German Shepherd Dog Breed Information

German Shepherd Dog: The German Shepherd breed over the years has served in many different capacities: police dog, guide dog, guard dog, war dog, explosives- and narcotics-detecting dog, search-and-rescue dog, show dog, and most notably as a shepherding dog. Developed primarily for the purpose of guarding and herding a shepherd’s flocks, there have been few other breeds with such a versatile repertoire.

Max von Stephanitz, the first official breeder of German Shepherd Dogs, was attracted to the shepherding dogs used by Germans and, noting that there were many different types of shepherd dogs, concluded that a breed standard needed to be introduced. He was most fond of the shepherd dogs that had a wolfish appearance, with the strong upper body and prick ears, and that also had sharp minds and a willingness to work. In 1889 he bought a shepherd dog that met his ideal, changed the dog’s name from Hektor Linkrshein to Horand von Grafrath (named for the nearby town of Grafrath), registered the dog under a new breed registry, and set about creating a standard, with Horand as the genetic basis for the breed. In that same year, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (roughly translated into the Society for the German Shepherd Dog) was formed by Stephanitz and Artur Meyer to advance the German Shepherd Dog’s breed standard.

German Shepherd Dog Breed
German Shepherd Dog Breed

There is some debate as to how much wolf is actually a part of the German Shepherd breed. It was said that Horan was a part wolf and that Stephanitz used wolves in the crossbreeding. In Stephanitz’s studbook, there are four entries for wolf crosses at different points in the breed’s development. However, some point out that at the time, many breeders use the term “wolf” to generically describe a pattern that is currently referred to as “sable.” Other accounts suggest that if Stephanitz did use pure wolf genes, he was able to acquire the genetic input from wolves that were housed in a zoo. In any case, in 1923 when Stephanitz wrote his book, The German Shepherd in Word and Picture, he strongly advised against using wolves for crossbreeding.

Stephanitz focused on strength, intelligence and an ability to work well with people throughout, and succeeded so well that the German Shepherd Dog grew steadily in popularity. During World War I, the breed was selected as a war sentry by various countries. At the same time, the American Kennel Club (AKC) chose to alter the name of the breed from German Sheepdog to Shepherd Dog, while Britain renamed it the Alsatian Wolfdog — both in an attempt to separate the breed from its German roots.

In 1931, the AKC reverted the dog back to its original name: the German Shepherd Dog. Since then, popular German Shepherds have been on the silver screen, including movie stars Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. The Shepherd has become a mainstay in the American home — maintaining a position as one of the ten most popular dogs in the U.S. and even ranking at number one in many American cities.

German Shepherd Puppies

German Shepherd Puppies
German Shepherd Puppies

The German Shepherd Dog is one of America’s most popular dog breeds—for good reason.

They’re intelligent and capable working dogs. Their devotion and courage are unmatched. And they’re amazingly versatile, excelling at most anything they’re trained to do: guide and assistance work for the handicapped, police and military service, herding, search and rescue, drug detection, competitive obedience, and–last but not least–faithful companion.

The German Shepherd Dog, also known as the Alsatian in Great Britain and parts of Europe, is among the top 10 most popular dog breeds in the U.S., and probably one of the world’s most recognized breeds.

They owe part of their renown to a small puppy who was plucked from a bullet- and bomb-riddled breeding kennel in France during World War I by Corporal Lee Duncan. At the end of the war, Duncan brought the puppy back to his hometown of Los Angeles, trained him, and turned him into one of the most famous dogs in show biz–Rin Tin Tin. Rin Tin Tin went on to appear in dozens of movies and, at the height of his stardom, got 10,000 fan letters a week.

The German Shepherd has held many jobs other than a movie star–leading the blind, chasing down criminals, sniffing out illegal substances, serving in the military, visiting the sick, and herding stock is just some of the jobs held by this versatile breed.

The dog has even taken on the role of a national hero. German Shepherds were the search and rescue dogs crawling through the ruins of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking for survivors and comforting rescue workers and families.

The German Shepherd may embody some of the best traits of dogs, but they’re not for everyone. Originally bred to herd flocks all day, this is a high-energy dog who needs a lot of activity and exercise. Without it, they’re likely to express their boredom and frustration in ways you don’t like, such as barking and chewing.

The breed also has an aloof and sometimes suspicious nature—great for a watchdog, but not the sort of family dog who’ll make guests feel welcome. However, if you expose a German Shepherd to many different situations and people starting in puppyhood, they can learn to take new people and circumstances in stride.

If you’re adopting a puppy, you’ll get a slightly different kind of German Shepherd depending on whether they’re descended from dogs that come from American versus German breeders. In general, American breeders often aim to create dog show champions, and they breed more for that distinctive German Shepherd look than for distinctive German Shepherd talents.

German Shepherd Puppy Helth

German Shepherds are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all German Shepherds will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a heritable condition in which the femur doesn’t fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It’s thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem or medication to control the pain.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: Commonly called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs like Golden Retrievers, especially if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to get rid of the excess air in their stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. They also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. It’s important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord, specifically the part of the cord that communicates information to the brain regarding the hind legs. Dogs with DM act as though they don’t know where their back legs are, and cannot move them properly. The disease progresses to the point the dog cannot walk. Most of the time, there is no treatment and the dog is put to sleep. However, in a few rare cases, the condition is related to a lack of vitamin-12 or vitamin E. If this is the case, vitamin supplements might stabilize the condition.
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: EPI is a genetic disease of the pancreas in which the cells that produce digestive enzymes are destroyed. As a result, the dog can no longer digest and absorb food. The first signs of the condition are gas, loss of appetite, weight loss, and change in stools. The dog becomes very thin and very hungry. EPI is diagnosed with a simple blood test, and treatment is simple, too: pancreatic enzymes are added to the dog’s food. With proper medication supervision, most dogs recover.
  • Allergies: Some German Shepherds suffer from a variety of allergies, ranging from contact allergies to food allergies. Allergy symptoms in dogs are similar to those in people. If your German Shepherd is scratching, licking at their paws or rubbing their face a great deal, suspect that they have an allergy and have them checked by your vet.

White German Shepherd


German shepherd dogs get along well with children and other pets if raised with them, but in keeping with their guarding instincts, they tend to be leery of strangers.

The breed is considered to be smart and easy to train. Some poorly bred German shepherd dogs can be high-strung and nervous. Coupled with poor socialization and inadequate training, over guarding and aggressive behavior are risks.

Living With:

Because German shepherd dogs are large and powerful and have strong guarding instincts, great care should be taken to purchase German shepherds from reputable breeders. Poorly bred dogs are more likely to be nervous.

To prevent over guarding and aggressive behavior, German shepherd dogs should be carefully socialized from a young age and be obedience trained. They should be with the family and continually exposed under supervision to people and other pets around the neighborhood; they should not be confined to a kennel or backyard either alone or with other dogs.

German shepherd dogs are active and like to have something to do. They need ample exercise daily; otherwise, they can get into mischief or become high-strung. The dog sheds heavily about twice yearly, and the rest of the time sheds a lesser amount continually. To control shedding and keep the coat nice, brush at least a few times a week.


German shepherd dogs are, as their name implies, a breed that originated in Germany. They were developed beginning in the late 1800s by crossing various herding breeds. The breed was subjected to stringent selection and it progressed quickly. In the United Kingdom, the dogs are known as Alsatians because fanciers of the breed there wanted to protect the dog from anti-German sentiments after World War I.

German shepherd dogs were introduced in the United States by soldiers returning home from World War I. The breed caught the public eye because of movie stars Strongheart and later, Rin Tin Tin. By World War II German shepherd dogs were the military breed of choice. The first guide dogs were German shepherd dogs. Today, they are one of the most popular dogs in America. In 1999, German shepherd dogs were third on the American Kennel Club’s list of the Top 50 Breeds.

The German shepherd dog is a herding breed known for its courage, loyalty and guarding instincts. This breed makes an excellent guard dog, police dog, military dog, guide dog for the blind and search and rescue dog. For many families, the German shepherd is also a treasured family pet.

Black German Shepherd

German Shepherd At a glance


Weight Range:

Male: 75-95 lbs.
Female: 75-95 lbs.

Height at Withers:

Male: 25 in.
Female: 23 in.

Black German Shepherd
Black German Shepherd


Upright ears (naturally)

Expectations:Exercise Requirements: >40 minutes/day
Energy Level: Average
Longevity Range: 10-12 yrs.
The tendency to Drool: Low Tendency to Snore: Low
The tendency to Bark: Low
The tendency to Dig: Low Social/Attention Needs: Moderate

  • The German Shepherd is highly intelligent and will not be content to live life as a couch potato. He’s a dog of action, and he needs to live with an active person who will give him a job worthy of his talents.
  • German Shepherds love children and make great family dogs when they are given early socialization and training.
  • Most of us think of the German Shepherd as a black and tan dog, but they can also be sable and solid black. Dogs with white, blue or liver-colored coats are frowned upon by breeders, so don’t fall for marketing claims that those colors are “rare” and command a higher price.
  • A German Shepherd should never be shy, nervous or aggressive.

Long Haired German Shepherd

Originally bred to herd flocks all day, German Shepherds are built for action. This means they’ve got lots of energy that they need to burn off with daily exercise. If you leave them alone for long periods of time without exercise, expect trouble. Boredom and inactivity lead to behavior problems—chewing, digging, and barking. The German Shepherd desperately needs to exercise both their body (jogging, a romp at the dog park) and their mind (training exercises like agility or obedience competitions).

Like many herding breeds, German Shepherds are barkers. Barking isn’t necessarily a problem, but it can be if the dog is bored. Learning the “Quiet” command should be part of every German Shepherd’s obedience training.

German Shepherds like to chew, and their powerful jaws can destroy most materials. If they pick the wrong thing to gnaw on, they can damage their teeth, swallow something that makes them sick, or even choke. Save your dog, and your belongings, by giving them safe chew toys and bones so they can entertain themselves when you’re not playing with them.

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