Protecting your German shepherd

Learn how to keep your German shepherd in tip-top condition.

Loyal, fierce and proud, the German shepherd is not for the faint of heart. Early inbreeding in the breed’s lineage, and the dog’s need for constant exercise, means this breed can be prone to a number of health issues if not cared for properly.

If you’re thinking of getting a German shepherd, make sure you’re ready to give it the attention and stimulation it needs. And don’t forget to protect yourself and your pet with comprehensive pet insurance to save on vet bills down the road.

What do you want to learn about?

Want to protect your German shepherd?

Details Features
Major Medical Cover
Major Medical Cover
Reimburses 80% of veterinary treatment related to Accidental Injury and Illness.
  • $15,000 annual benefit limit
  • 80% of vet bill covered subject to terms and conditions
  • $1200 emergency boarding fees per year
  • 5% discount for each additional pet insured up to 15%
Get Quote More info
Comprehensive Cover
Comprehensive Cover
Price Beat guarantee on comparable pet insurance policies.
  • Accidental Injury and Illness Cover Plus Routine Care
  • $12,000 annual benefit limit
  • $1,500 annual tick paralysis benefit
  • Up to $1,200 emergency boarding fees
Get Quote More info
Ultimate Cover (Accident & Illness)
Ultimate Cover (Accident & Illness)
Get up to $11,000 cover every year on eligible bills. Benefit from a 10% multi-pet discount.
  • $11,000 annual claim limit
  • Up to 80% of eligible vet bills back*
  • No excess
  • Premiums go towards supporting the RSPCA
  • Optional routine care cover
Get Quote More info
Premium Accident & Illness Cover
Premium Accident & Illness Cover
Get 10% of the premiums you’ve paid back after the first 12 months with The Real Reward.
  • $12,000 annual claim limit
  • Up to 80% of vet bill covered subject to terms and conditions
  • Take your pet to any licensed vet practice in Australia
  • Optional routine care benefit
Get Quote More info
Comprehensive Plan
Comprehensive Plan
FREE engraved ID tag for all new policy holders
  • $8,000 or $12,000 annual benefit limit
  • Up to 80% of vet bill covered
  • Excess of $0, $100 or $200 per each unrelated condition
  • Optional Routine Care Cover
Get Quote More info
 Premium Care
Premium Care
Helps support Guide Dogs Australia.
  • $20,000 annual benefit limit; covering accident and illness
  • Up to 85% of eligible vet bills covered
  • Excess options: $0 or $50
  • $1 million of Third Party Liability Cover – for Registered Guide Dogs only
Get Quote More info
Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover
Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover
With every additional pet, you get a 10% discount. Offers optional coverage for routine care.
  • Cover up to 85% of eligible vet bills*
  • Claim up to 14,000 per year
  • Optional routine care
  • No excess
Get Quote More info
Gold Accident and Illness
Gold Accident and Illness
With no joining fee and no excess to pay, it’s affordable protection for your four-legged friend.
  • Cover up to 75% of eligible vet bills*
  • Maximum claim of $12,000 per year
  • You’re free to choose any licenced vet in Australia
Get Quote More info
Accident and Illness Cover
Accident and Illness Cover
Cover 75% - 85% of your veterinary treatment costs up to $12,000. Multi-pet discount up to 10%.
  • Annual limit up to $12,000
  • $500 tick paralysis treatment cover
  • 10% multi-pet discount
  • $300 in consultations covered per annum
Get Quote More info


The German shepherd can trace its roots back to the late 1800s when Captain Max von Stephanitz decided Germany’s sheepdogs needed to be standardised into a distinct breed of working dog. When von Stephanitz found a specimen displaying all the traits he wanted in a breed, he embarked on a strict breeding program that resulted in the German shepherd as we know it today.

German shepherds consistently make the top-five list of most popular dogs in the world. The hype started when an American service member brought home a German shepherd pup he rescued during World War I. The pup went on to star in 27 Hollywood films as none other than Rin Tin Tin.

German shepherds are prized for their strength, intelligence and loyalty. As a result of these traits, the “working dog” status still suits the breed today in endeavours like police work and disability assistance.

German shepherds are officially known as German shepherd dogs (or GSD). Still bitter after World War I, the Brits and Irish started calling the breed “alsatian”, and some people still do.

But don’t confuse that with the American alsatian, a relatively new breed that combines genes from the German shepherd, Alaskan malamute, great Pyrenees, Anatolian shepherd and English mastiff.


German shepherds are not casual pets. They don’t like to be alone, and they need constant stimulation, both mentally and physically. They are bred to be loyal, confident and strong, and with the right upbringing they can epitomise these traits.

Therefore it is important to rear them correctly from the beginning. They need to be given a place to run freely every day. Their intellect requires stimulation in the form of obedience training and learning new skills and tricks. You need to socialise them early so they become confident around others rather than aggressive.

German shepherds take a lot of work to raise properly, so don’t choose one if you’re not willing to put in the hard yards. But rest assured that if you put in the work, you will be rewarded with a loyal, hard-working and intelligent companion.


The German shepherd is an unmistakable breed. They are medium- to large-sized dogs with muscular bodies that are longer than they are tall. They stand confident and proud with intelligent eyes and a long, fierce snout and large, erect ears.

Most German shepherds are tan with black markings that cover some or most of their coat and/or snout. They are heavy shedders, so be prepared to do a lot of brushing and vacuuming should you decide to take on a German shepherd as a pet.

German shepherds are agile dogs with a long, bounding strides, perfectly suited to their working-dog heritage.

Is a German shepherd a good family dog?

A German Shepherd can make a good family dog, but it will not necessarily suit all families. If you plan to welcome a German shepherd into your clan, you need to lay the proper groundwork in regard to your dog and your children.

You will need to socialise your German shepherd from a young age and ensure it gets all the exercise and mental stimulation it needs. Otherwise its unbounded energy could get misdirected and create strife for the whole family.

At the same time, you need to teach your children to respect the dog and not to torment it.

In the right family, a properly raised German shepherd will be extremely loyal and protective. But this takes a level of dedication not all families are equipped to provide.

German shepherd overview

Life expectancy
  • 9–13 years
When does it reach full size?
  • Around 3 years
When does it stop teething?
  • Around 6 months
  • No
Tolerates being alone
  • No
  • Yes, but only if well-trained and socialised early; better with older kids
  • Yes, but only if well-trained and socialised early
Amount of shedding
  • High
Easy to train
  • Yes
  • High
  • Medium
Tendency to bark
  • Medium
Energy level
  • High
Exercise requirement
  • Daily vigorous exercise (eg frisbee in the park)

German-sheperd-on-woods (1)

Health problems

When Captain Max von Stephanitz set out to create the German shepherd, he resorted to inbreeding to ensure he could consistently replicate the traits he wanted in future offspring. This had the side effect of also breeding genetic abnormalities into the entire lineage.

Additionally, their exploding popularity has led to backyard breeders indiscriminately producing litters without thought to curtailing undesirable traits.

Finally, German shepherds used for show are bred to emphasise certain traits that are not necessarily good for their health.

Luckily, responsible breeders are working to breed these abnormalities out of their litters. You can minimise your risk of obtaining a susceptible pup by talking to the right breeders and by being patient.

That said, there are certain health problems you should be aware of:

  • Hip/elbow dysplasia and other orthopedic diseases
  • Chronic diarrhoea and other digestive problems
  • Allergies, skin problems and autoimmune diseases
  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Heart disease
  • Cataracts
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Blood clotting
  • Diabetes

How much does treatment cost?

Treating some of the health problems German shepherds are prone to can be an expensive exercise. The table below is a rough guide to the treatment costs you can expect for a range of common conditions:

Health problemAverage total claim
Snake bite$1,742
Cruciate condition$2,530
Epilepsy and seizures$1,079

Source: The Hollard Insurance Company (2016/2017)

Pet insurance just makes sense

The cost to insure a German shepherd is quite reasonable: at around $15 per week for a comprehensive policy, it is below average compared to other dogs.

Given the German shepherd’s propensity to develop genetic health complications, we think this is a small price to pay for peace of mind and for the health of your pup.

Your German shepherd will become one of the most beloved members of your family, so you’ll want to make sure it avoids any unnecessary pain and discomfort.

Given the breed’s predisposition to developing serious complications, having insurance in place will ensure you are financially able to give your pup the high-quality treatment it deserves, thereby allowing it to live a long, healthy life.

You can even opt for a plan that will cover any unfortunate accidents, such as being hit by a car or bitten by a snake.

When you are comparing plans, be sure to check the product disclosure statement (PDS), or contact the insurer directly to understand exactly what conditions they do and don’t cover.

Compare pet insurance for your dog from Australian brands


Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, read the PDS or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Ask a question
Go to site