Stages of Maturity for a German Shepherd

By Adrienne Farricelli

German shepherd puppies go through several stages of growth before reaching their adult size. From the day they're born, the puppies grow at a steady rate through a gangly stage to maturing both physically and mentally until they reach adulthood. According to the American Kennel Club standard, the desired height for male German shepherds is between 24 and 26 inches at the withers, while females should be anywhere between 22 and 24 inches. An adult German shepherd is expected to weigh between 75 and 95 pounds.

Neonatal Stage

This stage encompasses the puppy's first two weeks of life. The puppies, born blind and deaf, are pretty much helpless, unable to regulate their body temperature or eliminate without the help of their mom. About 90 percent of their time during this stage is spent sleeping while the remaining 10 percent is spent nursing. Depending on the size of the mother and the size of the puppies at birth, German shepherd puppies are expected to steadily grow at a rate of about 65 to 90 grams each day.

During the neonatal stage, puppies are often seen twitching, kicking and stretching in their sleep. This form of sleep called "_activated sleep"_ may seem concerning, but it's actually beneficial as it helps the pups grow the muscle tone necessary to allow them to hold themselves up.

Transitional Stage

This brief stage starts when the pups are 2 weeks old and ends when they're about 4 weeks. The puppies by now are able to see and hear and their first milk teeth start erupting. During this time, the German shepherd puppies should start walking though their movements may appear quite wobbly. As the puppies continue to develop, they'll start eliminating on their own. This is also a time during which the puppies will want to explore and start becoming more independent.

Socialization Stage

All puppies regardless of breed, require early and extensive socialization during the critical socialization stage taking place between 3 weeks and 12 weeks of age; however, this is especially important for a breed with a history as a guard dog like the German shepherd. Early exposure to friendly people is critical to prevent a German shepherd from becoming suspicious of everyone. Make sure your German shepherd puppy is safely exposed to as many new objects, situations, dogs, animals and all kinds of people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds during this time.

Toward the end of the socialization stage, when the pup is around 8 to 10 weeks of age, he'll go through his first fear period. It's important to provide puppies with plenty of support and create positive associations during this time. A second fear period is often noticed during adolescence.

Juvenile Stage

This stage spans from 3 to 6 months of age when German shepherd pups become more independent and likely to wander away to explore their surroundings. Puppies during this time frame start losing their puppy teeth, which are gradually replaced by the adult ones. By the age of 4 months, the German shepherd puppy's ears should be standing up. This stage generally ends by the time the puppy reaches sexual maturity.

The age you decide to spay or neuter your German shepherd puppy can have an impact on his health down the road. It's best to hold off neutering or spaying until your German shepherd has reached at least 1 year of age to decrease the risks for orthopedic issues, recommends [Sherle R. Thompson](, a veterinarian working for Sequoyah Animal Hospital in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee and breeder of German shepherds.

Adolescent Stage

Around 5 to 6 months of age, the German shepherd puppy should enter the adolescent stage, which coincides with the hormonal changes associate with sexual maturity. This stage is quite long, estimated to last until the youngster reaches 2 years of age in a breed as large as the German shepherd. Left intact, females will go into heat between 5 and 8 months of age, while males will start marking, mounting and roaming in search of a mate. By 6 months of age, most pups will have all their adult teeth and will go through a steady growth rate.

Maturity Stage

Large dog breeds like the German shepherd take quite a while to reach maturity. In general, females are faster to mature compared to males. Expect a German shepherd to reach physical maturity around the age of 2 and 2 1/2 and to be mentally mature around 3 years of age. By then end of this stage, German shepherds should have reached their adult size. However, it's important to recognize that each dog is an individual and may develop physically and mentally at a different rate.