Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
In the dog world, the German Shepherd is considered employee-of-the-year in nearly every job known to canines. Due to their intelligence, focus, and physical capabilities, German Shepherds excel in helping us humans out. They are also loyal, courageous, and protective. Basically, German Shepherds are canine super heroes!
Read on to learn about the American Kennel Club (AKC)'s second most popular dog breed!
Also Known As…
GSD. Deutshe Schäferhund (Germany). Alastian (UK). "They're similar to other kinds of Shepherd Dogs, only they have a really thick German accent when they bark."
According to the AKC, the earliest German Shepherd Dog (called Deutshe Schäferhund in German) dates back to the late 1800s. During this time, Captain Max von Stephanitz, a German calvary officer, was determined to create the ideal herding dog. Von Stephanitz and other breeders mixed various herding dogs throughout Germany. These efforts eventually resulted in the German Shepherd's ancestors. In the 35 following years, Von Stephanitz and colleagues succeeded in promoting and perfecting this breed.
From this process arose a remarkable canine, one who embodies stealth, diligence, intelligence, agility, and authority. Now, the German Shepherd's repertoire of talents far exceeds herding in German pastures. In fact, the AKC reports that the German Shepherd Dog is the "preferred dog for police and military units the world over."
Within the German Shepherd's impressive resume are many starring movie roles. During the early 1900s, canine co-stars in Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart elevated the breed's status in America. However, the German Shepherd fell victim to anti-German sentiments during the world war eras. During this time, the British referred to the breed as the "Alastian."
The German Shepherd's popularity has undoubtably recovered since this era. In fact, the German Shepherd is the runner-up for America's most popular dog breed! According to the AKC, they are ranked #2 out of 192 in Breed Popularity. Can you guess who #1 is? Find the answer here!
Females tend to stand 22 to 24 inches while males tend to stand 24 to 26 inches at the withers (tops of shoulders).
German Shepherds are considered a large-sized breed.
Male German Shepherds typically weigh 65 to 90 pounds while female German Shepherds typically weigh 50 to 70 pounds.
German Shepherds may seem aloof due to their alert, fearless, and protective demeanor. This makes them excellent watchdogs and ideal for authoritative roles. However, their hearts are as soft as their fur. With their trusted companions, German Shepherds are incredibly affectionate, devoted, and fun-loving. These playful pups are packed with energy, so it's never a boring day with a German Shepherd! Plus, they're wicked-smart so you can easily teach them tricks worthy for a viral video.
Intelligence / Trainability
The German Shepherd is like that one impossibly perfect kid in high school: a beautiful, athletic, brainiac. This breed is undoubtably smart and admirably hard working. The German Shepherd's intellect and diligence has helped us out in the military, police work, hospitals, movie sets, and farms.
Not only are German Shepherds smart and versatile, but they're extremely eager-to-please. The combination of this intellect, work ethic, and disposition makes them impressively trainable.
Despite the breed's trainability, proper training is vital in unlocking their full training potential. German Shepherds respond best to consistent, positive reinforcement training. Basically, shower your German Shepherd with reinforcers (like praise and treats) every time she performs the desired behavior.
The German Shepherd's ideal home is a house with a yard to romp around in! These big dogs need lots of exercise and ample space to unleash their energy.
Despite their hardiness, German Shepherds fair best living indoors with the family. These loyal companions highly dislike being left alone for extended periods of time. German Shepherds are happiest being active and bonding with their families!
Good For Families And Kids
German Shepherds bond well with family members of all ages! They are very loyal and protective of their "pack" members. German Shepherds adore taking part in family activities, such as picnicking, hiking, and swimming.
While their size, strength, and energy may seem overwhelming, German Shepherds make wonderful kiddie companions. DogTime describes German Shepherds as a "cross between a babysitter and a cop" for children. Their gentle and protective demeanor creates a balance well-suited for kids.
German Shepherds are generally healthy, robust dogs. However, like any breed, they are prone to certain health conditions. These conditions include elbow and hip dysplasia, bloat, heart issues, and degenerative myelopathy.
Healthcare for every German Shepherd should include routine veterinary visits, heart worm and parasite prevention, nail trims, teeth brushings, and vaccinations.
Bred to herd all the live-long day, German Shepherds are incredibly active and athletic! They are admired for their speed, stealthy, agility, and strength. It is important to get your German Shepherd ample daily exercise to keep her happy and healthy. Pent-up energy from insufficient exercise may turn into stress and destructive behaviors.
Friendly With Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?
While German Shepherds are alert and aloof, they are typically not aggressive. Given these watchdog traits, German Shepherds are usually reserved with strangers. However, once they warm up to a new friend, they are very loyal and affectionate.
German Shepherds can live harmoniously with other dogs and pets if properly socialized and trained. This is more easily accomplished with pets a German Shepherd has been raised with. While integrating an adult German Shepherd to new pets is more difficult, it can typically be successful with greater socialization and training efforts.
Coat & Grooming
German Shepherds were bred to thrive in harsh climates, as evidenced by their dense and harsh coats. Their medium-length, double coat consists of a soft inner coat and a close-lying, straight-haired outer coat. This double coat is very effective in protecting German Shepherds from dirt, burrs, and rain.
Their coat comes in multiple color variations. These variations include: black, black and red, black and tan, black and silver, black and cream, liver, blue, gray, sable, and white.
While German Shepherds are sometimes called "German Shedders," they're quite easy to groom! Just brush them weekly and bathe occasionally and they're good to go. Once or twice a year they have periods of more profuse shedding. During these times, more frequent brushing is needed to manage loose hairs.
This breed's temperament varies by origin! American breeders focus on honing the breed's potential for companionship. Thus, American-bred German Shepherds are thought to be calmer companions than those bred in Germany. Meanwhile, German breeders prioritize the dogs' working ability. According to DogTime, German Shepherds from Germany tend to have a "more energetic and driven personality."
Toys German Shepherds Would Like Best
German Shepherds need toys that can withstand their power, strength, and energy. Save yourself the weekly trip to the pet store and buy chew toys especially designed for durability. Thankfully, Super Chewer toys were designed for, well, super chewers!
If your German Shepherd enjoys a little tug, try out some Tug Toys so you can get in on the action!
Your fluffy Einstein also needs brain exercise! German Shepherds are so smart that they may become antsy if not given enough mental stimulation. Train their thinkers with puzzle toys - like this Dog Twister Puzzle!
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
German Shepherds should be fed a high-quality dog food that is appropriate to their age (such as puppy, adult, or senior). Serving size is dependent on the dog food and the dog’s size.
Because German Shepherds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, they may benefit from bone and joint supplements. While supplements cannot guarantee to prevent such conditions, it certainly can't hurt to bolster your German Shepherd's bone and joint health!
These veterinarian-formulated supplements are made with all natural glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, all packed into a delicious soft chew. ($32.99.)
These delicious, vet-formulated chews are made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. They are designed to support immune health, provide relief from itchy allergic skin, and promote a healthy coat. ($19.99)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
GSDs, just like any dog, love to take a load off after a long day of...running around for hours on end or whatever they're doing. That's why they deserve their own bed, especially if they have joint issues.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for even the most active of dogs! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The German Shepherd Of Your Dreams
Thankfully there are numerous organizations dedicated to rescuing and rehoming this well-loved breed. The first two links are rescue directories, so you can find your perfect German Shepherd no matter what state you're in!
- Simanovich National Directory of German Shepherd Rescues
- German Shepherd Dogs National Directory of Rescues
- Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue
- German Shepherd Rescue of Central Texas
- German Shepherd Rescue of New England
- Dallas-Fort Worth German Shepherd Rescue
- Southeast German Shepherd Rescue
- German Shepherds on Pet Finder
Notable Instagram German Shepherds
Marley & Margot @marley.the.german.shepherd!
***Looking for a gift to blow your German Shepherd's mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month Super Chewer delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via Marley.the.german.shepherd/Instagram