Canine actor Rin Tin Tin. Buddy, the very first Seeing Eye dog. K9 Apollo, a notable search-and-rescue dog. The German Shepherd is one of the most iconic and popular large breeds for good reason! This member of the herding group has it all: keen intelligence; good looks; an athletic, muscular build; an innate desire to serve, and an unswerving loyalty to his people. Here are some important tips for any Pet Parent considering making the regal German Shepherd part of the crew.
1. German Shepherds are totally trainable.
Your German Shepherd loves to learn. In fact, he thrives on it. Since this breed is very eager to please you, use a positive reinforcement style to keep training enjoyable and strengthen your bond. Don’t hesitate to sign up for puppy training classes, obedience classes, or agility when your pal is old enough. Be consistent and make the most of opportunities to work his amazing brain!
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2. Socialization is beyond important.
German Shepherds adore their families. They can even be great with kids. But many are also born with a natural aloofness and guarding instincts that can turn into aggressive or undesirable behavior without diligent training and lots of socialization. Take time to introduce him to new environments, people, and other friendly dogs when he’s young. Important tip: Your German Shepherd may never be the friendliest with unfamiliar dogs of the same sex, so be cautious about dog parks or other uncontrolled greetings. He’s also prone to chasing cats and small pets, so make sure to carefully socialize him with any other pets in your household.
3. Give him something to do — a daily workout counts!
Few dogs have a work ethic like the German Shepherd. This breed excels at service jobs, which is why you’ll often see them on the police force or working as Seeing Eye dogs. If your pup will be a family companion, give him plenty of exercise to keep him active and occupied. A large, fenced-in yard with room to run is a great idea. Daily walks and fun activities like dock diving, agility training, and tracking are also good outlets for energy. Because of his exercise needs, a German Shepherd is best suited to more active families.
4. The fur will be flying.
That gorgeous double coat (dense outercoat and soft undercoat) is going to need some attention. German Shepherds definitely shed, so be prepared for dog hair on your clothes — that sweet face more than makes up for it! Brushing every other day along with the occasional bath will help keep the worst of the shedding at bay. Be sure to keep his nails trimmed and teeth brushed, too.
5. Keep an eye on his health (and tummy).
The German Shepherd is a generally healthy breed, but it is prone to a few hereditary health issues. Watch out for hip and elbow dysplasia, elbow hygroma (a fluid-filled growth on the elbow joint), osteoarthritis, and degenerative myelopathy (progressive hind limb weakness). Regular visits with your veterinarian will help you stay on top of any potential health issues that may crop up.
German Shepherds are also susceptible to bloat, a dangerous condition in which the stomach over-expands with food, gas, or fluids. You can prevent this by feeding your pup smaller meals multiple times a day and not letting him eat too quickly. It’s also a good idea to stay away from high-fat foods.
Stick to a nutritious dog food formula with a balance of vitamins, minerals, and protein so your pal stays in tip-top shape. Regular vet visits are the best way to keep this steadfast dog happy and healthy.