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German Shepherds: Picture Perfect Dogs

Buddy, the first seeing-eye dog, along with Rin-Tin-Tin and Bullet the Wonder Dog, both movie stars–All were German Shepherds. While no breed is perfect, German Shepherds come very close. They are bright and protective, and with the proper training, they can be a great furry addition to your home. 

History of German Shepherds

In the 1890s, Max von Stephanitz and Artur Meyer introduced the breed to the world. Originally bred as a herder, they quickly took on new roles due to their temperament and intelligence, things like search and rescue and helping the disabled.

Who Should Get a German Shepherd?

Owning a German Shepherd can be extremely rewarding, but it isn’t for everyone. There are some things that are required if you want your German Shepherd to grow up happy and healthy.

Your German Shepherd will need:

  • A big fenced-in yard so that they can run and play.
  • Up to two hours each day to walk, run and play daily–if they don’t get enough, they can develop separation anxiety or develop destructive habits like chewing shoes and furniture.
  • Plenty of human and animal interaction so that they are accustomed to others.
  • A significant investment to provide them with quality food (big dogs eat a lot), chew toys and veterinary care.

Make sure that you can commit to caring for your forever friend, well…forever. If you aren’t sure if you’ll be able to commit to adopting a dog, you can try fostering one from your local shelter to see how it feels to play the role of puppy parent.

What You Can Expect from Your German Shepherd

There is quite a variety from pup to pup within a breed, but there are some wonderful characteristics bred into German Shepherds. You will find them brave, confident, gentle, intelligent, loyal and noble. Quite a combination!

Their Characteristics

German Shepherd playing in the snow

While they are a pleasure to have around the house, German Shepherds don’t qualify as ‘low maintenance.’ Raising a well-adjusted German Shepherd requires some work on the part of the puppy parents.

They are very intelligent as well as energetic. You will need to spend a lot of time with your furry pal, giving them the exercise that they require to keep them in shape physically and mentally. Taking them for walks and runs a couple of times each day, along with plenty of games like fetch and tug-of-war will keep them happy and healthy while burning off their seemingly endless supply of energy.

They are playful and will give you plenty of affection. If you have other furry buddies in your home, with a little time and training, they should become good friends. They are also very curious, so make sure that you give them plenty of intellectual stimulation while playing.

Their Coat

Their coat is medium length and needs to be brushed regularly to keep it from getting matted. They can come in a variety of colors, such as:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Liver
  • Sable
  • Tan

Some dogs will have a coat that is one solid color, others might have a combination of two colors.

While grooming takes time out of your busy schedule, it is time well spent. It will help the bond between you and your doggo grow and develop. Before you know it, you will be lifelong pals!

Black German Shepherds

A black German Shepherd Dog

Black German Shepherds are not very common, but this particular coloration is getting more and more popular. Because of this, you can expect to pay more. It’s a good idea to wait until they are 10 to 12 weeks old as their color can change before that time. Their coat is straighter than other colorations, and their back may be a little straighter as well.

If you are worried about possible differences between a Black German Shepherd and others of the breed, you can relax. They have the same endearing traits as their bicolored mates. 

How Big Will Your Shepherd Get?

German Shepherds, while very affectionate, are definitely not lap dogs. They will grow from 60 to 75 cm high and weigh 20 to 40 kg. They can be a little intimidating to small children due to their size, but with a little work, they can be taught to be careful around the wee ones.

They Love to Please

You will find that your German Shepherd loves to please. They are fearless and loyal, and you will be hard-pressed to find a dog that is more protective. You will need to work with your doggo to make sure that these tendencies don’t turn into aggression against visitors and other dogs. Socialization with other dogs and people is important. They are obedient, so with the proper training, they will be great around your kids and visitors.

Caring for your German Shepherd

Once you add a furry friend to your family, the real work begins. While it might seem fun at first, the novelty can quickly disappear. Even though your German Shepherd requires care, they will reward you well for all the time that you invest.

Plenty of Exercise

One thing you can count on is your new pup will come with plenty of energy. Remember that they are work dogs, bred for herding. They are used to running and running and running, so you will need to be walking them at least twice a day, plus engaging in other energy-burning activities. Plan on at least 90 minutes of active exercise each day, and some dogs might require as much as two hours.

If you notice that your German Shepherd is:

  • Barking too much
  • Depressed
  • Displaying destructive behavior
  • Gaining weight
  • Lethargic

It might be because they need to get out and about more. You can’t spend too much time with your new best friend!

Exercise Their Mind Too

They are bright and curious dogs, so they need intellectual stimulation too. Try some of these:

These work especially well when the weather outside doesn’t allow long walks.

Care for Their Hair

This isn’t terribly difficult. You will need to brush your dog regularly. German Shepherds have a double coat–longer and coarser hair, along with softer, shorter, finer hair. It is important to brush it several times a week. This will remove loose hair as well as keep it from matting. You may also want to bathe your doggo regularly with a quality shampoo that won’t damage their hair or skin. 

Proper Training for Your German Shepherd Puppy

Due to their intelligence, training your German Shepherd puppy can be easy and rewarding. They respond best to positive rewards, so be ready to lavish praise along with a few tasty treats as you teach them tricks and how to behave.

Start Potty Training 

Soon after bringing your pup home, start taking them out regularly, every two hours or so. They are bright, and with a little help from you, they will quickly figure out that pooing and peeing are for outside, not inside. Make sure that you reward them well when they do well! By the age of 6 months, accidents should be a thing of the past. 

Introduce Them to Plenty of Friends

The sooner that you introduce them to human and canine friends, the better. It is important to have them around other dogs while young so that they are used to them as they mature. If you keep your dog isolated, they might become nervous or aggressive around others when they become full-grown.

Show Them the World

Intellectual stimulation is important to the development of these bright and curious dogs. While still a puppy, take them out on walks in a variety of places. Take them to dog parks so that they can meet other dogs and other people. Let them smell all the wonderful smells of parks and woods in your area. The more they experience, the better.

Planning Your German Shepherd’s Diet

Since German Shepherds are high-energy working dogs, you need to feed your forever friend quality dog food. You will also want to limit the table scraps because they might fill your doggo’s tummy and prevent them from getting enough of the required nutrients that they need for healthy growth.

You might want to talk to your vet about appropriate amounts of food for your German Shepherd. Your vet can help you find the right type of food and as well as help you determine the right amount based on your dog’s age and activity level. Remember to include treats when you calculate their daily calorie intake. Those savory rewards can add up.

Lots of Love and Devotion

Adding a German Shepherd to your life is a big step, but they are wonderful dogs, and you won’t lack love and affection. However, these dogs will keep you on your toes, but you will benefit as much from the relationship as they do. 

If you are starting with a puppy, make sure that you use a reputable breeder that screens their dogs for genetic problems. If you are adopting an adult dog, they will thank you daily for giving them a forever home. Either way, your life will be warmer and richer, and you will have a loving German Shepherd greeting you at the door every time you come home.