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German Shepherds Lifespan and More

There are many reasons why the German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular dog breeds in America. Despite the fact that he is capable, working, and intelligent, his courage and devotion are huge. 

If there's something the German Shepherd Dog has, it’s versatility which allows him to play different roles in people's lives. He can be trained to do military and police service, serve as a guide and assistant to handicapped, participate in drug detection, search and rescue, and herding. 

In addition to all of this, he is a very obedient and faithful companion.

German Shepherds Lifespan, Weight and Height

German Shepherds lifespan is, on average, 10 to 13 years.

Their weight varies between 75 and 95 pounds and they are usually between 1 foot and 10 inches, and 2 feet and 2 inches tall at the shoulder.

German Shepherds belong to the group of herding dogs.

german shepherd herding

The German Shepherd, also known in Great Britain and some parts of Europe as the Alsatian, is one of the 10 most popular breeds in the United States. In addition, it is also one of the most recognizable breeds in the world.

The name, “German Shepherd” comes from World War I and  was given by Corporal Lee Duncan when a small puppy received a bullet and was then bomb-riddled in France. When the war was over, Duncan brought the puppy with him back to Los Angeles and he learned how to train him and referred to him as a German Shepherd. After this, he managed to turn him in one of the most famous dogs in show business.

You might have already heard about Rin Tin Tin, as he appeared in multiple movies. At the height of his career, he got about 10,000 letters from fans on a weekly basis.

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Rin Tin Tin in the film Frozen River (1929) (wikipedia)

However, the German Shepherd is able to do a lot more than simply be a movie star. He is also sweet and kind, and is perfectly capable of leading the blind or visiting sick people. When it comes to law enforcement, German Shepherds can chase down criminals, serve in the military, and sniff out illegal substances.

Many people tend to think of the German Shepherd as a national hero; this is partially because after the 9 / 11 terrorist attacks, they were the breed selected for search and rescue throughout the ruins of the World Trade Center. They were not only looking for survivors, but they were also comforting families and rescue workers.

Even though the German Shepherd is versatile, this doesn't mean that this is a dog for everyone. Because they are very energetic, they need to have a lot of exercise and activity. When someone is unable to provide them with that, they will become frustrated and bored, and the outcome is generally very unpleasant. One such side effect is that they usually start chewing and barking.

Another main characteristic of the German Shepherd is that although they can be very kind and affectionate, they don’t particularly like strangers. Given this fact, they are usually better as a watchdog than as a family dog. There are always exceptions to all the rules however, and if you can make sure that while they are a puppy they have a lot of contact with different people and different situations, they can learn to be a family dog.

If you're looking to buy a puppy, you'll need to choose between the German and the American breeders. While they are similar, there are some key differences that you need to be aware of.

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In most cases, American breeders tend to rely more on the looks than on the talents. In other words, they are looking for a German Shepherd that can be a dog show champion, yet they couldn't just care less about what they can actually do.

Because of this, some critics say that the American-bred German Shepherd is a lot calmer because, during the breeding process, they lost all their natural abilities. However, they may be a lot more prone to separation anxiety problems.

In contrast, German breeders tend to look for both aspects - their innate talents as well as their traditional look(s). You probably have no idea, but after a German Shepherd is bred in Germany, they will need to pass different tests to ensure that their mental and physical skills are up to the benchmarks the breed is usually known for.

Because of these tests, German Shepherds that are bred in Germany tend to have a more driven personality and a lot more energy.

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German Shepherd Traits

German Shepherds need regular exercise to release all the energy they have. With this knowledge, keep in mind that if you tend to travel a lot and are away from home for several days in a row, this might not be the perfect dog for you. They will simply get bored, frustrated, and will start barking, digging, and chewing.

An Alsatian is a very intelligent and active dog, and you need to make sure that you keep them busy. You need to ensure that you can devote the time necessary to your dog with physical activities like running, playing Frisbee, jogging. Along with mental exercises through training sessions.

These dogs can behave quite irrationally with strangers, and you never know what to expect. So, while your beloved German Shepherd is still a puppy, make sure that you expose them to as many different people, places, and experiences as you can; this will also aid in obedience training which is an absolute must. Both things will make sure that he will know how to behave among everyone, no matter where he is.

German Shepherds have a funny little nickname… the German Shedder. This is because throughout the year, they just keep shedding. So, make sure that you're ready to brush him several times during the week and, if you do not already have one, it might be time to invest in a vacuum cleaner as well.

Alsatians also experience separation anxiety to a high degree when they are left alone. Knowing that this is a part of their personality, you still have ways to teach them that whenever you're not around, it's not the end of the world and they can still be happy and calm. A great way to go about doing this is through crate training.

These dogs have a great reputation as watchdogs. However, a couple of things that you should never do is tether or chain them. If you do, they will become extremely frustrated and that's the first thing that might lead to future aggression. Generally, the German Shepherd is a lot happier living indoors with the family with a nice, big backyard where they can release some of their energy.

Once you decide that you wish to adopt a German Shepherd, make sure that you contact a respected and responsible breeder to make sure that all the dogs are tested and healthy. These tests allow the breeder to know if the dogs have any genetic diseases; they also are great for determining their temperaments. It is generally wiser to avoid pet stores, puppy mills, or irresponsible breeders at all costs.

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German Shepherd History

German Shepherd History dates back to 1899. The German Shepherd is a relatively new breed, owing its existence to Captain Max von Stephanitz, a German career captain.

He had only one goal: to create a German dog breed that would be the best when it came to herding.

A few centuries prior, European farmers, German included, had to rely on dogs not only to drive, but also to protect their herds. Some of these dogs were legendary due to their skills and sheepherders were willing to travel for days if they needed to, just to breed them with their female dogs.

What Stephanitz noted at the time, was that no one had taken the time to develop the herding dogs of the region into a more distinct breed.

In 1898, when Stephanitz was retired from the military, he decided to take on a second career, his goal being to create a superior German herding dog via dog breeding.

He studied different techniques used by the Britons at the time because they were known to have the best herding dogs. He also took the time to travel around Germany to observe the different German herding dogs and attended dog shows.

As you can imagine, he came across many good herding dogs; some were intelligent, others were athletic, and still, others were capable. However, one important thing was missing: there wasn't a single herding dog among all that he saw that possessed all three qualities.

Sometime during 1899, when Stephanitz was going to watch another dog show, his attention was caught by a wolfish-looking dog. He didn't think twice and simply bought the dog, naming him Hektor Linksrhein.

Later that year, he was renamed as Horand V. Grafeth and, due to the incredible intelligence and powerful physical strength he had, Stephanitz formed a society called the Verein fur deutsche Schaferhunde whose main goal was to create a dog breed from Horand’s descendants.

During this period, Germany was becoming more industrialized, and Stephanitz was obliged to change his goal. He was still going to work with his breed, but it simply didn’t make any sense to continue pursuing the best herding dogs. The need for this type of dogs was fading. Instead, he decided to turn this breed into one that would have a future in military service and police work.

Due to Stephanitz’s knowledge about how the military worked (after all, he was a former captain) and he still had a lot of connections inside, he was able to convince the German government to use his new breed.

Consequently, during World War I, the German Shepherd served as a Red Cross guard, a rescuer, a messenger, a sentry, and a supply carrier.

German Shepherds already existed in the United States before the war. However, when the American soldiers saw them in action overseas, many of them carried their own German Shepherds when the war was over; this was when the breeds popularity began to rise.

One of these dogs was just 5 years old when it had been plucked from a bomb-riddled kennel in France and was brought to US by an American corporal from Los Angeles.

The corporal took him home, trained him, and was able to turn him into one of the most famous dogs of Hollywood: Rin Tin Tin. Although this was not the sole reason, his appearance in 26 movies definitely helped make his breed very popular in America.

Even though the Allies were very happy and impressed with these German dogs, after the war was over, everything that was related to Germany became stigmatized. Because of this, in 1917, the AKC (American Kennel Club) changed the name of the breed to Shepherd Dog, and the same thing happened in England when the name was changed to the Alsatian Wolf Dog.

It was only in 1931 that the AKC reestablished the breed’s original name, though it took a lot longer for this to happen in England. Only in 1977 the British Kennel Club did the same.

Despite the success of the breed, Stephanitz continued to closely follow the developments of the breed. In 1922, he noticed that the breed had a pattern of tooth decay as well as to poor temperament, causing him to develop a tight quality control system.

From that moment on, before any German Shepherd was actually used for breeding, they needed to pass 4 different tests: temperament, good health, intelligence, and athleticism.

Across the ocean however, the American breeding of German Shepherds went almost unregulated. This was because the dogs were merely used to win dog shows, and breeders were more interested in how they looked than in how to properly train a German Shepherd.

We can see a clear distinction between the German and American bred German Shepherds most directly after World War II. This was most obvious when U.S. military and police departments began importing the German-bred dogs because the American ones were having many health problems and simply kept failing performance tests.

Within the past few years, we have found some American breeders that are putting a lot more attention to the natural talents of the German Shepherd and not only to the looks; they started doing this by importing the dogs from Germany and adding them to their own breeding program.

Due to this, you can now purchase and American-bred German Shepherd that can also be an able-bodied working dog.

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In terms of size, German Shepherds are usually tall and heavy. Male dogs tend to be taller and can easily stand between 24 and 26 inches, whereas female German Shepherds usually average between 22 and 24 inches in height. The average German Shepherd will weigh between 75 and 95 pounds.



The personality of the German Shepherd is usually not very friendly but this does not mean that they are necessarily aggressive. The best way to look at him is as a reserved dog.

In the beginning of your relationship, the two of you will not be best friends, but once your German Shepherd knows you, they will be extremely loyal. Among their families, German Shepherds are completely approachable and easy going. However, if they feel threatened by anything or anyone, they can get quite protective and strong which makes German Shepherds great watchdogs.

German Shepherds just love to have something to do. Since they can be trained to do almost anything, along with the fact that they are extremely intelligent, you won't have difficulties in finding an activity for him.

One of the biggest things that German Shepherds hate is to be left home alone for a long period of time. Without anyone around to take them out for exercise or to make use of their intelligence, they will get bored and ultimately frustrated. When this happens, the German Shepherd will start to demonstrate their unhappiness by chewing and barking.

Just like any other dog, the German Shepherd needs to socialize, and it is better to begin socializing them when they are younger. By ensuring that your German Shepherd is in contact with different people, places, experiences, sounds, and sights, you are allowing him to grow up, becoming a well-rounded dog.

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Although German Shepherds are mostly healthy, they are more prone to certain diseases, like elbow and hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that all German Shepherds are going to suffer from them, but it is something that you should know before you adopt one.

In the case that you're going to buy a puppy, make sure that you find a respectable breeder who will show you the health clearances of the puppy's parents. In them, you can easily check the tests that were done to the dog, as well as if they were cleared for any specific condition(s).

You should expect to see different health clearances related to specific health problems including one from OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) for elbow dysplasia, von Willebrand's disease, hip dysplasia (with a score of “fair” or better), and hypothyroidism; another one from CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) to make sure that their eyes are normal.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a genetic condition that hits the joint. Simply put, the femur doesn't fit in into the pelvic socket. It is still unclear as to whether there are clinical signs, but some dogs will have lameness and / or pain on just one or on both hind legs. When the dog gets older, arthritis can start to develop. When this happens, in order to treat them the best way you can, you should see the vet.

Due to the seriousness of this health concern, dogs who have it shouldn't be bred, so you should ask the breeder for evidence showing that the parents were both tested and if they were found to be free of hip dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a very common, genetic condition to large breeds of dogs. Although not 100% certain, it is usually believed that elbow dysplasia is derived from the 3 bones tht German Shepherds have in their head that grow at different paces. This ultimately causes laxity and can lead to painful lameness. Make sure that you check with your vet to see what he recommends.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

This is also known as “bloat” and is a life-threatening condition for German Shepherd’s. This usually affects larger dogs, especially those with a deep chest like Golden Retrievers, and tends to happen more often if the dog is usually only fed once a day with a large meal, if he eats very fast, drinks a lot of water right after eating, and if they exercise vigorously right after meal time(s).

This condition occurs when the stomach is distended with either air or gas and then twists. In this case, the dog can't simply vomit or belch to release the air in its stomach, making the return of the blood to the heart impossible; their blood pressure will drop and the dog will go into shock. When this happens, you need to take your German Shepherd to the vet immediately. In the case that you notice your dog is salivating more than usual, if they have a distended abdomen, or are retching without being able to throw up, these can be signs of bloating.


It's not uncommon to see German Shepherds suffering from different allergies which may range from food allergies to contact allergies. Since the symptoms in dogs are like the symptoms in humans, if you notice that your dog is licking its paws, is constantly rubbing its face, or scratching, take them to the vet to check it out.

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Since German Shepherds were originally bred to herd flocks during the day, this means that they have a lot of energy that they need to burn with daily exercises.

In the case that you leave them without exercising for a few days, you can expect to have problems. This is because when they don’t release all that accumulated energy, they start to get bored and frustrated, causing different behavior problems like barking, digging, and chewing.

Keep in mind however, your German Shepherds exercise should not be limited to just physical exercises, they also need mental stimulation to make sure that they have the necessary obedience and agility.

One thing that German Shepherds have in common with other breeds is that they are barkers. In some cases, this may not be a problem unless it is motivated by boredom. As you can imagine, one of the command words that will need to be taught in any German Shepherds obedience training is "Quiet".

Another fact is that  German Shepherds like to chew, and they don't need to be bored to do it. However, they have very powerful jaws that will destroy most materials. Given this, you should consider giving them a lot of bones and safe chew toys so that they can entertain themselves without making a mess around your home.



It is recommended that a German Shepherd be fed 3 to 4 cups of high-quality food twice a day.

This may not always be the case as dogs are individuals who have their own size, age, metabolism, activity level, and build. So, just like humans, they don't all eat or need the same amount of food.

If you notice that your dog is gaining weight, make sure to control the amount of food you're giving them. Likewise, in case they are very thin, just add a bit more. It's easy to see if your German Shepherds is with the right weight or not, and you can do this by simply placing your hands on them with your thumbs along the spine. If you feel their ribs under the muscle, they are the perfect size. In contrast, if you can see the ribs, your dog is too thin, and if you can't feel thier ribs, you need to place your German Shepherd on a diet.

When your puppy is between 4 and 7 months, that is when you should pay the most attention to your dog’s feeding and / or eating habits. This is because, during this period, they are experiencing a very fast growth which makes them more susceptible to bone problems. So, make sure that you provide your puppy with a high-quality, but low-calorie diet.

It is perfectly fine for a puppy to play on the grass. However, don't let them play on hard surfaces until they are at least 2 years old. Before this age, their joints aren't fully formed and an accident can seriously injure your puppy.

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Coat Color and Grooming

Since the German Shepherd was bred to herd flocks in tough climates, their coat is perfect for those conditions. With a medium-length double coat, German Shepherds are protected from the snow and rain, making them more resistant to pick up dirt and burrs.

There are many different coats as well as there are many different colors. Although some German Shepherds are longhaired, the ideal one usually has a double coat with a medium length. While the outer coat is usually dense, the coat closest to the body tends to have straighter hair.

You can find German Shepherds with a variety of colors and color palettes including black and cream, black, black and silver, black and red, black and tan, silver, gray, blue, white, and sable.

When it comes to bathing your German Shepherd, make sure that you only do it when it actually needs to be done. They are usually very clean and odorless, and bathing them too often will strip their coats of oils that keep it healthy.

You should trim your dog’s nails once a month and check his ears once a week. During the ear inspection, remove the dirt and check for any bad odors or redness that may indicate an infection.

One thing that helps the German Shepherds to maintain clean teeth is chewing, so  make sure that you provide your German Shepherd with safe dental chew bones and toys. If you manage to brush their teeth with a doggie toothpaste and a soft toothbrush, this will help keep both teeth and gums in good shape.

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Children and Other Pets

If you know how to train a German Shepherd, and you expose them to a lot of children when they are still a puppy, your dog will be the best companion for them. Some people even compare them with a semi-cop for protection, as well as a semi-babysitter.

However, you need to keep in mind that this is a big dog and they might bump a small child or a toddler by mistake. Since German Shepherds are very reserved, don't expect to see their tails wagging when around other children that they don’t know. Despite this, the German Shepherd is usually trustworthy.

As long as you know how to train a German Shepherd when they are puppies to be around other dogs and other pets, they can live peacefully this way. In the case that you  bring home an adult German Shepherd who never had to share their space with other pets, you may need to hire a professional trainer to teach them how to behave properly.

Rescue Groups

Many people decide to buy a German Shepherd without knowing anything about them or how to treat them, and they eventually abandon them. The truth, however, is that there are many German Shepherds in need of fostering and are up for adoption. If you are interested, just contact a local breed club or the national breed club and they will tell you where you can find a German Shepherd shelter near you.


When you are convinced that German Shepherd is THE dog for you, be prepared to put in effort that a good dog deserves.

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