German Shepherds, Everything Vets Want You to Know

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Last Updated on 2 weeks by Dr. Shannon Barrett

As a vet, I love German Shepherds and I myself am a proud Shepherd owner.  

As a pet parent, it’s fascinating to know about their history and special characteristics unique to German Shepherds.  

German Shepherds aren’t just ordinary dogs, they have a rich history that adds to their charm.

Where were German Shepherds Originally Bred? 

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

These intelligent dogs originated in Germany in 1899. 

Initially, they helped shepherds, herding and protecting livestock. Their keen intellect soon caught the eye of law enforcement and military personnel, leading to many roles worldwide. 

Over the years, their popularity has only surged, making them one of the most loved breeds globally. 

Are German Shepherds Protective?

German Shepherd sleeping on sofa
My German Shepherd, Griffin

Yes, many German Shepherds are protective but, in my professional experience, so are most dogs.

Most Shepherd owners know that they are big babies! 

They are known for their unwavering loyalty, making them excellent companions. However my Shepherd, Griffin, might  leave me for someone with more delicious treats!

Why Are German Shepherds Used as Police Dogs?

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

They possess a high degree of intelligence, which is why they’re often trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search and rescue dogs.

Despite their stern look, German Shepherds are known for their friendly and protective nature.

What health issues do German Shepherd’s have?

dog, german shepherd, canine
Photo Courtesy Pixabay

German Shepherds, like any breed, have their own set of common health issues. 

One of the most prevalent is hip dysplasia, a genetic condition that affects the hip joint and can result in arthritis or even lameness if not managed properly. 

Then there’s degenerative disc disease. This is a condition where the discs in the dog’s spine begin to break down over time, causing pain and potentially leading to nerve damage. 

It’s a serious issue that requires immediate veterinary attention. 

German Shepherds also often struggle with allergies. These can be environmental, like pollen or dust, or food-based. Allergies can cause a myriad of symptoms, from skin irritation and itching to GI issues. 

My Shepherd has pollen allergies which are seasonal and location dependent.  

These are just a few of the health concerns I see in German Shepherd patients. 

Being aware of these potential health issues can help keep your German Shepherd healthy and happy.

What are the types of German Shepherds?

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Photo Courtesy Pixabay

The main 2 categories are working lines and show lines.

The “Working Line” German Shepherds are bred for their working abilities rather than their looks. 

They’re often leaner with a more athletic build, making them ideal for roles in search and rescue, police work, and as service dogs. 

These dogs need a “job” and tend to be high energy. 

They have a straighter back and may be smaller. 

The second type of German Shepherd is the “Show Line” German Shepherds. These dogs are bred with an emphasis on conforming to breed standards in terms of appearance. 

They typically have a more laid-back temperament and are well suited to be family pets. They have a more angular back. 

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What is the Average Size of German Shepherds?

male and female german shepherd
Photo Courtesy Pixabay

German Shepherds are known for their impressive stature. 

On average, males stand between 24″-26″ tall, while females usually range from 22″-24″ tall. 

When it comes to weight, males typically weigh between 75-95 pounds, and females between 50-70 lbs. 

German Shepherds are large breed dogs. But remember, just because they are large breed dogs, this doesn’t stop them from being great family pets.

What type of Exercise and Diet do German Shepherds need?

German Shepherds need a balanced diet rich in proteins, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates. 

A high-quality commercial dog food that caters to their specific needs is ideal. 

I feed my dog Royal Canin German Shepherd Diet which is specifically formulated for Shepherds.

This site only contains items I love and highly recommend.  It is reader supported and contains affiliate links.  Read more

German Shepherds require daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy. 

This can include walks, runs, or a good game of fetch. 

German Shepherds’ Double Coat

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Photo courtesy Pixabay

Although most german shepherds do not need professional grooming, they do need regular grooming.

German Shepherds have a double coat which can shed heavily, so brushing at least once a week is crucial to keep their fur in check. 

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise.

German Shepherds are intelligent dogs that thrive on problem-solving and learning new commands. 

Of course, regular vet check-ups are a must to prevent and detect any health issues early. 

They’re great with kids and other pets, but early socialization is key. 

They are also quick learners, so positive reinforcement works wonders. They can live in apartments if properly exercised, but they do love  a yard. 

The lifespan of a German Shepherd is usually 9 to 13 years. 

Are There Famous German Shepherds?

Their charisma is what makes them popular in movies and TV.  

“Strongheart” was One of the earliest canine movie stars, He starred in several films in the 1920s. His movies helped popularize the German Shepherd breed in the United States.

Black and white photo of german shepherd
Strongheart, Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

“Rin Tin Tin” is another early Hollywood star. He  was rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier. He went on to star in numerous movies and is credited with greatly increasing the popularity of German Shepherds.

Black and white photo of german shepherd rin tin tin
Rin Tin Tin, Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

“Apollo” was the first canine responder for 9/11.  He searched for 18 hours a day for weeks until he was forced to stop because he was so tired.  For his service, he received the Dickin Medal, which is considered the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Medal on a green and red ribbon
Dickin Medal, Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

In the movie “I Am Legend,” the role of Sam, the German Shepherd was played by a dog named “Abbey”. Abbey was a female German Shepherd who portrayed Sam throughout most of the film. 

German shepherd Abbey with actor Will Smith
Photo Courtesy Getty Images

Another memorable shepherd was  “Jerry Lee”, from the movie “K-9.” Jim Belushi starred as a Detective  and Jerry Lee was his unorthodox, four-legged partner. 

James Bellushi actor and german shepherd
Koton, Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

The dog who played Jerry Lee in “K-9” was a German Shepherd named “Koton”. Before his acting career, Koton was actually a police dog in Missouri, where he was involved in more than 24 felony arrests and even discovered over 10 kilos of cocaine in a single bust. 

Whether you’re a current German Shepherd owner or considering becoming one, I hope this information helps you understand and appreciate this remarkable breed even more.

Dr. Shannon Barrett brings an exceptional blend of academic excellence and professional expertise to the world of veterinary medicine. With a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences, where she graduated with honors, and dual Bachelor degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology, her depth of knowledge is extensive. A member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Barrett's insights and contributions to pet health have been featured in leading publications such as Rover, MarketWatch, and Newsweek.

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Dr. Shannon Barrett

Veterinarian with a Passion for Educating Pet Parents

Pets change our lives for the better and we are always trying to do the same for them. This site is a combination of tips and product recommendations to enhance the lives of our pets and the people owned by them.  Thanks for stopping by!

Dr. Shannon Barrett

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