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German Shepherd dog breed

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German Shepherd dog breed information and advice

If you’re considering buying a German Shepherd, this guide will help you decide if this dog breed is right for you. All breeds are different, so it’s important to know all about each one before you make your choice.

German Shepherds originated from Germany where they were originally bred as guard dogs and sheepdogs. They’re intelligent, courageous, energetic and thrive on lots of mental and physical stimulation. They’re a friendly, loyal breed if given the right training and enjoy nothing more than learning new things.

German Shepherd facts

Lifespan over 10 years
How much £500 - £2500
Size 58 - 63 cm
Weight 22 - 40 kg
Colours black, brown and tan/gold
Grooming once a week
Temperament courageous, friendly and loyal
Exercise regular, daily exercise

German Shepherd insurance

When you’re weighing up the pros and cons of getting a German Shepherd, don’t forget to factor in dog insurance. Everyone wants to be able to give their dog the best chance if they have a health problem or need emergency treatment. And these problems can be as unexpected as they are unwanted. Knowing that your German Shepherd has dog insurance can be very reassuring. German Shepherd puppy and dog insurance can help cover the cost of vet bills for surgery and medication. It can also help with any ongoing expenses and vet visits.

Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance

You can take out Sainsbury’s Bank dog insurance as long as your puppy is over 8 weeks old and your dog is less than 8 years of age. Once you have cover in place with us, you can insure your dog up to any age as long as you keep renewing the policy without a break.

How to care for a German Shepherd

Before you decide to get a German Shepherd, make sure you know how to care for them. Feeding and nutrition, grooming, exercise, health care and German Shepherd insurance are all very important parts of your dog’s welfare.

Feeding and nutrition

If you decide to get a German Shepherd puppy, they will need about 3 or 4 meals a day until they’re around 6 months old. Then, over the next few months, you can gradually reduce the number of times you feed your dog each day. As an adult, they’ll only need feeding once or twice a day.

There are many different types of dog food available, including dry food, wet food and raw food. Sometimes it can be difficult to know which one is best, and how much your German Shepherd should eat a day. If you’re not sure, speak to your vet who’ll be able to help you choose the right food and amount for your dog. This will depend on their age, size and how much exercise your dog gets each day.


German Shepherds have either long or short hair double coat. The short-haired variety has a short, straight topcoat with a thick, dense undercoat. This doesn’t need as much grooming as the long-haired coat that has a much longer, fluffier topcoat. All dogs vary but aim to brush this variety 4 or 5 times a week.

A long-haired German Shepherd will usually need grooming every day to prevent the hair from getting dirty and matted. Matted fur can cause your dog discomfort and can harbour all sorts of unwanted parasites.


German Shepherds are a very energetic and active breed – you must remember this when considering which type of dog to get. They’ll need lots of exercise to burn off their boundless energy and to keep them healthy. It’ll also stop them from becoming bored and getting into mischief. You’ll need to take them out for regular long walks, probably twice a day, to keep them well exercised.

Introducing some playtime on a walk will help burn energy and keep their mind busy. They love nothing more than fetching a ball or catching a frisbee.


German Shepherds are registered with the Kennel Club in the Pastoral Breed group – which means they were bred for working with livestock. Because of their intelligence and loyalty, it means training your German Shepherd is easy. They’re often trained as service dogs because of their fearlessness. It’s not uncommon to see a German Shepherd working for the police or the military.

If you have a puppy, taking them to puppy training classes is a great way to start. It’s also the perfect place to socialise them with other dogs and people. And you’ll pick up some great tips on house training your puppy, which is one of the first things you’ll need to teach them to do.

Temperament and behaviour

German Shepherds are intelligent, friendly, courageous and energetic. But can be protective of their owners. This may cause antisocial and aggressive behaviour if they’re not socialised and trained properly from an early age.

It’s important to give your German Shepherd plenty of daily mental and physical stimulation to keep them occupied. This will prevent them from getting up to no good and causing trouble at home. Any dog that is left to fend for itself for any length of time will more than likely end up with unwanted behavioural problems.

Common health problems

German Shepherds are known to suffer from several health problems, which is why it’s important to take out dog insurance.

Degenerative myelopathy (DM)

DM is a slowly progressive neurological condition that causes paralysis, a bit like motor neurone disease in humans.

Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for DM and most dogs with the condition will become partially paralysed within a few months of diagnosis. Complete paralysis usually happens within a couple of years. The welfare of the dog usually means they’re put to sleep before the condition gets this bad.

Elbow and hip dysplasia

These are conditions that affect the elbow and hip joints. Both conditions can be very painful for your dog, and as your dog gets older, there’s also a chance that they might develop arthritis. The condition can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication, and surgery is possible in some cases.

If you’re buying a puppy, it’s a good idea to ask the breeder if the parents have been tested for elbow and hip dysplasia. If both parents have very low scores, this will hopefully reduce the risk of either condition developing in your puppy.


Dogs with epilepsy will suffer from fits or convulsions caused by abnormal brain activity. This condition usually appears in dogs when they’re between 1 and 5 years old.

If you think your German Shepherd has epilepsy, your vet will be able to run tests to confirm a diagnosis. With regular epilepsy treatment, your dog will likely be able to continue to live a normal and happy life.

Spondylosis deformans

This is a degenerative condition of the spine where bone develops on the spinal discs. In really bad cases, the spinal cord can be squashed, which causes pain and can stop the dog’s legs from working properly. It also limits the flexibility of the spine. Spinal surgery is possible in some cases, but your vet will be able to advise what’s best for your dog.

So, is a German Shepherd right for you?

German Shepherds can make great family pets. But they can also be hard to handle if they’re not given the right training as puppies and throughout their adult lives. Make sure you consider all the characteristics of this energetic and protective breed before welcoming one into your family. Knowing your dog’s needs will help you live a happy life together.

How long do German Shepherd’s live?

German Shepherds have an average lifespan of over 10 years. However, if they live a healthy and happy life and are cared for properly, they could well reach over 13 old. This is a good age for a larger sized dog.

How much does a German Shepherd cost?

If you buy your German Shepherd from a reputable breeder, you’re probably going to have to spend around £500-2500 for a puppy. Adult dogs that already have some basic training might cost even more.

Are German Shepherds good with kids?

Well-trained German shepherds are calm and patient, so they’re usually good around children. However, any breed that hasn’t been properly socialised as a puppy could be aggressive towards a child. It’s really important to remember that dogs should never be left alone with children, no matter how well-behaved the dog may seem.

Are German Shepherds aggressive?

Due to their loyal and protective nature, German Shepherds can be prone to antisocial and aggressive behaviour. But, with correct socialisation and training, they can make great pets to have around the family. If you take your dog to socialisation or training classes, you’re more likely to end up with a calm and sociable dog as a result.

Is a German Shepherd the same as an Alsatian?

Yes, it is. German Shepherds have also been known as Alsatians for many years. The name comes from the Alsace region on the border between France and Germany. In some parts of Europe, they’re still called Alsatians, but in the UK, they’re usually called German Shepherds.

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Kyle Braund, Simon Platt, Joan R Coates (online) Degenerative myelopathy (DM). In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Neil Burton, Rob Pettitt (online) Elbow: dysplasia. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Joseph Harari, Sorrel Langley-Hobbs (online) Hip: dysplasia. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Vetstream Ltd (online) Degenerative myelopathy Owner Factsheet. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Vetstream Ltd (online) Elbow dysplasia Owner Factsheet. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Vetstream Ltd (online) Hip dysplasia Owner Factsheet. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

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Important information
Sainsbury's Bank plc, Registered Office, 33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT (registered in England and Wales, no. 3279730) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register no. 184514). Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd is an appointed representative of Sainsbury's Bank plc.
Sainsbury's Bank plc acts as an introducer to Pinnacle Insurance plc who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered Office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX. Sainsbury’s Bank plc and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.