German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Breed Information


German Shepherd Dog Breed Characteristics:

A German Shepherd dog barking over a fence.

A German Shepherd Dog can be obedient and protective. Photography by jody/shutterstock.

  • Handsome and well-built
  • Intelligent and eager
  • Loyal
  • Hard-working
  • Strong-willed and fearless
  • Obedient and protective
  • Handy

Ideal Human Companion

Who gets along with German Shepherd Dogs? 

A German Shepherd Dog playing.

Energetic and active people get along best with German Shepherd Dogs. Photography by smikeymikey1 / Shutterstock.

  • Energetic people
  • Active families
  • Disciplinarians
  • A-Type Personalities

What They Are Like to Live With

German Shepherd Dog puppy. Photography by Grigorita Ko / Shutterstock.

German Shepherd Dogs are fierce but friendly, and have a calm confidence that may seem kind of aloof. When in need, however, a GSD is instantly ready to protect, play a game or perform a task—in some cases as a guard dog, police dog, herder or seeing eye dog. With a strong work ethic and an eager intelligence, they crave challenges.

Not to be left alone in the house too long, German Shepherd Dogs crave interaction and involvement. They are fiercely protective of their homes and families—sometimes known to “herd” children—and they get along with other pets. Standoffish and detached with strangers or those outside the family unit, they have been known to “over-guard” or bark protectively.

German Shepherd Dogs have great instincts and fertile minds. Lots of activity and exercise will make them happy, but tracking, obedience and agility games—or any task-oriented activity—will make them even happier. A bored or neglected German Shepherd Dog may resort to chewing furniture, digging up flowers and other mischief.

Things You Should Know

A mother dog and her puppies.

What are some common health issues associated with German Shepherd Dogs? Photography by Grigorita Ko / Shutterstock. 

The benefits of a GSD — loyalty, protectiveness and eagerness, to name a few — come from careful obedience training and authority. Everyone in the household must be prepared to show “authority” and earn the dog’s respect with a firm but loving touch. They do not respond to negativity or anger. Once achieved, this respect may need to be earned again and again.

German Shepherd Dogs don’t need to be bathed very often, but they tend to shed in great quantities. Brush them daily, outside if possible. Like any large dog, they can handle apartment living quite well but need daily walks and, if possible, vigorous exercise to stay sharp.

Some common health problems include hip and elbow dysplasia, skin allergies and pancreas deficiencies, They normally live up to 12 years.

German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Breed Information History

dog paws puppy paws

German Shepherd Dogs are actually a relatively new breed. Photography by otsphoto/Shutterstock.

The German Shepherd Dog is a relatively new breed, almost entirely developed in the 20th century. Attempting to create a standard herding dog for his country, German breeder Capt. Max von Stephanitz invented the Deutsche Schäferhunde in 1899 from a mix of early shepherd dogs having various coat lengths, textures, body types and colors. Stephanitz’s aim was to develop a standard sheep-herding dog with the solid intelligence and work ethic to assist farm workers and laborers as well as police and soldiers. Standardized in Germany in 1901, the German Shepherd Dog came to America in 1907 and flourished with the help of organizations like the German Shepherd Dog Club of America.

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