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German Shepherd dog breed

German Shepherds, or Alsatians, are a popular breed of dog. Highly intelligent, strong and loyal, they were bred to be working dogs, but can adapt well to family life too. Read on to discover everything from price, lifespan and temperament.

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German Shepherd dog breed information and advice

Is a German Shepherd the perfect breed of dog for you? German Shepherd’s are incredible service dogs, issued with important roles in the military, police, and as guide dogs. The German Shepherd can grow to a large size, and are known for their muscularity, one of the reasons why they were chosen to be guide dogs.

German Shepherds originate from Germany and were originally bred as guard dogs and sheepdogs. They’re intelligent, but need to be active, both mentally and physically. German Shepherds are friendly, loyal, and obedient with the right training and love learning new tricks. This means they’re a hands-on breed, and it’s important to understand their needs before you buy one. This handy guide covers everything you need to know, from German Shepherd facts to feeding, training, insurance, and more.

German Shepherd facts

German Shepherd
Lifespan 7 - 13 years
How much £600 - £2000
Size 55 - 66 cm
Weight 30 - 45 kg
Colours black, brown and tan/gold
Grooming once a week
Temperament Loyal, intelligent, brave, protective, obedient
Exercise regular, daily exercise

German Shepherd insurance

Dogs are just like us, which means issues can pop up at any age. It’s best to start with puppy insurance if your German Shepherd is joining your household from a young age.

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. 

Get assistance with the cost of consultations, medication, treatments, surgery, and even nursing care when you choose pet insurance for your German Shepherd.

German Shepherds can suffer from genetic conditions, especially those that affect the hips. Some common health conditions include:

Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance for German Shepherds

You can take out Sainsbury’s Bank dog insurance as long as your puppy is over eight weeks old and your dog is less than eight 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.

With Sainsbury’s Bank you can find a level of pet insurance that suits you, your German Shepherd and your budget. Choose from Lifetime cover, Time Limited cover and Maximum Benefit. If you want to insure more than one pet you can get a discount with our Multi-pet insurance

Please note that we won't cover any pre-existing conditions and that terms, conditions, excesses, exclusions and limitations apply.

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 three or four meals a day until they’re around six 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 a long or short-haired 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 four or five 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. Your German Shepherd will need lots of exercise to burn off their boundless energy and to keep them healthy whether they’re an adult or a puppy. 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. German Shepherds 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 German Shepherd 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 German Shepherd’s temperament means they 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. If you try to insure your German Shepherd after a condition has been found, we won’t be able to cover the cost of treatment for the pre-existing condition, but we do have other options. Instead, it’s often best to purchase insurance as soon as you take home your German Shepherd puppy.

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

Elbow and hip dysplasia are conditions that affect the elbows and hip joints of dogs. They can lead to arthritis, especially as a dog ages, and can be incredibly painful regardless of breed or age. Fortunately, anti-inflammatory medication can help you to manage your dog’s condition. Surgery may also be an option. For more information, speak to your vet.

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.


Epilepsy can cause fits and convulsions in dogs and is a result of abnormal brain activity. If your German Shepherd suffers from epilepsy, the symptoms will likely appear during the ages of one and five.

If you suspect that you dog has epilepsy speak with your vet, they should be able to give you a full diagnosis after a series of tests. While the symptoms of epilepsy may look frightening, with regular treatment your dog can maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle

Spondylosis deformans

This degenerative condition occurs in the spine of your German Shepherd. Spondylosis deformans causes bone to develop on your dog’s spinal discs. In severe cases this can result in a trapped spinal cord, causing pain and harming your dog’s ability to walk. Similarly, the flexibility of your dog’s spine will also be affected. Your vet may recommend spinal surgery, but it may not always be possible.

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.

Frequently asked questions

How long do German Shepherds live?

German Shepherds have an average lifespan of over seven years. However, if they live a healthy and happy life and are cared for properly, they could well reach 13 years 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 £600 to £2000 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, 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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