Close this search box.

7 Easy Ways How To Identify a Purebred German Shepherd

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

If you want to adopt one of the most popular dog breeds, there’s a good chance you’ll choose a German Shepherd Dog. But you also want a purebred dog, which requires you to find out how to identify a purebred German Shepherd. How can you do that?

Here are 7 ways how to identify a purebred German Shepherd:

  1. Test the DNA.
  2. Examine the German Shepherd’s coat.
  3. Examine other German Shepherd physical features.
  4. Notice their temperament and behavior.
  5. Examine the registration certificate.
  6. Check the German Shepherd’s pedigree.
  7. Talk to the experts. 

Purebred German Shepherds have both parents from the same breed. As such, you can readily predict their temperament and physical appearance from the well-established breed standard. But you need to first identify your GSD as a true purebred, so let’s get started.

Purebred German Shepherd. How to Identify a Purebred GSD.
“Willow” – my purebred German Shepherd

How To Identify a Purebred German Shepherd

Identifying a purebred German Shepherd by its physical features can be tricky. This is because there are several other dog breeds with similar characteristics, like the Belgian Malinois, the Bohemian Shepherd, and the Dutch Shepherd, among a few others. 

There are also different types of German Shepherds, such as the working lines and show lines which have slightly different appearances.

However, that does not mean identifying a purebred German Shepherd cannot be done. Check out our video below for some great insights…

1. Test the DNA

When you are grappling with the question of how to know if your German Shepherd is original, taking a DNA test on your dog is not something you want to do as a first option. 


Because DNA tests and test kits have a hefty price tag. 

In the end, however, you’ll get the best bang for your buck because the DNA test will tell you the genetic breed heritage of your dog, along with other benefits like understanding genetic markers for certain canine diseases. 

The most straightforward bet when taking a DNA test on your German Shepherd is to purchase a test kit and follow the instructions on the package. 

I recommend the Embark Dog DNA Test Kit from Amazon for the following reasons: 

  • It captures 200,000 genetic markers, which means high precision on results about your dog’s lineage. 
  • The test reveals crucial findings on your pet’s health, like your dog’s predisposition to drug sensitivities and possible genetic diseases. 
  • It’s easy to use. 

In summary, all you need to do with the DNA test kit is follow these steps: 

  1. Purchase the Embark Dog DNA Test Kit from Amazon 
  2. Once the kit is delivered, use the activation code to create a tracking account on 
  3. Pass the swab inside your dog’s mouth to collect the DNA sample. 
  4. Package the swab with the DNA sample in the provided sealable bag and mail it for testing. 

If you seek greater accuracy, go for the 2-pack option and use both with your GSD to check the consistency of results. 

2. Examine the German Shepherd’s Coat

A dog’s coat is one of the signature features of breed uniqueness that’s used as part of the breed standard. You can identify if your German Shepherd is purebred by assessing your dog for these coat features. 

Coat Type and Fur Patterns

According to the AKC, the official standard of the GSD is a medium-length double coat with tough straight hair lying close to the body. The outer coat should be dense, even though a somewhat wavy outer coat is permissible. 

The hairs at the neck are longer and thicker, while those on the head, fore face, and inside the ears are short. The paws and legs also have short hair, but you may notice slightly longer hair at the rear of the legs, on the hock, and along the pastern. 

Watch This Video on How to Check a Purebred GSD…

As a difference, the Kennel Club and the FCI standards include a long coat to their German Shepherd breed standards. I’ve written a complete article all about the long-haired German Shepherd if this variety interests you.

Coat Color

The coat colors of the German Shepherd are varied. The black and tan, sable, black and red, bi-color, and solid black variants are among the most common German Shepherd coat colors. 

The AKC advocates for strong-rich colors and disqualifies blue, livers, white, and faded German Shepherd coat colors (even though GSDs with these colors can still be registered). These colors are also undesirable for the Kennel Club, and the FCI disqualifies white coats as well. 

Variations in German Shepherd coat standards should suggest the need to consider more than just the coat type and fur patterns when trying to make out if your German Shepherd is an original. 

3. Examine Other German Shepherd Physical Features

You can combine assessing the coat type and color of the German Shepherd with examining other physical features of the breed to make a more informed conclusion about your GSD’s bloodline. 

Some of the distinctive physical features of the German Shepherd you should look for include the following characteristics. 

A Strong Body Build

If your dog has a strong, proportionate, well-muscled, but agile body, then it’s likely you have an original. 

Other features of a strong-build purebred German Shepherd you should notice include: 

  • An even built hindquarter and the forequarter. 
  • A body that’s longer than it is tall. 
  • Height: 24″-26″ (61cm-66cm) for the male and 22″-24″ (56cm-61cm) for the female.
  • Length: Around 36″-42″ (91cm-106cm). 
  • A noble look with a well-defined feminine or masculine gait for either case. 
  • A deep and narrow chest with sloping shoulders and front legs. 

Pointed Ears

The pointy ears of a German Shepherd are among its most popular signature features. The GSD typically carries its ears erect, with the ear ends parallel to each other and vertical to the ground. 

But the ears of your German Shepherd may not stand erect until the teething period is over. 

If your GSD is at that teething stage, which ends around weeks 16 and 20, check to see if your dog has erect ears when it hears a sound, barks, or gets excited. If that happens even for short moments, your puppy’s ears will stand erect permanently after the teething period. 

Note that floppy ears in adult purebred German Shepherds can be a sign of ill health or the outcome of grooming routines. Also, breed standards usually disqualify a GSD with docked ears. 

A Long Bushy Tail

The German Shepherd has a full and long bushy tail with the last interlocking bone extending to the hock joint. 

The tail is carried low rather than high and is smoothly set into the rump. 

A purebred German Shepherd should not carry the tail curled forward as though fearful. When at rest, your GSD’s tail will hang with a slight curve. The curve can be more pronounced when the dog is excited or moving. You can read about the meaning of German Shepherd tail positions in this article.

A German Shepherd Dog Sitting. How To Identify a Purebred German Shepherd
Willow at 9 months old

As with the ears, a docked German Shepherd’s tail is cause for disqualification as per breed standards. 

Other defining features of a German Shepherd to look for include: 

  • A noble head that’s proportional to the body. 
  • A long and strong muzzle with a topline parallel to the skull. 
  • A black nose. 
  • A strong and muscular neck with smooth skin and no loose skin folds. 

4. Notice Their Temperament and Behavior

Your purebred German Shepherd will present as a confident, fearless, and alert dog. Timidity, nervousness, and anxiety are not part of the intelligent and agile German Shepherd, originally bred as a herding dog. 

Any characterizing tendency to flee and hide behind the owner or handler should suggest that the dog is not a purebred German Shepherd. While your purebred dog will be friendly and loyal to you, it will show some aloofness towards strangers without, however, being aggressive or showing a lack of confidence. 

All these features of a confident German Shepherd’s character should manifest in a typical gait of a working dog. 

5. Examine the Registration Certificate

A dog registration certificate is the record of a puppy’s birth with a registry such as the AKC in the US or the Kennel Club in the UK. A registered dog is what we usually refer to as “a dog with papers.”

Dog registries simply maintain the record of dog ownership and breeding, whether your dog is a purebred or a mixed breed. That could leave you wondering how a dog registration certificate can help identify a purebred German Shepherd. Here’s how. 

How a Dog Registration Identifies a Purebred German Shepherd

A German Shepherd registration certificate only goes back one generation and will only show the parents’ names and breed, among other details. That should tell you if both parents of your German Shepherd were of the same breed or not. 

However, the information given to a dog registry is self-reported by the owner or breeder. The registry does not do background research to confirm the details but instead relies on the honesty of the breeder or owner. 

Nonetheless, a German Shepherd with a registration certificate that records parents of the same breed, implying that it is purebred, has a higher probability of being an original than one that’s not registered. 

When determining if your German Shepherd is an original, you might want to combine assessing the dog’s registration certificate with some of the methods discussed earlier. 

6. Check the German Shepherd’s Pedigree

A dog pedigree is a certificate of your dog’s birth that also records the dog’s bloodline, going back at least three generations in the dog’s family tree. 

Your purebred German Shepherd papers should include the dog’s registration certificate and pedigree papers. In addition, pedigree papers will show your dog’s physical details like the coat color and any titles the dog or previous dogs in the bloodline may have won. 

Compared to a simple dog registration certificate, a dog’s pedigree has more proof that your German Shepherd is purebred. 

7. Talk to the Experts

Experts in your dog’s lineage are people with firsthand information about your German Shepherd and those with extensive information about the breed. 

Firsthand info experts can be the dog’s breeder or an owner with a long history of owning one or more German Shepherds. Experts with extensive knowledge about the breed are mainly veterinarians. 

Talk to a German Shepherd Breeder

To determine if your German Shepherd is purebred, talk to a reputable breeder with years of experience with the breed. 

You can find reliable breeders through kennel club initiatives such as the AKC’s Breeder Referral Search or The Kennel Club’s Find an Assured Breeder. National breed clubs are also an option, as in the case of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America

Reputable German Shepherd breeders will give you reliable info about: 

  • German Shepherd dog personality and temperament. 
  • Key purebred German Shepherd features and how they manifest in different stages of the dog’s development
  • German Shepherd registration and pedigree papers, especially if you are considering buying your GSD from the breeder. 
  • Possible German Shepherd health issues, as they can make you doubt your dog’s originality if you don’t know about them. 

Talk to a German Shepherd Owner

Someone who has owned a purebred German Shepherd for years has observed their physical and personality traits and can offer you valuable information about the breed. 

Go for a purebred German Shepherd owner whose dog you like and looks healthy and well cared for. Fulfilled GSD owners will be glad to tell you about their furry companions and probably show you photos and videos of their growth journey. 

Videos and photos of another purebred German Shepherd can give you specific details about physical features and temperament traits that you can look out for in your own dog. 

Sketch of German Shepherd
Original sketch of my German Shepherd Willow

Talk to a Veterinarian

Veterinarians not only deal with many dog breeds, but they also attend to many dogs of the same breed. As such, they have mastered characteristics proper to the GSD and will give you purebred German Shepherd facts and proofs from their own experience. 

Suppose you already own the dog that you are trying to identify as purebred. In that case, you can bring your dog to a vet who has vast experience with German Shepherds and have them assess the dog’s physical, temperament, and behavior traits. 

Alternatively, you can explain to the vet features and behaviors you have observed in your dog and have the vet tell you if they are typical of the breed. 

Common Misconceptions About Purebred German Shepherds

As with any popular breed, there are many misconceptions about purebred German Shepherds. Here are some of the most common misconceptions:

  • Purebred German Shepherds are aggressive: This is a common misconception, but it’s not true. German Shepherds can be protective and territorial, but they are not inherently aggressive. Aggression is usually a result of poor training or socialization.
  • Purebred German Shepherds are hard to train: While German Shepherds can be strong-willed and independent, they are also highly intelligent and eager to please. With proper training and socialization, they can be trained to do almost anything.
  • Purebred German Shepherds are unhealthy: This is simply not true. Like any breed, German Shepherds can be prone to certain health issues, but overall they are a healthy and hardy breed.
  • Purebred German Shepherds need a lot of exercise: While German Shepherds are an active breed and do require regular exercise, they don’t need as much exercise as some people think. A daily walk and some playtime in the yard is usually enough to keep them happy and healthy.
  • Purebred German Shepherds don’t make good family pets: This couldn’t be further from the truth. German Shepherds are known for their loyalty, protectiveness, and love for their families. They can make excellent family pets as long as they are properly trained and socialized.

Don’t let these misconceptions prevent you from considering a purebred German Shepherd as your next pet. With proper care, training, and socialization, they can make wonderful companions.

Final Thoughts

Many German Shepherd owners have found themselves grappling with the question, “how can I tell if my German Shepherd is purebred?” 

While testing your dog’s DNA is the most conclusive way to tell if your German Shepherd is an original, you can go for other less pricey options. Observe your dog for breed-specific traits and behavior, assess the dog’s registration and pedigree papers, or talk to experts. 

I suggest you combine more than one of these options for a more conclusive answer about your German Shepherd’s pure bloodline. 

Related Posts You May Like:

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

Leave a Comment

Image for Newsletter Signup

Rehabilitate. Repeat.

Get the best in dog rescue news, care, and health tips, and be a part of the rescue dog revolution.