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German Shepherd Guide: Life Span, Temperament, Colors, Size, Shedding & More


Last Updated: September 12, 2023 | 8 min read | 85 Comments

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German Shepherd laying on ground (caption: Guide To German Shepherds)

The German Shepherd is a breed that has found its place in just about every niche, from the family dog to a working service dog. Just what is it that makes the German Shepherd such a good candidate for so many varied activities? Is it their loyalty, confidence, courage, or ability to learn? We take a look at the history, appearance, temperament, and needs of the German Shepherd.

History Of The German Shepherd

The first German Shepherd was presented at Hanover, Germany, in 1882 after being bred in Karlsruhe. The objective was to produce a dog that was as handsome as it was responsive and obedient. Many different breeds combined to create the German Shepherd, including various local farm and herding dogs. The sheer variety in coat length and texture resulted in variation along the Shepherd lines. Originally, the Shepherd had longer hair, and in 1889 the first short-haired Shepherd was presented in Berlin.

The first dog recognized as a German Shepherd was registered in April of 1899 by Captain Max von Stephanitz. They continued to be shown as a wire-haired and a long-haired breed up until 1915. These days, only the short-haired German Shepherd is shown. In 1908, the German Shepherd became an American Kennel Club-recognized breed in the herding class.

What Does A German Shepherd Look Like?

German Shepherds are muscular and strong with a sloping body that slants backward. This breed’s teeth meet in a strong scissor bite, and the eyes are almond-shaped. The German Shepherd has ears that point upright and forward, but they may not peak upwards until four or five months of age. This working breed has a bushy tail and thick rear legs.


Male German Shepherds stand between 24 and 26 inches, whereas females are shorter, standing between 22 and 24 inches tall. This breed’s average weight is between 75 and 85 pounds but can vary as widely as 50 to 90 pounds. Females are generally lighter than males. Males are usually fully grown at 18 months, while females aren’t fully developed until they are two years olds.

There is a chance of pituitary dwarfism in German Shepherds. This genetic disorder prevents adequate growth hormones and causes slow growth, various health issues, and a short lifespan for dwarf German Shepherds.


German Shepherd laying on ground with shiny coat

There are three recognized coats on the German Shepherd dog: the double coat, the plush coat, and the long-haired coat.


The coat types can come in various colors, including liver and white and blue but most commonly black and tan, sable, and all black. Liver, white, and blue German Shepherds are not recognized as breed standard dogs.

A type called a Panda German Shepherd is recognized in a few instances. This is a piebald-colored dog with 35% white coloration, and the remaining coat is black and tan. The interesting thing about the Panda Shepherd is that there is no White Shepherd in the dog’s bloodline.

Do German Shepherds Shed A lot?

The German Shepherd is commonly referred to as the German Shedder because this dog sheds hair constantly. They shed an average amount of hair throughout the year, but they’re heavy shedders seasonally.

Are German Shepherds Hypoallergenic?

Because of the amount of shedding that occurs with a German Shepherd, they are not hypoallergenic. If you need a dog that won’t trigger your allergies, our experts guide you in our article about non-shedding dogs.

What Are Their Grooming Needs?

Dog being brushed (caption: A Guide To The Best Dog Shedding Brush)

To reduce the amount of hair that this breed leaves throughout the home, daily brushing is best. The best brush for a German Shepherd is a shedding brushBathing is another essential part of grooming, but be cautious not to over-bathe this breed because it can result in oil depletion from the skin, exacerbating skin conditions such as eczema.

Weekly teeth brushing and nail trimming are also essential parts of grooming a German Shepherd.


German Shepherds carry a stereotype of being a dangerous dog. Although this can be far from the truth, there are many questions about German Shepherds’ temperaments.

Are German Shepherds Aggressive?

Cat and dog on bed (Caption: How To Socialize Your Puppy)

When they are not trained and do not experience proper socialization, the German Shepherd can be shy, aggressive, unstable, and unresponsive. However, given the right tools, this breed is a far cry from the stereotype of a dangerous dog.

Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?

Since German Shepherds are brave, alert, loyal, and protective, they can be excellent guard dogs.

Are German Shepherds Good With Kids?

The German Shepherd is good with children and other animals when socialized from an early age.

Are German Shepherds Good Family Dogs?

German Shepherds become highly attached and loyal to their families. There is no doubt that this breed would put its life on the line if its family pack were in danger.

Are German Shepherds Smart?

Dog next to computer (Caption:What Are The Smartest Dog Breeds?)

According to the author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,”, Stanley Coren, Ph.D., ranks the German Shepherd as the third smartest dog breed. This study took a look at more than 100 dog breeds as they were judged by 200 dog obedience judges while learning new commands. Dogs were ranked based on their ability to perform commands 95% of the time or better based on less than five command repetitions.

The incredible level of intelligence in the German Shepherd, a level only bested by the Border Collie and the Poodle, makes this breed incredibly versatile. An ability to quickly pick up new commands and an intense desire to please its master means that this breed is the perfect candidate for any number of professional positions available to canines. This trait is perhaps why this is the breed of choice for both military and police work worldwide.

When they’re serving professionally, the German Shepherd can take part in police work, guard dog work, sheepdog work, service dog work, military work, and search and rescue work. German Shepherds also frequently participate in dog sports, including obedience, tracking, flyball, ring sport, and agility.


Doggy Dan with 2 dogs (caption: Doggy Dan Trainer Review)

When considering how to train a German Shepherd, it’s important to remember that this breed will not respond well to harsh training techniques or punishment. (Doggy Dan is an excellent resource for online training videos that you can do yourself.) Also, training this breed has a lot to do with your role as an owner.

This breed is calm, clever, confident, and serious, and when put in the hands of an experienced dog handler, they will be brave and faithful and perform their duty until they drop. When put into the hands of a less than confident handler, this is one breed that will try to rule the roost. A German Shepard owner should be solid and consistent and have an air of calmness.

Overall Health

Dog in wheelchair on beach (caption: Canine Hip Dysplasia)

Unfortunately, the German Shepherd is a dog that has been bred indiscriminately. As a result, a considerable number of hereditary diseases have developed in the dog’s lineage. Some of the common health concerns that occur in these dogs include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Corneal inflammation
  • Digestive difficulty
  • Blood disorders
  • Canine bloat
  • Eczema
  • Flea allergies
  • Dwarfism
  • Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Degenerative myelitis
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Perianal fistulas

Many of these conditions can be completely avoided by tracing a bitch and sire’s lineage before breeding them. Pet owners should always ask for evidence of a dog’s parental lineage before purchasing any purebred puppy.

Pet Insurance Testimonial

German Shepherd Dog: Toby
Pet Parent: Charlotte
Illness/Injury: MRI and Surgery
Fetch Reimbursement: $4,641

We have covered our GSD, “Toby” with a Fetch policy for eight years. They have consistently covered every illness and injury. When they say “coverage for life” they actually mean coverage for life. Our GSD has several illnesses (conjunctivitis and osteoarthritis) that are lifetime illnesses. Fetch has paid every covered claim, every year, for each lifetime illness. All I do is provide a completed claim form, medical records, and my invoice. There has never been a delay in processing a claim.

Most recently, we consulted with a surgeon for a potential hip replacement. The surgeon quickly identified that there was something very wrong with Toby’s spine—Toby was having slight difficulty walking. An MRI was scheduled for the following week. The morning of the MRI, Toby was unable to move his backend. The MRI was immediately reviewed and it was discovered that Toby had an intervertebral disk extrusion at T13-L1 that would require immediate surgery—if Toby was to ever walk again. Without hesitation, we consented to the surgery.

He is now three weeks post-surgery. Recovery is slow but promising. Rehab has begun — hydro-therapy (water treadmill) twice a week and laser therapy for his hips once a week. I filed the first claim for this medical emergency (MRI and surgery) on Dec 20th. Fetch paid $4,641. Yay Fetch!

Learn More About Pet Insurance Here

How Long Do German Shepherds Live?

The average German Shepherd life span is around 13 years.

How Much Exercise Do They Need?

Girl running with dog (caption: Best Dog Activity Tracker)

The German Shepherd is a working dog and requires a considerable amount of physical and mental exercise to stimulate them and keep them out of mischief. This is not a breed that’s happy to be a couch potato. The best toys for German Shepherds are the ones that require physical activity and mental stimulation. We review the best dog toys and brain games to help you give your pup what they need.

It’s crucial to provide a long daily walk or, better yet, a run. Obedience training and games can also help stimulate this dog’s active brain. These dogs love pack games like fetch or frisbee, which also serve well to tire them out.

If you were wondering how fast can a German Shepherd run, the answer is up to 30 mph.

Maybe you are also asking, do German Shepherds like water? Or can German Shepherds swim? While they are certainly capable of learning to swim, they don’t always take to water naturally.

If you’re curious about how much exercise your dog gets daily, consider getting a dog activity tracker.

What Is The Best Dog Food For a German Shepherd?

Bowl of fresh dog food with dog and box (caption: Best Dog Food Delivery)

German Shepherds require a low-protein diet of around 18% protein and 1,740 to 2,100 calories per day. Giving your pup high-quality dog food should eliminate the need for supplemental vitamins and nutrients. Some dogs require specific dietary requirements, so be sure to check with your vet about the right food for your dog. If you want to simplify feeding in your home, our experts review fresh dog food, raw food, and food delivery options.

German Shepherd vs Other Breeds

If you’re considering a German Shepherd, you’re probably looking at a few other breeds in the working dog category. Here are some comparisons of how German Shepherds shape up to other breeds.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

These two breeds are very similar in appearance and trainability. They are both intelligent working breeds. How do they differ? The Belgian Malinois is a bit more active, and the German Shepherd is significantly more popular.

German Shepherd vs Husky

These working breeds have a lot in common. They are both intelligent and energetic and make great family dogs with proper training and socialization. Siberian Huskies tend to live a few years longer than German Shepherds, while German Shepherds are better at following commands.

Doberman vs German Shepherd

Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds are both energetic and loyal. However, Dobermans were bred as guard dogs while German Shepherds were bred for work. The most notable difference in these breeds has to do with shedding. The Doberman sheds much less and has a shorter sleeker coat.

Rottweiler vs German Shepherd

These confident working breeds share their need for daily activity and are territorial. The most significant difference is size. Rottweilers are much heavier than German Shepherds and can easily overpower their owners without proper training and consistent boundaries.

There are several popular breed mixes with the German Shepherd. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:

  • German Shepherd Husky mix (Siberian Shepherd)
  • German Shepherd Golden Retriever mix (Golden Shepherd)
  • German Shepherd Pit Bull mix (German Sheppit)
  • German Shepherd Rottweiler mix (Shepweiler)
  • German Shepherd Corgi mix (Corman Shepherd)
  • Border Collie German Shepherd mix (Shollie)
  • German Shepherd Australian Shepherd mix (German Australian)
  • German Shepherd Poodle mix (Shepadoodle)

How Much Does A German Shepherd Cost?

How much is a German Shepherd? On average, a German Shepherd costs between $500 and $1,500 when purchased from a breeder. The cost can fluctuate depending on the location and reputation of the breeder. You can also consider getting a German Shepherd from a rescue organization. This option may be less expensive, but you may also have to wait until they have a dog available for you.

German Shepherds In The White House

This two-and-a-half-minute video from Good Morning America talks about the two German Shepherds, Champ and Major, living in the White House with President Biden.

Is The German Shepherd The Right Breed For You?

The German Shepherd Handbook

When choosing a breed for your next pet, you want to make sure the dog suits your preferences but also that you can meet the dog’s needs. If you love going for runs or long walks, don’t have dog allergies, and love teaching your dog new tricks, a German Shepherd may be the perfect breed for you.

If you want to do a little more research, check out The German Shepherd Handbook. If you’re not sure about this breed, our article on the most popular dog breeds may help you narrow down a breed that would be more suitable to your and your future pup’s needs.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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