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German Shepherd Temperament: Fierce protector and loyal friend

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Welcome to our blog post, where we delve into the captivating world of the German Shepherd temperament. These magnificent dogs are renowned for their unwavering loyalty and fierce protective instincts, making them both formidable working dogs and beloved family companions.

German Shepherds are confident, courageous, and highly trainable. They form deep bonds with their families and are known for their unwavering loyalty. With appropriate training and socialisation, German Shepherds can exhibit gentle and friendly behaviour towards children and other pets.

As we explore German Shepherd temperament, we will address important questions regarding training, socialisation, exercise needs, and common behavioural traits.

Join us on this path as we explore the captivating world of German Shepherd temperament. Whether you are a current owner, considering adding one to your family, or intrigued by these remarkable dogs, this blog post aims to provide valuable insights and a deeper appreciation for the unique qualities that make the German Shepherd an extraordinary breed.

So, let's embark on this adventure together!

Table of contents

German Shepherd temperament
We have Max von Stephanitz to thank for this dog breed

History: Where do German Shepherds come from?

Max von Stephanitz is widely credited with pioneering the first breeding programs for German Shepherd Dogs, which originated in Germany during the mid-1800s.

As the desire to standardise breeds and create purpose-bred working dogs grew, Stephanitz recognised the potential in the German Shepherd's lineage, which descended from herding and farm dogs.

In 1899, at a dog show, Stephanitz encountered a remarkable dog named Hektor Linksrhein. Hektor possessed exceptional beauty, intelligence, and loyalty, all of which captivated Stephanitz. Recognising the dog's potential, Stephanitz purchased him, and Hektor, later renamed Horand/Hektor, became the first German Shepherd to enter the breed register, siring numerous puppies.

Stephanitz's life motto, "Utility is the true criterion of beauty," underscored his commitment to breeding German Shepherds for their working ability and specific tasks.

German Shepherd Temperament
A versatile dog breed ready to take on any task

During that era, German Shepherds had a slightly different appearance, with rough coats, shorter tails, and a resemblance to mongrels.

However, the German Shepherd's fierce, loyal, and protective temperament began to emerge under Stephanitz's steadfast leadership and strict selective breeding program.

Stephanitz firmly believed that dogs should excel in their working ability and precisely fulfil their tasks.

The UK Kennel Club started accepting registrations for German Shepherds in 1919 after soldiers who returned from World War I praised the breed for its remarkable qualities.

The popularity of German Shepherds received a significant boost when animal actors such as Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart showcased their talents, leading to their recognition and admiration in America.

Stephanitz, being vigilant against unscrupulous breeders who sought to profit from exporting German Shepherds, implemented a revolutionary breeding practice called the Koerung. This meticulous evaluation thoroughly examined and judged dogs to determine their suitability for breeding. This groundbreaking approach ended indiscriminate breeding, ensuring a consistent improvement of the breed over time.

Stephanitz introduced German Shepherds to the government to counter the decline in the breed's popularity during the Industrialisation era and promoted their abilities as Police and armed service dogs. This initiative played a vital role in establishing the German Shepherd as the prototype for the present-day Schutzhund trials. This rigorous canine sport tests working ability, trainability, and physical traits.

Unfortunately, German Shepherds faced a decline in popularity shortly after World War II due to rising anti-German sentiments. As a result, the breed's name was changed to "Alsatian," a name that is still used today. However, the breed slowly regained its reputation, becoming the third most popular dog breed in the United States in 1993 and reaching second place in 2009.

German Shepherds are highly regarded for their intelligence, ranking third after the Border Collie and Poodle in Stanley Coren's book "The Intelligence of Dogs." They possess a remarkable ability to learn tasks, often understanding simple commands after just five repetitions and obeying them 95% of the time.

Regrettably, unethical breeding practices have resulted in severe health issues within the breed. In addition, the selective breeding for cosmetic traits has put German Shepherds at risk, with a disproportionate susceptibility to various health problems. Show lines, in particular, are associated with a more sloped or roached back and angled hindquarters, which are closely linked to hip and elbow dysplasia.

When considering adding a German Shepherd to your family, it is crucial to ensure that all official documentation regarding health screening is provided. In addition, it is vital to remain vigilant and trust your instincts if something seems off.

Despite these challenges, German Shepherds are famous for their intelligence and versatile capabilities.

Today, they excel in various roles, including Police, guard, assistant, or bomb-sniffing dogs.

The UK Kennel Club recognises the below breed colours:

  • Bi-Colour

  • Black

  • Black & Gold

  • Black & Tan

  • Dark Sable

  • Gold Sable

  • Grey

  • Grey Sable

  • Sable

In 2022, the UK Kennel Club saw 7,211 registrations for German Shepherds, highlighting the enduring bond between these dogs and the British people. However, concerns arise as the breed's popularity dwindles due to significant health issues they face. Q1 2023 saw a lot less registrations.

Q1 2022

Q2 2022

Q3 2022

Q4 2022

2022 Total

Q1 2023







Source: UK Kennel Club updated September 2023

Now that we have learnt so much about the German Shepherds' history let's have a closer look at the temperament of this working dog breed.

What is the Temperament of the German Shepherd?

The German Shepherd breed is known for its adventurous and lively temperament, making every day feel like an exciting journey when you have one as a companion.

These dogs possess tremendous energy and enjoy spending time outdoors, making them a perfect match for active owners or families. Given a choice between a cosy evening by the fireplace or an exhilarating 8-hour hike up a mountain, a German Shepherd would undoubtedly opt for the latter.

The key to keeping these dogs content and fulfilled lies in keeping them busy and engaged in various activities.

German Shepherd Temperament
The German Shepherd is the happiest when kept busy

One crucial aspect of ensuring a well-behaved German Shepherd is to provide them with frequent exercise and mental stimulation.

These dogs are athletes at heart, and they require at least two hours of exercise each day to keep them physically and mentally satisfied.

In addition, regular exercise and engaging in games will prevent unwanted behaviours from arising, as a tired German Shepherd is less likely to exhibit destructive tendencies. However, it is essential to remember that a lack of physical and mental stimulation can lead to frustration, which may manifest through behaviours like excessive chewing, chasing, or loud barking.

Fortunately, German Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable dogs. They possess excellent attention spans and are eager to please their owners, contributing to their popularity in police work.

In addition, they have an uncanny ability to respond swiftly to commands, emphasising their trainability. Finally, this breed's intelligence and loyal and protective nature make them highly attentive and receptive to training.

German Shepherds have a strong inclination to form deep bonds with their owners, often becoming fiercely loyal to them. Their owner-focused nature makes them an ideal candidate for obedience training, as they thrive when given a sense of purpose and direction. Building their confidence through training exercises ensures their obedience and contributes to their overall happiness and well-being. As working dogs, German Shepherds typically prefer a single, strong leader to guide them.

All the distinctive traits of the German Shepherd's temperament necessitate an outlet for their excess energy. If you are unable to dedicate enough time and effort to your German Shepherd's exercise and mental stimulation needs, there may be better choices than this breed.

Alertness and watchfulness are inherent qualities in the German Shepherd's temperament, as they were bred to be natural guardians. As a result, they often view unfamiliar individuals with suspicion while following their owner's lead. Early socialisation and exposure to various people and situations are crucial for this breed.

It is recommended to begin puppy training at around eight weeks and maintain consistency throughout. Positive reinforcement training methods work best for German Shepherds, given their desire to please. Setting clear boundaries and providing consistent guidance are essential elements in their training process.

German Shepherd temperament
GSD make for excellent watchdogs and protectors

German Shepherds can generally form strong bonds with children when properly socialised and trained. Their loyal and protective nature often translates into being gentle and watchful around kids.

With their high intelligence and obedience, German Shepherds can quickly adapt to the presence of children and become loving and playful companions.

However, supervision is crucial, especially with younger children, as German Shepherds can be energetic and may accidentally knock them over during play. Therefore, it's essential to teach children how to interact appropriately with dogs and ensure that both the child and the dog feel comfortable and safe in each other's presence.

During the early stages of puppyhood, exposing your German Shepherd to different environments, such as food markets, dog parks, and busy areas, is beneficial. This exposure helps familiarise them with crowds and various smells, reducing their tendency to become nervous in stressful situations.

Given their natural inclination to protect their owners, a German Shepherd not accustomed to crowds may become anxious or uneasy when faced with such situations.

Proper training plays a crucial role in shaping the German Shepherd's behaviour. When trained correctly, these dogs are neither dangerous nor aggressive. However, the absence of proper socialisation during their developmental stage can lead to reactivity and fear-driven behaviour. Therefore, it is essential to teach them appropriate ways to interact with stimuli and respond positively to non-threatening situations.

If you cannot meet the minimum training requirements for this breed, or if you are a first-time dog owner, it may be wise to reconsider whether a German Shepherd is the right choice for you.

German Shepherd Temperament
A bored German Shepherd can become destructive.

It is essential to consider that an unsocialised and nervous German Shepherd can pose a potential danger due to their size and protective nature.

Suppose you are considering adopting a German Shepherd as a first-time dog owner. In that case, it is advisable to factor in the expenses of hiring a dog behaviourist who specialises in working with German Shepherds.

In addition, investing in proper training and socialisation for your dog will be invaluable in ensuring their well-being and safety.

For those particularly concerned with maintaining a pristine home, it's essential to note that German Shepherds are heavy shedders. They are not recommended for individuals with allergies as they produce significant dander. While the shedding season typically occurs in spring and fall, German Shepherds tend to shed consistently throughout the year, earning them the humorous nickname of "German Shedder."

In conclusion, owning a German Shepherd requires careful consideration of their temperament, exercise needs, training requirements, and shedding tendencies. However, with proper training, socialisation, and an understanding of their unique characteristics, German Shepherds can be loyal, intelligent, and loving companions for those willing to invest time and effort in their care.

Let's now explore some common German Shepherds questions.

Will a German Shepherd protect me?

German Shepherds are born protectors. Their size alone can act as a deterrent. Typically, your German Shepherd will protect you without training, as their instinct is to see you as part of their pack. Being a working dog, their world is to work, and their instinct is to protect their world.

The level of protection can vary from dog to dog. Some dogs bark to alert you of danger or scare the threat away, some growl, and some stay as close to you as possible. Setting clear boundaries for their interactions will determine the reaction of your dog.

Are German Shepherds and Alsatians the same?

German Shepherd Temperament
German Shepherds make for excellent family dogs

The German Shepherd and Alsatian are actually the same dog breed, with the name "Alsatian" originating from the German-French border region of Alsace-Lorraine.

German Shepherds gained significant popularity just after World War I, showcasing their remarkable qualities and earning the admiration of many.

However, when World War II erupted, there was a surge in anti-German sentiment, leading to the renaming and alteration of many German words, including the breed name, due to the negative connotations associated with Germany at the time.

German Shepherd vs Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is closely related to the German Shepherd and is considered a separate breed within the larger family of Belgian Shepherd dogs. However, both the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd share a common ancestor in the herding and working dogs of continental Europe.

The Belgian Malinois was developed in Belgium, primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with influences from local Belgian herding dogs. While the German Shepherd was primarily developed in Germany during the same period, the two breeds have a shared heritage, making them closely related.

While there are differences in size, appearance, and coat, the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd share many common traits, including their intelligence, working ability, temperament and exercise needs.

The Belgian Malinois is typically smaller and lighter than the German Shepherd and has a more compact and athletic build. They also tend to have shorter fur.

Interestingly, the German Shepherd has a stronger bite force with 238psi than the Belgian Malinois with 195psi.

Both breeds are highly valued for their versatility and loyalty, making them popular choices for various roles and as devoted companions.

What are the most common German Shepherd Breed mixes?

The most common German Shepherd mixes are the below:

  • German Shepherd-Husky mix (Shepsky)

  • German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Shepherd)

  • German Shepherd-Pitbull mix (German Pit)

  • German Shepherd-Lab mix (German Sheprador)

  • German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix (German Shepweiler)

  • German Shepherd-Corgi mix (Corman Shepherd)

German Shepherd Temperament in a nutshell

  • Intelligent and Trainable: German Shepherds are renowned for their high intelligence and eagerness to learn. They excel in obedience training and can quickly pick up on commands and tasks.

  • Loyal and Protective: These dogs are incredibly loyal to their families and are known for their protective nature. They often form strong bonds with their owners and will go to great lengths to keep them safe

  • Energetic and Active: German Shepherds are a high-energy breed that requires regular exercise and mental stimulation. They thrive in environments where they can engage in activities like running, agility training, and interactive play.

  • Confident and Alert: With a natural sense of confidence and alertness, German Shepherds make excellent watchdogs. They are vigilant and quick to alert their owners to any potential threats or unusual occurrences.

  • Versatile and Adaptable: These dogs are incredibly versatile and can excel in a variety of roles, from working as service dogs, police or military dogs, to being loving family companions. They have a strong work ethic and enjoy having a job to do.

Gift Ideas for German Shepherd Lovers

Calling all German Shepherd enthusiasts! If you're looking to surprise a fellow GSD lover or treat yourself to something special, you're in the right place. In this section, we've curated a selection of thoughtful gift ideas that celebrate the majesty and loyalty of the German Shepherd breed.

Gift ideas for German Shepherd Lovers #1: Illustrated GSD Poem

Consider gifting a beautifully illustrated poem celebrating the essence of German Shepherds, a heartfelt tribute for any GSD lover's wall.

German Shepherd Gift

Gift ideas for German Shepherd Lovers #2: Handmade Wire German Shepherd on Wood

Why not surprise a German Shepherd enthusiast with a handmade wire art depiction of their beloved breed, a unique and striking piece for their home decor?

German Shepherd Gift

Gift ideas for German Shepherd Lovers #3: German Shepherd Scarf

For the stylish German Shepherd lover in your life, wrap them in warmth and canine charm with a German Shepherd scarf, a cosy accessory that's as fashionable as it is heartfelt.

German Shepherd Gift

Gift ideas for German Shepherd Lovers #4: German Shepherd Glass Figurine

Why not surprise a German Shepherd enthusiast with a handcrafted glass figurine capturing the noble spirit of their beloved breed, a dazzling and elegant addition to their collection or decor.

German Shepherd Gift

Gift ideas for German Shepherd Lovers #5: German Shepherd Fence Topper

For a unique and eye-catching touch to any outdoor space, consider gifting a German Shepherd Leaning Fence Topper, a beautifully crafted addition that showcases the majestic presence of this beloved breed.

Gift for german shepherd lovers

Gift ideas for German Shepherd Lovers #6: German Shepherd Wine Glasses

Elevate any wine-tasting experience for the German Shepherd lover in your life with a pair of exquisite German Shepherd wine glasses, a perfect blend of elegance and canine admiration.

Gift ideas for German Shepherds #7: German Shepherd Guidebook

Embark on a journey of discovery with our comprehensive guidebook to learn more about German Shepherds. This in-depth resource offers valuable insights into their history, characteristics, training, and care, making it an essential read for both new and experienced GSD enthusiasts.

Gift ideas for German Shepherds #8: German Shepherd Lego Set

Fuel your child's creativity and love for dogs with a German Shepherd LEGO set, where they can build, customize, and play with their very own brick-built GSD companion. It's the perfect gift for budding builders and future dog lovers!

Potential health issues in the German Shepherd breed

The German Shepherd breed may be susceptible to specific health conditions, which can result in significant medical expenses due to their larger size. However, it is vital to note that not all German Shepherds will experience these hereditary health issues.

Awareness of these conditions is crucial to detect any issues early on and seek prompt treatment. On average, German Shepherds have a lifespan ranging from 9 to 13 years.

When acquiring a puppy, one must be obtained from a responsible breeder who can provide all necessary health certificates. Unfortunately, the German Shepherd's temperament can be affected by nervousness and increasing health conditions due to irresponsible breeding techniques. Additionally, the following health problems are commonly associated with the breed:

Pancreatic insufficiency: A condition commonly found in German Shepherds where the pancreas fails to produce sufficient digestive enzymes, resulting in poor nutrient absorption. This can lead to weight loss, diarrhoea, and malnutrition if not correctly managed with enzyme supplementation.

Degenerative Myelopathy: a progressive neurological disease that commonly affects German Shepherds. It leads to the degeneration of the spinal cord, causing hind limb weakness, loss of coordination, and eventual paralysis in affected dogs.

Arthritis: a condition that can affect German Shepherds, particularly as they age. It causes inflammation and degeneration of the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in affected dogs.

Spleen tumours: Spleen tumours are a known occurrence in German Shepherds, albeit relatively rare. These tumours can be malignant, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, weakness, weight loss, and anaemia in affected dogs.

Hip and elbow dysplasia: Common orthopaedic conditions affect German Shepherds. These genetic disorders involve improper development of the hip and elbow joints, leading to pain, lameness, and decreased mobility in affected dogs. Therefore, breeders should test for this condition before breeding.

Anal furunculosis: A chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects German Shepherds. It is characterised by the formation of painful and persistent ulcers or fistulas around the anal region, leading to discomfort, difficulty in defecation, and recurrent infections in affected dogs.

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloating): German Shepherds are considered a high-risk breed for developing gastric dilatation and volvulus, commonly known as bloating. This condition occurs when the stomach distends and twists, leading to life-threatening consequences such as abdominal pain, bloating, restlessness, and difficulty breathing.

Unique female names for German Shepherd

Unique male names for German Shepherd

German Shepherd temperament
Training a German Shepherd is a rewarding experience

German Shepherd fun fact

When we envision German Shepherds, the image that typically comes to mind is their classic black and tan coat, this breed's most common colour combination.

However, there are some much rarer and unique colour variations, such as the Panda German Shepherd.

The Panda German Shepherd stands out with its striking and symmetrical white markings. These distinctive markings result from a genetic anomaly caused by a mutation of the CD117 gene.

The first recorded instance of a Panda German Shepherd occurred in 2000 when two black and tan parents produced a puppy with these white markings. Before this, there were no known instances of Shepherds with such markings. It is noteworthy that kennel clubs do not officially recognise this colouring variation.

However, it's essential to understand that beneath their distinctive white coat; Panda German Shepherds are still purebred German Shepherds with the same temperament as their counterparts.

The Panda German Shepherd showcases a unique and rare colouration that sets them apart from the more common black and tan Shepherds. While not officially recognised by kennel clubs, these dogs retain all the traits and qualities that make German Shepherds beloved companions and working dogs.

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Conclusion: Is the German Shepherd the right breed for me?

If you're an active individual with a spacious yard and ample time to dedicate to a dog, the German Shepherd can be the perfect breed for you. Training these intelligent and loyal dogs is a rewarding experience, as they quickly become well-balanced protectors and devoted companions.

However, it's important to note that German Shepherds are not for the faint-hearted dog lover. They need a committed owner willing to display the effort to meet their exercise, mental stimulation, and training needs.

While German Shepherds may prefer one primary leader, they also excel as family dogs. Their protective and loving nature extends to their entire family unit. If you decide that a German Shepherd is the right dog for you, thorough research is essential.

Understanding their temperament, health considerations, and training requirements will allow you to provide the best possible care for your furry companion.

In conclusion, the German Shepherd breed uniquely combines athleticism, intelligence, loyalty, and protectiveness. If you are prepared to meet their specific needs and invest time and effort into training and socialisation, a German Shepherd can be an excellent addition to your family.

German Shepherd Summary Breed Info box



Dog Size


Dog Weight

30kg - 40kg

Bitch Size


Bitch Weight




Feeding Need


Tendency to drool


Energy level

Very High

Tendency to bark


Tendency to dig


Attention need



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