1: Don't rush! German Shepherds mature slowly. It's okay and even preferable in many cases to take your time. German Shepherds are very intelligent and learn quickly, but don't overwhelm them by trying to teach them too many things at once. A few core commands that your German Shepherd knows well are better than 100 tricks that he/she "kind of" knows. Try not to rush socialization either. Making your German Shepherd puppy or dog feel overwhelmed or apprehensive about new people, boisterous dogs and new environments can hurt more than it helps. Slow, thought out and controlled introductions are key. Taking things slowly means that your dog will better understand it's training and be more comfortable and secure in it's environment and that definitely makes you a better German Shepherd owner!
2: Exercising your German Shepherd can make or break your dog, literally. If your German Shepherd is an adult, there's practically no such thing as too much exercise as long as you don't forget step 1 and properly condition your dog slowly to build stamina, make sure your dog doesn't overheat and ensure that your dog gets proper rest, nutrition and hydration. German Shepherds are what are known as Continental Herders. They are perfectly designed long distance runners and top canine athletes created to trot all day to form a perimeter around flocks of sheep. Keeping them lean and in shape will extend their life and more importantly, their health and quality of life. But while we're on the subject, don't over-exercise your puppies. Studies have shown that too much exercise on a puppy's underdeveloped joints can cause Hip Dysplasia and other bone and joint issues. Normal puppy play is enough exercise until your puppy is a year old, then you can begin to slowly build your dog's stamina. Proper exercise will make your dog better and that makes you a better German Shepherd owner!
3: Find a hobby. Find a hobby to share with your German Shepherd that involves other dog owners who can help and guide you. Some examples include AKC obedience trials, HGH herding, Flyball, Dock Diving, IPO, Scent Detection, Tracking and/or anything else that you're interested in. Check what is available in your area and select whatever you think you and your dog will enjoy. Finding a hobby to share with your German Shepherd will provide mental stimulation and make your bond with your German Shepherd stronger. Training for competitions and trials will make your dog feel like part of a team and teach them to follow your lead, even if you only train and compete for fun. Plus, your dog will get exercise and you will meet experienced trainers that can help you with all sorts of training and other issues down the road. It's a win, win, win, win situation, and clearly you like success and winning or you wouldn't be reading about how to become a better German Shepherd owner!
4: Set Boundaries. A German Shepherd who doesn't have boundaries is a German Shepherd who is easily confused and may even feel as if they're walking on eggshells. Confusion can manifest in fear, anxiety and even aggression. The previous step was about training and bonding on a field, this step is about your relationship with your dog on a more intimate level in your home. If you set clear rules and boundaries and enforce them consistently, you remove the element of confusion. Sit down for 5 minutes and write down rules that you want your German Shepherd to follow that will make life easier, safer and smoother for the both of you. Things such as no getting into the garbage, no counter surfing and no jumping up on guests are common, but perhaps you have specialized concerns such as you not wanting your dog following you into your workshop, shed, or garage for safety reasons. Maybe your dog has a habit of chewing on things they shouldn't. Maybe your dog tries to suffocate you at 3a.m. by trying to curl up and sleep on your head while snoring. Loudly. Okay, maybe that last one is just me. Either way, establish rules and consistently ensure that they're followed and you and your German Shepherd will be on the same page with no confusion. Having a smooth and understanding relationship with your German Shepherd means less conflict and confusion, less conflict and confusion makes you a better German Shepherd owner! It also lowers your blood pressure. I don't have any proof of that, so you'll have to trust me on that one.
5: Grooming your German Shepherd. What? Grooming? How did this make the list? Well, a healthy coat and trimmed nails will make your German look great, and they say that when you look great, you feel great. But, there are other things that you should be doing during your regular brushing sessions that will make your vet, professional groomers and anyone who must come in close contact with your German Shepherd think highly of you as a good German Shepherd owner. When doing quick, regular brushings: hold, touch and examine your German Shepherd's ears, feet and the inside of his or her mouth. Lift their tail, lay them on their side. If you're physically capable, lift them up safely (you can Google how to properly lift a dog). This will make checkups, taking temperatures, giving medications and grooming a breeze later on! German Shepherds are naturally aloof, but desensitizing your German Shepherd to allow itself to be handled will make you both rockstars to everyone in your vet's office and at the groomers if you get your dog professionally groomed periodically.
These 5 things if started today, even if they take a little time to perfect, will make you a better German Shepherd owner instantly. Please share with your friends and fellow German Shepherd owners and check back for new articles, products and content!