Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Breed Highlight: German Shepherd Dog

by Kris Phillips

In looking back over my last decade of pet photography I’ve had the opportunity to photograph German Shepherds in all seasons. So they seemed like the next logical step in my new Breed Highlight series. The German Shepherd is probably one of the most recognizable yet highly misunderstood breeds .

The TLDR: German Shepherds are wonderfully loyal & intelligent working and family dogs. They were bred to be capable herding and protection dogs while still coming home after a long work day to play with the family children. They require moderate daily exercise and shed year round. When not properly trained, exercised, or socialized their wonderful traits can manifest in aggression issues or neurotic behaviors. This is not a great dog for you if you’re too busy working all the time to spend time teaching new tricks and burning off some energy. They need both physical AND mental stimulation to maintain a healthy life. 

They are large dogs weighing in between 65-90 pounds. They have a thick double coat that’s going to shed year round, just like the Siberian Husky featured in my last highlight. The good news is that, also like the husky, other that frequent brushing and vacuuming you don’t really need to do much to maintain their coat. In fact a healthy GSD will likely only need a bath a few times a year. 

German Shepherds were originally developed in Germany around 1899 as a general farm dog. They are wonderful family dogs, herding dogs, and protection dogs. But it’s the third thing which makes them both valued and feared. German Shepherd have such a strong work drive and loyal demeanor they were the perfect working dog for military and police applications. They are also strong and agile, but not so large that they can’t be hoisted & carried by their handlers when necessary. 

If you’re considering bringing home a German Shepherd there are a few things you should know first. The hair is a year-round, constant thing, so if you’re not cool with it -keep looking. Due to their propensity in protection work German Shepherds do have a bit of a stigma attached. Some cities/ communities/ insurance companies impose breed restrictions. While these are scientifically unfounded, and a well-socialized GSD is no more dangerous than any other dogs, be prepared to educate those you meet and possibly have people avoid you walking down the street. 

German Shepherds were bred as working farm dogs, so they are agile and athletic. They don’t do well with a sedentary lifestyle and need a moderate amount of both physical and mental stimulation to keep them from getting into trouble or developing undesirable habits. While they’re athletic, they’re also prone to bone & joint related ailments, and high impact sports should be discouraged.

German Shepherds also come in a couple varieties. There are distinct American vs German lines. With the American line more focused on the aesthetic of the dog and it’s ability in the show right. The German line still focuses strongly on the dogs ability to perform herding and protection tasks. If you consider bringing one home, you’d be wise to do further research into the differences in the two lines before deciding which line is right for your family.

There’s also a long-haired version and a shorter coated. And German Shepherds come in a variety of colors, from the well-known black & tan, to full black, to solid white.

When it comes down to it German Shepherds are smart, loving, protective and loyal family members. And if you’ve got the time to give them, they will pay you back with every bit of their little doggy hearts!

Does your German Shepherd deserve a pet photography session? Head over to the contact page and hit me up! Let’s start planning your session today.


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