How Long Does a German Shepherd Live?


Dogs are not only man’s best friend, but they can become important members of our family as well. This is why we want to ensure that they live long and healthy lives. Unfortunately, large breed dogs like German Shepherds have shorter life spans compared to small breeds, but this does not stop people from adding a German Shepherd dog to their family. You may be wondering: how long does a German Shepherd live? Are there ways to help increase their lifespan?

Any pet parent’s goal is to ensure that your German Shepherd stays with you and your family for as long as possible. Here are some of the important facts you need to know about the German Shepherd lifespan.

How Long Does a German Shepherd Live?

This question will always come to mind if you are thinking of purchasing a German Shepherd. According to the American Kennel Club, the life expectancy of a German Shepherd is between 7 to 10 years.

As they turn 7 years old, German Shepherds are considered to have reached their seniority. While the AKC provides the average range of 7 to 10 years life expectancy, German Shepherds from other countries have a life expectancy between 9 to 13 years. There are claims that the longest living German Shepherds lived up to 18 and 20 years old, though such claims are unverified.

One verified report, however, showed that a German Shepherd in a shelter in Gardena, California was around 17 years old when he was left there back in 2014. A mixed-breed German Shepherd in Scotland was recorded to be 15 years old in 2017.

The discrepancy between the lifespans is mainly contributed to the fact that the AKC bases their records on American dogs. American dogs tend to suffer from obesity, and thus, it decreases their lifespan remarkably. So, it is safe to say that you can still help extend the life of your German Shepherd if you give it a healthy lifestyle.

Another reason why American German Shepherds have a shorter life span is that they are bred for dog shows. German Shepherds in America usually have a sloped back, which increases the risk for hip dysplasia, and other back and joint problems such as arthritis.

Does Gender Play a Role in Life Expectancy?

Female German Shepherds and male German Shepherds have different life expectancy rates. So, how long does a German Shepherd live based on its gender?

A study of 272 German Shepherds showed that the average lifespan for both males and females is 10.3 years. Females, however, lived longer with an average of 11.1 years. Male German Shepherds have an average lifespan of just 9.7 years so on average, females live longer than males by about 1.4 years.

Factors Affecting a German Shepherd Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy is just a guide for how long you can expect your beloved dog to live, but many factors can affect a dog’s lifespan. These factors can either make your dog live longer or cause them to die young. The following factors affect a German Shepherd’s lifespan:

Work Load

The breed is labeled as an all-purpose working dog. They are known for their loyalty, courage, and high intelligence which gives them the ability to learn commands and tasks. Being a working dog, the German Shepherd is diligent and there is an eagerness to put their life on the line. Though they do not complain, too much workload affects their bodies and causes them stress.

Improper Breeding

Reputable breeders know how to breed properly. Some breeders who do not have enough knowledge and training may resort to ways that do not prioritize canine health. Some countries require dogs to undergo health checks and a screening process before they are used for breeding.

In-breeding usually results in health conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia. Linebreeding is a better choice because it is slightly less dangerous, and it increases the longevity of life of a German Shepherd while maintaining its desirable features. But even then, there is still a risk for health problems to arise from line-breeding.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Despite proper breeding process and healthy parents, some dogs have underlying medical conditions. Some conditions are present at birth or show during the puppy’s early years. There are also health concerns that are diagnosed at later stages of life. These conditions warrant regular vet visits for proper treatment. The earlier an issue is diagnosed, the better the chance to increase your dog’s lifespan.


Your dog’s lifestyle includes diet and exercise. Giving your German Shepherd balanced meals and keeping it active helps to keep it in shape. The diet of a large breed dog is different from small breeds, and they have higher caloric requirements given their size and activity level. Adequate exercise also affects your dog’s health. Without it, the dog can become aggressive and behavioral problems may arise.


Similar to exercise, training helps your dog maintain a good disposition. It also prevents any behavioral issues that may occur. Training your dog to be sociable is also critical since aggressive dogs from large breeds are often put down if they caused accidents and injuries to people around them.


Your dog’s environment also plays an integral role in its lifespan. Avoidable accidents such as being hit by a car may happen if you do not have safety precautions around your home or yard. Make sure that your place is dog friendly. Always lock the gate and ensure that your dog is secure from other environmental threats.

Common Health Problems of a German Shepherd

As with any other breed, German Shepherds have innate health concerns that every dog owner should be wary of. Recessive diseases from inbreeding, and even linebreeding, have become increasingly common.

Some of the common health problems that German Shepherds suffer from include:

  • Bloat
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
  • Hemophilia
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Epilepsy
  • Megaesophagus
  • Arthritis
  • Back problems
  • Allergies
  • Vision problems

Regular vet visits will help diagnose problems even before they start to show signs and symptoms. Early detection may help save and extend your pooch’s life. Though some of the health problems stated above do not directly threaten the life of a German Shepherd such as arthritis and allergies, these issues can still impact the dog’s quality of life.

10 Ways to Extend a German Shepherd’s Life

How long a German Shepherd lives relies on its pet parent. Taking care of your German Shepherd and ensuring that it’s living a good life helps prolong its lifespan. Here are some helpful tips to extend a German Shepherd’s life.

Regular Vet Visits

Vet visits ensure that your dog is not suffering from any health issues. Some pet owners only bring their pets to the vet if they are exhibiting concerning signs and symptoms. At that point it can be too late for treatment. Having a regular consultation, on the other hand, allows the vet to perform routine check-ups and conduct tests necessary for early diagnosis of diseases.

Proper Diet and Nutrition

A well-balanced diet provides the best level of nutrition that a canine needs. Making an effort in serving nutritious foods will help the dog live a long and healthy life. It also provides the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for everyday living and activities. If a diet is not enough, you can opt to give your German Shepherd additional dietary supplements.

Enough Exercise and Playtime

Exercise and playtime establish your pooch’s physical activity levels. These activities also prevent the dog from becoming overweight. Additionally, physical activities help them release their energy and keep them from getting bored and into mischief. A simple walk in the park may not be enough for German Shepherds to release their energy. Instead, bring them to a free-run dog park where you can keep them off leash and they can run freely to their hearts’ content.

Socialize and Train

Training and socialization also prove beneficial in increasing the lifespan of any dog breed. Training keeps their behaviors under control. For example, dogs love to pick up things they find on the ground. This behavior may lead them to ingesting something dangerous or toxic, which can cause an injury or illness. If the dog has been trained not to wander around and pick, there will be no harm done.

Moreover, social training keeps the dog from being aggressive. Aggressive dogs are often put down because they pose harm to the community. Social interaction, in general, also enlightens their spirit and boosts their moods decreasing stress and anxiety.

Take Care of Their Teeth

The most underrated part of a dog’s health is its teeth, but this is also an integral part of a canine’s well-being. If bacteria lodge in the gum line, they can enter the bloodstream and affect the dog’s internal organs including the heart. When this happens, it can result in a life-threatening condition.

Make sure that you brush your German Shepherd’s teeth. Daily brushing with the right toothpaste is recommended. You can also let your dog chew on bones and other chew toys to remove plaque and tartar.

Provide Mind Stimulation

It is no secret that German Shepherds are highly intelligent. Smart breeds get bored easily, and when they are bored, it always results in unwanted behaviors. Stimulating your dog’s mind with puzzle toys, training and interactive games keep their brains busy. Even simple games like hide-and-seek, scavenger hunts, and fetch keep them mentally engaged.

Find Them a Job

German Shepherds hate being stagnant. Naturally, they are bred as working dogs. They want to work as much as possible so giving them a job excites them. At home, you can train them to watch over the kids, help clean up the toys, or even bring you the remote control. These simple tasks make German Shepherds active and aware.

In the community, the breed is used as search and rescue dogs or therapy dogs. These jobs keep them happy since they are willing to help humans as much as they can.

Watch the Weight

Obesity is a leading cause of shortened lifespan among canines, especially in the United States. Excess weight can decrease a dog’s life by as much as two years, sometimes more. Keeping a close eye on your dog’s weight prevents it from developing problems related to obesity. Also, you need to watch what the dog eats, especially if it already has an underlying medical condition that warrants a special diet.

Maintaining a desirable weight also saves the German Shepherd from the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. It also lowers their risk of developing respiratory and kidney diseases as well as some types of cancer.

A healthy weight further offsets the pain caused by arthritis and other joint problems. The joint pain caused by arthritis is higher in obese dogs than those with normal body weight because the pressure on the joints increases the heavier the dog is.

Hip Care

Hip dysplasia is a concern for most German Shepherds so hip care is essential to help a German Shepherd live comfortably. Hip and joint problems are prevalent in this breed so easing pressure on these areas can help extend their lifespan. Limit the use of stairs as much as possible. Using ramps in the house and the car can help your German Shepherd move properly without adding more strain and pressure on the hips and other joints.

Improve Living Conditions

The environment and overall living conditions of a canine are huge factors in its life expectancy. Dogs that live inside the house are safer. They are not exposed to are dangers that can be found outdoors. They are also protected from fleas and parasites while inside the house as opposed to staying in the yard. Ensure that your German Shepherd still gets quality time outside, especially for exercise and other outdoor activities.

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