These ratings were developed for German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs), the primary breed Alpha Dog saves. We do our best to account for breed-specific differences when evaluating non-GSDs. We then use the ratings to match dogs with appropriate adopters and foster homes. Please note there are no universal rating levels or evaluation systems for dogs; this is simply how we do it.
German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) share certain traits. These dogs generally mature into serious individuals and tend to be more discriminating about their circle of friends. Most are not “dog park” dogs as adults.
Most German Shepherds:
- Are intelligent, energetic, powerful, alert, bossy, noisy and mouthy (like to use their teeth)
- Are protective, possessive and territorial, and usually won’t let strangers walk in the door
- Are control freaks with strong herding drive (instincts), and usually have strong prey drive
- Shed all year long, and will shed twice as heavily in the spring and fall
- Need ongoing socialization, structure, leadership, exercise, training and affection
- Need to be made a part of the family, and are not good as outside-only dogs
- Need a purpose in life, or will find their own amusements by barking, chewing, digging and escaping
The Dog Rating Levels are based on the GSD’s inherent drives, confidence, attitude and personality. The higher the Rating Level, the more confident and demanding the dog is, and the more of everything the dog will require. Young dogs under 2 years old will probably mature up a Level. Don’t mistake a smaller size for an easier dog!
Note: Any dog can exhibit atypical behavior under stressful conditions.
Level 1 – Soft & Submissive
- Very submissive, born followers not interested in taking a leadership role. Willing to go along and get along, and try to avoid trouble. Sweet, soft, mellow or timid, can easily be overwhelmed.
- Usually Low to Moderate Energy. May need socializing, housebreaking, house manners. Suitable for senior or sedentary households, will enjoy occasional walks, trips in the car, or light play sessions.
- If needs are not met, can become clingy, needy, fearful or overly-submissive. Can submissively urinate, can develop Separation Anxiety.
- This level is rare for this breed.
- Balanced mix of confidence and submissiveness. Middle of the road dogs, fairly eager to please. Will occasionally test leadership abilities, but really don’t want to be the leader.
- Usually Moderate Energy, can range from Low to High, which can be satisfied with daily walks and play or training time. Need some basic obedience lessons, then may need occasional refresher courses.
- If needs are not met, can be insecure leaders and can become overly protective, possessive, and territorial. Can develop Separation Anxiety.
- This level fits the widest variety of households.
Level 3 – Confident & Challenging
- Confident with very little submissiveness, the standard breed temperament. Assertive and pushy, will challenge leadership status. Independent problem-solvers that will try to out-think their owners.
- Usually Moderate to High Energy. Need a job, with physical and mental exercise regularly for life.
- If needs are not met, can take over household in a hot second. Can become destructive or escapists.
- This is the most common dog level in rescue.
Level 4 – Competitive & Intense
- Very confident, very pushy, extremely competitive, adrenaline junkies. Usually ball, toy or prey obsessed. Very high drive and high focus, will often scream, whine and nip in frustration to DO SOMETHING, NOW!
- Very High Energy, always in high gear. Need several hours of physical and mental challenge every day, live to outwit, outplay and outlast everyone else. Never slow down, never wear out, never shut up.
- If needs are not met, can become obsessive and very destructive.
- Ideal for working K9 dogs or for competitive dog sports such as agility, flyball, herding and Schutzhund.
Level 5 – Tough & Serious
- Supremely confident, have high energy, high focus, and high fight drive. Loves to fight, and willing to back everything up with their teeth. Serious dogs who measure everyone for weakness. True tough guys, will never give up and will go down fighting.
- Very High Energy. Needs highly structured life with a full-time job. Not suitable for the family home.
- If needs are not met, can bite and become dominantly aggressive.
- We will never knowingly bring this dog into rescue.