German Shepherd Dog

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

One of the most versatile breeds, the German Shepherd Dog probably originated from crosses of several shepherd breeds in Germany. It was created in the late 1800s in a quest for a shepherd that could both guard and herd flocks. As demand for a shepherd decreased, it was modified to serve as a police and war dog. The breed is so intelligent and learns so readily that it has been used as a sheepdog, as a guard, in police work, as a guide for the blind, in search and rescue service, and in the military. The German Shepherd also excels in many other dog activities, including Schutzhund, tracking, obedience, agility, flyball, and ring sport. His fine nose can sniff out drugs and intruders, and alert handlers to the presence of underground mines in time to avoid detonation, or gas leaks in pipes buried 15 feet underground. The German Shepherd is also a popular show dog and family companion.


The German Shepherd Dog is an athletic, agile, muscular dog, longer than tall, with a smoothly curved outline. The withers are higher than the back, so the topline slopes slightly from front to rear. Ruggedly noble, with a chiseled strong head and longish muzzle. The ears are erect, moderately pointed, and open to the front. The nose is black (or else the dog is disqualified from showing). The dark eyes are medium-sized and almond-shaped. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The long saber tail is bushy and hangs down at least to the hock. The front legs are straight. Dewclaws on the front legs are generally left on, though any on the back legs are removed. The dense double coat lies close and straight. Any colors except white, liver, or blue are acceptable. It’s best if the colors are strong. The ideal weight is not described in the standard.

Key Facts

  • Height:  24 to 26 in. (male); 22 to 24 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  75 to 90 lbs. (male); 55 to 70 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Very popular
  • Talents:  Tracking, retrieving, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, military work, search and rescue, sledding, agility, competitive obedience, and Schutzhund


The German Shepherd has a tendency to experience hip and elbow dysplasia (be sure both parents have OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance), chronic eczema, flea allergies, and keratitis (inflammation of the cornea). They are highly prone to gastric disorders. German Shepherds have a very strong protective instinct, so they should be extensively socialized to prevent overprotectiveness as adults. Aggression and attacks on people are largely due to poor breeding, handling, and training. It is extremely important to purchase your German Shepherd from a reputable breeder. Some are timid and skittish, and may be prone to fear biting. Research a puppy’s lineage carefully. To be successful pets, these dogs should be trained and socialized from an early age with a firm and loving hand. Coercive or angry training does not succeed well with these dogs. To be truly happy, the German Shepherd needs a task in life. He also needs his people and should not be left isolated for long periods of time. This breed sheds constantly-a quick daily brushing is best unless hair in the house is not a problem.


Direct and fearless, eager and alert. Bold, cheerful, and obedient. Known for his tremendous loyalty and courage. Calmly confident, but not hostile. Serious. Almost human in his intelligence.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Needs people a lot
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Not generally dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Exercise:  Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with a large yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard

German Shepherd Dog Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog Gifts