Are German Shepherds Good for First Time Owners: Challenges You Need to Think About

Before you decide to add a German Shepherd Dog to your life, it is essential to think about how your lifestyle fits these dogs’ needs in order to keep everyone safe and happy.

Are German Shepherds Good for First Time Owners?

German Shepherds are great dogs, with a lot of traits that are ideal for active owners. However, there are some traits that can present challenges for new dog owners that are good to know about before getting one.

Is Your Lifestyle Good for German Shepherds?

Many factors like how much time you spend at home, and how your family feels about getting one of these dogs, need to be considered.

A GSD is not a dog that does well being left home alone for extended periods of time.

Adding a dog to your home requires some changes like housebreaking the dog, and taking time for obedience training, which may be challenging for first-timers.

are german shepherds good for first time owners

These dogs can be poor choices for apartments, and for those who would normally leave their dog alone in the yard all day.

Dogs in these circumstances can become noisy, destructive, and even try to escape out of boredom. When you decide to get a German Shepherd, know that the dog will require activities to help keep them occupied.

If you have never had a dog before, you may find that coming up with activities to keep your pet busy can be challenging, and even frustrating.

Showing calm and assertive leadership is essential when you share your home with a Shepherd. People who have never had a dog in their lives before may have difficulty, possibly leading to behavior issues.

Other considerations

There are also other practical considerations to think about, beyond acquiring the dog. Will the dog go with you if you move? If you go on vacation?

Who will take care of the German Shepherd if you end up hospitalized or die unexpectedly?

You’ll also need to think about feeding, grooming, and veterinary costs. Many people who have never had a dog or any kind of pet are unaware of how expensive these things can be.

Unfortunately, these sorts of unexpected expenses can be shocking for new owners.

Due to the time, money, and personal demands involved with a German Shepherd, these dogs might not be the best choice for first-time dog owners.

Read on to learn more about each of these considerations before making your choice.

Are German Shepherds Okay Being Left Alone a Lot?

German Shepherds do not do well being left alone for more than four hours at a time.

Puppies also shouldn’t be left alone for more than an hour for each month of their age, with a four-hour maximum.

One thing that many non-Shepherd owners don’t realize is how much these dogs bond to their owners. This can make long periods spent alone potentially traumatic.

Experienced dog owners will be better prepared to help their pets overcome the difficulties of being left alone.

Most people who have had dogs in the past already have a routine that they use for helping their dogs adjust to being left alone.

For new dog owners, you might find leaving a German Shepherd Dog alone somewhat challenging. However, options like doggie daycare, or having a friend ‘babysit’ your dog when you are away from your home, can help a lot.

An experienced dog owner who knows the issues separation anxiety can create, and how to deal with them most effectively, will be better suited to life with a German Shepherd.

Experienced owners will also know how to keep these active dogs busy, which will help reduce separation anxiety.

How Do You Keep a German Shepherd Busy?

Trying to keep an active dog breed like the GSD busy can be difficult even for those who have had dogs their entire lives. A person who has never owned a dog may find themselves overwhelmed in the beginning.

According to Kristina Lotz, it is usually easy to tell when a German Shepherd is bored. However, understanding dog behavior makes these signs easier to spot so you can do something to address any problems right away.

Behaviors like pacing or tail-chasing, which can be funny, are two obvious signs that your dog is bored. If you’ve had other dogs in the past, you probably found useful routines that help keep your dog better occupied.

Walking your dog regularly, and off-leash playtime are a couple of activities that can ease your dog’s boredom. Other activities, such as tracking or hiking, are also worth considering.

The more you know about dogs and their behavior, the easier it will be for you to think of ways to keep your dog occupied. If you’re unfamiliar with dog behavior, you might find trying to keep a German Shepherd busy quite tricky.

Woman on a bench training her dog

Are German Shepherds Easy to Train?

The answer to whether German Shepherds are easy to train is both yes and no. GSDs are known for being fast learners, and it can be amazing to see how quickly GSDs pick up new commands.

According to Hello Bark, German Shepherds are the third-smartest among 137 dog breeds, falling behind only Border Collies and Labradors.

Thanks to these intelligence levels, these dogs usually learn commands in fewer than five repetitions. They will also follow these commands the majority of the time, and have retention rates that are off the charts.

However, these dogs are very independently-minded, having been originally bred to perform tasks that require them to think for themselves.

An owner needs to show consistent leadership, which might be difficult for a newcomer to dog ownership. Your relationship with your German Shepherd needs to be one where the dog sees you as the leader.

Being the leader does not mean being a tyrant or bully. It means aiming to be a positive figure; almost like a parent, as your dog looks up to you for guidance.

If you understand dog behavior, you will find it that much easier to know how to be the “alpha” leader your dog needs. People who have never had dogs are often unaware of the importance of this relationship between dogs and owners.

Do I Need to Consider Longer-Term Concerns for German Shepherds?

Taking in a German Shepherd or any other type of dog is a lifetime commitment. Giving a dog back to a shelter, breeder, or to another owner should only be done in severe circumstances.

Unfortunately, too many dogs end up in shelters or rescues because of poor owner planning.

What if I plan on moving?

According to Golden State German Shepherd Rescue, moving is the most common reason for these dogs being abandoned. Unfortunately, these dogs often end up in ‘high-kill’ shelters.

Another issue that many new dog owners fail to keep in mind is that apartments or rental homes may not allow dogs of this size. You’ll need to make sure German Shepherds are welcome at the property.

You’ll also need to think about the logistics involved with moving. If you’re moving to a distant location, will you be driving or flying with the dog?

Will you need to use boarding facilities while you are in the process of moving? Using a kennel, as well as the costs associated with transportation, need to be considered.

What if I go on vacation?

What you will do when you go on vacation is also something to consider. Even though German Shepherds are active dogs who love outdoor adventures, your vacation may not be ideal for them.

If you choose not to bring your dog on vacation, you will need to think about boarding or having a family member step in for you while you’re away. Vacation arrangements are something that many don’t think about.

What happens in the event of a sudden illness or death?

Another unfortunate situation to consider when getting a dog is who will care for it in the event of sudden illness or death. These circumstances tragically lead to many dogs becoming homeless.

Having a trusted family member or friend take the dog might be one option to consider, and should be arranged beforehand.

Another possibility would be a no-kill rescue, preferably one that specializes in caring for German Shepherds. Although rescues may not always have enough resources, this option may be the best way to find a decent home.

Before you decide to get a German Shepherd, issues like moving, going on vacation, and emergency care needs to be considered. If you’re a first-time dog owner, some of these situations may be challenging if you are not prepared.

German Shepherds, like all dogs, do best in settings where their owners are fully prepared.  Although all dogs require care, GSDs are more vulnerable to disruptions in their lives.

Are German Shepherds Expensive Dogs to Keep?

Another thing that needs to be kept in mind is that German Shepherds, like other dog types, have expenses associated with their care that can build up very quickly.

People who have never had dogs before are often unaware of how much these costs can be. Commonly, new dog owners simply rely on anecdotal information from friends with dogs.

German Shepherd Foods

Expenses

The main expenses that must be taken into account include food, training, and veterinary care.

High-protein foods are best for German Shepherd Dogs. The protein helps muscle development and helps the dog maintain a healthy weight.

People who don’t own dogs often assume that because a food is popular, it must be a good choice. However, not all brands of food are created equally.

Choosing a food that specifically suits Shepherd’s needs is better than choosing a generic type of food. As a larger breed, GSDs also tend to eat a lot!

Certain medical conditions also call for special diets. Medical costs, as well as the cost of special foods, also need to be taken into account.

According to Misty Ridge Animal Resort, average annual veterinary costs for adult Shepherds can run over $400 without any emergency situations.

Certain medical conditions can actually become quite expensive with this breed:

  • Hip dysplasia can require surgery, costing several thousand dollars.
  • Gastric portion, or bloat, can also require expensive surgery.

Are German Shepherds Good First Dogs? Closing Thoughts

German Shepherds ranks as one of the most popular breeds in America. However, one of the pitfalls of popularity is that many people are attracted to these dogs without understanding their needs.

When people take on a dog without thinking things through, the dog might end up being a poor fit for their lifestyles.

We recommend that people get a German Shepherd after having owned another type of dog before. Experience with another dog will provide the expertise needed for coping with the strong will of a GSD.

As this video demonstrates, German Shepherds are a special breed that require a particular type of owner. Experienced dog owners will find a lot to love with having a GSD in their lives.

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