German Shepherd Dog Breed Characteristics & Traits

German shepherd – The German shepherd has been one of the most popular dogs in Germany for decades and is still considered an export hit. This extremely versatile and intelligent dog breed looks back on an eventful history, which we would like to approach here as well as the character and nature of the shepherd dog.

History & Origin

The history of the shepherd dog begins in the late 19th century and has its origins in Thuringia and Württemberg. His ancestors are short-haired and stock-haired herding dogs like those found all over Europe at that time. During a maneuver, the officer at the time, Max von Stephanitz, observed the herding dogs at work and was both impressed and enthusiastic about the interaction between a shepherd and his dog. On January 15, 1989, he made a decision and bought a male dog, which he gave the sonorous and promising name Horand von Grafrath. This dog, along with his brother “Luchs von Sparwasser” and the bitch “Mari von Sparwasser”, is considered to be the cornerstone and source of today’s shepherd dogs.

The shepherd dog reached a historical low point in the Second World War. The National Socialists discovered the shepherd dog for themselves and used it for their propaganda purposes to demonstrate virtues such as bravery, courage, and loyalty. Whether Himmler, Hindenburg, or Hitler himself – numerous photographs from that time show the army commanders with their shepherd dogs. Blondie, Adolf Hitler’s shepherd dog, gained notoriety as a result.

During the Second World War, around 30,000 shepherd dogs were used for military service and were literally sacrificed. But the dog was also used in concentration camps to guard and control the inmates.

When Germany was divided into East and West after the Second World War, two breeding lines were created as a result. After reunification, however, the GDR shepherd dog was reintegrated into the West German breeding line.

Today, the German shepherd is the most commonly used service dog worldwide and is also very popular with families.

Numbers, Data, Facts

  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Life expectancy: 10 – 14 years
  • Weight males: 30-40 kg
  • Bitch weight: 22 – 32 kg
  • Males: 60-65 cm
  • Bitches: 55-60 cm

Timeline Highlights

  • 1898 – Max von Stephanitz lays the foundation of the breed by purchasing three herding dogs
  • 1899 – On April 22nd, the Association of German Shepherd Dogs was founded by von Stephanitz
  • 1899 – On September 22, the breed standard was established
  • 1929 – For fear of mixing, the Australian government banned the import of the DSH to protect their own breed (Australian dingo).
  • 1933 – The coat color white is removed from the studbooks and has been considered the wrong color ever since
  • 1933-44 – The German shepherd dog becomes one of the symbols of the German Empire and over 30,000 shepherd dogs are drafted into military service
  • 1974 – The Australian Government repeals its German Shepherd Ban Act
  • 1979 – In the former GDR it is only allowed to breed with HD-free animals
  • 1998 – The number of puppies is given by the VDH as 27,834 puppies
  • 2011 – The number of puppies is given by the VDH as 13,339 puppies


The German Shepherd is one of the most versatile large dog breeds in the world. As a service dog, it is used by the police, military, and security companies. It has largely replaced St. Bernard as an avalanche dog and in mountain rescue and is still used as a herding dog, protection dog, watchdog, companion dog, and of course as a family dog.

Classification, breed standard & breed standard

  • Group 1: herding dogs and cattle dogs (without Swiss Mountain Dogs)
  • Section 1: German Shepherds
  • With work test
  • FCI Standard: No. 166

The Character & Essence of the German Shepherd

The fact that the shepherd dog enjoys a high reputation worldwide and is one of the most common large dog breeds is also due to its character. In the breed standard he will be even-tempered, strong-willed, confident, at ease, and (when not in a hot spot) completely benign. In addition, the nature of the shepherd dog must be firm and secure, erratic and timid animals are not wanted. In order to acquire a world-class reputation as a service dog, you also need obedience, courage, bravery, intelligence, reliability, and a high level of resilience. The shepherd dog embodies all these attributes like hardly any other breed. But this enormous capability comes at a price. If you want to preserve the heroic character of the animal, you have to work with the animal. An under-challenged German Shepherd is able to provide itself with chores and these may not be in line with the owners’ preferences.

Dealing with family & children

With proper socialization, the German Shepherd makes an ideal family dog. His loyalty and protective instinct are incorruptible and reliable. He will always stand protectively in front of the family and will defend them fiercely if necessary. Nevertheless: His tolerance and irritation threshold has limits and he has a natural prey instinct. It has certainly happened that the shepherd dog sometimes pinches. In order to avoid this, children must also learn and practice how to handle a (German shepherd) dog properly. It is generally not advisable to leave German Shepherds alone with children, like all other dogs.

In dealing with strangers

The shepherd dog does not make a particularly good impression on strangers. He is considered a very attentive observer who stays within reach without building up threatening gestures. Strangers who gain unauthorized access to the territory will be caught – running away is not an option for the German Shepherd.

When dealing with other dogs

As with many other dog breeds, early socialization is the alpha and omega. However, he will not shy away from any conflict to assert his position. In order not to be given the stamp of intolerance early on, it is important to familiarize the dog with its environment and to let it participate in as many (positive) experiences with other dogs as possible.

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