Breed Standard
Breed Standard


This standard is published according to the rules of the Deutsche Schaferhunde (sv), Augsburg, Germany, as founder of the breed and with universal responsibility for its preservation and development. The first draft was issued according to proposals made by A. Mayer and Max von Stephanitz at the first meeting on September 20th 1899, in Frankfurt Main. It was revised and supplements added at the 6th meeting of members on July 28th 1901, and again at the executive and advisory committee meeting on September 5th 1930 in Wiesbaden, It was again revised within the framework of the world union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs (WUSV) and accepted at the general meeting of that body in August 1976.

This copy of the standard has been annotated to take account of the provisions which emphasise the temperament and primary working roles. It was accepted in its entirety by the members at the GSA Annual General Meeting in 1978. In recent years some areas of the standard have been extended to include additional clarification and to allow for an easier understanding of some heretofore vague points. This Breed Standard document is as adopted by The German Shepherd Dog Association for Ireland, and has been incorporated as part of the breed programme documents catalogue of the constitution of The National German Shepherd Working Association-GSA.

This document shall serve as the primary guidelines and regulatory conditions for the breeding or pure-bred German Shepherd dogs and for the evaluation and rating of pure-bred German Shepherds in speciality conformation shows and breed surveys.

Only the SV Germany shall have power to change, add to, or in any way alter any portion of this document.


The German Shepherd is a working dog, ideally of medium height. The height at the withers is the height of the skeleton measured with measuring callipers by depressing the hair at the withers and taking a straight line, touching the elbow (from behind) to the ground. The ideal height at the withers is 62.5cm for adult males and 57.5cm for adult females. A deviation of 2.5cm above or below these norms is acceptable. The top size permitted for males is 65cm with the minimum set at 60cm. Females should be no larger than 60cm and no smaller than 55cm.

Any increase above or below these maximum and minimum heights is faulty and must be regarded as detracting from the breeding value and working ability of the dog. The German Shepherd Dog is slightly stretched in proportion to its height. Its bones should be strong and straight. He should give the appearance of strength comparative to his size and he should also be well muscled. The relationship between height to length, the placement and position of the limbs (angulations) should be such as to enable a far reaching and enduring gait.

The dogs coat should be waterproof and of normal length. A pleasing appearance should be aimed for when breeding, but this in no way be preferred to his ability and usefulness as a working dog. The primary sex characteristics of the dog should be readily apparent, for example in the male; his masculinity should be obvious and in the female her femininity should never be in doubt. The impression given to the observer must be one of innate natural presence, strength, intelligence and suppleness with everything in proportion. Never should anything be overdone or too little. It must be obvious from the behaviour of the shepherd dog, and by the impression given of his movement that within a healthy body there lives a healthy spirit. The existence of these physical and mental qualities ensure the endurance necessary to be always alert and ready to fulfil the roles demanded of a working dog.

In spite of a lively temperament the dog must be obedient at all times and must be able to adapt to all situations. He must demonstrate that he is happy and willing to respond to all situations and do anything asked of him. He must display courage and resilience in the defence of his owner and possessions. He must also be willing and happy to warn or attack if ordered to do so by his owner. Otherwise he should be observant. Obedient, and a pleasant house dog, devoted to the family and his environment, friendly with children and other dogs, and at ease with people generally. The overall impression that the dog should present is ideally one of nobility, alertness and self-assuredness.


The German Shepherd Dog is a trotting dog. His movement occurs in a diagonal line, for instance he places the fore leg in the opposite direction to the hind leg. To achieve this action his limbs i.e. his angulations, must be so proportioned that without causing a noticeable change in the backline, the hind legs can be propelled to the middle of the body and the forelegs are able to move an equal distance forward. With the correct proportions of height to length and corresponding length of the leg bones one should see a ground-covering gait, which gives the impression of free effortless movement. This even and quiet trotting movement gives a soft undulating line from the tip of the ears through the neck, withers, straight back and the croup to the tip of the tail.


The main and fundamental characteristics of the pure bred German Shepherd Dog are; steadiness of nerves, attentiveness, impartiality, obedience, alertness, loyalty and incorruptibility as well as being courageous and willing to defend or attack with vigour. These characteristics are what make him the ideal working dog overall, but especially useful as a schutzhund, police dog, watch, sport, companion and herding dog. His unique scenting ability, coupled with his enduring build enables him to keep his nose close to the ground without undue exertion, enabling him to work out tracks calmly and surely. This makes him the ideal tracker, police and rescue dog, useful in so many different utility roles and situations.


The dogs head should be proportionate to the body (length approx 40% of the height of the withers) without being coarse, too fine or over stretched. The overall appearance should be clean and slightly broad between the ears. The forehead should only be very slightly arched with no or at most a slight trace of centre furrow when viewed from the front or side. The cheeks should form a very softly rounded curve and should not protrude. The top of the head (approx 50% of the whole length of the head) should, when viewed from above, taper gradually from the ears to the tip of the nose without too pronounced a stop and well running into a wedged shape long cut muzzle. Both the top and bottom jaws should be strong and well developed, with the bottom jaw visible when the mouth is closed. The width of the top of the head should correspond equally with the length. In the case of males the width could be slightly greater and in bitches lesser than the length. The muzzle should be obviously strong and the lips tight, clean and well fitting. The straight bridge of the nose should run evenly with the line of the forehead.


The dogs dentition must be strong, healthy and complete. When the dog is 1 year old his dentition should compromise of a total of 42 teeth, made up of 20 in the top and 22 in the lower jaw.
These are made up of the following; 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars and 10 molars. The German Shepherd Dog is required to have a scissors bite i.e. the incisors in the bottom jaw should be placed behind the incisors of the upper jaw to enable them to act like a scissors when compressed. Because the German Shepherd is intended for working service we place special emphasis on the jaws being strongly developed and the teeth well embedded in the gums. Over and undershot bites including level or twisted bites are faulty. Missing teeth or multiples of missing teeth, abnormal spaces between the teeth, chipped enamel or excessively worn teeth are also faulty. Only dogs with complete healthy dentition should be utilized in the breeding programme.


The ears should be of medium size, broad at the base and set high. They are carried erect (evenly and not pulled inwards) and run out at a point with the muzzle pointed forward. Tipped, docked or hanging ears are to be rejected. An inward carriage of the ears detracts from the overall harmonious picture of the ideal dog. Puppies and young dogs during their teething period will sometimes drop their ears until six months of age or older dogs may carry them pointing inwards. During movement or when at rest the ears are sometimes folded back, this is not a fault.


The eyes are of medium size, almond shape, slanting and not protruding. The colour should match the colour of the coat but should preferably be as dark as possible. Their expression should be lively and exude intelligence and self-assuredness.


The neck should be strong, with well developed muscles and should be without looseness at the throat. It should be carried at an angle of 44 degrees to the horizontal but more erect when excited and somewhat lower when trotting.


The body length of the ideal German Shepherd should exceed the height at the withers. It should be approximately 100 to 117% of the height at the withers. The body length is determined by measuring from the point of the breast bone in front to the end point of the pelvic bone. Dogs that are too short in length, of square build or too high on the legs are faulty and should be rejected. The chest should be deep (45-48% of the height at the withers) but not too broad. The fore chest should be fairly long and well developed.

The ribcage should be well formed and long. Neither barrel-shaped nor flat, and it should reach down to the sternum (breast bone), which should reach down to the elbows.

A correctly shaped ribcage allows free movement of the elbows when trotting. A too rounded rib cage will interfere with the free action of the forelimbs and cause the elbows to be turned out. A flat-sided rib cage will lead to the drawing in of the elbows. The rib cage should extend well back to give a proportionally short loin. The belly should be very slightly drawn up. The withers must be long and of obvious good height, they should be well defined and should join the back in a soft line without disturbing the flowing backline which should be slightly sloping from front to back. The back itself should not be too long between the withers and the croup. The loins should be broad, strong and well muscled. The croup should be long and slightly sloping (approx 23 degrees). The lleum and sacrum form the skeleton basis for the croup. Too flat, too short or steep croups are not desired.


The tail of the German Shepherd should be bushy haired and should at the minimum reach the hock joint, but not extend beyond the length of the hock bone. The end of the tail is sometimes turned sideways with a slight hook, this is not desired ideally, but is allowed.

When resting the tail should hang down with a soft curve but in movement or in excitement it is raised and the curve is increased. Ideally it should never be raised beyond the horizontal, this means that it should never be carried, laid straight or curled over the back. During the excitement of work the tail acts as the barometer of the dogs emotions. The posture of the tail in work situations should not be confused with the normal carriage as it pertains to regular activity. Impassive tails are not normal and are often indicative of surgical intervention. Artificially docked tails are not allowed.


The shoulder blade should be long and sloping (approx 45 degrees) and laid close to the body. The upper arm should be joined to the body at nearly a right angle. Both the shoulder and the upper arm should be strong and well muscled. The lower forelimbs should be straight when viewed from both the front and side. The bone of the forelimbs should be oval in shape rather than round. The pasterns should be firm but not too steep, also they should not be too slack (correct is at approx 20 degrees). The elbows should be tightly muscled and be neither tucked in nor turned out. The length of the forelimb should slightly exceed the depth of chest.


The thighs should be broad and well muscled. The upper thigh bone should when viewed from the side, slope to the only slightly longer stifle bone which is jointed at an angle of approx 120 degrees. The hind angulations should correspond to the front angulations without being overdone. The hock joints should be strong and firm. The hock bone (metatarsus) should be strong and together with the stifle bone (tibia) forms the important hock joint. The hind quarters must be strong and well muscled in order to take the weight or the dog and enable the effortless forward movement of the body. When viewed from behind the limbs must be straight. The hocks should also be straight, neither turned in nor cow hocked.

13. PAWS

The toes should be round, well closed and arched. The pads should be firm but not too brittle; the nails should be short, strong and dark pigmented. Dewclaws are sometimes found on the hind legs of new puppies, these should be removed shortly after birth (preferably 2 or 3 days after).


There are several single colours and combinations which typify the ideal and which should be aimed for.

These are black and tan or light grey markings. These should all have a solid black saddle, or a black saddle with grey interspersed. All black, all grey, or grey with lighter or dark brown markings are also among the definitive colours. Bi-colours, which are almost completely black but with some tan on the legs are also correct. Indications of small patches of white on the fore chest and on the inside of the legs are not desirable but allowed.
The nose in all classes should always be black. Dogs lacking mask, with yellow eyes or light piercing eyes, light markings on the chest and the inside of the legs, colourless nails, red tipped tails or generally weak colours are a definite indication of pigmentation failings. The final colour of the dog is only established after the outer coat has fully developed.


(a) The short / normal coat

The normal coated dog should have a thick undercoat and the outer coat should be as dense as possible. Each hair of the topcoat is straight, hard and lying close to the body. The hair on the head and ears, front of the legs, paws and toes is short. On the neck it is longer and thicker, and on some males even forming a slight ruff. The hairs grow longer on the back of the legs as far down as the pasterns and stifle, and forms fairly thick areas on the hindquarters. There is no hard or fast rule for the precise length of the hair, but obviously short or tight mole type coats are faulty. Short wiry hair over the back and croup is also faulty.

(b) The long haired coat

In the long haired GSD the hairs are obviously longer, not always straight and not
lying close and flat to the body. They are distinctively longer inside and behind the
ears, on the back of the forelegs and usually at the loins, and usually form moderate
tufts in the ears and profuse tufts at the back of the legs (hocks). The other points are
generally covered with long and thick hair. The tail is usually bushy with light
feathering underneath. This type of coat is not weather resistant and is therefore
undesirable and must be classified as undesirable.

(c) The long open coat

In the long open coated GSD the hair is appreciably longer than in the case of type (b)
and tends to form an obvious parting along the back, the texture of which is usually somewhat silky. If present at all, the undercoat is found only at the loins. Dogs with this type of coat are usually narrow-chested and with obvious long narrow muzzles. This type of coat offers hardly any form of protection against the elements and is therefore useless to the working dog. It is undesirable and therefore faulty.


An emphasis is placed on any or all imperfections which impair to any degree the usefulness and ability of the German Shepherd as a working dog. Characteristics which are not wanted in the breed are lassitude, nervousness, over-aggressiveness, gun-shyness and cowardice. Monorchidism or chryptorchidism or testicles which are underdeveloped, lack of vitality, aversion to any form of work, soft or weedy constitution and phenomenon of blues and albinos (with complete lack of pigmentation, pink noses and light eyes etc), also whites (nearly pure white dogs with black noses), Patches and mottled white areas is another indication of serious underlying pigment problems. Over
or undersized dogs, deformed, high legged and with over developed heavy fronts, too short in overall appearance, too light or too heavy in build, weak backs, steep position of the limbs and any other debilitating feature which hampers a good striding and enduring gait.

Muzzles which are too short, too stumpy or weak pointed, overstretched or lacking in strength are major faults. Faults of definition include, over and undershot bites, twisted bites, weak or decayed teeth or any other already prescribed dentition problems which impairs the dogs ability to chew or bite.

Other faults are coats that are too soft, too long, too short, or lacking in undercoat. Dropped or consistently faulty ear carriage. Rolled or curled tails, or otherwise bad tail carriage. Docked ears and tails, and congenital short tails are also faulty.

Dogs with characteristics which have been enhanced or altered by either artificial or surgical means are ineligible for breeding considering or use.


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