German Shepherds aren't necessarily the first animal, let alone a dog breed, that comes to mind when you think of speed. Animals like cheetahs are known to be extremely fast; this is common knowledge.

As for dog breeds, usual suspects like Greyhounds and Whippets come to mind—the former is even a common staple of race events worldwide!

So then, would you be surprised to know that German Shepherds are fast? That's right! They are no slouches in the speed department. They are among the fastest species of dogs out there! But before we give you the rundown on the speed of this dog breed, let's provide an overview of this incredible canine and how it is used to help society.

What are some basic facts about German Shepherds?

German Shepherds, also known as Alsatians, are a medium-to-large breed of working dogs from, you guessed it, Germany. You probably also guessed that they were originally used for herding sheep, but their speed, agility, companionship, intelligence, assertiveness, and aggression have seen their use expand into many other fields. More on that later.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the breed was first established, it was prized primarily for its intelligence. They are one of the most vocal breeds of dogs, especially when it comes to alerting people to potential intruders or threats.

The original breeder of German Shepherds was Max von Stephanitz, who was looking to breed a shepherding specialist during a period when dog breeds were intended to serve specialized purposes.

He originally called his creation Deutscher Schäferhund, which stands for “German Shepherd Dog” in English. A simple and effective name for a great breed! The breed quickly became a symbol of Germany throughout the 20th century. Nowadays, the breed is associated with loyalty, power, and intelligence on an international scale.

So just how fast can a German Shepherd run, anyway?

Long story short, German Shepherds have been clocked at peak speeds of 30 miles per hour, making the breed one of the fastest in the world! Although this is quite fast, it's still more than 10 miles per hour slower than the Greyhound. Still, German Shepherds have more than enough speed to make them highly useful in a variety of functions.

It should also be noted that this is referring to a gait called a “gallop,” also known as an all-out run. German Shepherds truly excel in a gait called a “trot.” You can think of a trot as a power walk or jog of sorts; it's a fast type of walk involving the simultaneous movement of two legs that are diagonal from each other.

The trot speed of a German Shepherd is more than half that of its gallop: a whopping 18 miles per hour! Overall, it takes much less effort to trot, so German Shepherds can move fairly quickly for a long time. In other words, German Shepherds, while not blisteringly fast, can be reasonably fast for long periods!

Besides their excellent trot speeds, German Shepherds have notably high acceleration. They can reach top speed in less than eight strides, which in and of itself is faster than most breeds. This gives German Shepherds impeccable reaction time that is perfect for their original role as shepherds, among other roles.

Why can German Shepherds run so fast?

Several traits factor into the speed of a dog. We'll cover each of them now.

  • German Shepherds feature long legs. Longer limbs help contribute to faster acceleration and speed because they are simply covering more distance with each stride.
  • They are highly muscular. Their massive leg muscles help propel them forward with greater force, further increasing their speed.
  • They have high endurance. This goes beyond the “trot” mentioned above. German Shepherds have higher stamina by default. They can run for nearly ten minutes at “canter” speed, which is faster than their trot but not quite as fast as a gallop. Impressive!
  • Their ability to focus quickly. Thanks to their intelligence and acceleration ability, German Shepherds can lock onto a target and bolt after it in an instant. This excellent attention span ensures they stay focused on their target. The less deviating, the faster they can reach their target or the more they can keep pace with it.
  • Their intelligence and spatial reasoning skills. As mentioned before, German Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs. More specifically, they are a highly analytical breed that uses their eyes to determine the best angles to take and which obstacles to avoid. They want to make optimal use of their space to ensure they reach their target as fast as possible, whether subconsciously or consciously. They are less likely to be slowed down by obstacles than other breeds!
  • They are responsive to a good diet and proper sleep. If you feed your German Shepherd approximately 20 percent of its diet as protein, this will translate to better stamina and stronger leg muscles. Let them get proper sleep so their muscles can heal and their minds can maintain their sharpness!
  • They are responsive to training and play. German Shepherds will use playtime to sharpen their focus, intelligence, speed, and acceleration so that when things get serious, they'll be ready. Play with them daily, and consider setting up an obstacle course to train them further.
German sheperd is very focused while his owner shows a toy

How is a German Shepherd's speed used by society?

By now, it should be abundantly clear that German Shepherds are highly useful for their intelligence, focus, acceleration, and speed. They aren't just good for herding animals, which is why they see extensive use in police and military forces. They are especially useful for chasing criminals, as a typical human can only run about two-thirds as fast as a German Shepherd, and for shorter durations as well.

German Shepherds are also a great pick for dog competitions due to one of their underrated features: agility. High acceleration means that German Shepherds can start, stop, turn, and start up again on a dime. Their ability to figure out the best routes and their openness to agility training on obstacle courses will help them in any real race they may have to run.


German Shepherds have been one of the world's most versatile canine breeds for more than a century. Once prized for their herding abilities in Germany to the point where they became a national symbol, these majestic dogs have since won over the hearts of many pet owners worldwide—as well as the respect of police and military forces on the same scale. Consider getting one for yourself!

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