The breed standard

The Breed Standard

German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog: International Standard (WUSV) Standard No. 166
Origin: Germany FCI Classification
Group 1: Sheepherding – Sheep Guardian
Section 1: Sheepherding – dog tested/examined for working qualifications.
Use: Sheepdog with a high degree of versatility and usability; police dog, guide dog, and rescue dog.

General Appearance

The German Shepherd Dog is medium size, slightly stretched, strong, dry and well-muscled, with strong bones, whilst the whole body must appear compact.

Important Size Proportions

At the point of the wither, the measurement must be between 60-65 cm in males and 55-60 cm in females. The body length must surpass the wither height by between 10-17%.


The German Shepherd must be self-assured, balanced with strong nerves and absolutely impartial behavior, whilst maintaining a good nature – until pushed to the limit. The dog must be vibrant and easygoing. Furthermore the dog must be courageous, have a strong fighting instinct and possess firm nerves. These are essential requirements since the dog is to be used as companion, guardian, protector and a working sheepdog.


It has to be wedge shaped and it should be proportionate in size to the rest of the body (the length of the head should be approximately 40% that of the wither height), without appearing clumsy, shapeless or coarse or over-long. The general appearance must be dry (no flabby, loose skin). The distance between the ears must be moderate. The forehead (whether seen from the front or the side), should not appear to be domed and have only little or no center furrow.

The ratio between the forehead and the end of the muzzle must be almost 50/50. The forehead width must be the same as its length. The skull (seen from the top), from the ears to the tip of the nose must consist of smooth lines, whilst having a defined separation between the skull and the muzzle (stop).

Both the under and the upper jaw must be well developed. The muzzle must be straight; it is not
desirable for it to be any other way. The lips must be tight, well knit, and of dark color.


Must be black.


Must be strong, well-developed, healthy and complete (42 teeth in total). The German shepherd must have a scissor-like bite, in other words the bottom teeth locking with the top teeth in a scissor-like formation. Furthermore, the upper jaw must overlap the bottom jaw. The definition on the side of the jaw is positioned in such a way, so as the top and bottom layers of the front teeth (top and bottom) must not shut level (directly on top of the other) – the top must overlap the bottom in a scissor-like close. The bones of the jaws must be well developed so as the teeth are not prematurely worn.


Have middle size, almond-shaped and slightly angled, whilst they must not protrude. The eye color should be as dark as possible. Light eyes are not desirable as they spoil the expression of the dog.


The German shepherd has ears which are middle sized, firm textured, broad at the base, set high on the skull, are carried erect (almost parallel and not pulled inwards), taper to a point and open towards the front. Tipped ears are faulty. Hanging ears are a very serious fault. During movement the ears may be folded back.


The neck must be strong, well-muscled and without excessive, loose skin at the throat. It should be at a 45° angle to the body.


A smooth top line beginning from the back of the neck and continuing in a straight line over a well-developed wither and sloping slightly toward the croup – without any visible disturbance. The back is firm, strong and well-muscled. The loin is broad, well-developed and well-muscled. The croup must be long and slightly angled (about 23° to the horizontal), without any disturbance to the top line – it must continue toward the beginning of the tail.


Must be moderately broad and the brisket should be long and pronounced. The depth of the chest should not be more than 45-48% of the wither height.


Must show a moderate curve. It is faulty for the ribs to be either barrel shaped (too round) or slab sided (too flat).


Is bushy haired on the underside, should reach at least to the hock joint. The ideal length – being to the middle of the hock bones. When at rest the tail should hang in a slight curve like a saber. When moving it is raised and the curve is increased. Surgical corrections are not permitted.


The forelimbs – when seen from all sides must be absolutely straight. Viewed from the front, they must be parallel. The shoulder blade and the upper arm must have the same length, be well muscled and be tightly knit to the body. The angle of the shoulder blade to the upper arm – ideally should be at 90° but usually it is acceptable around 110°. The elbows must be close to the body – both in stance and in movement.

The pastern must be 1/3 of the length of the foreleg and an angle of about 20° – 22° to foreleg. Furthermore the pastern should be neither too straight nor too angled (say 20-22°), so as not to deter the dog’s stamina.


Should be rounded, toes well closed and arched. Pads should be well cushioned and durable but not brittle surfaced. Nails short, strong and dark in color.


Should be rounded, toes well closed and arched. Pads should be well cushioned and durable but not brittle surfaced. Nails short, strong and dark in color. Gait: Should be rounded, toes well closed and arched. Pads should be well cushioned and durable but not brittle surfaced. Nails short, strong and dark in color.


Tight, without any wrinkles.


The consistency of the hair: The correct hair type for the German shepherd consists of the undercoat and a topcoat. The topcoat must be made up of dense, straight – hard and close-lying hairs. The hair on the head, ears, paws and legs must be shorter and even denser. The hair at the back of the hind legs form a moderate “trouser.”


Base color should be black with markings of brown, red-brown, blonde and light grey. Alternatively a grey base-color with “clouds” of black markings and a black “saddle” and “mask”. Inconspicuous white markings on the chest, and “brighter” shades on the under- and inner sides of the dog are permitted but not desirable. The nostrils must in all cases be black. Non-existence of a “mask”, bright – until piercing – eye color as well as light/white nails and noncolored tail top are considered as a lack of pigmentation, the undercoat is a slightly gray tone. White is not permitted.


Male wither height: 60 cm to 65cm; weight: 30 kg to 40 kg
Female wither height: 55 cm to 60 cm; weight: 22 kg to 32 kg


Male animals must have two, apparently normal testicles fully developed in the scrotum.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Serious Faults

Departure from the breed standard which has been stated in this context and which affects the usefulness and appearance of the dog, is considered a serious fault. Lacking of pigmentation, heavy and loose dogs, missing or faulty dentition and/or jaw formation.

Faults of the Ears

Ears set too low on the side of the skull, soft and tipping at the tops.

Disqualifying Faults

  • A weak character and nervous or nervous biters
  • Proven (documented) serious “HD” condition
  • Monorchids, cryptorchids or deformed testicles
  • Deformed tails and ears
  • Dogs with deformities
  • Dogs with missing teeth
  • Faulty jaws (under- or over shot mouths)
  • Oversize/undersize by more than 1 cm from the set standard
  • Albinos
  • If the color of the hair is white (regardless if the nose/eyes are dark)
  • Long coated dogs (where the hair is soft, long, not tight – especially noticeable long inside and on the outside of the ears, long hair behind the front and rear legs, long hair hanging from the tail)
  • Longhair with absolutely no undercoat, where the hair from the back is parted in the middle and hangs down the side of the dog.

The above standard was approved and put into effect for the countries and clubs of the FCI. The name of the breed is the German Shepherd Dog. The country of origin is Germany.