One of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, the Alsatian or the German shepherd was originally bred as a herding dog. Fearless, agile, and very clever, it soon became the gold standard for police and army canine units. Known for its loyalty, courage, and excellent guarding instincts, the German shepherd also makes a fantastic family dog. But before you rush to get one to have as a pet, here are some things you should know about them.
Before you commit to getting a German shephard, be sure that you’d be able to care for this breed of dog well into its old age. A healthy and well-looked-after dog will live for up to 13 years, but the average lifespan is 11 years. That's twice as much as a French mastiff, but far less than a crossbreed.
Towards the end of their life, they tend to have joint disorders, bone and back problems, and hypothyroidism. Being so popular, it’s also a breed that you will tend to often see at dog rescues. So, if you don’t think you’d be able to care for a German shepherd this long, consider adopting an adult dog.
Inherently loyal, German shepherd dogs are happiest when they spend their time with their owner, never leaving their side. They yearn for companionship, and they thrive in a family environment. They become attached to children and other pets quickly, and they take excellent care of puppies, injured animals, and vulnerable people. They make excellent guide dogs, military service dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
As the name suggests, German shepherds are herding dogs. As such, they feel at home in the wild, and they love family outings. They also need regular exercise in the great outdoors. So, if you’re unable to walk them every day, you should ideally provide a large yard for them to explore and claim as their territory.
For herding dogs, running and barking go with the territory, so German shepherds can be very inquisitive and sometimes loud.
German shepherds are loyal and caring with all the members of their family, including children and other pets. But unlike other dogs, they’re also fiercely protective and brave. With the right amount of socialization and some professional obedience training, German shepherds puppies will develop into balanced and well-rounded adults.
However, without early intervention, they may become over-protective and aggressive toward strangers. They’re quick learners, and they’re very easy to train, so owners are generally happy for them to take classes.
This breed is happiest when they spend time with their family. They should always be around people and other pets, able to meet other animals and socialize under supervision. They should never be confined to a kennel or left alone in the backyard. This can harm their self-esteem and affect their behavior toward people and animals. They’re very trusting and submissive toward their owner. They love to be given commands, and they’re very happy to do as they’re told, but especially if the atmosphere is playful and nurturing.
German shepherds always keep an eye out. Their posture, with upright ears upright and a straight back is iconic. Poised and competent, they listen intently for commands, and they’re eager to execute them. They’ll fetch, search, sit, jump, and heel in an instant. Because they’re so eager to execute commands, they’re excellent guard dogs. However, they should never be made to attack out of boredom or curiosity. They’re fierce fighters, and they’re not only quick to comply, but also very powerful dogs.
Few dog breeds are as tolerant and as accommodating as German shepherds when it comes to new family members, pets, and friends. Though they may be very suspicious of strangers, reacting to their gestures and words with distrust and overprotection, they adapt to new family circumstances easily, and they welcome new members naturally. They’re very sociable pets, and large as they are, they will happily extend an arm to shake your hand if they like you.
A clever and astute German shepherd will serve and help you without being told. Because they’re so intelligent, they need to be kept occupied. Otherwise, their boredom can turn into mischief, and because they’re such large and strong animals, they can cause quite a bit of damage. Mental enrichment is a key phrase for any German shepherd owner. Working on the dog’s mental integrity is just as important as maintaining its physical health. Enabling them to play, forage, socialize, and have a family life of their own will improve their behavior and solidify your relationship.
Taking care of a German shepherd dog can be very demanding. Brushing them every other day to control the shedding and giving them a soak and scrub every week is all it takes to maintain their coat and their look. But keeping them fit is an entirely different issue. They are active, love running and swimming, they like to keep busy, and they live to explore. They need playmates and a large play area. Without an energy outlet, their morale and behavior can suffer, they become high-strung, and they resort to barking and digging.
The journey from pup to pal is very short with German shepherds. They have a genuine unconditional love for their master, and this attachment will last a lifetime. They’re not needy, they’re clever and independent, and they’re ready to guard their family with their life. Because they’re so great with kids and other pets, keeping them busy and engaged with their family members is the best way to make them happy.
German shepherds are quick learners and respond well to training. Consistent and positive reinforcement-based training methods are key to helping them develop good behavior and obedience. Participating in puppy classes or working with a professional trainer is recommended for first-time German shepherd owners to ensure a well-mannered adult dog.
Like any breed, German shepherds are prone to certain health issues. Some common health problems include hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and bloat. Regular vet check-ups, a balanced diet, and exercise can help maintain your dog's overall health and well-being.
German shepherds have a double coat that requires regular grooming to keep them looking their best. Daily brushing can help reduce shedding and prevent matting. Additionally, periodic bathing will help maintain a clean and healthy coat. Paying attention to their nails, ears, and teeth is also essential for maintaining proper hygiene.
Early socialization is crucial for German shepherds to become well-adjusted adults. Exposing them to various environments, people, and other animals during their formative months helps them become more adaptable and accepting of new situations. Positive and controlled social experiences can help prevent the development of fear-based aggression or overprotective behaviors.
German shepherds have a long history of excelling in various working roles. Their intelligence, strength, and agility make them ideal candidates for police work, search and rescue, and service dog roles. They also excel in canine sports such as agility, obedience, and herding trials, which provide mental and physical stimulation.
German shepherds originated in Germany in the late 19th century, bred to be the ultimate herding dog. The breed's creator, Max von Stephanitz, sought to develop a dog with intelligence, strength, and versatility. The breed quickly gained popularity worldwide and has since become one of the most beloved dog breeds globally.
German shepherds are a large breed, with males typically weighing 65-90 pounds and females weighing 50-70 pounds. They have a muscular build, a well-balanced stance, and a confident, alert expression. Their signature double coat comes in various colors, including black and tan, sable, and all black.
Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining a German shepherd's health and well-being. A balanced diet that meets their specific needs in terms of protein, fat, and essential nutrients is crucial. High-quality commercial dog food or a well-researched homemade diet can help ensure they receive the proper nutrition throughout their life stages.
The German shepherd's intelligence, loyalty, and striking appearance have made them popular in films, television shows, and literature. Some famous examples include Rin Tin Tin, Strongheart, and Inspector Rex. These portrayals have contributed to the breed's enduring popularity and appeal.
If you're considering adopting a German shepherd, it's essential to understand the breed's specific needs and requirements. Researching the breed, consulting with experienced owners, and visiting breeders or shelters can provide valuable insights. Be prepared for the commitment of time, energy, and resources needed to ensure your German shepherd lives a happy, healthy life.
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