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  • Temperament: Confident, Courageous, Smart
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 2 of 194
  • Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-90 pounds (male), 50-70 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 7-10 years
  • Group: Herding Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

German Shepherd Dog lying in three-quarter view with front paws crossed
German Shepherd Dog standing sideways facing left
German Shepherd Dog lying in three-quarter view
German Shepherd Dog head and shoulders facing forward
German Shepherd Dog head facing left
German Shepherd Dog coat detail
German Shepherd Dog sitting in three-quarter view
German Shepherd Dog standing in three-quarter view
German Shepherd Dog coat detail
Three German Shepherd puppies sitting side by side.

Find a Puppy: German Shepherd Dog

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility – difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.

HEAD

The head is noble, cleanly chiseled, strong without coarseness, but above all not fine, and in proportion to the body. The head of the male is distinctly masculine, and that of the bitch distinctly feminine. The expression keen, intelligent and composed. Eyes of medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is as dark as possible. Ears are moderately pointed, in proportion to the skull, open toward the front, and carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.

BODY

The neck is strong and muscular, clean-cut and relatively long, proportionate in size to the head and without loose folds of skin. When the dog is at attention or excited, the head is raised and the neck carried high; otherwise typical carriage of the head is forward rather than up and but little higher than the top of the shoulders, particularly in motion. Topline– The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short. The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulder blades are long and obliquely angled, laid on flat and not placed forward. The upper arm joins the shoulder blade at about a right angle. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled. The forelegs, viewed from all sides, are straight and the bone oval rather than round.

COAT

The ideal dog has a double coat of medium length. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is permissible. The head, including the inner ear and foreface, and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer and thicker hair. The rear of the forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock, respectively.

HINDQUARTERS

The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the side, is broad, with both upper and lower thigh well muscled, forming as nearly as possible a right angle. The upper thigh bone parallels the shoulder blade while the lower thigh bone parallels the upper arm. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the foot) is short, strong and tightly articulated.

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About the German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dogs can stand as high as 26 inches at the shoulder and, when viewed in outline, presents a picture of smooth, graceful curves rather than angles. The natural gait is a free-and-easy trot, but they can turn it up a notch or two and reach great speeds.

There are many reasons why German Shepherds stand in the front rank of canine royalty, but experts say their defining attribute is character: loyalty, courage, confidence, the ability to learn commands for many tasks, and the willingness to put their life on the line in defense of loved ones. German Shepherds will be gentle family pets and steadfast guardians, but, the breed standard says, there’s a “certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships.”

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America, formed in 1913, is the AKC Parent Club representing the breed. Those interested in adopting a rescue can browse the list of affiliated rescues on the American German Shepherd Rescue Association's website.
Three German Shepherd puppies sitting side by side.

Find a Puppy: German Shepherd Dog

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find German Shepherd Dog Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

A high-quality dog food appropriate for the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will have all the nutrients the breed needs. Table scraps can cause digestive upset, so only give them sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Small pieces of biscuit or the dog’s kibble can be used as treats for training. If you are feeding a high-quality food, vitamin and mineral supplements should not be necessary, although adding small quantities of yogurt, cooked vegetables, or eggs to the food can be beneficial. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING

The German Shepherd Dog has a medium-length, double coat consisting of a dense, harsh, and close-lying outer coat with a softer undercoat. The breed is easy to maintain, usually requiring just a quick brushing every few days or so to help remove loose hairs, but they do shed more profusely once or twice a year. During these periods, more frequent brushing will help control the amount of hair that ends up around the house and on the furniture. The German Shepherd only needs an occasional bath. It is important to trim or grind his nails every month if they are not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause pain and structural issues.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Regularly

EXERCISE

As a very active and athletic breed, the German Shepherd requires lots of exercise for his physical and mental well-being. A dog who is not exercised enough will become frustrated and likely to develop undesirable behaviors. With a puppy, you can start with short daily walks, as well as play sessions in a safely fenced area. Remember to not let the dog off leash, as even the best-trained dog can become distracted and not follow every command. Participating in canine activities such as agilityherdingtracking, and dock diving provides excellent physical and mental exercise and is fun and rewarding for both dog and owner.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Early socialization and puppy training classes are vital, and continuing obedience training will help ensure that the pup will grow to be an adaptable and well-mannered adult. The German Shepherd is a highly intelligent companion and an extraordinary worker. Consistency and positive, reward-based training will yield excellent results. He is extremely bonded to his people, so he is happiest when he lives with his family. He should be raised in the household and exposed to the family’s activities. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America provides detailed training advice for owners on the club’s website.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Eager to Please

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Alert/Responsive

HEALTH

Most German Shepherds are healthy dogs. A responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as degenerative myelopathy and elbow and hip dysplasia. German Shepherd Dogs can experience bloat, a sudden and life-threatening swelling of the abdomen, and owners should educate themselves about its symptoms and what to do should bloat occur.

 

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog

History

The German Shepherd Dog (Deutshe Schäferhund) descends from the family of German herding dogs that, until the late 19th century, varied in type from district to district.

In the waning years of the 1800s, a German cavalry officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz, made it his mission to develop the ideal German herder. Von Stephanitz and like-minded breeders crossed various strains from the northern and central districts of Germany, resulting in the ancestors of today’s German Shepherd Dog (GSD).

Von Stephanitz co-founded the world’s first club devoted to GSDs and spent 35 years promoting and refining the breed. Today, the GSD’s versatility is so thoroughly deployed in the performance of myriad tasks that it is easy to forget that the breed was originally created to herd sheep. The GSD’s now-famous qualities—intelligence, agility, speed, stealth, and the overall air of firm authority—were forged not in the police academy but in the sheep pasture.

GSDs became popular in the United States in the early 1900s, thanks in part to the adventures of canine movie stars Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart. The GSD is among those German breeds, the Dachshund is another, that suffered from anti-German sentiment during and after the world wars. In World War I–era Britain, the breed was referred to as the Alsatian, a name many British dog lovers still prefer.

With the rise of modern livestock management and the decline of herding as a canine occupation, von Stephanitz shrewdly promoted his breed as an ideal K-9 worker. The GSD is today the preferred dog for police and military units the world over.

Did You Know?

The German Shepherd Dog is distinguished for loyalty, courage, and the ability to assimilate and retain training for a number of special services; he is not pugnacious, as his reputation posits him to be, but a bold and punishing fighter if need be.
German Shepherd Dogs are utilized often as police dogs, service dogs, agility dogs, conformation animals, obedience dogs, and sentinels. Their high trainability and extreme loyalty and commitment make them an excellent choice for any agenda.
The German Shepherd Dog has been in the public eye and media many times, recognizable as "Rin Tin Tin" and other canine characters.
The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular and recognizable breeds of the AKC.
In terms of show presentation, the German Shepherd Dog has a unique stack or "pose", featuring one rear leg under the body and one extended, as opposed to conventional "square" stacks (parallel front and rear) or extended stacks.
The German Shepherd Dog does not give affection lightly and is known for his dignity and stature; it is also known as a "one-man" breed for its tendency to display serious loyalty and fidelity, especially to its owner or main caretaker.
The German Shepherd Dog, Deutshe Schäferhund in German, is sometimes just shortened to GSD.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility – difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.

HEAD

The head is noble, cleanly chiseled, strong without coarseness, but above all not fine, and in proportion to the body. The head of the male is distinctly masculine, and that of the bitch distinctly feminine. The expression keen, intelligent and composed. Eyes of medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is as dark as possible. Ears are moderately pointed, in proportion to the skull, open toward the front, and carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.

BODY

The neck is strong and muscular, clean-cut and relatively long, proportionate in size to the head and without loose folds of skin. When the dog is at attention or excited, the head is raised and the neck carried high; otherwise typical carriage of the head is forward rather than up and but little higher than the top of the shoulders, particularly in motion. Topline– The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short. The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulder blades are long and obliquely angled, laid on flat and not placed forward. The upper arm joins the shoulder blade at about a right angle. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled. The forelegs, viewed from all sides, are straight and the bone oval rather than round.

COAT

The ideal dog has a double coat of medium length. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is permissible. The head, including the inner ear and foreface, and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer and thicker hair. The rear of the forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock, respectively.

HINDQUARTERS

The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the side, is broad, with both upper and lower thigh well muscled, forming as nearly as possible a right angle. The upper thigh bone parallels the shoulder blade while the lower thigh bone parallels the upper arm. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the foot) is short, strong and tightly articulated.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Bi-Color Check Mark For Standard Color 454
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Black & Cream Check Mark For Standard Color 010
Black & Red Check Mark For Standard Color 014
Black & Silver Check Mark For Standard Color 016
Black & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 018
Blue Check Mark For Standard Color 037
Gray Check Mark For Standard Color 100
Liver Check Mark For Standard Color 123
Sable Check Mark For Standard Color 164
White Check Mark For Standard Color 199
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