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German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherds are confident, courageous dogs with a keen sense of smell and notable intelligence. These are active working dogs who excel at many canine sports and tasks — they are true utility dogs! Their versatility combined with their loyal companionship has them consistently listed as one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club

German Shepherds at a glance

The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and in the United Kingdom (where it is known as the Alsatian). Their confidence, courageousness, and keen sense of smell coupled with their notable intelligence make them highly suited to police work, military roles, search and rescue, and therapy work. German Shepherds require regular physical and mental exercise and have a heavy shedding coat that comes in both short and long varieties.

Loving and dependable, the German Shepherd Dog (commonly called the German Shepherd) would make an excellent addition to any family. If you are considering bringing a German Shepherd into your home, we have all the information you need to make informed decisions regarding the care of your new pup. We’ve included important details about this breed’s physical characteristics, playtime needs, grooming tips, nutrition, and more. At the bottom of this guide, you will find a list of the health risks we test for here at Embark that are relevant to this breed.

embark german shepherd guide 1

About German Shepherds

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), German Shepherds are “loyal, confident, courageous, and steady… truly a dog lover’s delight.” Their determination, intelligence, and gentleness make them exceptional family pets. In fact, German Shepherds are the second most popular dog in households across the United States. Because of their many exemplary traits, these pups often work closely with their human companions, engaged as therapy dogs and in the aid of law enforcement and the military.

This breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1908 and later became fashionable as soldiers returning from WWI spoke highly of the German dogs. Hollywood also popularized the breed with stars like Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin.

Physical characteristics

A German Shepherd’s double-coat is comprised of a thick undercoat and a finer, sometimes wavy outercoat. They have a long body in proportion to its height. They are generally between 22 and 26 inches and 75 to 95 pounds once fully grown. The agility of the this breed is part of their lineage, and this is evident in their form. According to the AKC, “when viewed in outline, [German Shepherds] present a picture of smooth, graceful curves rather than angles. Their natural gait is a free-and-easy trot, but they can reach great speeds.”

Playtime and training

German Shepherds are very active and require plenty of physical exercise. If not exercised properly, they can develop undesirable behavioral traits. Puppies can begin with walks around the neighborhood, but as they grow, their exercise needs will grow with them. German Shepherds also do well with consistent training. According to the AKC, this kind of dog “is a highly intelligent companion and an extraordinary worker. Consistency and positive, reward-based training will yield excellent results.” 

German Shepherds can learn new tasks after an average of only five repetitions, so games that test their training in new ways are recommended for this intelligent breed. They also have 225 million scent receptors (compared to a human’s 400) so they will do well with scent-tracking games.


German Shepherds are easy to maintain, but their double coat does mean twice as much fur and quite a bit of shedding. They usually require a brushing every few days to remove loose hairs, but they shed more copiously twice a year. When winter approaches, a German Shepherd will shed their summer coat and again when warmer weather heralds spring. During these periods, more frequent brushing will help control the amount of hair around your home. This kind of dog usually only needs an occasional bath so as not to disrupt the important oils on their skin. It is important to trim their nails monthly if they are not worn down naturally.


According to the ASPCA, a balanced diet is vital to your dog’s growth and health. Feeding your German Shepherd a diet of commercial dog food is adequate. The ASPCA reports that “barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies, or instructions from your vet, your pet should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are specially formulated with these standards in mind,” but portion control is important!

Be sure to align your dog’s diet with their activity levels and age. Most commercial pet food brands will indicate which products suit the age of your dog.

Health and aging

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This breed has a lifespan of about 7-10 years, according to Animal Planet. Senior German Shepherds can still live full and happy lives with the proper care and activity. Depending on their ability and health, your senior German Shepherd will be able to enjoy walks, swimming, and light movement.

Getting your dog tested with Embark will arm you with as much information as possible to take the best care of your furry friend.

Embark screens for the following health conditions in German Shepherds:

Do you own a German Shepherd Dog or do you think your dog might be part German Shepherd? Learn more about your dog with an Embark dog DNA test, the most accurate on the market.

German Shepherd Dogs on Embark

Explore some Embark dogs that share German Shepherd Dog ancestry.

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Favorite Names

For Male

  1. Max
  2. Bear
  3. Loki
  4. Cooper
  5. Charlie
  6. Duke
  7. Koda
  8. Zeus
  9. Rocky
  10. Buddy

For Female

  1. Luna
  2. Bella
  3. Lucy
  4. Daisy
  5. Sadie
  6. Nala
  7. Stella
  8. Willow
  9. Bailey
  10. Nova

Common Locations

  1. California, United States
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