“Yo-o-o-o-o! Rinty!” I never missed an episode of Rin Tin Tin when I was a kid. And after every episode I would head outside with my grandfather’s police K-9 Rex to pretend that I was Rusty (even though I was a girl) and Rex was the amazing movie star German Shepherd. And Rex was a truly amazing dog to grow up with. He was well trained, well socialized, and he had a job as a police dog – the best of all things for a German Shepherd.
German Shepherds are the 2nd most popular purebred dog in the United States according to the AKC registration numbers. That’s the statistic and its sad in many ways. You are probably scratching your head now thinking this woman is a German Shepherd breeder so she should be happy. That means she can sell a lot of German Shepherds and her business must be booming. That statistic doesn’t make me happy at all. First of all, my main focus is not making lots of money. If I wanted to be rich I’d be working on Wall Street not running around the yard with a pooper scooper. That popularity statistic really bothers me because it means there are a lot of German Shepherds out there for sale and I know for a fact they are not all ideal representatives of their breed.
Because of indiscriminate overbreeding by backyard breeders and puppy mills,there are a lot of German Shepherds in animal shelters, breed rescues, and in “dog pounds”. Unwanted dogs that became too much too handle for the owners who chose to purchase them without doing the proper research to find out if the breed was really what they wanted and where to find a good quality German Shepherd. If you are considering adopting or purchasing a German Shepherd please read everything you can about the breed before you make your final decision. And please thoroughly read our page on picking a breeder – How To Pick a German Shepherd Breeder – A Very, Very Important Decision!!!!
We’ll start with the basic lure of any dog purchase – the adorable puppy. There is nothing cuter than a German Shepherd puppy. They look like fluffy little teddy bears that you jut want to pick up and cuddle. I fall in love with every litter and yes, it is hard to part with them. They are funny, playful, busy little puppies with an insatiable curiosity about everything. That causes them to get into things that they shouldn’t so be prepared to puppy proof your house otherwise your favorite Gucci bag might become a chew toy. They love to chew! OK, all puppies love to chew but with a lot of German Shepherds it continues right into adulthood. In the dog world they are jokingly referred to as “German Shredders”. We have a 6 1/2 year old rescue German Shepherd dog that spends her day chewing on firewood and rocks. Before we mow the lawn we have to scan it for the rocks she leaves all over just to save our lawn mower blades. German Shepherd puppies grow fast and what was a cute little 15 pound fluffy teddy bear will be a 60 pound bundle of muscle and teeth in just 6 months. You must train and socialize them from the day you bring them home or things can get really out of control as the cute pup becomes a large dog with a strong will to lead the “pack”.
German Shepherds are easy to train but they don’t train themselves!
German Shepherds are smart and highly trainable but they need an owner willing to be consistent in working with them on training. Like all herding breeds, the German Shepherd is a dog that is meant to have a job. They are happiest when they are doing something be it training, playing Frisbee, hiking. This breed are not couch potatoes. A couple of short “potty” walks every day is not what a German Shepherd considers exercise. They are best when you spend time training and working them. Training sessions should be short – 15 to 20 minutes twice a day will keep them attentive and not overwhelmed. A good German Shepherd learns quickly. Usually 3 or 4 repetitions and he’ll have the concept then it is just a matter of repeating to fine tune it. As the German Shepherd gets older they get more serious. That seriousness coupled with the breeds undying devotion and loyalty to their owner and family can lead to problems if you do not have good control of them. That control comes through consistent daily training. If working with your dog on training on a daily basis and giving the dog proper outlets for its energy is not something you are interested in doing, then be honest with yourself. The German Shepherd is not the dog for you! Please go buy a poodle.
German Shepherds are full of energy!!!!
As I mentioned above these are not lazy dogs. The short potty walk is not what a German Shepherd considers exercise. They want a ball throwing, Frisbee catching, all-out play session or a run next to your bicycle for a few miles. They are Olympic level athletes with agility, power and stamina that you can’t really comprehend until you see it in motion. German Shepherds are a “manufactured” breed developed in Germany in the early 1900’s. Their creator, Max von Stephanitz, wanted to breed the perfect herding/drover dog to move and guard livestock. The breed was developed to move at a beautiful gliding trot for long distances to move flocks from one grazing area to another.
In a less agrarian society today, the German Shepherds natural instinctive loyalty and protectiveness coupled with its intelligence and trainability made it the perfect military and police dog. The German Shepherds in today’s Germany are bred to be police dogs and are not given their breeding papers until they prove they have a worthy temperament and physical confirmation to do the work. The dogs are required to do a 12.5 mile endurance test at a trot next to a bicycle and then perform a basic obedience routine. Two short potty walks aren’t going to do it, trust me! If you are not prepared to give your German Shepherd the exercise he needs you will have a hyper, frustrated dog pacing through your home all the time.
German Shepherds need to be socialized!
As a German Shepherd owner you have a tremendous responsibility to make your German Shepherd a safe member of society. Along with obedience training you will need to socialize the dog taking him out to meet people and experience the world. It is in a German Shepherds nature to be aloof and guarded with strangers. A German Shepherd is not going to approach strangers like a bubbly, happy Golden Retriever will. They need to meet lots of different people in different venues so they learn to distinguish between good people and not so good. If you keep your German Shepherd isolated in your home or tied to a dog house in your backyard, you will create a dangerous dog that has the power to hurt, even kill someone. They need to be your companion and they need to experience the world with you as their leader so they learn to react in safe and controlled ways under your leadership.
German Shepherds need to be groomed daily!
This dog in the picture above, he’s a handsome animal. He’s my Malibu’s dad – breed Champion Kysarah’s Rolling Stone aka “Mick”. Would you think he was such a lovely dog if that gorgeous coat of fur was distributed all over your home? In the dog world, they are jokingly referred to as “German Shedders”. Yes, all dogs shed hair usually twice a year in the spring and fall. German Shepherds shed in huge volumes during those seasonal sheds but they also shed all the time. True German Shepherd owners don’t very often wear black LOL! Tending to a more neutral, earth tone wardrobe may be a better choice. Before you bring home your German Shepherd, bring home a really good vacuum cleaner! If having “dust puppies” under your furniture will bother you, don’t get a German Shepherd. Around here we jokingly say that German Shepherd hair is a condiment! A simple 15 minute brushing daily will help to keep the hair issue down and give you and your German Shepherd wonderful bonding time. But if you don’t have the time to make a daily grooming commitment and you are going to be bothered by the hair, this is not the breed for you.
Me and my German Shepherd shadow!
They want to be with you. A German Shepherd wants to be your constant companion. I gave up going to the bathroom alone years ago. Usually I have 2 or 3 follow me in to the bathroom and sit and wait till we move on to the next activity. They sleep on the floor next to our bed. We have to be careful when we step out of bed in the dark as there is usually a rather warm, furry “rug” right next to the bed. So if you don’t want a dog that will be your constant shadow moving from room to room with you, don’t get a German Shepherd.
German Shepherds have health problems! Pick the right breeder!
The German Shepherd breed is well known for its health issues. Over-breeding by dollar hungry backyard breeders and puppy mills have put dogs out there that have some serious health and behavioral issues. And to be truly honest, in past years a lot of American show breeders have added to the problem by inbreeding and heavily line-breeding to get certain desirable physical characteristics. Unfortunately if a breeder wasn’t careful, they brought out a lot of the bad along with the good by doubling and tripling up on genetic input. Today German Shepherd breeders have learned the lesson of those past mistakes and are using genetic testing, health clearances and better breeding practices to produce sound, stable, dogs. This breed has issues with hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy (the canine version of Lou Gehrig’s disease), Von Willebrand’s disease (canine hemophilia), cardiac issues, cancer potential, and eye problems. Careful breeding practices and breeding stock testing for health clearances are eliminating these issues in well bred German Shepherds. The important factor here is to make a wise choice as to where to obtain your German Shepherd Dog from. Please read this article – How To Pick A German Shepherd Breeder
German Shepherds are a wonderful companion!
So that’s all the bad news but let me tell you that there is no better dog than a well bred, well socialized, and well trained German Shepherd in the hands of an owner who is willing to put in the time and work to train and socialize a companion. Once you own a good one you will never want another breed of dog. Most of our owners are people who have owned German Shepherds before, or are looking for a second German Shepherd to add to their family. This breed loves its families with a devotion that is unrivaled. They are great with children and great with other pets if they are raised with them. But please make sure that it is the right fit for your lifestyle and buy from a breeder who produces quality German Shepherd Dogs.