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German Shepherd

Breed History

In the late 1800s, Captain Max von Stephanitz wanted a superior working dog. He used several old farm and herding breeds to produce the German Shepherd Dog or, in German, the Deutscher Schaferhund. In 1899, the parent club for the breed, the Verein fur Deutsche Scheferhunde, was formed. Under the guidance of the club and Captain Stephanitz, the breed rapidly gained popularity as a versatile and superior working dog. Today, it is one of the most recognizable breeds in the world.

  • Temperament: Curious, Obedient, Intelligent, Loyal, Alert, Confident, Watchful, Courageous
  • Height: 24-26 (male), 22-24
  • Weight: 66 – 88 / 49 – 71
  • Lifespan: 9-13 years
  • Drive: Herding, Protection
  • Group: Herding


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The German Shepherd Dog (GSD or, in Great Britain, the Alsatian) is first and foremost a working dog; his temperament and character are his most important traits. GSDs are loyal and courageous, and their ability to learn and retain their training is legendary. The GSD’s head is classic, with large upright ears; the eyes are almond-shaped, dark, and alert.

Longer than tall, the body is strong and muscular. The front legs are straight, the back legs well- angled. The tail is bushy and hangs in a sickle shape. The coat has a straight outer coat and a dense undercoat. The most recognizable color pattern is the tan to rust base color with a black saddle, black muzzle, and black on the ears.


Grooming a German Shepherd is not difficult but does require time. The coat is not prone to matting but sheds year-round, with the heaviest shedding in the spring and fall. During shedding seasons, the undercoat comes out in handfuls, and, if not brushed daily, the interior of your home will be covered in puffs of soft undercoat. The large upright ears work like radar, catching every sound, but also seem to scoop up dirt, so the ears need to be cleaned twice a week.


The German Shepherd Dog needs vigorous daily exercise. The breed is known for its effortless flying trot, so running alongside your bicycle is great natural exercise. The breed is usually a natural retriever, so games of tennis ball, catch, or flying disc are also great ways to burn off excess energy.


German Shepherds are naturally watchful, protective, and reserved with strangers. Early puppy socialization is very important. GSDs need to meet people of all ages, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds. An under- socialized GSD can be worried, fearful, and shy. Training should also begin early. An intelligent breed, the GSD needs the mental challenge of training long past basic obedience. Petra Burke, a dog trainer and the owner of Teddy, her second GSD, says, “GSDs are loyal, dedicated, and will give their all to protect their owner. They are very responsive to training. Their owner must structure the training, provide guidelines for the dog, and then enforce them.” A German Shepherd Dog is intelligent enough to get into trouble and can be entirely too much dog for a first-time dog owner. This breed’s owner must keep the dog active and busy, maintain ongoing training, and be able to channel the dog’s desire to work.

A well-trained GSD can be very good with children, although puppies can be quite rambunctious. These dogs are also good with other pets.


The breed does, however, have some major health concerns, including bloat, torsion, hip and elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, problems with the pancreas, and allergies.

Herding Group Summary

The herding group is the latest addition to the American Kennel Club’s list of breed classifications. Dogs in this group all share traits which allow them to control the movement of other animals. One example of this is the Corgi, which standing at only 12 inches can drive a herd of cows to pasture by leaping and nipping at their heels. A larger sized herding breed is the Australian Shepherd (pictured above) which grow up 20-23 inches and weigh as much as 60 pounds. As household pets, these breeds are known to gently herd their owners, especially the children of the family. These dogs are generally easy to train, intelligent, and make great companions.

Behavior & Training

Dog Ownership