German Shepherds are one of the most immediately recognizable dog breeds. These agile, confident, intelligent dogs may not be the best for first-time pet parents, but they can make excellent pets for people with the time and energy to care for them properly.
The German Shepherd breed has been around for a long time, which means there is a lot that we know well about what to expect when taking care of them. For example, what is the typical German Shepherd lifespan? What is their usual temperament?
We have a guide to all things German Shepherd dog (GSD), so you can be the best pet parent possible.
The History of the German Shepherd
The history of the German Shepherd breed may not be as long or storied as other breeds (like the Saluki or the Chinese Shar Pei), but we can still trace its roots back more than a hundred years — unsurprisingly, to Germany.
The official “German Shepherd” began with a man named Captain Max von Stephanitz in Western Germany in 1899. After a “wolfdog” caught his eye at a dog show in Kalrshue, von Stephanitz purchased the dog and decided to use him to create a breed standard.
This dog, considered the “father” of the German Shepherd, was a dog named Horand von Grafath (originally named Hektor Linkshrein), who was registered as the first official member of the breed.
According to von Stephanitz, Horand von Grafath was an intelligent, working sheepherder who was easy to train, had a steady personality, and possessed incredible power and endurance. You can still see those same qualities in modern German Shepherds — von Stephanitz really knew what he was doing!
Since 1899, German Shepherds have continued to increase steadily in popularity — they regularly fall into the top five most popular dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). They’ve even become the star of comic books and movies, most famously with Rin Tin Tin, as well as popular choices for police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and even bomb and drug-sniffing dogs.
The German Shepherd was initially put into the Working Group category. However, in 1983, a separate “herding” category was formed — including not just the GSD but the Belgian Malinois, the Bearded Collie, and the Old English Sheepdog. These dogs all share the instinct to control other animals’ movements, which stems from their roots in gathering, herding, and protecting the livestock they were assigned to.
The German Shepherd Breed Standard
But what can you expect physically from the German Shepherd — what are they supposed to look like? What colors do they come in?
Dogs don’t need to have papers or be purebred to have value — we all know how loveable mutts are — but there are specific breed standards that a German Shepherd has to meet to be able to be registered officially. These standards control the traits breeders promote in their dogs and keep them looking roughly the same across the board.
German Shepherds are well-muscled, strong, alert, agile, and full of life. They are bred to be slightly longer than tall (with a proportion of 10 inches of length to every 8 ½ inches of height), with males slightly taller than females — 26 inches to 24. The average weight of a GSD is between 50 and 90 pounds (which would put them in the “large dog” category for our CBD soft chews), with males also weighing more than females.
GSDs are also known for their naturally upright ears, always standing alert to keep them at the top of their game. In addition to their sense of hearing, their sense of smell is also significantly greater than ours (thanks to millions of additional scent receptors).
German Shepherds have a double coat — a softer, shorter undercoat and a harsher, medium-length topcoat. They tend to shed more than many other dog breeds but don’t require much more than regular bathing and grooming to keep their coat in line.
However, GSDs will “blow” their coat (shed their entire undercoat) in the spring and fall, leading to a lot of excess hair around the house. We recommend investing in lint rollers and a pet vacuum.
As for their coloring, German Shepherds come in many different colors — black and tan, sable, black and silver, etc. The only breed standard is that their coloring should be strong and rich instead of pale and washed out.
What Is the Typical German Shepherd Lifespan?
Luckily, most German Shepherds live long, healthy lives thanks to responsible breeders that screen for common genetic issues like hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy. However, their size makes them vulnerable to health emergencies like stomach bloat, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the signs.
Because of their hearty physical nature, the typical German Shepherd lifestyle is between seven and 10 years. To keep your dog happy and healthy for as long as possible, get them regular veterinary care, feed them the proper diet, exercise them appropriately, and seek care if they show any concerns or changes.
Our pets are never around for as long as we’d like them to be, but as pet parents, we can do our best to keep their health at an optimal level.
What Is the Usual Temperament of a German Shepherd?
Temperament is another part of the breed standard associated with the German Shepherd. They have a distinct, specific personality that leads to their direct, fearless, self-confident attitude.
One of the best parts of the German Shepherd is how infinitely trainable they are. Part of this is due to how intelligent they are and how eager they are to please their pet parents. However, this also leads to their higher-than-average need for mental stimulation.
German Shepherds also are incredibly affectionate with the people they are attached to. While they may not be the most social with people they don’t know, you can always count on them to be by your side as your companion.
GSDs are also very good with children, although you should always supervise young children around dogs (even ones you know and trust). These aren’t dogs that do well when kept in a kennel or cage all day, especially by themselves.
However, German Shepherds may not always be the most friendly to or accepting of other dogs. In most situations, this leads to standoffishness more than aggression, but their protectiveness may cause them to react more negatively to strange dogs than other breeds. These aren’t dogs that you can leave unsupervised in the dog park or around unfamiliar dogs, so always be alert in those situations.
What Behavioral Issues Are German Shepherds Prone To?
Every dog has their own unique behavioral concerns, usually driven by the innate qualities of the breed — the good and the bad. While most behavioral issues can be prevented by learning more about the breed you’re living with, knowing what to expect can also help you see the signs earlier and make changes to stop them before they get out of hand.
For German Shepherds, their behavioral issues are primarily driven by their intelligence and drive. These dogs need a lot of mental and physical activity to keep them calm and satisfied. When they don’t get that activity and interaction, they can get destructive or exhibit separation anxiety.
What does that mean for you as a GSD owner? Lots and lots of walks, runs, rounds of fetch, and tug-of-war — whatever it takes to keep their brains engaged and their bodies sufficiently worn out. Aim for at least 40 minutes a day. Giving them a job can also be helpful, as can investing in puzzle toys to keep their mind active.
German Shepherds can also turn their natural herding and working instincts into over-guarding the people they want to protect — which can also turn into aggressive behavior. These tendencies can often be curbed by socializing and training them from an early age, which can help them feel more comfortable around strangers and less likely to go overboard.
And finally, GSDs are “mouthy” — they like to put everything in their mouth to learn about it (you can thank those herding instincts). This behavior is innate, starting in puppyhood, so it can easily be a choking hazard.
As they get older, this mouthy behavior can also get stronger — leading to nips that can hurt or even break the skin. Catching those behaviors early and giving them appropriate things to chew on can help break the habit.
How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help German Shepherds?
Because of their large build and athleticism, many German Shepherds suffer from joint problems and discomfort, particularly in their hips and elbows.Fortunately, CBD + CBDA is a safe and effective option for addressing joint discomfort in dogs by working to improve discomfort and reduce inflammation. ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA helps dogs by modulating their inflammatory response and perception of discomfort.
German Shepherds also tend to have sensitive stomachs, making eating some foods and overeating a challenge. ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA soft gels are an excellent choice for pups with sensitive stomachs. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help.
The typical German Shepherd lifespan is between seven and 10 years, which means you can keep your best friend around for a decade with a bit of luck and a lot of knowledge and care.
That’s a decade of making memories, a decade of companionship, and a decade of unconditional love. We know you want to do the best for your dog, and we’re here to help — please don’t hesitate to ask us for any advice you need to take care of your canine family member.