German Shepherd Dog Characteristics

Other Names of The German Shepherd Dog:  Alsatian, Deutscher Schaferhund, GSD.

German Shepherd Dog Temperament

The German Shepherd dog is amongst the most intelligent of dogs and its versatility and excellence in performing all manner of activities has secured its eternal position in the hall of fame when it comes to policing duties, search and rescue, military functions such as bomb sniffing and even as sight-seeing dogs for people who are blind or those with impaired eyesight. The German Shepherd is a quick study and due to their innate high intelligence are very easy to train.

These dogs are active, alert and like many other animals of a high intelligence and active nature the German Shepherd needs to be constantly challenged and stimulated both physically and mentally to avoid becoming a nuisance. That said, this dog breed makes a great companion and is both brave and loyal. Though some dogs tend to be somewhat aloof and wary by and large this dog breed makes for a great family pet and they generally get on well with children. Occasionally certain dogs may become a tad domineering with children which may manifest in the form of the German Shepherd trying to herd them about; in keeping with its breeding pedigree.

German Shepherd dogs have excellent watchdog ability and are typically wary of both strangers and other dogs. Early socialization is a must if your dog is going to be around other animals. As far as climate tolerance is concerned these dogs adapt fairly well to moderate cold as well as moderate heat, though extremes in either direction don’t go down well.

German Shepherd Dog Grooming & Exercise Requirements

The German Shepherd boasts a high energy level and thus this dog breed requires plenty of exercise on a daily basis. Its grooming requirements however are not quite as demanding and its coat only requires brushing once or twice a week. The German Shepherd is a moderate to heavy shedder and thus is perhaps not the best choice of dog for allergy sufferers.

German Shepherd Dog Appearance

The body of the German Shepherd dog is typically longer than it is tall and in the modern variant when the animal is standing the body slopes downwards as though the dog is poised to spring off of its hind legs. This was not always the case, the early variant of the German Shepherd dog having a squarer body and less slanting haunches. The tail is usually bushy and hangs with a slight curve.

This dog breed boasts an athletic build and erect ears atop a head with a pointed snout which enhances the alert appearance of the dog. Coat color may vary and includes the following: black, black and tan and sable. From a show dog perspective white-coated dogs are not allowed although of recent there is a movement for such specimens to be represented in their own sub-category.

This dog breed has a double coat with a thick outer coat comprised of close lying medium-length hair that may be straight or slightly wavy.

Weight:  Males:  75 – 100 pounds

   Females: 60 – 80  pounds

Height: Males:  24 – 26 inches

  Females:  22 – 24 inches

German Shepherd Dog Health Issues/Life Expectancy

This dog breed on average has a lifespan of 10 – 12 years. Due to rather intense in breeding over the years the German Shepherd dog suffers from a number of genetic disorders which include the following:

Major Concerns: 


Elbow Dysplasia

Minor Concerns:



Degenerative Myelopathy

Cauda Equina

Skin Allergies

Hot Spots




Gastric Torsion

Perianal Fistulas



German Shepherd dogs are also extremely susceptible to a potentially fatal systemic infection from the fungus Aspergillus.

German Shepherd Dog History

The modern German Shepherd dog is the end result of a concerted effort in the late 19th century to breed the perfect German sheep herding dog. Up until that time each district boasted its own distinct herding dog. To achieve the perfect herding dog various dog breeds from the north were crossbred with those from the central district ultimately resulting with the forbearer of the modern German Shepherd.

The goal of the German Shepherd dog breeding program was to produce a dog that could watch out for and control straying sheep from the rest of the flock without spooking the entire flock. Thus unlike cattle herding dogs it was undesirable for the German Shepherd dog to exhibit leg nipping and neither could it control its wards by barking at them because either one of those attributes would more than likely cause the entire flock to panic!

In essence the German Shepherd dog breeding program had to come up with an extremely intelligent, versatile, swift and independent thinking breed of dog that executed its duties in a precise, swift, calm and steady manner.

Between 1899 and 1901 a specialist breed club was established and was originally headquartered in Stuttgart before moving to Munich and then finally ending up in Berlin. This club was known as Der Verein Fur Schaferhunde (SV for short), and this organization’s primary goal and purpose was to oversee the continued positive development of the German Shepherd dog breed.

Within a decade of its breeding the German Shepherd dog had soon become one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Its rising star in popularity was slightly marred by the occurrence of the two world wars, when it was considered prudent in both Britain and France to refer to the dog breed as either an Alsatian or simple the Shepherd Dog to avoid the inevitable backlash at the time associated with the word German incorporated in the dog breed’s name.

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