German Shepherd dog on lead on mountain hike

German Shepherd Facts and Fun


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The German Shepherd is one of those dogs that everyone has wanted at some point in their lives. They’re big, beautiful, brave, and incredibly loyal. No wonder they make such good police dogs.

German Shepherds are very adaptable and intelligent dogs. That’s why they do equally well as good companion dogs and working dogs. Did you know that the first ever guide dog in the world was a German Shepherd? Sorry, Labrador Retriever lovers!

Read this article to find where they got their unique looks, how to keep a GS healthy and in tip-top shape, and much more.

Where German Shepherds came from

As you might have guessed from the name, German Shepherds were originally herding dogs from…well…Germany. Max von Stephanitz, a cavalry captain and vet, wanted to breed a dog who would excel at herding. While at a dog show, he stumbled upon a dog who he named Horand von Grafrath.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Horand and Max are the ones we can thank for creating the German Shepherd that we know and love all over the world today.

Also read about the Belgian Malinois, a dog breed that originated just across the border from the German Shepherd.

Society for German Shepherd Dogs

In 1899, Max (yes, the same Max) founded the Society for German Shepherd Dogs and started to breed Horand with other dogs who had similar traits to him. This is how all purebred dog breeds begin: by selectively breeding similar dogs to produce consistent and reliable results in the offspring. Read more about it, plus pros and cons of purebred dogs here.

There’s also been a lot of speculation over the years that Horand was one quarter wolf. And according to the breeding registry, many of the initial dogs who were selected for breeding were also part wolf and part domestic dog.

That’s why the German Shepherd looks so much like a wolf in terms of body shape and other physical characteristics. And perhaps it’s also why they have such strong guarding instincts and are protective over their territory.

German Shepherd close up of face

German Shepherd physical traits

A typical German Shepherd is usually black or brown, with pointy ears, a long nose, and a big sturdy build. Here are some additional German Shepherd facts:

  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Size: Medium to large
  • Height: Males, 61-64 cm / Females, 56-58cm
  • Coat: Normal coat and long coat
  • Colours: Black and tan, red, grey, black, camouflage

With that kind of coat in mind, we bet you’re wondering about whether German Shepherds shed…they do. A lot. But that shouldn’t put you off. Just read our article on how to remove pet fur from clothes and furniture.

Are German Shepherds aggressive?

German Shepherds are very intelligent and energetic. To meet their needs, you’ll have to provide plenty of attention, exercise, and good training. They’re particularly loyal dogs and form strong attachments to their humans. Because of this, they can quickly become lonely, bored, and experience separation anxiety if their needs aren’t met.

That’s why, in the wrong hands, German Shepherds can be aggressive. It usually happens if they’re not trained properly or don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation.

As we mentioned earlier, they’re very loyal, intelligent, and can be prone to anxiety: so proper management is key to raising a well-adjusted German Shepherd.  

Aggression is especially likely to be directed at strangers, because GS dogs are known to be fiercely protective of their people and/or their territory.

If you’re adding a German Shepherd to your family, the responsible thing to do is spend plenty of time training them and providing stimulation.

And for more advanced obedience training, you could enlist a professional dog trainer. After all, you might as well put all that training aptitude to good use!

This is a guard dog, trained to attack intruders.

Are German Shepherds good pets?

Yes, German Shepherds make great family pets. They’re usually fine with other dogs and cats as well as children. Plus, because they’re so loyal and loving, they make great (if big!) cuddle buddies.

They love the great outdoors too, so if you’re planning to bring your dog along on walks, hikes, and trips to the beach then you might just be a Shepherd’s perfect match.

Got kids? Read our article on dogs and kids to make sure that your GS and your children form a great relationship where each respect the other’s boundaries.

Do they have health problems?

Unfortunately, these gorgeous dogs are prone to some hereditary conditions. The most common of these are musculoskeletal and have implications for their health and comfort as they age.

They include:

  • Elbow Dysplasia 
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency 
  • Degenerative Myelopathy 
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus 

Speak to your vet about helping to prevent these issues and taking a proactive management approach.

Pet insurance – a German Shepherd’s soft landing

Taking out one of our dog insurance policies means you can save on a variety of health costs. These include hospitalisation for accidents and illnesses, medication, non-routine vet visits and more.

Why not get in now before any pre-existing conditions emerge and help ensure you and your GS are well protected for whatever life throws at you. Get a quick quote now.

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