Old German Shepherd | Breed Information, Pictures & Facts

Old German Shepherd taking a morning walk
Image credit: fay_the_oldgermanshepherd / Instagram

You might be familiar with the modern-day German Shepherd, but do you know that Old German Shepherd Dogs also exist? They’re often mistaken for the long-haired GSD, but there’s more to them than just their long coats. 

The Old German Shepherd Dog is a variant of the standard GSD breed, and it’s significantly unique in areas such as appearance, temperament, and health, to name a few. 

If you are particularly intrigued by the Old German Shepherd Dog’s existence, this article is for you. Read on to discover what it looks like, its history, personality, needs, and more.

Breed Overview

Height:20 – 25 inches
Weight:48 – 80 pounds
Lifespan:9 – 13 years
Coat Colors:Black, brown, tan, grey, blue
Temperament:Brave, affectionate, intelligent, protective, alert
Suitable for:Experienced owners; active singles; farm work; guard work

What Is an Old German Shepherd Dog?

Old German Shepherd Dog with collar out in the woods
Image credit: fay_the_oldgermanshepherd / Instagram

The Old German Shepherd is a herding breed traditionally developed for its working ability rather than appearance. It’s also sometimes called the working line German Shepherd Dog. Despite its differences from standard GSDs, it is not recognized as a separate breed.

The owners and original breeders of Old German Shepherds are after their speed, robustness, and intelligence. All these are essential since Old GSDs were used as farmhands.

Since there were no breeding standards that aimed to unify their looks, the old German Shepherd Dog’s appearance varied from dog to dog.

Nonetheless, they still have some common physical characteristics that indicate that they are Old German Shepherd Dogs.

Incidentally, though, the Old GSD looks exactly like the long-haired variant of the German Shepherd breed. Yet even though they resemble each other, it’s not accurate to put them in the same category. 

The character of the Old GSD is remarkably out of the ordinary. It’s described as having the nerves of steel. It is extremely versatile, given the conditions of its environment as a working dog. 

Do Old German Shepherds Still Exist?

Despite being labeled as “non-conforming,” the persistent breeding of Old German Shepherds allowed this breed to survive. However, only a few of them exist. This leads others to believe that they’re already extinct.

Currently, there are only a handful of breeders who are solely working on increasing the population of the Old German Shepherd Dog.

Even if there were many, these breeders have a long way to go before the Old GSD becomes widely recognized or even accepted as a breed in its own right.

As of now, the chances of coming across an authentic Old German Shepherd Dog are quite low. 

Old German Shepherds vs. German Shepherds: What’s the Difference?

Old german shepherd looking backwards while sitting on the grass
Image credit: darth_side_of_the_dog / Instagram

Old German Shepherds are some of Germany’s local shepherd dogs that were excluded from the breeding program pioneered by Captain Max von Stephanitz

Meanwhile, the German Shepherd Dog resulted from breeding select local shepherd dogs from Germany. This resulted in the GSD we now know and love — the breed created from von Stephanitz’s breeding program.

That said, since the standard German Shepherd was developed and bred to look a certain way, it has a more consistent appearance than the Old German Shepherd Dog. 

Normally, the standard GSD sports a fuzzy short to moderately long coat, while the Old GSD may have wiry, fuzzy, smooth, or shaggy long fur. 

Regarding coat colors, both may exhibit black and tan shades, but only the standard German Shepherd may come in red and silver. On the other hand, the Old German Shepherd has additional brown and gray shades.

When it comes to their purpose, the standard German Shepherd is known to work in different fields. It can work as a military or police dog, as a therapy dog, or as a service dog. 

As for the Old GSD, it’s more adept in herding, but with proper training, it can also qualify as a service dog.

Another difference that’s worth noting is their health. Due to the high working competence of the Old GSD, it is known to be more robust and less predisposed to many health issues common to the modern German Shepherd.

Meanwhile, in terms of physique, the Old German Shepherd has a less exaggerated form in comparison to the standard GSD.

This is especially true when it comes to the shape of their backs. Although it has been frowned upon in recent years, modern German Shepherd Dogs have excessively sloping backs — a feature not seen in the Old GSD.

Old German Shepherd Origin and History

The Old German Shepherd is a native of Germany, as the name suggests. It was originally a term associated with any dog used to herd the flock. 

Because of the Old German Shepherd’s alertness, diligence, and self-confidence, von Stephanitz — the first to develop the GSD breed — was drawn to the idea of developing a superior breed from it. 

His original purpose was to develop a new dog that would be known for its wit and utility. 

When the German Shepherd emerged from his breeding program, its primary function as a herding dog was modified to become fit for military work.

In the 1800s, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde e. V.” (SV) was founded to oversee how the German Shepherd is bred and to develop the standards for it. Until now, most modern breed standards are based on it.

On a different note, the first German Shepherd for von Stephanitz’s program was named Horand von Grafrath, which was technically an Old German Shepherd Dog. 

From this canine comes a line of many other GSDs, which are considered the official German Shepherds. Any shepherd dog of Germany that was not included in the records is deemed to be an Old GSD.

Old German Shepherd Appearance

Old German Shepherd Dog standing on the grass littered by fallen leaves
Image credit: fay_the_oldgermanshepherd / Instagram

No current breed standard dictates how the Old German Shepherd Dog should look. However, there are a few telltale signs that indicate that a dog is an Old German Shepherd.

Typically, an Old German Shepherd has upright, medium-sized ears and a long, narrow muzzle with a low tendency for drooling. Its facial coat on the side flows outwards like a mane, and the fur gets thicker around the neck. 

Meanwhile, its back is straight, and it smoothly curves as it approaches its rear end. Further, its tail is bushy and rests low between the hocks. 

When it comes to its coat colors, it can sport black, brown, tan, grey, and blue, which may come in a sable pattern. The length of its guard hair can measure around 5 to 10 centimeters in contrast to its short undercoat. 

The type of coat varies a lot for Old German Shepherds. Nonetheless, they’re all long-coated dogs. 

Lastly, in terms of gait and overall expression, the Old German Shepherd has an alert, watchful look that matches well its athletic build.

Old German Shepherd Size and Weight

The Old German Shepherd is a medium-to-large dog that weighs anywhere between 48 and 80 pounds. Its height is typically measured to be around 20 to 25 inches at withers.

Male Old GSDs are more likely to grow heavier and taller than their female counterparts. They will also take longer to reach their adult size, estimating at least three years before they become fully mature. 

Females, on the other hand, only need about two years to be considered fully grown Old German Shepherd Dogs.

Generally, regardless of their gender, their proportions are similar to the height and weight of the standard German Shepherd. This means they are also longer than they are tall.

Old German Shepherd Temperament and Personality

Old German Shepherd Dog tongue out near the stables
Image credit: darth_side_of_the_dog / Instagram

The Old German Shepherd may not have an established breed standard. Still, it has mainstream qualities, such as being smart, hardworking, and independent. 

This is why this breed is considered fit for farming. It’s seen as reliable and able to make decisions independently. Plus, the Old GSD can effectively protect the flock from predators. 

Given these strong characteristics, the Old German Shepherd would also have a tendency to herd your kids. Their interaction must be monitored since this canine can end up scaring or nipping the children. 

Other than that, the Old GSD is highly protective of its loved ones and would unhesitantly keep them away from harm or from people that act suspiciously. 

It’s a great watch or guard dog, notable for its bravery and loyalty toward its family members. 

In addition to the Old German Shepherd’s personality, it is less likely to exhibit aggression. The Old GSD has experienced harsh conditions as a farm dog compelling it to develop composure and self-control. It’s a confident canine that knows when it’s necessary to react. 

When forming relationships, an Old German Shepherd can instantly bond with its family as long as trust is established. This is due to its history as a worker in the field.

It spent much of its time being alongside its owner. This trait remains coded in the dog’s temperament and would stay faithful to its human, which it perceives as its guardian. 

Old German Shepherd Lifespan and Health Issues

Old German Shepherds live an average lifespan of 9 to 13 years. Depending on the lifestyle, environment, and overall care of this dog, it’s also possible that it can reach an old age of 15 years. 

Although it’s a generally healthy breed, the Old GSD remains susceptible to various health problems. These could either be minor or serious conditions. Either way, you have to be prepared for these cases. 

Here are the possible health problems your Old German Shepherd Dog may develop:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a common genetic condition that largely affects the Old German Shepherd’s hip joint functions. The ball and the socket in this area are either grinding against each other or have not developed properly. 
  • Obesity: If your Old German Shepherd is not used for farm work or isn’t very active as a household pet, it is prone to obesity. As a medium-to-large dog breed, its body is predisposed to reach a certain proportion, leaving more room to increase its size. If eating habits are not balanced by activities, obesity can shorten its lifespan and cause more health issues. 
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV): Gastric dilatation-volvulus is a life-threatening condition for an Old German Shepherd Dog. This happens when the stomach swells due to food and gas. As this occurs, it also twists on its axis, prohibiting the food from passing through the intestines.

Since any of these may develop at any moment, it’s best to invest in pet insurance. Medical emergencies can cause a financial setback, but having pet insurance can aid you with your Old German Shepherd’s veterinary bills.

Old German Shepherd Care Guide

Old German Shepherd lounging on a wooden porch
Image credit: darth_side_of_the_dog / Instagram

As a rare German dog breed, there’s still much to learn about its specific needs. Regardless, there are basic things you can do and guidelines you can follow to ensure that your Old German Shepherd Dog is well taken care of. 

In this section, you’ll learn about its basic feeding and grooming requirements, training, and exercise needs.

Food and Diet

Dogs of any breed require a complete and balanced diet for their growth and development. That said, the Old German Shepherd Dog’s meals should be age and size-appropriate. 

If you’re going to feed your Old GSD dry kibble, the standard servings range from 2.5 to 3.5 cups. This may also depend on its activity levels, metabolic rate, and current weight.

Aside from commercial dog food, your Old GSD can also eat homemade food. Owners can mix kibbles with cooked add-ins, such as eggs, vegetables, fruits, salmon, boiled chicken, and other types of meat. 

The BARF diet is also a popular choice for dog owners. This raw diet typically consists of fresh raw meat, uncooked bones, eggs, vegetables, apples, and yogurt, to name a few.

This raw diet improves joint and bone health, strengthens the immune system, and improves skin and coat conditions.

Regardless of what diet you give your Old GSD, all key nutrients must be present in its food. It must be packed with vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and protein. 

Cleaning and Grooming

Due to the Old German Shepherd’s long coat, it would require you to brush its coat daily or every other day. This dog sheds all year round, but it blows off much of its fur more during the spring and winter. 

Regular brushing keeps its strands of hair from ending up in your furniture and keeps its coat from getting matted or tangled. 

To help condition its fur, bathing your Old German Shepherd Dog every 6 to 8 weeks is necessary. You can also do this when it gets smelly or dirty, but ensure you don’t over-bathe your pet to prevent its skin from drying. 

Nail trimming is also part of the grooming session. Keep its nail short by clipping its nails and dewclaws. This helps improve your dog’s posture and prevent the nails from breaking, splitting, or chipping.

As for its oral health, it’s recommended that you brush your Old German Shepherd Dog’s teeth thrice weekly at minimum. Doing so will help prevent tartar accumulation and plaque build-up. 

Training and Exercise

The Old German Shepherd has a remarkably high activity level, which is explained by its working nature. Its intelligence allows it to keep up with various jobs, whether assigned to search and rescue or police work.

It’s ideal if the Old German Shepherd is taught skills early on as puppies. It is best to start with basic drills, like potty training, crate training, obedience, socialization, and basic commands

As for exercise needs, the general rule is to allocate two hours of physical activities for your Old German Shepherd. This time frame should be divided into two sessions. Doing so prevents over-exhaustion. 

Make it a routine to provide the Old GSD some playtime in the morning and another in the afternoon. As a sporty dog, it will require more than just a walk around the dog park. 

You can incorporate other forms of exercise, such as hiking, running, or swimming. 

Watch an Old German Shepherd Dog playing in the yard by watching the short video below: 

Long Coat 8 Month Old German Shepherd Dog #Germanshepherd

Final Thoughts

The Old German Shepherd is a rare dog breed that bears all the attractive qualities of the modern-day German Shepherd Dog. That but with a milder temperament and a longer coat. 

If you end up getting an Old GSD, it’s ideal to engage it in farm work or other rigorous tasks. This will give your dog purpose and help keep it active and mentally stimulated.

That said, the Old GSD is still adaptable enough to adjust in a home setting. As long as it receives enough exercise, the right diet, care, love, and attention, the Old German Shepherd Dog can live a happy and healthy life. 

Hopefully, this article has helped answer all your questions regarding this fascinating dog breed. Share your thoughts about the Old German Shepherd Dog by leaving a comment below!

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