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German shepherd dogs (GSD) are a fan favorite, taking fourth place in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) most popular dog breeds of 2021. We all know what the classic GSD looks like, but you may have seen dogs that look identical to GSDs but with long hair.
Yes, these are German shepherds, too! The long hair is quite rare because it does not fit the breed standard and, at one time in history, was nearly bred out completely. This trait comes from recessive genes, which is another reason it can be hard to find.
Long-haired German shepherds are beautiful dogs that have the same demeanor as their standard-coated counterparts. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this variant of the German shepherd and answer questions about temperament, grooming, housing, trainability, health, cost, and much much more.
A Quick Look at Long-Haired German Shepherds
Before we bombard you with tons of information about the long-haired GSD, here is a chart to provide you with an overview.
|Weight/Height||Male: 24-26 in, 65-90 lbs
Female: 22-24 in, 50-70 lbs
|Coat Type||Long and silky|
|Grooming Needs||Above average, but not high-maintenance|
|Temperament||Loyal, brave, affectionate with family, aloof toward strangers|
|Good With Kids||Yes|
|Good With Other Animals||With early socialization|
|Easy to Train||Yes|
What Is the History of Long-Haired German Shepherds?
The development of the German shepherd is credited to Max von Stephanitz, whose aim was to create the ideal German dog for herding sheep. He did so by breeding various German herding dogs until he got dogs that displayed the traits he was looking for. He then spent 35 years perfecting the breed.
Von Stephanitz did not view long hair as a desirable trait, however. Some long-haired German shepherds are without an undercoat, which was seen as detrimental to the breed’s ability to work in extreme weather conditions. Furthermore, the long coat required much more care, which was seen as a negative since the main purpose of the GSD was utility rather than beauty.
How the long-haired German shepherd endured is somewhat of a mystery since there were initially efforts to eradicate the trait from the breed completely. The Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) was the original German shepherd club created by von Stephanitz which governed the direction of the breed.
The SV originally banned long-haired GSDs without undercoats from competing in dog shows but eventually, banned the hair type entirely. However, the SV lifted the ban in 2010. Some believe the ban was lifted in order to prevent the long-haired trait from going completely extinct.
Here in the United States, long-haired GSDs are still not considered part of the breed standard (as determined by the AKC). However, the rareness and beauty of their long hair make them desirable to dog owners.
What Do Long-Haired German Shepherds Look Like?
Long-haired German shepherds look just like classic German shepherds. However, their coats are long, sleek, and shiny. Their ears have extra fluff around them, and their tails are bushier. They tend to have longer hair on the chest that is reminiscent of a ruff or a lion’s mane.
What Size Is a Long-Haired German Shepherd?
Long-haired German shepherds are the same size as regular German shepherds, though they sometimes appear larger due to their long coats. They weigh between 50 and 90 pounds and are 22 to 26 inches tall. Females are typically smaller than males.
What Is a Long-Haired German Shepherd’s Coat Type?
The long-haired GSD has a long coat that is similar to a combination coat. This means the coat is long and silky in some places but short in others.
For the long-haired GSD, the coat is long everywhere except the face and the fronts of the legs. The ears are covered with short hair as well as tufts of longer hair.
What Is a Long-Haired German Shepherd’s Temperament?
Long-haired German shepherds are loyal and loving when it comes to their families. They’re usually great with kids and can live with other animals if socialized during puppyhood. Though quite affectionate with their families, long-haired GSDs may be aloof or even wary when it comes to strangers.
They are brave and alert, which makes them great watchdogs. A German shepherd may even risk their own life to protect a beloved family member.
This breed is very smart and enjoys learning new skills. They also learn fast and are easy to train. However, they have a lot of energy and can get destructive if they don’t have constructive ways to burn off that energy. Long-haired German shepherds love working and thrive when they’re given a job to do.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Affectionate?
Long-haired GSDs tend to be very loyal to their families and thus quite affectionate, too. However, they can be somewhat wary toward or aloof around strangers. Socializing a GSD with many different people during puppyhood will help encourage friendly behavior toward strangers in the future.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Good With Kids?
Long-haired German shepherds that grow up alongside children tend to be great with them. This breed has enough energy to keep up with kids and will enjoy playing with them. However, be careful that the GSD’s energy and exuberance during play does not lead to a child being knocked over.
Dogs and children should always be supervised. Children may mean no harm, but they often do things that dogs do not like, such as hugging. It is up to you to ensure your child is interacting safely with your dog.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Good With Other Animals?
With socialization, long-haired German shepherds can live with other animals including dogs, cats, and small mammals like rabbits and guinea pigs. This is because the German shepherd is, after all, a herding breed. They were not bred to hunt animals but to corral and protect them.
On the flip side of that, because GSDs can be territorial, they may also see another pet as invasive, which can cause problems. It is not uncommon for GSDs to chase squirrels (and kill them if they manage to capture them) in the yard. This is why early socialization is vital.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Aggressive?
Perhaps it is because of their work as police dogs, but there are some stereotypes about German shepherds being aggressive dogs. All German shepherds, including long-haired ones, have protective instincts and guarding tendencies.
This can become aggression if their owners promote such behavior. There are a few things you can do to avoid this. First of all, never ever use physical punishment on a long-haired German shepherd. Using force or intimidation may cause a dog to feel threatened and compelled to strike back in order to protect themselves.
Long-haired German shepherds thrive when trained with positive reinforcement. They love having a job and will enjoy being rewarded when they obey cues.
Second of all, you must socialize your long-haired German shepherd with as many unfamiliar people as possible. If they have positive experiences with strangers during puppyhood, they will be far more likely to be friendly during adulthood.
Make sure that you socialize them with accessories that people might wear or hold, like glasses, hats, and umbrellas. During their socialization period, puppies are more curious and less likely to meet unfamiliar things with fear or wariness. It is during this time that you can show them that these things are normal or even good.
With proper training and socialization, there is no reason for a long-haired GSD to become aggressive. As long as you and everyone else treats your dog with love and respect, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Do Long-Haired German Shepherds Bark a Lot?
While we wouldn’t consider long-haired GSDs to be silent dogs, they also aren’t yappers. They are moderate barkers who will let you know when something is in their territory but are not known to be obsessively or uncontrollably vocal.
However, the long-haired German shepherd’s bark is powerful. This bark is loud enough that the dog may not even hear you over it. Dogs that are poorly socialized during puppyhood are far more likely to bark at unfamiliar sights and sounds, so you should expose a long-haired GSD to as many sounds as possible when they are a puppy.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Intelligent?
Long-haired German shepherds are incredibly intelligent. This is why they are popular as working animals. You will often see them as police dogs, bomb or drug-sniffing dogs, search and rescue dogs and even service dogs for those with disabilities.
The downside of a dog this intelligent is that they can sometimes be too smart for their own good. If you’re not careful, these dogs can learn the difference between being supervised and unsupervised or between being on-leash and off-leash.
When they are bored, they can be destructive. It is important to channel their intelligence and energy into stimulating activities such as learning new skills or solving puzzle toys to prevent destructive or other undesirable behaviors.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Easy to Train?
Long-haired German shepherds are very smart and are also eager to please. This breed loves learning and often learns quickly.
Long-haired German shepherds enjoy having a “job” to do, which is why you can even teach them more complex skills such as fetching a water bottle from the fridge. As long as you offer clear instruction, they will often pick up new skills with ease.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Energetic?
Long-haired German shepherds are a high-energy breed. They need to get ample exercise, or they will feel bored and likely turn to destroying things in your home. Negligence can also lead to extreme territorial behavior if your dog entertains themself by staring out the window all day.
This breed enjoys playing and learning. GSDs thrive when they have a job to do, so if you aren’t planning to work with this animal, then you’ll need to instead provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Some activities that they can excel in (and will tucker them out) include agility trials, dock diving, and nose-work such as tracking.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Good Apartment Dogs?
Because long-haired GSDs need a lot of exercise and are a large breed, we wouldn’t typically recommend them for apartment living. It is also suggested that GSDs have space to run in, so a yard would be preferable. However, if the apartment is spacious and the owner is dedicated to providing appropriate exercise, then it can certainly work out.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Good Watchdogs?
Long-haired German shepherds make fantastic watchdogs. They are very alert and have protective instincts. They’re also courageous and brave. German shepherds are often willing to jump to their owner’s defense in threatening situations.
If you’re looking for a dog that will help you feel safer, the GSD is a great choice. However, though GSDs can be taught to attack, we strongly advise against teaching such skills. It is incredibly dangerous to encourage aggressive behaviors.
Socialize your long-haired GSD well during puppyhood and train them to be friendly. If a truly dangerous situation arises, it is still in their nature to protect you even if they have been trained to be open toward strangers. Not only that, but the size, appearance, and powerful bark of long-haired German shepherds are usually intimidating enough to keep people away.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Good Service Dogs?
As we mentioned, long-haired GSDs love having a job. Not only that, but they are highly trainable. As such, they excel at service work. We frequently see GSDs as police or military dogs, bomb and drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
However, they can certainly function as service dogs for those with disabilities. German shepherds can also be great emotional support animals (ESAs) as well as psychiatric service dogs (PSDs).
Since therapy dogs need to be friendly and open to being touched and pet by strangers, the tendency of long-haired GSDs to be aloof toward strangers does not always make them suitable for this position. However, some long-haired GSDs could also work as therapy dogs if they are socialized well and turn out to be friendly toward unfamiliar people.
How to Care for a Long-Haired German Shepherd?
The long-haired German shepherd is not high-maintenance because they do not require professional grooming, but you will still need to pay attention to their coat almost daily. To keep the coat tangle-free, you must brush it at least a few times a week.
After outdoor activities, you’ll need to check their belly as it can collect debris such as dirt and leaves. Otherwise, the long-haired GSD’s grooming needs are the same as other dogs: occasional baths, occasional nail trims, and daily teeth brushing.
Do You Need to Groom a Long-Haired German Shepherd?
Because most of their coat is quite long, you will need to groom a long-haired GSD a few times per week. Their long fur is prone to tangling and matting, and the undercarriage can also catch debris while outdoors.
However, grooming frequently will not only keep the coat knot-free but will also reduce the amount of fur all over your home from shedding. Since all you really need to do is brush this dog, having them professionally groomed is not typically necessary.
Do Long-Haired German Shepherds Shed?
Long-haired German shepherds shed a lot all year round. They shed even more profusely in the fall and the spring. If you want one of these dogs, you should be prepared to do some extra vacuuming!
What Should a Long-Haired German Shepherd Eat?
The long-haired German shepherd should eat food specifically formulated for large breeds throughout their lifetime. A quality dog food follows AAFCO guidelines, has been formulated by a certified veterinary nutritionist, and has undergone feeding trials.
You can follow the guidelines on your chosen bag of dog food to determine how much to feed your long-haired GSD each day. These guidelines may not include allowances for treats, though. Therefore, to better understand your dog’s daily calorie needs, you can also use an online calorie calculator or do the math yourself.
Understand that the latter option may be more accurate as it allows you to factor in (to some extent) your dog’s activity levels. Because long-haired GSDs are prone to arthritis and even hip or elbow dysplasia, it is important that the dog be kept at an ideal weight, especially during their senior years.
What Health Problems Do Long-Haired German Shepherds Have?
Some health risks long-haired German shepherds may face include hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus). Getting a puppy from a breeder who health tests the parent dogs will greatly reduce the risk of your puppy developing health issues.
Some health issues cannot always be screened for, like bloat. Bloat is an emergency situation that can kill dogs within hours if left untreated. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to reduce a dog’s risk of bloat.
First of all, avoid foods that use soybean meal or that have oils or fats within the first four ingredients on the label. Split your dog’s food into at least two meals per day. Dogs that eat quickly are also at a much higher risk of bloating, so invest in a slow feed bowl.
Finally, dogs can undergo surgery to have their stomachs tacked to their abdominal walls. This prevents the stomach from twisting. However, veterinarians do not currently have a way to determine which dogs are at higher risk for bloat.
Usually, dogs that have bloated once will undergo this procedure because they are likely to bloat again in the future. Since large, barrel-chested dogs have the highest risk of bloat, some pet parents make the choice to have this procedure done pre-emptively.
How Long Do Long-Haired German Shepherds Live?
Long-haired German shepherds have an average lifespan of 7-10 years.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Expensive?
The purchase price of a long-haired German shepherd can be somewhat hefty due to their rarity. You should expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000, possibly even more.
Outside of the purchase price, you can expect the monthly cost of this breed to be no more expensive than other dogs of similar size. Because this breed is high-energy and needs lots of exercise, you may also have to invest in a dog walker or doggy daycare if work schedules or other obligations prevent you from providing this enrichment yourself.
How to Find a Long-Haired German Shepherd Breeder?
We already know you are perfectly capable of using tools like Google, Petfinder, and the AKC’s “puppy finder.” So, we won’t waste your time telling you how to look for breeders. Instead, we’d like to share with you some questions you should ask.
- What are your credentials? You should learn about how long the breeder has been in business as well as how familiar they are with long-haired German shepherds.
- Have the parent animals undergone health testing? Ask to see these tests.
- Can I see where the dogs are kept? A respectable breeder should be happy to show you the dogs’ living conditions.
- Can I meet the parents? This will give you a sense of the parent dogs’ temperaments and the potential temperaments of the puppies.
- How do you socialize your puppies? Socialization is important for puppies to become friendly and confident.
- Are the puppies up-to-date on vaccination? You need to know your puppy’s health history so that you know which shots are still needed.
- Do you offer a health guarantee with a contract? Some breeders guarantee the health of their puppies: should your puppy come down with a serious illness early on, the breeder may offer to reimburse the purchase price of the dog or even take the puppy back. This will also help you avoid purchasing from breeders who are irresponsible.
- What do you require of potential adopters? Many breeders want to make sure their puppies are going to homes where they will be treated well and kept for life. Therefore, breeders may ask a number of questions about you, your situation, and your experience as a dog owner.
Can You Adopt a Long-Haired German Shepherd?
When we talked about the long-haired German shepherd’s history, we mentioned that the breed is somewhat rare due to past efforts to eradicate the long-haired trait. Because of this, seeing a purebred long-haired GSD at the local shelter would be rare. If you want a long-haired German shepherd, you will likely have to purchase one from a breeder.
However, you may have luck finding one at a rescue that works explicitly with German shepherds, and starting by calling such agencies may be your best bet at adopting a long-haired GSD.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Purebred?
Long-haired German shepherds are purebred. The only difference from the standard German shepherds we are used to seeing is the length of their fur and the fact that they sometimes do not have an undercoat, whereas short-coated GSDs always do.
Long hair is simply a recessive trait which is part of the reason it is rare to find in GSDs. These dogs are still German shepherds and will exhibit all the same traits as you would expect from a classic GSD.
Can You Show Long-Haired German Shepherds?
Unfortunately, you cannot show long-haired German shepherds in the US. The length of the coat is not considered part of the AKC’s standard for the German shepherd breed, and thus they are not allowed to participate in shows.
Are Long-Haired German Shepherds Good for New Dog Owners?
Long-haired German shepherds are easy to train, loyal, and affectionate, which makes them good for inexperienced dog owners. However, they are high energy and can easily become too much to handle should someone underestimate their exercise needs.
It’s also imperative that this breed receives thorough socialization during their formative months to prevent aggression and wariness toward strangers. We think a long-haired German shepherd could be a good choice for a new dog owner as long as they do plenty of research about dog behavior, training, and socialization before they adopt.
We would also recommend inexperienced owners hire a professional dog trainer to help guide them in this breed. A good trainer uses positive reinforcement techniques.
Is a Long-Haired German Shepherd the Right Dog for Me?
Now that you’ve studied up on long-haired German shepherds, you should have a better idea of whether or not this breed is the right choice for your lifestyle. Choosing a dog that fits into your lifestyle is very important, as doing otherwise is unfair to the dog.For example, you should not get a long-haired German shepherd if you do not have time to provide hours of physical and mental stimulation daily. Not only is failing to meet the dog’s needs irresponsible and negligent, but it can lead to behavioral issues; boredom is one of the most common reasons dogs do “naughty” things!
Let’s review some of the long-haired GSD’s qualities to help you decide if this breed is for you.
A long-haired German shepherd is right for you if:
- You want a dog you can be active with
- You want a watchdog
- You want an affectionate dog
- You’re interested in doing agility trials or other canine sports
- You want a dog that is easy to train
- You want a service dog or emotional support animal
A long-haired German shepherd is not right for you if:
- You don’t want a dog you have to brush often
- You want a low-energy breed
- You have a busy lifestyle and cannot provide hours of exercise
- You want a dog that is inherently friendly toward strangers
- You want a dog that lives more than 10 years
- You want a therapy dog