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German Shepherd Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 22-26 in
Weight: 75-95 lbs
Life Span: 10-14 yrs
Coloring: Black and tan, black are most common. Many colors and color combinations are accepted, bold shades are preferred. White is not accepted.
Area of Origin: Germany
Similar Breeds: Belgian Shepherd, Belgian Sheepdog, Bearded Collie, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Bouvier de Flanders, Briard

History and Origin:

A descendant of the old-type shepherd dogs of Germany, the modern German Shepherd is a fairly new breed. With the increase in industrialization across Germany, sheepdogs as they had been used for centuries were becoming less and less needed. An ex-military man and veterinarian, Max von Stephanitz, believed that the purpose for dogs was to work, and while they were no longer as integral to the survival of the agriculture industry, they could still fulfill a variety of other purposes. Von Stephanitz encountered a dog named Hektor Linksrhein at a dog show in 1899, and fell in love with its intelligence and grace. He bought the dog, renamed it Horand von Grafrath, and declared it to be the first Deutche Schäferhunde (German Shepherd Dog). At the time, all shepherd-type dogs were called “German Shepherds”, and once von Stephanitz developed his new breed, all other dogs became known as “Altdeutcher Schäferhunde” (“old German Shepherd Dog”). The German Shepherd Dog continues to be used in a variety of working capacities, excelling in police, search and rescue, therapy, and military work. Once the sole breed used as service dogs and guide dogs, the German Shepherd has largely stopped being used in favor of the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever, both of which proved to be less defensive and aggressive than the German Shepherd.

Personality and Temperament:

One of the smartest dog breeds, the German Shepherd is only beaten by the Border Collie and the Poodle in intelligence. Extremely active and self-confident, the German Shepherd is agile, focused, and tenacious; making it an ideal partner for police and military work. Extremely obedient to and protective of its family, the German Shepherd requires early and consistent socialization in order for it to become a well-adjusted, delightful family companion. It has a particular affinity toward children, and will be a child’’s best friend. Perhaps due to its strong sheepdog instincts, the Shepherd has a tendency toward attacking smaller dogs, and care must be given when encountering other animals. Due to its strong personality, the German Shepherd is not an ideal breed for the nervous or first-time dog owner. It requires strong and consistent leadership in order for it to reach its maximum potential.

Exercise & Training:

The German Shepherd is an extremely active working dog, and needs plenty of exercise in order to keep it happy and healthy. Daily walks, runs, and activities that challenge the dog will help keep it satisfied by physically and mentally. The German Shepherd excels at agility, obedience trials, and “Schutzhund” trials (working suitability trials originally developed for the breed, but now open to any working dog).  Participating in these events will help strengthen the bond between dog and owner. Due to its physical needs, the German Shepherd is not suitable for apartment or small home living.  A large yard is ideal.  As one of the most intelligent breeds, the German Shepherd is exceptionally easy to train if the dog recognizes the dominance of its handler. Typically, it will pick up on a new command in under five repetitions, which makes it particularly suitable for police and military work, which require the dog to obey, understand, and use its intuition in any number of changing environments.


An average shedder, the German Shepherd will shed out its undercoat twice a year in the spring and fall. Daily brushing will keep the coat from getting matted, and will promote skin health. Extra care should be given during the shedding season to help remove all excess loose hair. Bathe only when necessary, as the coarse top coat contains oils essential for keeping the dog dry and warm.

Similar Breeds:

As a herding dog, the German Shepherd shares many characteristics with other shepherds, such as the Belgian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, and the Border Collie.

Interesting Facts about the German Shepherd:

1. The White German Shepherd dog is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, and many clubs have been developed to push for its recognition.

2. After World War I, the United Kennel Club renamed the breed to “Alsatian Wolf Dog” for fear that the associations with Germany would hurt the breed’s reputation. The name “German Shepherd” was not accepted again until 1977.

3. Among the earliest dog stars were German Shepherd; Strongheart (1921) and Rin Tin Tin (1922) are both represented on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

4. Many recognized and non-recognized breeds have German Shepherd blood: the Czechoslovakian Vicak, White Swiss Shepherd Dog, White Shepherd, King Shepherd and Shiloh Shepherd are all sub-types of the German Shepherd.

5. The German Shepherd is the second most popular breed in the United States, and is the fourth most popular breed in Great Britain

6. The dog trials, “Schutzhund”, is a suitability testing method for working dogs, originally developed in the early 1900s for German Shepherds.

Organizations dedicated to the German Shepherd:

German Shepherd Dog Club of America
United Schutzhund Clubs of America
The American German Shepherd Rescue Association
All Shepherd Rescue – German Shepherd Rescue Organization
White German Shepherd Dog Club International

Breeds Similar to German Shepherd Dogs:

Breed Information German Shepherd

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