German Shepherds as Pets: Cost, Life Expectancy, and Temperament

Picking out a dog is a big deal, so you should find out all you can about the breed your looking at beforehand. I did this when I was considering buying a German Shepherd and I found a ton. I compiled all this useful info, and I thought I’d share it with you.

So what is the cost, the life expectancy, and temperament of a German Shepherd? Purebred German Shepherds usually cost between $500 and $1,500. The average life expectancy is between 9 and 13 years old. German Shepherds are loyal, intelligent, energetic, and obedient. This breed can be aggressive but usually are well mannered. 

German Shepherds are the second most popular dog breed in the world for a good reason. They have many lovable traits that make them enter the homes and hearts of people everywhere.

German Shepherds as Pets

German Shepherds are great companions because of their intelligence, loyalty, and overall lovable behavior. They live for a decade generally, meaning they will be a great part of the family for a long time.

There are some not-so-great-things as well, for example – the expense. German Shepherds are on the more expensive side when it comes to dogs.

There are a lot of things to consider when you are buying a dog before actually going to the shelter or pet store to pick one out.

A couple of things that you should think about when picking a dog are:

  • No Allergies – If you tend to be allergic to animals than you will not like a dog who sheds a lot. German Shepherds to shed, because of their lineage and adaption to surroundings.
  • Time Commitment – Dogs live for years, so make sure you have the time to put into taking care of your pup every day. German Shepherds have a lot of energy, so they need walks and playtime.
  • Room – This may be simple, but having enough space your pup to run around is crucial for its health. German Shepherds are medium to large-sized dogs, so you’ll need a lot of room for him or her to live.
  • Cost – this includes the cost of purchase or adoption, food, shelter, vet visits. You should consider your budget. A bigger dog, like a German Shepherd, will go through a lot of food.

If you can check off the things above, then you are well on your way to picking the perfect dog for your home.

German Shepherds are great pets to have if you have a family because they get along great with kids and are active. The love to be part of the family.

They have great instincts and are able to adapt to live almost anywhere. As long as you give them the love and affection, (and food) that they need, they will be content.

They will eat a lot of food, and they will chew through a lot of toys, so they are a lot of money. In fact, cost is a big consideration when it comes to deciding if this breed is for you or not.

Cost

Money will always be a big factor in decision making. German Shepherds can be adopted or bought at as low as $500 all the way up to $1,500. Purebreds usually are expensive.

My grandmother spent $800 on her purebred German Shepherd. This is considered a normal price.

One reason that German Shepherds are so pricey is because they are highly desired. Being the second most popular breed will raise the expense.

German Shepherds, especially higher priced pups, are expensive because of the breeding lines. There are some health issues (discussed lower in the article) found in German Shepherds that breeders try to eliminate by using certain bloodlines.

This is not exactly an easy task, and breeders have to invest in buying very healthy dogs to breed with, so overall, it just makes it costly.

However, having a healthy, more expensive dog is definitely worth it. Unexpected costs, like vet visits and surgery, can hurt the wallet more, and it’s not good for your furry companion.

So, how does the cost break down?

ExpenseAverage Cost
Adoption Fee$250
Purchase Fee$800
Spay/Neuter$180
Initial Medical Exam$70
Collar, Leash and Tags$30
Training$140

Information gathered from Wallet Hub.

As you can, it’s not exactly a cheap venture. These are also just things you need to first a German Shepherd.

Additional Costs

These dogs cost several hundred dollars to adopt/buy and several hundred dollars every year on supplies.

The main thing that you will spend money on is food. Quality dog food is important for your dog, and usually, it’s not the cheapest option.

A German Shepherd can go through 1 20-lbs bag of food in a week, sometimes more. That will add up to about $70 a month just on kibble.

Something to keep in mind is that bigger dogs will eat more food. Puppies will also need to eat a lot to keep energy and strength up while going through many growth periods.

Other things that add up are annual exams at the vet, toys, leashes, local licenses etc.

A German Shepherd will cost you around $80 – $100 a month.

If you need to pay a dog walker or pay for boarding while on vacation, it can add up too.

Unexpected illnesses or injuries can definitely happen too, just like people. And those vet bills can do some damage on your savings.

Products to For a German Shepherds

ProductsPrice Range
Leash$18 – 30
Chew Toys
$5 – $25
Dog House (Large)
$70 – $125
Dog Bed$32 – $120
Food and Water Bowls
$12 – 50
Grooming Brush$8 – $25

Finding good supplies can be hard to do, especially for a novice dog owner. German Shepherds are strong and rather large so it is important to get the right stuff the first time, so they last longer and work well for you.

Below there are a couple of options that work for German Shepherds for each product, so you can select the best one that works for your price range and style.

Leash:

Toys:

Dog House:

Dog Bed:

Food and Water Bowls:

Grooming Brush:

More Expensive German Shepherds

Believe it or not, there are some German Shepherds that are priced up to $10,000! That is insane.

Remember those breed lines? There are breed lines in the German Shepherd world that are so highly valued that people will pay major bucks for a puppy.

These $10,000 German Shepherds are show-quality dogs. They come from the best breed lines and win dog shows worldwide, with some good training and grooming.

Most likely, you are not looking for a show dog, so don’t drop your savings on a German Shepherd that is more than 2 grand.

Ways to Save Money on a German Shepherd

While German Shepherds do cost a lot of money to buy and more to maintain, there are ways to save. Don’t give up on the idea of getting a German Shepherd dog yet.

Here are some of the best ways to save:

  • Buy food in bulk (including treats)
  • Get Vet recommended food, not just the most expensive or the most hyped up food
  • Adopt your Shepherd instead of buying.
  • Don’t get pet insurance unless you know your dog get sick a lot or needs surgery
  • Don’t splurge on toys, there are plenty of fun toys that are less expensive
  • Your German Shepherd does not need any outfits
  • Start training early

Try not to get excessive with treats, toys, and clothes. The things that matter to your dog is food, water, and exercise. A German Shepherd needs a simple lifestyle so don’t worry about investing in the brand-name or top tier-items.

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a German Shepherd is variable between 9 – 13 years. This might be surprising to many dog lovers, because many dogs live to be 15.

My own Husky/Shepherd mix as a child was 16 years old when he passed.

There are many factors that go into lifespan. Overall health of the dog is affected by care, health history, hereditary illnesses, and chance.

Some dogs of this breed can live longer than the average, while some German Shepherds will start to feel effects of illness or old age earlier.

Doggy years isn’t exactly right when it comes into figuring out where a dog is at in its life.

German Shepherds enter into a “teenage” age at around 2.5 years old, and this is when a dog (who has not been spayed or neutered) will be able to reproduce.

Growing usually stops here too, and aging slows down, at least in the way that humans think.

German Shepherds generally enter into a retirement age at 10, where they will become (generally) less active.

Illnesses that Effect German Shepherds May Reduce Life Expectancy

Unfortunately, there are a lot of common illnesses or problems that can bring down the average lifespan of a German Shepherds.

They are actually one of the breeds with the most health problems, which is a crying shame. Earlier breeding, and current pure-breeding issues inflict these beloved pups with problems.

Here are the most common health issues seen in the German Shepherd breed:

  1. Hip Dysplasia – Femur not connecting with the hip bone correctly
  2. Elbow Dysplasia – Joints lining up well in the elbow area
  3. Cataracts
  4. Diabetes
  5. Arthritis
  6. Degenerative Myelopathy – Spinal cord disorder that leads to hind-end paralysis
  7. Hearing loss
  8. Hemophilia – protein clot disorder, bleeding disorder
  9. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency – Digestive disorder caused by the pancreas.
  10. Cancer

These conditions are hard on the dog and on the family. It is so hard to watch a very good dog suffer through pain and discomfort.

When you are selecting a German Shepherd, look at medical history and lineage. Like humans, family history of illness can help determine risk factors for your dog.

Unexpected costs, like vet visits and surgery, can hurt the wallet more, and it’s not good for your furry companion.

Not only can it be physically hard to care for an ill dog, it can also be very emotionally draining. Especially with German Shepherds, who are so high-energy when healthy, it’s hard to see a dog who can’t manage to do anything but lay around.

It can take a lot of money too. Regular vet bills and surgery can make it hard to take care of your family and dog in the way that you need to.

Ways to Extend Life Expectancy

The good news is that there are ways to keep your dog healthy, in hopes of extending his or her life.

  1. If you suspect illness, go to the vet. Early detection and fast response to an ailment can save lives.
  2. Make sure your dog gets exercise. A fit an active lifestyle will make a difference in the health of a German Shepherd. Also, make sure they have room to run around outside by themselves.
  3. Get the right kind of dog food. A lot of dog food these days have fillers like corn in them. Healthy food, with protein and vitamins, will help with overweight problems.
  4. Use vitamins if you’re worried about lack of nutrients. For this, rely on your vet for any recommendations, or just to know if your dog needs any supplements.
  5. Get your dog checked yearly, and make sure that he or she is up on vaccinations.

Spending time with your German Shepherd will improve his emotional, and your emotional health. German Shepherds like to feel like they are part of the family and love to spend time around people.

The more time that you spend with your pet, the more spirits will improve. You will also be able to detect any unusual behavior or infirmity quickly.

Temperament

The personality of a dog is going to be one of the most important aspects when it comes to selecting what breed can work for you.

Luckily, German Shepherds have a very lovable personality, in addition to their beauty.

The greatest aspects of their temperament includes loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy. These all combine to make a dog who will obey you and stick by your side. That’s why German Shepherds are the ultimate companion.

Loyality

German Shepherds are notoriously loyal. They have an innate desire to impress.

Particularly, they are close and loyal to the alpha of the house. So, the best way to get a German Shepherd to be loyal is to clearly take charge. They learn to respect and protect the alpha first.

Of course, they are loyal to children too. Spending a lot of time with your German Shepherd will create a strong bond.

Fun Fact: German Shepherds were originally bred for protecting and herding sheep.

When I tell you that German Shepherds are loyal, I mean they are dedicated to the core. Loyalty and protection go hand-in-hand (or paw-in-paw) for a German shepherd.

There are many stories of heroic German Shepherds literally stepping in to save their owners from physical harm.

This video shows a German Shepherd saving a 7-year-old from getting bitten by a snake. He was bitten 3 times, taking the blows from the rattlesnake to protect his owner.

This is just one of many stories of how loyal these dogs really are.

Click here to read a story of a German Shepherd who literally took bullets to save his owner.

In general, German Shepherds are cautious of newcomers, and sometimes suspicious of strangers on the street.

Because they are loyal, they can also get a little territorial. Sometimes they don’t get along very well with other dogs.

Something that you can do early on to prevent some of the aggression problems that German Shepherds show is to introduce other dogs to them at a young age.

While your German shepherd is still a pup, and in training, go to a dog park. Also, have doggy-dates where you have a friend or a neighbor bring over their dog. Getting German Shepherds to be comfortable around others from a young age will help with this problem.

Basic training should be able to help with attitude problems as well.

Intelligence

Speaking of training, one of the greatest things about German Shepherds is the ability to learn commands quickly and correctly due to a high intelligence level.

German Shepherds are in the top three for intelligence levels in all dog breeds. That is really saying something.

A German Shepherd will come to you 90% of the time on the first command.

Now, this is factored in after training. German Shepherds do really well in professional training, but if you are familiar with basic training for dogs, you can train at home.

The most important thing when training is to be authoritative. This ties back into being the alpha.

If you feel unprepared or like you have a stubborn puppy, it’s never a bad idea to let the professionals teach your German Shepherd commands. I mean, that is what they are there for.

Dog obedience school can range anywhere from $50 – $600 depending on where you go. Private trainers give your dog a one-on-one option but they are more expensive.

Having a well-trained dog will make all the difference in how much you enjoy having your pet around. It is definitely worth the investment.

Energetic

Along with being smart and loyal, German Shepherds are known to be energetic. They are basically boiling to the brim with energy. This may make it hard to have your German Shepherd in the house.

Playing in the yard, going for walks or runs, and having plenty of chew toys will be important for these dogs.

They also enjoy things like hiking and swimming. A German Shepherd is a good dog to take camping. Since they have big, thick coats, they will love to play in the snow as well. Just another reason why they are good companions for families with children.

German Shepherds are going to best for people who have yards. They are also best for those who are active.

That being said, my grandma, who is 78-years-old this year, has a German Shepherd who she loves spending time with. She simply plays fetch with Thor and watches him while he runs around and he gets plenty of exercise during the day.

As long as you give your German Shepherd attention and the opportunity to stretch his or her legs, there should be no problems.

Temperaments Suited for Tasks

Because of the strength, intelligence, and loyalty shown by German Shepherds, they are used frequently for special jobs.

You probably have seen a German Shepherd as a police dog, service animal, or part of a search-and-rescue team. They have been used and are still used in the military.

They really have an extraordinary range of skills.

Here are all the things that they are (or were) used for:

  • Police K-9 Unit – areas such as tracking criminals, patrol, and detaining criminals – to read of their heroics, click here. German Shepherds are the go-to dog for these purposes because of a good sense of smell and trainability.
  • Military – Some have been trained to parachute from airplanes. They are mostly used as messengers, scouts, rescue dogs. A lot of German Shepherds are “retired” and are placed in homes with Veterans.
  • Guide for the visually impaired – Although they are not considered to be the top dog when it comes to helping the visually impaired in current days, German Shepherds still are used as guide dogs. These dogs tend to be a little less gentle and more aggressive, which is why they aren’t the first choice.
  • Herding – In some areas, especially in Germany, German Shepherds are still used to herd and protect sheep. Because of their protective nature, they do a great job.
  • TSA – Similar to the police unit, German Shepherds are used to detect drugs and explosives because of their obedience and sense of smell.
  • Service animals – German Shepherds are used as service animals not only in guidance but in those who have epilepsy, anxiety, and other similar problems.

Appearance

Another important aspect of deciding on a dog is the physical features. Now that you know pretty much everything else about German Shepherds, let’s take a look at the physical aspect of these dogs.

It’s already been mentioned that German Shepherds are medium to large dogs, but what does that really mean?

German Shepherds fall between 75 lbs and 95 lbs. The average height is 22 – 26 inches tall. Females are generally smaller than males. This makes for a pretty big and powerful dog. The size will affect the amount of food consumed, and the size of doggy beds/doghouses.

German Shepherds also have a thick-double coat. This coat is medium to long haired and coarse. The colors of this fur is brown, red, black, silver, and gray. There are typically patterns around the head, but can be everywhere.

This coat is constantly shedding. Because German Shepherds were bred to live in cold weather and filthy places, they regularly push out the undercoat.

German Shepherds do have a more intimidating look than other dog breeds, with a big toothy smile and sporty look. They are beautiful and athletic, which is why people fall in love with this breed.

The Demands that You’ll Need to Meet if You Decide on a German Shepherd

If you don’t already have a German Shepherd, and are thinking these are the ones for you, here are some last things to consider. Think of it of a final checklist.

  • German Shepherds will need owners who are not gone for long periods of time – they get a little stir crazy and might start digging, barking, etc.
  • They need someone who is willing to put up with shedding – they shed a lot and need to be brushed at least once a week.
  • They need someone who is willing to spend time being active – this could be sitting on the porch throwing a ball or going on daily runs.
  • German Shepherds need room – being very active dogs, they will need space. I would not recommend owning such a large dog to someone who has a small apartment.
  • They need you to be consistent – especially while training, you need to be consistent in what you need. If you don’t want your German Shepherd on the couch always enforce this rule.
  • They need your love – if you want a dog who is not aggressive and one that is obedient, you need to give love and positive reinforcement. Let your German Shepherd become part of your family.

Related Questions:

Are German Shepherds good family dogs? German Shepherds make great family dogs because they are very loyal and obedient. They have a calm temperament and with training are excellent around children. If your children are taught how to interact with the dog, your German Shepherd and your children will get along well.

How much does owning a German Shepherd cost per year? A German Shepherd typically costs $1,000 – $1,200 a year. This cost includes food, toys, shelter, and annual vet check-ups. Unexpected health problems could add thousands of dollars onto that estimate. It certainly can be an investment.

Noelle Carter

I love animals of all kinds! I grew up with the most beautiful German Shepherd/Husky mix. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with dogs and have owned a lot of different breeds. I want to help spread my love and knowledge about animals around to others through my writing!

Recent Content