German Shepherd

Table of Contents

The motto “to protect and serve” is practically written into the DNA of a German Shepherd. Constantly on duty and always sizing up strangers, this dog is ready to protect you in an instant. But underneath that tough exterior is a mushy pup who loves their family. When given the choice to stay in and watch a movie or go out and take an all-day hike, your German Shepherd will grab your keys and head for the door—a hike it is! Be ready to work hard and play harder (and explore the world outside your block) with this indomitable pal.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:

12 to 15 years


Extr Small

Maintenance Level:


Shed Level


Best For

German Shepherds are best for active households and experienced pet parents who are ready to train this highly-active pup.

Breed Characteristics

Here are the qualities you can expect when raising a German Shepherd on a scale of 1 paw (low) to 5 paws (high). These attributes were rated by several pet experts, including a dog trainer, veterinarian and behaviorist. Just remember that dogs are individuals, and not all dogs, even of the same breed, will fit the mold.


Exercise Needs
Health Issues
Barking Tendencies
Grooming Needs
Shedding Level
Training Needs
Good With Kids
Good With Cats
Good As A Service Dog
Good For Apartments & Small Homes
Biting Tendencies
Energy Level
Good With Other Dogs
Sensitive to Cold Weather
Sensitive to Warm Weather
Good For First Time Pet Parents

Breed Characteristics

With their poised, moderately pointy ears, and piercing dark eyes, the German Shepherd dog breed has an aura of authority and nobility. They’re not all business, however. These dogs, ranging in colors from tan and brown to jet black, sable or blue, have bushy and slightly curved tails that wag back and forth when they’re out adventuring with their family or being rewarded for a job well done. Well-bred German Shepherds have straight backs and muscular frames that are longer than they are tall.

1. Ears
German Shepherds are born with soft, floppy ears. (They are so cute with their ears down!) Around 5 months old, their ears naturally become more pointy. The ears open toward the front and are particularly erect when the German Shepherd stands at attention.
2. Eyes
German Shepherd eyes are dark and almond-shaped with an intelligent and eager expression.
3. Nose
They typically have a predominantly black, square nose and a long, straight muzzle.
4. Height
Male: 24-26 inches
Female: 22-24 inches
5. Coat Length
Most German Shepherds have a medium-length double coat. The outer coat is typically dense and straight, but some may be slightly wavy.
6. Coat Color
Their coat colors vary wildly and include black and tan, black and cream, black and red, black and silver and bi-color (black with a few areas of brown or tan). They can also be sable, sliver and even white.
7. Tail
They have a long, bushy tail with a slight hook like a saber.
8. Weight
Male: 65-90 lbs
Female: 50-70 lbs

German Shepherd Temperament

Born guardians, the German Shepherd’s best trait is their intense, unwavering loyalty to their families. (There’s a reason they make some of the best police dogs.) The fearless breed has also been known to put themselves in harm’s way before they let a family member get hurt.

Not surprisingly, friendliness is not the German Shepherd dog breed’s strong suit. They can be aloof, and you definitely have to earn their trust. Naturally wary of strangers, a German Shepherd will default to “guard dog mode” if they believe their family is in danger.

Early social interactions with kids, babies and other animals is also important if you want your German Shepherd to be well-behaved around guests. With the proper education, this easy-to-train pup can be a great family dog.

German Shepherds are born talkers. They will bark when they’re bored, and they’ll bark to alert you if something isn’t quite right. But training and exercise can help curb a lippy pup and keep their barking to when you need it the most.

These dogs are incredibly smart, and they are at their best when they have a job to do, whether working as a police or military dog, doing tracking or search and rescue, serving as a guide dog or at home practicing scent work or solving puzzles for a treat. And when they’re with their family, German Shepherds will let their silly side show as they flip their toys in the air and roll around on their backs.

How to Care for a German Shepherd

A German Shepherd puppy can become one of the best companions a pet parent could ask for, but they don’t come work-free. German Shepherds need regular grooming, plenty of exercise and a lot of training. However, these pups are quick studies, and all your efforts will be rewarded.

A German Shepherd’s grooming needs are rigorous compared to other dog breeds. Their dense double coat protects them from sun exposure and keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Brush your pup every day with a pin brush to keep the coat shiny, clean and healthy, especially in the spring and fall when they shed the most (Warning: They shed a lot). Bathing too frequently can strip their coat of its natural oils, so plan on bathing your German Shepherd every three to four months, or when they get really dirty.

During their daily grooming sessions, brush your German Shepherd’s teeth with a canine toothbrush and toothpaste to prevent tartar buildup, and have your vet professionally clean their teeth once a year. German Shepherd’s ears do not need to be cleaned regularly, but while you’re brushing out their coat, be on the lookout for signs of infection such as redness and ear odor. (If you do see signs of infection, call your vet.)

About once a month, your pup’s nails will need a trim if they are not ground down naturally through all that exercise. You’ll know it’s time when you hear them clacking on hard surfaces. 

Proper training is very important for your German Shepherd, and training should always include positive reinforcement (using treats, toys and lots of praise). Because they are a large-sized pup and wary of strangers, an untrained dog can be unruly. And their training should start early. Socialize your puppy with other animals and people and introduce them to new experiences and objects. Puppy school is a great way to get them used to other people and dogs and start their obedience training all in one place. (Obedience training usually includes skills like sit, stay, come and how to walk nicely on a leash.)

Bred to herd cattle, Shepherds are often nippers as puppies, and you may have to navigate the teething phase for about six months. It may be cute when they’re little, but German Shepherds have a strong bite force and jaw strength, so it’s important to teach your puppy not to bite while they’re young.

When you’re home, work their sniffing skills with puzzle toys and sniffing walks (where you just meander and let your dog discover the world through their nose). Participating in canine sports like agility, tracking and herding are great ways to train your pup, get some exercise in and strengthen your bond. Remember, the best German Shepherd is a busy German Shepherd, and enriching their environment by giving them something to think about and do will have tremendous benefits.

A German Shepherd’s food and diet should include a high-quality commercial dog food. Be sure to factor in your dog’s age and choose a formula that fits their stage in life (puppy, adult, senior). You should talk to your veterinarian about a feeding chart that will let you know how much and how often to feed your dog based on their specific needs.

German Shepherd dogs often get upset tummies, and their skin is notoriously sensitive. Pick a dog food with highly digestible proteins and nutrients that support skin health. Small amounts of cooked vegetables and eggs can also be beneficial to German Shepherds, but again, consult with your veterinarian to ensure your pup gets the nutrition they need.

And don’t forget about treats! Treats are an integral part of dog training, but you don’t want to forget them when counting up your pup’s daily calorie needs. (Just like with you, snack calories count!)

German Shepherds have a very high energy level, and you need to use up all that energy to keep your pup well-mannered. So, plan on spending about two to three hours every day focused on physical and mental activity. This could include scent walks, where your dog is allowed to stop and sniff whatever engages them, brisk jogs through the neighborhood or a game of fetch in your backyard. Pro tip: Keep your pup on a leash when you’re not in a fenced yard until you’re confident they won’t run away. German Shepherds are known for their speed; they can run up to 30 miles an hour. You don’t want your pup catching an interesting scent and jetting off!

Do you like to swim? Most German Shepherd dogs enjoy a dip in a pool or lake, which can be a good way to play when it’s hot out. And don’t forget the dog park. They can have fun frolicking at the dog park as long as they’ve been well socialized with other people and pets. (Check your park’s requirements for large dog breeds.) Outdoor adventures, like hiking, are also a fun way to get off the beaten path and give your pup new scents to discover.

Don’t forget to engage their brains! Mentally stimulating activities can be just as tiring as physical ones. You don’t always have to feed your pup out of a bowl or give them a treat for shaking hands. Hide treats under boxes, so your pup has to push the boxes around to get the treat or feed them in a creative way like stashing kibble in different spots throughout the house or use interactive feeding toys. These are great ways to get a German Shepherd to engage their nose and stimulate their mind.

The most important factor in raising a German Shepherd to be happy and healthy is a pet parent with the time and patience to train and play with them. Life in the country or suburbs where there’s plenty of space to roam and play is ideal.

As long as they get out and about for frequent exercise and do mentally stimulating activities in the home, they can be fine in apartments. (And if your neighbors are OK with all the barking.) City dwellers, take note: All the noises and different dogs they’re likely to encounter every day can cause this highly vigilant breed stress. To keep stress to a minimum, take your dog out during less busy times of the day and plan routes that are less hectic.

Despite their tough exterior, German Shepherds have a soft center. They can get very lonely if left by themselves for long periods. So, if you have to be gone for a while, check them into doggy daycare or schedule a pet sitter to come by and play with your pup.

Even though they’re amazing guard dogs, a German Shepherd can be great as a pet with kids and babies when the pup is well-socialized and trained. German Shepherds can become a child’s fiercest protector and best friend.

German Shepherd Health

German Shepherds have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, but are prone to a number of health problems. It’s important for a pup parent to be aware of the common health conditions that can affect your dog, so you can help them live the longest life possible.

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: German Shepherd health issues include these degenerative joint diseases that can cause pain throughout their life. With either elbow or hip dysplasia, the joint doesn’t fit properly. According to the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals, about 20 percent of German Shepherds have hip dysplasia. Look for signs like limping and decreased range of motion. Treatment can include weight loss, reduced activity or surgery.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: A neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord, this disease can lead to paralysis of the hind legs. Early signs of degenerative myelopathy include weakness in the hind legs and difficulty standing up. There is currently no treatment for it, but physical therapy can help preserve the muscles and prolong the use of their legs.
  • Cancer: German Shepherds can develop certain types of cancers, including hemangiosarcoma (malignant tumors that often develop in blood-rich areas like the heart or spleen), bone cancer, lung cancer and intestinal cancer. Signs of cancer can include lethargy and loss of appetite. Depending on the severity, treatment options can include chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
  • Bloat: This can turn into a life-threatening condition where the abdomens swells and twists, and it is more common in dogs with deep chests like German Shepherds. If your dog’s abdomen enlarges quickly or they whine when you press on their belly, take them to the vet immediately.
  • Allergies: You sneeze, your pup scratches. If you see your pup scratching a lot, it may not just be itchy skin—your pup likely has allergies. Your vet can determine what is causing your dog’s allergic reaction, and treatments can range from a change in diet to medication.

German Shepherd History

The smart, agile German Shepherd breed we know today was largely the creation of one man. In the late 1800s, Captain Max von Stephanitz set out to create the perfect German herding dog (capable of keeping sheep in line and protecting them from predators like wolves) and cross-bred different dogs from northern and central Germany. He spent decades promoting the breed and even created the first club devoted to German Shepherd dogs. When herding became less of a necessity in the 1900s, their history took a turn when von Stephanitz decided German Shepherds would make the ultimate K-9 or police dog.

The German Shepherd became the 60th breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1908, and the German Shepherd Dog Club of America was founded in 1913. American families fell head over heels for German Shepherds while watching “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin” in movies and on television. (The original Rin-Tin-Tin was born in 1918.) However, during the world wars, their popularity wobbled due to anti-German feelings. But this pup, with their wonderful personalities, was not down for long. Today, the German Shepherd is the fourth most popular dog breed in America.

So, where’s the best place to find German Shepherd puppies? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What is the price for a purebred German Shepherd puppy? Depending on the breeder, expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500. But for that, you’ll likely get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to German Shepherd rescue organizations to adopt one or keep an eye out for a German Shepherd who needs a home at your local animal shelter.


No, German Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. The breed’s fur sheds a lot, and they shed throughout the year. Their shedding can spread pet dander throughout your home, making them a breed to avoid for allergy sufferers.

Because they are some of the best guard dogs in the world, it would be easy to dismiss German Shepherds as aggressive. Yes, they are wary around strangers and will lay down their life for their family, but with proper training and socialization, this pup can be a great family pet.

German Shepherds are good with kids if they are properly trained and socialized. Also, be sure children are taught the proper ways to engage with dogs, including not invading their space unless they ask first.

The most popular German Shepherd names include Max, Ladie, Bear, Sadie, Buddy, Sasha, Duke, Sheeba and Rocky.

The most common German Shepherd mixes are:

  • German Shepherd-Husky mix (Shepsky)
  • German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Shepherd)
  • German Shepherd-Pitbull mix (German Pit)
  • German Shepherd-Lab mix (German Sheprador)
  • German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix (German Shepweiler)
  • German Shepherd-Corgi mix (Corman Shepherd)

Top Takeaways

Active, bright and fierce protectors, a well-trained German Shepherd is the ultimate sidekick. They’re happiest when they have a job to do or they’re included in activities with the family. Pet parents looking for a more independent and low-maintenance dog should definitely look elsewhere. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you will have a loyal, loving companion and bestie who’s always got your back.

Top German Shepherd Names

These are the top German Shepherd names as chosen by Pawstray pet parents!

Female Names











Male Names











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