1. Key Characteristics of German Shepherd Dogs
- AKC Group: Herding
- Height: 22–26 inches
- Weight: 50–90 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 9–13 years
The German Shepherd Dog, or GSD, is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. The medium-sized dog is strong and muscular with dark, almond-shaped eyes and a bushy tail.
The variable coat can be double, plush or longhaired and comes in colors of black and tan, sable, black, blue, liver and white.
2. Where German Shepherd Dogs Come From
In 19th-century Germany, breeds of herding and farm dogs were crossed to create a new breed with a great work ethic and desirable companionship traits.
The parent club was formed in 1899 after the breed was exhibited in 1882 in Hanover. The first German Shepherd Dog, named Horan, was registered in April 1889. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1908.
3. How Friendly Are German Shepherd Dogs?
GSDs are known for their ability to learn and retain training. Their even disposition — a combination of loyalty, courage, intelligence, fearlessness and protective nature — comprises a range of qualities desired in a variety of fields.
An energetic breed, they need an outlet for their energy, and firm and consistent positive reinforcement helps keep them focused. They can be wary and apprehensive of strangers, but once friendship is granted, it’s given for life.
These dogs can experience separation anxiety, so don’t leave your GSD alone or crated for extended periods of time. If properly socialized, they’re good with other pets and children.
4. Is This the Right Dog for You?
HIGH: This active breed is looking for a job to do or a way to expel energy. Try daily walks, jogging and/or play to keep your GSD healthy and happy.
These dogs can do well in apartments as long as their exercise needs — a daily, consistent commitment — are met.
Their skin irritates easily, so don’t bathe your GSD too frequently.
HIGH: Despite being a popular, active breed, the German Shepherd Dog has a substantial list of potential health problems, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Blood disorders
- Von Willebrand disease
- Perianal fistulas
- Keratitis (corneal inflammation)
- Flea allergies
- Tumors (spleen is common)
- Degenerative myelopathy
- Endocrine disorders
- Digestive problems caused by myasthenia gravis (and megaesophagus)
To better understand myasthenia gravis and megaesophagus, read this article from someone who managed the conditions in her GSD.
Learn more about German Shepherd Dogs in this video:
5. How to Adopt a German Shepherd Dog
You can often find German Shepherd Dogs in shelters and rescues. Start with our free adoptable dog search.
If you end up looking for a breeder, ask for health records of the parents and be wary of the major red flags of a puppy mill. (Considering the many possible health problems of GSDs, please don’t skip this step.)
- AKC’s German Shepherd Page
- German Shepherd Dog Club of America
- German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada
- German Shepherd Dog League of Great Britain