What makes a female German shepherd dog different from a male German shepherd dog? As you will soon discover, there are many ways to examine and attempt to answer this important question!
For some people, aside from simple size, weight, and height considerations, there really is no important or measurable difference between a male and a female German shepherd.
But for other people, even the subtle differences between a male and a female German shepherd can be sufficiently important to make one gender a preferable choice to the other in certain specific situations.
In this article, we will take a close look at the unique temperament, personality, and characteristics of female German shepherd dogs to help you decide which gender of GSD may be the right choice for you.
Female German shepherd size, height, and weight
While this is not always the case, one of the most obvious general distinctions about the female GSD is that she is generally leaner, smaller, and shorter than her male counterpart.
German shepherd dogs are considered to be “sexually dimorphic,” which means there can be a visible difference in appearance between the appearance of the adult male and adult female dogs within the breed.
This may be as simple as a height and weight difference or it could include differences in facial and body configuration and behavior, what is often termed “feminization” or “masculinization,” which relates to the dominance of different hormones as the dog grows up.
Size, height, and weight difference
The female GSD stands 22 to 24 inches high (paw to shoulder), a full two inches shorter than the male. And the female GSD will weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, which makes her about 15 pounds lighter than the adult male.
Of course, these weight generalizations may vary depending on any given puppy’s parents.
The female GSD is often described as having a less stocky, leaner, lighter, and more graceful appearance overall.
Coat color and pattern
The bi-color coat pattern is the most common and recognized color for the German shepherd dog of either gender. In most cases, you will find a black female German shepherd that displays one other secondary coat color, either cream, red, tan, or silver.
In certain cases, you may see a single-color GSD in blue, gray, liver, sable, or white, although these are not breed standard colors and may render your dog at fault or deemed ineligible (certainly in the case of the white coat color) for the show ring.
There is no gender-related differentiation in overall coat color or pattern that is seen in the male versus female German shepherd.
Female German shepherd personality and temperament
The German shepherd female temperament can also show marked differences in behavior and personality that can be related back to her gender.
Whether these differences are present and how apparent they may be will vary depending on the traits of the specific parent dogs, which is why it is important to be able to meet and get to know each parent dog as you are selecting between male and female German shepherd puppies.
Experienced GSD breeders and trainers often cite the following presentation and personality differences you may see more frequently or more overtly in the female German shepherd temperament:
- The female GSD is less likely to guard “her” items, be that a favorite toy, a treat or meal, a certain family member, etc.
- The female German shepherd is more likely to bond equally with more than one family member (aside from the principle person responsible for training and meals).
- The girl German shepherd is considered a better pick for whole family protection (versus one-to-one protection, including but not limited to personal security, guarding, hunting, military, police, or K-9 work).
- The female GSD may be easier to train and more sensitive to commands and cues.
- The female GSD may be a better pick for service dog or therapy dog work.
- The female German shepherd can be a better pick for rally, agility, and obedience training due to lighter weight, smaller size, and more graceful body structure.
- The girl German shepherd is often a better pick overall for families with young children.
- The female GSD is considered less apt to become territorial in the presence of strangers.
- The female German shepherd dog may be a better pick for first-time dog owners, families with young children, or individuals/families primarily desiring a pet dog.
Female German shepherd health issues and testing
There are some health issues that both male and female GSDs share in common.
According to the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), these issues include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cardiac issues, eye issues, autoimmune thyroiditis, and degenerative myelopathy.
Only hip and elbow dysplasia are currently required tests for reputable breeders, with the remainder being optional (recommended) health tests.
German shepherds can sometimes contract a blood disease called hemophilia A. Female German shepherd dogs are usually carriers and, unlike males with the genes for the condition, will not show symptoms. There is a health test to detect this disease, which is present from birth.
Data surveys show that idiopathic epilepsy, a genetic condition that is considered common to the breed, is less likely to impact female German shepherd dogs and is more common in males. The reason is not yet known, although researchers suspect there may be several genes (polygenetic) involved.
While spaying is often recommended for female German Shepherd dogs who will not be bred, it is not without its own possible set of health risks.
It is thought that certain health conditions are more prevalent in female GSD dogs who are spayed early in life (12 months or younger) because spaying removes certain gender-related hormones that can be influential to overall health.
One study found that cases of urinary incontinence (7 percent increase in cases), mammary cancer (3 percent increase in cases), and joint disorders (11 percent increase in cases) significantly increased for female GSD dogs who were spayed before the age of 12 months.
Veterinarians and researchers consider any dog spayed before the age of one year to be “early neutered.” This is statistically significant and something to carefully consider, since dogs that are in the early neutered category are more likely to develop life-threatening cancer, especially reproductive cancers (uterine, mammary) that can cause an earlier death.
Delaying the spaying of your female GSD until after the 12-month mark may potentially cut the risk of any or all of these spay-related health issues. This is definitely a question worth discussing with your veterinarian!
Both male and female German shepherd dogs are at risk of gastric dilation volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as “bloat.” Bloat is life-threatening and can be fatal without prompt treatment.
The risk of a GSD developing bloat increases with age, but it can happen at any age. It is not a gender-sensitive condition. You can help your female GSD avoid bloat in these important ways:
- By having your veterinarian perform a simple surgery (this can often be done at the same time as her spaying) to ensure the stomach will not be able to twist.
- By choosing an energy-dense puppy food in appropriate portion sizes based on meal frequency (ask your veterinarian for guidance here).
- By avoiding German shepherd dog foods that list fat or corn in the first four ingredients or use the preservative citric acid.
- By using a slow-feeder bowl placed on the floor (NOT raised) to help your dog avoid gulping air, which can be a major trigger for bloat.
- By waiting one to two hours before or after vigorous exercise or training to feed meals.
In one study sponsored through the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, data showed that at 11.1 years, female German shepherd dogs tend to live, on average, 1.4 years longer than male GSDs, whose average lifespan is 9.7 years.
Female German shepherd sociability and training needs
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the GSD is currently the second most popular family pet dog in America, and this is for good reason, but ongoing regular socialization and puppy training is a huge reason why!
Here, when planning your GSD’s sociability and training, it is wise to keep certain fundamental German shepherd dog traits in mind.
The German shepherd personality and temperament
Your GSD – of either gender – is very intelligent. This is one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds! Your German shepherd has an incredibly strong work ethic with tremendous drive and focus while “on the job.”
Your GSD will bond strongly with at least one and (for female German shepherds in particular) perhaps several family members. To your GSD, you are your dog’s life!
Your GSD is far too intelligent and sensitive to tolerate anything but positive training methods that focus on delivering praise, playtime, pets, and treats in response to well-learned tasks and commands. Negative training will likely increase this breed’s tendency towards aggression or hostility when poorly handled.
Socialization and training for a female GSD
The female GSD is likely to respond really well to socialization and training that includes her entire family, even small children.
Everyone in the family should play a part in feeding and training your new pup. This will go a long way towards developing her tendency to bond closely with each family and guard each person equally.
While a female German shepherd is lighter and shorter than her male counterpart in most cases, she will still be strong from the get-go! Choosing the right collar and lead system will help you and everyone in your family reinforce desired behaviors on the leash and minimize errors and distractions.
Female German shepherds will need plenty of early socialization with young children in the family and with other family pets. Young children in particular will need to be supervised at all times in interactions with your female GSD puppy!
This is for everyone’s safety. Children may be unintentionally rougher with a puppy that can be easily tolerated and this can lead to preventable incidents.
Introducing other pets
If you already have another pet dog when you bring your female GSD home, be sure the other dog has already been neutered or spayed before your GSD puppy arrives to minimize the likelihood of territorial aggression or dominance behaviors.
If you have family pets of other species, it will be best to keep them apart from your female GSD for everyone’s safety.
German shepherds (of either gender) are hands-down one of the most popular police and K-9 dogs in the world. Some of these are German shepherd mix dogs while others are purebred GSDs.
Is a female German shepherd a good choice for a family dog?
Because of the differences noted here between male and female GSD personality and temperament, a female German shepherd may be the best choice if you are primarily seeking a pet dog or a guard dog for your family.
This is because female German shepherd dogs have a stronger tendency towards guarding a group of people versus a single individual with whom the dog has developed a strong bond (this is more of a male GSD trait).
Also, numerous research studies have highlighted that female German shepherd dogs demonstrate lower overall aggression, especially in the presence of unknown persons, than do male GSD dogs.
This same distinction can make a female GSD a better choice for a family member who could benefit from a service dog or a pet dog that will partner with you to do therapy dog work.
Should I get a female German shepherd?
This is a truly personal choice and a decision that only you can make! We hope that the general breed information and facts you have read here about female German shepherd dogs will make your choice easy and clear.
References and Further Reading
- Frynta, D., et al, “Allometry of Sexual Size Dimorphism in Domestic Dog,” PLOS One Journal, 2012.
- Beach, F.A., “Hormonal modification of sexually dimorphic behavior,” Science Direct, 1975.
- Vaughn, R., “Should I Get a male or female German Shepherd?,” Kavallerie Shepherds Kennel, 2018.
- Battaglia, C., DVM, et al, “German Shepherd Dog Breed Information,” American Kennel Club, 2018.
- Giguere, M., “Differences between males and females,” Les Anges Gardiens Kennel, 2017.
- Gunbil, I., et al, “Differences between male or female german shepherd,” Gunbil German Shepherd Kennel, 2015.
- O’Neill, D., et al, “Demography and disorders of German Shepherd Dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK,” Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, 2017.
- McReynolds, T., “Study Reveals sex-specific genetic traits in German shepherds,” American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 2017.
- Godfrey, R., BVetMed MRCVS, et al, “German Shepherd – Idiopathic Epilepsy, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), 2018.
- Woods, T., “Early Neutering Poses Health Risks for German Shepherd Dogs, Study Finds,” UC-Davis, 2016.
- McCall, K., “Bloat in Dogs,” German Shepherd Rescue of New England, 2018.