Energetic, intelligent and loyal, the German shepherd is a fantastic breed to bring into the family. If raised and trained properly, they can make excellent family dogs, guard dogs and long-term companions. They require significant time and energy to exercise, groom and train. But a well-adjusted German shepherd makes a delightful and fulfilling pet.
Have you brought one of these dogs into your home recently, or are you thinking about getting one? Here is everything you need to know to properly care for your puppy and adult dog.
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So, you have made the decision that a German shepherd is for you? Congratulations! The German shepherd is a large breed that can grow to be between 50-90 pounds. They typically live about 12 years. As with every kind of dog, the German shepherd has some unique characteristics and needs that may differ from other dogs you have had before.
Choosing The Right German Shepherd
There are a few steps to choosing a good German shepherd:
Step One: Puppy or Adult?
Do you want a puppy or an adult dog? A puppy takes several months to potty train, teach bite inhibition, teach proper obedience, etc. They also have a great deal of energy and need to be supervised closely for the first year of their life. A well-trained adult German shepherd will already come with a good amount of training and life experience. They will still need plenty of exercise, but not as much supervision.
The downside to an adult German shepherd is you do not know everything in their past. They may have quirks or behavioral habits that you do not like or fears and inhibitions you do not understand. You will know almost everything about your puppies life and can control how much they are exposed to people, children, and strangers in their first months of life.
Step Two: Shelter, Rescue or Breeder?
There are many different places you can find German shepherds. If you are an experienced dog owner with no little children, have plenty of time and patience, and are willing to take a risk on a rescue dog, there are plenty of shelters everywhere and also German shepherd specific rescues you can look at. Many people find wonderful dogs at these types of locations. Make sure you spend plenty of time with the dog before adopting it and bring anyone who lives in your home to meet them.
A reputable breeder is a good place to start if you are a first-time dog owner, have a family with children, want a registered dog and have a little money to invest. Buying from a breeder will help to ensure your puppy comes from good, healthy parents. Temperament should me at the top of your priority list. You can a great deal about what your puppy will grow up to be like by sending some time with his or her parents.
To find a good breeder, ask for referrals from other German shepherd pet parents. You can also ask dog trainers and veterinary offices in the area. They will usually have a clue as to who breeds high-quality, well cared for dogs. Make sure your puppy had plenty of time in the home and socializing with people and was not just kept in a pen in the backyard.
Feeding Your German Shepherd
German shepherds are active, strong dogs that need high-quality food with the right balance of nutrients. They need high-quality protein, healthy fats, and some carbohydrates. You want to choose food that is made from good sources and not full of harmful fillers.
Your German Shepherd’s Diet Should Consist Of:
18-22% High-Quality Proteins (should appear first on the ingredients list)
- Organ meat (liver)
5-8% Healthy Fats
- Fish oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Walnut oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Pork fat
- Chicken/poultry fat
Things To Avoid
- Corn Syrup
- Wheat gluten
- All grains
- Food dyes
- Rendered fat
- Meat meal (low-quality meat from possibly diseased animals, expired meat, etc.)
- Vegetable Oil
- Brewers rice
- Pea protein
What Should German Shepherd Puppies Eat?
Because puppies are growing rapidly, they generally need to eat more than an adult dog. Monitor their weight carefully and ask your vet for feeding recommendations based on the gender/weight of your puppy. Feed your puppy 3 times a day if possible.
TruDog Benefits For German Shepherds
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Check out this raving review from a German Shepherd!
How Much Space Does A German Shepherd Need?
German shepherds are large, high-energy dogs. They need a good sized, fenced backyard in which they can play and burn off their energy. They should never be kept in an apartment or a kennel. German shepherds who are confined to small spaces often become destructive out of restlessness. They should never be tied up for hours on end or they will likely bark and become agitated or even aggressive over time.
A tired dog is a good dog!
How Much Exercise Do They Need?
If they have a large yard to run around in, your dog should do well with 1 or 2 walks a day in addition to outside time. If your yard is small, more may be necessary. If your dog is pacing or being destructive, this is a sign they are not getting enough exercise. Dog parks are also a great place for your German shepherd to burn off energy because they can run around and play with other dogs.
Grooming Your German Shepherd
A German shepherd is a double-coated dog breed that requires regular grooming. If your dog is young and active, daily brushing is a good idea. For older, more sedentary dogs you can brush every few days. Brushing is a great bonding experience for both you and your dog.
You should bathe your German shepherd once per month. Any more than this could dry out their coat or cause skin irritation.
Tips To Good Grooming Habits
- Bring your dog to a flat surface for grooming, in a quiet area of your home
- Use treats during grooming so your dog learns it is a positive thing
- Brush your dog from neck to tail (this should be done 3-4 times a week)
- Only bathe them once a month (more than this and their skin may become dry and irritated)
- Check their teeth frequently and use a dog-friendly mouth cleaner
- Check their toenails about once every other week. Handle your puppy’s feet often so that as they grow into an adult they are comfortable with their feet being handled
- Clean your dog’s ears once a week
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If you do not take proper care of your dog’s hair, teeth, ears, nails, etc then he or she is more likely to get sick. Frequent grooming and cleaning with not only help to keep your German shepherd healthy but will also keep them comfortable with human contact and sociable.
Health Concerns For The German Shepherd Breed
Each breed has tendencies towards certain health issues, largely due to indiscriminate breeding practices over several decades. Other risk factors include poor diet, injury, and chemical exposure.
The following are the most common health concerns for German shepherds:
Skin issues- dogs tend to have skin reactions/symptoms in a similar way that humans have nasal/respiratory reactions. If not groomed regularly and fed a proper diet, or if exposed to unnatural chemicals, your dog may develop skin issues such as rashes, irritation, dryness, and flakiness. If not solved this can also lead to poor coat texture and length. If you are grooming your German shepherd several times a week and they are eating a good diet but still have skin issues, have your vet check for thyroid problems.
Allergies- symptoms of an allergy may include irritated and red skin, swelling, hair loss, ear infections, sneezing, coughing and constantly licking paws and belly. A great number of allergies seen in dogs today is due to industrial dog food, which contains ingredients, such as corn and wheat, which are not natural nor nutritious options for canines. Most allergies can be avoided when feeding a grain-free diet that consists of some raw foods as well. If allergies remain, they may be due to fleas or household irritants such as chemical cleaners, soaps, and dyes. If it is seasonal then they most likely have a pollen allergy.
Anxiety- symptoms of anxiety include constant pacing, aggression, and being destructive. Most anxiety in German shepherds is caused by lack of exercise, poor training practices, and bad genetics. Anxiety can largely be avoided by picking a puppy with a good temperament, providing attentive high-quality training, getting them accustomed to strangers, and children at a young age, and giving them plenty of exercise and a large yard to roam. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, giving them an animal friend may be helpful. If nothing seems to work, talk to your vet and see if medication may be necessary.
Arthritis- large breeds are more prone to arthritis. A high-quality diet throughout a dog’s life helps reduce the risk of arthritis. Work with your vet to determine treatment for arthritis if it becomes a problem in your dog, as prescription medications may be required. Some natural treatments include eliminating inflammatory foods from a dog’s diet (grains, soy, rice, spelt, food additives and preservatives), feeding a raw diet, and providing enough healthy fats and antioxidants.
Hip Dysplasia- occurs when hip joints do not develop properly. May happen because of genetics or because of damage during the first year of a puppy’s life. When choosing a puppy, always ensure the parents were certified by the OFA or OVC as free of hip dysplasia.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)- a potentially fatal digestive disorder, EPI is commonly seen in German shepherds. If treated properly it can be managed without change to quality of life. One of the best things you can do to prevent digestive disorders in your dog is to feed them a high-quality diet consisting largely of raw food.
Inter-Vertebral Disc Disease- German shepherds have a higher risk for spinal problems than other breeds. Your vet will be able to tell if your puppy has a spinal abnormality.
Frequently Asked Questions About German Shepherds
Q. Are German shepherds hypoallergenic?
A. No, German shepherds are not hypoallergenic.
Q. Are German shepherds easy to train?
A. German shepherds need attentive, consistent training in their first months and years of life. They are an intelligent, energetic breed and may take more energy to train than other breeds. However, when raised properly the German shepherd makes an incredible family pet. Be sure to expose them frequently to children, men, and strangers in their first weeks and months of life.
Q. How much do German shepherds cost?
A. This varies greatly depending on the breeder, whether or not they are AKC registered, and who the parents are. You can expect to spend anywhere between $500-$2500 for a high-quality German shepherd dog.
Q. When is a German shepherd full grown?
A. Your German shepherd will be full grown by the time it is 3 years old. However, he will generally reach full height between 10-18 months of age.
Q. Can German shepherds live outside?
A. Most German shepherd dogs do just fine living outside. They have a thick coat to keep warm but should be given adequate shelter to escape the elements. Be sure not to leave them in direct sunlight with no place for shade or they can overheat.
Q. Will a German shepherd’s hair grow back if shaved?
A. If you shave your German shepherd, it is likely the hair will not grow back fully for several months or even a year or more. This is called post-clipping alopecia.
Q. Are German shepherds good with kids?
A. With proper training and upbringing, German shepherds can make wonderful family dogs. When choosing a German shepherd always be sure to meet the parents and only pick puppies that come from good home environments. If the mother and father have great temperaments and are good with kids, it is likely the puppies will be the same if raised well.
German shepherds are a loyal, powerful, and affectionate breed. With these dogs, prioritizing high-quality training in their first months and years of life will help guarantee a great relationship and wonderful pet.