Many people looking for a new pet think about purchasing a German Shepherd. These dogs were first introduced in the United States by soldiers returning from World War I. Since then, they have been beloved house pets, police dogs, and herding dogs.
The German Shepherd is a breed with a fascinating history and evolution. If you’re interested in learning more, this video offers a fun and informative introduction to this well-loved breed.
And even if you’ve settled on the German Shepherd as your breed of choice, you’ll need to choose whether you want a male or a female dog.
Here, we’ll look over the breed as a whole and offer some guidance to help you choose a male or female dog.
An Overview of the German Shepherd: What Do You Need to Know?
Since the German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in America, chances are good that you’ve seen one or two. And because of a few key personality traits, this dog is suited for police work, herding, and even as a house pet.
But what makes the German Shepherd so uniquely suited to police work? The AKC notes that the German Shepherd is the breed that most frequently wins the Award for Canine Excellence (ACE). This award recognizes dogs who have heroically helped communities and individuals.
Some ACE-winning German Shepherds include a police dog who continued working, even when hit by multiple bullets, as well as another dog who was able to help catch a burglar by chasing him into a closet.
Since they are both loyal and courageous, it isn’t unusual to hear about even pet German Shepherds going to great lengths to save their owners.
Speaking on more general terms, though, the German Shepherd is also a breed that is able to maintain calm under pressure.
Coupled with the breed’s intelligence, athleticism, and willingness to please, it’s no wonder that this is the breed most police departments turn to.
Even outside of herding and police work, the German Shepherd is an enormously popular pet. These dogs are often fiercely loyal and protective of their human pack.
Since they need a decent amount of exercise and are highly trainable, they are a great choice for active people who love the outdoors.
However, while many people are familiar with the breed as a whole, not everyone understands the differences between male and female German Shepherds. Here’s what to know about what sets them apart.
Male vs Female German Shepherds: What are the Differences?
What are some of the Main Behavioral Differences?
Some dog lovers will claim that there are no temperament and behavioral differences between male and female dogs of the same breed. This is true to an extent, as each dog is an individual and will have his or her own unique personality.
However, there are some general differences that may make a difference when it comes to choosing your dog.
According to GermanShepherdDogs, there are a few key differences when it comes to behavior.
In general, male dogs are more prone to aggression and becoming territorial. Female dogs tend to be more sensitive and easier to train.
And while male dogs are often most protective of their territory itself, females tend to be more protective of their family members, including their human pack.
That said, asking any German Shepherd owner might get you slightly different answers. Some owners claim that it’s the male dogs who are actually easier to train, while females tend to be more aggressive and protective.
The important thing to consider when selecting dogs for their temperament is that a dog’s upbringing matters much more than sex when it comes to determining temperament.
If you purchase a puppy only to find that your new dog is shy and reserved, don’t be alarmed–with care and understanding, you can help even shy puppies become comfortable socializing.
However, if you do end up with a dog who becomes aggressive or overly territorial and can’t solve the issue of aggression on your own, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional.
While German Shepherds are trainable, if they sense you aren’t a calm and confident leader, they may not listen to you.
Working with a trainer doesn’t have to be long term or highly expensive. Many trainers can help you become more confident when working with your dog, and many pet stores and dog clubs offer affordable group handling classes, too.
What are some of the Physical Differences?
When deciding whether to purchase a male or female German Shepherd, you may also want to take size into account. Just like with many dog breeds, there’s a slight size discrepancy between the adult male and female German Shepherds.
According to the American Kennel Club, makes are usually between 24 and 26 inches tall, while females are between 22 and 24 inches. Males are also between 65 and 90 pounds, while females are generally between 50 and 70 pounds.
The size difference between males and females usually isn’t an issue, although male dogs will usually need more food to sustain their larger body size. However, females tend to be more slender and more agile due to their small size.
If you’re looking for a dog who is especially nimble (like if you’re hoping to compete in agility or a similar discipline), a female dog may be the better choice.
However, all German Shepherds are muscular, athletic dogs, and it’s still possible for males to succeed in agility competitions.
Are There Differences in Health Issues Between Male and Female German Shepherds?
Over the course of the development of the German Shepherd, this breed has become predisposed to several genetic conditions.
And according to the Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue, the fact that most of these issues are genetic means they may also be present in German Shepherd mixes.
These health issues do not appear to be more common in female vs male German Shepherds. However, if you are hoping to find a German Shepherd for your next dog, it’s useful to know about some of these common issues:
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
These issues, especially hip dysplasia, are common in medium and large dogs, although the German Shepherd is especially prone. These issues result from a joint malformation that can cause walking and running to be painful.
Since hip and elbow dysplasia are largely genetic, there are ways to reduce the risk of buying a dog who will develop one of these conditions. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals offers a way for breeders to certify their dogs.
In order to be certified, a dog is X-rayed and given a rating by the OFA. If you are buying from a breeder, you may want to ask about whether any of their breeding stock animals have been OFA certified.
Many dig breeds with large chests, including the German Shepherd, are very prone to bloating. This is similar to colic in horses–bloat happens when there’s a buildup of excess gas in the digestive tract, and the dog isn’t able to expel it.
If bloat is severe, most dogs will need surgery to survive. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of bloat.
Try to stop your dog from eating too quickly, and avoid allowing your dog to drink large amounts of water right before eating.
Additionally, one key way to avoid bloat is to not let your dog engage in rigorous exercise one hour before or two hours after eating. Walking is ok, but avoid playing fetch or allowing your dog to run during these times.
This disease is effectively the canine version of multiple sclerosis. However, German Shepherds are the only dog breed to frequently be affected by degenerative myelopathy (DM).
This disease affects the spinal cord, and it gradually limits mobility. Currently, the only treatments are supportive, and there, unfortunately, is no cure.
This seizure disorder occurs in various dog breeds, and German Shepherds seem to be especially prone. The good news is that it’s usually very treatable with anti-convulsant medications, which are not often expensive.
Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency
This is a rare condition that seems to only impact German Shepherds. Dogs with this condition don’t produce the pancreatic enzymes needed to properly digest dog food. This condition will often cause diarrhea and severe weight loss.
And while the diagnosis might sound like a grim one, this deficiency can be treated with an enzyme supplement. This supplement needs to be mixed in each time you feed your dog, but it will help your dog lead a long, happy life.
While some of these issues can be tested for, others cannot. In order to be a responsible German Shepherd owner, be sure to stay vigilant for signs of major issues like the ones listed above.
If your dog does have one of these diagnoses, your veterinarian can help you develop a treatment or management plan.
Spaying and Neutering: What Do You Need to Know?
Why is Spaying or Neutering a Good Idea?
As you’ve probably seen, many animal-focused organizations recommend spaying or neutering your pet. According to the ASPCA, spaying and neutering can help prevent certain cancers in animals.
It also helps alleviate some of the behavioral problems associated with intact dogs. Intact males will often do whatever they can to find a mate. And since German Shepherds are very intelligent dogs, an intact male may be able to figure out ways to escape your yard or home.
In addition, intact male dogs will often mark territory by urinating, and this may sometimes even happen in your home.
In female dogs, spaying will stop the onset of heat cycles. These heat cycles often involve your dog becoming very vocal and urinating with increased frequency. Both of these are behaviors designed to help the dog find a mate.
When Should You Not Spay or Neuter?
While having your dog spayed or neutered is the right choice for many people, there are a few exceptions. Obviously, if you plan to breed your dog at some point, you won’t want to spay or neuter.
If you are planning to breed your dogs, it’s best to first make sure they don’t have any of the common genetic conditions that unfortunately plague many German Shepherds. If you aren’t sure how to check for these, talk to your veterinarian or to a knowledgeable breeder.
The other exception is if you want to compete in AKC Conformation classes. According to the AKC, a dog of either sex must be intact to compete in Conformation classes.
However, a spayed or neutered dog can compete in the following types of AKC classes:
- Obedience–This class tests your dog’s ability to follow commands in a show environment.
- Rally–This obedience-based sport involves following a set of obstacles. A dog-handler team starts with 100 points, with points being deducted for mistakes.
- Junior Handling–These classes allow young people to hone their skills as dog handlers. These classes don’t judge the dogs themselves, but instead, judge the handler’s presentation.
- Herding–These classes test the herding skills of working dogs.
Luckily, a spayed or neutered German Shepherd will be eligible to participate in most action-focused AKC classes. And since German Shepherds excel when it comes to herding and other athletics, these classes offer another way to have fun with your dog.
Considering the Cost of Spaying or Neutering: How Much Should You Budget?
While spaying and neutering both prevent unwanted litters, there is a cost difference between the two. Spaying is a more complex surgery, so it is usually more expensive than paying for a dog to be neutered.
However, it’s worth noting that you can often save on the cost of a spay or neuter by going to a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. ‘
These clinics have arisen all over the country in an effort to help people of all income levels have their pets spayed and neutered.
It’s impossible to say exactly how much you’ll need to budget for a spay or neuter, as costs vary dramatically by where you live. Before purchasing a dog, it’s a good idea to look around to gauge the pricing for a spay or neuter surgery.
In any case, if complications arise with surgery, it may increase the cost as well as recovery time. Because spaying is a more invasive surgery than neutering, it will take a female dog longer to fully recover from surgery than it would take a male.
Where Can You Find Your German Shepherd?
If you feel ready to start looking at German Shepherd puppies or adult dogs, it can be helpful to know where to look.
The good news is that, given this breed’s popularity, it’s relatively easy to find dogs of all ages. Here are some places to start:
- Breed-specific rescues–If you’re someone who wants a purebred dog but doesn’t necessarily want to go to a breeder, a breed-specific rescue offers another option. These rescues take in both puppies and adult dogs, and many also take in German Shepherd mixes. In some cases, these dogs may have papers, but it’s unlikely that all of them will.
- Animal Shelters–Since German Shepherds are a very popular breed, your chances of finding one at a regular animal shelter are fairly high. That said, not every purebred in a shelter will still have papers.
- Breeders–If you would prefer a purebred with papers, going through a breeder maybe your best option. If you’re interested in showing your dog, make sure that the parents are AKC registered and that your dog will come with papers.
In Conclusion–How Do You Choose the Best Dog for You?
While you now have a good general overview of the differences between male and female German Shepherds, you’ll need to decide which traits are most important to you. Ultimately, the most important thing is finding a dog whose personality traits you like.
If you are choosing to purchase a puppy, many experts recommend doing some type of temperament testing. You can choose an established method that you like and follow that testing method.
However, with both puppies and adult dogs alike, many potential owners simply interact with the dog to see if they are compatible personality types.
Regardless of whether you use an official temperament test or not, keep in mind that a puppy’s temperament doesn’t necessarily mean the adult dog will behave the same way.
Choosing a healthy, happy puppy or adult dog may take some time. Don’t be afraid to take your time, ask questions, and interact with each dog you’re considering. In time, you’ll be able to find the right dog for you.