The German Shepherd Dog

Exercise Requirements  
Grooming Requirements  
Weight35-40 Kg (approx)
Life Span10-12 Years (approx)


The Immediate impression of the appearance of the German Shepherd Dog is of a dog slightly long in comparison to its height, with a powerful and well-muscled body. The relation between height and length and the position and symmetry of the limbs (angulation) is so inter-related as to enable a far reaching and enduring gait.

The coat should be weatherproof. A beautiful appearance is desirable but this is secondary to his usefulness as a working dog.

Sexual characteristics must be well defined i.e. the masculinity of the male and the femininity of the female must be unmistakable.


The German Shepherd Dog is a relatively recently developed breed with the breed formally fixing its characteristics in the 1890's by Captain von Stephanitz in Germany. Captain von Stephanitz developed the bred and established the breed club (Verein fur Deutscher Schaferhund or the SV), the association that gave its support to the developing and perfecting of the breed as a great all round working dog. With the passing years the development of its physical characteristics was accompanied by a notable diversification in the use of the German Shepherd Dog. Its character, particularly its power of attention, its faithfulness and its courage, and acuteness of its senses have made the German Shepherd Dog capable of carrying out the most varied of tasks.

The German Shepherd Dog was originally bred as a sheep herding dog and still today you can see German Shepherd Dogs participating in this sport both here in Australia and overseas.

Due to the natural instincts of the German Shepherd Dog being loyal and protective it soon came to the attention of the German Services who utilized the early dogs to guard valuable military equipment during WWII.

The German Shepherd Dog was after WWII often referred to as an Alsatian’ or ‘Alsatian Wolf Dog’. The British supposedly made up both these terms as they refused to have an association with anything that had the name ‘German’ in it. Still today many people refer to them as Alsatians, which is not a recognized breed of dog.


Steadiness of nerves, attentiveness, loyalty, calm self-assurance, alertness and tractability as well as courage with physical resilience and scenting ability.

These characteristics are necessary for a versatile working dog. Nervousness, over-aggressiveness and shyness are very serious faults.

Care / Grooming

The German Shepherd Dog requires regular care and grooming. Ideally you should groom your dogs coat at least weekly with a good quality brush or comb. Failure to do so can cause a build up of dead hair, dirt and dust particles and skin scales which in turn can lead to skin irritations and infections such as dermatitis.

Bathing your dog should begin when you first bring your puppy home. At first, when the puppy is very young, ideally you should use the laundry tub or bath to contain the pup and make sure you use puppy formulated shampoo which is designed specifically for young dog’s coat and skin and doesn’t lead to any skin irritations. As the dog gets older, you can choose to either wash the dog yourself or choose the many dog washing services that are available.

Never over-wash your dog as this can lead to a dry coat caused by stripping the coat of it’s natural oils. During the summer months, you can wash your dog every 2-4 weeks; winter it is recommended that you only wash your dog every 2 months. However this will vary depending on your dogs environment and it’s daily activities. Always ensure that a dog specific shampoo is used as it is specifically formulated for a dogs skin and coat. If you have any questions, always refer to your family vet.


Like all large breed of dogs and some smaller breeds the German Shepherd breed suffers from hip dysplasia. The German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia has introduced many breed improvement schemes and among these is the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia scheme, haemophilia (H Neg), tattoo scheme and breed survey.

The Hip Dysplasia Scheme: All breeding stock over the age of 12 months are x-rayed prior to breeding and given a grading as to their soundness in this area. Without a pass in this scheme the animal in question should not be bred with. Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder found in many of the larger and heavy-boned breeds and by definition means an ill-fitting hip.

Various environmental factors such as weight, rate of growth, dietary aspects and amount of exercise can all affect the severity and the age at which this condition is seen. By X-raying stock and gathering genetic information the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia is assisting to lower the incidence of this problem within the breed and give breeders valuable information in selecting sires, which are producing good hips.

The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme. The elbows are usually X-rayed at the same time as the hips, i.e. over the age of 12 months. The presence of ununited anconeal process is noted as are any arthritic changes. The plates are read by a radiologist and graded Normal (no arthritic change), Grade 1 (up to 2mm arthritic change) or Grade 2 (up to 5mm arthritic change). Any elbow with more than 5mm of arthritic change or an ununited anconeal process are failed.

The Tattoo Scheme. This is a nation-wide scheme whereby a unique tattoo is placed in the right ear of puppies at the age of 7-8 weeks. The tattoo is made up of 3 letters (identifying the kennel prefix, unique to that kennel in Australia), followed by a 3 digit number indicating the puppy number bred by that kennel. Both state and national records are kept and this tattoo is then used as the means of identification for the purposes of hip, elbow, haemophilia and breed survey schemes. It also means the dog is very traceable in the event of loss or theft via its tattoo throughout Australia

The Haemophilia Scheme is a method of keeping this bleeding disorder to an absolute minimum within the breed. This genetic problem has been spread within the breed mainly through the effects of one dog, Canto vd Wienerau. The disease causes a failure of the blood to clot after an accident or knock. The number of animals which are carriers is quite small and a regulation of testing all males prior to breeding has virtually eliminated the problem in Australia. Top stud dogs are tested as they can have a widespread effect on the breed and this should prevent any new affected line from having a serious effect on our bloodlines. Male dogs tested negative have an H Neg when advertising.

The Breed Survey Scheme: This scheme has been set up to evaluate the quality of the breeding stock throughout Australia. All the dogs presented for survey must be over 18 months of age, tattooed, X-rayed and have passed their "A" and "Z" stamps, and present a four generation pedigree at the time of survey. The dogs are all weighed, measured and examined for correctness of dentition, construction and soundness or nerves (this involves a gun test and a crowd test).

Class 1 animals are considered well above the breed average with no major faults; Class II animals are considered above average which have minor constructional or dentition faults.

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