German shepherd puppies grow at a rapid rate and can reach their full height of 22 to 26 inches in their first year. However, size isn't everything when it comes to German shepherd dog (GSD) maturity. German shepherd growth stages — like those of many of the larger breeds — take place more slowly. Some breeders don't consider a GSD a full adult until it is several years old.
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Reaching physical maturity
According to the breed standards of the American Kennel Club male German shepherds stand between 24 and 26 inches at the highest points of the shoulder blades. Females are slightly smaller at anywhere from 22 and 24 inches.
Although your pup will have gained most of her height by the time she's six months old, according to UC Davis, she's still maturing physically until about 4 years old. Don't rush their growth by overfeeding — packing on extra pounds during this immature phase can contribute to joint disorders according to the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia.
Your GSD will reach 100% of her maximum weight by her third birthday according to a German shepherd growth chart by the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia. Weigh your pup at 4 months old and multiply the number by two, advises the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia, to get an approximate weight of your dog when it reaches full maturity.
German shepherd behavior stages
Like many large dog breeds, the German shepherd dogs aren't completely mature by their first birthday. Even though they are capable of making puppies of their own, they're still puppies in their own mind.
The German Shepherd Dog Club of America recommends that training parallel a GSD's mental development. For example, the first two to six months of a pup's life should focus on building a foundation for living harmoniously in your home throughout its life.
It's during these first six months that it develops most of its socialization skills and goes through fear phases, according to UC Davis. Periods of high susceptibility to new fears continue until about the 14th month. A calm, consistent environment and positive reinforcement are crucial during this time and basic obedience training will set your dog up to arrive at maturity with confidence in place.
Beware of early sexual maturity
German shepherd dogs can reach sexual maturity as early as 5 to 6 months of age. Just as in teenage humans, a flood of hormones can cause a host of perplexing and potentially dangerous behaviors.
During the sexual urge stage of German shepherd behavior stages, dogs will have a tendency to roam to find a suitable mate. You might discover your pet has a knack for escaping using the keen intelligence and athletic ability that the GSD breed is famous for.
Because German shepherd dogs' skeleton and musculature more slowly, it's also ill-advised to neuter them in the first year of life per a 2016 study published in Veterinary Medicine and Science. This deprives the dogs of important hormones needed in bone development. GSDs neutered prior to a year of age showed a significant increase in joint disorders and cancer later in life.
The AKC says female dog may experience her first heat anytime between 6 and 15 months old. Her vulva swells and leaks a red fluid for 7 to 10 days, she urinates more, and spends more time than usual licking her vulva. This usually happens twice per year for females.
Males are capable of breeding all year round and the surge in testosterone might make other male dogs more aggressive toward them, especially if female dogs are present. Know that his hormones are surging higher than they'll be when he is fully mature and will stabilize as he becomes fully grown.
- American Kennel Club: Breed Standard
- UC Davis Breeder Caretaker Community Pages: Critical Periods in Puppy Development
- German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia: Developing a Relevant Weight for Age Chart for Australian GSD’s
- Wiley Online Library: Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs
- UC Davis: Early Neutering Poses Health Risks for German Shepherd Dogs, Study Finds
- American Kennel Club: Sexual Maturity in Puppies
- German Shepherd Dog Club of America: Conformation