Have you seen the TV Show “Inspector Rex”? I’m a huge fan. Every time I see a German Shepherd dog, I’m instantly reminded of the police dog Rex. It’s a breed that represents strength and intelligence and has saved many lives throughout history.
These are some of the most popular dogs in the US as they excel in various jobs. German Shepherds are fantastic service dogs, excellent police and military allies, and, last but not least, devoted family pets.
If you’re thinking about getting one, you should know everything about this breed to take care of it properly. Here’s everything we’ll cover so you can prepare:
- Breed Details and Characteristics
- A Little Bit of History
- German Shepherd Temperament
- The Best Food for Your GSD
- Training and Exercise
- Health Issues
- Are You Ready for a GSD?
What Is a German Shepherd Dog?
It’s a dog breed that’s brilliant, super trainable, and obedient. These dogs excel in so many areas, hence the phrase multipurpose working dogs.
They were first bred for herding and later as working dogs. The GSD have high energy, so you’ll need to constantly occupy them with mental and physical challenges.
The only thing they’re arguably not good at is being left alone. If bored, German Shepherds might bark loudly and chew anything that they find.
To better understand this breed, let’s check the essential breed traits every German Shepherd dog owner should know.
German Shepherd Characteristics
These medium to large dogs are incredibly loyal, strong, and protective. Initially bred as herding dogs, they’re now mostly doing work tasks or enjoying life as family pets. Regardless of their purpose, GSD dogs are brilliant, easily trainable pets and excellent watchdogs.
With that strength and size, it’s only natural that this breed is highly energetic and has excellent stamina. Hence they need at least two hours of daily exercise to stay fit and healthy. That’s also why they’re not suitable for families that are often away from home or have laid-back personalities. German Shepherds need devoted guardians who have the time and willingness to look after them.
Here are the essential characteristics of this pawesome breed:
- Size: The GSD are medium to large dogs. Reportedly, the US-bred German Shepherds are bigger than those bred in Germany. But the German Shepherd size falls between 24 to 26 inches, and the dogs weigh around 75 to 95 pounds.
- Coat: It combines various patterns that include black. The coat could be black and cream, black and tan, black and red, black and blue, black and silver, or black and grey. When it comes to its length, the GSD coat is mostly medium. That said, these dogs shed a lot and need a good brushing several times a week. So, it’d be wise to invest in a vacuum cleaner that can deal with all that hair. We like the BISSELL 2252 on Amazon.
- Lifespan: The German Shepherd lifespan is between 10 to 14 years. That mostly depends on the dog’s genetic predisposition, but nutrition and exercise also play a huge part. Generally, these dogs are strong but still prone to few health issues. We’ll discuss them all a bit later.
Now, let’s see where this wonderful breed came from.
A Little Bit of History
If you’re interested in buying or adopting a German Shepherd dog, you’ll surely want to know about its origins.
Captain Max von Stephanitz made the German Shepherd’s existence possible. It all began in the 1800s when he was determined to breed the best herding dog in Germany. His goal was to combine traits of different herding dogs to create one that would surpass them all.
By the time he spotted the right dog, the country was already in the process of industrialization. So instead of making a herding dog, he switched to breeding a working dog that would help the police and the military.
During World War I, the Germans used these dogs as message and supply carriers, guard dogs, and rescuers. The German Shepherd was present in the US even before that time. Still, its popularity grew during and after the war. Many US soldiers, amazed by the breed’s intelligence and strength, went home with these dogs.
Here are a few curious German Shepherd dog facts:
- According to the AKC, this is the second most popular dog breed in the US and one of the most recognizable breeds worldwide.
- Due to the anti-German sentiment during World War I, the German Shepherd’s name was changed to Alsatian War Dog in the UK and Shepherd Dog in the US. Since then, the GSD also goes by an Alsatian dog, which is still widely popular in the UK.
- The German Shepherd was the first service dog to help visually impaired people.
- The GSD got even more famous when a dog named Rinty starred in the popular movie Rin Tin Tin.
The German Shepherd Temperament
These dogs are devoted and loyal. They’re usually the right hand of the main family caretaker and love to spend as much time with them as possible. Although they’re not needy, once German Shepherds get your attention, they show incorruptible obedience. Plus, they’re very fond of kids.
Despite that they’re noble and loyal, GSD dogs can be aloof to strangers but not aggressive. So they need early socialization, possibly since puppyhood.
German Shepherds are very eager to learn and to please, which is why they’re considered highly trainable. Thanks to these qualities, they excel at:
- Military and police work
- Helping people with disabilities
There’s nothing these dogs can’t do. But while the German Shepherd breed is courageous, it can become destructive if you don’t provide it with enough stimulation.
German Shepherds are well suited for people that are mostly at home and active outside. At home, you can make use of indestructible dog toys to keep them busy. But a wireless fence might be even more helpful so the dog can burn its high energy. A simple walk in the park won’t do the trick for this breed.
What Is the Best Dog Food for My German Shepherd?
Like any other dog, the food should be suitable for its size and needs. Keeping in mind their stamina and high energy, German Shepherds might benefit from the best food for large breeds.
The puppies need a high-quality but low-calorie diet to prevent rapid growth, which can cause problems with their hips and joints. The breed is quite sensitive to such issues.
Once your GSD dog is fully grown, you should avoid overfeeding. That could make your pet lazy and lead to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and bloating.
Typically, 2.5 to 3.5 cups of kibble is enough for adult dogs. Still, it’s best to discuss the appropriate portion size with your vet, as that will need adjusting to your pet’s size and weight.
We recommend you split the food into two meals per day to prevent bloating or other stomach problems.
German Shepherd Dog Training
The breed is highly trainable, so you won’t have trouble teaching your pet new tricks. But you should take special care to provide at least two hours of daily exercise.
These dogs are aloof by nature, so it’s vital to start socialization with other people and pets as soon as possible. That would help with the barking, as they tend to do it often, especially to strangers.
Another method that helps is crate training. Even a German Shepherd police dog can develop separation anxiety when left alone too long, so proper training will help them deal with that.
Keep in mind that when walking your dog outside, you should never walk it off-leash. Your pet can easily wander around no matter how well you trained it. Since German Shepherds are large, consider getting a specialized harness for large dogs to prevent neck injuries.
Health Issues and Care
Most German Shepherd dogs are healthy, but they’re still prone to some health issues:
- Hip Dysplasia: Hip Dysplasia is very common in GSD as a result of breeding selection. Simply put, it’s a condition where the joint grows abnormally. If not treated early, it can develop into severe arthritis. But you can notice the first sign in the German Shepherd behavior — no interest in walking or running. When detected early by a vet, the condition is treatable with joint supplements. One of the best options on the market is the Nutramax Cosequin Maximum Strength Plus on Chewy. But you should always check with your vet before starting any dog supplements.
- Elbow Dysplasia: It’s another common painful condition in German Shepherd dog puppies that causes the elbows to develop abnormally, leading to arthritis. According to veterinarians, it’s a hereditary issue that shows up even when the dog is only five months old. It can develop later on, but usually not later than the 18th month. You can manage it with medications, exercise, and weight control. The symptoms include swollen elbows, limpness or stiffness, and lack of energy.
- Gastric Dilatation-volvulus (GDV): This life-threatening disease starts with bloating. It might rotate the stomach, cutting off the passage of food and water, and inhibit circulation to it. Although nobody knows what causes bloating, the main symptom is a restless dog that can’t lay down. Vomiting without a substance getting out of the mouth is another symptom. The best way to prevent it is to offer high-quality meals, feed your dog twice per day and avoid exercises at least two hours after the meal. Pay attention to the German Shepherd weight and never overfeed your pet.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: The simplest definition of this disease is loss of mobility. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment, and it can lead to complete limb paralysis in time. When a GSD hits this stage, vets usually propose euthanasia so the dog doesn’t suffer. As vets explain, dogs don’t feel pain in the early stages, but at some point, they can’t move or behave normally. Still, the disease develops later in life, usually around the eighth or ninth year. Physiotherapy can prolong the development and help dogs stay mobile longer.
Aside from good nutrition and daily exercises, it’s crucial to brush the coat of your German Shepherd dog daily as they shed a lot.
The good news is that these dogs only need bathing if they get really dirty. Regular bathing might even hurt their coat. That’s why it’s vital to use the right shampoo. We prefer the TropiClean PerfectFur Thick Double Coat Shampoo for GSD on Amazon. It helps to deep clean the coat and reduces shedding.
Are You Ready to Look After a German Shepherd?
After getting to know the awesome German Shepherd traits and how helpful these dogs can be, you can’t help but want one. But keep in mind that they’re not suitable for laid-back people or those that don’t have time for their dog. Also, the breed can get destructive if left alone too long.
Do your research and find the right German Shepherd breeder to get your puppy from. That’s the only way to ensure that you’re getting a healthy dog that will be your devoted companion.
You can also find a German Shepherd in a shelter. We advise you to try that before you search for a breeder.
The German Shepherd dog is a steady and intelligent yet very gentle family pet. Their devotion and loyalty go so far that they’ll put their life on the line to defend their loved ones.
Looking after these dogs requires care, attention, and time. But it’s definitely worth it.
If you’re short on cash and you can’t find a German Shepherd dog in shelters, consider looking for a Pitbull Shepherd mix instead. These dogs are just as amazing but struggle to find a human companion.