What's it like to own a German Shepherd?
A GSD is a terrific companion for a person who understands a dog needs to be led by a human, and not the other way around. Simple things like requiring the dog to sit before you put its leash on, or sit before you open the door to take it for a walk (i.e. NILIF - Nothing In Life Is Free), will help your dog understand where it ranks in the pack (It can also save you from the heartbreak of a dog that rushes out of any open door to get lost or hit by a car). Most GSDs will attempt to become the "alpha" in any household if allowed to make their own rules. A 70-80 lb. "alpha" dog can be a liability in the hands of a novice, unconcerned, uncommitted owner; these dogs are usually dumped at shelters or rescues as "unmanageable" at age 1-2, because the lack of rules set by the owner forces the dog to establish its own rules. Anyone can learn to have a successful relationship with this breed, but people in the following careers tend to make VERY successful GSD owners: Police Officers, Teachers, Coaches, Lawyers, and anyone successfully holding an administrator-type job.
Do GSDs make good family dogs?
Yes, but it depends on the FAMILY, not the dog. As herding dogs, GSDs are extremely intelligent dogs that need a task to keep them busy or something to occupy their time when they are left alone, for example. Arf's German Shepherd Rescue Inc. is committed to helping new owners succeed with this breed. An informative videotape covering temperament and training is sent with your new dog, to help you and your new family member get off to the best start possible.
Are GSDs smart and easy to train?
DEFINITELY! GSDs are eager and willing to learn and enjoy training sessions. It is never too early to start training your dog. Puppies over 8 weeks can and MUST learn "no" and "ouch". Puppies of this breed are naturally "mouthy" and you need to know when to let the puppy explore its world via its mouth, and when to let it know it's biting instead of exploring. (Again, the videotape will explain this!)
What is "socializing" and why is it important?
Socializing means exposing your dog to a variety of experiences, including meeting lots of people of various ages, races, sizes and both sexes, as well as
teaching them how to acceptably interact with other dogs/cats. Obedience classes provide an excellent opportunity for socialization in a controlled environment. Ideally, a dog is considered "socialized" when it's been successfully exposed to 300 different adults, 300 different children, and 300 different dogs (known as the "Rule of 300").
Socializing is important because it helps strengthen your dog's confidence and reduces the chance that your dog will become shy or fearful. Fearful dogs can
become fear aggressive or fear biters (another prime reason GSDs get 'dumped' in shelters and at rescues). Unsocialized dogs CAN be successfully rehabilitated with time; the rule of 300 is used as part of the rehabilitation process. Download the Socialization Checklist here!
What (and how) should I feed my GSD?
GSDs should be fed a quality dry dog food with about 26% protein and 15-18% fat. Look for some kind of meat to be the first ingredient on the label, not a grain product. Our kibble recommendation: Solid Gold, Innova, Flint River Ranch, Iams, Eukanuba, and others listed at the link for "Solid Gold". If you do adopt a GSD from our rescue, the video goes into much greater detail about diet and German Shepherd dietary requirements.
Dry food ("kibble") is fine, as long as it's QUALITY kibble (not Old Roy or Purina!). You don't need to supplement the dog's diet with canned food. It's expensive and doesn't provide anything a good dry food doesn't already have. Dry food also helps keep your dog's teeth clean because it rubs against the teeth and gums, removing plaque and tartar build-up. Canned food does not provide this benefit.
Does your dog food contain cancer-causing agents BHA, BHT, or Ethoxyquin? Science Diet does; does YOUR current dog food? More...
What precautions should I take with my GSD?
Behaviors that are cute in a 15 pound puppy can be dangerous in a 75 pound adult. Socialize your puppy or dog with people (especially children) and other dogs frequently.
Your puppy may go through a period known as "adolescent shyness" when it reaches 4-5 months of age. This period can last until the pup is 12-18 months old. Socializing your puppy from an early age will help minimize this shyness. Expose your puppy to a variety of experiences, but do so gently. You don't want to traumatize your puppy.
What is bloat (gastric torsion)?
Bloat (otherwise known as "gastric torsion") can be a problem with any deep-chested breed like German Shepherds. The stomach twists so nothing can pass
through the esophagus to the stomach or through the stomach to the intestions, causing gas to build up. This is an immediate health concern where the dog
should be taken to the vet or emergency clinic. Signs of bloat include a distended rigid abdomen, indications of vomiting with no results and inability to belch or
pass gas. FEEDING A DOG FROM A RAISED FOOD DISH IS ACTUALLY MORE DANGEROUS than feeding from a bowl placed flat on the floor. More...
Be careful of heavy physical exertion directly before and after eating, especially if your GSD is a "gulper". GSDs (and many other breeds) can suffer from bloat.
High activity directly before or after eating can exacerbate bloating. Keeping the dog quiet at least one hour before and after eating can help reduce the chances
of bloat. Smaller meals can also reduce the risk of bloat if you do not free-feed. (Free-fed dogs just need to have their activity level watched, but do not usually eat enough at any one sitting to cause problems. Bloat is more of a problem with a dog that "gulps" its food which a free-fed dog won't usually do.)
What other health issues exist with the GSD breed?
Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia refers to a faulty fitting of the hip joint which is a ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) arrangement. This genetic problem is caused by a combination of genes that cause the hip sockets to "wobble" painfully when the dog walks. Preliminary hip x-rays after 6 months are a good idea. Treatments (both surgical and drug) can be done early to alleviate problems down the line. Be wary of anyone who says their puppies will definitely not have hip problems: this is not possible, even with the best breeder in the world, as the combination of genes may not have shown up in a previous litter, yet your dog can still be at risk. If your pup shows mild signs, consider having another set of x-rays taken after your dog turns 2. If a dog is over age 2 and does not show any signs of hip dysplasia, that dog is usually "in the clear" for the rest of its life. Hip Dysplasia is not a death sentence for a dog! There are all levels of the disease from mild to severe. Mild and moderate cases respond well to anti-inflammatory drugs, if needed. More...
How big will my adult GSD get?
The full adult size of your GSD will depend in large part on the genetic background of its parents. The AKC Standard states that adult males should range between 24-26" at the shoulder blade, females from 22-24". Males within the standard may weigh anywhere from 65-90 lbs. depending on their bloodlines.
Females may weigh anywhere from 55-80 lbs. (Again, much depends on the genetics and bloodlines. The above are only a rough idea.) Although your pup will
reach close to adult height by 10-18 months, s/he will continue to fill out until up to 3 years old.
Do German Shepherds shed a lot?
The GSD is a "double-coated" dog with an undercoat and guard hairs. The guard hairs will be shed all year. The undercoat is "blown" twice a year.
What about long-coated GSDs?
Some dogs are born with long coats which usually, though not always, are devoid of undercoat. The short ("normal") coat is dominant to the long coat, so genetically, there are three kinds of Shepherds: normal, normal but carrying the long coat gene, and long.
When will my GSD puppy's ears stand?
Although some puppies' ears stand as early as 8-10 weeks, don't be concerned if your pup's ears don't stand until 6-7 months or after teething. Some pups' ears never stand. This is known as a "soft ear". "Soft ear" is a genetic trait.
What is the life expectancy of a GSD?
Most lines of GSDs will live to between 10-13 years of age. 11-12 years is considered the average lifespan. A GSD becomes "middle-aged" between 6-7 years old, and is generally considered "geriatric" at about 10.