Anyone who purchases a dog seldom thinks about their lifespan. It is only when the dog gets older or becomes ill that owners worry about their mortality.
Bonds have been built over time, creating strong emotional connections between owners and their canine best friend.
The thought of losing them suddenly becomes a reality in their senior years.
Learn expected lifespans of dog breeds and how the German Shepherd lifespan compares.
Find out about the German Shepherd Dog’s life expectancy throughout this breed’s stages and what you can do to extend their longevity.
Once you know how long your pet is likely to live, you can prepare yourself accordingly.
How Long Do Dogs Live?
People are fond of their pets and can bond as strongly with their doggy as they can with people. Therefore, losing a pet can be as traumatic as losing a loved one.
Dogs tend to live much shorter lives than people, so it is important to know how long certain breeds live before investing emotionally in a dog.
Average lifespans for pets are 15 years, according to one study based on 21,000 dogs.
The female lives marginally longer at 15,6 years than the male who lives 15,2 years.
1. Large dogs vs. small dogs
Studies show that, on average, smaller dogs tend to live longer lives than bigger dogs. Small dogs live for an average of 16.2 years, followed by medium-sized dogs whose lives average 15.9 years.
Large dog lifespans average at 14.3 years, and huge dogs live for an average of 12 years. The difference in average lifespans for small and huge dogs is 4.2 years.
Although this is a general guideline, other factors play role into a dog’s lifespan.
Factors include the breed, whether the dog is male or female, gonadectomized, how much genetic diversity is present, and whether it comes from a particular breeding cluster.
2. Neutered and spayed dogs (gonadectomized)
One prominent feature of dogs that have been spayed (bitches) or neutered (males) is that they live longer than those which have not been gonadectomized.
Studies also show that spayed females live longer than males. Although a small study was conducted
3. Genetic diversity
Where greater genetic diversity is present, the animal tends to live longer than those with less diversity.
Unfortunately, over breeding, interbreeding, and focusing on certain genetic characteristics causes a genetic bottleneck.
In other words, a genetic bottleneck highlights certain dog characteristics such as a sloped back (in the German Shepherd) at the expense of its health, for example.
Genetic bottlenecks are also a thin cover for throwbacks.
Inevitably, if a breeder focuses on certain coat colors, such as the German Shepherd saddleback and classic sable colors, the offspring at some point will reflect its true origins (silver, gray, black colors).
As clever as breeders maybe, mother nature cannot be thwarted forever, and genetic diversity equals a stronger specimen.
4. Dog breed clusters
Breed clusters such as mountain ancestral groups or long-established breeds typically live for fewer years.
However, this genetic makeup does not explain the shorter lifespans common with bigger dogs.
5. Mixed breed and purebred dogs
Strangely enough, there is no difference in the lifespan of some purebred animals and mixed breeds.
Many people think that the mixed-breed dog has a stronger genetic composition, but this is not true.
Although more studies must be done to get conclusive evidence about dog breeds and average longevity, the study discussed here gives you an idea of how long dogs can live.
But where does the German Shepherd life expectancy fit into the general longevity of small and large dogs, genetic clusters, and those with genetic diversity? Let’s find out.
How Do German Shepherds Compare?
One study on Australian German Shepherds confirms the brief genetic discussion above. Limited genetic diversity in German Shepherds and other breeds contributes to health problems which limit lifespan.
Breeders infrequently find their idea of the perfect German Shepherd that conforms to established breed standards.
Once they find a superior male, they will look for ideal females to mate with.
Inbreeding then occurs with premium offspring, or the female’s genetic pools are exhausted with multiple pregnancies.
The outcome of inbreeding and aging reproductive health is that the offspring’s genetic pool is weakened.
Avoid getting a dog from a questionable breeder if you want your German Shepherd’s lifespan to be above average.
Far from being put off by genetics, unscrupulous breeders continue to promote their purebred dogs, leading to further genetic diseases and abnormalities.
The only way to prevent the health and longevity deficits of unscrupulous breeding is to diversify the gene pool as much as possible.
The German Shepherd lifespan has an average of around 9 to 13 years for this large dog breed.
Sources differ about German Shepherds’ life expectancy, with the American Kennel Club placing average life expectancy at 12 to 14 years.
The AKC life expectancy rate conforms with the study of big dog breeds discussed earlier, which states that large breeds live an average of 13 years.
Therefore, the German Shepherd does not genuinely enjoy a longer lifespan than other big dog breeds such as the Golden Retriever.
Remember that the figures provided are based on averages, and the projected lifespan of the German Shepherd may or may not fall within these parameters.
German Shepherd Life Phases
Here’s how the German Shepherd’s lifespan is divided into the puppy, adult, and senior years to help you care for your pet as it grows.
The German Shepherd lifespan goes through several phases of development. The primary growth phases cover:
- The puppy phase.
- Senior phase.
The puppy phase lasts approximately 2 years. During this time, your German Shepherd puppy will go through the following phases:
- neonatal phase: begins immediately after birth, lasting up to 2 weeks
- transitional phase: begins at 2 weeks and continues for 2 weeks. The puppies can now see and hear. As their hind legs strengthen, they start becoming curious about their environment.
- socialization phase: begins at 3 to 4 weeks and continues for the next 3 months. Your puppy should be weaned, begin eating soft foods and start interacting with its environment. Housetraining can start slowly at 8 weeks, at which time positive reinforcement is advisable to raise a stable dog. Taking them to a dog park will also aid socialization with other dogs and people.
- juvenile: between 3 and 6 months. They will stop biting when they have completed their teething which usually occurs around this period. Your juvenile should be about 70% of their adult weight at the end of 6 months. Their weight does not equate with maturity.
The German Shepherd lifespan continues with the adolescent phase, lasting between 2 and 3 years. Only after this time does your pet reach adulthood and maturity.
A female German Shepherd grows to between 22 and 24 inches, with the male reaching heights of 24 to 26 inches. This breed typically reaches its maximum heights by 6 months but will continue to build weight as the animal matures.
Females should weigh about 50 to 70 pounds when mature. Males weigh around 64 to 80 pounds as a basic guideline.
Females mature quicker than males, but both reach sexual maturity at around 6 months. Experts recommend that spaying and neutering only occur at maturity levels of 14 months because they are still growing.
Experts also advise that a gonadectomy be done before the animal reaches maturity and limit this period to 2 years. Do this operation too soon, and it will negatively impact their health and lifespan.
Your German Shepherd takes up to 3 or 4 years to mature before they effectively reach full adulthood.
Training should begin during the socialization phase and continue as the dog matures. Professional dog training should start from 6 months onwards but is preferable once the dog is 14 to 18 months old.
The reason for beginning training later is that the dog’s attention span is short during the early development phases. As it matures, so do its concentration levels.
The German Shepherd breed was established by Max Von Stephanitz in Germany as herding dogs. They have a lot of energy and intelligence, so dog owners should know that training is essential.
During adulthood these dogs may also begin specialist working dog training as police dogs or search and rescue dogs.
Due to their herding abilities and trainability these dogs are often chosen for these tasks, as often seen with the Belgian Malinois or British Alsatian.
The German Shepherd lifespan can last up to 13 or 14 years, but your GSD is considered a senior once they reach 7 years.
Your entire approach to caring for your senior dog must change as they reach their golden years.
Because German Shepherds are known to be at risk for many diseases, you should watch out for declines in health.
Senior GSD problems range from declines in strength and energy to skin problems and mental problems. Your older dog may show signs of confusion.
Their digestion will probably not be as good as it once was and issues such as bloat are common, as well as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Senior dogs can also suffer from breathing, heart, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and structural problems to the hind legs, spinal cord, and so on.
Consult your health and research to find the best ways to care for senior GSDs. Extra care includes includes special feeding habits and a professional groomer for their shedding double coat. Minimal exercise will become the norm.
Their time on earth is more precious as they age. Increase your love and nurturing to improve their quality of life as they age to show them how much their companionship has meant to you over the years.
How Can I improve My German Shepherd’s Lifespan?
Your pet is as good as a family member, so you will want to increase their lifespan as much as possible.
You and other family members form powerful bonds with your pet that builds trust.
Trust turns into a long-term friendship that is as valuable as it is with other sentient lifeforms.
The best ways to ensure you have a healthy German Shepherd dog with a long lifespan and increase your time together include:
- Doing an in-depth examination of the breeder and the dog’s lineage.
- Spay or neuter the dog
- Feed it high-quality food
- Supplement commercial food with homemade food
- Give your dog age-appropriate supplements.
- Care for its mental and emotional wellbeing
Always research the breeder. Check their reputation and ask for a report on the dog’s lineage to determine the extent of genetic diversity.
As you saw above, genetic diversity is an important element of the German Shepherd’s lifespan. Weaken this lifespan with excessive interbreeding, and your pet’s lifespan will be shorter.
Spaying and neutering
Spaying and neutering dogs are proven to extend their longevity. The best time for spaying and neutering German Shepherds is at 14-months.
Many authorities recommend surgery at 6-months, but early gonadectomy interferes with growth.
Early surgery is known to increase bone length later in life, which poses greater risks for health problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat, degenerative myelopathy, and other diseases common to the German Shepherd Dog.
Protect your dog from early breeding as they mature, and you can get them gonadectomized at 14 months to extend their lives.
High-quality dog food
Purchase high-quality, vet-recommended foods for this breed as they are prone to disease. Not all German Shepherds will die from common breed health problems, but why take the chance?
Giving them the best dog food will increase their chances of a long healthy life. A mixture of foods is also important, including kibble and wet foods. In contrast, poor-quality food will deprive them of vital nutrients that can shorten your German Shepherd’s lifespan. A healthy diet will also reduce issues like obesity.
By adding certain vegetables, grains, and raw meats to your German Shepherd’s diet, you can lengthen its life.
Not all commercial dog food brands contain vital nutrients. Health problems, age, genetic makeup, and more can influence the dog’s ability to absorb commercial foods.
Supplement their diet with healthy homemade meals to increase their nutrient uptake and provide variety.
Ask your vet for advice or conduct your own research when preparing healthy homemade food for your pet as they cannot digest everything that people eat.
Your German Shepherd’s lifespan can be lengthened with additional supplements to improve its nutrition. Please consult your vet for recommended supplements to improve its health and life expectancy.
Do not give your dog supplements that are made for people.
Additionally, ensure they get the appropriate vaccinations.
Mental and emotional care
German Shepherds are intelligent, active animals. Ensure that you incorporate them into the household, socialize with them and keep them company.
Play with them regularly to stimulate their curiosity and give them a healthy outlet for their energy levels.
Preferably take them for expert training to optimize their intelligence. Look after your dog’s mental and emotional needs as you would a child, and you have a greater chance of lengthening the German Shepherd’s lifespan.
The lifespan of larger dogs tends to be shorter than smaller animals. Likewise, the German Shepherd’s lifespan is quite short, with many of this breed lasting between 9 and 13 years.
Extra care in the form of quality foods, supplements, and regular vet check-ups may help to extend your pet’s lifespan by reducing the risk of health issues.
A lot of love, treating your pet as a family member and meeting its physical, mental, and emotional needs contribute to overall health.
But sometimes, you need to know when it is beneficial to extend your dog’s life and when it is time to let go–for their sake and yours.