You may feel like you're wasting your time reading this. But some people may be less familiar with the breed than you are. And to put it simply, the answer may be even more complicated than you previously thought.
German Shepherds are a highly intelligent dog breed from Germany. They were created solely for work. Were they intended to herd sheep? Yes. What about police work? Yes, that too. Military applications? Of course. Seeing Eye dogs? Definitely. They were bred to do work. Any work. Any job or task you needed a dog for, that was their purpose. They are unique in that their job description isn't unique.
With a resume of being so versatile, it's safe to say that the job of being a family dog is easy work for the average German Shepherd. But let's look at the traits that make a German Shepherd not so family friendly, and then rebut those arguments with reasons why they're the best family dog one could ask for.
Shedding: German Shedders ... I mean, German Shepherds, have a thick, dense, harsh double coat designed to protect them from the elements. Whether they're a police dog in Kansas, a Military Working Dog in Iraq, or a Search and Rescue dog in 3 feet of snow in the Swiss Alps; that dense coat does a pretty good job of protecting them. But they shed. A lot. And they shed even more in spring and fall.
Rebuttal: Most dogs shed. Groomers exist in almost every town. And you can groom your own dogs once you invest in quality grooming tools. Grooming tools aren't that expensive, and quality ones like a deshedding rake will last you a lifetime.
Prey Drive/Hyper Activity: German Shepherds typically have fairly high levels of prey drive, and dogs bred specifically for work can have prey drive that's through the roof! They like to play, chase, run, chew and play tug. If you're active and want a dog that'll go hiking with you, or play fetch in the yard or park, this is a great trait for a family dog. But when they're bored in the house and eating your sofa, or the kids and the dog are playing 2-hand-touch football in the living room, it can get to be a little much!
Rebuttal: Training and vigilance can solve all of these issues. If you don't want your dog running all around the house, teach him not to. If he likes to chase squirrels, train him not to. If he chews on the furniture, check out one of our articles on crate training, and most importantly, exercise your dog and give him plenty of options to choose from when it comes to chew toys. These MAMMOTH Tirebiter II toys are a great option, and here's a life hack: You can stuff a little peanut butter on the inside of the tire and keep them occupied long enough to take an uninterrupted nap!
Public Image: A lot of people are terrified of German Shepherds. You will, and believe me, you will, have people cross the street, look at you funny, or maybe even run for their lives when you take your dog for a walk. Maybe it's the erect ears? Maybe it's the size? It could also be because of the show "Cops." I don't know; but either way, you will have people who will give you weird, concerned looks when walking your dog.
Rebuttal: Train your dog well. Nip problems in the bud before they have a chance to manifest. If your dog is barking aggressively at every passerby, snarling, and dragging you down the road, it's not a good look for you or the breed. But an experience with a well-trained German Shepherd is the first step in getting people over their fears. Also, who cares what those people think anyway?
Either way, if your dog nearly pulls your shoulder out of socket during walks, you're less likely to walk them. It's also dangerous for you and the dog, and heaven forbid they do behave aggressively towards strangers. Luckily, you can get what I call "Power Steering for Dogs" aka prong collars. Check out this article on how to properly use one.
Health: German Shepherds are notorious for hip and joint issues, cancers and more. Losing a pet at a young age, or seeing them suffer from debilitating joint issues is hard.
Rebuttal: Are German Shepherds really that unhealthy? Yes, and no. If you properly vet breeders before purchasing a puppy, you increase your chances of bringing home a healthy, genetic-disease-free dog. But what if you choose to adopt? What if you're just unlucky and a good breeder sold you a dog with issues, because that can still happen through no fault of either of you. What if the choice was already made and your dog currently is experiencing health issues? We can't turn back the hands of time, but we can prevent and treat ongoing issues. You can buy supplements for hip and arthritis issues that will help with prevention and treatment.
Using those products can extend the quality of life for your dog and keep them healthy and happy. Here's another tip: It doesn't matter if your dog is 8 weeks old or 18 years old, salmon oil is magic. It's liquid gold. Smells a little weird, but use it every day for 2 weeks and I bet you'll notice a difference in any dog!
So, is a German Shepherd a great family dog? That's subjective and depends on one thing: Are you doing/going to do the best you can to be the best German Shepherd owner you can? If so, then yes, German Shepherds make great family dogs.
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