The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most versatile dogs ever bred.  They are used by the police and armed forces as well as making excellent guide dogs and disability assistance dogs. They are good at just about every discipline you can think of.  They were originally bred for herding sheep  but their trainability, strength and stamina makes them extremely useful as working dogs.

GSDs can be very good at agility and I've seen some excellent dogs doing well in competition.  As with all the large breeds you need to be very careful of their joints when young.  Take advice from the breeder as they will know what type of exercise and how much you can do when the dog is growing up. 

The breed is prone to hip dysplasia so you'll need to find out about hip scores and you'll also need advice about when your dog may be able to start agility training.  You can do lots of pre agility work and this is vary valuable but I would take advice on when to start jumping. 

GSDs are generally large dogs and the Kennel Club gives the ideal height (from withers and just touching elbows) as: dogs: 63 cms (25 ins) and bitches: 58 cms (23 ins). 2.5 cms (1 in) either above or below ideal permissible.

The Kennel Club says

'The Breed Standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the Size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the Size measurements stated in the Breed Standard.'

There are two distinct coat types, the short haired and long haired.  The long haired used to be frowned upon but are now part of the breed standard and perfectly acceptable.

German shepherds can have brilliant temperaments and to get the best out of them I would advise learning as much as you can about the breed and how to handle and train them.  There may even be a specialist club near you and this will be perfect.

German Shepherd Crosses

If you like GSDs but you're not sure about taking on a pure bred dog then why not consider one of the crosses?  Some of them can make excellent agility dogs, especially if they have the trainability of the GSD.  I've thoroughly enjoyed watching the progress of a GSD cross in our training class.  I'm not sure what he's crossed with, but Chip has gone from being a mad, gangly youngster to winning a novice class in a very short time. A certain amount of distant control is necessary as no-one could possibly keep up with him.  A popular cross is the GSD/collie and I've seen these win quite a few rosettes and trophies at shows.

German shepherd crossbreed. 
Thanks to Dawn Turner for the photo

Comments from GSD handlers:

Penny:

I have now started competing with my second GSD. My first fell in love with agility the moment she saw it - competed from age 2 to age 11 and was pretty competitive at novice level. My current one is 26" tall with a wiry frame and fabulous jumping action - she is going to be stunning. My advice is to get one of the English or working lines rather than show lines - they have a good straight back parallel to the floor or the hips slightly lower than the shoulder. They will then have a good jumping action (hopefully) and a long jumping career. They're a fun dog to run in agility.

Lynn P:

Brill dog for agility very obedient loyal and loves the action. the only problem they are a bit too big for competitions. its like taking a lorry around the course and then a mini. you get the picture, but other than that the breed is very well suited to agility.

Wolf-Princess:

HI, I have a german shepherd and she is amazing! I love her to pieces and she is great at agility :)

Karen (GSD/Akita):

Rescue dog with all the abilities of a mountain goat, so looking forward to starting agility training this winter!

Sharon Footitt:

Classed as medium weight for feed etc so not excessively large. Absolutely brilliant first agility dog as easy to train and control. Although not the fastest is accurate and consistent with clear rounds!

Karen Stubbs (Collie/GSD cross):

I think I have two of the most intelligent breeds in one! I have trained all my dogs myself and Sadie has, by far, been the easiest.

Karis:

I am 13 years old and I have a 2 year old German Shepherd called Mollie. She is an Amazing dog but unfortunately is too big for a bitch so we cannot show her in professional shows but enjoy taking part in 'Scrufts' at my local riding school. (That and she has a floppy ear!)  I have a horse and she is unbelievably well behaved around him. I am already looking for some bigger jumps as she has cleared the top easily. She has an excellent temperament and I recommend one to anybody. As long as you train them correctly, they will stay loyally by your side.

Karis also has a Parsons Jack Russell Terrier and has written some very useful comments about the breed.

Sarah comments on her collie/shepherd cross:

We haven't done any formal training in agility but my 16 month old collie/shepherd cross Tess enjoys jumping the kids seesaw. Tess is very attentive and has a lot of energy!

Gill Vann (Belgian Shepherd/GSD):

My last dog was a large GSD he was steady but  slow, my cross has the GSD ability with the speed and lightness of a BSD and although she is too young to compete(17mths) she is showing a great potential at training.

Elizabeth:

My dog is only 17 months and after having two sessions at agility has loved it. By the second time he had completed each exercise, even the collapsible tunnel!  He was quite fearless and it was very obvious he enjoyed it immensely.  He loved the jumps and the seesaw, a frame and tyre he just took in his stride!  I was amazed at the way he took to it all.  I shall definitely be continuing with this with him. 

GSD Handler:

Consistant, wanting to please dogs. Always placed in starters but don't buy if you want to win at higher levels.  Even in ABC [Anything But Collie] classes good BSD [Belgian Shepherd Dogs] and kelpies will be faster. You should do better in harder courses due to lack of speed on straight up and down courses. Very rewarding dogs to train.  Keep it motivational/positive and a shepherd will try as hard as it can. Try to get a smallish light shepherd for agility.

Marcia says:

She took to the equipment at 4 mo. and never was afraid of anything, she was just young and was not really allowed to go on it yet.  She is 25.5 inches tall at 9mo. and a thin frame.  She is very quick and has a ton of energy.

Pat comments: As Marcia says, four months is too young to introduce a dog to agility equipment but there's no harm in letting them watch classes and get used to seeing it all and puppy classes are brilliant.  You can start pre agility classes when the trainer thinks your dog is ready.