The German Shepherd Dog (often abbreviated to GSD) is one of South Africa’s most popular breeds: They’re loyal, family-friendly, and make excellent guard dogs.

Like any large and powerful breed, they need to be trained and socialised properly to ensure their energy is channelled in healthy ways, so they don’t become destructive. Luckily, they’re considered smart and easy to train, so if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to train your pup, you’ll be rewarded with a devoted and courageous companion who is always up for an adventure.

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking about adopting a German Shepherd.

German Shepherd influencers you need to follow

German Shepherds aren’t as Instagram-trendy as some other dog breeds (like Labradoodles, for example), but these pups sure are photogenic! Although you should never let social media trends dictate which breed of dog you get, it doesn’t hurt to give these beauties some virtual pats:

Is a German Shepherd right for you?

Have you ever wondered why so many German Shepherds are police dogs, guard dogs, guide dogs, drug detection dogs, and herding dogs?

It’s because they’re genetically a working dog – which means there’s nothing that’ll make these dogs happier than having a job to do!

You might not be a policeman or farmer, but even if you live in the city or suburbs, you’ll need to put extra effort into satisfying their natural urge for having a purpose. Because they need so much physical and mental stimulation, this isn’t the dog for you if you’re looking for a couch potato who can laze about all day.

German Shepherds can be aloof around strangers, which is one of the reasons they’re such great guard dogs – but it also means they aren’t necessarily the best choice if you want a family dog who will make everyone who visits feel welcome. Of course, if you socialise your pup early and get them used to strangers, you’ll have a better chance at them being friendly and outgoing with new people.

They’re considered high energy, intelligent dogs who aren’t suited to apartment living. They also aren’t ideal for novice owners and would benefit from dog owners who are experienced in raising large working dogs.

German Shepherd health issues

Despite originally being bred as working dogs, when GSDs started to be bred for a show dog appearance, the breed standard included a sloping back that was not seen in the original dogs.

There’s a massive amount of international controversy between owners and breeders on whether the show dog’s current sloped back is a genetic deformity – with some even claiming that the breeding imposed on the pup is a form of animal cruelty.

In fact, the world’s largest dog show, Cruft’s, was forced to change its entry requirements in 2016, after a video of a struggling German Shepherd went viral, with many attributing its demeanour to its “disfigured back and legs.”

The local authority on purebred breed standards, KUSA (Kennel Club South Africa), doesn’t emphasise the sloped back as much as international bodies, writing, “Breeders and judges should at all times be mindful of features which could be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.”

Generally, in South Africa, the working dog breed is far more widespread than the show breed, but there are still some health issues that are common across all lines of German Shepherds:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Bloat
  • Epilepsy
  • Haemophilia
  • Diabetes
  • Cataracts
  • Degenerative disc disease

Luckily, with comprehensive pet insurance like the plans offered by, you can ensure your German Shepherd stays healthy and happy from only R77 per month.

Finding a German Shepherd in your area

At, we support Adopt Don’t Shop, and there’s no shortage of GSD-cross working dogs at shelters and rescues throughout the country.

If you choose to go through a breeder, we strongly recommend that you go through accredited breeders who belong to a recognized organisation like KUSA. You never want to go through a breeder who isn’t part of a regulatory organisation.

Even if your heart is set on a purebred GSD, you can still find one at breed-specific rescues – it may take longer than you hoped to find your perfect pup, but there’s nothing quite as heart-warming as giving a dog in need a good home.

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