GSD.

It’s recommended to start your training process as early as 8 weeks of age, or from the point of adoption. The sooner you can begin to implement basic obedience, the sooner your GSD will become a respectful member of your family.

When starting your obedience training, it’s important to focus on a positive reinforcement style of training. German Shepherds do not respond well to fear-based training, and it is no longer an approved style of training as it can mask behavioral problems.

Work to train your GSD with tasty treats, enjoyable activities, or the attention they seek. This will create an exciting learning process and will help to build a positive relationship between you and your German Shepherd Dog.

It is well-known that German Shepherds are commonly first choice dogs for military and police work.

They may be big shedders, but only a few breeds can compete with them when it comes to tracking jobs.

German Shepherds are among the best tracking dogs around and they can easily detect not only humans but also drugs and bombs.

Thanks to their strong need to protect, German Shepherds are among the best protection dogs, especially when they’re trained right.

Exercise And Your German Shepherd

Since German Shepherds are an intelligent breed, they require daily stimulation and activity to feel fulfilled. With their love of productive play, they require a minimum of 45 minutes of exercise each day.

Having a well-exercised German Shepherd will help to limit behavioral problems, as they are known to act out when they have plenty of energy to burn.

By factoring in daily playtime, your German Shepherd will be a more enjoyable member of your family.

Are German Shepherds Ideal Family Dogs?

German Shepherds are known for their loyalty and their intense love for their families. If you choose to make a GSD a member of your family, you will be welcoming in a furry best friend.

Many people often choose a German Shepherd as their family dog for their desirable traits, as well as their readiness to serve and protect their family. While this is an incredible quality in a dog, it does need to be controlled.

A German Shepherd’s ability to be an ideal family dog relies entirely on its level of socialization. Socialization is a critical part of a German Shepherd’s social development.

It’s no secret that German Shepherds are great service dogs. There is no task that this intelligent breed cannot deliver.

However, did you know about their ability to work with children with autism – because these dogs are so dedicated to every task keeping children busy is something that this dog does perfectly.

Plus, they are gentle, serious when at work, and reserved around strangers, which means that safety comes first.

When a GSD is not properly socialized, they can become aggressive with things that are people that they are not familiar with.

By introducing them to other dogs, other humans, and unfamiliar environments, you are helping them learn appropriate behaviors and interactions.

Proper socialization also builds confidence in a dog, leading them to be less fearful of new things. A confident dog is a safe dog and makes for an amazing family pet.

German Shepherd Summary

German Shepherds are one of the most treasured breeds for a reason. With their fierce loyalty and their impressive intelligence, they are a furry friend like no other.

Make sure to educate yourself on the German Shepherd breed, and you will have all the tools needed to make a GSD a cherished member of your family.

Good to know: Due to its traits, German Shepherd is often used to create new breeds, such as King Shepherd.

Popular German Shepherd Dog Comparisons

Compare Dog Breeds: