Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

The German Shepherd


The second dog in our series, and the number two breed in popularity in the United States based upon the AKC’s most recently released registration statistics* is the German Shepherd Dog.

The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is a large breed dog that, when mature, weighs approximately 50 to 90 pounds. The average lifespan of a German Shepherd Dog is about 10 to 13 years.

They are tall, long bodied, nosed, and legged, with upright ears and an imposing look of self-assurance.

German Shepherd Dogs are typically brown with a black nose or mask and saddle. While rare, there are certain lines that produce white or black dogs.

GSDs became popular because of their high intelligence, fearlessness, and devotion to family. These particular traits, which are so desired, require a dog owner that is confident and skilled with dogs. Any omission in socialization with strangers, human or canine, or obedience training may lead to problems with aggression and a variety of boredom-induced, trouble-making behaviors.

There are several lines of breeding in the GSD. Some lines are bred for work and guarding; others are bred for show, and some lines are harder to define, as they are bred a bit more indiscriminately.

The bottom line is that German Shepherd Dogs are appearing with temperaments that are all over the map. Fearless, fearful, remarkably bright, or not so bright, loving, stand-offish, or a wide variety of other characteristics.

It pays to do your research to determine the dog you purchase or adopt is one that you and your family are capable of dealing with.

Owning certain large breed dogs, mostly those with a guard dog mentality, is being discouraged by some home insurance companies. It is good to check with your provider prior to acquiring this type of large dog.

German Shepherds excel at demanding activities such as search and rescue, bomb sniffing, tracking, herding, agility, and advanced obedience. They need to be mentally stimulated or may resort to coming up with their own jobs, particularly if left alone for prolonged periods. They need to be with you, not confined to a backyard.

Health issues include hip and elbow dysplasia, ear infections, degenerative myelopathy, and bloat. Regular visits to your veterinarian are encouraged in order to monitor your dog’s health.

The German Shepherd’s coat is a two-layer coat of medium length that requires regular brushing in order to help control shedding. They are heavy shedders.

For a home that is prepared to handle a large, energetic, smart dog, you would be hard pressed to find a better candidate.


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