German shepherd dogs are the second most popular dog breed in the US. These dogs are noble, smart, hardworking, loyal, and a perfect combination of intelligence, agility, and trainability.
These canines are relatively new and have a large and impressively streamlined structure. They are strong, agile, and make excellent herding dogs. However, something that makes German Shepherds so valuable is their immense versatility.
These dogs excel in nearly everything including sports, herding, guarding, and police work. These are the first dogs that are ever used to assist blind people, which is why they are preferred and valued service dogs.
Other than these, they are excellent family and emotional support animals. They are smart and are loyal to a fault. Know all about this impressive, strong, and loyal dog in the blog.
Since these dogs are very common and widespread in the United States, many people think that they have been around forever. To everyone’s surprise, this dog breed is relatively new and was originated in 1899, the first half of the 20th-century.
The ancestors of these dogs used to work as servants and companions for humans. The dog was developed in Germany, as the name also says.
The GSD that we know and love today is a credit to Captain Max von Stephanitz, who developed the breed from the old shepherd and farm dogs. He wanted to create a breed that has superior herding skills, is athletic, and equally intelligent.
He saw many herding dogs but none of them embodied all of these qualities. In 1899, von Stephanitz went to a dog show and saw a dog that had a wolf-like appearance. The dog’s intelligence, powerful build, and demeanor impressed him a lot and he bought the dog.
He studied the German breeding methods and the breed became quite popular. German shepherds were bred to be herding dogs but later von Stephanitz used his military connections to book work for these dogs.
It is because Germany was industrializing and he did not want the breed to go to waste. The dog’s impressive intelligence and overall skills made him quite successful with police and military work.
Rin Tin Tin and Warner Bros.
In 1922, Rin Tin Tin acted in the movie ‘The Man from Hell’s River’, as a wolf. It was a silent movie, written by Duncan, Rin Tin Tin’s owner who studied the dog’s facial expressions and wrote the film around them.
The movie was produced by Warner Bros. a then struggling production house. It cost them $100,000 and the movie brought $352,000 in business. It was saved from bankruptcy and they produced 26 movies with the dog.
Apart from this, GSDs are decorated war heroes that served in World War I and II. Due to the dog’s intelligence, agility, and loyalty, many of these canine heroes went home with the soldiers and lived with them as family members and companions.
One particularly ‘lucky’ GSD was rescued and brought home by an American corporal who trained him and turned him into a renowned movie star. The dog’s name was Rin Tin Tin who acted in 27 movies and, reportedly, he saved Warner Bros. from bankruptcy in 1923.
Rin Tin Tin was an immense success and is remembered as one of the most influential four-legged celebrities. The British and American admirers tried to remove the ‘German’ part from the dog’s name but reverted back to its original identity and name.
A very few people know that despite being a not-very-rare breed, breeding a premium quality puppy with all the right traits is quite costly. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1908.
In 1913, an official German Shepherd Dog Club of America was formed that still works as an organization to support the breeding of these dogs and promote them as incomparable police dogs, rescue dogs, and herding dogs.
Unfortunately, still many of these dogs end up in shelter and rescue homes. To get one, you can check with local German Shepherd rescue groups and see if they have a GSD buddy for you.
German shepherds are large dogs and by large we mean, REALLY LARGE. These dogs were bred to do herd and farm work and a dog with a small structure would not be able to do it successfully. Therefore, the breeders were careful that they bred a powerful and agile dog.
The male dogs stand at 24 to 26 inches and the females stand at 22 to 24 inches in height. The weight of the dog ranges from 75 to 95 pounds. Below is the standard AKC recognized breed standard for a German shepherd.
Teeth - teeth are strong, well-developed, and meet in a scissor-bite fashion. Some parts of the inner surface of the upper incisors meet with a part of the lower incisor’s lower surface.
The jaw must neither be overshot or undershot, which is considered a serious flaw.
Neck - the neck is long, muscular, has clean cuts, in proportion with the size of the head, and does not have any loose folds of skin. Usually, it is carried forward and a bit higher than the top of the shoulders.
When alert, the head is raised and the neck is carried high.
Topline - the withers are set at high and it sloped towards the level of the back. The back is well-developed and strongly built.
It is short and without any sagging while the whole body gives an impression of strength and confidence, without any bulkiness.
Color Combinations for German Shepherd Dogs
German Shepherd dogs come in 11 color combinations and AKC prefers deep, dark, and rich color palettes over light and faded hues.
White, liver, blue, and panda-colored German Shepherds are NOT ACCEPTED by AKC and such dogs are instantly disqualified. Breeders attempt to charge a higher price for these rare GSDs but these are all unacceptable colors.
For complete breed standard, check AKC’s German Shepherd Dog breed standard.
No, both of these dogs look a lot alike and many people think that they are the same. Both of these dogs are very energetic and smart and have intense personalities. Below are some common differences between the two breeds.
|German Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois|
|Somewhat heavier and stockier, athletic, & broad||Sleek, short and dense coat, athletic, shed less than a GSD|
|22 - 26 inches||21 - 24 inches|
|50 - 90 pounds||40 - 70 pounds|
|Personality and Temperament|
|Smart, confident, & brave||Smart, independent, & courageous|
|Generally healthy||Very healthy|
|7 - 10 years||12 - 14 years|
|$1,000 and Upwards||$1,500 and Upwards|
Belgian Malinois have a more intense, driven, and work-oriented personality than a German Shepherd. Their work ethic, herding skills, intensity, exercise needs, energy, and prey drive is stronger than GSDs. This is why German Shepherds make better house animals and ESAs than Belgian Malinois dogs.
‘Is a German Shepherd a good family dog?’
Generally, these dogs are very gentle and have an aloof kind of personality. This does not mean that they are excessively aggressive or dangerous dogs. They are reserved and are slow to make friends but once they do, they do it for life. These canines are notorious for their fiercely loyal personalities.
When at home, they are very gentle and easygoing with kids and family members but do not be filled by it. These dogs make excellent military, police, and watchdogs. They are natural guardians and they take their job very seriously. They are alert, strong, and protective of everyone they love.
Due to high intelligence and trainability, they are easy to train and they love to have a job. They were bred to work and they LOVE to work and be of service. This makes these dogs very versatile also as you can train them to do anything.
From guiding a blind person to working on a farm, they excel in everything.
However, these dogs could not be left alone for long. Due to high intelligence and trainability, they need to socialize and have several physical and mental stimulation activities to stay active, calm, happy, and healthy.
If left alone or ignored for a long time, these canines display their boredom and frustration through excess barking and chewing.
These dogs need early and ample socialization to develop into well-rounded and healthy dogs. Training is important and you can either do it yourself with a dog whistle, enroll them into a puppy kindergarten, or hire a professional dog trainer for your dog.
Other than this, expose your puppy to different people and experiences to help him develop the required skills.
‘What health problems does a German Shepherd have?’
These dogs are quite healthy and anyone having a GSD probably knows this. However, like all other breeds, they are prone to a number of diseases and health concerns. This does not mean that every GSD will have these health issues.
But it is better to know about them if you are considering bringing one of these canines home. Below are some common health issues in GSDs.
Hip Dysplasia - it is a heritable disease in which the thighbone does not fit properly with the hip joint and causes mobility issues in dogs. The condition is common in large dogs and canines having the condition must not be bred.
It could be diagnosed through an x-ray screening and testing.
Elbow Dysplasia - it is also a heritable disease that is common in large-sized dogs. It is caused when all three bones, forming the dog’s elbow do not grow at the same rate. This causes joint laxity and could lead to lameness and difficulties in walking.
The condition could be surgically corrected and the pain could be managed with painkillers.
Gastric Dilation-Volvulus - it is a life-threatening condition that is commonly known as bloat. It is a common condition in large chested dogs and could be worse if they are fed one large meal a day.
In this condition, the stomach of the dog twists and the dog is unable to belch or vomit. It could cause a sudden drop in the dog’s blood pressure and if not treated immediately, it could result in the canine’s death.
Degenerative Myelopathy - it is a dangerous condition in which the dog’s spinal cord could not communicate with the brain properly. It specifically targets the movement of hind legs and the dogs having the condition that could not move them properly.
In most cases, the dog loses all movement in his hind legs and because the condition is incurable, the dog is euthanized or put to sleep.
In a few cases, the condition could be due to the deficiency of vitamin-12 or vitamin E and it could be rectified with additional supplements.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency - it is a genetic disease that destroys the cells of the pancreas and its digestive enzymes. Due to this, the dog is unable to digest and absorb the food properly.
Early signs of the condition include loss of appetite, gas, weight loss, and the dog looking thin, lethargic, and hungry.
The condition could be diagnosed with a blood test and it is quite easy to treat it also. Digestive enzymes are added to the dog’s food and many of the dogs recover successfully.
Allergies - GSDs could contract a number of allergies including both contact and food allergies. The symptoms are the same as in dogs like scratching, licking at the paws, and rubbing of the face.
Before bringing one of such canines home, it is better that you know about these diseases and are prepared to handle them.
The dogs were originally bred to work and flock the cattle all day and they are excellent in their work. They are high-energy dogs and will need daily and a lot of exercise to burn off that energy. Due to this, they could not be left alone for long as they could be destructive and exhibit behavior like barking, chewing, and digging.
GSDs are vigorous barkers, one of the characteristic traits of herding dogs, and it could be quite problematic if the dog is bored. To keep him contained and in good shape, both physically and emotionally, it is better to give him ample mental and physical stimulation.
These dogs were bred to herd livestock and cattle and their coat is designed to help him work in harsh climates. They have a medium, double coat, with a thick undercoat, that is naturally clean and odorless. It protects him from rain and snow and is dirt-resistant.
German Shepherds are available in 11 color variations. These variations include solid black, black and cream, black and red, black and silver, black and tan, blue, gray, liver, sable, and white. Unfortunately, rare color variations like white, liver and blue are not accepted.
|Black and tan, black and cream, black and silver, red and black, black and red, solid black, sable, dark sable, black sable, and bi-color|
|Gray, liver, light blue, panda pattern|
|Solid white, solid blue, fawn, pure red, black, and white spotted|
Their coat variations include single, double, and triple coat variations. The double coat is straight and it stays close to the body. Sometimes, the coat could be wiry and wavy.
These dogs shed a lot and due to this, they are also known as ‘German shedders’ and they shed hair in blows, like a snowstorm and they shed twice a year. Bringing one of these canines home means that you will have to deal with hair on the furniture, bedding, and your clothes.
‘How to groom your German Shepherd dog?’
These dogs shed a lot and you will need to brush them at least two to three times a week. Brushing will prevent the hair from ending up on the floor, furniture, and clothes, and a good vacuum cleaner will help in cleaning all the hair from the floor. Frequent bathing will strip natural oils of the dog’s hair and skin.
Trim the nails once a month and check the ears every week. Make sure that they are odorless and free from any redness, itching, and bad smell. Wipe the ears with a cotton ball and a gentle cleanser. These dogs love to chew and this helps in keeping their teeth clean also.
Get your dog some dental chews and toys to fight plaque and tartar. Brush your dog’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and get a good-quality canine toothbrush for it. Learn about how to groom a dog at home and save big on the grooming and maintenance of your dog.
‘What is the recommended amount of food for my German Shepherd?’
The recommended amount of food for an adult German Shepherd is 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups of high-quality kibble, twice a day. The amount of food depends on the size, weight, health condition, and age of your dog.
Choose the dog food that is formulated for a large-sized dog breed that is high in energy and has high exercise needs. The feeding needs and requirements change as the puppy grows into an adult dog. German Shepherds grow really quick and due to this, they could be affected by several bone and joint-related disorders.
Therefore, a diet that is high in quality and low in calories will be ideal for them. Do not allow your GSD puppy to play on hard surfaces and until they are two years old. By then, their joints will be fully developed. Keep a close eye on their eating habits and the amount of food they eat.
Do not leave the food and always measure the food before giving it to your dog. Below is a list of the best dog food for adult German Shepherd dogs.
The puppies need different kinds of diets and their food is also different from the adult dogs. Below are the top choices for a GSD puppy.
Need a dog that looks like a GSD but has other qualities as well? Though German Shepherds are quite versatile and probably the only dog that excels in a lot of ways, some people need a dog that has the same looks but also has other qualities.
Below are some of those qualities.
Based on the preferences, dog-owners look for dogs that look like a GSD and have the desired qualities as well. Here are some of those dog breeds.
All of these dogs are shepherd dogs that explain their resemblance with the German Shepherd and they make great family companions and emotional support animals. Other than these canines, a number of other dog breeds also make excellent ESAs and pets, and you can choose from them to bring one home.
These dogs make ideal emotional support animals due to many reasons. They are very smart, which means that they could understand your feelings easily, and being patient and quiet, they will bring serenity and comfort to your life.
However, before getting one of these dogs, get a genuine ESA letter. Having a fake ESA letter could land you in trouble, which is why it is important that you get the real thing only.
Fill the questionnaire to see if you qualify.
Frequently Asked Questions
On average, the cost could be anywhere between $500 to $1,500. The price could vary and show quality dogs would cost more than the ones that are bred to be family dogs only.
Yes, GSDs are known for their aggressive personalities and tendencies. However, proper training and socialization would help in managing them successfully.
GSDs are very gentle and patient and this is why they make excellent house pets and ESAs. They are gentle companions for the family members, kids, and other pets and due to their extremely protective personalities, they make ideal guard dogs also.
They could run as fast as 30 mph and they could jump as high as 2 to 3 feet. These dogs were bred to be trusted police and military dogs, which is why they are quite athletic and capable.
The GSDs have a strong bite of 238 psi. The bite force is second to a Rottweiler only and with such strength, these dogs are more than capable of breaking bones and kittling, if not trained properly.
The only way to know that the dog is purebred is by doing DNA testing. The process is quite simple and all you need is a DNA testing kit from a company. You will use the swab and get the sample from your dog’s cheek for the testing.
Being extremely versatile and adaptable, GSDs could do well being an inside dog. However, this does not mean that they will not need their playtime. They are high-energy dogs and they will need his daily walk and exercise sessions.
If you are looking for a guard dog then a male German Shepherd will be a better choice. If you need a rather calm and easy-to-train dog then a female GSD will be better. Male dogs are more dominant and make better guard dogs. Female dogs are gentle and are more prone to attaching to a single family member.
German Shepherds bark more than average dogs and it is mainly because they are herding dogs and they use their bark to direct and control the cattle.
Below are some foods that could be poisonous for German Shepherd dogs: