Canine Breed Menu



Breed Organization
German Shepherd Dog Club of America
Native Country
Other Names
Deutscher Schaferhund, German Shepherd, GSD
Life Expectancy
Approximately 10-15 Years
Litter Size
Average 5-10 Puppies
Breed Group
AKC Herding
Breed Appearance
The German Shepherd Dog is a large and strong dog. The fur is a double-coat and can be either short or long haired. Although the black and tan saddle may be most recognizable, German Shepherds come in a variety of colors and patterns though not all are accepted by the various breed clubs or FCI. Two toned German Shepherds can be black and tan, black and red, black and brown, black and silver, black and cream, blue and tan, or liver and tan. Solid colors may be black and solid white or any of the dilutes (liver, blue, or cream). Dogs with coats that have tricolored hair (black and white with either brown or red) are called sable or agouti. Sables can come in a variety of mixtures as well including black and silver, black and red, black and cream, and black and tan. Some various markings are referred to as 'striping' (black stripe markings on the legs found in some sables), "pencilling" (also often found on the sable as black lines on the top of the dog's toes), "tar heels" (black that runs down the back of the dog's legs), and (grey hairs along the back of a female or a neutered male.)

Different kennel clubs have different standards for the breed according to size, weight, coat color, and structure. German Shepherds that compete in dog shows, must have an appearance that conforms with the guidelines of the individual kennel club. Some common disqualifying faults include ears that are not completely erect, or a muzzle that is not predominantly black. Ear faults can be caused by weak cartilage in the ears which allow them to flop (also called "friendly-tipped"). It is often possible for a veterinarian to correct this problem by taping up the ears.

There is no definite way to determine the force of a dog's bite, however it is widely accepted that the bite force of the German Shepherd Dog is roughly 750-1200 pounds, half that of a gray wolf. German Shepherd Dogs can weigh up to 125lbs for males and 85 lbs for females, although 80-90 lbs for males and 65-75 lbs for females are normal and preferred for working dogs.

Breed Description
Head: The head is wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the body size (length about 40 % at the height at the withers), without being plump or too elongated, dry in the overall appearance and moderately broad between the ears. Seen from the front and side, the forehead is only slightly arched and without any or with only a slightly indicated middle furrow. The ratio from the cranial region to the facial region is 50 % to 50 %. The width of the cranial region more or less corresponds to the length of the cranial region. The cranial region (seen from above) tapers evenly towards the nasal bridge with gradually sloping, not sharply depicted stop in the wedge-shaped facial region (foreface) of the head. Upper and lower jaws are powerfully developed.
Nose: The nasal dorsum is straight, any dip or bulge is undesirable. The lips are taut, close well and are of dark coloring. The nose must be black.
Teeth: The teeth must be strong, healthy and complete (42 teeth according to the dental formula). The German Shepherd Dog has a scissor bite, i.e. the incisors must interlock like scissors, whereby the incisors of the upper jaw overlap those of the lower jaw. The jaw bones must be strongly developed so that the teeth can be deeply embedded in the dental ridge.
Eyes: The eyes are of medium size, almond-shaped, slightly slanted and not protruding. The color of the eyes should be as dark as possible.
Ears: The German Shepherd Dog has erect ears of medium size, which are carried upright and aligned (not drawn-in laterally); they are pointed and with the auricle facing forward.
Neck: The neck should be strong, well-muscled and without loose neck skin (dewlap). The angulation towards the trunk (horizontal) amounts to approx. 45 %.
Body: The upper line runs from the base of the neck via the high, long withers and via the straight back towards the slightly sloping croup, without visible interruption. The back is moderately long, firm, strong and well-muscled. The loin is broad, short, strongly developed and well-muscled. The croup should be long and slightly sloping (approx 23 degrees to the horizontal) and the upper line should merge into the base of the tail without interruption. The chest should be moderately broad, the lower chest as long and pronounced as possible. The depth of the chest should amount to approx. 45 % to 48 % of the height at the withers. The ribs should feature a moderate curvature.
Tail: The tail extends at least to the hock, but not beyond the middle of the hind pastern. It has slightly longer hair on the underside and is carried hanging downward in a gentle curve, whereby in a state of excitement and in motion it is raised and carried higher, but not beyond the horizontal.
Limbs: The forelimbs are straight when seen from all sides, and absolutely parallel when seen from the front. Shoulder blade and upper arm are of equal length, and firmly attached to the trunk by means of powerful musculature. The angulation from shoulder blade and upper arm is ideally 90 degrees, but generally up to 110 degrees. The elbows may not be turned out either while standing or moving, and also not pushed in. The forearms are straight when seen from all sides, and absolutely parallel to each other, dry and firmly muscled. The pastern has a length of approx. 1/3 of the forearm, and has an angle of approx. 20 degrees to 22 degrees to the forearm. A slanted pastern (more than 22 degrees) as well as a steep pastern (less than 20 degrees) impairs the suitability for work, particularly the stamina. The paws are rounded, well-closed and arched; the soles are hard, but not brittle. The nails are strong and of dark color. The position of hind legs is slightly backwards, whereby the hind limbs are parallel to each other when seen from the rear. Upper leg and lower leg are of approximately the same length and form an angle of approx. 120 degrees; the legs are strong and well-muscled. The hocks are strongly developed and firm; the hind pastern stands vertically under the hock. The paws are closed, slightly arched; the pads are hard and of dark color; the nails are strong, arched and also of dark color.
Gait: The German Shepherd Dog is a trotter. The limbs must be coordinated in length and angulations so that the dog can shift the hindquarters towards the trunk without any essential change of the top line and can reach just as far with the forelimbs. Any tendency towards over-angulation of the hindquarters reduces the stability and the stamina, and thereby the working ability. Correct body proportions and angulations results in a gait that is far-reaching and flat over the ground which conveys the impression of effortless forward movements. The head pushed forward and the slightly raised tail result in a consistent, smooth trot showing a gently curved, uninterrupted upper line from the ear tips over the neck and back to the end of the tail.
Skin: The skin is (loosely) fitting, but without forming any folds.
Coat: The German Shepherd Dog is bred in the hair varieties double coat and long and harsh outer coat - both with undercoat.
Color: Colors are black with reddish-brown, brown and yellow to light grey markings; single-colored black, grey with darker shading, black saddle and mask. The tip of the nose is black in all colors. The undercoat shows a light greyish tone.
Size/Weight: Male dogs: Height at the withers: 23 to 25 inches, Weight: 65 to 90 pounds. Female dogs: Height at the withers: 21 to 23 , 50 to 75 pounds.

At the end of the 19th century, Capt. Von Stephanitz selectively bred German Sheepdog varieties from central and southern Germany in order to create a very capable, working dog. Collie blood lines were also introduced. The German Shepherd was shown for the first time at the Hanover Exposition in 1892. Sponsored since 1899 by the German parent club, the German Shepherd has become one of the most widely recognized breeds in the world. During WW I, the German Shepherd proved its worth, sniffing out war gas, standing sentry, and helping in search-and-rescue.

An American soldier found two German Shepherd puppies in a foxhole. The mother was nowhere to be found, so he decided to care for the puppies. His tour of duty was ending therefore he was free to bring the puppies back home with him to America. One of the puppies came down with pneumonia and died, however, the other one became the famous Rin Tin Tin. World War II was a blessing in disguise for the German Shepherd as the Red Cross used the breed to locate wounded or missing soldiers, thus the importance of the breed became known.

Must be well-muscled, balanced, confident, alert, approachable, courageous, fearless, and have a fighting instinct. The German Shepherd is obedient, unfailingly loyal, and has an excellent sense of smell. He is lively, eager, and highly trainable because of his desire to obey. The breed has a personality marked by direct, fearless willingness to protect human children. The ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary purpose.

As is common of many large breeds, German Shepherds are susceptible to elbow and hip dysplasia. Other health problems sometimes occurring in the breed are von Willebrand's disease, skin allergies and canine degenerative myelopathy. It is also prudent to check the eye and ear health as GSD tend to have problems with these as well. German Shepherds, like all large bodied dogs, are also prone to bloat.

Early training is vital. This is an active dog with a need for space and exercise, but can live in an apartment in the city if walked daily. This breed does not like to be alone and cannot tolerate being closed inside all day. Brushing twice per week is required. In a litter, it is wise not to select the overexcited or fearful puppy because he could become aggressive.

German Shepherds are highly intelligent, agile and well-suited to active working environments. They are often deployed in various roles such as police work, guarding, search and rescue, therapy and in the military. Based on 2006 American Kennel Club statistics, German Shepherd Dogs are the third most popular breed in the United States. They can also be found working as guide dogs for the blind, herder, army dog, tracker, search and rescue, guard dog, guide dog. Despite their suitability for such work, German Shepherds can also make loyal and loving pets inside the home. They enjoy being around people and other animals, although socialization is critical for young puppies in order to prevent aggressive and dangerous behavior. German Shepherds are well-suited to obedience, with advanced and prestigious titles available to test both the handler and dog in various trials.

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