a beautiful German Shepherd sitting in the grass

German Shepherds

The German Shepherd is a breed well known for their adaptability to their surroundings. In World Wars I and II, they were often employed 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 do require a great deal of exercise and attention, so an active family would be a good match up of people and pets.

A family would be able to depend on their German Shepherd for loyalty and protection. They do tend to be rather vocal, so training should include lessons for the dog in being quiet. Interestingly, German Shepherds are naturally affectionate with children. 

Socialization will be important so as to have the dog feel comfortable with the owner and the family as well as with strangers. Although this breed enjoys being outside and can withstand extremes in temperature, it is imperative to ensure that they do not overheat by providing shade and lots of water in the Summer heat.

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
  • Good tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good Pet: Yes, they are very loyal to their owners
  • 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
  • Suitable for First-Time Dog 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

The German Shepherd dogs have a taller frame than most with a muscular body. The long shape of their body makes them look powerful and elegant.They have a long pointed snout with almond-shaped eyes. The adult dogs have a square-shaped head with erect pointed ears. These dogs have a straight back and smooth curves which give them a noble appearance.

German Shepherds have a double coat with thick, rough, and straight fur that lies close to the body. Sometimes the outer coat also comes in a wavy pattern. The undercoat is dense and soft. On average, German Shepherd dogs have a medium-length coat with occasionally long length. The medium coat helps to protect them against extreme temperatures.

There are twelve recognized colors of the breed. Some commonly found coat colors include bi-color; cream and black; black and silver; gray; and sable.

Temperament of German Shepherds

They tend to be alert, which makes them excellent guard dogs and rescue dogs. German Shepherd dogs are intelligent, they are also loyal and obedient family dogs. German Shepherds exhibit a confident personality and can be trained to perform many kinds of tasks.

German Shepherd dogs can be a great guide for the disabled and elderly. It has a fun-loving and playful attitude around children, making them excellent family dogs. However, they are reserved and do not make friends easily. Socialization training is necessary to make them comfortable with strangers and other animals.

a German Shepherd running in a grassy field playing
a German Shepherd puppy watching something in the distance

Training a German Shepherd dog

German Shepherds are very smart and they are easy to train. Enrolling them for puppy training and socialization classes early on could be of great help. Take them to meet new people, other pets, and take them out for walks in the park. This will expose them to others, making them much more comfortable interacting with strangers and other animals in the future. 

Because they are a very active breed, you should have little problem getting them potty trained.  They love to go outside, so you will often find that they have no problem doing their business while you are out playing with them.  Just be sure to encourage them, and have them associate going potty with specific words such as “Go Potty.” This will let them know where the correct place is to go potty when the need arises and will help to keep your home clean.

Apart from the usual sit, stand, kneel, and roll instructions you will likely spend some time teaching them how to stay quiet. This will help to deal with their regular barking. While their breed is known for barking this is something that you can control with proper training.  If you have difficulty controlling their barking you should consider obedience training.  Most have good success however with positive encouragement and treats to get them to break the habit.

Some Germans are known to suffer from separation anxiety. To address this, provide regular kennel training to them. This will get them accustomed to staying alone and calm, even when you are away. Most dogs will feel that this is their safe space and you may find that they want to go into their kennel if they are afraid.

Their Compatibility with Children

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, sometimes even trying to keep other children from disturbing them.

German Shepherd Dogs inherently have a protective nature towards their owners. 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. While the children and the German Shepherd are learning how to play well together it is best that they have adult supervision until you feel comfortable with them playing alone together.

Best Climate for a German Shepherd

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 provide them adequate shade and water to keep them from overheating. They can easily spend time in the sun outside but you have to keep them hydrated. If you stay in a hot region make sure there is enough water for the dog to drink at all times.  You may need to check this often as the bowl may spill or they can drink quickly 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 75 you should watch your dog for how it is handling the heat and use your best judgement with how long they can safely stay outside.

German Shepherd dogs can also withstand cold temperatures. You can ideally take them out for long walks in the snow. Most German Shepherds can comfortably stay outside for hours to as low as 0. It is important to know that if you plan to have the dog stay out all night that you will need something like a dog house to give it a place out from the elements.

If you bring your dog inside after it has had a chance to play outside remember to clean its paws off well. This will ensure any toxic substances used to melt snow are not licked off by your dog as they clean themselves.

two German Shepherd puppies about to sleep
a German Shepherd laying in a field of flowers

The Attention a German Shepherd Needs

German Shepherd dogs are an active breed with high energy levels. This means that they will need daily exercise spent playing with them or spent on walks. They really need at least one hour daily spent running around in the yard or on daily walks to keep fit. This will keep them in good shape, both at the physical and mental level. If they do not get enough time spent exercising, like most dogs they have a tendency to misbehave.

In addition to their exercise needs, they also demand a lot of attention from their owners. Because they live for affection, the German Shepherds dogs love spending time around their family whenever possible. Staying alone can easily bore them which can make the dog bark 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. Elbow and Hip Dysplasia is a common hereditary disease that causes joint weakness or looseness. It can cause severe pain and even arthritis. In certain cases, surgery might be required to cure the pain.

Bloat is another disease that can also become life-threatening. It is caused by overfeeding or serving table scraps. Degenerative Myelopathy is also a disease that German Shepherd dogs can develop. In this, they are unable to coordinate the movement of their limbs. 

Some dogs can also have allergies from certain food and coming in contact with specific things (cotton, metal, etc.). The signs of this is when they are excessively licking their paws or scratching.

Bathing, Coat, and Cleaning

The coats of German Shepherd dogs have natural oils that can get washed away if they are given regular baths. It is recommended to bathe them once a month and when they get dirty. They tend to be a clean dog which will prevent them from smelling bad for longer than other breeds.

As German Shepherds shed a lot, you will have to brush them 3-4 times a week. This will ensure you do not have hair all over your home or on your clothes. You can use a soft and tender brush to remove the shredded hair.

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

Trim their nails once a month and take them to the vet once or twice a year to get their teeth cleaned. They love to chew and you should give them chew toys to make sure they keep good dental hygiene. 

Give a weekly check to their nails, paws, and ears to check signs of redness or infection. If you smell a bad odor, take them to the vet to make sure there is no infection.

a German Shepherd sitting in a grassy field
a pile of multi colored dog food

Feeding A German Shepherd

You should feed high-quality dog food to German Shepherd dogs. The ideal meal size will depend upon the age of your dog. The standard meal size for adult dogs should be between 2.5 to 3.5 cups of dog food spread over two meals in a day. This can vary depending upon the dog’s weight, height, and daily activities.

If your dog is high energy and spends the day doing a lot of physical activity you can increase the meal size.

Make sure you do not overfeed them. This might cause them to gain extra weight which can give rise to health issues like joint problems. Also, make sure not to feed table scraps as it can lead to severe digestive issues like bloat, along with not providing them the nutrition they need. If you plan to give them human foods, consult your vet on what is safe to feed them.

Related Questions:

Which is better, male or female German Shepherd dogs?

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

How intelligent are German Shepherd dogs?

It depends on whom you compare them to! They are considered the third most intelligent dog breed. One of the reasons why they are widely being used as police dogs.

How did they become so popular?

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

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