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German Shepherds are best for active households and experienced pet parents who are ready to train this highly-active pup.
German Shepherd Traits
What makes the German Shepherd a German Shepherd? Let's find out how they stack up.
German Shepherd Temperament
Born guardians, the German Shepherd’s best trait is their intense, unwavering loyalty to their families. (There’s a reason they make some of the best police dogs.) The fearless breed has also been known to put themselves in harm’s way before they let a family member get hurt.
Not surprisingly, friendliness is not the German Shepherd dog breed’s strong suit. They can be aloof, and you definitely have to earn their trust. Naturally wary of strangers, a German Shepherd will default to “guard dog mode” if they believe their family is in danger.
Early social interactions with kids, babies and other animals is also important if you want your German Shepherd to be well-behaved around guests. With the proper education, this easy-to-train pup can be a great family dog.
German Shepherds are born talkers. They will bark when they’re bored, and they’ll bark to alert you if something isn’t quite right. But training and exercise can help curb a lippy pup and keep their barking to when you need it the most.
These dogs are incredibly smart, and they are at their best when they have a job to do, whether working as a police or military dog, doing tracking or search and rescue, serving as a guide dog or at home practicing scent work or solving puzzles for a treat. And when they’re with their family, German Shepherds will let their silly side show as they flip their toys in the air and roll around on their backs.
How to Care for a German Shepherd
A German Shepherd puppy can become one of the best companions a pet parent could ask for, but they don’t come work-free. German Shepherds need regular grooming, plenty of exercise and a lot of training. However, these pups are quick studies, and all your efforts will be rewarded.
German Shepherd Health
German Shepherds have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, but are prone to a number of health problems. It’s important for a pup parent to be aware of the common health conditions that can affect your dog, so you can help them live the longest life possible.
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: German Shepherd health issues include these degenerative joint diseases that can cause pain throughout their life. With either elbow or hip dysplasia, the joint doesn’t fit properly. According to the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals, about 20 percent of German Shepherds have hip dysplasia. Look for signs like limping and decreased range of motion. Treatment can include weight loss, reduced activity or surgery.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: A neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord, this disease can lead to paralysis of the hind legs. Early signs of degenerative myelopathy include weakness in the hind legs and difficulty standing up. There is currently no treatment for it, but physical therapy can help preserve the muscles and prolong the use of their legs.
- Cancer: German Shepherds can develop certain types of cancers, including hemangiosarcoma (malignant tumors that often develop in blood-rich areas like the heart or spleen), bone cancer, lung cancer and intestinal cancer. Signs of cancer can include lethargy and loss of appetite. Depending on the severity, treatment options can include chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
- Bloat: This can turn into a life-threatening condition where the abdomens swells and twists, and it is more common in dogs with deep chests like German Shepherds. If your dog’s abdomen enlarges quickly or they whine when you press on their belly, take them to the vet immediately.
- Allergies: You sneeze, your pup scratches. If you see your pup scratching a lot, it may not just be itchy skin—your pup likely has allergies. Your vet can determine what is causing your dog’s allergic reaction, and treatments can range from a change in diet to medication.
German Shepherd History
The smart, agile German Shepherd breed we know today was largely the creation of one man. In the late 1800s, Captain Max von Stephanitz set out to create the perfect German herding dog (capable of keeping sheep in line and protecting them from predators like wolves) and cross-bred different dogs from northern and central Germany. He spent decades promoting the breed and even created the first club devoted to German Shepherd dogs. When herding became less of a necessity in the 1900s, their history took a turn when von Stephanitz decided German Shepherds would make the ultimate K-9 or police dog.
The German Shepherd became the 60th breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1908, and the German Shepherd Dog Club of America was founded in 1913. American families fell head over heels for German Shepherds while watching “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin” in movies and on television. (The original Rin-Tin-Tin was born in 1918.) However, during the world wars, their popularity wobbled due to anti-German feelings. But this pup, with their wonderful personalities, was not down for long. Today, the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog breed in America.
So, where’s the best place to find German Shepherd puppies? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What is the price for a purebred German Shepherd puppy? Depending on the breeder, expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500. But for that, you’ll likely get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to German Shepherd rescue organizations to adopt one or keep an eye out for a German Shepherd who needs a home at your local animal shelter.
Are German Shepherds hypoallergenic?
No, German Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. The breed’s fur sheds a lot, and they shed throughout the year. Their shedding can spread pet dander throughout your home, making them a breed to avoid for allergy sufferers.
Are German Shepherds aggressive?
Because they are some of the best guard dogs in the world, it would be easy to dismiss German Shepherds as aggressive. Yes, they are wary around strangers and will lay down their life for their family, but with proper training and socialization, this pup can be a great family pet.
Are German Shepherds good with kids?
German Shepherds are good with kids if they are properly trained and socialized. Also, be sure children are taught the proper ways to engage with dogs, including not invading their space unless they ask first.
What are the most popular German Shepherd names?
The most popular German Shepherd names include Max, Ladie, Bear, Sadie, Buddy, Sasha, Duke, Sheeba and Rocky. Get more dog names here.
What are the most common German Shepherd mixes?
The most common German Shepherd mixes are:
- German Shepherd-Husky mix (Shepsky)
- German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Shepherd)
- German Shepherd-Pitbull mix (German Pit)
- German Shepherd-Lab mix (German Sheprador)
- German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix (German Shepweiler)
- German Shepherd-Corgi mix (Corman Shepherd)
Active, bright and fierce protectors, a well-trained German Shepherd is the ultimate sidekick. They’re happiest when they have a job to do or they’re included in activities with the family. Pet parents looking for a more independent and low-maintenance dog should definitely look elsewhere. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you will have a loyal, loving companion and bestie who’s always got your back.
Expert input provided by board certified veterinarian behaviorist and Professor Ameritus at Cornell College of Medicine Katherine Houpt, animal behaviorist and behavior consultant Jennifer Abrams and AKC Delegate for the Newton Kennel Club Cathy Murch, who has raised German Shepherds for 50 years.