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German Shepherd

Pet Road Tests > Dogs

Breed: German Shepherd Dog
Temperament: Loyal, protective, intelligent
Lifespan: 12 years
Recommended for: active families with older children
Maintenance: Low

A breeding program developed by the German Shepherd Dog League has been used to produce the best pure bred in Australia. The League has succeeded in developing a breed with a stable temperament and sound body by using a scoring system to eliminate critical problem areas. German Shepherd Dogs produced by the League (and only those dogs) are safe with the family, cheap to run and lead long and healthy lives.


The true colour of a German Shepherd is not known until the puppy coat is shed and the full adult coat has grown. However the German Shepherd Dog's coat is generally a mixture of black, fawn and gold. Pure black german shepherds are also available, but white is considered undesirable in show ring dogs. Male dogs weigh 34-44kg (75-95lbs) and are 61-66 cm (24-26 in) tall, while bitches weigh 28-34kg (62-75 lbs) and are 56-61 cm (22-24 in) tall.


As the name suggests, the German Shepherd Dog originated in Germany where it evolved from herding dogs that were used to tend and protect sheep. Rittmeister Max von Stephanitz, the proclaimed father of the breed, founded the German Shepherd Dog Association in 1890.
The dogs were recognised as being excellent guard and attack dogs and were used by the police and the military. Consequently, there were 48,000 Shepherds enlisted in the German army during the First World War. After the First World War English owners changed the name to Alsatian because nobody wanted to be associated with anything German. However, now with the war long over, the breed has changed back to its original name and the German Shepherd Dog has become one of the world's most widely recognised breeds.

German Shepherds first arrived in Australia between 1923 and 1929 but then the government imposed import bans which were not lifted until 1972 because the dogs were believed to be dangerous.


German Shepherd Dogs have suffered an image problem which was in part deserved. Many years ago there were significant problems in the breed with temperament. Today however, as a result of the work done by the German Shepherd Dog League, the temperament of these dogs is excellent. The League acknowledged that a gene for fear biting had crept into the breed. (Affected dogs are timid, can become frightened and will attack people out of fear). Over the last twenty seven years, the German Shepherd Dog League has used a Breed Survey Scheme to virtually eliminate fear biters from the breed.

German Shepherds bred by the German Shepherd Dog League are loyal, loving, intelligent dogs and are willing to do anything for the people they love to the point of giving their own lives. The breed adores and protects its family. Although the dogs are good with children, they should not be left alone with small children because both dogs and puppies can be boisterous.

Health and lifespan

German Shepherd Dogs not bred by the German Shepherd Dog League can be prone to health problems including haemophilia and hip and elbow dysplasia. The German Shepherd Dog League operates a number of Breed Improvement Schemes that are designed to reduce the incidence of diseases with a possible genetic link, by selecting for breeding only those animals which pass stringent selection tests.

In Australia, the German Shepherd Dog League has established an A-stamp Certificate system which is designed to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia, a crippling disease of the hind legs. The A clearance means that the puppy is of a quality acceptable for breeding. A similar certificate system exists for elbow and haemophilia problems. People buying pups should ensure they view the certificates and should expect the parents to have been breed surveyed and x-rayed for hip problems.
In order for the Breed Improvement Scheme to be successful, all dogs are tattooed for identification at seven or eight weeks of age. The tattoos are a permanent link to the individual dog, to the breeder and to the details held by the Canine Council.
German Shepherds can also experience some skin problems. Proper care of a German Shepherd includes regular worming, about 3 times a year, and clean, flea free sleeping quarters. German Shepherds have an average lifespan of 12 years.


German Shepherds are not particularly big eaters and breeders suggest one meal each day with a dog biscuit in the morning. A balanced diet could include a mix of dry food, mince or mutton flaps and heart worm tablets. The food bill for a German Shepherd Dog should cost around $25 per week.


It is uncommon for German Shepherds to experience whelping problems, although some bitches do require caesareans. An average litter size is between 6 and 7 pups.


German Shepherds cost between $750 and $1200+ depending on the quality of the pup.

Housepet Potential

German Shepherds are good inside the house, but when shedding their coat they need to be brushed regularly to minimise accumulation of shed hairs on people or in the house. The dogs require house training; a relatively easy task because of their intelligence.


The German Shepherd needs little grooming, however, during the seasonal change from winter to summer it is often necessary to strip out the dead, woolly coat. This should be done as quickly as possible with a rubber brush specifically designed for the job.


German Shepherds are used in police work, including tracking and searching for guns and drugs. They are excellent at obedience work, make good companions, guide dogs and guard dogs. The dogs can also be involved in schutzhund, a sport where dogs attack on command.


German Shepherds are reliable, intelligent and responsive to training. They need obedience training early in life, particularly those that are boisterous, strong minded and dominating. Well socialised German Shepherd Dogs are easier to introduce to new people and situations and make a more stable companion.

Warning when purchasing

Not all German Shepherds are part of the German Shepherd Dog League. If you wish to buy a German Shepherd, ask if the breeder is part of the League. We would strongly advise that you avoid buying any German Shepherds which have not been produced by German Shepherd Dog League members.

National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 - Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

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