German Shepherds are one of the most sought after breeds for new and veteran dog owners alike. In fact, the American Kennel Club ranks the German Shepherd as the 2nd of 197 breeds in terms of popularity. This fine, loyal, all-purpose, hardworking dog is definitely the one to beat (after the Labrador Retriever, that is).
But before getting a German Shepherd for yourself, here are a few things that you must know about the breed:
1. German Shepherds are very smart.
In fact, the breed ranks 3rd in ‘Top 10 smartest lists’, just behind the Border Collie and Poodle. They can figure out your routine in the blink of an eye, and they’re very good at picking up on their owner’s moods and behavior.
It’s good to have a training plan ready even before you bring your German Shepherd home. Coupled with its intelligence is this breed’s unwavering desire to please their owners. Get ready for a dog who will try to get your attention in whatever (constructive) way they can.
2. German Shepherds can be physically demanding.
Partly because of their intelligence, German Shepherds tend to have high energy needs. This comes as no surprise, as they were initially bred to be working dogs. If you have a job for them to do, they will not hesitate to do it.
Just be sure that you’re ready for a lot of long walks, games, and exercises before you bring home a German Shepherd. It is recommended that you give your German Shepherd at least one hour of exercise per day. If you can, energy intensive tasks for as long as two hours are preferred. You can bring your dog to a large park where they can run around, or sign them up for agility course classes.
3. German Shepherds need mental stimulation.
Obedience classes, dog sports, and even puzzle games can keep your German Shepherd busy for most of the day. Any new skill for your dog to learn will be very much appreciated.
Doing mental exercises with your German Shepherd benefits you as well since it encourages good behavior, fosters better connection with your dog, and strengthens your role as his handler. Teach your German Shepherd new tricks, go on scavenger hunts, play hide-and-seek, etc. – you can get creative and even make up your own game.
4. German Shepherds can be cuddly at home, but shy outdoors.
While this is a trademark trait of German Shepherds, you can enroll your puppy early on in socialization classes. There is no need to worry about this, though – the German Shepherd is known to be a “one-man” breed – reserving his affections and fidelity to his owner or main caretaker.
5. German Shepherds are excellent listeners, so make sure to always talk to them.
Again, German Shepherds can easily pick up your mood just by the tone of your voice. They are always eager to hear whatever you have to say, and if you see them tilting their heads, that means they’re listening very intently. One thing’s for sure – if you have a German Shepherd, you’ll never feel alone again.
6. German Shepherds are good with kids – preferably those over 5 years of age.
While they are extremely loyal to their families, German Shepherds might have a little difficulty adapting to new children at home. But, if they are sociable early on, this will not be a problem.
7. German Shepherds are happiest when they live with their families.
While this dog can live alone, they do prefer the company of people. German Shepherds are extremely bonded to their family, and therefore should be raised in the household and adapted to the family’s routine and activities. These dogs are also more suited for houses rather than apartments, given their high energy requirement.
8. German Shepherds are low maintenance (when it comes to grooming).
These dogs require only occasional trips to the groomer. Their medium-length, double coat does require brushing every few days or so to remove loose hair, but they only shed once or twice a year. During this time, it’s best to increase the frequency of brushing to control the amount of loose hair. Monthly baths are advised, including nail trimming since long nails can cause pain.
9. German Shepherds also have some major health concerns.
The average life span of a German Shepherd is between 7 to 10 years. Some health problems that may come your way include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy. While a good breeder will screen for these problems, you can never be too sure.
A responsible owner will educate himself on the basics of these diseases, how to avoid them, and what to do once symptoms start to appear. One tip is to avoid overfeeding your German Shepherd to help avoid hip and elbow dysplasia.
10. German Shepherds might not be ideal for first time owners.
Again, this will depend on the would-be owner. Since German Shepherds may be quite a handful, some owners might want to work with an experienced trainer first. These dogs require consistent training and activities that may take up a lot of your time. If you cannot commit to this, then you might want to rethink your options.
11. Once you get a German Shepherd, you’ll realize you can’t have just one.
If you do decide to get a German Shepherd, chances are you’ll get another one, and another – until you have an entire family with you. If you’re able to get past this breed’s expectations from a potential owner, you’ll realize that owning a German Shepherd is worth it. Those long days at the park are a small price to pay for the loyalty and companionship you get from a German Shepherd.
While owning a German Shepherd may be challenging at first, you’ll realize that your furry friend’s dedication and loyalty to you is worth it. Remember to treat your German Shepherd as a member of the family. Even when things get tough, your German Shepherd wills tay by your side – no matter what.