American Kennel Club Herding Group
German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard
Approved Feb. 11, 1978
Reformatted July 11, 1994
History: Derived from the old breeds of herding and farm dogs, and associated
for centuries with man as servant and companion, the German Shepherd
Dog has been subject to intensive development. Sponsored by the
Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde, the parent club of the breed
founded in 1899 in Germany, the cult of the Shepherd spread rapidly
from about 1914 onward in many parts of the world. Interest in the
breed has been fostered by specialty clubs in many lands as it has
been in the United States by the German Shepherd Dog Club of
Considering first the more important side of the dog,
its character, the Shepherd is distinguished for loyalty, courage,
and the ability to assimilate and retain training for a number of
special services. He should be of equable disposition, poised,
unexcitable, and with well-controlled nerves. For his typical work
as a herding sheepdog, he must not be gun-shy and must have courage
to protect his flock from attacks, either animal or human. For his
work as a police dog, a development which followed upon his natural
aptitude for training, he must have this courage and in addition
must be able to make use of the excellent nose which he usually
possesses. In his work as a leader of the blind, the Shepherd must
and does exhibit a high order of intelligence and discrimination
involving the qualities of observation, patience, faithful
watchfulness, and even, to a certain degree, the exercise of
These qualities, which have endeared the German
Shepherd Dog to a wide public in practically every country of the
globe, are those of the companion, protector, and friend. The German
Shepherd is not a pugnacious brawler, but a bold and punishing
fighter if need be. In his relation to man he does not give
affection lightly; he has plenty of dignity and some suspicion of
strangers, but his friendship, once given, is given for life.
On the physical side, the German Shepherd Dog has been
developed to a point of almost ideal fitness for the work he is
called upon to do. He is a dog of middle size with enough weight to
be effective as herder or patrolman, but not enough to be cumbersome
The impression of the dog as a whole is one of
ruggedness combined with nobility, of power combined with agility.
There should be a sense of balance, forequarters and hindquarters
compensating each other in their development. The outline should be
smooth and flowing, and the topline of the dog, from the ear to the
tip of the full tail, a single sweeping succession of unbroken
curves. The German Shepherd Dog is a natural dog, unchanged for any
whim of the show ring.
The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong,
agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced,
with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog
is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth
curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving
the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and
nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog
is stamped with a look of quality and nobility--difficult to define, but
unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly
marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or
femininity, according to its sex.
Temperament - The breed has a distinct personality marked by
direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a
certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and
indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly
standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet
overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the
occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its
capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian,
whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid,
shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous,
looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous
reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of
confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character.
Any of the
above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized
as very serious faults and any dog exhibiting
pronounced indications of these must be excused from the ring.
It must be possible for the judge to observe the teeth and to determine
that both testicles are descended.
Any dog that attempts to bite the judge must be disqualified. The ideal
dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with
body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary
Size, Proportion, Substance - The desired height for males at the
top of the highest point of the shoulder blade is 24 to 26 inches; and
for bitches, 22 to 24 inches.
German Shepherd Dog is longer than tall, with the most desirable
proportion as 10 to 8½. The length is measured from the point of the
prosternum or breastbone to the rear edge of the pelvis, the ischial
tuberosity. The desirable long proportion is not derived from a long
back, but from overall length with relation to height, which is achieved
by length of forequarter and length of withers and hindquarter, viewed
from the side.
Head - The head is
noble, cleanly chiseled, strong without coarseness, but above all not
fine, and in proportion to the body. The head of the male is distinctly
masculine, and that of the bitch distinctly feminine.
expression keen, intelligent and composed. Eyes of medium size,
almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is
as dark as possible. Ears are moderately pointed, in proportion
to the skull, open toward the front, and carried erect when at
attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the
ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and
perpendicular to the ground. A dog with cropped or hanging ears must be
Seen from the front the forehead is only
moderately arched, and the skull slopes into the long, wedge-shaped
muzzle without abrupt stop. The muzzle is long and strong, and
its topline is parallel to the topline of the skull. Nose black.
A dog with a nose that is not predominantly black must be disqualified.
The lips are firmly fitted. Jaws are strongly developed.
Teeth --42 in number--20 upper and 22 lower--are strongly
developed and meet in a scissors bite in which part of the inner surface
of the upper incisors meet and engage part of the outer surface of the
lower incisors. An overshot jaw or a level bite is undesirable.
undershot jaw is a disqualifying fault. Complete dentition
is to be preferred. Any missing teeth other than first premolars is a serious fault.
Neck - The neck is strong and muscular, clean-cut and relatively
long, proportionate in size to the head and without loose folds of skin.
When the dog is at attention or excited, the head is raised and the neck
carried high; otherwise typical carriage of the head is forward rather
than up and but little higher than the top of the shoulders,
particularly in motion.
Topline - The withers
are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight,
very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short.
Body - The whole structure of the body gives an impression of
depth and solidity without bulkiness. Chest - Commencing at
the prosternum, it is well filled and carried well down between the
legs. It is deep and capacious, never shallow, with ample room for lungs
and heart, carried well forward, with the prosternum showing ahead of
the shoulder in profile. Ribs well sprung and long, neither
barrel-shaped nor too flat, and carried down to a sternum which reaches
to the elbows. Correct ribbing allows the elbows to move back freely
when the dog is at a trot. Too round causes interference and throws the
elbows out; too flat or short causes pinched elbows. Ribbing is carried
well back so that the loin is relatively short. Abdomen firmly held and
not paunchy. The bottom line is only moderately tucked up in the loin.
Loin Viewed from the top - broad and strong. Undue length between
the last rib and the thigh, when viewed from the side, is undesirable.
Croup long and gradually sloping. Tail - bushy, with the
last vertebra extended at least to the hock joint. It is set smoothly
into the croup and low rather than high. At rest, the tail hangs in a
slight curve like a saber. A slight hook- sometimes carried to one
side-is faulty only to the extent that it mars general appearance. When
the dog is excited or in motion, the curve is accentuated and the tail
raised, but it should never be curled forward beyond a vertical line.
short, or with clumpy ends due to ankylosis, are serious faults.
with a docked tail must be disqualified.
Forequarters - The shoulder blades are long and obliquely angled,
laid on flat and not placed forward. The upper arm joins the
shoulder blade at about a right angle. Both the upper arm and the
shoulder blade are well muscled. The forelegs, viewed from all
sides, are straight and the bone oval rather than round. The pasterns
are strong and springy and angulated at approximately a 25-degree angle
from the vertical. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed, but
are normally left on. The feet are short, compact with toes well arched, pads thick and
firm, nails short and dark.
Hindquarters - The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the
side, is broad, with both upper and lower thigh well muscled, forming as
nearly as possible a right angle. The upper thigh bone parallels
the shoulder blade while the lower thigh bone parallels the upper
arm. The metatarsus (the unit between the hock joint and the
foot) is short, strong and tightly articulated. The dewclaws, if
any, should be removed from the hind legs. Feet as in front.
Coat - The ideal dog has a double coat of medium length. The
outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and
lying close to the body. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry
texture, is permissible. The head, including the inner ear and foreface,
and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with
longer and thicker hair. The rear of the forelegs and hind legs has
somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock, respectively.
coat include soft, silky, too long outer coat, woolly, curly, and open
Color - The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors
are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Pale, washed-out colors and
blues or livers are serious faults. A white dog must be disqualified.
Gait - A German Shepherd Dog is a trotting dog, and its structure
has been developed to meet the requirements of its work. General
Impression-- The gait is outreaching, elastic, seemingly without effort,
smooth and rhythmic, covering the maximum amount of ground with the
minimum number of steps. At a walk it covers a great deal of ground,
with long stride of both hind legs and forelegs. At a trot the dog
covers still more ground with even longer stride, and moves powerfully
but easily, with coordination and balance so that the gait appears to be
the steady motion of a well-lubricated machine. The feet travel close to
the ground on both forward reach and backward push. In order to achieve
ideal movement of this kind, there must be good muscular development and
ligamentation. The hindquarters deliver, through the back, a powerful
forward thrust which slightly lifts the whole animal and drives the body
forward. Reaching far under, and passing the imprint left by the front
foot, the hind foot takes hold of the ground; then hock, stifle and
upper thigh come into play and sweep back, the stroke of the hind leg
finishing with the foot still close to the ground in a smooth
follow-through. The overreach of the hindquarter usually necessitates
one hind foot passing outside and the other hind foot passing inside the
track of the forefeet, and such action is not faulty unless the
locomotion is crabwise with the dog's body sideways out of the normal
Transmission - The typical smooth, flowing gait is maintained
with great strength and firmness of back. The whole effort of the
hindquarter is transmitted to the forequarter through the loin, back and
withers. At full trot, the back must remain firm and level without sway,
roll, whip or roach. Unlevel topline with withers
lower than the hip is a fault. To compensate for the
forward motion imparted by the hindquarters, the shoulder should open to
its full extent. The forelegs should reach out close to the ground in a
long stride in harmony with that of the hindquarters. The dog does not
track on widely separated parallel lines, but brings the feet inward
toward the middle line of the body when trotting, in order to maintain
balance. The feet track closely but do not strike or cross over. Viewed
from the front, the front legs function from the shoulder joint to the
pad in a straight line. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs function
from the hip joint to the pad in a straight line. Faults of gait, whether from
front, rear or side, are to be considered very serious faults.
Cropped or hanging ears
Dogs with noses not predominantly black
Any dog that attempts to bite the judge