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German shepherd dogs are incredibly smart.

Female vs Male German Shepherds: Finding Your Forever Dog

If you’re looking for a family dog, you may have some concerns about dog size, friendliness, and compatibility with children. Sometimes German Shepherds get a bad rap for being aggressive and territorial. 

Is it true?

All dogs need socialization and training. German shepherds are no different. This popular dog breed has joined countless families in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. In fact, they’ve traditionally been used as guard dogs.

They are well known for their heroism as police dogs. As military dogs, German Shepherds are proud and strong.

If you’re looking for more information on the differences between the male and female German shepherds, you’re in the right place. This post will help you make that all-important decision on the best dog to bring home to your family.

The Amazing Personality Traits of German Shepherds

German Shepherds are herding dogs originally bred to protect sheep. Over time, their intelligence, athleticism, loyalty, and fierce loyalty caught the eye of law enforcement. 

Since the 1920’s and 1930’s, this breed has worked tirelessly as police dogs. In addition to police work, German Shepherds also make powerful military dogs. As police dogs, GSDs assist in locating missing persons, sniffing out drugs, and checking border entries for illegal items.

You can expect both the male and female German shepherd to be able to make the switch from “work” to “home”. It’s not unusual for a police officer to bring his/her German Shepherd to work and back home at the end of the day.

German Shepherds are smart enough to know when it’s time to be on guard and attentive, and when it’s time to relax and kick back with the family. Having a strong relationship with the family and lots of socialization early on definitely helps.

It's important to socialize German shepherd dogs early.

Both Male and Female German Shepherds Can Have The Following Traits:

Guard Dog

Most German shepherds will bark to alert you of a stranger or intruder on your property. Males are larger and can appear more intimidating, but both sexes have what it takes to make a stranger stop and think before approaching.

Intelligent Dog

Male and female German Shepherds are incredibly intelligent. They thrive in brain training and mental stimulation along with a hefty dose of exercise. The key is to begin training your dog from a young age. 

German Shepherds (like many intelligent dogs) need to have a strong pack leader. That means, as the dog owner, you need to be consistent in training. Your powerful dog should always respond to your call and should be trained to resist their natural prey drive.

That’s not easy to do! However, for the safety of small pets (yours or your neighbor’s), children, and wildlife, a German Shepherd must obey commands.

Their strong prey drive can also put them in dangerous situations. Chasing animals across the street, for example, could result in accidental death or serious harm.

Energetic Dog

German Shepherds need regular, daily, exercise. This dog won’t be happy with a 20 minute stroll down the street. Are you a runner? The German Shepherd will make a perfect running companion. 

These dogs have physical energy that must be exhausted for his/her own health. In addition, they need mental stimulation in the form of brain-games, advanced obedience training, etc.

Possessive Dog

The interesting thing about German Shepherds is that if you ask someone who has one for a pet, they will all tell you something different about their personalities. The reality is, there are exceptions to every rule. 

Possessiveness in terms of food guarding, jealousy, etc., is a serious sign of insecurity.

This is actually more of a behavioral issue than a personality trait. Yes, some dogs may be more prone to it than others. This is why it’s so important to train a dog at a very early age. Start early to avoid unwanted behaviors. 

You need to respect the dog while also being a firm, confident, assertive pack-leader. Show strong leadership around a German shepherd so that they don’t take over the role themselves.

A possessive dog will exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Food claiming
  • Toy claiming 
  • Overly protective of you and not allowing anyone to get close
  • Growls
  • Snaps
  • Whines
  • Attacks

These are very dangerous traits to have, especially for a large dog like a German Shepherd.

Good Family Dog

Any dog is a good family dog and the German shepherd is no different. It all comes down to how you raise, socialize, and respect the dog’s needs.

If you’re bringing a dog home where there are young children, it might be best to start with a puppy. While it’s admirable to rescue a dog, it’s important to consider the safety of your family. 

Bringing a puppy home allows the dog and children to grow up together. Having a puppy allows you the time to socially groom and train your dog appropriately. German shepherds are popular dog breeds because of their strength, loyalty, and intelligence.

Health Problems Inherent in German Shepherd Breed

Health issues are a risk for all breeds. Large breeds, for example, tend to be at risk of hip and elbow dysplasia. The problem is that dogs like German Shepherds grow so fast that they’re limbs and joints are left vulnerable to injury.

On the one hand, you know you need to exercise your dog. On the other hand, you have to remember that growing puppies should have age-appropriate exercise. Too much activity can put unnecessary wear and tear on the joints. 

Mammary Tumors

Female German shepherd dogs are at risk of developing mammary tumors. These tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). They occur within mammary tissue in female dogs and vary in size, shape, and consistency. 

To avoid this fate, talk to a veterinarian about early spaying. These tumors are more likely to be found in dogs who have not been spayed, or who are only spayed after their first heat.

Mammary tumors are usually found by pet owners who notice a lump while petting their dog. Veterinarians may notice them during a regular wellness check as well. 

Degenerative myelopathy

DM is a chronic and degenerative disease of the spinal cord. Sadly, there is no treatment for the disease. Eventually, the outer tissue layer of the spinal cord (white matter) will wear away leaving the dog paralyzed. 

This disease tends to show up at around 8 or 9 years of age. The first signs of the disease involve hindlimb ataxia which means the limbs sway unusually on movement.

Hip Dysplasia

German shepherds can begin to show signs of hip dysplasia as young as four months of age. Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can really reduce a dog’s quality of life. It happens when the hip and ball socket loosen away from the hip joint. 

This can occur due to osteoarthritis, but it can also have a genetic factor behind it. Large dogs like German shepherds tend to grow at a fast rate. Over-exercising a growing puppy could contribute to hip dysplasia.

Other factors include improper nutrition for the breed, too little exercise, and obesity. 

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is considered a degenerative joint disease. This painful condition can lead to arthritis of the elbow. Statistics vary, but it’s thought that 12 to 20% of German shepherds could develop the disease.

Signs of elbow dysplasia include:

  • Forelimb lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Pain when flexing the elbow
  • Fluid build-up around the elbow joint
  • Grating noise from the joint during activity
  • Reduced range of motion

Panosteitis (long bone disease)

Panosteitis is an inflammation of the outer surface of one of the long bones in the legs. It can happen in more than one bone at a time. It can also move around causing your dog to have various degrees of lameness.

Generally speaking, this condition affects young breeds that grow very quickly. In addition to German shepherds, this condition has been seen in:

  • Great Danes
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Basset Hounds

The first symptoms can appear at 2 month of age right up to 18 months of age. Male German shepherds are more affected than female German shepherds. 

Skin Conditions

German shepherds are prone to dry, flaky skin. They may develop sore from things like flea allergy dermatitis. Because of their propensity towards skin conditions, German shepherds are more prone to secondary bacterial skin infections.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy in dogs is a complicated disorder with various factors and definitions. There are three types of seizures dogs can have. These include reactive, secondary, and primary. 

The cause of epilepsy could be idiopathic (unknown cause), the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. Unfortunately, this can also be an inherited condition. German shepherd dogs are more prone to seizures than some other breeds.

Bloat 

Bloat is a dangerous condition where the dog’s abdomen suddenly fills with fluid and/or gas. The pressure builds and presses against internal organs. Eventually, the stomach twists and completely turns on itself, cutting off oxygen and blood flow to vital organs.

Females tend to be less aggressive.

Physical Differences of Female vs Male German Shepherds

Like it or not, female German shepherds are smaller and tend to be less aggressive than their male counterparts. Although both breeds share the same loyalty, athleticism, and intelligence, there are some important differences you should be aware of. 

Female German Shepherd

Female shepherds tend to be a bit more family oriented. If you’re looking for a more protective dog, a female is what you want. 

Female German shepherds are more affectionate and gentle. Unlike a male German shepherd, the females tend to bond with all family members. 

Training a Female GSD

It’s thought that females are easier to train. Because of their laser focus, they tend to do a little better in agility training. Their smaller stature makes them a little faster. 

Begin socialization at about 8 weeks to 16 weeks of age. From 3 to 9 months of age you’ll want to start obedience training. GSDs are remarkable when it comes to obedience. Start with basic commands like sit, down, and stay.

The next important training step will be recall. German shepherds need to be able to respond to their name reliably and consistently. Proper training is vital for both male and female GSDs.

Easily Learn Basic Dog Training

Training a dog doesn’t always come naturally to dog owners. Options for dog owners include formal dog training classes or a DIY approach. The thing is, there are many excellent short courses that can give dog owners everything they need to get started.

The good news? They’re much less expensive than going to classes. Learning online gives you the opportunity to train your dog on his own territory, around his own family.

I sometimes share affiliate links with my readers because I think a product or course is really awesome. If you decide to click on the link and purchase something, I’ll earn a little extra money. That money goes towards keeping this blog up and running (it’s not free!) and I thank you in advance for that.

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EveryDoggy: How to Train a Puppy
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Dog Body Language – How to Identify It
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Dog Tricks for Fun and Obedience

Heat Cycles

Female GSDs go through a heat cycle which happens between six and 12 months of age. It will last about 4 weeks.

Size Difference

Females weigh 49 to 71 pounds and can grow up to 23 inches tall. They typically have a leaner build but there is no difference in the coat type between genders.

Male German Shepherd

The male German shepherds are larger and appear more intimidating. They tend to be more dominant because of their large stance. 

Males will be more territorial around the house. Part of this behavior involves territorial marking which can be reduced or eliminated through spaying.

Training a Male German Shepherd

Males can become more dominant as they age. You’ll want to start socialization from 8 to 16 weeks of age. After that, the window starts to close. Getting them used to strangers helps them to understand who poses a threat, and who does not.

Get your puppy used to a variety of stimuli to help develop their confidence. Remember, insecure dogs are the ones that display the worst behavior. 

Short, fun, interactive games that involve a variety of sights and sounds will help a lot. Allow for variety and be sure to let everyone in the family have a turn playing with the pup. This is true for both male and female German shepherds.

Size Difference

Male GSDs weigh anywhere from 66 to 88 pounds. They can grow up to 25 inches high.

DO GERMAN SHEPHERDS MAKE GOOD FAMILY DOGS?

German Shepherd dogs (GDS’s) are playful and often make excellent family pets. Generally speaking, male GSDs are more dominant. They tend to play rough because they don’t realize how big and imposing they can be.

The female GSD tends to bond very closely with families and children. The females, with their motherly instinct, tend to be more protective of family members.

They are mostly alike in a lot of ways. One is smaller than the other. One might be more prone to aggression, but that’s not always the case. Socialization is very important. Especially true if you have other pets or small children. 

Male GSDs tend to protect their territory more, where female GSDs have a keen instinct to defend the family.That said, the male German Shepherd will tend to be attached to one person in the family. He loves them all, but he will gravitate toward the leader/authority.

These dogs are so connected to family that they can become depressed if a family member dies. 

German shepherds are very popular in the United States.

Which One Should You Get?

There’s no right or wrong choice. It’s really a personal preference. The obvious difference between males and females is the size. There are subtle differences in personality but, at the end of the day, either sex is going to be a good choice.

The main differences between the two are related to personality. The male temperament is a little more aggressive than the female. Of course, German shepherd dog lovers will tell you that they are all amazing and loyal dogs. 

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Before making that final decision, think about what you want and need in a dog. And remember, the way you socialize and train your dog is going to have the biggest impact on whether you have a good family dog or not.

SOURCES:

Shepherdsense.com

NC State Veterinary Hospital – Canine Mammary Tumors

Sequoia Humane Society – Protective, Jealous, and Possessive Behaviors

Germanshepherddogslifestyle.com – The Basics of German Shepherd Dog Elbow Dysplasia

VCA Canada – Panosteitis in Dogs

NomNomNow – German Shepherds with Skin Allergies

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