We are obviously huge fans of the breed and even more fanatical about sharing experiences and advice from German Shepherd owners. These amazing dogs are fiercely loyal, make fantastic family pets, are wonderful protectors, and their intelligence cannot be underestimated.
Their zeal for life, athletic, and mental capabilities are what endears us to the breed and those same traits, with lack of training and understanding, are also the reason so many German Shepherds, tragically, find themselves in shelters all across the United States. The statistics show: According to the US Humane Society, “every year between six and eight million dogs and cats enter U.S. shelters.
Three to four million of these animals are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them. Twenty-five percent of all the animals entering shelters are purebreds. That is approximately 450,000 purebred dogs in our shelters EVERY YEAR. According to AKC 2003 registrations, German Shepherds are the 4th most popular breed in the US. In 2003, 43,950 or 4.8% of all AKC registered dogs were German Shepherds.
Many of the 450,000 dogs in our US shelters every year are German Shepherds.” To help prevent these incredible dogs finding themselves in shelters, we’ve put together these simple tips and expectations for people interested in getting their first German Shepherd:
- Training. German Shepherds are highly intelligent and need firm, consistent leadership and training or they will try to get the upper hand. The other side of the coin, they learn quickly and are easily trained when they respect their owners. If you are not experienced with dogs, it would be wise to read up on training a working dog, such as a German Shepherd, or hire a professional trainer.
- Intelligence. They are very smart and need plenty of mental stimulation. Plan to spend considerable time on training to create a well balanced dog.
- Socialization. German Shepherds can be suspicious and protective. They need plenty of socialization from the time they are small puppies to develop into well balanced dogs that you can take anywhere.
- Exercise. They are very active and require about two hours of exercise a day. When you purchase your dog, find a dog that matches your lifestyle.
- Prey Drive. German Shepherds are herding dogs with a naturally high prey drive and some more than others. Choose your dog wisely, whether it is going to be a family pet, do protection work, or other dog sports, etc. Don’t make the mistake of trying to change a high drive dog into a couch potato.
- Toys. Plan to invest in plenty of non destructible toys that are appropriate for the dog through all phases of life, such as Kongs, Jolly Balls, Planet Dog toys, West Paw, etc.
- Family Interaction. German Shepherds bond very strongly to their families and need lots of quality family time and social interaction. They do not do well when spending lots of isolated time alone.
- Health. German Shepherds are prone to some health problems so avoid backyard breeders and do your research before purchasing. If you are on a budget, consider purchasing health insurance for your dog.
- Temperament. When looking for a German Shepherd, be sure to look for a confident dog that is not aggressive, fearful, or the off spring of very aggressive parents. German Shepherds are naturally protective and should be balanced. If you are looking for a dog for protection training, the same rule applies-you are looking for a sound balanced dog that can be trained as opposed to a time bomb waiting to go off.
- Puppies. Puppies require considerable time and training. They begin teething around 5 months old and can be a handful during their adolescent years and they require lots of consistent training. If you have the time and energy to invest, this can be an amazing yet frustrating time. If you don’t have the time for a puppy, the good news is, there are plenty of dogs available that are past the puppy stage and looking for their forever homes and will bond readily with their new owners.
In a nutshell, German Shepherds make wonderful pets for people who are willing to invest the time, training, and energy they require. Those that do, will receive a lifetime of unmatched loyalty, love and devotion from their dog.