German Shepherds

a German Shepherd running outside

The German Shepherd is a beloved dog breed that has been around for centuries. They are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and strong work ethic. German Shepherds have become popular family pets in recent years due to their friendly personalities and ability to bond with their family.

German Shepherds are large dogs, typically weighing between 50-90 pounds when fully grown. They have a thick double coat that can be either short or long, and come in a variety of colors including black, tan, sable, and white (super rare color). German Shepherds have strong jaws and an alert expression that makes them look intimidating to strangers.

The German Shepherd is a breed well known for their adaptability to their surroundings. In World Wars I and II, they were often used to help soldiers with their duties. German Shepherds’ dominant traits of intelligence, alertness, devotion and obedience make them superb companions, guide dogs and service dogs

They need a great deal of exercise and attention, and an active family will be a good match up of people and pets.

German Shepherds are highly trainable and eager to please. They are also very smart and can learn new tricks quickly. They are also very strong and athletic, making them excellent companions for people who enjoy physical activities. A family will be able to depend on their German Shepherd for loyalty and protection. 

Because of their size, German Shepherds need a lot of room to run around and stretch out. They are happiest when given fresh air and sunshine. Although they enjoy being outside and can withstand extreme temperatures, it’s very important to ensure that they don’t overheat by making sure they have shade and lots of water in the summer heat.

Socialization will be important so they can be comfortable with their family as well as with strangers or other pets. German Shepherds are naturally affectionate with children. They tend to be rather vocal, training should include lessons for them to stop barking. 

German Shepherds are an excellent choice for first-time dog owners. They are loyal, intelligent, and eager to please. With proper training and socialization, they can make wonderful family pets that will be devoted to their family for life.

German Shepherds are generally healthy dogs, but they can be prone to certain health issues. Common health problems include hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, skin conditions, and eye problems. It’s important to keep up with regular vet visits and give your German Shepherd a nutritious diet to help prevent any potential health issues.

German Shepherds are also known for their protective instincts. They will alert their family to any potential threats and will guard their family with their lives.

Overall, German Shepherds are an amazing dog breed that make wonderful family pets. They are loyal, intelligent, and devoted to their owners. With proper training and socialization, they can be a great addition to any home.

German Shepherd Information

  • Average Height: 22 to 26 inches
  • Average Length: 36 to 42.5 inches
  • Average Weight: 60 to 90 pounds
  • Coat Type: Medium length
  • Coat Appearance: Thick, rough and close-lying topcoat with a soft undercoat 
  • Coat Colors: Combination of black and cream, black and silver, black and gray, black and red, black and tan, and single colors like blue, sable, white, gray and liver 
  • Grooming Needs: Medium 
  • Shedding: High Shedding
  • Brushing Requirements: 3-4 times a week 
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Excessive Barking: Yes
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good Pet: Yes, they are very loyal to their family
  • Safe with Children: With training and early exposure, yes!
  • Good with Other Dogs: High
  • Good with Other Pets: High
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Training: They are intelligent and can learn fast
  • Exercise Needs: High
  • Weight Gain: High
  • Health Concerns: elbow and hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, bloat, and other digestive disorders
  • Allergies: Food and contact allergies
  • Average Life Span: 10 to 14 years

Physical Appearance of German Shepherds

a German Shepherd standing in a field of flowers

The German Shepherds have a taller frame than most dogs with a muscular body. The long shape of their body makes them look powerful and elegant. On their face they have a long pointed snout with brown eyes. The adult dogs have a square-shaped head with erect ears. Puppy ears don’t normally stand up until the 4th or 5th month, usually about the time they finish teething.

German Shepherds have a double coat with thick, rough, and straight fur that lies close to their body. Sometimes the overcoat will have a wavy pattern. The undercoat is dense and soft. German Shepherds have a short to medium-length coat of about 2” long over their body and tail. On their head, face, and legs their fur is shorter. The medium length coat helps protect them from extreme temperatures.

The AKC has recognized twelve colors of their coat. The more common coat colors include bi-color; cream and black; black and silver; gray; and sable.

Temperament of German Shepherds

They tend to be alert, which is why they are excellent guard dogs. German Shepherds are intelligent and can be trained to perform many kinds of tricks. German Shepherds have a confident personality and are also loyal and obedient family dogs.

German Shepherds can be a great guide for the disabled and elderly. They have a fun-loving and playful attitude around children, which is why they’re known as excellent family dogs. While they are great with their family, they are reserved and do not make friends with strangers easily. Socialization training is necessary to help them be comfortable with strangers and other animals.

Training a German Shepherd

Early Socialization Training

a cute German Shepherd puppy outside with the wind blowing their fur

Early socialization is absolutely necessary for German Shepherds. They need exposure to different sounds, places, people, other dogs, and pets right when they are a puppy. By being exposed to so many things it will help interact more confidently with others and not be so uneasy with strangers or other dogs.

Obedience Training Classes

Obedience training classes are a great way to help your dog learn some basic instructions. Obedience training isn’t just for your dog, it also helps owners learn to teach and control their new dog. These classes can teach you as an owner the best ways to teach your puppy. The amount of time you spend trying to stop your German Shepherds’ excessive barking can be a lot less if you know the best way to teach them.

Because these dogs love barking, with or without obedience training you will likely spend a good deal of time teaching them to be quiet.

Apart from the usual sit, stand, kneel, and roll instructions you will likely spend some time teaching them how to stay quiet. While their breed is known for barking this is something that you can control with proper training.

Clicker Training

Puppies need to be trained to understand what is good behavior and what is not OK. Clicker training will help them understand what is good behavior. Clicker training has you make a noise with the clicker when the desired action is done. In addition to the click you’ll give them a treat, at least while you train them. Every time your dog hears the click they’ll know they did a good job and you are happy.

If your dog misbehaves, try not to punish them because it can discourage them. Instead, remember the clicker training and divert their attention to something else. You might have to do this several times to help your dog understand that they are not supposed to do the undesired activities.

Kennel Training

Some Germans are known to suffer from separation anxiety. If done right they will see the kennel as their safe space, and a place that they can relax and sleep. Most dogs enjoy small spaces and will find a sense of security while inside it. Getting them comfortable in a kennel early on will save you a lot of headaches. You know that they can’t get into trouble while you’re sleeping or at work if they’re in their kennel. It’s also a great place for them to dry off after they come into the house when it’s wet outside.

Their Compatibility with Children

2 super cute German Shepherd puppies laying next to each other

While the German Shepherd is a puppy you should try to expose them to children early on. The more exposure you give them while they are younger the better they will be. Socialization training will ensure they become approachable and friendly with kids. Quite often a German Shepherd who is a few years old will also handle babies quite well, and actually be quite protective of them.

German Shepherd Dogs inherently have a protective nature towards their family. When it comes to children they tend to be more gentle and affectionate in their behavior. Having them around will ensure your children are protected from strangers and other animals. However, due to their large and strong muscular-build, sometimes they may accidentally jump on or push your child.

Teach your kids the best ways to interact with your dog. Children should not disturb them when they are eating because they might get bit because your dog thinks their food is being taken away. Until you know how your children and new puppy will react its best to have an adult supervise their interactions. Supervision is the best way to prevent accidents from occurring.

Best Climate for a German Shepherd

a German Shepherd sitting outside in the grass on a sunny day

German Shepherds dogs are capable of handling extreme temperatures. They are comfortable in both hot and cold climates. Their insulated coat helps them to trap the heat or cold when exposed to extreme temperatures.

In hot climates, you need to make sure that they have adequate shade and enough water to keep them from overheating. They can spend a lot of time in the sun outside but you have to keep them hydrated. If you live in a hot region make sure there is enough water for your dog to drink at all times. On hot days their water should be checked a few times a day. Their bowl may spill or they could drink it all if they get too hot.

It is also important to note that there is no agreed upon temperature that is “too high” for German Shepherds. Once the temperatures creep past 80 you should watch your dog to see how they are handling the heat. Each family has a unique situation for heat, people can only use their best judgefment with how long their dogs can safely stay outside.

German Shepherd dogs do great in the cold. You can take them out for long walks in the snow or let them play in your yard for hours. Most German Shepherds can comfortably stay outside for several hours to as low as 0 degrees. If you plan to have the dog stay out all night, you will need something like a dog house to protect them. They’ll need something to stop the wind and help retain heat. A heater and some blankets aren’t a bad idea either.

If you bring your dog inside after it has had a chance to play outside remember to clean their paws off well. By cleaning their paws you stop chemicals used to melt snow from being licked by your dog as they clean themselves, and keep them from staining your carpet.

The Attention a German Shepherd Needs

German Shepherd dogs have an active personality. With as active as they are, they will need a good deal of time spent playing with them or spent on walks. They really need at least one hour daily spent running around in the yard or on walks to keep fit. Exercise will keep them in good shape, both mentally and physically. If they do not get enough time spent exercising, like most dogs they have a tendency to misbehave, often destructively.

In addition to their exercise needs, they also demand a lot of attention from their family. Because they live for affection, the German Shepherds dogs love spending time around their family whenever possible. Staying alone can bore them which can lead to your dog barking excessively or even cause certain behavioral problems.

Health Issues

Through their active personality aids in keeping them healthy, some tend to experience certain diseases like joint issues, digestion problems, and allergies as they age.

Hip Dysplasia

an xray of the hips of a pet with hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem that can make walking, getting up or laying down difficult and painful. When a dog has hip dysplasia, their hip socket fails to fully cover the ball portion of their thigh bone. The looseness between the hip and leg bone leads to partial or complete dislocation of their hip joint and can cause pain and stiffness. In most cases, medication and exercise restrictions are advised by the vet. Over time the condition could become severe enough that your vet might recommend surgery to correct it.


Allergies are a common problem for dogs, just like humans. Dogs can have food allergies, environmental allergens such as pollen and dust mites, and even flea bites. Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms in dogs, including itchy skin, sneezing, coughing, and eye discharge.

Symptoms of Canine Allergies

The most common symptom of dog allergies is itchy skin. Dogs can scratch, lick, or chew at their skin to try and relieve the itching. Other symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Eye discharge

Some dogs might also have hair loss or bald patches due to excessive scratching or licking.

Periodontal Disease

Domesticated cats and dogs can get periodontal disease if their oral health is not taken care of. Periodontal disease is a tooth and gum condition that can become serious in a few ways. One of the biggest problems is that this disease can destroy the gums and teeth of your pet if left untreated.

Another major problem if the bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream. Plaque build-up in the mouth can damage the gums and let bacteria enter the bloodstream. If this happens it can cause kidney and liver diseases and narrow their blood vessels which can lead to heart problems.

One of the easiest ways to prevent periodontal disease is to regularly brush your pet’s teeth. More than likely they won’t like it, but regular brushing is the best way you can prevent plaque buildup in your pets mouth.

Degenerative myelopathy

Canine Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive and incurable neurological disorder that affects dogs. It’s caused by nerve cells deteriorating in their spinal cord. Symptoms of DM typically begin to appear when the dog is between one and five years old, although some breeds can be affected earlier or later. Affected dogs can have signs of weakness in their hind legs, loss of coordination, and difficulty walking. As the condition progresses, dogs can become completely paralyzed in their hind legs.

The cause of degenerative myelopathy is not fully understood. It’s most commonly found in older dogs, but is most common in Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Poodles, Pugs and Golden Retrievers. Studies suggest that a genetic mutation might be associated with the disease. This mutation causes certain proteins to abnormaly buildup in their spinal cord, which can lead to nerve cell damage.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the disease’s progression. It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms of DM, so that they can get medical attention as soon as possible if their dog starts having symptoms.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia is a condition that affects a dog’s elbow joint. It’s caused by abnormal growth and development of their elbow joint, resulting in pain, lameness, and arthritis. Elbow dysplasia can be caused by genetic factors or environmental factors such as nutrition or trauma.

Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia

Dogs can also have a decreased range of motion in the affected joint. In severe cases, dogs will have difficulty walking or running. The symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia can vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, dogs can have signs of:

  •  Lameness 
  •  Stiffness in their elbow joint

 As the condition progresses, dogs will get:

  • Increased pain 
  • Swelling in the joint

In severe cases, dogs can get arthritis in their elbow joint.

Diagnosis of canine block or gastric torsion.

Bloat or Gastric Torsion

Bloat or gastric torsion is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect any dog breed. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms so that you can get medical attention for your pet as soon as possible if they have any of them. Bloat or gastric torsion occurs when the stomach becomes filled with gas, fluid, or food.

This causes the stomach to twist on itself, cutting off the blood supply to the organs and leading to shock.

Symptoms of Bloat or Gastric Torsion

The most common symptoms of bloat or gastric torsion include:

  • Restlessness
  • Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distention
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to burp or pass gas

If your dog has any of these symptoms, it’s important to get medical attention immediately because the condition can be fatal if not treated quickly.

It’s important to note that some dogs might not have any signs until the condition has become severe.

Bathing, Coat, and Cleaning

The coats of German Shepherd dogs have natural oils that can get washed away if they are given regular baths. We recommend bathing them once a month or when they get dirty. They tend to be a clean dog which will keep them from smelling bad for longer than other breeds.

Because German Shepherds shed a lot, they will need to be brushed 3-4 times a week. Regular brushings will ensure you do not have hair all over your home or on your clothes. Depending on the condition of your dog’s fur, there are a number of brushes to remove their loose hair.

It is important that their hair not be cut in the summer. The way their coat is, it keeps them warm in the winter, but it is also designed to keep them cooler in the summer. If you cut their fur it could actually have the opposite effect where they’re hotter than if you only brushed them.

Their nails will need to be trimmed about once a month. Unless you are brushing their teeth regularly, take them to the vet twice a year to get their teeth cleaned. They love to chew and giving them chew toys is an easy way to help their dental hygiene.

Every week it is important to check their nose, paws, and other areas of your dog while brushing them for signs of redness or other infections. If you see any signs of infection, call your vet immediately.

Feeding A German Shepherd

A close up of a bowl of dog food.

German Shepherds need 2½ to 3½ cups of dog food every day, split into two meals. You should not leave the food out in the open so your dog can eat it whenever they want. If they don’t eat it all after it is put out, put the food away until the next scheduled feeding time.

Avoid feeding table scraps to your German Shepherd. If you want to feed them people food, consult your vet before giving them any. Eating more than what they are supposed to can cause them to put on weight or lead to negative health conditions.

Related Questions:

Which is Better for Your Family, Male or Female German Shepherds?

Females are considered to be more calm and gentle. When it comes to training, female German Shepherds seem to be more obedient than males. One reason is because males are a little more aggressive than females.

How Intelligent are German Shepherds?

It depends on what you are comparing them to! They are considered the third most intelligent dog breed. Their intelligence is one of the reasons why they are widely used as police dogs.

How did They become so Popular?

German Shepherd dogs became popular after their contribution in World War I. They performed different jobs and became noticeable for assisted soldiers of Germany and allied forces. They were actively engaged in rescue operations and warning soldiers of traps. After the war, some returning soldiers took them to the United States. German Shepherds were again used in World War II. They have also been cast in many movies which has further increased their popularity.

Are German Shepherds Popular Dogs?

Yes, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC) they are the second most popular dog, right behind Golden Retrievers.

Author Profile
A woman with curly hair holding a cat.
Contributing Author & Social Media Expert

Maryna is an animal expert that has had dozens of animals in her life over the years. She has never found an animal that she didn't love immediately. It seems like every year she finds kittens that have been abandoned by their mom and she nurses them to health and finds homes for them. She contributes her vast knowledge about animals and family pets to our website and we're forever grateful to have her working with us. She's also an amazing graphics designer and has designed all of the social media images that we use across all platforms.