Let's talk German Shepherds

Call him Mr. Popularity. The celebrated German Shepherd Dog is one of the most universally sought-after breeds, praised for their high intelligence and unflinching loyalty. A wonderful family pet, the German Shepherd is very obedient, which makes them easy to train, and they have a great time doing it. The added bonus: those bright eyes coupled with stunning markings.

Official name: German Shepherd Dog

Other names: German, Shepherd, Alsatian, GSD

Origins: Germany

Pastore Tedesco adulto in bianco e nero
  • Drooling tendencies

    1 out of 5
  • Grooming needs

    5 out of 5
  • Shedding Level

    5 out of 5
  • Barking tendencies

    4 out of 5
  • Energy level (high, low, medium)*

    4 out of 5
  • Compatibility with other pets

    2 out of 5
  • Warm weather?

    3 out of 5
  • Cold weather?

    4 out of 5
  • Suited to apartment living

    2 out of 5
  • Can stay alone

    1 out of 5
  • Family pet?*

    4 out of 5
*We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations. Every pet is different, even within a breed. This snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication only. For a happy, healthy, and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet, as well as meeting their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs). Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child. Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice. All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.
Illustrazione di un Pastore Tedesco nero e marrone dal lato
60 - 65 cm55 - 60 cm
30 - 40 kg22 - 32 kg
Life Stage
2 to 15 months15 months to 5 years
5 to 8 years8 to 18 years
Primo piano laterale di un Pastore Tedesco ansimante

Get to know German Shepherd

All you need to know about the breed

An intelligent, lively, and steadfast breed, the German Shepherd fulfills so much that’s wanted in a dog. Devoted to their owner and to their family, this is a dog who will follow you from room to room, into the car, really anywhere you go.

The energy level of the German Shepherd? High. But that can also equate to fun, as the breed looks upon any activity as welcome activity. Walking, running, and hiking all work for the German Shepherd, as do tracking and agility competitions, which they excel at.

If there’s one characteristic that defines the German Shepherd, it’s their intelligence. They are known for having incredibly high intelligence and the ability to figure things out—part of the reason, along with their faithful nature, that they’re often used by armed forces.

Because of their very high intelligence, the German Shepherd dog is also used widely as a service dog for disabled or visually impaired people. They’re ideally suited for the role given their unwavering loyalty, intelligence, and keen sense of smell.

Train them well and this breed will return your requests in spades. As singularly self-assured as they are, the breed is also known to be a great companion dog. They are incredibly bonded to their owner, so teaching your German Shepherd won’t be hard, it just needs to be consistent.

The other breed hallmark: that coat! It’s a double one, and composed of thick, plush fur dappled with distinctive, rich colorings that give the German Shepherd breed their regal look.


Two facts about German Shepherds

1. An incredible sense of smell

The German Shepherd breed is one of the leaders in olfactory abilities—that means smell. They are traditionally used to perform search and rescue, and for bomb and drug sniffing in police and military work because of this keen characteristic.

2. Speaking of noses...

Bred as a herding dog, the German Shepherd is known for rounding up not only other animals, but also humans. They’ll nudge you with their nose—when they want to go out, go for a walk, or when it’s mealtime. It’s a charming and harmless trait, and could be handy where little ones are concerned as the German Shepherd tends to be highly protective too.

Pastore Tedesco seduto con due cuccioli in bianco e nero

History of the breed

Even-keeled and loyal to a fault, the German Shepherd temperament reflects the careful breeding done by Captain Max Frederic Emile Von Stephanitz in Germany starting in 1899. Von Stephanitz wanted to produce a superior herding dog, particularly for sheep, so brought together sheepdogs in southern and central Germany. The goal was a dog with high intelligence and athletic ability. The “Shep-herd” was born.

Von Stephanitz then founded a club for the breed in Frankfurt in 1899. The breed developed a keen obedience in the ensuing years, becoming increasingly used for security, especially by the military and police, who still widely deploy the German Shepherd today. And the public has joined their ranks: The German Shepherd gained huge popularity in the early 20th century in the US as a result of dog movie stars Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart. The breed is highly popular worldwide—it's been in the top 10 US breeds for the past 10 years according to the American Kennel Club, usually coming second to the Labrador Retriever.


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of German Shepherds



Ears pert ending in point, slant forward to frame face.


Well-proportioned, wedge-shaped head, strong muzzle.


Thick undercoat, coarse top coat, distinctive colorings of deep black and tan, silver, and white.


Muscular, strong body, lanky with sense of balance and even proportion, firm ribs and chest, not stocky.


Thick, long hair on tail, slightly longer on underside.
Pastore Tedesco che corre su erba e fiori gialli

Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your German Shepherd

A strong breed with a sensitive stomach

When it comes to health, German Shepherds can have occasional bouts of digestive tract disorders and diarrhea—not life-threatening, but not much fun for the dog. Look for adverse reactions to food, diarrhea, or loose stool, gastroenteritis, pancreatic insufficiency, bloat, or IBD, among other disorders. Allergic dermatitis, or skin irritation, can also occur. Feeding your dog highly nutritious food will keep them on track. A proper diagnostic examination is mandatory, which can be time—and money—consuming. A good veterinarian can help you find solutions.

It’s those hips!

Hip dysplasia is the third most common illness in German Shepherds—in fact, they are predisposed. It's a developmental syndrome of the ball-and-socket joint where the thigh bone and the hip bone don’t quite conform. The result is arthritis. It’s important that the rate of growth, especially for large-breed dogs, stay constant so their bones and muscles develop together. Dysplasia can happen more often when muscles grow faster, thus putting stress on bones and joints, potentially causing arthritis and then dysplasia. A simple veterinarian check for your German Shepherd can find signs of any occurrence.

Energy to burn

Forewarned is forearmed: the German Shepherd dog is an extremely high-energy breed. It’s exciting to think about adding this gracious canine to your home, but they are not the breed for everyone. They thrive on a lot of daily exercise—so much so that the German Shepherd will easily accompany you on long runs, trotting alongside for hours.

Like all breeds however, the German Shepherd can suffer from health issues when some of their physical features are over-exaggerated, in their case, a sloped back. The feature came from developing the dog for shows, with breeders thinking an elegant line and shortened legs made for a bouncy gait when the dog moved through the show ring. We advise you to seek advice from your veterinarian, where needed, to obtain a dog from a responsible breeder.

Healthy diet, healthier dog

When choosing food for a German Shepherd, there are many factors to consider: their age, lifestyle, activity level, physiological condition and health, including potential sickness or sensitivities. Food provides energy to meet a dog’s vital functions, and a complete nutritional formula should contain an adjusted balance of nutrients to avoid any deficiency or excess in their diet, both of which could have adverse effects on the dog. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. In hot weather and especially when out exercising, bring water along and give your dog frequent water breaks. Energy intake may also need to be adapted to climatic conditions. A dog that lives outdoors in winter will have increased energy requirements. The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your dog has health problems, please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusive veterinary diet.

A German Shepherd puppy’s requirements, in terms of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins, are much greater than those of an adult dog. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, but also to grow and build new cells. Until they are 15 months old, German Shepherd puppies’ immune system develops gradually. A complex of antioxidants – including vitamin E – can help support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries and new encounters. Their digestive functions are different from an adult German Shepherd’s too: their digestive system is not yet mature, so it's important to provide highly digestible proteins that will be used effectively. Mannan-oligosaccharides and prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, support digestive health by balancing the intestinal flora, resulting in good stool quality.

It's important to choose kibble that's appropriate in shape, size and texture. This growth phase also means moderate energy needs. Large-breed puppies, such as German Shepherd puppies, whose growth period is long and intense, are especially susceptible to skeletal and joint problems, including limb defects, bone deformities and joint lesions. The first phase of growth mainly consists of bone development, although the muscles also start to grow. This means that a puppy who eats too much – or in other words, takes in too much energy – will put on too much weight and grow too quickly. This extra weight on the skeleton will increase the risk of bone deformity and joint problems, or dysplasia. Limiting the energy concentration of a food for German Shepherd puppies and feeding a correct daily amount will help control the speed of growth and minimise these risks.

Concentrations of other nutrients should be higher than normal in a specially formulated growth food. Although the calcium content in the food needs to be increased, large-breed puppies are more sensitive to excessive calcium intake. It’s important to understand, then, that adding any ingredients to a complete food formulated for the growth phase is at best, unnecessary and at worst, dangerous for the animal, unless prescribed by a veterinarian. Splitting the daily allowance into three meals a day is recommended until they are six months old, at which point you can switch to two meals per day.

The main nutritional goals for adult German Shepherds are:

Promoting optimal digestibility with high-quality protein and a selection of specific fibres to limit intestinal fermentation. This supports a balance in the intestinal flora and takes into account the German Shepherd’s digestive sensitivity.

Preserving the health and beauty of the skin and coat with the enriched provision of essential fatty acids (especially EPA-DHA), essential amino acids and B
vitamins in order to strengthen the skin’s “barrier” function

Helping to support the health of their bones and joints with glucosamine, chondroitin and antioxidants.

After reaching the age of five, German Shepherds will start facing the first signs of ageing. A formula enriched with antioxidants will help maintain their vitality, and specific nutrients, such as chondroitin, glucosamine, collagen and EPA-DHA, will help maintain healthy bones and joints. Ageing is also accompanied by the modification of digestive capacities and particular nutritional requirements, so food for older German Shepherds should have the following characteristics:

Higher vitamin C and E content. These nutrients have antioxidant properties, helping to protect the body’s cells against the harmful effects of the oxidative stress linked to ageing

High-quality protein. Contrary to a common misconception, lowering the protein content in food offers little benefit in limiting kidney failure. On top of this, older dogs are less efficient at using dietary protein than younger dogs. Reducing the phosphorus content is a good way of slowing down the gradual deterioration of kidney function

A higher proportion of the trace elements iron, zinc and manganese to maintain good condition of the skin and coat.

A higher quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as borage oil and fish oil, to maintain the quality of the coat. Dogs can normally produce these fatty acids, but ageing can affect this physiological process.

As they age, dogs increasingly suffer from teeth problems. To ensure they continue to eat in sufficient quantities, the size, shape and texture of their kibble
needs to be tailored to their jaw.

Throughout their life, it is important to avoid feeding German Shepherd human foods or fatty snacks. Instead, reward them with kibble taken from their daily meal allowance and follow the feeding guidelines written on the package strictly in order to prevent excessive weight gain.

Pastore Tedesco che corre su terra e foglie

Caring for your German Shepherd

Grooming, training, and exercise tips


All about German Shepherds

Pack shot of German shepherd puppy product

Discover our puppy range

ooking to buy premium food for your puppy? Royal Canin has developed a range of dog food formulas to support your puppy's growth and development. Learn more about our puppy range and our German Shepherd puppy diet.
  1. Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/
  2. Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 e 2020
  3. Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/
  4. Royal Canin BHN Product Book
  5. American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/

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