There is nothing more exciting than beginning the search for a new puppy, whether it is your first dog or you have been a dog owner your whole life.
Every dog is unique and comes with individual personalities and traits. You can’t guarantee the kind of dog you will end up with, however, researching breed-specific characteristics can help you ensure that you are getting a pet that matches your lifestyle.
German Shepherds are fantastic dogs, made evident by its being one of the most popular breeds of dogs year after year. There are many pros and cons to these noble dogs, all of which warrant deep thought before committing to a dog.
We hope to help you be better informed when asking whether or not a German Shepherd is the right fit for you or your family by the end of our pro and con list.
German Shepherds are well suited for all environments
One of the most striking characteristics of a German Shepherd is their thick, double coat. As long as the coat remains uncut, the double layer allows the dog to stay warm in cold environments, and alternatively cool when it is warm.
In particularly hot climates, it is imperative to ensure that the dog has ample water, and access to shady locations or dirt for digging out a cooler place to lay.
When it is sweltering outside, and your dog seems hot, it seems like shaving off all of that heavy fur is the logical thing to do. German Shepherd Corner has a very concise explanation about how shaving the fur can have the opposite effect.
Not only will your dog be hotter than ever, but there is a chance the topcoats will never grow back, leaving your dog susceptible to things like heat stroke and cancer.
Shepherds are intelligent and easily trained
If you are looking for a dog that will quickly pick up on instructions, and enjoy doing so, a shepherd will easily fit that bill. This breed is brilliant, and when adequately engaged can learn anything.
Intelligence and a strong desire to please is what makes the breed sought after for K9 police work, makes them stellar show dogs, and also fantastic guard dogs and family pets.
While it is true that a German shepherd is eager to please, and considered the 3rd most trainable dog, it is crucial to understand that obedience does not come naturally.
If you want to have a German Shepherd that is well mannered and follows a set of behavioral expectations, you will have to be consistent with all training.
The club website for the German Shepherd Dog Club of America has a thorough article on what things are essential to teach your shepherd, including excellent tips and tricks for helping your dog reach his potential.
German Shepherds are a playful, family pet
Although it is important that German Shepherds are properly introduced to children, and that children understand the need to respect dogs of any breed, shepherds love to be involved in a family.
Shepherds can tend to love one member of the family over others but will have affection and a protective attitude to all within its circle.
Again, proper socialization from an early age is a requirement for Shepherds, because they can be slow to warm up to strangers and have a strong drive to protect their family.
Shepherds are high energy dogs, so integration into an active family can be an enjoyable experience. They can be very goofy and playful, and love to be included in family walks, trips, or backyard romping.
Watch this YouTube video of German Shepherds being playful and goofy, and see how much fun they could add to your family!
German Shepherds are both beautiful and athletic
If you are looking for a dog that will keep you active, and look good doing it, a German Shepherd is a natural choice. Highly energetic, a Shepherd will need daily physical exercise.
This can look different depending on your activity level, whether you like to take walks around town, run several miles daily, or have the time to throw a ball for a decent amount of time.
German Shepherds come in a variety of different markings and builds, but regardless of whether it is a tri-colored working-class dog or a solid show variety, when you are working with your dog you will be a source of admiration.
Everyone loves to watch a German Shepherd in action, doing the athletic activities which they were born to do. Their high drive for athletic activities will also help you stay consistent with your own health goals.
It is imperative that German Shepherds are Properly Socialized
Like listed in the pro categories, German Shepherds are loyal and friendly family dogs, and some will bond completely to a single family member.
While at home with the family, this can be a very noble trait. The problems occur when a Shepherd is not properly socialized, and they feel a need to protect their family members from strangers unnecessarily.
German Shepherd US outlines several of the issues that can occur when Shepherds are not properly socialized, such as becoming territorial, nipping, and herding behaviors. In extreme cases, a Shepherd may attack.
The article has some very helpful tips for training to avoid these issues and ensure that your German Shepherd is not only friendly towards you and your family but also to invited guests.
Shepherds require high-quality food designed for active dogs
As large, hard-working dogs, a typical German Shepherd is going to require a caloric intake of 1200-2000 calories a day.
In order to avoid health issues that can originate from an unbalanced diet, it is best to ensure that you are feeding your Shepherd a high quality, balanced diet. Low-quality foods will result in gastrointestinal issues and may leave dogs malnourished.
There are standards that all dog food manufacturers must meet at a minimum. However, dogs are not a one size fits all when it comes to nutrition.
Active dogs require a lot of protein, which is why many German Shepherd owners prefer what is known as a raw diet, where the foods are prepared at home from fresh, reputable sources. While you certainly can find quality foods at a pet food store, feeding a large dog adequately can be very expensive.
German Shepherds without a “job” can become anxious and act out
German Shepherds were originally bred to be sheep herding dogs, and over the years their role in a working society has grown to include a heavy presence on police forces and in the military.
German Shepherds thrive on having a “job”, or certain tasks that they are expected to know and carry out. The mental stimulation that occurs when a Shepherd is required to focus on their job is of vital importance to their health, as understimulated dogs have a tendency to become anxious and neurotic.
Jobs can look like any number of things for a German Shepherd. Maybe for you, that means working daily on obedience tasks, scheduled walks or runs, or playtime daily with the whole family.
The key will be to constantly ensure that your dog is receiving mental stimulation, like any of these activities mentioned in this article by German Shepherd Place.
German Shepherds can be a misunderstood, intimidating breed
For those who have never been around German Shepherds, or dogs in general, Shepherds can come across as mean and intimidating.
There is no denying that they are visually intimidating and strong. A fully grown male German Shepherd on average is between 60 and 90 pounds, while females range between 50 and 70 pounds. Both genders measure an average of 2 feet tall from the ground to back.
Shepherds also have an incredibly intimidating, deep bark. As you get to know your German Shepherd, you will be able to quickly recognize and interpret different barks, from angry and protective to goofy and playing. However, if you do not know the dog who is barking at you, and the dog is large, and bark can be perceived as aggressive.
German Shepherds are often refused as accepted breeds in apartment complexes, and can in some cases increase Home Owners Insurance premiums, in fact, according to The Nest, SHepherds are number 4 on the list of dogs that Insurance will not cover.
The article also explains that Shepherds are often seen as aggressive because of a high percentage in the annual cases of dog bites being from German Shepherds.
German Shepherds need a great deal of attention when it comes to grooming
You may know them as German Shepherds, but if you talk to an owner of one, you are likely to hear them referred to as German Shedders.
The bristly top coat of a German Shepherd is constantly shedding, leaving sharp fur everywhere. Then, twice a year, the thick undercoat will do a complete shed, often leaving tumbleweeds of fur in its wake.
The good news is that your German Shepherd will not need to be bathed often, and are not generally stinky dogs. You can probably get away with bathing your dog once every 3 months.
Completely drying the undercoat after a bath is imperative, however as they are prone to skin issues which can be aggravated by wet coats. Dog specific shampoos should be utilized to avoid robbing the fur of oils necessary for health.
The best way to stay on top of the shedding issues posed by Shepherds is to brush, and brush often. Making brushing a part of your daily routine will not only cut down on the amount of hair floating around your house, but it will also take care of mats and tangles before they become problematic and cause hot spots or irritation.
The American Kennel Club has an exceptionally helpful list for ensuring you have grooming maintenance covered.
German Shepherds have a high occurrence of health issues
Typical for a large breed dog, a Geman Shepherd’s lifespan is often 9-12 years. Thanks to overbreeding due to breed popularity combined with the natural issues that occur to large dogs, German Shepherds have a high occurrence of difficult health issues.
These issues make it very important that when you are looking to buy a puppy, you are using reputable breeders with open health history information, or you are at least willing to cover the costs of possible health issues if you have rescued your dog or are buying from an unknown source.
The biggest issue that plaques German Shepherds is joint issues. A combination of being a fast-growing breed, a large breed, and a highly active breed means they often have difficulties in their hips and elbows, difficulties from which they do not always recover.
They can also suffer bone pain in bones that are forming too rapidly, although this is something they typically grow out of in their first year.
Other common issues have to do with neurological impairments, such as epilepsy and Degenerative Myelopathy. Epilepsy is very common and will manifest infrequent seizures. Degenerative Myelopathy is an autoimmune disease that causes a loss of coordination and balance issues.
Adding a canine companion to your family should never be a spontaneous decision. However, we hope this pro and con list has made it easier for you to decide whether or not a German Shepherd is the right dog for your family. As you continue your research, remember that everyone’s approach or acceptance level for various pros and cons will be different.
Additionally, while it is a great idea to read online pros and cons lists while initiating your decision, it is also a good idea to talk to real-life Shepherd owners.
Ask about the things you think will be pros, and see how those look in real life, the same as the cons. Most importantly, enjoy the process of becoming a dog owner!