German Shepherd

  • Height: 22-26 inches
  • Weight: 70-90 lb
  • Lifespan: 13-15 years
  • Group: AKC Herding Group
  • Best Suited For: Families with children, active singles, guard duty, houses with yards, rural/farm areas
  • Temperament: Faithful, protective, devoted, loyal
  • Comparable Breeds: Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler

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What is it about German Shepherds that people love so much? Well, there’s a lot, and it’s not all about the fact that the breed makes great police dogs.

Sometimes known as an Alsatian, the German Shepherd is one of the most renowned breeds of dog there is. German Shepherds are strong, loyal, and are highly response to training. They can often be larger and a little intimidating, but that doesn’t scare people off: German Shepherds are one of the most popular pets in the world.

Thanks to its large size, strength, and ability to behave obediently, German Shepherds are often used for police and military purposes. But what about a German Shepherd separates it from other dogs? As you’re about to learn, the German Shepherd might look like a classic breed, but it is actually a relatively new and unique type of dog. Yes, they do originally hail from Germany, but today German Shepherds are one of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds in the world.

These dogs are strong, loyal, and are highly response to training.

German Shepherds do indeed get their name from Deutschland, because that’s where the first standard-bred Shepherds appeared. The twist? German Shepherds are actually a relatively young breed, having been fully bred in the 19th century.

As efforts were being made throughout the 19th century to standardize dog breeds – perhaps more of an art than a science – German Shepherds grew out of a group of dogs that were good at shepherding. German dog owners bred dogs that were good at rounding up sheep, protecting the flocks, and had strong, swift bodies.

At the same time, these proto-German Shepherds often were a great deal different from the Shepherds in other towns and regions in northern Europe. But as enthusiasm for dog breed standardization grew, a man named Max von Stephanitz, a lover of work dogs, found a dog at a dog show that would come to be known as the “first” German Shepherd. He changed the dog’s name to Horand von Grafrath and Horand became the founding German Shepherd.

So when your child asks you why they’re called “German Shepherds,” you’ll finally have an amusingly direct answer to give them.

German Shepherds are often used for police and military purposes.Although German Shepherds are young enough that Horand von Grafrath – the first of its kind – actually posed for a photograph, they still have a strong pedigree. You may find that the young age of the breed lends itself to better record-keeping. Note that the pedigree of the German Shepherd can sometimes be measured in German words such as “gut,” which means good, or “sehr gut,” meaning very good.

If you decide to bring in a German Shepherd as a pet, what on earth will you feed it? They can, after all, grow to be quite large.

German Shepherds can have a healthy appetite and can go through dog food quickly, so using meat to feed your Shepherd (as well as for training purposes) can go a long way in keeping the dog well-fed. Mixing in vegetables such as green beans is a great idea. Some people recommend constructing “pies” or “casseroles” of assorted ingredients using meats and vegetables together.

When it comes to dry dog food, keep in mind that a healthy adult German Shepherd can go through some 40 pounds of it in a month.

Thanks to its large size, strength, and ability to behave obediently, German Shepherds are often used for police and military purposes.

One of the reasons Shepherds are so popular with pet owners is that they can be highly obedient. This isn’t to say that there aren’t German Shepherds without behavioral issues, but they can indeed make a great pet if you know how to treat them.

German Shepherds are considered one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. Some people find that German Shepherds will adapt to a new behavior after only a few repetitions. You’ll find that a German Shepherd’s obedience and protective nature will make it an ideal guard dog.

As such, it is important to reinforce boundaries with your Shepherd. Your dog should know the difference between welcome and unwelcome visitors; don’t assume that because your German Shepherd is strong that it can’t be controlled with a little calm, rational training. However, it is important to emphasize positive rewards for good behavior rather than punishment. And remember, always be as safe as possible around an animal the size of a Shepherd.

And what of that size? German Shepherds can weigh up to around 90 lbs when you’re talking about an adult male; up to around 70 pounds for an adult female.

More than likely, your German Shepherd will end up below these “highs.” You should expect a male Shepherd to grow to about 70-90 pounds or so, while a female will grow to about 50-70 pounds.

They’re not the largest dogs you’ll ever see, but they’re big and strong enough to intimidate many people – even if they’re acting perfectly friendly.

German Shepherds are often used for police and military purposes.They can make great pets – and that’s one of the reasons they’re so popular in the United States. But they can also have an aggressive and even protective side.

This breed is not afraid to bite small dogs and are known as potential biters of people, as well. There are a large number of German Shepherd attacks, but at the same time, the popularity of the breed itself is a major contributing factor.

A psychologically healthy Shepherd will be a self-confident, energetic and active animal – great for people who love to take their dogs out to exercise. German Shepherds are entirely capable of bonding with younger children as long as they are familiar with them.

German Shepherds can frequently suffer from joint problems, including arthritis. Since they are large dogs, German Shepherds can also be dogs with a higher chance of experiencing bloating.

One disease to watch out for is the internal bleeding disease known as Von Willebrand disease, an inherited disorder that has a higher rate among German Shepherds. Since this disease can be inherited, it’s a good idea to check your German Shepherd’s pedigree.

A lifespan of about 13 to 15 years is normal for dogs the size of German Shepherds.

As mentioned earlier, German Shepherds can be a highly active breed, which means they have a high tolerance (and therefore elevated need) for exercise. With this higher level of activity also comes the aforementioned healthy appetite.

German Shepherds make good exercise companions, especially if you have a large backyard that you can keep to yourself and your family. Exercise is also a great way to help children bond with a dog like the German Shepherd, which is known for its loyalty once it makes these bonds.

One of the reasons Shepherds are so popular with pet owners is that they can be highly obedient.

The American Kennel Club describes the German Shepherd as “approachable, direct and fearless, with a strong, muscular body.”

German Shepherds have fairly unique coats. They can vary in color and are actually a double coat, the outer of which is shed all year. If a shedding dog is a deal-breaker for you, unfortunately the German Shepherd isn’t your ideal pet.

You’ll find German Shepherds in color combinations such as tan and black and red and black. Some all-black German Shepherds also exist.

As puppies, German Shepherds can be quite cute and will actually have a long “childhood,” which makes them good candidates for potentially growing up with some children and forming the right bonds early in life. Throughout their life, they’ll be active and it will take a good bit of exercise to tire them out.

Photo credit: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Comparable Breeds

Go to Rottweiler


  • Height: 22-27 inches
  • Weight: 85-130 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Group: AKC Working
  • Best Suited For: Families with children, active singles, guard duty, houses with yards
  • Temperament: Protective, stubborn, alert, confident
  • Comparable Breeds: Doberman Pinscher, Mastiff