According to the American Kennel Club, German shepherds are the second most popular dog breed in the United States. Despite their popularity, myths continue to surround this highly recognized breed.
German shepherd owners know that at times their dogs are misunderstood for no other reason than their size and appearance. They also know that the personalities and behaviors of shepherds can vary greatly between dogs, due to their lineage and how they are raised.
Some of the myths about German shepherds are:
1. They are scary
People not familiar with the breed often feel intimidated. This may be in part due to their very recognizable appearance. Working dogs, such as police and military dogs, are often seen on television and in movies. These dogs are often actively engaged in their work and in fact, do look fierce. However, these dogs are also highly trained and actually safer to be around than some untrained dogs of other breeds, unless you are a criminal.
2. They bite
German shepherds are a working breed. They’re also loyal active family pets. As puppies, they do mouth and playfully puppy bite but this is not aggression, it’s their herding heritage at work. This is a behavior easily corrected when young. Perhaps this myth swirls due to their use in law enforcement, however, the majority of dog bites in the United States are not German shepherds. Mixed breeds and other breeds actually account for more dog bites each year than German shepherd dogs.
3. They don’t like kids
As an active, larger sized dog, German shepherds may be intimidating to a small child or their parents. Just as all dogs, they should be socialized around children as part of their training. However, most German shepherds actually love kids and make excellent family pets. Since they have so much energy, they can make great playmates for kids. Kids should be involved in their training from a young age so they learn how to treat the dog, as well as teach the dog to respect them, too.
4. They don’t get along with other dogs
German shepherds are highly protective of their family. They can also get jealous. Just as all dogs, there are some that prefer to be an only pet and happily live out all their days without the company of another dog. However, most German shepherds like the company of other dogs of all breeds and sizes. Just like all dogs, German shepherds should be socialized around other dogs and introduced to them while leashed and in a neutral location.
5. You should only get a puppy
Although they are adorable, German shepherd puppies are a lot of work. They need constant supervision and are notorious for their chewing and puppy biting. There are plenty of adult German shepherds that need homes so if you work or have small children, a grown dog might be the perfect match. When adding an adult dog to a home with children or other animals, more care needs to be taken that the right dog is chosen and should be tested around kids and cats and understanding the background of the dog is important.
6. You can’t train a grown dog
There is a difference between a damaged, aggressive, or neurotic dog that needs professional help and a dog that needs social skills and training. Just like puppies, mentally healthy grown dogs can be trained and actually enjoy the bonding time with their new owners. German shepherds are super smart and thrive on mental challenges so training a grown dog or a rescue can easily become enjoyable for dog and owner.
7. Female German shepherds are not dominant
There are differences between male and female German shepherds but that has more to do with their lineage and personality than their sex. Just as there are happy go lucky, mellow male German shepherds, there are also dominant female German shepherds. When adding a German shepherd to your home, attention to personality and breeding is just as important than choosing the sex of the dog.
8. They are so smart, they don’t need training
German shepherds are extremely smart and for this reason, need lots of training. Untrained shepherds will make decisions for themselves and can get into mischief. They can also become dominant. A confident, socialized dog doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the product of training, socialization, exercise, and lots of playtime.
9. All German shepherds have hip dysplasia
Just like all breeds, German shepherds are prone to certain health problems, such has hip or elbow dysplasia. However, it certainly doesn’t affect most dogs. There is genetic testing for certain health problems to rule this out if it’s a major concern. Dog health insurance is also available to help pay any bills related to hip dysplasia or any other health problem that may come up.