Breeds

German Shepherd Breed Information Guide: Photos, Traits, & Care

Written by: Casey Estorque

May 11, 2022

Beloved working dogs known for their intelligence and kindness, German shepherds remain one of the most popular shepherd dog breeds in America. These dogs are perhaps most well-known as rescue dogs, assisting police, secret service, and other military services. (Did you know President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed a German shepherd puppy into the White House?). Also, they provide tremendous support as service dogs to people of all walks of life. 

With their long snouts and pointy ears, it’s no surprise that the German shepherd has excellent sensory perception. They can detect smells and sounds from a distance, making them excellent trackers, herders, and hunters. Of course, these honorable dogs also make ideal companions and are fiercely loyal to their owners and families.

Breed Overview

  • Height: 22–26 inches
  • Weight: 75–95 lbs
  • Lifespan: 10–13 years
  • Breed Size: Large
  • Colors: Black, black & tan,
  • Good With: (With proper training) kids, other dogs, cats
  • Temperament: Loyal, dependable, watchful

Also Known As…

Alsatian wolfdog, German shedder (or shredder), landshark, fluffy butt, “I’ll never get over I Am Legend.”

What Is The History Of The German Shepherd?

The German shepherd breed dates back to the 1800s. First bred in Germany (no surprise there) by Max von Stephanitz, an affluent German military officer, this breed spent the 19th century working hard to protect farms from predators and assist farmers with herding their livestock. While not necessarily the most comfortable lifestyle, German shepherds were given food and shelter for their service, though few were considered pets or family companions.

By the early 1900s, German shepherds began winning over German families with their courageous and kind temperaments. Shortly after, this breed was found in homes across Europe. Additionally, due to their high intelligence and heightened perceptions, German shepherds were quickly utilized as guide dogs for the blind.

After serving as German military dogs during World War I, German shepherds crossed the Atlantic to the United States, returning home with soldiers impressed by the breed’s strength and bravery. Once state-side, this breed continued to ascend the ranks of popularity, starring in popular films, winning numerous breed awards, and developing a devoted following of dog lovers.

Today, German shepherds are right at home next to their owners, whether on the living room couch or running happily through the dog park. Modern breeders have spent the past few decades working to improve the overall health of the breed to ensure long and happy lives for all German shepherds—good news for prospective dog parents everywhere, but there are still plenty of shepherds (mixes and purebreds) waiting for homes in rescues and shelters.

How Big Do German Shepherds Get?

German shepherd puppies are adorable, but they grow in a blink of an eye. Their size and weight vary according to several factors, including their gender, environment, feeding schedule, and exercise routine.  

Height: 22–26 inches

Weight: 75–95 pounds

How Long Do German Shepherds (Generally) Live?

You can expect a happy life with your German shepherd, as most live 10 to 13 years. A healthy, well-cared-for German shepherd puppy can live even past that.

What Is A German Shepherd’s Temperament & Personality Like?

Kind, loyal, and hardworking, the German shepherd dog is a dream for many. Since they were initially bred as working dogs, German shepherds are known for being dependable and energetic, eager to assist their owners with whatever task is at hand. That doesn’t mean you need a working farm to keep your pup in good spirits, but German shepherds are often at their happiest when they have something to do.

These black and tan pups are watchful protectors, surveying their surroundings and keeping a close eye on their owners and any young children. They may be a bit suspicious around strangers, but with proper training, German shepherds can quickly acclimate to new people.

Ultimately, this breed has established itself as well-behaved and loving, so long as they receive the right attention, training, and care.

Good With Kids? Cats? Dogs?

You can expect your German shepherd to prioritize family over everything. Similar to a golden retriever, a German shepherd can be loving and sweet to children, cats, and other dogs.

German shepherds are tough and rugged animals, but that doesn’t mean they take kindly to rough-housing. Make sure that young children are properly taught how to pet and play with any dog to avoid unnecessary irritation or stress.

Introducing new pets to your German shepherd might not result in an immediate slumber party or love fest, but with a little patience, they’re sure to form life-long bonds.

Are German Shepherds High Energy? 

The German shepherd’s working dog roots mean they’re liable to need a lot of exercise, attention, and playtime. Under-exercised German shepherds are known to misbehave, chewing and barking due to unreleased energy. 

At least 90 minutes of exercise each day will do wonders for this upbeat, large-and-in-charge dog. This can include fetch, frisbee, running, training, and a jog around the neighborhood.

Are German Shepherds Hard To Train?

Few dogs take to training better than German shepherds. Though they can exhibit occasional stubbornness, this breed is all about serving their humans to the best of their abilities. Standard obedience training and complex tasks can be taught with relative ease. That’s what makes them the ideal military dog, police dog, guard dog, herding dog, guide dog, and so much more.

Consider signing your German shepherd up for puppy training at a young age, or take matters into your own hands. So long as you offer positive reinforcement (also known as treats and love), teaching your German shepherds can be simple and fun.

Related Article: Positive Reinforcement Training For Dogs: What It Is & How It Works

Do German Shepherds Have Health Issues?

While German shepherds are known for their boundless energy and robust health, there are several breed-specific health concerns to take note of. Most health problems associated with German shepherds are related to their size, and can include:

  • Wobbler disease, degenerative disc disease, and panosteitis – These common physical problems can be diagnosed through testing and x-rays. If you own a beagle, you should also be aware of these health conditions.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – These genetic predispositions are often made worse by under-exercising, and perpetuated by irresponsible breeding practices.
  • Epilepsy – German shepherds tend to be more susceptible than other breeds, but fortunately, certain types of maintenance treatment have proven quite effective.

A proper diet is also essential for protecting your German shepherd from health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Try to stick to a consistent feeding schedule, prioritizing high-nutrient foods that are low in carbohydrates and sugars. Most German shepherds are better off eating three smaller meals per day as opposed to a single chow session. This should help keep your pup energized and sustained throughout the day.

Do German Shepherds Shed?

Put simply, prepare for some hair

German shepherd dogs are known for their double coats (just like huskies) and year-long shedding. These dog breeds have long topcoats that offer them protection from the elements, while their shorter, softer undercoat keeps them warm during the colder months. Not only can you expect regular shedding, but seasonal shedding in the winter and summer means even more fur to vacuum, sweep, and dust away.

Grooming every few days is a must to mitigate excess shedding, but you may also opt to take them to the groomer for a seasonal cleanup when the time comes. In addition, a warm bath with some high-quality dog shampoo can keep your German shepherd feeling and smelling fresh, especially after time outdoors. 

How Much Does It Cost To Care For A German Shepherd?

While expenses may vary, we’d recommend budgeting at least $1500 each year to take care of all your German shepherd’s needs.

Food

Big dogs have big appetites. While you should be careful to avoid overfeeding your dog, you should be aware that an adult-size German shepherd can eat between 2.5 and 3.5 cups of food per day. These costs can easily add up to $40–$80 per month depending on your—or their—food of choice.

Explore BARK Eats to find customized meals developed specifically for German shepherds. You can expect high-quality ingredients and yummy recipes that will have your pup eager for their next meal. Explore pre-portioned meals developed by veterinary nutritionists and get 50% off your first month!

Routine Vet Care (Healthy Dog)

Vet care is essential, and every dog deserves an annual visit to ensure they’re fit and healthy. Dental disease (very common) can lead to more serious health issues if left untreated, and yearly wellness checkups range from $50–$100.

You may also need to spend additional money on treatments like antibiotics or tests, including ultrasounds and x-rays, if the need arises.

Preventative Medications

Expect to spend a few hundred dollars on flea and heartworm prevention. Vaccinations may also range from $100–$300 depending on which ones you get, how many there are, and the size of your dog. Most dogs adopted from a rescue or shelter have already received their first important vaccines.

Grooming

While it’s not necessary to bring your German shepherd to the groomer regularly, a professional can offer helpful services such as bathing, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing. Grooming expenses typically range from $25–$75 per service, but if you’re patient, you may be able to provide your pup with all these services at home.

Toys, Treats, Beds, & Accessories

From chew toys to leashes, prices vary quite a bit for dog accessories. Fortunately, you can spoil your pooch without breaking the bank. Treats and toys cost $5 and up, though they may add up quickly as you find more ways to show your dog some love. More expensive essentials like crates and dog beds can cost up to $100 each. 

Interested in a monthly BarkBox? Starting at $23/month, you can enjoy 2 toys, 2 full-size bags of treats, and a tasty chew. A Super Chewer subscription—perfect for big dogs with bigger jaws—starts at $29 per month and includes 2 fluff-free, durable toys, 2 full-size bags of treats, and 2 meaty chews. Treat your pooch to something special and DOUBLE YOUR FIRST BOX FREE!

Additionally, consider factoring in potential expenses like:

  • Dog walker ($15–$25 per walk)
  • Daycare ($25–$50 per day)
  • Kenneling ($30–$50 per night)
  • Dog training classes ($30–$100 per session)
  • Supplements, like hip & joint or skin & coat ($25+ per month)

Sources

American Kennel Club. The Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2020. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/the-most-popular-dog-breeds-of-2020/ 

Military Working Dog Team Support Association. German Shepherd Dogs In The Military: A Brief Historical Overview. https://www.mwdtsa.org/german-shepherd-dogs-military-brief-historical-overview/ 

Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue. GSD Health Issues. https://magsr.org/content/gsd-health-issues 

Written by: Casey Estorque

May 11, 2022