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Dog Breed Information for your favorite Dog Breeds
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German Shepherd Dog Breed Information

German ShepherdThe German Shepherd Dog (known also as the Alsatian or Schäfer (hund) is an intelligent breed of dog. Because they are eager to please, they are easily trained in obedience and protection. German Shepherd Dogs are often used as working dogs in many capacities, including search and rescue (SAR), military, police or guard dogs. They are also used as assistance dogs / service dogs (such as guide dogs), though not as much as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.


The German Shepherd Dog is a large, strong, substantial-looking dog. The fur is a double-coat and can be either short or long haired. It varies in color, coming in many different shades, mostly cream (tan) and brown, but also solid black or white. Dogs with coats that have tri-colored hair (ie. black, brown or red, white) are called sable or agouti. Different kennel clubs have different standards for the breed according to size, weight, coat color and structure.

Common faults

Some GSDs have ears that never stand up completely; instead, the top 10 to 15 percent of the ear remains floppy. These are called "friendly-tipped" dogs. It is a disqualifying fault in show dogs.

A small percentage of GSDs have a tail that stands vertically, exposing their anus. This is also a disqualifying fault in show dogs.

Breed lines

There are several types or lines of GSD and the behavior, abilities, and appearance of each is quite different. The major lines are the international working line, the international show line, and the North American show line.

Dogs from FCI-recognized international working lines are bred primarily for traits involving their working ability rather than appearance, so their appearance can be somewhat varied.

The FCI-recognized international show lines differ in that emphasis is given more to the appearance of the dog when breeding, so they are very consistent in type or appearance.

The North American show lines have also been bred primarily for their looks, but have a markedly different appearance from the international dogs, featuring a noticeably sloped back and sharp angulation of the hock joint. There is a current debate over whether the American show lines still represent the original German Shepherd Dog, or whether the line has become distinct enough that it should be considered a separate breed. Critics of the American line argue that the working ability of these dogs has been lost, and that the angled back is detrimental to the health of the animal. Proponents of the line believe that the altered bone structure of their dogs represents an improvement to the herding ability of the animals.

In the erstwhile GDR, the German Shepherds more closely adhered to the old prewar standard marked by straighter back, longer and denser coat and darker color. These dogs are now praised for breeding working dogs as they are less prone to hip dysplasia. Attempts to preserve this distinct line and raise it to the status of an officially recognized breed ("East German Shepherd Dog") are stalled.

variant sizes and coats

Some groups or breeders have focused on variants or mutations of the breed that are not recognized by most kennel clubs as acceptable show GSDs but that might eventually become breeds on their own.

White coat

White German ShepherdA white (or very light), but not albino, version of the German Shepherd has also always occurred, but was designated a disqualifying fault in the AKC in the late 1960s; it is also considered a fault by German breed standards. This fault, however, does not prevent the white coated German Shepherd Dog from being registered in the AKC as a German Shepherd Dog. White Shepherds hold champion titles in the UKC (United Kennel Club).

Now, some breeders selectively breed White Shepherds for their beautiful snowy white coats and physical stature, striving for a Shepherd that closely resembles the original dog; less angular than today's German Shepherd breed. See the WGSDCA or American White Shepherd Association for more detail. However, the white German Shepherd has been recognized by some organizations under the name Berger Blanc Suisse (or White Shepherd Dog).

Long-haired coat 

The so-called "long-haired German Shepherd" is considered a "fault" in the German Shepherd Dog breed according to American Kennel Club standards. The long hair gene is recessive. Dogs with this coat look somewhat like the Tervueren type of Belgian Shepherd Dog. An example with pictures can be found here. Popular myth holds that long-haired GSDs ("fuzzies") are more affectionate, but there is little evidence for this.

Giant shepherd 

Some organizations recognize a deliberately bred, larger variation of the breed as the Shiloh Shepherd Dog or other names.


Well-bred GSDs have powerful jaws and strong teeth, can develop a strong sense of loyalty and obedience, and can be trained to attack and release on command. Poorly bred GSDs such as those from puppy mills can be fearful, overly aggressive, or both. The common misconception that GSDs (like Pit Bulls) are inherently violent is due most often to a combination of poor breeding (bad nerves) and the owner's lack of control/training. Also to blame is the constant media depiction of these dogs as guard or attack dogs, and dogs used by the police, although they are more often used as dogs to search for things, as opposed to dogs used for attack.

Sable German ShepherdGSDs' sense of loyalty to, and emotional bond with, their owners is almost impossible to overstate. Separation trauma is one reason they have been used less in guide dog roles in recent years, since that program typically trains dogs from puppyhood under one owner prior to final placement.

Temperament Differences Among Lines

The different types or lines of GSD display differences not only in appearance but also in ability and temperament.

Dogs from working lines have very high energy, and have been bred to have a natural drive for protection, tracking, and obedience. They are bred primarily for consistent temperament, working drive, and intelligence. These dogs can be used as pets, but will be unhappy if not exercised daily or trained to do a job of some sort. These dogs are more commonly seen in rescues in North America due to their high prey drive and owner's inability to control or train them.

German and Eastern European lines tend to be stockier, with shorter snouts and more muscular chests, and typify the working lines.

North American lines have a tendency towards a longer croup, longer back, higher wither and more stable temperament ideal for companionship. They do not require something to do constantly to keep them from becoming bored and without an outlet, destructive.

These dogs can make excellent pets, provided that an irresponsible breeder has not sacrificed consistent temperament or health in the quest for popular standards for good looks.



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