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German Shepherd: The Ultimate Guide

By Kerry
Updated on

German Shepherds are easily one of the most popular dog breeds in countries all around the world. They are adored and renowned for their intelligence, versatility, and above all else, for their devotion and loyalty. Moreover, they are legendary for their working capabilities, especially in law enforcement, military, search and rescue, and even therapy and service work. Not only are they working dogs, but they are equally beloved as family pets. 

German shepherd laying down

Key Facts

Average Lifespan 

Most well-bred German Shepherds are relatively healthy dogs. They typically have a lifespan of between seven and ten years, but many can live healthy lives for as long as twelve or even thirteen years. 

Minimum Exercise (per day) 

German Shepherds are a working breed meaning that staying busy and active is quite literally built into their DNA. As such, adult German Shepherds require at least ninety minutes to two full hours of exercise per day. Typically breaking this down into two to three sessions daily can make this exercise requirement more manageable. 

Coat Length

These dogs have a double coat with fur that is medium in length. Their topcoat is typically made up of dense straight hair that lies close to their body, sometimes with a slight wave in texture. 

Minimum Cost (per month) 

Predicting what any dog will cost an owner per month can be tricky. There are just so many variables. But a good place to start is the price of food. For an adult German Shepherd, an owner can expect to pay between $30 and $45 a month on food alone. Other factors to include in budgeting for a German Shepherd monthly might include pet insurance, veterinary care, toys, doggie daycare, dog grooming tools or services, and more. All that considered, a monthly budget for a German Shepherd might be around $100 to $150. 

Appearance 

German Shepherds are medium to large-sized dogs with a strong and agile appearance. They have a medium-length double coat, tall and erect triangular ears, and a bushy tail. 

German shepherd photoshoot

Size 

The size of any German Shepherd can vary depending on its lineage. They are described as medium to large dogs, but some can be quite large while others are more on the medium side of the scale. 

Average Height

On average, male German Shepherds stand between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Female German Shepherds typically stand between 22 and 24 inches tall at the shoulder. 

Average Weight 

Male German Shepherds, on average, weigh anywhere between 65 and 90 pounds. Female German Shepherds generally weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. 

Temperament 

German Shepherds are energetic, loyal, fun-loving dogs who are eager to please. There are a wide variety of breeders out there that focus on or emphasize different traits. Some might focus on breeding show-quality German Shepherds with perfect build and appearance, while others may focus more on creating highly trainable dogs with a very intense drive.

German shepherd with a stick

When looking for a family pet, it’s best to look for a breeder who focuses on creating a dog with a well-rounded personality and temperament with high-trainability. 

Apartment living? 

German Shepherds aren’t typically described as being great dogs to have in apartments. They have a loud bark, require a lot of physical exercise, and can be quite naughty, especially as puppies and teenagers, if they aren’t getting adequate stimulation.

That being said, German Shepherds can live in apartments successfully, but this can vary widely depending on the individual dog as well as the lifestyle of the owner. The ideal apartment would be dog-friendly, have an outdoor dog park or dog run, and plenty of walking trails nearby. And the owner would need to make sure the dog gets plenty of exercise and activity in the morning and afternoon. 

Good For Novice Owners? 

Generally speaking, German Shepherds are not ideal for first-time dog owners. They require a great deal of time, research, dedicated training, and practically endless amounts of exercise. Because they are a working dog breed, German Shepherds can easily become bored and frustrated and even develop certain behavioral problems like anxiety and aggression if their needs aren’t met. 

Sensitivity Level

German Shepherds are incredibly smart dogs and, as such, are highly in tune with their owners and their emotions. They can easily pick up on people’s moods, feelings, and emotions, which can then affect or alter their behavior. 

Tolerate Being Alone? 

German Shepherds can tolerate being alone for a period of time, but they certainly won’t be happy about it! They are highly attached to their owners and families. Without proper training, if left alone, German Shepherds can become extremely vocal with excessive whining and barking and develop destructive tendencies. 

Tolerate Cold Weather?

German Shepherds have a thick double coat of fur that is designed to help protect them from the cold. Though not as insulated as other winter breeds like Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds still do quite well in colder weather thanks to their coats. 

Tolerate Hot Weather? 

German Shepherds’ thick coats can actually help keep them from overheating as well as keep them from getting too cold. The double coat helps trap cool air next to their body while keeping the heat at bay. However, because of their often dark color, the sun can cause them to get too hot, so they must always have access to shade and water. 

Affectionate With Family? 

German Shepherds are most often known to be very affectionate with their families. They are known for their loyalty and strong bond with their owners, and they often seek out affection and attention from their family members. They thrive on social interaction and physical touch, and many enjoy being petted, cuddled, and given attention by their owners. 

Kid-friendly? 

Most German Shepherds can easily be considered to be kid-friendly. However, this can vary among individual dogs as some may be too hyperactive to be around young children or may not have the patience to tolerate children who haven’t been taught how to pet nicely. 

Dog-friendly? 

Because German Shepherds are so highly bonded with their owners, they can easily become too protective of their owners and become reactive and aggressive to other dogs if not properly trained and socialized. When fully trained and socialized, German Shepherds can get along with just about any dog. 

Friendly Towards Strangers?

German Shepherds often feel protective over their families and owners, so they can initially be hesitant or aloof towards strangers. But with training and socialization, owners can easily teach their German Shepherds to be well-behaved and friendly. 

Health and Grooming 

Though typically healthy dogs overall, German Shepherds do have some ailments that they may be more susceptible to than other dogs. And additionally, while they certainly do not need a haircut by any means, they do require frequent brushing to keep their coat in good condition. 

Brown dog laying down

Shedding 

German Shepherds are heavy shedders. They have a thick, double coat that sheds year-round, with heavier shedding occurring twice a year during seasonal coat changes in the spring and fall.

Drooling 

German Shepherds are not known for excessive drooling. They may drool a little after drinking water or in anticipation of a yummy treat, but drooling is not typically the norm. 

Grooming 

German Shepherds should be brushed at least twice a week and more frequently during seasonal shedding periods. A slicker brush and undercoat rake can be used to remove loose hair and prevent matting.

German Shepherds do not need frequent baths but can definitely benefit from an occasional bath with a de-shedding shampoo and conditioner to help remove loose shedding fur. Other aspects of grooming for German Shepherds include regular ear cleaning, nail trims, and teeth brushing. 

General Health 

To keep your German Shepherd healthy, it’s important to provide regular veterinary care, including vaccinations, parasite prevention, and routine check-ups. Feeding a healthy diet and providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation can also help promote their overall health and well-being.

Common Health Problems 

Some common health concerns that German Shepherds may be more susceptible to include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, allergies, Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, a condition where the stomach twists and can potentially cut off blood supply to major organs, and degenerative myelopathy, a neurological condition. 

Potential For Weight Gain

German Shepherds can be prone to weight gain if they are not provided with enough exercise and a balanced diet. Like all dogs, they need regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity.

Trainability 

German Shepherds are highly trainable dogs. As working dogs, they are incredibly eager to please, and with proper training, will do just about anything their owners or handlers ask of them. 

German shepherd running in the field

Easy To Train? 

German Shepherds are incredibly intelligent and eager to please. Once you find a reward they love, like a ball or a treat, they’ll quickly learn to do whatever you ask of them. 

Intelligence

German Shepherds are commonly considered the third most intelligent dog breed in the world, with only Standard Poodles and Border Collies ranking higher than them in terms of intelligence. But they could easily be considered the smartest dog breed due to their intense loyalty to their owner. 

Potential To Bite?

German Shepherds are not inherently aggressive dogs, but like all dogs, they do have the potential to bite. With proper training, though, this risk can significantly decrease. 

Tendency to Bark Or Howl? 

German Shepherds are protective by nature and may bark or howl in response to perceived threats, strangers, or unfamiliar situations. They may also bark to alert their owners of potential dangers or to demand attention or play. Excessive barking or howling can signify boredom, anxiety, or a lack of exercise or mental stimulation.  

History

All German Shepherds today can trace their lineage to one special dog named Hektor Linksrhein. At the age of four, in 1899, he was purchased in Germany by Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz, who was trying to perfect the shepherd dogs of Germany. He was renamed Horand von Grafrath and became one of the founding dogs in von Stephanitz’s wildly successful breeding program. 

Horand von grafrath circa 1899
Horand von grafrath circa 1899

Costs 

The price of a German Shepherd can vary widely depending on factors such as location, bloodlines, and whether it’s a working, show, or family dog. Most people can expect to pay somewhere between $850 and $1,800 for a purebred German Shepherd. 

German Shepherd Fun Facts 

  • German Shepherds are often used in movies and TV shows and have appeared in many famous films, including “Rin Tin Tin” and “K-9.”
  • Former presidents Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and President Joe Biden owned German Shepherds. 
  • German Shepherds are said to be as smart as a 2.5 to 3-year-old child. 
  • German Shepherds were some of the first-ever seeing eye dogs.
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About the author

Kerry

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.
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