German Shepherd Facts And Need To Know Information

Breeding Differences

When it comes to German shepherd facts and buying a German shepherd it is important to know what qualities are desirable in the breed to find a quality, well-bred dog. Even in the world of reputable breeders, there are different ideals as far as what represents the perfect shepherd.

Some breeders focus on conformation, proper coat, and movement. Others focus on conformation and a specific coat color, such as black or white, and still others focus on the dog’s working abilities and function, such as soundness, athleticism, and agility. Some breeders strive to have it all: beauty, function, and conformation in a dog that has the proper drive to be a working dog and a treasured companion.

Work, Performance, and Show

The German shepherd is bred for several different reasons: for work; as a working sport dog, to compete in all breed performance events; and for show. There can be such distinct differences between working, sport, performance, and conformation dogs that the breeder you choose may directly affect your ability to raise the dog.

Working Dogs

The working dog requires constant interaction with the handler, more so than the normal German shepherd, and requires regular mental stimulation as well. If you don’t show the dog that you are the leader in the relationship, it will recognize your timidity and will take over for you. The dog will tell you where you can and can’t sit or what you can or can’t touch by pushing, growling, snarling, or even biting.


A dog from a working line is a gorgeous, highly trainable dog; however, the working dog is not a good choice for anyone who is strictly looking for a family pet. These dogs are best suited for the military, police, or other governmental agencies and may even be too much to handle even for some experienced dog owners.

Performance Dogs and Sport Dogs

German shepherds that are bred for Schutzhund, or all-breed performance events, such as herding, agility, obedience, tracking, and other dog sports, are very similar to working dogs. Many times a shepherd from Schutzhund lines can become a working dog if he has the correct mixture of drives. These dogs tend to be very confident and intense. They may have a high play drive and need lots of interaction with their handlers.

German-Shepherd-Sport Performance dogs are bred to be sound, intelligent, and to have good temperaments. Depending on the type of performance events the breeder participates in, the performance dog has the potential to either be very calm and attentive or too challenging for a novice owner.

A breeder whose interest lies in working dog sports or all-breed performance events will know the temperaments and abilities of his dogs very, very well. This breeder will be very good at placing the right puppy with the right owner and will know not to recommend a puppy or dog that will be too much for a novice to handle.

Conformation Dogs

Dogs bred for the show ring have excellent conformation. Their movement is outstanding and they will have the proper coat and coloring. These dogs are bred for excellent temperaments and health, and the reputable breeder will proudly show you generations of dogs certified with good hips and histories of long life spans. Conformation breeders sell the majority of their puppies to people who are looking for a companion or family pet.

German shepherds from show lines are intelligent, beautiful, and can become wonderful family pets. They can also be awesome performance dogs or even working K-9’s if the correct drives are present in a particular puppy. However, since most conformation bred puppies are sold to pet homes, conformation breeders are very in tune with what the prospective pet owner is seeking.

German Versus American

Technically, all German shepherds are descended from German dogs. For some dogs, you might have to go back fifty or sixty years to find the most recent dog registered with the Verein fűr Deutsche Schäferhunde (club for German shepherd dogs), or simply the SV. For others, you only need to see one of the parents to find the most recent import from Germany. But does this make a difference in the quality of the dog? It depends on what kind of German shepherd you are looking for and what qualities the breeder hopes to achieve by introducing certain dogs into their line.

German Imports

In Germany, German Shepherds are registered with the SV. The SV will not register any puppies from a litter unless both parents are registered with the SV and have proven that they are suitable for breeding. This organization places very strong emphasis on maintaining in their breeding dogs the qualities necessary to perform as working dogs. If a dog does not have the correct conformation and ability to work as a K-9, it will not be approved for breeding.

A German bred dog is similar to a working K-9 in that it is likely to be far too much for a novice owner to handle. Of course, even if you have the experience and training abilities to enjoy a German bred dog, most quality breeders in Germany are not likely to part with their well-bred dogs or puppies to a stranger in the United States. You will need to have references or make a trip to Germany yourself before you will be taken seriously, and even then you are not guaranteed a pup or an adult dog.

German Lines

Dogs that are said to be from German lines are American-bred dogs that have a lot of German blood in their parentage.

In terms of a German Shepherd’s pedigree, a breeder should be happy to relate what each dog’s German titles are, what they represent, and how each dog contributes to the breeder’s line.

German-bred dogs appear in the pedigrees of conformation, performance, and working-dog lines in the United States. Just because a dog has German-bred German Shepherds in his pedigree doesn’t necessarily make him a better dog. A quality shepherd is one that comes from generations of titled dogs with good health and excellent temperaments, and whose breeder is working to better the breed.


Quality American-bred German Shepherds can be from working, conformation, or performance lines or any combination of these. The dogs may have a lot of German influence or very little, and some don’t have any SV-registered dogs in at least the first three generations.

As a result, American breeders vary in opinion as to what the ideal German Shepherd is and how to achieve the “perfect” dog. In the United States, there are wide variations within the breed as far as conformation, working drive, activity level, and temperament.


Large dogs look very impressive, but there are many issues that must be taken into account with these animals. Any breeder who touts his massive German Shepherds as being highly desirable and worth a steep price is not being honest. A dog’s worth does not increase with size.

Breeding larger sized dogs creates a host of health problems and larger dogs tend to have shorter life spans. Additionally, when a very limited pool of large dogs is used to breed bigger and bigger shepherds, the breeder runs an increased risk of producing puppies with genetic diseases or other conditions that don’t appear in average-sized shepherds.

Just as large dogs intrigue Americans, they are also drawn to tiny ones. However, if you see someone advertising miniature German Shepherds, something is awry. Either the breeder has introduced another breed into the mix, which means the dogs are not purebred German Shepherds but rather German Shepherd mixes, or the advertised dog is a dwarf.

Dwarf German Shepherds can be cute; however, they have difficulties keeping a full coat, tend to be born sterile, and many are afflicted with hypothyroidism. A dwarf German Shepherd or a German Shepherd mix could make a perfectly good pet, but if a breeder is trying to pass the dog off as rare and therefore worth more money, you should be on your guard.

Coat types

Within the German Shepherd breed, there are three different types of coats to be found: the desirable double coat, the plush coat, and the longhaired coat. All of these coat types appear fairly frequently.

The correct double coat consists of a downy undercoat with an outer layer of longer, coarse guard hairs. Light rain does not penetrate the guard hairs easily and mud tends to dry and fall out of the double coat. This coat doesn’t need extensive care, but a weekly brushing keeps shedding manageable. Regardless, the coat does shed in spring and fall.

Plush coats are slightly longer, and, as the name implies, are plusher in look and feel. This kind of coat is considered a fault in the show ring.


Longhaired coats may or may not have an undercoat and tend to be very soft. The silky, longhaired coats require more care to prevent matting and tangling. The longhaired coat can be quite beautiful, but it is also a fault in the show ring. Despite its exotic look, this coat is not rare or worth more money.

Puppy or Rescued Adult?

Both puppies and rescued adult dogs have their joys as well as their challenges. Depending on what qualities you are looking for in your new shepherd and what kinds of challenges you are prepared to handle, either a puppy or an adult German shepherd might be suitable for you.

Puppy Pros and Cons

Puppies are cute and cuddly, and their antics are a source of constant amusement. German shepherd puppies, with their fuzzy coats and expressive eyes, are perhaps one of the most irresistible breeds of puppies in the world. Besides these obvious advantages, getting a shepherd as a puppy gives an owner the opportunity to greatly influence the dog’s development. The puppy owner has the opportunity to shape and mold the German shepherd into a model canine companion.

On the other side, young puppies require nearly constant care and attention. Like all dogs, they must be housetrained, they do a large amount of chewing, and they have tons of energy. There’s also that “adolescent” period that puppy owners will have to contend with, during which a full-size shepherd with a teenager’s attitude will challenge any owner on a daily basis.

Raising a German shepherd from a puppy into a well-balanced adult is time-consuming task that requires diligence, dedication, patience, and a substantial amount of money (including first-year veterinary care, training classes, increasing collar and crate sizes as the puppy grows, toys, etc.).

Selecting and raising a puppy, however, is a very rewarding experience and a great deal of fun.

Adult Dogs

One of the greatest benefits of adopting an adult dog is that you know exactly what you are getting. There’s no guesswork. You know precisely how tall the dog will be, how much he/she will weigh, what his/her coat type is, what his/her activity level is, and how well he/she’ll fit into your life. You’ll know if he/she is housetrained or if you’ll need to work on that area. Another advantage is that adults learn much faster than puppies.Most importantly, you’ll be able to discern the adult dog’s temperament. Granted, an adult dog can be carrying some baggage, such as certain phobias, lack of training, or social issues; however, if you’re working with an excellent breed rescue or shelter, the dog will already have been temperament tested and evaluated. You’ll know if the dog is sociable, likes children, and is able to get along with other dogs and pets.


There is one warning associated with adopting an adult German shepherd: You must work with a qualified German shepherd rescue or a shelter that has extensive placement services. As a breed, German shepherds do not kennel well, and as a result, it is not until the shepherd has been removed from the noisy environment of the shelter that the dog’s true temperament will be revealed. This evaluation should always be determined by an experienced professional.

Male or Female?

Both sexes can be equally loving and devoted, and both can be tough and courageous. Females may tend to be a little more protective of their people, whereas a male may show more territorial and dominant behavior (guarding the house, yard, etc.). On walks, he marks his territory with urine at every opportunity. Females may be less patient than male shepherds when it comes to tolerating what they consider annoying behavior from children.

As far as conformation, females are not as large as males, and they generally do not weigh as much. Female shepherds tend to appear slightly more refined or feminine in conformation than male dogs. Neutering tends to make a male that is aggressive toward other dogs (dog/dog aggressive) a little less so, and it eliminates his wanderlust for finding available females. Altering a female eliminates cyclic mood swings (such as anxiety and surliness) that can accompany her seasons.

So which sex is best for you? It really comes down to the individual puppy or dog. Unless you have your heart set on a male or female, keep an open mind. If a puppy or adult meets all of your criteria for a companion, the sex of the dog shouldn’t matter. The only exception might be if you already own a dog: opposite sex pairings tend to get along better than couples of the same sex.

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