BestForPets is reader-supported. Your purchases via our links may earn us an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Our Affiliate Disclaimer

German Shepherds: The Ultimate Guide to the Most Versatile Dog Breed

Are you thinking of getting a German Shepherd as your next furry companion? Or are you just curious about this amazing dog breed that has captured the hearts of millions of people around the world? Either way, you've come to the right place!

In this article, BestForPets will help you learn everything you need to know about German Shepherds, one of the most popular and versatile dog breeds in the world. You'll discover their history, personality, health, training, and more. By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of why German Shepherds are such great dogs for many people.

icon Vet Approved
icon Reviewed & Fact - Checked by

Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)


The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

Read more icon

Types of German Shepherds

Types of German Shepherds

German Shepherds have different varieties based on their origin, physical appearance, and function. Among the most common types are:

  • Working lines: These German Shepherds are bred for their functional abilities rather than their appearance. They are typically more spirited, driven, and focused than show lines. They are frequently employed for military, security, and sporting purposes.
  • Show lines: These German Shepherds are bred for their appearance rather than their ability to work. They are typically more serene, elegant, and unhurried than working lines. They are frequently utilized for exhibition or as pets.
  • Short-haired: These German Shepherds have a brief coat that is easy to maintain and groom. They shed moderately year-round and extensively twice yearly.
  • Long-haired: These German Shepherds have a lengthy, fluffy, and plush coat. They require more maintenance and brushing than their shorter counterparts. They shed moderately year-round and extensively twice yearly.
  • Black: These German Shepherds have a striking complete black coat. They possess the same disposition and health as other colors.
  • Sable: These German Shepherds have a coat consisting of various hues of black, brown, gray, and red. Their wolf-like appearance is alluring and distinctive.
  • White: Some kennel clubs do not recognize pure white as a standard color for German Shepherds. They possess the same disposition and health as other colors.

Each type of German Shepherd has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of temperament, health, grooming, and suitability for various lifestyles and environments. For instance, working lines may be better suited for owners who can provide sufficient physical and mental stimulation. Show lines may be a better choice for those who prefer a more relaxed and graceful dog. Short-haired ones may be easier to groom than long-haired ones. Black ones could be more susceptible to overheating than paler ones.

Before making a decision, it is best to conduct research, speak with reputable breeders or rescue groups, and meet the dogs in person to determine which type of German Shepherd best suits your requirements and preferences.

Temperament of German Shepherds

The typical German Shepherd is confident, alert, inquisitive, protective, affectionate, and anxious to please. They are highly trainable and responsive to the commands and signals of their owners.

German Shepherds are devoted to their families and will defend them against any danger. They are also friendly and sociable with familiar humans and animals.

However, German Shepherds may exhibit some potential behavioral issues that require appropriate socialization and management. Some of these concerns include:

Temperament of German Shepherds

1. Aggression:

If they feel threatened or challenged, German Shepherds may become aggressive toward strangers, other canines, and other animals. They must be socialized from a young age to learn how to behave in various social situations.

To prevent them from biting or attacking, they must also be taught to obey commands such as “leave it” and “drop it.”

2. Anxiety:

If German Shepherds are left alone for too long, exposed to loud sounds, or experience a traumatic event, they may become anxious or nervous. They require a relaxing and secure environment in which they can feel safe and at ease.

In addition, they require an abundance of affection and attention to reassure them that they are valued.

3. Barking:

German Shepherds can be loud and bark excessively when they are bored, excited, or trying to alert their owners to something. They must receive sufficient physical activity and mental stimulation to keep them occupied and content. They must also be taught with positive reinforcement when to bark and when to stop barking.

4. Digging:

When bored, curious, or attempting to escape, German Shepherds can be destructive and dig holes in the yard, sofa, and carpet. To satisfy their natural instincts, they must be given suitable toys and chewing objects. They must also be supervised and redirected if they start digging.

5. Chasing:

German Shepherds are often impulsive and will pursue anything that moves, including cars, bicycles, squirrels, and cats. Outside, they require a leash or a fence to prevent them from escaping or getting into trouble. They must also be taught to recall and return to their owner when summoned, using positive reinforcement.

6. Shedding:

German Shepherds can be messy and shed a lot of hair throughout the home, furniture, and clothing. They require regular grooming with tools for brushing, bathing, trimming, and deshedding. Additionally, they must be vacuumed and cleaned frequently.

The most effective way to manage the temperament and behavior of your German Shepherd is to understand their needs and motivations and provide them with proper guidance and care. By doing so, you will have a well-mannered, content dog who will love you unconditionally.

Health of German Shepherds

German Shepherds are generally robust dogs, but they are susceptible to certain breed-specific health problems. These issues include:

  • Hip dysplasia: This genetic condition causes abnormal development of the hip joint, leading to pain, inflammation, and arthritis. It can range from mild to severe and can affect one or both hips. This condition can be diagnosed with an X-ray and treated with medication, surgery, or physical therapy.
  • Elbow dysplasia: This genetic condition causes abnormal development of the elbow joint, leading to pain, inflammation, and arthritis. It can range from mild to severe and can affect one or both elbows. This condition can be diagnosed with an X-ray and treated with medication, surgery, or physical therapy.
  • Degenerative myelopathy: This is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord, leading to weakness, paralysis, and coordination loss in the hind legs. It typically affects older dogs and is incurable. It can be diagnosed with a DNA test and treated with supportive care, including harnesses, wheelchairs, and acupuncture.
  • Bloat: This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach becomes bloated and twists in on itself, cutting off blood supply and causing shock. It can occur suddenly and requires immediate veterinary care. It can be prevented by providing smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding physical activity after eating, and elevating the food bowl.
  • Allergies: These immune system reactions cause itching, redness, swelling, or infection of the skin, ears, eyes, or nostrils. They may be caused by food, pollen, dust, insects, and other substances. The condition can be diagnosed with a skin or blood test and treated with medication, dietary modification, or immunotherapy.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear caused by bacteria or fungi manifest as pain, discharge, odor, or inflammation. They may be brought on by allergens, moisture, ear parasites, or foreign objects. They can be diagnosed through an ear examination or a culture test and treated with medication or ear cleansing.

Health of German Shepherds

The best way to prevent or treat these health problems in your German Shepherd is to provide them with routine veterinary examinations, vaccinations, worming, flea and tick control, a healthy diet, and regular exercise. Additionally, it is important to observe your German Shepherd for signs and symptoms of illness or injury, such as:

  • Limping, stiffness, or difficulty moving
  • Loss of appetite, weight, or energy
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or blood in the stool
  • Coughing, sneezing, or difficulty breathing
  • Scratching, licking, or biting the skin
  • Shaking, tilting, or scratching the head
  • Redness, swelling, or discharge in the eyes
  • Bad breath, drooling, or difficulty chewing

If you observe any of these signs or symptoms, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately and follow their instructions.

Grooming of German Shepherds

German Shepherds have a double coat consisting of a dense undercoat and a coarse outer coat. They shed moderately throughout the year and heavily during the spring and autumn seasons. To maintain a healthy and clean coat, regular maintenance is necessary.

Grooming of German Shepherds

Here are some tips for maintaining your German Shepherd’s coat:

  • Brushing: You should brush your German Shepherd at least once per week with a slicker brush or rake to remove loose hair and grime. During shedding seasons, you should also use an undercoat de-shedding instrument to reduce the amount of hair that falls out.
  • Bathing: Bathing your German Shepherd every two months, or as required, with a mild shampoo and conditioner is recommended. Bathing them too frequently can cause their skin and fur to become dry. Additionally, you should thoroughly rinse them and dry them with a cloth or blow dryer on low heat.
  • Trimming: You should trim your German Shepherd’s nails once every two weeks or as required using a nail clipper or grinder. Cutting them too short can result in blood loss and discomfort. Additionally, you should use scissors to trim the hair around their limbs, ears, and tail to prevent matting and tangling.

Here are some tips for grooming the nails, teeth, ears, and eyes of your German Shepherd:

  • Nails: Using a nail clipper or grinder, you should trim your German Shepherd’s nails once every two weeks or as required. Cutting them too short can result in blood loss and discomfort. Additionally, you should file the edges to make them smooth.
  • Teeth: You should brush your German Shepherd’s teeth at least once per week, if not daily, using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. You should also provide them with dental chews or devices to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. Additionally, you should examine their mouth for signs of infection or disease, such as bad breath, swollen gums, and loose teeth.
  • Ears: You should use cotton balls or soft cloths moistened with an ear cleaner once a week or as needed to clean your German Shepherd’s ears. You should carefully clean the inside of their ears and avoid inserting anything into their ear canals. Additionally, you should examine their ears for signs of infection or disease, such as redness, swelling, discharge, or odor.
  • Eyes: You should wipe your German Shepherd’s eyes daily or as needed with a cotton swab, a soft cloth dipped in water, or an eye cleaner. You should remove any dust or debris from the corners of their eyes with care and avoid touching their irises. Additionally, you should examine their eyes for signs of infection or disease, such as redness, swelling, discharge, or cloudiness.

The best grooming products and tools for your German Shepherd are those specifically designed for their coat and skin type. You should seek out gentle, natural, hypoallergenic, and pH-balanced products. Additionally, you should look for durable, comfortable, and user-friendly tools.

Training of German Shepherds

German Shepherds are highly intelligent and eager to please their owners. With proper training and reinforcement, they can learn almost anything and excel in activities like obedience, agility, tracking, and herding.

Here are some training tips for your German Shepherd:

  • Start early: You should begin training your German Shepherd as soon as possible, ideally between 8 and 12 weeks of age. This is the best time to teach them basic commands, manners, social skills, and tricks. At this age, they are more receptive and adaptable.
  • Be consistent: When communicating with your German Shepherd, use the same words, tone, and body language every time. Stick to the same rules, practices, and expectations when interacting with them. This will help them understand your expectations and avoid confusion and frustration.
  • Use positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement should be used when training your German Shepherd. When they do something correctly or follow your commands, reward them with treats, praise, or play. Avoid using negative reinforcement or punishment when they disobey or do something wrong. This will only make them fearful or resentful and harm the relationship between you two.
  • Be patient: Training your German Shepherd requires patience. Don’t expect them to learn everything overnight or perform perfectly every time. Understand that they may make mistakes and experience setbacks. Don’t get angry, frustrated, or give up on them. Keep trying and encourage them to improve.

Here are some mentally and physically stimulating activities you can do with your German Shepherd:

  • Fetch: German Shepherds love to play fetch with a ball, frisbee, or toy. You can throw the object and ask them to bring it back. To add variety, you can also change the distance, trajectory, and height of your throws.
  • Hide and seek: You can play hide-and-seek with your German Shepherd using a treat, toy, or yourself. You can hide the object or yourself around the house or yard and ask them to find it or you. You can also provide them with clues or hints to help them.
  • Puzzle: You can give your German Shepherd a puzzle toy filled with treats or kibble. You can ask them to open, slide, or rotate the toy to get the reward. You can also change the difficulty level or type of object to increase the challenge.

Care of German Shepherds

German Shepherds require proper care to stay healthy and happy. They need adequate nutrition, exercise, and emotional support.


Here are some tips for meeting the nutritional needs of your German Shepherd:

  • Food: You should feed your German Shepherd high-quality food that meets their nutritional needs. Look for foods that contain high-quality protein, nutritious fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Avoid foods with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, additives, or byproducts.

If you’re interested in learning about the best dog foods for German Shepherds, check out our article on the topic!

  • Water: Always provide your German Shepherd with clean, fresh water. Change the water daily and clean the bowl regularly. Monitor their water intake and ensure that they drink enough to stay hydrated.
  • Treats: Give your German Shepherd treats as a reward for good behavior or as a dietary supplement. Look for natural, nutritious, and low-calorie treats. Avoid sweets that are high in sugar, sodium, fat, or additives. Limit the amount of treats you give them to no more than 10 percent of their daily caloric intake.

Here are some suggestions for meeting your German Shepherd’s exercise needs:

  • Walks: Take your German Shepherd for at least two 30-minute walks per day. Use a leash or harness to keep them safe and under control. Vary the routes, speeds, and durations of your walks to make them more interesting and engaging.
  • Runs: Once or twice a week, run with your German Shepherd for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a leash or harness to keep them safe and under control. Warm up and cool down before and after each run to prevent injury.
  • Playtime: Engage with your German Shepherd for 15 to 30 minutes every day. Use toys, games, or activities that challenge their physical and mental abilities and that they enjoy. Invite other dogs or people to join you for additional socialization and fun.

Here are some tips for meeting your German Shepherd’s emotional needs:

  • Love: Show your German Shepherd love and affection every day. Cuddle with them, pet them, talk to them, and praise them. Give them massages and grooming sessions to help them relax and bond with you.
  • Attention: Provide your German Shepherd with interaction and attention every day. Spend time with them, play with them, teach them new skills, or train them. Enrich their lives by exposing them to new experiences and environments.
  • Bonding: Develop a strong relationship with your German Shepherd based on mutual respect and trust. Establish yourself as their leader by being reliable, fair, and positive. Involve them in your daily activities and routines as much as possible to make them feel included and valued.


German Shepherds are one of the most popular and versatile dog breeds in the world. They have a long history, come in a variety of breeds, have an exceptional temperament, excellent health, low grooming needs, high trainability, and easy care.

They are trustworthy, self-assured, courageous, and stable dogs that make excellent family companions and reliable guardians.

If you’re interested in owning a German Shepherd, you should adopt or purchase from a reputable breeder or rescue group that can provide health and temperament information, as well as support and guidance.

BestForPets hopes this article has helped you understand why German Shepherds are such great dogs for so many people. Please leave a comment below or contact us for more information if you have any feedback or concerns. Thank you for reading!

Author Image

Dr. Heidi Bigham

Dr. Heidi H. Bigham, DVM is an expert in small animal veterinary care, specializing in emergency medicine, geriatric pet health, and internal medicine. She has five years of expertise as a general practitioner of small animal medicine in facilities that provide preventative care, surgery, and 24-hour emergency treatment. 

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Heidi Bigham


Rated 0 out of 5
0 out of 5 stars (based on 0 reviews)
Very good0%

There are no reviews yet. Be the first one to write one.

Related articles