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All You Need to Know About German Shepherds
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All You Need to Know About German Shepherds

Critter Culture Staff

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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.

1

They have an average life expectancy

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.

Support your dog's overall health and mobility, especially if they have a heart murmur, with Zesty Paws Mobility Bites Dog Joint Supplement.

dog lying down on grass Kalisson / Getty Images

2

They are very loyal

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.

Ensure safe and secure outings with your loyal German Shepherd by using aHeavy Duty Dog Leash.

Customs officers standing on the street with dogs yacobchuk / Getty Images

3

German shepherds are outdoorsy

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.

Healthy purebred dog photographed outdoors in the nature on a sunny day. Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

4

German shepherds are protective

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.

German Shepherd training Ershova_Veronika / Getty Images

5

They are playful

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.

Embrace the playful nature of your German Shepherd with the ShawnCo Essential Dog Harness.

dog playing with women in the living room Moyo Studio / Getty Images

6

German shepherds are attentive

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.

German shepherd making different expressions in the camera dalomo84/ Getty Images

7

German shepherds are friendly

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.

German shepherd giving its paw to its owner Olena Kurashova / Getty Images

8

They are clever and astute

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.

German shepherd dog plays on walk with owner in green grass. Play with dog in tug-of-war toy. A first-person view of happy face of pet. Ekaterina Kobalnova / Getty Images

9

German shepherds are energetic

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 dog is playing with a ball Anita Kot / Getty Images

10

German shepherds are lovable

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.

Happy young woman playing with her dog on the grass in park Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

11

Training and obedience for German shepherds

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.

trainer tell dog to sit merc67 / Getty Images

12

Common German shepherd health issues

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.

Professional veterinary doctor with an assistant examining a large adult dog breed German Shepherd. Young doctors veterinarians man and woman work in a veterinary clinic."r"nThe intern helps the doctor on examination. Kateryna Kukota / Getty Images

13

Coat care and grooming of a German shepherd

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.

dog being groomed Ana-O / Getty Images

14

The importance of socialization for German shepherds

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.

dogs at a park yellowsarah / Getty Images

15

Working roles and abilities

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 Shepherd beside a herd of sheep Xurzon / Getty Images

16

The German shepherd's history and origin

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 shepherd mongrel running on a stubble field in front of sky Westend61 / Getty Images

17

Size and physical characteristics

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.

german shepherd Zachary R Wilson Photography / Getty Images

18

Nutritional needs and diet for German shepherds

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.

german shepperd dog eat bone Андрей Клеменков / Getty Images

19

German shepherds in popular culture

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.

dog sitting on actor chair Portrait of the canine actor Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd, sitting outdoors in a personalized canvas chair, Hollywood, California. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

20

Tips for first-time German shepherd owners

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.

German shepherd with its puppies resting on grass sergio_kumer / Getty Images

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