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German shepherd dog and puppy

Pointed ears. A wartime symbol. Global popularity. These are just a few things that have made the German shepherd a household breed today. 

German shepherds are known for their companionship, sweet disposition, and loyalty—but did you know these German shepherd dog facts?

German shepherd laying in the grass

1. German shepherds are a member of the American Kennel Club (AKC’s) Herding Group

Get ready for lots of playful nudges with this furry friend! These dogs were bred to herd cattle and other farm animals across long stretches of plain—and perform exceptionally well as a working dog.

2. German shepherd dogs are one of the most versatile dog breeds

From scent work to service dogs, these friendly fellows never stop working. Their high level of intelligence and unbeatable athleticism make them an ideal candidate for working dog roles. They can excel in many different jobs, including:

  • Police dog jobs
  • Therapy dog roles 
  • Service dog work
  • Military missions
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Hunt & retriever roles
  • Guarding & defense jobs

No matter what role they’re in, they are incredibly trainable and enjoy the challenge that a new job can bring.

German shepherd on leash

4. German shepherd dogs have a rich wartime legacy 

German shepherds were known to be deployed in platoons of their own during the first two World Wars, supporting Red Cross rescue missions and military operations. They also served in strategic fighting groups during the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Speaking of which…

German shepherd military training

5. A German shepherd dog named Filax saved over 50 lives in WWI

A special GSD named Filax of Lewanno saved 54 lives in the heat of WWI, strategically bringing them to safety. Later, Filax was honored at Westminster, given the designation of a war hero.

6. GSDs are the third-smartest dogs—ever 

You already knew that German shepherds are smart—but did you know that they’re in the running for being the smartest breed in the world? A specialist named Dr. Coren wrote a research reference known as The Intelligence of Dogs.

In it, he scientifically evaluated more than 100 dog breeds based on their shown intelligence and learning styles. GSDs ranked as the third smartest dog in the world.

German shepherd posing beside a stack of books

7. German shepherd head tilts have meaning

Have you seen that adorable GSD head tilt in person? There’s few things cuter! When working with people or trying to connect with their owners, German shepherds may do a cute “head tilt” as they try to tune in to what’s being said. Animal behavior experts have determined that they do this to try to see or hear better, attempting to heighten their senses and get context in social or stressful situations.

8. GSDs have been known by multiple names 

German shepherds are well known by their modern, regionally-inspired name today—however, they once were known by a different name. Residents in certain parts of Europe (such as Great Britain) knew these dogs as Alsatians, a name that originated around the Alsace-Lorraine province or France. This is largely due to the breed’s popularity and proximity to the area. Unfortunately, this double name has confused many, as some think that the Alsatian is a different type of dog than the German shepherd. This is not the case.

Alternatively, members of the German culture in that region called these special pups Altdeutsche Schäferhunde, which directly translates to Old German Shepherd Dog.

Frequently asked questions

Do German shepherds bark a lot?

German shepherds are known guardians and protectors. While many may only alert to notify the pet parent of strangers or potential threats, some can fall into vocalization patterns. Ongoing training and addressing the behavior can help owners to see less of it in the future.

Are German shepherds trainable?

While GSDs can be fiercely independent, they also are incredibly trainable in the hands of the correct trainer. If you plan to train your pup, try to start early on in their development to set a precedent for behavior.

Additionally, you might want to try experimenting with different strategies to see how your pup learns best. This can make training sessions much more successful and rewarding, both now and in the future.

Need help? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our top dog training tip guide, offering insight to help you train all dog breeds effectively. It’s worth a read! 

Are German shepherds healthy dogs?

While German shepherds are relatively healthy for their breed type and size, they can be predisposed to certain genetic conditions. Knowing what these are ahead of time can help pet parents give their dog the best chance possible at a healthy, happy, and long life. Frequent vet visits are the best way to keep your furry friend healthy and safe.

These conditions include:

  • Hip dysplasia. This condition can occur with instability between the femoral head (the top of the leg bone) and the hip, causing inflammation and pain.
  • Degenerative myelopathy. This disease causes spinal cord degeneration which can lead to paralysis, neurological issues, as well as death in certain extreme cases.
  • Hypothyroidism. Caused by underperformance of the thyroid, this condition is associated with lethargy, weight fluctuation, and coat changes.

What’s the average life expectancy of a German shepherd dog?

The lifespan of any dog can range depending on key factors, such as how they’re cared for or other environmental influences. That being said, GSDs are pretty healthy dogs. They live, on average, for 9 to13 years—with some pups exceeding this average range. Veterinary care, proper nutrition, and lots of love can give your furry friend the best life possible.

Is a German shepherd a good house dog?

If you’re looking for a dog that will do well with other animals or children, consider investing in a GSD. These dogs are very sweet, accepting, and protective of their family and friends. They do well in larger family settings, and can be trained to protect and defend.

If you plan to welcome a German shepherd into your family soon, we recommend lining a trainer up to supervise and support any socialization efforts. This is a great step to take to make your experience a success from the very start.