When you decide that you are ready to add a puppy or dog to your family, it is extremely important to find a breed that will suit your needs. If you don’t, you will create an unhappy situation for both you and your new canine friend.

Here I will attempt to give you some general information about the German Shepherd breed, its origin, and its health issues. Many of these things, I am personally familiar with and have seen as a veterinarian. If you have any questions that arise either about my dogs, my bloodlines, or about German Shepherds in general, I will be glad to help in any way I can.

Some of the main things to consider when purchasing a German Shepherd:

Activity They are an active breed and do need adequate exercise. Though they can be content watching T.V. with you in the evening, you need to plan to spend time daily allowing them to run and play.

Intelligence They are immensely intelligent. German Shepherd Dogs are thinkers. They need work to do and problems to solve. You must plan to start some type of socialization and training as soon as you acquire your new Shepherd. They will try to sneak by with whatever you will let them — like an extremely bright child, and you must by “smarter” than they are. They will tend to “keep you on your toes”.

Hair German Shepherd shed heavily. Make sure you can “deal” with the extra amount of hair in your house or on your clothes after playing with your canine friend.

Cost

    • German shepherds eat ALOT — a good quality food can easily run $45-$60 per month.
    • They chew ALOT (and often on things they shouldn’t).
    • Their dog house, crates, and toys are simply more expensive than that of a smaller dog
    • They outgrow their collars, leashes, dog bowls, and dog beds their first 6 months.
    • Their heartworm preventative and flea and tick control cost more because of their size.

Training If you are not an “experienced” trainer, plan on seeking some training assistance with your new pet at some point. German Shepherds are very talented and willingly learners, but their talents must be challenged and they must be kept busy or they often will learn to “entertain” themselves. As is characteristic of a sheep-herding breed, the GSD needs a job. The dog will keep busy, and if you don’t teach a job and make it accessible for the dog to perform, the GSD will devise one. Often times this self-assigned job is NOT constructive! AND, You MUST socialize them — take them around other people, go through drive-thrus with them, introduce them to other animals and kids, expose them to loud noises, and anything else that you can think of that they might experience in the next 12 years of their life. If you’re not going to formally and thoroughly train with your dog, the GSD is the wrong choice.

Boarding Plan ahead. Make sure that you have someone or some place that is willing to keep your new friend while you are out of town if you are unable to take him with you.

If you can cope with all of these things, then the German Shepherds might be the ideal dog for you. But, GSDs are heavy-duty dogs. Because of their intelligence and ease of training, they have effectively worked beside police officers, soldiers, search and rescue handlers, blind people, and done their jobs effectively protecting lives and property all over the world. They adapt quickly to most any situation. Their devotion and undying loyalty make them exceptional protection dogs when trained properly. But, if you don’t have the time, money, or dedication to devote, or if hair is an issue, then maybe you should reconsider your purchase of a German Shepherd.

These dogs need to be important to you. It is preferable that they stay with you for the rest of their lives. They can change homes if the new home is a good one, but it is a hard adjustment for a adult GSD to make and it takes time. These dogs give you their loyal hearts. They genuinely desire to please you. A well-bred and well-trained German Shepherd Dog is unforgettable. Many people have gotten hooked on dog training by owning, loving, and training with one of these marvelous dogs.

If you can’t make a lifetime commitment or if you need a “lighter-duty” dog, it might be that another breed would suit you better or maybe this just isn’t the right time in your life for a dog. You owe it to yourself and your dog to might the right decision.

Even if you never have a German Shepherd Dog of your own, chances are your life will be made better because others have lived and worked with them.

Other Interesting Information German Shepherds

Max von Stephaniz founded the breed in the 1890s from sheep-herding dogs that met his criteria for working ability and conformation.

After World War I, Germany had many blinded war veterans and well-trained German Shepherds. Not surprisingly, German Shepherds began working as guide dogs.

The sport of Schutzhund was designed as a testing program to help select breeding dogs with the correct genetics for police and military work. It still serves this purpose, but has become a contest of sophisticated training.

Though a great many German Shepherds are produced in the United States, the dogs working in police departments and other vital functions are often imports from Germany.

Several types of German Shepherd Dogs are bred. Some of these types include long-coated dogs, conformation show dogs, bloodlines specialized for guide work, dogs bred for police and military work, and at least two groups registered as completely different breeds. These are the United Kennel Club registered White German Shepherd and the Shiloh Shepherd (bred for larger size).

The German Shepherd has a complex temperament and sloppy breeding can make the temperament go wrong. Bad breeding has also produced huge numbers of dogs crippled by hip dysplasia and afflicted with other genetic health problems. Such dogs fail as working dogs, and can be heartbreaking for people who adopt them as companions. BE CAREFUL when picking out your new German Shepherd!

Dog training was practically invented for this breed. There is something wrong when a German Shepherd Dog is not trained. GSDs need to believe they can trust you. They need to view the training as fair and they need it to make sense. They do wonderfully well training in realistic situations where they can see the logic of the task.

You need a lot of training WITH the dog in order to handle this breed responsibly. Whether or not you engage the services of a private trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you need to work with your dog regularly — but, in the case of German Shepherds, training is usually fun and they will amaze you in how fast they learn.

German Shepherds love to talk. They are one of the most (if not the most) vocal breed of dogs. “Anxiety” whining in common in GSDs. They have a huge vocabulary of pitches and tones. The best way to handle this is to give the dog something to do that pleases you or ignore him/her. Many times they learn to be vocal because when they started vocalizing, their owner immediately starts asking them “What is wrong?” in that concerned pitch that humans use and this re-affirms the dog’s concerns. Never punish the dog for whining though because that increases anxiety and will usually make the whining worse in the future. Realize that your new dog is fond of “talking” and will do a great deal of it his/her first year especially.

After suffering so long at the hands of the inept and the illicit, where does the German shepherd stand today as a potential canine companion? Currently, potential German shepherd owners will find an array of temperaments (from the very good to the very bad), different levels of energy (from highly active to relaxed companions), a variety of conformation (from near perfection to something that might be confused with a shepherd mix), and a mixed bag as far as health.
But before you panic that the search for a German shepherd will be too taxing, take heart in knowing there are excellent breeders and quality puppies and dogs out there. The goal is to find a conscientious breeder who values dogs with balanced temperaments and outstanding health — with conformation and soundness ranking a very close second.

Your typical German shepherd

Is This the Dog for You?
All who know and love the German shepherd will readily admit that the breed is not for everyone. And, though veteran German shepherd owners regularly take the breed’s challenges in stride, those who are new to the breed may be surprised or alarmed by some of the shepherd’s characteristics. If you are considering owning a German shepherd, it’s best to become familiar with both the pros and the cons associated with this dog.

Things You’ll Love

The German shepherd can be a fantastic companion to all kinds of people. The following are some of the positive traits this breed carries:

  • Loyal
  • Courageous
  • Protective of family
  • Gentle with children
  • Gets along well with other pets
  • Plays nicely with other dogs
  • Intelligent
  • Easy to train
  • Long-lived (12 to 14 years)
  • Athletic
  • Versatile; can compete in many performance events
  • Easily washable coat
  • Adaptable to small and large homes
  • Expressive
  • Playful

Unpleasant Aspects

While German shepherds make great pets when well-bred and given the proper care, some dogs still exhibit challenging traits and habits, including:

  • Tendency to escape
  • Compulsive chewing
  • Destructiveness when bored or lacking exercise
  • Not suited to living only outdoors
  • High activity level
  • Demanding of attention
  • Requires training throughout life
  • Frequent barker; uses lots of vocal communication
  • Significant shedding, especially during change of seasons
  • Severe separation anxiety*
  • Overly protective*
  • Overly territorial*
  • Aggressive toward other dogs*
  • Aggressive toward people*
  • Unpredictable biting**
  • Nervous, anxious**
  • Fearful, fear biting**
  • Poor hips; high rate of hip dysplasia**
  • High rate of spondylosis**
  • Allergies/skin problems**
  • *Many of these traits can be moderated or prevented entirely with good socialization skills and training from an early age.

    **These traits are most often found in poorly bred German shepherds and can be avoided almost entirely by purchasing a puppy from a quality breeder or adopting an adult German shepherd from a reputable breed rescue.

    Weighing the Good and the Bad

    No breed is perfect. Furthermore, no individual dog is perfect. Every breed and every dog have characteristics that can challenge any owner. The questions you need to ask yourself are these: How challenging will owning a German shepherd be for you? How challenging will this dog be for your family? For your significant other? Can you meet this breed’s specific needs? Are you willing to change those things in your life or lifestyle that don’t match a German shepherd’s needs?

    The correct name of the breed in the United States is German Shepherd Dog (GSD). The German shepherd is the only breed to have the word “dog” as part of its full name. When reading about this breed you will commonly see the acronym GSD used to refer to this breed.

    If you find the German shepherd is the right dog for you, and you are ready and willing to invest the time, money, and patience involved, your efforts will be rewarded tenfold with the experience of a great pet. When good dogs are paired with good people, there really is no other breed like the German shepherd.