German Shepherd dogs are amazingly well known and popular in the United States and around the world. These dogs are currently the third most popular (out of nearly 200 purebred dog breeds) pet dog choice in America and the 12th most popular in the UK.
Part of the appeal of the GSD is their personality. These dogs are just so devoted, loyal, and loving! They will guard “their” people with their life and won’t hesitate even a second to do it.
But a German Shepherd dog is going to need something in return for this loyalty and selfless love – attention. In this article, find out just how much attention the typical German Shepherd dog needs and decide if you can provide this level of care.
Do German Shepherds Need a Lot of Attention?
The answer to this question is a simple “yes.” German Shepherd dogs need to be with their people. But more than that, GSDs need attention from their people – and they typically need a lot of it.
This isn’t something that more training can alleviate. This is just one of the hallmark traits of the German Shepherd dog breed. So if you don’t have a lot of time and attention to devote to a dog, the GSD may not be the right choice for you.
Watch a German Shepherd Demanding Attention from Their People
This YouTube video perfectly showcases why the German Shepherd is known to be a needy, people-focused dog breed.
German Shepherd dogs have always lived and worked closely alongside people, often in herding or guarding capacities. They do not do well if left alone – even if provided with another canine for companionship.
How Much Attention and Activity Does a German Shepherd Need from You?
Ask two people what the phrase “a lot of attention” means and you are likely to hear two very different answers.
So in this section, we break down exactly what this means for a German Shepherd dog and its owner during different times in the dog’s life.
GSD puppy attention needs
No matter what breed of dog you are caring for, puppyhood is guaranteed to be the most time-intensive phase of your daily life together.
As the German Shepherd Dog Club of America explains, this is even more true if the puppy you are caring for is a German Shepherd.
Your German Shepherd puppy needs so much from you – from potty training to basic skills training to health checks to walks to playtime to brushing and grooming to teeth cleaning and nail clipping and crate training and all the rest.
Plus, you won’t be able to leave a German Shepherd puppy alone for the same length of time you could leave a well-behaved, well-trained, and fully housebroken adult GSD.
This is precisely why many people opt to rescue an adult or senior German Shepherd instead of bringing home a GSD puppy, although rescued GSDs may come with their own special training or socialization needs as well, as we are about to discuss.
Adult GSD attention needs
Once your German Shepherd dog is fully grown up, your dog will need a different type of attention from you than they did during the puppyhood phase of life.
Once your dog’s veterinarian has X-rayed your dog’s leg bones and confirmed that the growth plates are closed and hardened (typically between 12 to 18 months of age), your dog will be able to safely play and run and jump and romp to its heart’s delight.
And you will want your dog to do this because a tired German Shepherd is a well-behaved German Shepherd.
According to the German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County, this can translate into anywhere from 30 minutes to two full hours of exercise and activity every single day!
That is a lot of activity – especially if you have to work and care for your family as well. Of course, you can break it up throughout the day. Training time can also count as activity time, especially if you use to play as one of your positive rewards.
The key is to remember that whether your German Shepherd works off their energy and work drive outdoors during a jog or a vigorous game of fetch or they work it off indoors by chewing off the crown molding, your dog will find a way to stay busy!
Senior GSD attention needs
When a German Shepherd heads into the senior dog years, its drive to run and play may slow down a bit.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) points out, one of the primary reasons why most senior dogs start to slow down is because of mobility issues.
Your dog may get stiff from canine arthritis or joint issues, which are all too common in many German Shepherd breed lines today.
Injuries can take longer to heal and illness can take longer to recover from. Your dog may nap more and take longer to wake up in the morning.
Since every GSD ages differently, the key here is to adjust the amount of daily exercise you provide based on your dog’s own cues. If they seem tired or achy, let them rest instead of insisting they get up and run around.
Why Do German Shepherds “Talk” So Much?
According to Vetstreet, the German shepherd dog breed is considered to be one of the 12 most “talkative” purebred dog breeds.
What does “talkative” mean, exactly? It means that these dogs vocalize a lot.
As the ASPCA points out, one reason that German Shepherds tend to be particularly vocal is that they have a long history of working as herding dogs.
Herding dogs have to care for large flocks of vulnerable livestock animals such as cattle or sheep. Often, the herds spread out over large distances and the dogs work independently of one another and of their people.
Barking and other vocalizations are the best way to keep the lines of communication open about whether predators are approaching and the status of the herd in different areas.
German Shepherds are also one of the most popular breeds for military, police, security, protection, and guarding dog work. Here again, vocalizing is an important part of coordinating security and protection between dogs and their people.
German Shepherds are known to have a particularly impressive variety of sounds they use to communicate with their people.
As the California Golden State German Shepherd Rescue charity reports, these are some of the most commonly reported vocalizations that GSDs tend to make:
There are also other sounds German Shepherds make that are not so easy to describe. On one popular German Shepherd owner forum, a GSD owner describes his dog’s sounds as “conversations.”
Owners describe hearing sounds like “aroooarooo” and “eeheeeheee” from their German Shepherds. But whatever sound your GSD happens to be making at the moment, you can count on the fact that the sound is designed to get your attention.
What Other Kinds of Attention Does a German Shepherd Dog Need?
As earlier sections here have referenced, a German Shepherd’s attention needs can change over time and throughout life.
But there are some basic types of attention your dog will always need from you. The good news is all these other types of attention count equally as attention paid to your dog, who basically just wants to be with you all the time.
Basic brushing, grooming, and maintenance care
German Shepherds have the thick, double-layer coat of most working dog breeds. GSDs shed constantly and sometimes copiously.
Brushing can help control the dead, shed hair, and also give you an easy way to examine your dog’s coat and skin, paw pads, ears, teeth, and overall health.
Training and play
German Shepherds are exceptionally intelligent and can learn complex commands and tricks. More so, they need ongoing training to reinforce what they have already learned and added enrichment and excitement to your daily life together.
Luckily, positive training counts as a form of interactive play, and your dog will love it because you are doing it together.
Whether you are throwing a frisbee in the park or practicing a complicated agility routine for your next K-9 athletics competition, your dog will be able to exercise both body and mind in the way the breed has always been designed to function.
Snuggles, cuddles, and love
Finally, the most important type of attention your German Shepherd will always need from you is quite simply your love.
These dogs are very loyal and loving and affectionate, often wanting to not just be by your side but actually on top of you.
More than one surprised GSD owner has realized that “cuddle time” means adjusting to having a 70+ pound dog sit on their lap!
But this is also why people love German Shepherds so much.