A complete guide to German shepherd dogs

The German shepherd is an intelligent and fiercely loyal breed of dog that has served as a companion to humans for hundreds of years. The German shepherd as we know it today was introduced in German at the turn of the 20th century. During the World Wars, the word "German" was dropped and the breed was referred to by the name Alsatian.


Height: 23 to 26 inches at the withers.

Weight: Typical males weigh in between 70 and 100 pounds, females between 60 and 80 pounds.

Coat: A German shepherd's coat is very dense and often quite coarse. It can be short or long. Tan and black German shepherds are most common, but it is not particularly unusual to see a cream or white German shepherd. White German shepherds are controversial and are disqualified by some kennel clubs.

Ears and Eyes: Ears point upwards. Eyes are dark and almond-shaped.

Tail: This breed has a bushy tail that hangs down to the hocks and often displays a slight curve.


German shepherds need to develop a strong bond with their owners or behavioral problems may arise. In most cases, they are loyal companions.

AKC Group: Herding

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Training: Good training is essential, as the breed can become anxious and aggressive if it does not receive proper handling. A confident and capable owner is necessary.

Ideal Environment: German shepherds require ongoing training and socialization, so they should not go to a home without a committed owner. German shepherds tend to behave well in homes with children and other dogs, but their prey drive instinct can be a danger. German shepherds are large dogs that require a lot of exercise, so they will need room to roam.

Health and Care

Feeding: The ideal diet for a German shepherd is high in protein. It is not uncommon for German shepherds to be fussy eaters and even go a full day without eating.

Grooming: A German shepherd's coat should be brushed a few times each day. German shepherds tend to have a very high shedding rate.

Exercise: Routine exercise is essential. German shepherds love strenuous activity, so don't be afraid to play with your dog for a long period of time at a high tempo.

Health Problems: Poor breeding practices have led to several common health problems among this breed. The most common health problems are hip dysplasia, spinal disorders, heart problems, skin problems and ear infections.

Average Lifespan: Expect a healthy, average German shepherd to live for 10 to 13 years.

A Word About German Shepherd Breeders

Compare various breeders in your area before purchasing a dog. Do not buy from a puppy mills, as they often subject German shepherd puppies to poor living conditions. Consider rescuing a German shepherd from an animal shelter—many families are not prepared for the commitment necessary to care for a German shepherd and abandon their dogs.