If you are looking to bring a dog into your life, and you’re reading this guide, you’re probably thinking “Should I get a German Shepherd, and is the breed right for me and my situation”.
With this 20 point checklist, we’ve aimed to give you all the specific information you need to know about buying and owning a German Shepherd breed puppy or dog.
We’ve tried to give you all the essential information you might to get close to making decision, in a short but clear way.
Let us know in the comments section if there is anything else you want to know and we can add it to the list.
Let’s get to the checklist…
Should I Get A German Shepherd? Checklist Of 19 Things To Consider
German Shepherds have a life span of anywhere from about 9 right up to sometimes 15 years.
Be prepared logistically and financially to have a dog in your life that long.
On a scale of tiny, small, medium, large and giant – German Shepherds mainly fit somewhere in the large category (edging up to Giant for the biggest GSDs).
Wondering how big German Shepherds get?
A typical purebred adult GSD is anywhere from 49-88 lb (22-40 kg) in weight, and 22-66 inches (55-65 cm) in height, depending on if its female or male.
3. Type Of Dog
German Shepherds were originally bred to be herding dogs.
What this means is that sometimes in their behavior they might try to herd family and friends by ‘mouthing’ them, or barking at them while running around them.
Early obedience and socialisation can help you manage this type of behavior.
There’s no way around this – German Shepherds are naturally athletic and mid to high energy type dogs.
You will need to walk them daily for half an hour, and have a big enough fenced yard for them to walk around without feeling claustrophobic.
5. Mental Stimulation
German Shepherds are not only one of the most intelligent dog breeds, but when they bond with you, they tend to want to be by your side.
If you leave them with nothing to do, or you leave their side for too long, they might either find something to do, which can be destructive (not because they aren’t well trained, but because they get bored), or they might get anxious waiting to see you.
Make sure you have regular contact with them and you always leave them with something to chew on or to keep their minds busy.
Socialisation and exercise helps with this.
6. Time Investment In Training, Socialisation & Obedience
Because of their intelligence, and the nature of a German Shepherd breed dog – they need a very strong base of puppy training, basic training, socialisation with other dogs and humans, and to be taught obedience out in public and around the house.
If you put the proper time in and you’re patient, and once the dog matures past about 5 or 6, you’ll have an extremely well behaved and noble dog on your hands.
If you slack off in these areas, German Shepherds might look to push the boundaries with their behavior (because they don’t know any better), and can seek to dominate a pack situation if you haven’t taught them who the leader is.
It’s very important to get a German Shepherd familiar with other dogs and children early on as a puppy. If you do this, they should be fine around most dogs and kids (like any dog, there can be exceptions).
If you don’t socialise them, they can become wary or even dominant over other animals and small children.
Don’t get this confused with your own kids – a well socialised GSD with a solid temperament can grow up o be your baby or kid’s guardian and best friend.
7. Temperament, And Different Drives
Temperament (how the dog thinks and behaves) comes down to genetics, but also management of temperament is influenced heavily by how the dog is treated and the level of training and discipline they have.
German Shepherds are naturally loyal, loving, protective, and intelligent around their family members and have few issues around strangers and other dogs if socialised and trained on a basic level with consistency.
Something to be aware of is the level of working and prey drive in your GSD (different dogs have different intensities).
Working drive is the drive to want to perform work based tasks, and prey drive is the drive to want to hunt and chase.
Looking at the parents can give you an idea of what the drive of your GSD might have (those looking for a pet or family GSD should look for a dog with lower work and prey drives).
You can’t get rid of the drive from a dog, but with the help of a trainer, you can manage it in different ways.
8. Time Investment In Creating A Bond, and Spending Time With Each Other
Bonding can involve anything which makes you and your dog more comfortable, familiar and ultimately closer with one another.
It’s building respect and love between you.
Make sure you have time to build and maintain this bond – GSDs tend to be very loyal, so when they bond with you, they will bond strongly.
9. Need To Be A Strong Leader
German Shepherds will look to become the leader and assert their dominance if they don’t have a strong pack leader.
You don’t have to be an army drill sergeant, but you do have to show initiative, be clear, and be consistent with establishing rules and behaviors for your dog.
Once a German Shepherd understands who their leader is, they will rarely disobey.
10. Consider The Pedigree & Titles
German Shepherds as a breed have a very rich, long and varied history.
There has been cross breeding and a dilution of breeding over the years – so the pedigree and family tree (how clean the blood line is) can vary greatly.
Make sure when getting a GSD, if you want something specific from your dog, you get the necessary family tree documents and working or show titles to ensure you are definitely getting what you think you are.
11. Shed ALOT of hair, and Need Grooming
Some people call German Shepherds – German Shedders.
GSDs come in both long hair and short hair coats, and both tends to shed alot of hair, especially when they are blowing their coats.
You’ll need to have a good undercoat deShedding tool and slicker brush and brush them regularly to keep them from leaving hair all over the house – there will still be some vacuuming.
In addition to that, the regular grooming like washing every month or two, nail grinding, checking ears etc is required.
12. Health Issues
It’s very important when you adopt or buy a dog from a breeder that you ensure they have been x rayed and certified to have healthy elbows and hips in addition to getting a clean health check.
GSDs have a history of hip dysplasia in their genetics due to poor breeding.
You’ll also need to be careful what you feed your GSD, as if you overfeed they can get overweight quickly.
13. Puppy Behavior, and Maturation
German Shepherd puppies are notorious for being a little bit of a handful.
They will want to chew on everything when they are teething and still developing, in addition to trying to push the limits in general terms of their energy and inquisitive nature.
Some will want to bark more than others too.
Once they become an adolescent, this behaviour decreases drastically, but they don’t hit full maturity until about 4 to 6 years old.
Dogs of about 7 years or older tend to be more relaxed and calm.
14. Adopting, or Finding A Breeder
Whether you are adopting or finding a breeder, it can take time to filter through the unethical or bad breeders, or find the right dog through a shelter/rescue.
Make sure you’re willing to put the time in to find the right dog, and educate yourself about the process of finding the right GSD for you.
Here’s a couple of guides to get you started:
- What To Look For When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy Ethically: Step By Step Guide
- Things To Consider When Adopting or Rescuing A German Shepherd
German Shepherds come in many different colors of coat with Black and Tan being the standard.
Other colors might include:
- Black & Silver
- Red & Black
- + more
Color has not been scientifically proven to effect the health or temperament of the dog at this stage.
16. Lines Of GSDs
There are also different lines of GSDs available – but, these have been diluted over the years.
The line is where and for what purpose the German Shepherd was bred.
Different lines available are:
- North American and Canadian Show Lines
- West German Show Lines
- East German/DDR Working Lines
- West German Working Lines
- Czech Working Lines
There are also mixes of German Shepherds with other breeds.
There are the costs to both buy or adopt, and the ongoing maintenance costs of having a dog.
Adopting fees might very between $50-$500, and buying costs can be anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars depending on the pedigree of the dog + other factors like titles.
Ongoing costs can include:
- regular vet checks
- dog food
- accessories like leads, collar, harnesses, dog bed, bowls etc.
- dog insurance
- dog training fees
- + more
18. You’ll have a huge dog community, and lots of clubs to join
German Shepherds as of 2017 are the second most popular breed in America.
There are plenty of other GSD owners out there to talk to, and plenty of GSD dog clubs to join if that is your thing.
There are even IPO (German Shepherd sports) clubs to get involved with if your GSD shows the right temperament, drives and titles.
You’ll have a huge support network to draw on as a German Shepherd owner.
19. You and Your Lifestyle
You should be someone who wants to commit to training, and forming a bond with a dog.
You should have enough time to interact with, and exercise your dog, as well as having a larger property to allow your GSD to walk around and stretch out.
If you are someone who works a lot, has a heavy social life, goes away a lot, or are just time or money poor – a GSD won’t suit you.
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