Known for their intelligence and loyal personalities, German Shepherds are one of the most iconic breeds in the world. They’re commonly used both as working dogs (such as in police work and within military settings) and as family dogs. With their distinctive appearance and strong, agile bodies, this breed showcases a balance of strength and elegance.
Understanding a German Shepherd’s normal growth stages, average weight and height, and other key characteristics is key to raising a happy and healthy dog. Caring for your beloved pet’s health ensures their overall well-being and longevity, as well as aids in preventing issues like joint problems and obesity-related complications. Regular visits, preventative care, a balanced diet, exercise, and mental enrichment are important parts of providing a healthy life for your German Shepherd.
Keep reading to learn more about the different nuances of a German Shepherd's growth, how to care for both their physical health and their mental and emotional well-being, and other crucial information about this amazing breed!
The best way to ensure that your German Shepherd pup is growing properly is to become familiar with the basics of this breed’s growth patterns, expected weight, and other typical growth characteristics. It’s also important to note that one of the factors that affects your dog’s growth the most is genetics. The genetic lineage of your dog plays a huge role in determining how big and how fast your German Shepherd will grow. Strong genetics from a trustworthy kennel that provides health testing and has well-defined breed standards influence elements such as size, coat color, and the overall physique of the dog.
One of the common characteristics that German Shepherds share with other breeds of similar size is their growth rate. Larger breeds tend to reach maturity slower than their smaller counterparts, with the average time to full growth around eighteen months. In many situations, it can be longer, with the dog becoming fully grown closer to around two to two and a half years. Typically, males grow larger than females and thus may require more time to reach full maturity. However, the majority of growth for both female and male German Shepherds usually occurs within around twenty-four months (two years).
Multiple growth spurts happen around two to six months old, with a notable increase in size and weight. Typically, by six months, German Shepherd puppies have often reached a significant portion of their adult weight. Genetics, nutrition, and the overall health of the dog will all affect the final size of your dog. A well-balanced diet provides the necessary nutrition to help your dog grow healthy and strong. In addition, regular exercise (such as at the dog park, training classes, and at home) provides critical mental enrichment and helps develop physical agility. It’s also important to schedule regular checkups with a skilled veterinarian who is familiar with German Shepherds. They can provide monitoring of these aspects and promptly address any health concerns or questions about your dog you might have.
Before adopting a puppy into your home, you must understand how large they will grow, their typical growth patterns, and health and nutritional needs. This ensures that your dog will live a long and healthy life and that you’re able to provide adequately for their needs.
Now, let’s take a look at the different growth stages that exist for German Shepherds. There are four main stages of puppy growth for German Shepherds, which include the following:
Each one of these stages includes important developmental milestones and is crucial for the proper development of a puppy. Let’s take a closer look at them below:
Starting at birth and continuing through the first two weeks of the puppy’s life, the neonatal stage is when German Shepherds are at their most small and most vulnerable. During this time, puppies are completely blind and deaf and must rely on their mother for sustenance via nursing. Puppy weight will double by the end of the neonatal period, with the average dog weighing in at around just one or two pounds.
After the neonatal stage comes the transitional stage, at around three to four weeks. Towards the end of the neonatal stage or at the beginning of the transitional period, the eyes and ears will open up, the first teeth will appear, and the dogs will begin trying to stand and walk.
During this time, the puppies will become more social and begin to explore their environment and surroundings. They will also require food other than milk from their mother. The traditional stage is also an important developmental period for the personality of each dog and is when individual characteristics begin to develop and appear. During this time, pups will again double in weight, weighing in at around three to five pounds.
Next is the socialization stage, which occurs from around weeks four to twelve. This particular timeframe
marks a pivotal period where puppies learn valuable social skills. Throughout the socialization stage, your puppy’s personality will continue to develop and emerge. The dogs will continue to grow, both in height and weight, and will exhibit curiosity towards their people and surroundings.
As its name suggests, this stage is an especially important time for the dog’s social development. Puppies need frequent exposure to different people, environments, and situations during this time to help them learn how to interact with and adapt to different circumstances. Play is also especially crucial, as is crate training and teaching commands like “sit” and “stay”.
For owners who are looking for ways to create a deep bond with their German Shepherd, providing adequate time for playing, training, and bonding activities should remain a top priority at all times. Consistency and patience are key.
The juvenile stage lasts from around six months to twenty-four months, encompassing a much longer timeframe than the other stages. It is also important to note that the timeframe can vary from dog to dog. During the juvenile stage, your puppy might act a bit like a teenager—testing your boundaries and patience and demonstrating a desire for independence. Sexual maturity will be reached and the dog will continue to grow into an adult-sized body.
Positive reinforcement, patience, and consistency while training can all help support your puppy in becoming a well-behaved adult. You should also be sure to keep up with all necessary vet visits and required vaccinations.
During the neonatal and transitional phases, high-quality puppy food helps support growth and development, after which a gradual transition to adult food should occur. Ensure your dog’s food contains adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals to promote bone and muscle growth. Regular veterinary consultations can help adjust your German Shepherd’s diet to their growth needs. Signs of healthy growth include steady weight gain, a sleek coat, and energetic behavior. Conversely, signs of unhealthy growth might manifest as stunted development, lethargy, or skeletal issues.
A key part of managing your German Shepherd’s growth and weight is being aware of some of the common signs and symptoms of the common health issues that can affect this breed. Familiarizing yourself with these can help you spot when there’s a health issue right away, so you can take proper steps to care for your dog right away.
Here are the most common issues that affect the German Shepherd breed:
One of the most common health problems German Shepherds can face is hip and elbow dysplasia. Around 21% of these dogs will face hip dysplasia, and 12 to 22%.) will have elbow dysplasia. This health issue is caused by a genetic defect and has no cure, though long-term treatments can help.
Dysplasia often can trigger arthritis since bones are not aligning correctly, which can cause pain and wear to the dog’s joints. Lameness and stiffness in the front legs are some of the telltale signs of this condition, though trauma to the area can sometimes create similar symptoms. The best way to identify it for sure is to speak with your vet as soon as possible.
Another health issue that German Shepherds are prone to is degenerative myelopathy. This illness occurs in the spinal cord and can cause weakness and even paralysis in your dog’s limbs over time. It can mimic dysplasia and arthritis, which can make it difficult to diagnose. However, common signs include walking on the knuckles, hind feet scraping the ground, and difficulty getting up after lying down.
German Shepherds can also be prone to gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Both adolescent and adult dogs alike can suffer from problems like food allergies or sensitivities and pancreatic issues that can cause bloating. Thankfully, medications like digestive aids, probiotics, and diet changes can all help relieve GI discomfort in many cases.
Diabetes is also important to watch out for in German Shepherds. Diabetes can cause issues like blood sugar fluctuations and weight loss. Older dogs are especially prone to Type 1 diabetes, though it can occur sooner. Typical signs of diabetes include weight loss, excessive intake of water or food, cloudy eyes, and urinary issues. Treatment can help, but it’s imperative to speak with a vet promptly.
Now, let’s answer some of the most common questions that people tend to have about German Shepherds. Here they are below:
Like most large breeds, German Shepherds can take two years or more to reach full maturity. Genetics, diet, health, and the sex of your puppy can all play a role in determining how large they grow. However, the majority of growth occurs within the first year.
In general, male German Shepherds tend to be larger than females and thus take longer to reach full size.
Typically, males grow to around twenty-four to twenty-six inches tall, and females grow around twenty-two to twenty-four.
Ensuring that you properly grasp the proper height, weight, and growth of German Shepherds is one of the most important parts of caring for your dog. Regular vet visits are key, as are high-quality nutrition, exercise, and enrichment. In addition, purchasing or adopting only from a reputable breeder who health tests their dogs is also crucial.
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