German Shepherd Dog

Lifestyle Needs

German Shepherd Dog or Alsation

German Shepherd Dog or Alsation

The German Shepherd Dog is a large, strong animal often used for guarding or police work. The GSD can be a good family dog if trained properly but needs experienced handling. He relishes training and needs a firm and consistent hand. Some GSDs have a very high working drive and should be avoided when choosing a family pet.  Aggression due to fearfulness has also been reported in the breed, therefore great care needs to be taken to ensure sound temperament.   The GSD has a thick double coat which sheds fur, so should be groomed at least twice a week. He needs more than two hours exercise every day. Average life-span 10.3 years.

Inbreeding Coefficient - COI
(Should be as low as possible)

The UK Kennel Club breed average COI is 3.4% - see 'A Beginners Guide to COI'

Effective Population Size - EPS


EPS is a measure of how many individuals are contributing genetically to a breed population. It is a measure of the size of the gene pool in a breed. Lower than 100 is considered critical by conservationists and below 50 brings a breed close to extinction. For more information see the Kennel Club article.

Health and Welfare Problems due to Conformation
(Body shape and physical characteristics)

  • The show type GSD sometimes has a steeply sloping back and very angulated hind quarters.  There is concern that this may lead to orthopaedic complications.
  • The more old fashioned type (previously known as the Alsatian) is more natural looking and somewhat heavier.  The modern working GSD is super athletic dog but because of his high working drive, probably would not make a suitable pet dog.  Bear this in mind when choosing your breeder and puppy.
  • Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) (Bloat) As a deep chested breed, bloat and stomach torsion is a risk (stomach fills with air and can twist – urgent vet treatment is needed).

BVA/KC Health Schemes:

  • Hip dysplasia (malformation of the hip joints causing pain and disability): breed mean score 15.4 (parents should be lower)
  • Elbow dysplasia (malformation of the elbow joint causing pain and disability): ideally 0:0
  • Eye disease: Hereditary cataract (HC) (annual testing); Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)(annual testing) (gradual loss of vision); Multi-focal retinal dysplasia (MRD) (litter screening)
  • The GSD is one of the 14 high profile breeds designated by the Kennel Club as requiring particular monitoring by reason of visible conditions which may cause health and welfare concerns.

Identified by the UK Kennel Club as part of their Breed Health and Conservation Plan.

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) : EBVs for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are available for this breed

DNA Tests Available

  • Degenerative myelopathy (DM) (degenerative disease of the spinal cord, causing hindquarter weakness, loss of feeling and paralysis)
  • Primary Lens Luxation (PLL)
  • Hyperuricosuria (HUU)
  • Haemophilia A Factor V111 deficiency
  • Anal Furunculosis
  • Skeletal Dysplasia 2 (SD2)
  • Renal Cystadenocarcinoma Nodular Dematofibrosis (RCND)
  • Multi Drug Resistance (MDR1)

Unofficial (Breed Club) Schemes

  • Haemophilia test for males
  • Bitches under 2 years not to produce a litter
  • No stud dog to be used under 18 months of age

Ask the breeder to show you the certificates for the above tests/screening for both parents. If any of the above tests have not been considered necessary by the breeder (and there may be good reasons), ask her to explain why.

Other Diseases Reported
(For which there are currently no genetic or screening tests for sire or dam)

  • Musculoskeletal disorders (eg, HD and ED)
  • Inability to stand
  • Otitis externa (ear disease)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Atopy (high sensitivity to pollens and other protein particles, causing intense itching)
  • Osteochondrosis (abnormal cartilage in joints, eg, shoulder)
  • Cancer: haemangiosarcoma; melanoma; pancreatic islet tumor; mammary; ear wax gland
  • Idiopathic Epilepsy
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (autoimmune disease)
  • GSD pyoderma (a pustular condition of the skin)
  • Primary seborrhoea (excessively oily skin due to over production of the sebaceous glands)
  • Haemophilia A
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (digestive enzyme deficiency, causes hunger, pain, weakness, collapse and death)
  • Hypothyroidism (autoimmune disease causing a variety of symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, skin problems)
  • Symmetrical onychomadesis (loss of all four claws)
  • Panosteitis (bone inflammation)
  • Lumbosacral disc disease (chronic pain in lumbarsacral area)
  • Anal furunculosis (chronic, painful infection of the anal glands caused by an abnormal immune response)
  • Chronic kerratoconjunctivitis (auto immune disease) (dry eye)
  • Nictitans plasmacytic conjunctivitis (auto immune disease)
  • Alopecia areata (hair loss) (autoimmune disease)

Ask the breeder about the medical history of the parents, grandparents and great grandparents.  Consider carefully whether to purchase a puppy if some of these or other diseases are in the family line.

Ask about the breeder’s policy in cases of serious genetic diseases occurring to your puppy in later life. Good breeders will request to be informed of such events in order to improve future breeding decisions. Some breeders will also agree to contribute towards medical costs or refund purchase price.

You are strongly advised to buy from a breeder who uses (or is prepared to use) the RSPCA / BVA AWF Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack (PIP):

You are also advised to buy from a breeder who follows the Dog Breeding Reform Group’s (DBRG) Standard for Dog Breeding:

Or the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme Standard and Guidance:
Standard PDF | Guidance PDF

List of Dog Breeds