Dog Breed profiles

German Shepherd Dog Breed Profile

German Shepherd Dog fact file

KC Group: Pastoral
Size: Large
Height: Dogs around 63cm; bitches around 58cm
Weight: About 34kg
Average lifespan: 10 years
Temperament: Intelligent and loyal, devoted to his owner
Good with children?: Seek breeder advice
Exercise requirement: Lots
Good guard dogs?: Yes
Moulting level: High
Grooming: Moderate
Colours: Black, ash, and iron grey with brown, light brown, or yellow markings. Black is the most common coat colour. There are white GSDs, but this coat colour isn't accepted in the show ring
Jogging partner: Yes

Health 

German Shepherds are prone to the following conditions:

  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Elbow dysplasia.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
  • Retinal atrophy.
  • Chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM).
  • Haemophilia.
Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and OCD are all conditions that affect the hip, elbow, and shoulder joints; retinal atrophy is a genetic disease that affects the retina of the eye and results in blindness; CDRM affects the use of the hind legs — affected dogs will criss-cross their legs and might trip themselves up when running, and will gradually lose the use of their hind legs completely — and the cause is unknown; haemophilia is a deficiency in blood clotting and affected dogs will have a tendency to suffer from uncontrollable bleeding following even the slightest trauma. It’s a gender-linked inherited disease with males being most commonly affected.
 
It’s absolutely essential that the parent dogs of any puppies you view have had the relevant health checks. In the case of the GSD, they must have been hip scored, elbow scored, eye tested, and male dogs tested for haemophilia. A breeder should have documentation to prove these tests have been carried out; make sure you see it.
 
Remember: when doing research into buying your puppy it’s important to see the parent dogs and ensure that they have no physical exaggeration from the breed standard.
 
Hip scoring
 
The left and right hips are X-rayed and scored individually; the fi nal hip score is the two individual scores added together. The lower the score, the better. 
 
The average hip score in GSDs is 18; anything higher is considered poor and the dog shouldn’t be bred from.
 
Elbow scoring
 
Each elbow is X-rayed and scored between zero and three; zero being excellent and three indicating the most severe problems. Only dogs with a zero score should be bred from.

Temperament

  • Confident.
  • Calm.
  • Very alert — a great watchdog.
  • Intelligent — always waiting for the next trick!
  • Faithful — he will be your friend and your guardian.
  • Attentive.

Lifestyle

  • Needs a knowledgeable owner.
  • Very versatile and adapts well to most living situations.
  • Needs about an hour’s worth of physical exercise a day.
  • Thrives on challenge — mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise.
  • Will get on with children and other pets if socialised early.

Trainability

  • Very intelligent and will excel at training.
  • Training must be started early and carried on throughout puppyhood and especially adolescence.

General care

  • Be careful exercising your GSD pup and limit it in the first 12 months to allow healthy bone development. Once he’s reached one year old, build up exercise slowly.
  • A GSD can have one of two coat types: standard and long. A standard coat only needs a vigorous brush weekly, while a long coat will require much more attention. The coat is doubled with a topcoat of hard, close-lying hair, and an undercoat with thicker, softer hair.
  • When brushing your GSD, don’t forget his ‘pants’ — the fur around his bottom and hind legs.

Pros

  • Good temperament.
  • Versatile.
  • Highly trainable.

Cons

  • Prone to some hereditary health problems.
  • Requires a lot of exercise, both mental and physical.