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German Shepherd Breed Standard

Vom Banach K9 breeds to meet the international standard of working dogs

Brief History

After the official formation of the German Shepherd Dog Club (SV), with it’s headquarters in Augsburg, the next step was to have the breed standard accepted by the German Kennel Club (VDH). Whilst simultaneously the standard had to be agreed upon by all involved with the breed at the time. The SV was effectively launched into life at the first members meeting, held on the 20th of September 1899, where proposals and recommendations of the breed standard were presented by a Mr. A. Meyer and Dr. Stefanitz. Consequently, several gatherings of the members followed with the agenda always to better coordinate the breeding standard; the 6th members meeting on the 28th of July 1901, the 23rd members meeting in Cologne on the 17th of September 1909 – the combined meetings between the then club president and the breed committees were held at Wiesbaden on the 5th of September 1930 and the 25th of March 1961, where, by now, it was apparent that the formation of the (WUSV) (World Union for German Shepherd Dog Clubs) was becoming a reality. This framework was continuously streamlined, and on the 30th of August 1976 further key decisions for the breed and programme were taken. Proposals and meetings were always catalogued and conclusions monitored until the WUSV Congress on the 23rd and 24th of March 1991 – through the presidents authority, full power was granted to the WUSV.

General Appearance

The German Shepherd is a medium size, slightly stretched, strong, dry and well muscled, with strong bones, whilst the whole body must appear compact.

Important Size Proportions

At the point of the wither, the measurement must be between 60-65 cms in males and 55-60 cms in females. The body length must surpass the wither height by between 10-17%.


The German Shepherd must be self assured, balanced with strong nerves and absolutely impartial behaviour, whilst maintaining a good nature – until pushed to the limit. The dog must be vibrant and easygoing. Furthermore the dog must be courageous, have a strong fighting instinct and possess firm nerves. These are essential requirements since the dog is to be used as companion, guardian, protector and a working sheepdog.


It has to be wedge shaped and it should be proportionate in size to the rest of the body (the length of the head should be approximately 40% that of the wither height), without appearing clumsy, shapeless or coarse or over-long. The general appearance must be dry (no flabby, loose skin). The forehead (whether seen from the front or the side), should not appear to be domed and have only little or no centre furrow.

The ratio between the forehead and the end of the muzzle must be almost 50/50. The forehead width must be the same as it’s length. The skull (seen from the top), from the ears to the tip of the nose must consist of smooth lines, whilst having a defined separation between the skull and the muzzle (stop).

The Nose

Must be black.

The Mouth

Must be strong, well-developed, healthy and complete (42 teeth in total). The German shepherd must have a scissor-like bite, in other words the bottom teeth locking with the top teeth in a scissor-like formation. Furthermore, the upper jaw must overlap the bottom jaw. The definition on the side of the jaw, is positioned in such-a-way, so as the top and bottom layers of the front teeth (top and bottom) must not shut level (directly on top of the other) – the top must over-lap the bottom in a scissor-like close. The bones of the jaws must be well developed so as the teeth are not prematurely worn.

The Eyes

Have middle size, almond-shaped and slightly angled, whilst they must not protrude. The eye colour should be as dark as possible. Light eyes are not desirable as they spoil the expression of the dog.

The ears should be set high on the skull and carried almost parallel.


The German Shepherd has ears which are middle sized, firm textured, broad at the base, set high on the skull, are carried erect (almost parallel and not pulled inwards), taper to a point and open towards the front. Tipped ears are faulty. Hanging ears are a very serious fault. During movement the ears may be folded back.


The neck must be strong, well muscled and without excessive, loose skin at the throat. It should be at a 45° angle to the body.


A smooth top line beginning from the back of the neck and continuing in a straight line over a well developed wither and sloping slightly toward the croup – without any visible disturbance. The back is tight, strong and well muscled. The loin is broad, well developed and well muscled. The croup must be long and slightly angled (about 23° to the horizontal), without any disturbance to the topline – it must continue toward the beginning of the tail.

The Chest

Must be moderately broad and the brisket should be long and pronounced. The depth of the chest should not be more than 45-48% of the wither height.


Must show a moderate curve. It is faulty for the ribs to be either barrel shaped (too round) or slab sided (too flat).

The Tail

Is bushy haired on the underside, should reach at least to the hock joint. The ideal length – being to the middle of the hock bones. When at rest the tail should hang in a slight curve like a sabre. When moving it is raised and the curve is increased. Surgical corrections are not permitted.


The forelimbs – when seen from all sides must be absolutely straight. Viewed from the front, they must be parallel. The shoulder blade and the upper arm must have the same length, be well muscled and be tightly knit to the body. The angle of the shoulder blade to the upperarm – ideally should be at 90° but usually it is acceptable around 110°. The elbows must be close to the body – both in stance and in movement.

The pastern must be 1/3 of the length of the foreleg and an angle of about 20° – 22° to foreleg. Furthermore the pastern should be neither too straight nor too angled (say 20-22°), so as not to deter the dogs stamina.

The Feet

Should be rounded, toes well closed and arched. Pads should be well cushioned and durable but not brittle surfaced. Nails short, strong and dark in colour.


The position of the hindquarter bones are rounded toward the back. When viewed from the back, they are parallel to each other. The upper and lower thigh bones are almost of the same length and create an angle of approximately 120°. The tight must be strong and well muscled. The hock joint must be strong and tight, whilst on a vertical line to the rear feet.


The German Shepherd Dog is a trotting dog. To achieve this, the limbs must be in such balance to one another so that the hind quarter may be thrusted well forward to the mid-point of the body and have an equally long reach with the forefoot and without any noticeable change in the back line.

The correct proportion of height to corresponding length of limbs will produce a ground-covering stride giving the impression of effortless movement. The head thrust forward and tail slightly raised – balanced and even trotting is seen with a flowing line, running from the tips of the ears over the neck, back and the tip of the tail.

The Skin

Tight, without any wrinkles.


The consistency of the hair: The correct hair type for the German shepherd consists of the undercoat and an overcoat. The overcoat must be made up of dense, straight – hard and close-lying hairs. The hair on the head, ears, paws and legs must be longer and even denser. The hair at the back of the hind legs form a moderate “trouser”.


Base color should be black with markings of brown, red-brown, blonde and light grey. Alternatively a grey base-colour with “clouds” of black markings and a black “saddle” and “mask”. Inconspicuous white markings on the chest, and “brighter” shades on the under- and inner sides of the dog are permitted but not desirable. The nostrils must in all cases be black.

Non-existence of a “mask”, bright – until piercing eye colour as well as light/white nails and are coloured tail top are considered as a lack of pigmentation, the undercoat is a slight gray fond. White is not permitted.


Male animals must have two, apparently normal testicles fully developed into the scrotum.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Serious Faults

Departure from the breed standard which has been stated in this context and which affects the usefulness and appearance of the dog, is considered a serious fault. Lacking of pigmentation, heavy and loose dogs, missing or faulty dentition and/or jaw formation.

Faults Of The Ears

Ears set too low off the side of the skull, soft and tipping at the tops.

Exclusion Faults

  1. A weak character and nervous or nervous biters.
  2. Proven (documented) serious “HD” condition.
  3. Monorchids, cryptorchids or deformed testicles.
  4. Deformed tails and ears.
  5. Dogs with deformities.
  6. Dogs with missing teeth.
  7. Faulty jaws (under- or over shot mouths).
  8. Oversize/undersize by more than 1 cm from the set standard.
  9. Albinos.
  10. If the colour of the hair is white (regardless if the nose/eyes are dark).
  11. Longcoated dogs (where the hair is soft, long, not tight — especially noticeable long inside and on the outside of the ears, long hair behind the front and rear legs, long hanging hair hanging from the tail).
  12. Longhair with absolutely no undercoat, where the hair from the back is parted in the middle and hangs down the side of the dog.