German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog

Hailed as the world’s leading military, police and guard dog, the German Shepherd Dog was first bred in 1899. This German breed is distinguished by his loyalty, courage and easy trainability. He is a loving, loyal, even-tempered family companion and is fond of children. An energetic working breed, the German Shepherd Dog requires regular exercise and grooming.

DID YOU KNOW? President John F. Kennedy owned a German Shepherd Dog called “Clipper.” In 1928, a German Shepherd Dog called “Buddy” was trained as the first guide dog in the U.S. A German Shepherd Dog named “Rin Tin Tin” starred in 26 Warner Bros.’ films during the 1920s and 1930s, gaining worldwide fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Alsatian, Alsatian Wolf Dog, Berger Allemand, Deutscher Schäferhund, German Shepherd, Schäferhund

The need-to-know
  • Dog suitable for experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Enjoys vigorous walks
  • Enjoys walking more than two hours a day
  • Large dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming daily
  • Non hypoallergenic breed
  • Very vocal dog
  • Guard dog. Barks, alerts and it's physically protective
  • May require training to live with other pets
  • May require training to live with kids

Pet Card

  • Living Considerations: Good with children, not hypoallergenic
  • Size: Large
  • Height: Males – 60 to 66 centimetres at the shoulders, Females – 55 to 60 centimetres at the shoulders
  • Weight: Males – 34 to 35 kilograms, Females – 29 to 34 kilograms
  • Coat: Short
  • Energy: Medium
  • Colour: Most colours and colour combinations
  • Activities: Agility, Conformation, Herding, Obedience, Rally, Tracking
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Outdoor

Key Facts

Lifespan: 9 – 13 years
Weight: 22 – 40kg
Height: 58 – 63cm
Colours: Coats come in a range of colours including black, sable, black and tan, black and gold. See Kennel Club website for the full range
Size: Large
UK Kennel Club Groups: Pastoral


Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 5/5
Easy to train: 5/5
Tolerates being alone: 2/5
Likes other pets: 2/5
Energy level: 5/5
Grooming needs: 4/5
Shedding: 5/5


Renowned as a ‘one man (or woman) dog’, the GSD forms a strong, affectionate and close bond with their handler and will want to be with them as much as possible. Their loyalty is undeniable, however unfortunately over the last few decades many breeders seeking to promote their natural guarding tendencies have selected for nervous animals who alert faster out of a lack of confidence and who are willing to use aggression first rather than last.

A well-bred, well-reared German Shepherd should be bold, confident, swift and intelligent, and always calm and steady enough to be able to listen to their owner or handler whatever the circumstances. They are eager to learn and easy to train with the right approach, using kindness, positive reinforcement and patience.

History and Origins

Country of Origin: Germany

Originally a herding dog, although not in the way you may think – the German Shepherd works as a living fence, walking or running an invisible boundary between sheep and land they need to be kept from, keeping livestock where they are meant to be. If they spotted a sheep straying from the flock, they would silently move them back into the fold without barking – which would alarm the whole flock. Formed from a variety of different sheep-herding dogs, they can trace their origins back to the 7th Century.

First shown in 1882, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde, the German breed club for GSD’s was formed in 1899. Through this club GSD’s were developed for use with the police and armed forces, thus saving them from extinction during the difficult times. During the first World War, GSD’s lost favour outside of Germany and allied countries when all things German became unpopular. At this time the breed name was changed to the Alsatian in England and France to avoid this discrimination. Thankfully this is far in the past and the German Shepherd Dog has regained their original name.

Health and Common Issues

Exercise Needs

Space Requirements

Nutrition and Feeding

Grooming German Shepherd Dog

Training German Shepherd Dog

Best Family Dog Breeds

Did You Know?

  • German Shepherd Dogs have had many jobs, one of the least well known however was as guide dogs for the blind, and the GSD was preferred as their height made them very suitable for blinded ex-military men, who would have found the Labradors and Golden Retrievers (and their mixes) too short! They are still used today for taller people but the amount of hair they shed makes them less popular.
  • Long before Lassie, the first canine film star was a German Shepherd Dog known as Rin Tin Tin who was rescued as a puppy in 1918 from a World War I battlefield by Lee Duncan, an American soldier. He made 26 films, had his own radio show and even his own private chef!
  • German Shepherds are super intelligent and can learn new tricks and behaviours in only a few repetitions.
  • After the World Wars, Americans and Europeans were very concerned about anything German so their named was changed to Alsatian Wolf Dogs, some still refer to them by that name today.
  • The German Shepherd is incredibly popular and are the second most registered breed by the American Kennel Club after the Labrador Retriever.

Finding a dog

Labrador lying next to the sofa
Finding a pet
Is this the right breed for you?
All dogs have their own unique personality! Try our Dog Breed Selector tool and find out which dog breeds better match your preferences and lifestyle.
Puppy walking next to owner on a lead
Finding a pet
Thinking about getting a puppy?
Join Growing Pup for help from our Purina experts on how to find the right puppy and prepare for your new arrival, as well as a discount off one of our puppy ranges.
Dog with red collar sitting next to the owner
Finding a pet
Finding a good breeder
If your heart is set on a pedigree puppy, then your best bet is to find a reputable breeder. Find out what to look for in a puppy breeder with this guide.
Dog with red collar
Finding a pet
Welcoming your dog home
While you're waiting for the big day you may need to distract yourself, so luckily there are a few things you need to sort our before you welcome your new arrival.
Dog with red collar lying
It's incredibly fulfilling to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organisation. It often means offering them a second chance at life. There are many dogs waiting for a loving family and their forever home, but what can you expect from the process?
Dog with red collar looking out the window
Puppy advice
Everything you need to know
Getting a new puppy is incredibly exciting for all the family, but it can be quite scary for your new pup. Find out how to deal with everything from behaviour to health questions with our expert puppy advice.
Owner checking dogs collar
Finding a pet
Benefits of having a dog
It's known far and wide that dogs are man's best friend, but did you know that there's actually numerous benefits of having a dog? From helping you to get fit to meeting new people, your puppy can actually help to improve your health and social life. Keep reading to discover the benefits of dogs!