The German Shepherd is a very popular dog breed: in fact, it is the second most popular breed in the USA. It is loyal, loving with family, energetic, and playful. Unfortunately, like most dog breeds, they do not live as long as their owners would like. A German Shepherd’s lifespan is between 7 and 14 years. Factors including hereditary conditions, the nutritional quality of their food, and exercise levels, and even gender, can play a part in how long your GSD lives.
What’s the Average Lifespan of a German Shepherd?
Although it is true that many factors determine how long a German Shepherd lives, it can be beneficial to know the average age one will reach. German Shepherds are expected to live between 7 and 14 years, but some have gone on to live to 18 years or potentially even older – not all dog ages are recorded, after all. Using this figure, we can determine that the breed should live to be between 10 and 12 years in most cases.
Why Do Some German Shepherds Live Longer Than Others?
There is a big difference between 7 and 14 years, and this variant is more pronounced than in a lot of dog breeds, so what are the reasons that some GSDs live so much longer than others?
Dogs need a variety of vitamins and minerals, with protein being one of the most important. While meeting all of the essential nutritional requirements of a dog, you must keep within a recommended calorific intake to prevent your dog from becoming overweight and suffering the health problems associated with this. Some studies suggest dogs that stay skinnier live, on average, 25% longer than other dogs. Furthermore, poor nutrition can lead to illness and health complaints that shorten a German Shepherd’s lifespan.
2. Environment and Conditions
Like humans, dogs can be adversely affected by environmental conditions. In fact, because of their smaller size, toxins can prove deadly in much smaller amounts, and some dogs do tend to investigate everything with their mouths. They can ingest chemicals from fertilizers and even cleaning products around your home. Over time, these toxins build up and can cause illnesses that shorten their life.
Extreme temperatures, being left out in the rain, and extreme heat can also impact your pup’s wellbeing and affect a change in their health.
3. Reason For Breeding
Dogs that are bred for shows and exhibitions tend to be more heavily and strictly bred. This proliferates genetic conditions that are common in the breed. In fact, exhibition German Shepherds are usually bred to be larger and stockier, and these traits mean that dogs are more prone to problems like joint dysplasia. In turn, joint dysplasia limits a dog’s mobility and, therefore, shortens its lifespan. GSDs bred as pets do not necessarily share these same extreme traits and are more likely to live a longer and healthier life.
Similar to environmental factors, the quality of a dog’s housing can affect how long it will live. If a dog lives indoors, it is less likely to be exposed to toxins and extreme weather conditions. It is also less likely to suffer serious accidents. An indoor dog, which still gets plenty of outdoor exercise, is the most likely to lead the longest life.
Extra weight is not good for a dog. It limits their mobility and increases the risk of diseases and conditions like diabetes as well as respiratory and heart complaints. Some dogs are more prone to putting on weight than others, and some dogs are born naturally bigger than others. The bigger the dog, the more likely it will die before reaching optimal age.
6. Sex And Neutering Status
Evidence suggests that, in unaltered dogs that have not been spayed or neutered, the male dog lives slightly longer than the female. However, in those that have been altered, female dogs live, on average, two years longer than males.
In some countries, like Germany, GSDs must undergo health checks and certain screening processes before they are bred, while in other countries this isn’t necessary. Although these checks do not guarantee that a German Shepherd will remain free from such conditions, they do greatly increase the chances of a healthier dog. Where possible, you should find a breeder that has these checks on parents before they breed because it can save you the early heartache and the vet bills of a dog with conditions like degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia, and epilepsy, all of which are more common in the German Shepherd breed.
8. Breeding History
Disreputable breeders not only ignore screening checks and health checks but they tend to have their dogs produce a constant cycle of puppy litters and they care less about the welfare of their animals than better breeders.
You should always have regular health checkups for your dog, whatever the breed, and if your puppy or adult dog shows symptoms of any potentially serious conditions, take them to the vets. Take out dog insurance to help cover the costs because poor healthcare does shorten the life of a dog.
The 6 Life Stages of a German Shepherd
It can help to know what stage of life your GSD is at, and what to expect from the coming months and years.
1. Neonatal Stage
This is the very young puppy stage when the GSD is totally dependent on its mother. Born with its eyes closed, the GSD will open its eyes at around 10 days and will really do little more than eat and sleep until this time.
Once the eyes are open, this is known as the transitional stage and is when the young puppy starts to become aware of its surroundings. This stage lasts about a week and the puppy is still heavily dependent on its mum but is starting to take notice of its surroundings, its littermates, and the people around it.
Once a puppy has become accustomed to its surroundings, it will start to investigate more. In particular, it will start to meet its littermates, where it has previously only had contact with mum. It will also start to meet humans and potentially other cats like animals. This is an important part of the puppy’s life and can help determine how sociable they are, and how well they get along with other animals.
From 3 to 6 months old, your puppy is in its juvenile stage. It will want to smell and explore and will become much more active. This is also the time when a puppy starts to learn what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Consider your juvenile puppy to be similar to that of a young teenager, so expect boundaries to be pushed and attention to wane quickly. As you approach the end of the juvenile stage, your GSD will start to mature sexually, too.
Adolescence is when a German Shepherd fully matures, sexually. If the dog is not spayed or neutered, its hormones will cause it to try and mount just about anything while the female may start to come into season for the first time. It can also cause them to look for sexual encounters outside the house, which means that an adolescent GSD is prone to trying to escape.
A German Shepherd is considered fully mature between two and three years of age. The training and socialization that you introduced during the earlier stages will really pay off now, making your hard work worth the effort.
How To Tell Your German Shepherd’s Age
The single most effective way to tell a German Shepherd’s age is by their teeth. A puppy has no teeth until the age of about 4 weeks. It has incredibly sharp and thin teeth between 4 and 8 weeks, and at eight weeks they start to grow their permanent adult teeth. Puppies that have permanent teeth with no damage are usually aged between two months and one year, while one-year-old dogs start to show some staining on the teeth at the back of the mouth. By five years, a dog will have quite a lot of tartar and by ten years, your GSD will have cracked and broken teeth.
German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and especially in the USA where they are bred for exhibition and as companion pets. In most cases, they can be expected to live between 10 and 12 years, although many factors influence the lifespan of your pet GSD.
- Related Read: Is a German Shepherd Good for a First-Time Dog Owner?
Featured Image Credit: dendoktoor, Pixabay