You may have seen them working with the police and military to serve and protect. But have you wondered if the German shepherd makes a good pet? Learn all about this magnificent breed and decide if adding one to your family is the right choice.
About the German shepherd
German Shepherds are commonly used as working dogs, and for good reason. They are loyal, protective and agile dogs. The average German shepherd stands between 22 and 26 inches tall and weighs anywhere from 50 -90 pounds. Male dogs fall to the higher end of this range and females on the lower end.
As their name implies, the German shepherd originated in Germany. In the late 1800s a a German cavalry officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz began working to breed the ideal German herding dog. He bred herding dogs that at the time had some variety from district to district in the region until the breed began to resemble the German shepherd we see today. As there became less of a need for livestock herding, he promoted these dogs as working dogs - great for police and military work. Which is why they still hold many of these jobs today.
3 Pros of German shepherds
1. Can be trained for a variety of tasks
From sniffing out explosives or narcotics to pursuing the ‘bad guys” these dogs can be trained to take on a variety of tasks. When bringing a German Shepherd into your home, you want to ensure your dog will have a job to do. Otherwise, this pro can quickly become a con. An understimulated dog will almost always find something to do and it may be something you don’t like.
2. Loyal to family
In addition to making a great working dog, the German shepherd can be trained as a personal protection dog for the family. This works well because these dogs form deep bonds with their families and can naturally become very protective. While these dogs may easily learn to watch over your kids, remember not to leave young children unattended with dogs.
3. Do well in almost any climate
From warm weather too cooler temperatures, these dogs can live and work in any climate. Their double coat keeps them warm in the winter but also protects them from the sun and extreme heat in the summer. Like any other breed you still want to ensure they have access to shelter when needed as extreme temperatures can increase the risk of things like frostbite and hypothermia or heat stroke.
4. Attractive dogs
These handsome dogs come in a wide variety of colors. In fact, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 11 different colors in the breed. These include black, blue, grey and even white.
3 Cons of German Shepherds
1. Active and need a high level of exercise
Although this can fall into the pro column for families who are very active, it is important to remember that these dogs need to work. Every. Single. Day. This means even if you’re feeling a rest day, chances are your pup is still in need of their workout. So, you need to make sure you have a plan to give your pup enough physical and mental exercise to keep them happy and healthy every single day. With a life expectancy anywhere from 7-11 years, this is a lifetime commitment. Even as these dogs age and start to slow down, they will still need some work to do that is appropriate for their level of fitness.
2. Take time to form relationships
Some German Shepherd owners find that their dogs remain a bit aloof and don’t quickly form bonds with strangers. This type of personality can come in handy for certain types of working dogs. You don’t want the dog to be too busy socializing to do the task at hand.
With a family pup, it might mean you need to bring strangers into the house slowly and carefully. You don’t want to overwhelm your dog. When having a party, be sure to give your dog a quiet place to retreat to if they become overwhelmed.
3. Some German Shepherds bark…a lot
If you live in close proximity to some neighbors, they may not appreciate a pup who can turn up the bark volume at every person, squirrel or leaf that blows by. In order to minimize barking, German shepherd owners can teach their pup the quiet cue and reinforce being quiet instead of barking. While this may help, if the dog is prone to having a desire to bark, it is important to understand you can’t realistically expect 24/7 silence.
Is a German shepherd a good family dog?
The short answer is maybe. It really depends on your family and your lifestyle. If you’re looking for an active dog who can help keep your family safe (even just with their intimidatingly good looks) the German shepherd might be the perfect family pet.
It is important that potential owners of German shepheds have a plan to ensure that their dogs have a job to do and enough space to get some exercise. While a fenced in yard is ideal, if you don’t have one it doesn’t automatically mean you can’t keep one of these dogs successfully. Doggie daycares, dog parks/runs and even participating in sporting lessons like agility can offer plenty of exercise for your pup.
Like any other dog, German shepherds need proper training and socialization. This means exposing your dog to as many people, places and things as possible when they are young. You also want to make sure your dog is under you control. A 90 pound German Shephard dragging you around town can be downright dangerous, so leash manners are a must. A good and reliable sit, down and come will also help you keep your dog well under your control.
At Ollie, we know a thing or two about feeding German shepherds. This breed is one of the 10 most popular of all of our customers. German shepherd parents know Ollie will deliver delicious and nutritious food their pups will beg for meal after meal. Our recipes packed with human grade carefully selected proteins and combined with delicious and wholesome high quality fruit, vegetables and grains will keep your best friend full, happy and healthy.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.