Breed Info

One of the most popular breeds, and for good reason!

Personality & Expectations

Many German Shepherds are often aloof, but not typically aggressive. They’re generally reserved and may take time to warm-up, but once they do, they can be fiercely loyal. In families, they’re often very approachable and generally easy-going. However, when threatened, they can be quite protective and strong, speaking to their historical guard and watch dog uses.

Officially classified as “versatile service, herding and working dogs”, German Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable. They have been renown for everything from herding sheep (as their name implies), alerting a deaf partner to sounds, to stopping armed police suspects, to locating cadavers in 9/11. These dogs thrive when given practically any task.

For their many perks, German Shepherds don’t typically deal well when being alone for longer periods. Without companionship and regular exercise or work they tend to get frustrated and restless. If not given adequate attention, they may resort to poor behavior such as barking or chewing, signs of separation anxiety.

As with other dogs, German Shepherds need to be socialized early-on, being exposed to new experiences, people, sights, and sounds. This should help ensure your dog has controlled and relaxed encounters.

85 - 140 pounds
26 - 32 inches (at shoulders)
11 - 17 years

Exercise and feeding

Just like in humans, a dog’s metabolism will change over time. To ensure your German Shepherd stays happy and healthy, they not only need adequate exercise and a well formulated diet, but also consideration around how and when they work or play and eat. Consult your vet for professional nutritional advice as well as appropriate portion sizes.

Overfeeding is a dangerous recipe for future joint problems, risk of bloat, or other health conditions. Treats should be limited and reserved for training or special circumstances. Dogs should receive regular activity and eat multiple times rather than one large meal served daily. To avoid bloat, sufficient time should be allowed for our dog to digest its meal prior to encouraging activity.

Puppies require special care related to feeding and exercise. Between the ages of four and seven months your puppy is expected to grow rapidly, and if not fed a high-quality diet, could be susceptible to issues like bone disorders. Hard surfaces like cement or pavement are most harmful to all dogs over time, but especially until roughly two years of age where bone development is at its peak. We greatly encourage owners to give their dogs ample exercise outdoors on grass or on soft turf with rebound.


As their name implies, the German Shepherds was bred to herd flocks of livestock in harsh climates. They generally have a medium-length, double coat that accommodates this purpose perfectly. It acts as protection from the elements and is usually resistant to burrs or dirt. Coat lengths are as varied as colors, where some are longhaired, where others are medium. The inner coat is softer and straighter whereas the outer is wavier and wirier.

Due to the double coat this breed has, they are prone to shedding year-round. However, roughly twice a year, they may experience “blows”, or a shed of a larger amount of hair all at once. Brushing coats two to three times per week is recommended to control the amount of shed that would otherwise land on clothes or furniture.

German Shepherds tend to be clean and odorless but may require the occasional bath. Care should be given with bathing, as often too much of the natural protective oils are stripped from their coat. To avoid this, we recommend selecting a light duty and hypoallergenic shampoo and using it sparingly.

Nails should be trimmed at least monthly. Ears should be checked weekly for dirt, irritation, or odor and then wiped clean. Sturdy dental chews or bones are good for fighting tartar buildup on teeth. However, brushing daily further helps to ensure healthy gums and teeth. For brushing, we recommend a soft bristled toothbrush and K9 toothpaste.

General health

While German Shepherds are generally a healthy breed, like all other dogs, they have unique physical characteristics and are prone to some health conditions. We take significant measures prior to adoption to ensure that each of our dogs has a clean bill of health and to help ensure that owners provide an appropriate habitat, grooming, and sufficient exercise to encourage a long healthy life.

Common health conditions

  • Allergies: Some German Shepherds may suffer from various allergies, including contact and food allergies. Symptoms in dogs are often like those in humans, such as scratching, licking at paws, or rubbing their faces frequently. If your dog experiences these symptoms we recommend contacting your vet for assistance.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: DM is a serious and progressive disease affecting “middle-aged” dogs usually between 4 and 14 years of age. DM affects the spinal cord, specifically white spinal tissue where nerves communicate to the brain, and results in symptoms like feet scraping, knuckle dragging, swaying in place, or difficulty rising from a prone position. This disease affects many breeds such as Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Welsh Corgis, Pugs, Siberian Huskies, etc. DM has similarities to forms of ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in humans and while the exact cause of the disease is unknown, a major risk factor is a genetic mutation of the SOD-1 gene. Dogs with one copy of the SOD-1 gene are carriers, but only dogs with two copies of the SOD-1 gene have developed Degenerative Myelopathy to date. At Giant German Shepherds, we DM test all of our dogs to ensure only the healthiest genetics are available for adoption.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow Dysplasia is a hereditary condition commonly affecting large-breed dogs. It is believed to be caused by differing growth rates of the bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing laxity, or hypermobile joints. This condition can lead to painful lameness. X-ray screenings are available to diagnose this condition, and medication or surgery may be available to correct or manage the problem. Dogs with elbow dysplasia are not acceptable breeding candidates.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition affecting many breeds, where the femur no longer fits properly in the pelvic socket of the hip. Hip dysplasia can occur with or without the animal showing clinical signs, and some dogs may exhibit symptoms on one or both legs. An added risk is, as dogs age, arthritis can develop. This condition can lead to painful lameness. X-ray screenings are available to diagnose this condition, and medication or surgery may be available to correct or manage the problem. Dogs with hip dysplasia are not acceptable breeding candidates.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: Commonly referred to as bloat, GDV is a life-threatening disorder that can affect all dogs, but is most seen in large, deep-chested, males. In early stages, common bloat occurs when the stomach fills with gas and causes gastric distention and may progress no further. On the other hand, a GDV is a progression of bloat into a “volvulus” where a gas-filled stomach twists such that the entrance and exit of the stomach are blocked. A GDV should be considered a life-threatening emergency and may require surgery to correct. Immediate veterinary assistance should be sought within minutes or a few hours. While the exact cause of GDV is unknown, increased risks include exercise after ingesting large amounts of water or meals and feeding dogs one large meal per day.