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All about your German Shepherd

Alert, sensible, and in his element when given a job to do.

German Shepherds are large, loyal and always willing to learn. Learn more about this smart, athletic dog, from his grooming and exercise needs, to the things you can do to keep him happy and healthy.

German Shepherd Running On The Beach

Breed information & advice

The German Shepherd, also known as an Alsatian, belongs to the pastoral or herding group, and is strong and sporty. He is one of the most popular breeds in the world, and needs an owner who can keep him company and make sure he gets plenty of exercise.

  • Highly intelligent, strong and alert, the German Shepherd shouldn’t be left alone for long periods as he can experience anxiety. He’s happiest with his family around him, and with access to a large garden where he can let off steam.
  • A German Shepherd’s medium-length double coat will need brushing two or three times a week.
  • Fully grown, he will typically weigh between 34kg and 43kg.
  • If healthy he will usually live between 10 and 14 years.

Typical size of a German Shepherd

Medium: 56cm-66cm

Your German Shepherd will take well to training and shine in agility classes as this is a breed that needs a lot of exercise. You will need to take him on one or two long, brisk walks every day, and as he loves to be mentally challenged you might want to take a ball or Frisbee along with you . Your dog probably won’t take kindly to being left alone for long periods of time, so be sure to schedule playtime with him.

When it comes to mealtimes he needs plenty of protein in his diet. The exact amount will vary depending on the size and age of your dog, exercise levels and the type of food he is getting – always read the label for advice.

More than two hours of exercise per day

Your German Shepherd has a lot of energy to burn off – playtime will be fun for both of you, but if he’s on a lead, be wary of everything around you as he’s big and strong and will pull you along if he spots something of interest.

A Wet German Shepherd Puppy Running In Water
Standing German Shepherd Looking At You

Common health problems & illnesses

Your German Shepherd will need all of the usual vaccinations and check-ups to help protect him against common ailments. There are some conditions which this breed is more prone to though, and you may want to familiarise yourself with the symptoms, so you know what to look out for.

1. Joint problems

Arthritis and other issues with the joints including degenerative joint disease, and conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia, where the bone doesn’t fit into the joint socket properly, can be common in German Shepherds. Look out for symptoms including lameness, which can be painful. Treatment can control and manage the pain, or surgery might be needed.

Arthritis/degenerative joint disease made up 12% of Tesco Pet Insurance claims for this breed in 2015.

2. Anal Furunculosis

Most commonly seen in older German Shepherds, this is an infection that can cause ulcers, inflammation and fistulas around the tail base and anus. The condition is irritating and if your dog develops it you may notice him frequently licking his bottom or experiencing difficulty when passing faeces. There are several types of treatment, including surgery to remove the diseased tissue.

3. Dermatitis

Dermatitis, which is an inflammation of the skin, can be irritating for your dog, so you’ll notice if he’s constantly scratching the affected area. If dermatitis goes untreated, it can worsen over time. However, there are treatments available to soothe your pet’s itching, and your vet can investigate what could be causing his skin to react.

4. Bloat

Bloat can be a life-threatening condition and occurs when a dog’s stomach is full of gas, twists, and he can’t release the air. It happens if he eats too quickly or too soon after exercise, or if he is exercised vigorously after eating. Being careful about when you feed your dog, or raising his food bowl can help to avoid this occurring. If you notice him retching a lot but not actually being sick, he needs to see a vet as soon as possible.

5. Tumours

During your regular grooming sessions, look out for lumps and bumps as skin, abdominal and breast tumours are relatively common in German Shepherds. Abdominal tumours are more difficult to detect, so look out for weight loss or swelling of your dog’s belly. If you suspect a tumour, your vet will want to run some tests before finding the right treatment for your dog.

Dog name popularity

If you’re struggling to think of a name for your German Shepherd, take a look at the most popular ones at Tesco Pet Insurance for inspiration.

Dog name popularity

Average treatment costs

Wondering whether pet insurance for your German Shepherd is worth it? We’ve put together the top five conditions claimed for by Tesco Pet Insurance customers in 2015, and the average cost of treatment.

ConditionAverage treatment cost
Arthritis and degenerative joint disease£203.01
Anal furunculosis£403.95
Hip dysplasia£249.88

Tesco Pet Insurance claims data from paid treatments including excesses from 01/01/15 to 31/12/15.

Considering German Shepherd insurance?

We know your dog is an important member of the family, so give them the protection they deserve with Tesco Pet Insurance.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.

Grooming advice

German Shepherds are double coated, protecting them from rain and snow, thanks to their breeding history of herding flocks whatever the weather, but coats can vary in length. Your dog will shed all year round, and brushing two or three times a week should help to keep his fur under control and ensure his hair is kept shiny.

Bathing should only be done when it’s absolutely necessary, as washing him too often can bring about skin irritation from stripping his coat of its natural oils.

Check and clean your dog’s ears frequently, and his nails will also need to be clipped on a regular basis – and this includes the dew claws (the ones growing on the inside of the front legs).

It’s advisable that you get your German Shepherd used to grooming right from being a puppy if possible, so it becomes a routine he knows and loves.

Fun & interesting facts

  • This breed is one of only a few whose official name includes the word ‘dog’ – this was to differentiate between them and a human German shepherd.
  • Actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon are two celebrity owners.
  • Your dog is likely to be very protective of you, and you will need to socialise him to be welcoming of strangers.
  • Breeder Max von Stephanitz came across the wolf-like dog in 1889 and, impressed by its intelligence and agility, set up the ‘German Shepherd Dog Club’.
  • A German Shepherd called Filax of Lewanno was honoured in 1917 for rescuing 54 soldiers in WWI.

Important information


The content on this page aims to offer an informative introduction to pet breeds, but does not constitute expert veterinary advice. If your dog or cat falls ill or has an injury, contact your vet immediately. Tesco Bank Pet Insurance has a partnership with vetfone™ which means that as a customer, you can benefit from their advice as part of your policy.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. The vetfone™ service is provided by Vetsdirect Ltd.

All facts and figures were correct at date of publication and were compiled using a range of sources.


Vetfone™ is a 24/7 helpline that provides expert advice from nurses qualified with the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons). If your pet has a medical emergency, or you need reassurance on grooming, feeding or general advice, vetfone™ is there to help.

As a Tesco Pet Insurance customer, you can access expert veterinary advice provided by RCVS registered vet nurses as a standard benefit with your policy, and the service is provided at no additional cost. A quick call could answer any questions you have about your pet, give you peace of mind and could even save you an expensive trip to the vet.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. The vetfone™ service is provided by Vetsdirect Ltd.

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