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German Shepherd: What you need to know as an owner!

German Shepherd running on the beach with a tennis ball in its mouth

Big, strong, and active, the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog in America. Beloved for its abilities as both a working dog and a family friend, these pups have traveled as a breed across the world and are common in several countries. Working in a variety of industries, they’ve become stars in their own right due to their ability to learn quickly, take direction, and love their humans!

History of the German Shepherd

The origin story of the German Shepherd can be traced to a specific moment in 1889, when Captain Max Von Stephanitz saw a beautiful herd-dog named Hektor Linkrshein and purchased it, changing the name to Horand von Grafrath. Having decided that a standard German herd-dog needed to be bred, Stephanitz set out to do just that. Partnering with a friend, he founded a society around breeding what would be known as the German Shepherd. 

Outside of their work in the field, the breed worked for several countries in a variety of roles during World War I. This brought the dogs into the public eye more and more, though Americans changed the name to “Shepherd Dog” and the British to “Alstain Wolfdog” to avoid any association with Germany. These hard-working pups served as guard dogs messengers, and even medical personnel as they ran to the battlefield with supplies. The dogs were even trained to stay with mortally wounded soldiers, providing them comfort and companionship during their last moments.

After World War II, American military and police departments began training these puppers as members of the force! While both American-bred dogs and German-bred dogs were employed, the U.S. police department began importing more German dogs at one point due to the fact that they routinely scored higher on performance testing. The breed is still used in these capacities to this day, prominently tied to active service.

Common Health Information

German shepherd running through grass panting on a sunny day

German Shepherds an average lifespan of 10-12 years with proper health care and love. Like many dogs, they are prone to a few things that you should speak with your veterinarian about at your regular checkups. Hip and elbow dysplasia as an issue that can crop up, and it’s important to your pupper’s comfort that you keep an eye on it. Dysplasia is an issue that occurs when a joint’s ball and socket do not properly align, causing discomfort. This is a significant problem because it can eventually lead to limping, even lameness in your furry friend.

German Shepherds can also suffer from Von Willebrand’s Disease, a blood disorder that is similar to hemophilia in humans. When your pup gets injured, their blood will not properly clot and the bleeding will not stop quite as it should. Your veterinarian will do blood tests at some checkups, and this is a common issue they’re looking for.

Large dogs like the German Shepherd can be prone to a few heart issues such as an enlarged heart or murmurs. An annual heart exam is important, and you should make sure your veterinarian schedules them with you to make sure your pup stays healthy.

A German Shepherd’s ears will begin to stand up straight around 5 months old. Like many dogs with this kind of ear structure, it leaves them open to infection as substances will have an easier time getting in. Be sure to regularly check the ears and clean out anything you might find in them. This will help prevent infection and keep your pupper comfy and happy! Coconut oil has been known to help clean ears in dogs if done properly!

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Grooming Instructions

In most ways, the German Shepherd is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. The one big thing to look out for is shedding! You’ll want to brush your furry friend between 1 and 3 times per week to keep your house from being recarpeted with their fur. Other than this, taking care of them is pretty simple. You’ll have to clip their nails once per month and regularly check their ears for dirt and other things so that they don’t get infections. Unless they get dirty during and outdoor adventure, frequent bathing isn’t necessary and can actually remove a lot of necessary oils from their fur that keeps them healthy.


Due to their history as trained workers, German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent breeds out there! Smart, loyal, and obedient, a well-trained German Shepherd will have an active personality and be happiest when participating in activities with their family. These pups can be aloof with strangers, but regular visits with new people will open them up. Socializing them with members of the family early in their lives, both those with or without fur, will help to create a loving and loyal relationship and assure that they feel part of the family.


Young German Shepherd in front of purple flowers looking at the camera

These puppers are smart as whips! Training will be greeted with loyalty, attention, and results but you must start young if you want the lessons to stick. Obedience school as a puppy is recommended and can be reinforced with further training at home. Consistent lessons, positive reinforcement (not to mention using the pup’s favorite treats as a reward) will go a long way toward helping you have an obedient, loyal dog in the family!

Exercise (Energy Level)

Because they were bred for herding sheep all day, these dogs are going to need a lot of exercise! While these pups are smart, they need to have tasks and training to focus on or all of that intelligence is going to go towards clever ways to be destructive instead. Backyard agility training, associated with performance dogs bred for show, can be an excellent way to train your pup and give them tasks to accomplish. It can also help foster the obedience and loyalty the breed is known for. This is a high-activity exercise that will keep their mind sharp, and coupling it with a daily walk will allow you to provide the amount of work the pup needs. Two hours or so of exercise per day will help keep your companion focused and happy.


Darker German Shepherd laying in fall leaves with trees around

Despite being a wonderful outdoor dog, these puppers are family companions and should be kept inside with their humans during the day. These are working dogs, so offering them tasks to complete will fill their day and make for a happier and more content member of the family. An unemployed German Shepherd will get bored!

Random Fact

Did you know the German Shepherd might be affected by dwarfism? It’s quite rare, but on occasion one of these pups will stay the size of a puppy forever. They’ll also keep their soft puppy fur, leaving them soft and fluffy. It may look cute, but they come with a large number of health problems alongside their adorable looks. If your puppy isn’t growing at the rate it should be, check with your veterinarian to find out if this is the cause!

Active, intelligent, and always ready to help their humans, the German Shepherd is a popular pup with a rich history of service and hard work. They’re loyal, obedient, and loving. One of these happy furballs would make an excellent addition to an active family!

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clint westbrook author at sitstay.com

Clint Westbrook
A lifelong writer and lover of dogs! Clint can be found at either running around with his furry friends like skittles in his picture or at his computer writing everything and anything about dogs.

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