Longevity in the German Shepherd Dog


Translated from Italian by Ms. Wendy Middleton, Middross Kennel, UK

Today, 27 October 2020, Boogie vom Webachtal turns 11 years old.

With only two litters under her belt, she is the most important brood female in the history of the breed (here the article describing why Dalì’s mother, Daffy, Django, Domino, Juanita and Jador vom Webachtal, just to name a few, is like this important), and in these weeks, at 11, she is our most active dog in escapes during our excursions in the woods or in the countryside, so much so that we had to equip her with a GPS collar to know where she ends up when she wanders for hours and hours in the countryside or in the woods. In two hours she covers an average of 12 km in the woods and distances about 3-5 km. Today she has a GPS collar with a SIM card: she is the only dog ​​I know of whose phone number I have saved in the address book! 🙂

Today Boogie is 11 years old. But she looks like a little girl. The same can be said of her children who are almost 8 years old but don’t have a white hair on them and have athletic forms that can be presented at the Siegerschau.

These beautiful situations, however, counterbalance a worrying drift that we are seeing in the German Shepherd breed: the last ten entrustments of the puppies we have bred have been made, in half of the cases to new owners who took a German Shepherd after a premature death of the their beloved life partner, usually bought in other farms and other bloodlines.

The stories are almost all similar: premature deaths between the ages of 5 and 7, from various gastrointestinal, neurological, cardiac or oncological problems.

We ourselves, breeding for 13 years albeit in an amateur way but with constancy over time, we are seeing our first bred dogs die as time passes (our first litter is 13 years old in just over a month, so it is inevitable … ).

I therefore got a general idea (still not scientifically supported, and therefore I am careful not to spit out judgments) that some bloodlines are less long-lived than others, and that other bloodlines lead to health problems that lead to early deaths. (before the age of 10).

I would therefore like to address the issue of longevity which must fully fall within the association objectives of the SAS and SV, as a long-lived dog is a sign of good health and increases the German Shepherd’s population and its reputation among owners, veterinarians, etc. . and therefore it is in line with the statutory objectives of the breed associations which aim to “increase” and “improve” the breed.

A long-lived dog, it is good for the breed, its reputation and German Shepherd dog owners!

The effort of the breed associations (SAS, SV ..) must therefore ALSO be focused on the longevity factor.

The problem, however, is that insiders and professionals, pursuing competitive-sports-reproductive careers that exhaust their importance in the range from 2 to 7 years of age, hardly concentrate on the “after”.

There are some wonderful stories of long-lived dogs that make the eyes of aficionados sparkle (Vegas living, after retirement, with his owner up to 14 years, Remo living with his foster until his death, etc.) that we have news of , but there are many dogs that even non-prestigious breeding farms remove from their boxes once their exhibition or reproductive function is exhausted. We are not talking about the dogs sold young in other continents that usually die prematurely. In any case, and in all these cases, enthusiasts and professionals could not contribute, with their dog management style, to calculate a statistical index of longevity of the various lines.

The private owner of a “family” German Shepherd dog, on the other hand, is very interested in the longevity of the breed. More than enthusiasts or professionals who get rid of dogs at the end of their career too quickly for commercial, economic or simply logistical needs. For the private dog owner, the dog is a member of the family, and if he dies at 7, it’s a tragedy!

The solution to be able to deal with the study of this aspect of the dog’s life and that is its long life or not, is therefore to investigate the current population of elderly German Shepherds in the hands of private owners, who manage the dog’s old age phase. at almost manic levels and willingly would like to share their longevity experience with the world and the fact that their dog is doing very well even if he is 10 or 12 years old.

While it is difficult to “track down” the negative data, that is, premature deaths, it would be very easy for the association to trace the cases of longevity and build statistics on the longest-lived bloodlines to be rewarded.

But how to monitor the average lifespan and possibly increase it? How to identify the longest-lived bloodlines? In my opinion, the solution lies in rewarding the longest-lived bloodlines by finding older dogs in the hands of families.

If you want, it would be a recognition, often “posthumous”, to the great breeders of the past as they could be created “breeding groups of veterans over 10 years” in retrospect, and it would be interesting to compare them with the number of births.


In order to trace the longest-lived bloodlines, I propose not to analyze deaths in general, which would be a partial and gigantic activity, but to evaluate dogs over 10 years old and reward with a symbolic recognition the attainment of this venerable age. .

We could reward dogs who have reached the age of 10 with a simple recognition or mention of merit and a parchment, with a trophy or plaque those who will reach 12 years of age, and with honorable mentions those who reach 14 years of age, as well as award each year the longest-lived German Shepherd dog in Italy with the MATUSALEM award or similar name, which would also have a media coverage useful for breed marketing about which I have written many times in the past.

We could then have a circuit of breeders that offers a discount or concession or in any case an economic advantage to those who purchase a puppy from them in the years to come (very likely given the venerable age of the awarded dogs) and therefore also have a return. economic when identifying and rewarding the long-lived dog.

This activity has a limited cost and would allow us to draw the longest-lived lines with the compilation of statistics on SAS publications, which would also serve as a guide for owners who find themselves adopting a German Shepherd, and would be a recognition, albeit posthumous, of the health of the lines. of blood present at a given historical moment.

In addition, the one-off reward at 10, 12 and 14 years of life would also serve to retain German Shepherd dog owners towards the breed, and since sadly, inevitably, their dog is heading towards the natural end of its life, it would always be useful in the economy of the breed, to pamper a long-lived dog owner as he is very close to buying a dog, and therefore an imminent future buyer.

By rewarding the dogs and listing the longest-lived lines, we would then have helped private owners and even professionals to penalize the “non-performing” lines in the economy of the management of the breed and regardless of the anatomical and character skills, if endowed with hope. of shorter life than the others, it would be good if they were well evaluated also in terms of use in the breeding of the future.

I await impressions and constructive considerations and in the meantime, I think it is appropriate to say: “Long Live the King”, the German Shepherd.

Stefano Galastri – Webachtal Kennel, Italy