German Shepherd

German Shepherd Dog or Alsatian is among the most popular dog breeds in the world. Why is the GSD breed so famous? Why do so many dog lovers choose the GSD over all other dog breeds? Let us explore this amazing breed in-depth. Let us also try to find out if German Shepherd is the best breed suitable for you.

This page not only includes precise info, facts, FAQs, breed standards, and info. for choosing the best GSD puppy.. but many more insights and knowledge derived from years of experience with owning, training, breeding, and judging the German Shepherd Dog breed in the show ring.

German Shepherd Dog GSD pic
German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog, also known as an Alsatian is an impressive dog – strong, agile, well-muscled, alert, and full of life.

German Shepherd Dog or Alsatian? Which is the correct name for this breed? The name Alsatian comes from the German-French border area of Alsace-Lorraine, where the British were locked in a fierce battle with the German forces. The original name of this dog breed is German Shepherd Dog. It was because of the relentless campaign by German Shepherd breeders that in 1977 the Alsatian finally got back its original name, German Shepherd Dog.

German Shepherd Dog Blondi Hitler
The image above: Blondi (1941 – 1945) was Adolf Hitler’s German Shepherd dog, given to him as a gift in 1941 by Martin Bormann. Hitler was reportedly very fond of Blondi, keeping her by his side and allowing her to sleep in his bedroom in the bunker.
German Shepherd Alsatian
Image: During World War II, the GSD was employed by Allied and Axis forces.

The German Shepherd Dog is expected to have the courage, fighting drive and hardness to serve as a companion, watchdog, protection dog (when trained), service dog, and herding dog.

German Shepherd Colors

Which colors are GSDs available in?

German Shepherd Dogs can be Red and Black, Tan and Black, Red Sable, Tan Sable (or Gold Sable), Silver Sable, Solid White, Solid Black, Tan and Liver, Solid Liver, Steel Blue, Powder Blue and Tan, Golden or Panda colored.

Which is the most common German Shepherd color?

Most German Shepherds are Tan and Black in color. Tan and Black is the most common and most preferred color amongst German Shepherds. The second most common color in GSD is Red and Black (show line dogs bred in Germany often have a stronger red pigment). Tan and Red are essentially the same color except that the pigment is stronger in Red and Black German Shepherds, and lighter in Tan and Black German Shepherds.

Black and Tan with Black and Red GSD
Black and Tan with Black and Red German Shepherd Dog

Sable colored German Shepherd Dogs

Sable means black crossed by horizontal or vertical lines or marks of different colors. Different sable patterns can either have dark red pigment, or the lighter Tan pigment. So, GSDs can be Tan Sable (also called Gold Sable), Red Sable, or Silver Sable.

Gold Tan Sable German Shepherd GSD
Tan Sable (Gold Sable) German Shepherd
Red Sable German Shepherd
Red Sable German Shepherd
Silver Sable GSD
Silver Sable German Shepherd

White German Shepherd Dogs

White German Shepherd Dogs are not Albinos. They do not have a pink nose (seen in Albino dogs). The white color is caused by a masking gene which literally masks the colors of the GSD with white. To produce a white GSD, the masking white gene has to be present and passed on by both parents. White GSDs are very rare.

White German Shepherd Dog GSD
White German Shepherd

Solid Black German Shepherds

Black GSDs are a bit larger (about 2 inches taller) and rarer than their typical black and tan counterparts but are not quite as rare as the White GSD.

Black German Shepherd Dog GSD
Solid Black German Shepherd Dog

Brown or Liver German Shepherds

Though the liver color in GSD is rare, it is actually a fault. The Brown color (called Liver color) is caused by the dilution of the color pigment in black color – turning the black pigment into a shade of brown. Liver colored GSDs have a brown colored nose instead of the regular black colored nose. Liver colored GSDs can come in a pattern that includes solid liver color.

Livered German Shepherd Dog
Liver German Shepherd Dog

Grey or Blue German Shepherds

Like the Liver colored GSD, the Grey GSD (also called blue GSD) is caused due to dilution of the pigment that affects the black part of a German Shepherd’s fur. Blue colored German Shepherds have a grey nose instead of the regular black nose and can come in a variety of patterns. Blue GSDs can be dark steel blue or light powder blue. Blue is also considered a fault.

Blue or Grey color German Shepherd
Blue German Shepherd Dog

Golden German Shepherds

Golden German Shepherds or simply Golden Shepherds are fairly unusual. They have a black mask with a normal amount of pigment, but usually no markings on their backs. Their color somewhat resembles the Belgian Malinois.

Golden German Shepherd Dog
Golden German Shepherd

Panda German Shepherds

The Panda Shepherd is caused by a rare genetic mutation. There are currently only a few Panda Shepherds in the world. Since the coloring is considered a fault, breeders and fanciers are trying to create a separate breed for Panda colored Shepherd dogs.

Panda German Shepherd GSD
Panda German Shepherd

Note: German Shepherd Dog varies in color. Strong rich colors are preferred in the show ring. Pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are considered faults and penalized in shows. White German Shepherd Dogs are disqualified from dog shows.

German Shepherd Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Let us seek some answers related to the German Shepherd breed. Are they hypoallergenic (non-shedding) or do they shed a lot? Do they bark a lot? Are they good guard dogs? Are they good family dogs? Good with children? Are these dogs aggressive? Are there any potential risks in owning this breed? and many more questions that a potential German Shepherd owner may be concerned about.

Is the German Shepherd a hypoallergenic (non-shedding) breed?

No. The German Shepherd is not a hypoallergenic dog breed. German Shepherd Dogs shed a lot. This can trigger allergies in people who are allergic to pet hair and dander. German Shepherd Dogs have a double coat – an external layer that is long and shiny, and an inner layer that is much finer to keep them warm. A GSD bitch will generally blow her coat (shed heavily) 2 times a year with her heat cycle. All other German Shepherds (neutered and un-neutered males and spayed females) will shed heavily throughout the year and will shed even more heavily when the seasons change. A good diet, proper hydration, and weekly grooming – brushing the topcoat, combing the undercoat, and massaging during baths (with ph-neutral shampoo) will help reduce shedding to some extent.

Do German Shepherd dogs bark a lot?

Yes. Like all shepherd breeds, the GSD barks a lot. GSDs may also whine, howl, and growl. Barking isn’t necessarily a problem, but it can be if the dog is bored and under-exercised. A GSD may also bark excessively to protect the family because he considers himself the pack leader and feels responsible to protect the pack. Once you earn your place as the pack leader, your German Shepherd may stop barking excessively (one easy way to become the pack leader is to always walk ahead of your GSD).

Also, you can train your German Shepherd to bark less. Learning the Speak and Quiet commands should be part of every German Shepherd’s obedience training. Give your German Shepherd the command to SPEAK, wait for him to bark two or three times, and then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose and say QUIET. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him for being quiet, and give him the treat.

Is German Shepherd a good family dog?

Yes and No. It depends on many factors. German shepherds can be very gentle companions and family protectors with proper training, socialization, and responsible ownership. It’s an ideal breed for active households. The intelligence and protective demeanor of the GSD breed can make it a good choice for families with children as long as the dog is properly trained. However, if a German Shepherd is not raised properly, it can be nervous, shy, and too aggressive to be a family dog.

Generally, female GSDs are preferred as family dogs. GSD bitches are sweeter and friendlier companions and family dogs. Male GSDs tend to be territorial and urinate wherever they go to mark their territory. They are also much prouder. Female German Shepherd dogs tend to be gentler and friendlier towards their owners, kids, and people in general.

Are German Shepherds affectionate? Good with kids?

Yes and No. German Shepherds are affectionate with their family. Socialized German shepherds are generally known to be good around children of all ages, due to them being so calm and patient. German Shepherds love and protect kids if given proper socialization training from an early age. However, a GSD that has not been socialized properly from an early age could be a threat to children.

Are German Shepherds good guard dogs?

Yes. German Shepherds are excellent natural guard dogs. They will protect your property or home instinctively. They are big, alert, intimidating, and are not friendly towards strangers. Training can make them even better guard dogs. Normally, the guard dog instinct kicks in at the age of 3 months onwards. This becomes stronger as they grow up, especially if they have a good example of a strong adult guard dog around.

Are German Shepherds aggressive dogs? Do they bite?

Yes. German Shepherds can be dangerous dogs. German Shepherds can bite hard (GSD has the second hardest bite force of about 240psi. The Rottweiler bites hardest with about 330 psi bite pressure). Though they were bred for herding livestock (and not as livestock guardian dogs), many GSDs do have aggressive tendencies. They are highly alert and will respond to any threat courageously. German Shepherd’s aggression can start as young as 3 months age, a crucial age when a German Shepherd puppy should be socialized with other dogs and given the necessary training that keeps them from biting other people. This period of socialization lasts until the dog turns 6 months old and can extend even further beyond that.

Can German Shepherds swim? Do they like it?

Yes. German Shepherds can swim. German Shepherds weren’t bred specifically for swimming but since they are naturally athletic, courageous, and smart dogs, they have the capability to like water and become strong swimmers. German shepherds can make good swimmers because they have long legs, webbed feet, long snouts, a double coat, and they’re naturally lean. However, some German Shepherds do not like water. Fear of water could be an inherited trait or simply due to bad experiences with water bodies. You can introduce your GSD to water in a small pool at about 4 months. Once your dog learns to maneuver in the water, you can take him to larger water bodies. You should teach your GSD to come when called before venturing into larger water bodies for obvious reasons.

How much do German Shepherds cost? How much is a German Shepherd puppy?

German Shepherd puppies cost about $800 to $1,500 from a reputed breeder. Some breeders may charge more for a German Shepherd with top breed lines and a superior pedigree. The cost to buy a German Shepherd varies greatly and depends on many factors. Expect to pay less for a puppy without papers, Expect to pay a premium for a puppy advertised as show quality with papers.

The cost to adopt a German Shepherd is around $300 in order to cover the expenses of caring for the dog before adoption. Many GSDs may be up for adoption due to aggressive temperaments. Take your time and select the right dog suitable for you.

How long do German Shepherds live?

The average lifespan for GSD is 9 to 13 years.

Ok, so let’s assume you have chosen the German Shepherd as the best dog breed suitable for yourself. You have decided to find yourself a German Shepherd puppy as your next family member. How will you choose the best pup? Let us look at some standard characteristics of the German Shepherd dog breed which will help you select the right puppy, keep reading.

Choosing a good German Shepherd puppy

The definition of the best German Shepherd puppy depends on your requirements. Your expectations from an adult German Shepherd can be broadly categorized as follows: Confirmation for show or breeding; obedience; smart guard dog; companion; homely pet.

German Shepherd puppy

Although it is tempting to look for all these qualities in one German Shepherd puppy you are planning to buy, it is almost never possible to find all qualities in a single pup.

If you want your German Shepherd puppy to grow up to be a champion in the show ring, you should look for confirmation to the German Shepherd dog breed standards. We have put together a general guideline for selecting an all-around good puppy for you. Our guideline not just includes breed standards, but also gives importance to temperament, appearance, physical details, gait, health issues, grooming needs, and maintenance.

Look for the following characteristics while choosing a German Shepherd.

German Shepherd’s appearance

The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert, and full of life. It should both be and appear to be well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog should appear to the eye, and actually be, longer than tall, deep-bodied, and present an outline of smooth curves rather than corners. It should look substantial and not spindly, giving the impression of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living.

The German Shepherd should be stamped with a look of quality and nobility, difficult to define but unmistakable when present. The good German Shepherd never looks common. Secondary sex characteristics should be strongly marked, and every German Shepherd should give a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex. German Shepherd Dogs should be definitely masculine in appearance and deportment; German Shepherd bitches, unmistakably feminine, without weakness of structure or apparent softness of temperament. The condition of the dog should be that of an athlete in good condition, the muscles and flesh firm, and the coat lustrous.

Working lines vs Show lines

There are two major different types of German Shepherds – The Working line GSD and the Show line GSD. The working lines are usually smaller and have very little angulation. Show line German Shepherds are much larger in body and broader in the head with powerfully angled hindquarters. Working line GSDs have a higher energy level than show line GSDs. Show line German Shepherds have a longer and thicker coat than those found on working line GSDs. Working line German Shepherd Dogs continue to be selectively bred for the traits that allow them to be very good at working in their specific field. They have not been specifically bred to win dog shows or as homely pets. They have been bred to work.

German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd show line specimen bred to excel in dog shows
Working German Shepherd
Working Line German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd’s Temperament

The GSD breed has a distinct personality marked by a direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, and self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The Shepherd Dog is not one that fawns upon every new acquaintance. At the same time, it should be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It should be poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert, both fit and willing to serve in any capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian; whichever the circumstances may demand.

The German Shepherd Dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler, nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions to strange sounds or sights, or lackadaisical, sluggish, or manifestly disinterested in what goes on about him. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Cases of extreme timidity and nervous unbalance sometimes give the dog an apparent, but totally unreal, courage and it becomes a “fear biter,” snapping not for any justifiable reason but because it is apprehensive of the approach of a stranger. This is a serious fault subject to heavy penalties.

German Shepherd’s Size

The ideal height for dogs is 25 inches (64 cm), and for bitches, 23 inches (58 cm) at the shoulder. This height is established by taking a perpendicular line from the top of the shoulder blade to the ground with the coat parted or so pushed down that this measurement will show the only actual height of the frame or structure of the dog. The working value of dogs above or below the indicated height is proportionately lessened, although variations of an inch (3 cm) above or below the ideal height are acceptable, while greater variations must be considered as faults. Weights of dogs of desirable size in proper flesh and condition average between 75 and 85 lb. (34 and 39 kg); and of bitches, between 60 and 70 lb. (27 and 32 kg).

German Shepherd’s Coat

The Shepherd is normally a dog with a double coat, the amount of undercoat varying with the season of the year, and the proportion of the time the dog spends out of doors. It should, however, always be present to a sufficient degree to keep out water, to insulate against temperature extremes, and as a protection against insects. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh, and lying close to the body. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is equally permissible. The head, including the inner ear, fore face, and legs and paws are covered with short hair and the neck with longer and thicker hair. The rear of forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock respectively. Faults in coat include complete lack of any undercoat, soft, silky, or too long outer coat and curly or open coat.

German Shepherd’s Color

The German Shepherd Dog differs widely in color. Generally speaking, strong, rich colors are to be preferred, with definite pigmentation, and without the appearance of a washed-out color. White German Shepherd dogs are disqualified in dog shows.

German Shepherd’s Head

Clean-cut and strong, the head of the Shepherd is characterized by his nobility. It should seem in proportion to the body and should not be clumsy, although a degree of coarseness of head, especially in dogs, is less of a fault than over-refinement. A round or dome skull is a fault.

The muzzle is long and strong with the lips firmly fitted, and its top-line is usually parallel with an imaginary elongation of the line of the forehead. Seen from the front, the forehead is only moderately arched and the skull slopes into the long wedge-shaped muzzle without abrupt stop. Jaws are strongly developed. Weak and too narrow under jaws, snipey muzzles, and absence of a stop is a fault.

German Shepherd’s Teeth

The strong teeth, 42 in number (20 upper and 22 lower) are strongly developed and meet in a scissors grip in which part of the inner surface of the upper teeth meets and engages a part of the outer surface of the lower teeth. This type of bite gives a more powerful grip than one in which the edges of the teeth meet directly, and is subject to less wear. The dog is overshot when the lower teeth fail to engage the inner surfaces of the upper teeth. This is a serious fault. The reverse condition – an undershot jaw – is a very serious fault. While missing premolars are frequently observed, complete dentition is preferred. So-called distemper teeth and discolored teeth are faults whose seriousness varies with the degree of departure from the desired white, sound coloring. Teeth broken by accident should not be severely penalized but worn teeth, especially the incisors, are often indicative of the lack of a proper scissors bite, although some allowance should be made for age.

German Shepherd’s Eyes

Eyes of medium size, almond-shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is as dark as possible. Eyes of lighter colors are sometimes found and are not a serious fault if they harmonize with the general coloration, but a dark brown eye is always to be preferred. The expression should be keen, intelligent, and composed.

German Shepherd’s Ears

The ears should be moderately pointed, open towards the front, and are carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. GSD puppies usually do not permanently raise their ears until the fourth or sixth month, and sometimes not until later. Cropped and hanging ears are to be discarded. The well-placed and well-carried ear of size in proportion to the skull materially adds to the general appearance of the German Shepherd. Neither too large nor too small ears are desirable. Too much stress, however, should not be laid on the perfection of carriage if the ears are fully erect.

German Shepherd’s Neck

The neck is strong and muscular, clean-cut, and relatively long, proportionate in size to the head and without loose folds of skin. When the dog is at attention or excited, the head is raised and the neck carried high, otherwise typical carriage of the head is forward rather than up and but little higher than the top of the shoulder, particularly in motion.

German Shepherd’s Body

The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. Forechest, commencing at the prosternum, should be well filled and carried well down between the legs with no sense of hollowness. The chest should be deep and capacious with ample room for lungs and heart. Well carried forward, with the prosternum, or process of the breastbone, showing ahead of the shoulder when the dog is viewed from the side. Ribs should be well sprung and long, neither barrel-shaped nor too flat, and carried down to a breastbone which reaches to the elbow. Correct ribbing allows the elbow to move back freely when the dog is at a trot, while too round a rib causes interference and throws the elbow out. Ribbing should be carried well back so that loin and flank are relatively short. Abdomen firmly held and not paunchy. The bottom line of the Shepherd is only moderately tucked up in flank, never like that of a Greyhound.

German Shepherd’s Legs

The bone of the legs should be straight, oval rather than round or flat, and free from sponginess. Its development should be in proportion to the size of the dog and contribute to the overall impression of substance without grossness. Crooked leg bones and any malformation such as, for example, that caused by rickets, should be penalized. The pastern should be of medium length, strong and springy. Much more spring of pastern is desirable in the Shepherd Dog than in any other breeds, as it contributes to the ease and elasticity of the trotting gait. The upright terrier pastern is definitely undesirable.

Metatarsus (the so-called hock)

Short, clean, sharply defined, and of great strength. This is the fulcrum upon which much of the forward movement of the dog depends. Cow-hocks are a decided fault, but before penalizing for Cow-hocks, it should be definitely determined, with the animal in motion, that the dog has this fault, since many dogs with exceptionally good hindquarter angulation occasionally stand so as to give the appearance of being cow-hocked which is not actually true.

German Shepherd’s Feet

Rather short, compact, with toes well arched, pads thick and hard, nails short and strong. The feet are important to the working qualities of the dog. The ideal foot is extremely strong with good gripping power and plenty of depth of pad. The so-called cat-foot, or terrier foot, is not desirable. The thin, spread or hare-foot is, however, still more undesirable.

German Shepherd’s Topline

The withers should be higher than and sloping into, the level back to enable a proper attachment of the shoulder blades. The back should be straight and very strongly developed without sag or roach, the section from the wither to the croup being relatively short. (The desirable long proportion of the German Shepherd Dog is not derived from a long back but from overall length with relation to height, which is achieved by the breadth of forequarter and hindquarter viewed from the side.)

German Shepherd’s Loin

Viewed from the top, broad and strong, blending smoothly into the back without undue length between the last rib and the thigh, when viewed from the side. The croup should be long and gradually sloping. Too much leveled or flat croup prevents the proper functioning of the hindquarter, which must be able to reach well under the body. A steep croup also limits the action of the hindquarter.

German Shepherd’s Structure

A German Shepherd is a trotting dog and his structure has been developed to best meet the requirements of his work in herding. That is to say, a long, effortless trot which shall cover the maximum amount of ground with the minimum number of steps, consistent with the size of the animal. The proper body proportion, firmness of back and muscles, and the proper angulation of the forequarters and hindquarters serve this end. They enable the dog to propel itself forward by a long step of the hindquarter and to compensate for this stride by a long step of the forequarter. The high withers, the firm back, the strong loin, the properly formed croup, even the tail as balance and rudder, all contribute to this same end.

German Shepherd’s Proportion

The German Shepherd Dog is properly longer than tall with the most desirable proportion as 10 is to 8-1/2. We have seen how the height is ascertained; the length is established by a dog standing naturally and four-square, measured on a horizontal line from the point of the prosternum, or breastbone, to the rear edge of the pelvis, the ischium tuberosity, commonly called the sitting bone.

Angulation in the GSD

Forequarter: the shoulder blade should be long, laid on flat against the body with its rounded upper end in a vertical line above the elbow, and sloping well forward to the point where it joins the upper arm. The withers should be high, with shoulder blades meeting closely at the top, and the upper arm set on at an angle approaching as nearly as possible a right angle. Such an angulation permits the maximum forward extension of the foreleg without binding or effort. Shoulder faults include too steep or straight a position of either blade or upper arm, too short a blade or upper arm, lack of sufficient angle between these two members, looseness through lack of firm ligaments, and loaded shoulder with prominent pads of flesh or muscles on the outer side. Construction in which the whole shoulder assembly is pushed too far forward also restricts the stride and is faulty.

German Shepherd’s Hindquarters

The angulation of the hindquarter also consists ideally of a series of sharp angles as far as the relation of the bones to each other is concerned, and the thigh bone should parallel the shoulder blade while the stifle bone parallels the upper arm. The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the side, should be broad, with both thigh and stifle well muscled and of proportionate length, forming as nearly as possible a right angle. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the foot commonly and erroneously called the hock) is strong, clean, and short, the hock joint clean-cut and sharply defined.

German Shepherd’s Tail

Bushy, with the last vertebra extended at least to the hock joint, and usually below. Set smoothly into the croup and low rather than high, at rest the tail hangs in a slight curve like a saber. A slight hook (sometimes carried to one side) is faulty only to the extent that it mars general appearance. When the dog is excited or in motion, the curve is accentuated and the tail raised, but it should never be lifted beyond a line at right angles with the line of the back. Docked tails, or those which have been operated upon to prevent curling, disqualify. Tails too short, or with clumpy end due to the ankylosis or the growing together of the vertebrae, are serious faults.

German Shepherd’s Gait

The gait of the German Shepherd Dog is outreaching, elastic, seemingly without effort, smooth and rhythmic. At a walk, it covers a great deal of ground, with long steps of both hind leg and foreleg. At a trot, the dog covers still more ground and moves powerfully but easily with beautiful co-ordination of back and limbs so that, in the best examples, the gait appears to be the steady motion of a well-lubricated machine. The feet travel close to the ground, and neither fore nor hind feet should lift high on either forward reach or backward push. The hindquarter delivers, through the back, a powerful forward thrust which slightly lifts the whole animal and drives the body forward. Reaching far under, and passing the imprint left by the front foot, the strong arched hind foot takes hold of the ground; then hock, stifle, and upper thigh come into play and sweep back, the stroke of the hind leg finishing with the foot still close to the ground in a smooth followthrough. The overreach of the hindquarter usually necessitates one hind foot passing outside and the other hind foot passing inside the track of the forefeet and such action is not faulty unless the locomotion is crabwise with the dog’s body sideways out of the normal straight line. In order to achieve the ideal movement of this kind, there must be full muscular co-ordination throughout the structure with the action of muscles and ligaments positive, regular, and accurate.

GSD’s gait and Back Transmission

The typical smooth, flowing gait of the German Shepherd Dog cannot be maintained without great strength and firmness (which does not mean stiffness) of the back. The whole effort of the hindquarter is transmitted to the forequarter through the muscular and bony structure of the loin, back, and withers. At full trot, the back must remain firm and level without sway, roll, whip, or roach. To compensate for the forward motion imparted by the hindquarter, the shoulder should open to its full extent – the desirability of good shoulder angulation now becomes apparent – and the forelegs should reach out in a stride balancing that of the hindquarter. A steep shoulder will cause the dog either to stumble or to raise the forelegs very high in an effort to co-ordinate with the hindquarter, which is impossible when the shoulder structure is faulty. A serious gait fault results when a dog moves too low in front, presenting an unleveled topline with the wither lower than the hips.

The German Shepherd Dog does not track on widely separated parallel lines as does the terrier but brings the feet inward toward the middle line of the body when at a trot in order to maintain balance. For this reason, a GSD viewed from the front or rear when in motion will often seem to travel close. This is not a fault if the feet do not strike or cross, or if the knees or shoulders are not thrown out, but the feet and hocks should be parallel even if close together. The excellence of gait must also be evaluated by viewing from the side the effortless, properly coordinated covering of ground.


It should never be forgotten that the ideal German Shepherd Dog is a working animal that must have an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work which constitutes its primary purpose. All its qualities should be weighed in respect to their contribution to such work, and while no compromise should be permitted with regard to its working potentiality, the dog must nevertheless possess a high degree of beauty and nobility.

Faults observed in the German Shepherd Dog breed

Very Serious Faults in the GSD: Major faults of temperament; an undershot lower jaw.

Serious Faults in the GSD: Faults of balance and proportion; poor gait, viewed either from the front, rear or side; marked deficiency of substance (bone or body); bitchy male dogs; faulty backs; too level or too short croup; long and weak loin; very bad feet; ringtails; tails much too short; rickety condition; more than four missing premolars or any other missing teeth, unless due to accident; lack of nobility; badly washed-out color; badly overshot bite.

Faults in the GSD: Doggy bitches; poorly carried ears; too-fine in the head; weak muzzles; improper muscular condition; faulty coat, other than temporary condition; badly affected teeth.

Minor Faults in the GSD: Too coarse head; hooked tails; too light, round or protruding eyes; discolored teeth; condition of coat, due to season or keeping.

Disqualifications in the GSD: Albino characteristics; cropped ears; hanging ears (as in a hound); docked tails; male German Shepherd dogs having one or both testicles undescended (monorchids or cryptorchids); white German Shepherd dogs.

German Shepherd Dog Videos

Watch Eikō bear the GSD grow up from 7weeks to 2 years in this beautiful video by Julez Fowler.

In this video, Anneka meets several Old Fashioned Working line German Shepherds trained in Protection and asks the question, has the new show lines ruined the health of the breed? Anneka also meets a heroic Police German Shepherd Finn who saved his master from a 9-inch deadly blade.

In this video, ride with the crime-fighting Spokane Police K9 Unit. This unit has German Shepherds as well as Belgian Malinois working for them.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the German Shepherd dog breed. You may consider sharing your views in the comments section below. Inputs and priceless experiences from dog owners, German Shepherd breeders, and dog lovers, in general, help us better understand the German Shepherd breed. Thank you for your interest.

13 thoughts on “German Shepherd”

  1. I’m considering getting a German shepherd in the future and was looking for some pros and cons that you owners would have for me. I’ve of course Googled it to get some ideas. One thing I was a little worried about was the shedding. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. About me: mid-20s out of college and working full time. I don’t have any children and I do have a fenced backyard. I am active and would enjoy having a fun companion to take to the park with me.

    1. The hip issues can be prevented by buying from a breeder who does OFA/pennhip screening and only breeds dogs with excellent hips. Keeping the dog at a good weight and avoiding high impact exercise helps too, as does glucosamine and other supplements. Seeing eye dogs have a dysplasia rate of 1/100, for proof of what careful breeding and proper care will do for a dog!

      1. That’s great, I’m glad some people out there are more careful with breeding. The worst is just how heartbreaking it is having to put them down when they’re fine except the ability to walk.

  2. The worst I would say are the hip problems as they age. My family has only ever had GSDs, 3 since I was born, and every one of them had to be put down because they came home one day and they couldn’t walk. Perfectly fine otherwise, but when their legs/hips go completely out there’s not much else you can do. Also, our most recent GSD was a chewer as a pup. The legs of the kitchen table And the corner of the coffee table were pretty bad. Other than that, the shedding is bearable. As long as you sweep regularly it’s not a big deal. There are a multitude of brushes that work wonders too. Other than that, they’re the sweetest dogs. Wonderful companions. Very very intelligent and no GSD owner could deny how they pick up on your feelings and react accordingly. Ours used to lay by the couch when I was sick and prop his nose up and just look at me, it was so cute, and really felt like he knew I was sick and wanted to help.

  3. All the pros other have listed are true. I just wanted to add a con. GSD are prone to anxiety and are emotionally sensitive. This will come out for a multitude of reasons; not enough exercise, boredom, a new addition to the family etc…

  4. German Shepherd Pros:

    You will never find a more dedicated, loving, protective, personal dog if you treat it right and give it the attention it needs. That’s great that you have a fenced back yard. Honestly, having one of my own is the best thing that’s ever happened to my GSD because he’s that stubborn jerk dog that will walk away. You’ll call him over with your most stern voice, he’ll look at you over his shoulder, and just keep walking. He’ll return eventually when he wants or make it really hard for you to get a hold of him to reign him back. Anyway, a fenced in yard is invaluable. Being active is a great fit for a GSD because they need a lot of activity to stay healthy and level-tempered/energized. Long, adventurous walks are great because they’ve got the legendary nose and all of the new sights and smells are very stimulating. The only concern is working full time, but how many owners can afford to be home all the time? I can’t. If you have a garage that opens to your yard, I might leave the dog outside while you’re at work AS LONG AS there’s proper shelter (heated if you live in the North like me, ventilated and shaded otherwise. Obviously in a heatwave stick him inside in the AC) and proper food, water. There’s a lot more to keep him occupied outside than there is inside. I never like discouraging people from getting GSDs but I’ve seen a lot of people get one because they’re awesome but don’t realize how much maintenance they require – it’s a lot to handle! But, like I said, they are the best. I have a slight bias, but to have a companion that “gets” you and that you “get” is rare. From what you’ve said, I’d say you have to start somewhere with GSDs and your active lifestyle is certainly compatible. Just get to reading and get to know experienced GSD owners.

    German Shepherd Cons:

    GSDs are certainly not a “my first dog” kind of dog. They definitely need either a well experienced owner or a very well-taught and well-prepared owner. They are very smart, sometimes too smart for their own good as many of them are territorial, headstrong, and stubborn (like mine) – if you’re not the alpha they are and they will take advantage of that status. Also, if you don’t establish dominance they are more likely to lunge at other people/animals because they don’t recognize the boundaries you may or may not set. Another downside of being intelligent is that they do get bored very easily and will take it out on their surroundings, you, and themselves. If you’re working all of those hours… you’ll probably come home to a chewed up apartment and eventually a chewed up dog. They require a lot of exercise (my Blaze’s crack cocaine is the Kong ball and jogging), which can be great because if you can keep up with them and keep them going they can live a long time and be very fit. If you don’t exercise them, though, they’ll either be too energized or get depressed (not kidding… I’ve had 3 GSDs and you can tell when they’re depressed). That’s just the psychological side. Physically, they tend to have sensitive stomachs and are often allergic to grains in their food, so expensive dog food like Blue Buffalo or similar foods can be the only option for some dogs. In general they are susceptible to allergies and it shows in their skin, hair, and in their poop. Hot spots are very common with GSDs and that, combined with boredom, can lead to your dog chewing on himself relentlessly to the point of infection (not fun at all). There are long coat and standard coat, that speaks for itself for grooming. They are nicknamed German Shedders, so you best have an industrial strength vacuum cleaner. What I’m saying is that I wouldn’t trade my Blaze for anything – he’s my cuddle buddy, my companion, my emotional support, my everything – but it hasn’t come easy. I’ve grown up with only GSDs so I can’t quite speak in a relative sense (relative to other breeds), but I DO know that they’re a hand full. There are many GSD rescues because many people get a GSD because they’re very handsome/regal/awesomesauce but quickly realize that they are high maintenance.

  5. Remember before getting a GSD. It’s a German Shepherd, not a cuddly toy dog. They need lots of room and exercise. They are very smart, and if they’re not challenged intellectually they will become destructive. They need several hours a day of play and attention.

  6. Gsd are not a good first time dog, and dont do well left alone. Try leaving an adhd kid in a box all day and see how well they turn out! Many also dont do well in day care, so unless you can afford a dog sitter every day who can walk your dog for five hours, its a really bad idea. One alternative would be to get a really old one. A 5 mile run is not any exercise at all to a healthy gsd, but an older quiet one may do okay. Huskies and labs and corgis are also working breeds. Any of them could have a serious problem being in an apartment alone all day, and one episode of exercise in the eveni g is not much. Look to spend several short training sessions every day with a dog, as well as several exercise sessions. You will need to commit to getting up an hour earlier every single day to walk , train and care for your dog, arrange someone to come midday every day, and several hours in the evening. Yeah, many dog p owners get by with much less invested in their dogs – but then they Come crying to r/dogtraining that they have to give up this horrible dog who is barking or chewing or aggressive or psychotic. Some breeds and types do better with that lifestyle- such as bullmastiffs, older greyhounds, great danes, bulldogs and some basset hounds, and some malamutes ( older). High energy working breeds and almost all young dogs do not do well. Consider fostering some older dogs for a rescue before you decide. That will give you support and resources tp learn without a 15 year commitment, and let you test dRive a few different breeds and types.

  7. Just know it’s going to be very expensive and time consuming in the beginning. I raised a GSD pup in an apartment but luckily I had my gf at the time help me tremendously with training and exercising him. I thought I was ready but had no idea just how hard it was. Between the crazy excitement (zoomies) inside the apartment and him waking me up at 8 am on the weekends to go play it got really tough. It def made me much more mature and responsible, it honestly is like raising a child (except you can leave them alone in the house for a few hours 😉 ). As long as you are committed to do your research (I spent months on forums and watching training videos before getting my pup) and have the money for training-classes, food, medicine then I would recommend it. It was definitely worth it and I get to enjoy my GSD welcoming me at my door everyday!

  8. My cousins had 3 German Shepherds in the past so I’ve kinda always wanted one. 🙁 I’ve also watched plenty of Dog Whisperer episodes to understand how to begin to maintain discipline (haha)…I don’t have a problem doing the 2-3 mile run most days after work since I’m pretty active. I would just have an issue in the mornings because of the rush to get to work and was wondering if a quick 10 minute walk would cut it. I think I was reading that most dogs over 6-8 months old can be trained to hold going to the bathroom through the day.

  9. So many GSDs I have seen in dog shows have bent backs like a curve.. not exactly my definition of a handsome looking GSD. Is it good for the dog to have a back curved like that or is it better to have a straight back?

    1. I think you mean sloped backs..why do German Shepherd’s backs slope? GSD has evolved through the years which has resulted in many different bloodlines. According to some breeders, having sloped backs and angulated hind legs will give GSDs more force in their gait, allowing them to function better than straight backs. However, most believe the GSD’s back should be moderately long and straight. It should also be leveled and strong. It should be able to perform its tasks as a herding dog. And having a straight back will help them trot, herd, and protect sheep quickly and smoothly. Show GSDs have sloped backs while working GSDs have straight backs.

    2. The difference between a straight back and a sloped back GSD, reveals the dynamics of breeding German Shepherds. This dog breed has undergone a number of transformations.

      Although some breeders have tried to keep the original line, other breeders have focused more on the physical attractiveness of the GSDs. These different focuses have made a division within the GSD breed.

      According to experts, a GSD’s back should be moderately long and straight. It should also be leveled and strong. It should be able to perform its tasks as a herding dog. And having a straight back will help them trot, herd, and protect sheep quickly and smoothly.

      German Shepherd’s straight backs are from the working line. Most GSDs from the show line are sloped backs. Their backs are curved with hips and knees going closer to the ground making their hindquarters look more angulated. GSD has evolved through the years which has resulted in many different bloodlines. From the original working line came the show line barely a few decades after the introduction of GSDs to the world.

      Unfortunately, some influential breeders concentrated on the physical perfection of the GSDs. Their idea of a perfect GSD is a sloped back with bouncy movements and looked like floating in show rings. This resulted in sloping back and angulated hind legs.

      According to some breeders and some GSD clubs, having sloped backs and angulated hind legs will give GSDs more force in their gait, allowing them to function better than straight backs. But some breeders went from sloped to extremely sloped backs which is way beyond the conformity of the show lines.

      GSDs with sloped backs might look perfect through the eyes of some GSD enthusiasts and breeders, but their sloping backs cause their hind quarter’s angulation and in effect will make them more prone to back disorders and problems.

      Joints and cartilage distress in GSD

      Since their hips and knees are closer to the ground, they need to stretch back more when walking or running. They also tend to use their hocks for standing and walking. These cause their gait to be irregular and may cause more joint and cartilage distress, fatigue, and lower back pain than straight back GSDs.

      Hip Dysplasia in GSD

      Hip Dysplasia is common in both sloped back GSDs and straight back GSDs. But having bent legs, sloped backs have become very susceptible to Hip Dysplasia. This disease is irreversible and in some severe cases, hip replacement is recommended.

      Osteoarthritis in GSD

      Although most senior dogs are affected by osteoarthritis, GSDs with sloped back tend to have an earlier onset. Moreover, it will greatly affect the quality of life.

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