How Smart Are German Shepherds?

German Shepherds have been considered one of the best companions since time immemorial.

Not only are they known to be incredibly supportive to their owners, but their intelligence has come to use for humans on multiple occasions.

Known to be full of strength, agility, and an indomitable spirit, they make for excellent services dogs.

Also known as wolf dogs, their extreme discipline and smartness added by their royal appearance make them a popular choice for service and households alike.

It can be surprising for some to know exactly how smart are GSD.

How Smart Are German Shepherds

A Brief History of German Shepherds

In the late 1880s, a breeder Max Stephanitz was charmed by a wolf-like dog at a dog show in Germany.

He decided to purchase the dog and started a dog’s club dealing exclusively with the guidelines for the German shepherd breed’s standard.

After a stage of rapid industrialization in Germany, Max decided to increase the dog’s utility by extending their exposure to police and other services to maintain relevance and secure their requirement.

During World War I, German shepherds were used for a range of important purposes, such as bringing first aid for wounded soldiers, as well as working in the capacity of therapy dogs for injured soldiers to keep them company.

From the apparent position of guard dogs to delivering messages, they didn’t cease to impress Americans as well.

When Americans realized how smart are GSD, they brought them to their home country where they gained wide popularity.

The Smartest Breed in the World

Although studies show that Border collies and poodles rank higher than German shepherds in the intelligence department, it has been widely accepted that it is German shepherds who are the more trainable among the breeds.

Considered to have a ‘sharp’ mind, they have high memory retention and ability to remember words of importance and commands better than other breeds.

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Any tricks that might be taught to German shepherds shall easily stay with them, and they are incredibly attentive and logical and are hence trained as sheepherders as well.

This, however, is a thing of the past now.

How Smart Are German Shepherds

Tireless Workers

German Shepherds found initial roots in the warzone. Hence they have been bred to be highly smart and athletic.

Therefore, they are some of the most natural breeds to train and work tirelessly round the clock.

To date, used in police service, as watchdogs and guard dogs, they are still trained to be messengers as well.

Reservoirs of energy

German Shepherds are a highly energetic breed and need to continually work to thrive.

They have stricter work ethics than most humans and hence need challenging tasks to keep them occupied and happy.

With volcanic energy levels and breeding is done through generations of ancestors, who were used to working in the grueling war environment, or herding and guarding animals in cruel weather conditions, these dogs are tough. 

They are hence favored for tough, field jobs such as sniffing and finding out contraband, apprehending criminals, helping with various police jobs, guarding as well as helping out survivors in case of disasters.

They are suited for such activities and perform them to the best of their capability.

Protective Instincts

One of the hallmarks of how smart are German Shepherds is their protective nature.

Their topmost priority is keeping the people around them safe, and they can act on this in whichever way possible.

It is essential that they are trained right from puppyhood and properly socialized to make them comfortable around other people, especially strangers, because it is inherent in their breed to see a threat in all strangers and a need to protect their loved ones against them.

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This trait of theirs is often touted to make them look like an extremely aggressive breed, one to be highly scared of. However, this is not true.

How a dog behaves is greatly affected by the training it receives, the socialization it gets, the way it is treated right from puppyhood.

Therefore, it is essential to understand that right in the former years of their life. 

How Smart Are German Shepherds


German Shepherds are great learners and highly focused pets. Once they learn whatever their trainer has set out for them, they can obey their commands and orders with extreme discipline and focus.

That said, every dog, in fact, every human as well takes some time to assimilate what has been taught to them.

Similar is the case with German shepherds. They can’t be expected to immediately pay heed to every command thrown their way, or be expected to obey a ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ command right from puppyhood.

If taught with consistency and care, they grow up to be highly obedient dogs, dextrous at multiple things.

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence refers to the ability and skill of the dog to learn himself.

Although there is no test or criteria to test this kind of intelligence, however, it can be measured based on problem-solving skills and learning from past experiences which means if a dog has been through a situation before, and is made to experience the same at a later stage in his life, the way he behaves shall determine his adaptive intelligence.

This, too, in case of German shepherds, is extremely high as they have been known to be receptive to outwardly influences in a very intelligent manner, showing significant signs of seeming to remember past experiences to learn techniques to get out of a situation or act in a certain way.

This only adds to the already discussed point of how smart are GSD.

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Need for Mental Stimulation

According to the already discussed aspects, one can quickly determine that German shepherds are extremely intelligent and hence, can make up for extremely wholesome companions, service dogs, guard dogs, making them indispensable domestic animals in several fields.

However, they are smart comes with a catch – because of their high intelligence levels, they need constant mental stimulation, or else they may start channelizing their replete energies towards destructive activities.

Studies have shown that any dog primarily breeds like German shepherds, if not given correct levels of physical exercise and adequate mental stimulation, can exhibit destructive behavior.

Hence, it is essential to make them indulge in cerebral activities; dog-friendly puzzles, as well as particular stress, should be laid on obedience training.

How Smart Are German Shepherds

Bottom Line

German shepherds are a highly intelligent breed. With a new lineage and hard-working ancestry, it is essential to train them with the help of both positive and negative reinforcements to make them grow into successful and versatile dogs that they are.

While a lot of their traits are determined by inheritance, they can be taught and learned by them as well.

It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that their dog is trained well. The saying ‘good owners make good dogs’ is true in case of the upbringing of any dog.

The behavior that they exhibit when they grow up is greatly determined by the way they have been treated by their owners throughout their puppyhood and subsequent years.

One must always remember that dogs don’t possess as much cognitive intelligence as humans and hence have to guide through their former years, which shapes them ultimately.

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