With sufficient exercise and opportunities to use their considerable athleticism and brains, these versatile companions can handle anything from a small city apartment to a vast ranch.
They're not suited for life in the backyard or a doghouse, but need to live indoors as a member of the family. As his name suggests, the German Shepherd originated in Germany, where he was created in the nineteenth century primarily by Captain Max von Stephanitz, who wanted to develop a dog that could be used for military and police work. The result was a dog that encompassed striking good looks, intelligence and versatility. The adaptable and attractive dogs soon drew the attention of dog lovers in other countries.
One is known to have been brought to the U. German Shepherds braved artillery fire, land mines and tanks to supply German soldiers in the trenches with deliveries of food and other necessities. American audiences loved them. For a time, the German Shepherd was the most popular breed in the United States.
One of the best known modern German Shepherds was the first and so far only member of the breed to win Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club, in His name was Ch. Hatter drew crowds wherever he went and loved meeting his fans, especially children. The ideal German Shepherd is direct, fearless and confident. When he comes from parents who have good temperaments and has been socialized to become familiar with many different people, sights and sounds, he is an intelligent, easy to train, devoted, protective and fun-loving dog.
The German Shepherd is naturally protective of his home and property and will always alert you to strangers or intruders, but if you welcome someone into your home, your German Shepherd will accept them, too. He will also get along with other pets, especially if he is brought up with them from puppyhood. German Shepherds are smart and learn quickly that cats rule! The German Shepherd needs a job. While many German Shepherds are raised successfully in kennel situations, these are working dogs who have demanding and interesting tasks to do that give them the needed exercise and mental stimulation.
If your Shepherd is a family companion, he needs to live indoors with your family and receive opportunities to exercise his brain such as learning tricks, helping you around the house by picking things up and bringing them to you or serving the community as a therapy dog. He will enjoy going for walks or hikes, chasing a ball, or getting involved in a dog sport.
Otherwise, he'll be lonely, bored and destructive. German Shepherds are smart, active dogs who will do best with smart, active owners able to give them focused attention, exercise, training, and lots of one-on-one time. They are extremely intelligent and famously trainable. Those brains, if not put to work in constructive ways, will find plenty of destructive alternatives. German Shepherds can also be way too much dog for even the most well-meaning of people because they were created and bred to work for many generations.
Their genes tell them to be a guardian, a police dog, a guide dog, a search and rescue dog — almost anything other than a couch potato. If you aren't ready for that level of commitment, find another breed. Many people want a German Shepherd for purposes of protection. But almost no one really needs a trained protection dog -- most people or families simply need a watchdog and a deterrent.
The German Shepherd's size, body language, reputation and instinctive protectiveness are all that's needed to accomplish those goals, so don't get a "trained protection dog" that you don't need and probably can't handle. A socialized, well-mannered German Shepherd who lives with his family will protect them as part of his nature. A German Shepherd will always keep you within sight and sound. He might lie at your feet or he might position himself 15 or 20 feet away from you, but he will never let you go out of view.
Does a German Shepherd come this way ready-made? Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, food stealing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. Start training early, be patient and be consistent, and one day you will wake up to find that you live with a great dog. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
German Shepherds from working lines have an extremely strong drive to work and may be more dog than most people can or want to handle. If you want a family companion, a dog from a conformation breeder may be a better choice. Whether you want a German Shepherd as a companion, show dog, canine competition dog or all three in one, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood. All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease.
A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. The German Shepherd has a reputation for being prone to hip dysplasia, but breeders are working to decrease the occurrence of this genetic malformation.
Over time, the bone begins to wear away, eventually resulting in painful arthritis. Depending on the severity of the condition, hip dysplasia can be managed with medication or the hips can be surgically replaced, at a cost of thousands of dollars per hip. It's impossible to know if a dog has hip dysplasia simply from examining him or watching him move. Degenerative myelopathy is one of the most devastating of the conditions that can affect GSDs.
This neurological disease is similar to multiple sclerosis in humans and results in a slow, creeping paralysis of the dog's hindquarters. It's untreatable, and eventually the dog won't be able to move on his own. Watch your dog carefully for signs of pain and discomfort that come on gradually rather than suddenly, and check his nails at least once a month to watch for signs of uneven wear.
While DM in dogs is incurable, the course of the disease can be slowed with treatment. Breeders who have tested their stock for this condition are likely to be among the most conscientious of breeders, so ask to see the results of the DNA-based DM Flash test, conducted by the University of Florida or the University of Missouri, as submitted to the OFA.
Like many large breeds, German Shepherds can suffer from a wide variety of heart diseases, including murmurs, valve diseases and enlarged hearts. An annual heart exam is critical in catching these conditions early, as many of them respond well to treatment.
Epilepsy, vision problems, bleeding disorders, immune mediated diseases, hemangiosarcoma, digestive problems including exocrine pancreatic insufficiency — all these conditions are relatively common in the German Shepherd. Many of them have a genetic component, and a good breeder will discuss health problems in her lines. Just like certain diseases, temperament is also heritable.
Ask your breeder about independent temperament testing of her dogs. An unstable, aggressive or shy German Shepherd can be a dangerous animal. Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible.
They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog and grandparents, etc. The thyroid tests on your puppy's parents should have been done within the past year and the eye exam within the past two years. Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been "vet checked," or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Other health concerns to be aware of are bloat and gastric torsion. German Shepherds are more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. This can become the more serious condition, gastric torsion, if the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow.
Bloat and torsion strike very suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs that have bloated once will bloat again.
This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure. Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life.
Keeping a German Shepherd at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life and relieve the aches and pains of arthritis in old age. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life. The rest of the year, weekly brushing is generally enough to keep him clean.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails every few weeks, as needed, and brush his teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath. Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind. Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible.
Bred to herd all the live-long day, German Shepherds are incredibly active and athletic! In , Von Stephanitz met a dog named Hektor. Dog Is World. Do not praise your dog if he is doing the wrong behavior. For additional information, see the Global Shipping Program terms and conditions - opens in a new window or tab.
He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run. For more information about the breed or to find a list of breeders, visit the website of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. Breeders should sell puppies with a written contract guaranteeing they'll take back the dog at any time during his life if you become unable to keep him, and with written documentation that both the puppy's parents and if possible, his other close relatives have the appropriate health and temperament certifications.
Seek out a breeder whose dogs have working titles in sports that require athleticism and good health, not just ribbons from the show ring.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations.
The cost of a German Shepherd puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult German Shepherd might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams.
An adult German Shepherd may already have some—or a lot of—training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.