What is the Lifespan of a German Shepherd Dog?

Caregivers state different reasons for choosing particular dog breeds over others – while many go for striking appearances and overall body size, others prefer well-behaved dogs with friendly and unique personalities.

The preference list goes on and on – your neighbor probably prefers a protective dog, but your nanny only wants a calm and peaceful companion, one she can hold from time to time.

Judging from the modern world and the constantly changing human needs, it’s pretty evident that a dog’s lifespan is and always has been at the bottom of people’s checklists when they embark on the search for their most perfect dogs.

Besides, the ecstasy of getting your novel pup tends to suppress any burning inquiries you may have concerning the dog’s maximum age.

All in all, the bottom line is the majority prefers popular dogs and looks. The dog’s lifespan doesn’t come as a concern for many until they reach their senior stages.

Sometimes even the dog’s senior life goes unnoticed for a long time that owners often think their pets are merely normally dormant or exhibiting common dog characteristics.

Monitoring the dog’s overall wellbeing, including their life stages should always be as important as choosing them by their looks. It’s the surest way of guaranteeing them better health, longer lifespans, and total comfort during their last days.

Occasionally, dog keepers believe that their dogs, especially German Shepherds, continue to perform well and maintain their dynamic ways even as they near their decade years.

Like humans, German Shepherds require more attention and care in their senior lives than any other stage. Besides, catering to all their needs from puppyhood, through adolescence to maturity creates a strong foundation for better immunity and an improved lifespan.

Finding the perfect German Shepherd pup, either in personality or appearance, shouldn’t be the end of your concerns.

Instead, it should be the beginning of your life journey with the new pet – a journey where the caregiver’s primary concern is to guarantee their Shepherds proper healthcare and wholesome nurturing throughout their different life stages.

The average lifespan of the German Shepherd

German Shepherds can live between nine to thirteen years, but most of them only grow as old as a decade.

Some can reach even fourteen or fifteen – the life expectancy factor entirely depends on the Shepherd’s upbringing and in some cases, genetics.

Overall, a dog that gets regular vaccination, highly nutritious diets, medication, and frequent exercise can live a healthy life and even surprise you and your vet by living up to one and a half decades.

Several environmental factors and behavioral distinctions can affect your GSD’s lifespan – they can also encounter accidents in their early life which may prevent them from living as long as a typical Shepherd.

Is age a deal-breaker?

In modern times, the dog’s lifespan isn’t much of a concern for aspiring owners. Many upcoming breeders are more in a frenzy to create the most desirable show performer.

This leads to poor breeding, which in turn makes the inherited gene pools in the offspring smaller. Small gene pools often result when breeders inbreed their dogs.

Inbreeding has been a consistent culture for many years now. The practice is on the rise because of the increasing demand for show dogs with desirable traits for winning. For example, it could be a sloped back or a leaner body.

This breeding culture, despite giving breeders a niche in the entertainment industry, is causing more severe health problems to purebreds and even shortening their lifespans.

A majority of health problems or disease traits exist in form of regressive genes. When more dogs of the same relation are repeatedly mated, there is a high chance that both parents may be carrying the same recessive genes and ultimately transfer the sickness traits to the offspring.

In a nutshell, it would be wiser to pick a puppy based on their bloodlines and lifespans than appearance or the desire to win a popularity contest.

The Life Stages of German Shepherds

It takes some time for a German Shepherd to mature. Before maturity, German Shepherds always go through two early life stages, namely puppyhood and adolescence.

Your GSD will show different maturity, physical and behavioral traits at their various developmental stages.

It’s best that every German Shepherd owner keenly understands all the life stages so that they know how to handle their pets and provide them with the right requirements according to each stage.

  • The juvenile phase

This is the earliest point of the puppy’s life. The stage categorizes all pups aged between three to seven months. Experienced breeders, dog owners, and experts believe the juvenile period is the best time to consider adoption.

At this stage, the pups are both young and enthusiastic. They can learn many new things because of their fresh and sharp minds. Besides, it’s the best stage to teach your puppies obedience, show them every dog trick you wish them to know, and train them according to your expectations.

If you also socialize the GSD at this time, you’ll have an easy time introducing them to other pets and children, without the fear of them fighting or knocking down small kids.

The juvenile period offers you the best opportunity to plan your dogs’ lives while taking into account their dynamic and playing needs. Most importantly, don’t forget to give them enough napping time, because they sleep the most during their puppyhood!

  • Adolescence

After seven months and straight to three years, adolescence sets in. Shepherds become sexually active during adolescence, just like a typical teenage boy and girl.

Puberty will probably be the most difficult time of your training because stubbornness begins to kick in. You may also notice some drastic changes in your puppy’s overall behavior, which will gradually amount to socialization problems.

Spaying is the best way to curb all the problems that come with adolescence. Besides, vets recommend this period as the best time to neuter their Shepherds.

Apart from the few naughty traits German Shepherds display during puberty, they are occasionally energetic and thrive the most in health, size, and character.

The dog’s high energy levels at this time will require caregivers to increase their exercise intensity and make their playtime more involving.

  • Maturity(adulthood)

You can consider your dog fully mature at three years. If you were consistently training your dog between the juvenile phase and adolescence, you’ll start noticing the fruits of your work.

Well-trained Shepherds have sharper senses at maturity and generally have improved behavior. Adult dogs are calm, gentle, and fully conscious of all their actions. They also become more dependable protectors, as they know how to differentiate their masters’ buddies from invaders.

  • The Senior stage

At seven years, your dog is growing old and fit to be classified under the senior phase. Observable signs of old age include reduced activity and general body weakness. Senior dogs are also more prone to common health predispositions. 

To reduce their pain and strain, we recommend that you make them more comfortable at this stage by observing high levels of care, providing the required medication, and feeding them healthy foods in more comfortable (raising their feeding bowls) positions.

Health complications that may affect German Shepherds

  • Dysplasia

Dysplasia affects the elbow and hip joints. It occurs when the joints are (displaced) not formed properly. Due to their displacement, they often cause pain and discomfort to the dog. 

German Shepherds suffering from dysplasia limp to avoid the pain and can experience lameness in the long run. Dysplasia is a genetic problem that often affects GSDs. It’s caused as a result of poor breeding.

  • Bloat

Also known as gastric torsion, bloat is a fatalistic problem that requires immediate attention on occurrence. When bloat happens, the dog’s stomach tightens, twirls, and traps gases within the stomach. Nothing can get in or out.

Gastric torsion affects the dog’s regular breathing – the Shepherd can thus collapse or become generally weak and unable to move.

Bloat occurs when dogs eat too fast or immediately following a heavy exercise. You can prevent bloat by using slow feeder bowls and monitoring your dog during feeding.

  • Arthritis

This problem affects large breeds. Prolonged dysplasia can result in arthritis, so it’s best to prevent the problem instead of going the extra mile to cure it in advanced stages.

With arthritis, the tendons holding the joints wear down completely, leaving the bones bare. When walking, the bones will grind on each other and cause pain and soreness.

  • Allergies

German Shepherds experience allergic reactions when they come into contact with chemical elements or consume food allergens such as grains. Chemical allergens often come from shampoos used to bathe the dog.

You should therefore be careful with your choice of shampoos and the frequency of bathing your Shepherd. Common allergic reactions to chemical allergens include itchiness and skin irritation.

You may also notice abnormal (watery) stools and the frequent release of stomach gases if your dog experiences allergic reactions to certain foods.

  • Epilepsy

GSDs suffering from epilepsy start experiencing seizures when they are twelve months old. Epilepsy can be treated with the right medication and by keeping the dog’s surrounding less stressful.

  • Thyroid disease

When the thyroid glands stop functioning, the dog’s overall health worsens. These glands secrete vital hormones needed for the body’s metabolism. Dogs with the thyroid disease lose their fur and weight, and their appetites decrease.

If your dog shows these signs, we recommend you take him or her for diagnosis and medication.

  • Disc disease

The disc disease occurs when there’s no longer a cushioning around the spine to facilitate its smooth turning or bending. Vets can test this complication with X-ray scans. 

A dog with the disc disease often limps, walks with difficulty, and in extreme cases, can’t get up even when they want to.

There is no medication for this disease – the least you can do is guarantee your Shepherd maximum comfort to prevent further lameness.

  • Pannus and Cataracts

Pannus can affect joint surfaces, heart valves, or eyes. Pannus affects vision by forming additional tissue growth on corneas. When left untreated, it can cause complete blindness.

It’s more common in GSDs and is characterized by eye irritation and eye swells. Even though it can’t be cured, Pannus can be managed on the onset.

Cataracts are quite similar to Pannus – it also affects the eyes. The problem often affects senior and large dogs. The dog’s eye lens thickens, causing a blinding film over their eyes. In most cases, your GSD won’t see and will knock over items around the house.

Vets recommend surgical treatment when the blindness persists.

Feeding, exercise, and grooming tips

These three pillars are especially key in maintaining a healthy puppy and improving the dog’s lifespan. Remember, even when following the different grooming, practice, and feeding routines, it’s still equally critical to seek your vet’s help.

Vets provide vaccination douses needed during puppyhood and in later stages of the puppy’s life. Besides, they have treatment plans against heartworms and offer regular checks to monitor your dog’s progress and wellbeing.


  • Bloat is a common feeding problem. You can, however, prevent it by using slow feeder bowls for your dog’s meals.
  • Make sure you get your Shepherd high-quality and balanced meals. Avoid foods with high carbohydrate content and only choose packages recommended for your particular dog breed.
  • If your dog has any allergic reactions to specific foods, talk to your vet for suitable alternatives.
  • See our full guide to find out How Much to Feed a German Shepherd


  • Dogs do well in stress-free environments.
  • Regular exercise prevents dysplasia, arthritis, obesity, and heart problems.
  • Daily physical practice helps to satisfy your dog’s dynamic character.
  • Mental exercises will keep your Shepherd sharp and prevent boredom.


  • German Shepherds have thick coatings that require daily brushing – frequent brushing keeps their coats healthy.
  • Dental hygiene – you can clean your dog’s teeth by brushing or giving them safe dental eatables.
  • Regularly clipping their nails reduces the risk of nail infections.
  • Don’t bathe them too often – shampoos contain chemicals that cause itchiness on the skin.

How do I know that my GSD is getting old?

The major sign of old age is fatigue. Your Shepherd will get tired easily, even after short exercises. Senior dogs also lose their appetites, weight, and become generally disinterested in their hobbies.

Other signs include poor bladder control, strained breathing, and obvious expression of pain.


German Shepherds are amazing dogs that quickly become family companions after adoption. However, despite all the wonderful benefits that Shepherds bring to our homes, they are still prone to old age and other problems that come with it.

It’s therefore important that you put in place all the necessary arrangements to make their time with you blissful and memorable. You’ll certainly extend their lifespans by taking good care of them in all their life phases.

As they get old, remember to include joints supplements in their diets, to mitigate the effects of arthritis and dysplasia. There’s no better way to love your German Shepherd than doing all there is to keep them comfortable, happy, and healthy.

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