Why Are German Shepherds More Than Just a Herding Breed? 6 Facts You May Not Know

Have you ever looked at where German Shepherds are categorized with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and wondered to yourself why they were in the herding group? (among Australian Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Border Collie, and the likes) The fact is, our beloved German Shepherds are more than just a herding breed – they are truly versatile dogs that can be trained to do many different tasks.

As specified in AKC’s breed standard, German Shepherds are approachable, confident, and willing to meet overtures, making them one of the most versatile dogs to date. GSDs are strong, agile, well-muscled animals, alert, and full of life, and were originally developed to work with sheep herds, which is right there in their name, “Shepherd”.

In fact, their hardworking and versatile nature has made them perfect for a range of lifestyles and activities. In this article, we will share with you 6 facts about why this amazing breed is so versatile in every way.

Why are German Shepherds Versatile?

Not only do German Shepherds thrive in military and police work, but they can also be found in a range of jobs from medical assistance: therapy dogs, hearing dogs, to rescue dogs.

But why are German Shepherds so versatile?

That all comes down to the breed standard.

Known for being a social, friendly breed; German Shepherds thrive when they are with their family. And they are definitely protective of their family and incredibly loyal.

However, German Shepherds take that loyalty to a new level and are very in tune with their owners. That means that they fit the mold of versatility in several ways.

  1. They work well with their handlers and often know what their owner needs before the owner even knows.
  2. Can work on their own due to their herding instinct, but also with their handlers.
  3. Are intelligent enough to figure out complex puzzles on their own and new commands quickly.
  4. Have an even temperament that allows them to remain calm in high-stress situations.
  5. Love playing games and being with their owners.

Since working is often considered a game for German Shepherds, it is not hard to get them excited about a job and be up to any challenge they are up against.

That, combined with their strength, intelligence, charisma, and the incredible nose that allows them to scent better than many breeds is why you find German Shepherds in a large number of canine jobs.

Fact #1. German Shepherds are excellent police and military dogs

While it seems like the focus lately has been on the Malinois, the German Shepherd has been associated with the role of police or military dogs for a very long time. In fact, German Shepherds were commonly used during the great wars and by police throughout the 20th century.

Also read:

German Shepherd vs Belgium Malinios: A Quick Comparison

Why Are German Shepherds Used as Police Dogs?

The reason why German Shepherds have faired so well in this role comes down to temperament.

Unlike many other breeds, German Shepherds have a stable temperament and are generally known as “calm under pressure”. This means that they can still follow commands and work, even during high-stress situations police and military personnel can face. 

Fact #2. German Shepherds are excellent farm dogs

We all know that German Shepherds were developed for herding, but they are actually well-rounded farm dogs that can be excellent herders and livestock guardians.

Since GSDs are smart and super easy to train, coupled with a natural affinity for herding, GSD goes on pretty well with a range of animals.

That being said, German Shepherds have a natural instinct called “furrowing”. Their incredible sense of smell allows them to find, and furrow out, pesky rodents that can hurt livestock and feed supplies. So not only is the German Shepherd perfect at keeping bigger predators away, they’ll do the same with rodents. 

Fact #3. German Shepherds are good family pets

While many people look at the breed for protection, German Shepherds are incredible as family pets. The breed is known for being gentle companions, which makes them an excellent choice for families with children.

German Shepherds are perfect for active families and parents can feel confident that their German Shepherd will give their all to protecting their young charges.

While German Shepherds are an active breed, they can fit into a large number of lifestyles. Many are happy curling up on the couch after a good walk and simply being the loyal, affectionate companion we all need.  

Also read: Are German Shepherds Good With Small Dogs?

Fact #4. German Shepherds are born to win

If you remember, I mentioned how German Shepherds were created to combine beauty and brains. And those two traits often mean that German Shepherds do amazingly well in the confirmation (or show) ring.

Loved by dog enthusiasts around the world, you can see German Shepherds competing for all the way to the Westminster Dog Show.

The German Shepherd CH Covy-Tucker Hill’s Manhattan, nicknamed “Hatter,” was the winner in 1987.

A German Shepherd Dog known as “Rumor” was awarded the coveted Best in Show title in 2017.  (Source)

But the conformation ring is not the only place that German Shepherds shine with competitions. They do amazingly well in agility, obedience, flyball, herding, and many other competitions throughout the dog world. 

Fact #5. German Shepherds thrives in their own sport

Even though we’ve touched on competition, we can’t forget that the breed even has its own sport called Schutzhund, which is German for protection dogs.

This sport was developed specifically for the breed, although many other dog breeds now compete in Schutzhund trials. In this sport, the dog must complete three parts. This includes:

  • Obedience: The dog must complete a number of commands that is given to it without hesitation. There are set commands and set levels of difficulty for the dog.
  • Tracking: All drawing on that strong sense of smell German Shepherds are known for, the dog will have to do scent work to gain their Schutzhund title.
  • Protection Work: Finally, dogs will have to do tasks similar to the protection work dogs do as police dogs.

All of these tasks not only challenge the German Shepherd but measure and showcases the mental stability, drive, intelligence, courage, and endurance of the individual dog. And German Shepherds continue to produce results and win in their sport. 

Fact #6. German Shepherds are superstars

Finally, German Shepherds are famous for being…well…famous. 

Did you know that America fell in love with the breed because of one German Shepherd? It’s true. The German Shepherd puppy named Rin Tin Tin delighted movie fans through the 1920s and into the early 1930s. From him to today, German Shepherds are a very popular breed in the movies.

The main reason is that the breed is so trainable. Combined with their calm demeanor, they can handle the demands and stressors of a movie set all while delighting fans and stealing the hearts of young and old alike.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the German Shepherd really is a versatile working breed. Whether you have a job or simply have a nice comfy couch, the German Shepherd can fit itself into your lifestyle.

It is a dedicated breed and while they all started with humble beginnings guarding a sheep flock, they have shown that they are definitely more than just a herding breed.

Further Questions

Is the German Shepherd Dog really that versatile of a dog breed?

German Shepherds are really that versatile. When the breed was being developed by Captain Max von Stephanitz in 1899, the focus was on creating a dog that combined both beauty and brains.

The German Shepherd Dog as we know it today was born and that focus on brains is what has led this athletic breed to be one of the more versatile breeds alive today.

You may also like: The White German Shepherd – the Ancestor of All GSDs

Do German Shepherds need a lot of stimulation?

It’s not that they need a lot of stimulation, they need the right stimulation. A versatile German Shepherd needs toys that it can problem solve. In addition, German Shepherds should have about 30 minutes of training each day, regardless of age, and at least 90 minutes of exercise. Both training and exercise can be split up into shorter intervals to make it manageable for any family. 

What kind of jobs can I assign to my German Shepherd at home?

You can assign work in your own home for your German Shepherd. They will learn a wide range of commands including turning on light switches, opening doors, bringing objects, and many others. In addition, you can train your German Shepherd to be a therapy dog, work in search and rescue, or even do protection work.


A comprehensive and resourceful guide for any first-time GSD owner.

Do you want to know how to find a purebred German Shepherd puppy? What are the pros and cons of purebred dogs? How to identify a responsible/reputable breeder? What questions should you ask a breeder before you buy a puppy? How to make sure your puppy is purebred? What’s included in the puppy sales contract?

You will find answers to all these questions in this 38-page guide.