German Shepherd
Dog Breeds

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd has lived side by side with humans since time immemorial. Today it is one of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds on the planet.

Characteristics of German Shepherd

Country of originGermany
The sizelarge
Growth55-68 cm
Weight25–40 kg
Age8–10 years
FCI breed groupherding and cattle dogs, except Swiss cattle dogs
German Shepherd Christics

Basic moments

  • German Shepherds can be both service dogs performing security or search functions, as well as companions for families.
  • Loyal and docile pets unquestioningly recognize the authority of the owner.
  • German Shepherds are among the top three most intelligent dog breeds (along with border collies and poodles).
  • They need human society and physical activity.
  • Get along well with children of all ages.
  • Able to live not only indoors, but also in an aviary.
  • The average life expectancy of a German Shepherd is 9-13 years, after 7 years strict health monitoring is necessary.

The German Shepherd is a regular at the top of the ratings of the smartest, most loyal, most trainable pets. The noble “faces” of these dogs often appear in news stories, on the pages of newspapers and even in the title roles of various television shows. But the main vocation of the Germans is not an acting career, but the protection of order. They serve in the police, border and customs units, assist in search and rescue operations. And at home, representatives of this breed protect the peace and property of the owners, give their owners a lot of positive emotions.

History of the German Shepherd breed

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German Shepherd

To trace the history of some breeds (for example, the Doberman and Airedale Terrier , which “originate” from the 19th century, or the Old English Bulldog bred in 1970), it is enough to turn to official documents and eyewitness accounts. With German Shepherds, the situation is quite different. According to researchers, the beginning of the chain of their immediate ancestors should be sought in the mists of time.

Archaeological finds show that as early as the 4th millennium BC, animals lived on the territory of modern Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, the skeleton of which has many features similar to sheep dogs. These were the consequences of the evolution of wild individuals who chose life near the sites of ancient tribes and became dependent on humans. It is assumed that even then some primitive selection was carried out, during which the largest and most obedient puppies were selected.

The now defunct small Indian wolf was increasingly moving away from its “free” relatives and gradually turned into the so-called Bronze Age dogs. Over time, people’s needs have changed. Not only farmers, but also pastoralists were, to one degree or another, tied to a particular locality. This means that four-legged satellites have new functions. In the Middle Ages, Hofwarts were bred throughout Europe. This German word is translated as “guardian of the court”, but dogs were engaged not only in the protection of real estate.

Domesticated cattle needed reliable protection from ruthless predators and hunters for other people’s goods. Given the growing number of herds and flocks, it was simply impossible to cope with such a task with the help of shepherds. Then the yard dogs came to the rescue. Of course, not everyone was suitable for such work, but only the smartest and hardiest. They began to select and train in a special way. And everything special is valuable, therefore, already in the 7th century, according to the laws of the ancient Germanic tribe of the Alemans, a severe punishment awaited the guilty person for the murder of a shepherd dog.

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german shepherd puppy

Of course, the animals of the early Middle Ages, and even of much later eras, did not outwardly resemble modern representatives of the breed. Fundamentally important for the so-called primitive German Shepherds were considered not the shape of the head and the setting of the tail, but the corresponding intelligence, rather large dimensions and a “psychological portrait”. The fact is that the way of life of the shepherds assumed long-term isolation, during the grazing season the animals actually contacted exclusively with “their” person and had to not only unquestioningly obey, but also become good companions to him.

By the 18th century, the situation had changed somewhat. Two regional types of German shepherd dogs took shape at once – semi-long-haired Thuringian fawn-gray color with a twisting tail and long-haired Württemberg black or red color with semi-erect ears. They also differed in character: the former were called active animals, prone to loud and frequent barking, while the latter could boast of calmness and endurance. In the name of a common cause, breeders from the central and southwestern lands decided to join forces.

The result of the painstaking work of enthusiasts was presented to the general public only at the end of the 19th century. At the Hannover Dog Show in 1882, Baron von Knigge brought two of his pets, males Greif and Kiras, later the owners of the Hannau kennel warmed up interest in the new breed, who showed the public an impressive pair – large and strongly built Pollux and Prima. It was thanks to them that almost two dozen champions and winners of exhibitions of the following decades were born.

In 1891, the creation of the first German Shepherd Society was announced. The Filaks organization did not last long, but managed to approve the breed standard. The next significant event should be considered an exhibition in the small town of Karlsruhe on the German-French border. The event would have remained unnoticed by anyone if it had not been possible to see an outstanding representative of the old format type at it. And not among the participants!

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German Shepherd at work

Hector von Lierkenhayn merely entertained visitors with a display of herding skills. By a happy coincidence, retired military man Max von Stephanitz and his friend Arthur Meyer passed by, who devoted their free time to breeding German shepherds and immediately noticed the perfect external data of the dog, which was in no way inferior to its working qualities. The owner, however, did not want to part with his pet just like that, it took several weeks to negotiate.

Having acquired the ideal “German”, von Stephanitz entered him as the first number in the breeding book under a new name – Horand von Grafrath. At the same time, a large-scale search for females similar in type begins. Efforts were rewarded, a sufficient number of worthy successors of the breed were born in the litters received from Horand. Most modern purebred lines are somehow connected with his son Hector von Schwaben, grandchildren Pilot, Beowulf, Heinz von Starkenburg. The breeding of today’s recognizable black and yellow dogs began with Hettel von Uckermark, son of Roland von Starkenburg. Another outstanding representative of the breed is Claudo von Boxberg, who won the 1925 international exhibition and laid the foundation for new breeding lines.

Max von Stephanitz died in 1936. There is an opinion that the attacks of members of the National Socialist Party indirectly contributed to this, who did not want to popularize German Shepherds outside of Germany and even threatened the enthusiast with imprisonment in a concentration camp. During the Second World War, many nurseries were destroyed, many animals died, and no one cared about the purity of the blood of those who remained. But several valuable representatives of the breed were saved, and in peacetime, the followers of von Stephanitz continued to work on the development of the breed. Exhibitions resumed in 1946, and five years later a new hero appeared at one of them – the champion Rolf von Osnabrücker, the founder of modern “high breeding” lines.

Back in April 1899, the Union of German Shepherd Owners was created. The activities of von Stephanitz, Meyer and other leaders were mainly aimed at maintaining the purity of the blood, which would be confirmed by the relevant documents, encouraging outstanding breeders and developing the working qualities of the breed. The organization still exists, and in May 1968 an international association was founded, which today is known as the World Union of German Shepherd Associations and unites 89 national unions from 82 countries.

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German Shepherd - Top 10 Facts

Appearance of a German Shepherd

German Shepherds are medium in size. The growth of a male at the withers is 60-65 cm, weight 30-40 kg, females are 5 cm lower and 8 kg lighter. The proportional ratio of height and weight is important. The dog is slightly elongated, strong and muscular, built firmly, but the skeleton is not coarse.


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German Shepherd muzzle

The length of the head is 40% of the height of the dog at the withers. The shape is wedge-shaped, but not too elongated, moderately wide between the ears. The forehead is slightly convex. The ratio of the cranial and facial parts is 1:1. The transition between them is expressed smoothly.


In a German Shepherd, the length of the neck is approximately equal to the length of the head. Strong and muscular, very mobile.


Oval in shape, slightly obliquely spaced, not protruding, of medium size. The color is dark.


Classical shape, without a clear dividing line. The nose is black.

Teeth and jaws

The upper and lower jaws of the German Shepherd are well developed. The teeth are strong, the dental formula is complete. Lips close to jaws. Scissor bite.


The ears of the German Shepherd are large, erect, triangular in shape, directed in parallel. The auricles are open forward. Ear cartilage is elastic, without creases and bends.


The chest is long, wide and deep. The line of the back goes down from the withers to the croup. The withers are strong, the back is wide and strong, the croup is sloping, with an imperceptible transition to the base of the tail.

German Shepherd
German Shepherd in profile


The tail of German Shepherds is relatively long, slightly curved, in the usual position lowered down. Fluffy, and the hair is longer on the lower part of the tail.


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Black German Shepherd

The forelegs are straight and parallel when viewed from the front. Strong and muscular. The shoulder blades and humerus are of the same length, connected at a right angle. The hind legs are slightly set back, straight and parallel when viewed from behind. Thigh and lower leg are of the same length, connected at an angle of 120°. Strong and muscular. The front paws are rounded, the toes are arched. The hind feet are compact, with slightly arched toes.


Double, with dense, straight, coarse outer coat and thick undercoat.


Black with reddish-brown, brown, yellow to light gray tan marks. Solid black or solid grey. Zoned gray shepherd dogs show black saddle and mask.

Photo of an adult German Shepherd

The nature of the German Shepherd

Without exception, all owners of German Shepherds call them faithful, intelligent, calm and obedient animals. The key to a beautiful character is the stable psyche of the animal and proper upbringing.

Овчарка с хозяйкой
Shepherd dog with owner

The high intelligence of the Germans is not accompanied by a desire for independence and stubbornness, they easily and with pleasure master new games, teams, territories. Dogs do not like loneliness, but patiently await the return of the owner. For a good mood and normal well-being, they are in dire need of human society, including long walks and outdoor games.

One of the important features of the German Shepherd remains innate guarding instincts, therefore, they are wary of strangers in the home and even during a walk, although they never show aggression without a reason. Devotion to the owner and family of these pets is elevated to the level of an absolute, they are ready to sacrifice themselves, protecting the household from danger, and assess the degree of danger instantly and adequately.

German Shepherds love children and enjoy playing with them. However, it is not recommended to leave babies alone with a dog, if only because of the difference in size and weight. The shepherd dog is tolerant of other animals in the house, friendships are possible if they grow up together.

German Shepherd cute puppy
Future defender

Education and training

As mentioned above, German Shepherds are smart and easily trained animals. But raising a large dog should never be left to chance. From the first months of life, in the form of interesting games and tasks, the completion of which is accompanied by receiving treats, the puppy gets an idea of ​​acceptable behavioral norms and important commands.

German Shepherd with a kid
German Shepherd with baby

The owner should demonstrate his authority without resorting to shouting and, moreover, physical strength. If it seems to you that there are significant deviations in the behavior of the puppy that you cannot cope with on your own, be sure to seek help from a specialist dog handler.

Of course, not every German Shepherd becomes a service dog and keeps order in special units. But even a pet needs to understand and adequately respond to the basic commands: “Come to me!”, “Place!”, “No!”, “Next!”, “Sit!”, “Lie down!”, “Walk!”, “ Aport!

When the backbone of the puppy is strong enough, you can begin to overcome obstacles (be sure to take into account the correspondence of the height to the growth and capabilities of the pet). The fundamental point is to teach the dog to walk on a leash, and from six months – in a muzzle. It is better to do this gradually and do not forget about the delicious reward for obedience.

It is important to remember that German Shepherds reach psychological maturity quite late, by the age of three. A young dog, in size quite corresponding to the breed standard, internally remains a vulnerable puppy that requires care and approval.

Care and maintenance

The structural features of the coat allow the German Shepherd to live both indoors and in the yard. In the second case, a spacious aviary with an insulated booth is needed. In addition, it is desirable to at least partially protect the enclosure from rain and wind.

German Shepherd eating
German Shepherd at a meal

Immediately after the appearance of the dog in the house, determine its own place for it, where the bedding or mattress, toys will lie. In the immediate vicinity of it there should be no direct sources of heat and drafts. For the bed, natural materials are preferred, which do not need complex cleaning. A sufficient number of toys will protect furniture and shoes from sharp teeth.

The main aspect of the proper maintenance of any dog ​​is a balanced diet, which will ensure normal development and good health for life. The easiest way to guarantee a complete diet is ready-made premium and super-premium feeds for the appropriate age category, and for adult animals – taking into account special needs. With a “natural” diet, it is important to follow the ratio of protein products and fiber recommended by veterinarians. And, of course, you can’t feed a shepherd with scraps from a human table, because her digestive system is not ready to work with fatty, fried, salty foods and spices. Fresh water must be available at all times.

As it gets dirty (but not too often), it is necessary to bathe the dog in warm water with special shampoos. Combing is carried out once or twice a week, during the period of seasonal molting, the procedure has to be done more often. The condition of the ears, eyes, oral cavity, nasal passages should be regularly monitored.

It is recommended to visit the veterinarian for preventive examination at least 2-3 times a year.

Health and disease of the German Shepherd

The average lifespan of a German Shepherd is 9-13 years.

Difficulties in the formation of the breed and forced inbreeding led to a number of serious diseases. Some appear even in puppyhood: growth hormone deficiency, diabetes, leukemia, eosinophilic panostitis (intermittent claudication), intestinal intussusception, pyoderma (purulent skin lesions).

German Shepherd disease

Later, allergies, hip dysplasia, diseases of the intervertebral discs, arthritis, corneal dystrophy, epilepsy, cataracts, pancreatic insufficiency, tricuspid or mitral valve dysplasia, aortic stenosis (narrowing of the opening of the vessel), exudative pericarditis (inflammation of the outer membranes of the heart) may occur. , cancer, hind limb paralysis.

Under the influence of external factors, ear and eye infections, dermatitis, intestinal volvulus, bloating and others can begin.

At the first sign of feeling unwell, you should contact the veterinary clinic, where they can make the correct diagnosis and begin treatment. In addition, it is important to visit the doctor regularly for routine check-ups – especially for puppies in the period of active growth and dogs older than 7 years.

German Shepherd in the forest

How to choose a puppy

The features of appearance and character mentioned above refer to purebred German Shepherds, that is, to those whose pedigree has been confirmed by official documents for several generations. Half-breeds, of course, can be wonderful and loyal pets, but they are still completely different dogs.

Future owners who are interested in a particular breed should look for a puppy only from trusted breeders and kennels with an excellent reputation. So you can be sure of the absence of genetic diseases and the “branded” mental stability, which is so important for a large pet.

Responsible breeders do not sell puppies under 8-10 weeks old to buyers. By this time, the little German is already confidently standing on its paws, responding to its own name and is ready to start learning.

If a dog is purchased not for breeding and participation in exhibitions, its health and friendliness are the main selection criteria. Good appetite, playfulness, clean eyes, nose and auricles, shiny coat, elastic belly without signs of bloating are considered indicators of the first. A young German Shepherd should not be afraid of calmly behaving people or react aggressively to attempts to approach.

It is also better to “get to know” the parents in order to have an idea about the heredity of the future pet, and look at the conditions of the mother with the kids. Cleanliness, sufficient space, quality food and the availability of toys, timely vaccination are undoubted evidence in favor of the breeder.

Photo of German Shepherd puppies

How much does a german shepherd cost

Potential show winners with impeccable conformity to breed standards and “champion” pedigree will not cost less than a thousand dollars. They are usually sold at the age of 5-6 months, or even older – when the external data has already been formed and even there is experience in participating in junior “shows”.

Purebred German Shepherd puppies, which do not claim international recognition due to certain formal shortcomings, but can become excellent guard or family dogs, are sold in kennels at a price of 300 to 900 dollars.

Dogs without a pedigree are significantly cheaper, but in this case, no one guarantees you either external or psychological conformity to the ideas of a real German Shepherd.

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