Bred originally for guarding and herding sheep in the 1900s, German Shepherds are now a popular choice of pet for experienced owners. Due to their protective nature and strong work ethic, they make excellent service dogs, and are often used as police, military, and guide dogs for the blind.
How much does German Shepherd insurance cost?
In 2022, the average cost to insure a German Shepherd with ManyPets was £457.21. Our average dog insurance cost for all our breeds was £412.25, so German Shepherds are just slightly more to insure than the average.
German Shepherd training
German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent breeds, as well as being naturally alert. This makes training them very easy with the correct approach.
German Shepherds are highly obedient and love to follow orders. It's one reason they are often used as military and police dogs due to their guarding instincts and loyal nature.
Breed bad habits
German Shepherds love attention and have a high work ethic, so behavioural issues only tend to rise when their physical and mental needs aren’t met. As highly active dogs they need lots of walking and stimulation. They can start chewing on things at home when not given the opportunity to burn energy off.
Although German Shepherds are loyal and protective of their family and home, they can be defensive when they feel threatened. This is normal for their character, however this characteristic can be trained out of them with guidance and socialisation from an early age.
German Shepherds are also naturally vocal and because they’re large dogs, their bark can be loud. This can become excessive if they are bored or not given enough attention.
German Shepherds love to act as guard dogs and thrive in a structured environment, so owners may find they behave best when they’re told to follow instructions.
Owners of German Shepherds are advised to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes a day training them. Socialising with other dogs and humans from an early age will keep their territorial instincts at bay, limiting their guarded behaviour. As well as practising obedience training, teaching them fun tricks will keep them interested and burn off some of their energy.
German Shepherd gender differences
Female German Shepherds are usually less territorial and more laid back compared to their male counterparts. They can also be friendlier and more affectionate to their whole family, in contrast to males who tend to bond with one person.
Female size information
Height: 56-61 cm
Weight: 25-32 kg
Length: 66-72 cm
You can normally tell the sexes apart just by looking at them. Males tend to be larger than females, with bigger chests, larger heads and with a more muscular build.
Although both sexes are energetic and lively, male German Shepherds are often more playful than females, who can sometimes be reserved. They must also be well trained and socialised as a puppy, as they're more likely to be territorial as an adult.
Male size information
Height: 61-66 cm
Weight: 34-40 kg
Length: 72-78 cm
German Shepherd breed health
German Shepherds are generally healthy dogs. However, there are certain joint and bloating conditions, as well as eye problems that can affect their health.
The life expectancy for healthy German Shepherds is 9-13 years, with females living slightly longer than males.
Common health problems
Some of the typical health problems that affect the breed include:
Hip dysplasia — Like most large dog breeds, German Shepherds can be affected by hip dysplasia — when the ball and socket joints don’t fit together properly. The symptoms are often seen in puppies. You may notice limping in the hind legs, stiffness, or a limited level of activity. The condition can cause mild to extreme pain, so it’s best to speak to the vet as soon as possible. Although incurable, the problem can be managed by changes in diet, different exercise routines, or in some cases surgery.
Elbow dysplasia — Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a genetic condition caused by abnormal development of the elbow joint. You may notice limping or swollen elbows and your dog may be in pain. Although it isn’t curable, with a good diet, reduced exercise, or surgery if severe, it shouldn’t reduce your dog’s life expectancy.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus — Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) — also known as bloating — is a condition which causes the stomach to dilate and twist on its axis. The exact causes of GDV are unknown, though deep-chested breeds like German Shepherds are believed to be at much higher risk. GDV can be fatal, so pay attention to symptoms like retching, distended abdomen, and anxiousness and see your vet immediately. The only known cure is surgery to reverse the twist.
Degenerative myelopathy — An inherited illness that affects the spinal cord. German Shepherds are prone to developing degenerative myelopathy. Symptoms include difficulty standing up and walking, which gets worse over time until they may not be able to use their back legs at all. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but special exercises and assistive equipment can help them move around and live comfortably.
Pannus — A hereditary eye condition that often affects German Shepherds. Pannus is a condition that affects the eye and is an inflammation of the cornea. The condition is caused by an autoimmune reaction. Increased exposure to ultraviolet light can contribute to the development of the condition. The condition is hereditary and normally affects German Shepherds in middle-age. If not treated, it can result in scarring, causing vision issues, or even blindness. Although medication won’t reverse the effects, it can slow the progress.
German Shepherds are lively dogs who need to burn a lot of energy,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.
“The breed will be at risk of obesity if their exercise requirements aren’t met, so regular daily exercise is needed to keep them healthy.
As walking can be painful for dogs with conditions like hip dysplasia, it’s important to follow your vet’s exercise routine advice, limit treats, and provide a healthy diet to prevent weight gain.”
German Shepherd colours and variants
German Shepherds can be categorised into two bloodlines: the Show Line, which tends to look the best and the Working Line, which has the strongest work ethic. However, there are several different variations of the breed, including:
West German Working Line
East German Working Line
American Show Line
European Show Line
The standard colours for German Shepherds include:
Black & tan
Black & cream
Black & silver
Black & red
Solid colour is rare for German Shepherds and they usually have bicolour patterns like saddle, sable, brindle, and blanket-back.
Caring for German Shepherds
German Shepherds are a dominant breed and this can become a problem if not cared for correctly. To limit irritability or excessive barking, owners should provide their dogs with the correct exercise and food, and ensure they have enough rest.
As a breed, German Shepherds are hyperactive dogs that need to burn a lot of energy and calories. Therefore, they need 1-2 hours of walking per day. They can reach speeds of up to 30 mph very quickly, making them excellent police dogs.
As active dogs, protein-rich foods like chicken and beef will help German Shepherds maintain their energy throughout the day. Fruit, vegetables, and grains will also give them the necessary nutrients.
Speak with your vet for advice on dietary and feeding schedules, as it's difficult for owners to build a healthy, balanced diet on their own.
While puppies need 18-20 hours per day for healthy growth, adult German Shepherds should be sleeping for around 12-14 hours. Not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of obesity or illness in dogs. It’s important to look out for the signs of a lack of sleep, including increased aggression or irritability.
“German Shepherds are lively dogs, so enough exercise and the right amount of food will help them sleep, control weight gain, and aid development in puppies,” says says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.
“The breed also tends to experience joint conditions, so spotting the signs early and chatting with your vet can make managing the issue easier. It can also help address pain earlier and slow the progression of diseases like arthritis.”
German Shepherd temperament
How good are German Shepherds with kids?
If socialised and trained from an early age, German Shepherds make excellent family dogs, bonding well with and protecting children. Although they make great playmates thanks to their lively temperament, they are still large dogs and may play roughly without understanding their own strength. It’s worth supervising them if they’re around young children.
How affectionate are German Shepherds?
Although German Shepherds are slow to bond with strangers due to their territorial nature, they are very loving towards their family members. They also like to be close to their owner, so you may notice your German Shepherd following you around and snuggling into you.
How territorial are German Shepherds?
German Shepherds were originally bred as protectors of herds, making them highly territorial and naturally alert. If not trained properly, this can result in cautiousness around strangers entering your home, other dogs while on walks, or excessive barking if they feel threatened.
How friendly are German Shepherds with other dogs?
Although they may be defensive or bark initially, German Shepherds can get along with other dogs if introduced gradually or socialised from an early age. As males are often more territorial, females tend to be friendly towards other dogs.
How much will German Shepherds tolerate other pets?
German Shepherds are likely to tolerate other animals if they are trained well and introduced at a young age. Although they generally tend to get along with cats, it can depend on your dog’s temperament — some may be cautious and try to protect themselves, whereas others will bond fairly quickly.
Do German Shepherds need lots of attention?
German Shepherds need a lot of attention in the form of exercise to stop them from becoming overweight or destructive when bored. They also like to be with their owners and thrive off affection, so they shouldn’t be left alone in the house for over 8 hours. If you’re often out of the house for long periods, a German Shepherd may not be for you.
German Shepherd coat and grooming
German Shepherds have a double coat: the undercoat is thick and soft, whereas the outer coat is straight and dense. They also come in both short and long coat lengths.
Due to their thick, double-layer coat, German Shepherds shed a fair amount of hair consistently. They also lose all of their undercoat in spring and autumn when the weather conditions change.
How often to groom
Due to their dense hair, German Shepherds require a good amount of grooming to prevent matting and skin problems.
Although German Shepherds shouldn’t need their coat trimmed, they should be brushed every 3-4 days to remove dead or loose hairs. Bathing regularly will also promote good hygiene, but doing this too often can leave the skin dry and irritated.
Are Gernan Shepherds Hypoallergenic?
No, German Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. They shed their coat twice a year, spreading the dander present in their hair. It’s this dander which causes a reaction in people who are allergic.
German Shepherd bark sound
German Shepherds are vocal dogs that use noises to communicate their emotions: they’ll bark to warn off other dogs or strangers. They can also bark when they’re excited or feeling ill.
A German Shepherd’s bark is loud and assertive — sounding intimidating to strangers or other dogs. They naturally bark a lot, often when they feel threatened and can sometimes let out a growl when playing or excited. German Shepherds are also known to howl at night, when they’re usually on guard, signalling that something is going on outside.
Frequently asked questions about German Shepherds
What age do German Shepherds stop growing?
On average, German Shepherds reach their full growth at 18 months. However, some will continue growing up until 24 months — especially males.
Are German Shepherds high-maintenance dogs?
German Shepherds require a lot of affection, walking and attention. Therefore, they’re best for owners with time on their hands.