Courageous and fearless yet cheerful and obedient, the German Shepard loves its family but is by no means a pushover. A medium to large dog most commonly tan/black with a black mask, a big bushy tail and warm, almond shaped eyes. They are regularly utilized by the emergency services due to their high intelligence and expert tracking skills however they are also fantastically well suited for domestic life, provided they are trained under a firm hand.
|Good With Other Dogs|
Stories From Real Life German Shepherd Owners
German Shepherds - The Only Breed for Me
Throughout my life I have had many dogs. Although I have experienced the joys of owning collies, yorkies/Chihuahua mixes, Bassett hounds and a few mixed breeds of many varieties, the majority of mine have been German shepherds. If there is one thing I have learned through this, it’s that German shepherds are the only breed for me. My current shepherd, Jonny, continues to show me different reasons why I love her and love the breed so much. Let me tell you a little about this wonderful dog and so many others like her.
How My Dog Behaves
If my children behaved half as good growing up as Jonny does, parenthood would have been a breeze. In fact, I have said many times that dogs, particularly this breed, are easier to raise than children! Like children, dogs need to be taught what they can and cannot do. They need to learn what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. However, once they learn this, shepherds remember it and seldom need to be reminded unlike children who seem to always need to be reminded!
My dog is very well behaved. I also had Jonny’s mother until her death, so Jonny picked up a lot from her mother. Every dog I ever owned was trained by me. I did some of the basic training with Jonny but enrolled her in basic obedience classes when she was about one year old.
As well behaved as she was, she seemed to lack confidence, which is highly uncommon for German shepherds. I wanted her to develop some self-confidence and gain socialization around other dogs so I enrolled her in basic obedience classes. The classes were 2 hours long once a week for six weeks.
During the classes, she worked alongside of all different breeds of dogs. Despite taking a bit to get used to the training collar the instructor used, Jonny excelled at these classes. Obedience classes may cost money, but I highly recommend them because a well-behaved dog is a happy dog. This is particularly true if you don’t have the time or knowledge to train the dog yourself. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about dog training from years of experience of owning dogs.
Boy, was I wrong! I learned so much at the training classes. The training continued at home. She caught on so quickly and seemed to love every new thing she learned. She learned the following commands: come, stay, sit, down, off, leave it, heel, back and wait.
Not only did she learn these commands, but she learned to do them being told only one time. That was one thing that was really stressed to us. Unless you have reason to believe the dog didn’t hear you the first time, never repeat yourself. Tell your shepherd the command once and look at the dog until the dog does what is expected of him or her. They truly do want to please their masters.
When Jonny graduated from her obedience classes, she was a proud, happy and confident dog. She learned additional commands with me at home. I have always been bothered by dogs that “beg” when you’re eating or appear to be glued to you until you’re done eating.
The first time she came by the dinner table, I looked at her sternly and said “we’re eating”. As intelligent as she is, she immediately picked up on the cue that we didn’t want her there and turned around and went to lay down. Today more than ten years later, she knows to stay away when people are eating. German shepherds are just so incredibly intelligent. She also knows how to shake hands, wave and play dead. She’s amazing!
Johnny has an excellent temperament. She’s very tolerant and patient. We currently have a small Yorkie/Chihuahua mix also in the home. This little dog is constantly challenging Jonny one way or another. When the little dog attempts to eat Jonny’s food, Johnny just lets him and waits until he’s finished.
Hardly a day goes by that there are not grandchildren are my home. They chase her, they squeeze her and hug her. If they pet her just once or talks to her, she instantly goes to get a toy for them to play catch with her. She’s so patient with them.
If they accidentally hurt her, the idea of growling at them would just never cross her mind. Her high intelligence tells her that they are family. She is an extremely loving and caring dog with tons of patience.
Potty Training – Another breeze
Jonny was very easy to potty train. I crate trained her during that time. Although it’s typically said that a dog will never go potty where they have to sleep. That’s not altogether true. If the dog has to go bad enough, the dog is going to go. Jonny started with a smaller crate and then graduated to a larger crate. I always made sure she didn’t get anything to eat or drink for a couple of hours before bedtime.
I know they say that puppies should always have fresh water available, but I believe it’s just silly and somewhat cruel to give them water and expect them to not go potty when they’re so young and have such little bladders. I always took Jonny outside just before bedtime and waited until she went potty. Once that was done, I immediately scooped her up and brought her back in so she would know that’s what she was outside for and not to play.
First thing in the morning, we would go outside and repeat the same thing. I would take her outside every hour until she did something. As soon as she did something, I would pet and praise her. If I was feeling generous, I would even give her a treat to reward her. She caught on very quickly and was completely house broker and crate trained in a month. On the subject of her crate, she loves it! It’s her “safe space”.
If she ever just wants to get away from it, she goes in the crate and takes a nap. I can’t imagine her not having a crate. I believe one thing that helped is that the crate was never used as a punishment. It was used for resting and she knows that. I keep it in my bedroom next to my bed so she knows we’re next to each other at night.
Characteristics of My Dog
When we read or hear about German shepherds we often hear certain terms used. For years, they were known as seeing-eye dogs or police dogs because of their loyalty and fierce personality. While many look at shepherds as mean or aggressive dogs, that is just not the case. Aggression and meanness comes more from the training or lack thereof than the breed. In keeping with the characteristics of this fabulous breed, here are some of the traits or characteristics that my girl Jonny exhibits.
- Protectiveness – She is a great watch dog. She always lets me know when people come to the house. She doesn’t growl at them, but she does stand in front of me so she’s in a position to protect me if necessary.
- One man dog – They could have had Jonny in mind when they described shepherds this way. We call Jonny my Velcro dog because she always needs and wants to be by me. If I get up and leave the room and don’t come right back, she will follow me from room to room. When we are away from home, she will not leave my side.
- Loyalty – She is always loyal and loving to me. If she does happen to do something wrong, which she seldom does, and gets scolded, she is quick to forgive.
- Intelligence – Jonny never fails to amaze me with her intelligence whether it’s catching on to a new trick quickly or using her reasoning skills to find a toy that’s been hidden. At the end of the day when I shut down my computer, she stands and immediately heads for the bedroom cause she knows it’s bedtime.
German Shepherd Health Issues
There is hardly a dog breed around that isn’t prone to some sort of health issue, and the German shepherd or Jonny in particular is no exception. One thing very common for shepherds is hip dysplasia, which is a degenerative condition where the hips don’t develop correctly and eventually they deteriorate until the dog can no longer move normally.
If you purchase a purebred shepherd from a reputable breeder, you may be given a health certificate or guarantee. This may not mean the dog won’t develop dysplasia at some point. But it does state that the parents are in good shape. If it’s a guarantee, it may mean that the breeder will refund your money if the dog does develop dysplasia at a young age. Jonny has been lucky in that she doesn’t have hip dysplasia. She does have some arthritis in her legs, but at 11 ½ years old, I think it’s to be expected. Daily exercise seems to help Jonny's legs feel better.
German Shepherds are also prone to allergies, which can be determined by recurring ear infections or chewing on the feet. Unfortunately, Jonny has been a victim of allergies for most of her life. I researched like crazy to find all I could about allergies. One web site said to avoid foods with corn, another said avoid grains in general, another said avoid beef. The list went on and on.
After many trips to the vet and constantly paying for allergy medication, I finally took the vet’s advice and had allergy tests performed on Jonny. The dogs can be tested for food allergies or environmental allergies. Because the vet said most allergies are environmental and the tests are quite costly, she only tested Jonny for environmental allergies.
The results showed that she had many allergies!! The medication worked for a while but then she developed rashes from the medication and it had to be discontinued. It was so frustrating. Due to her getting up in age, and ear infections were the only real allergy-related problem she developed, I just get medication from the vet every couple of months when her ears start giving her problems.
High Energy and Desire to Play
I have often heard that if you live in a small apartment with no room to run around, don’t get a German Shepherd because they are high-energy dogs that thrive on exercise and playing. I really don’t believe this to be true. While they would love a large yard and play area, they are happy wherever they are if they’re loved by their master and get to spend time with their master. Jonny spends most of the time sleeping in the house with me.
Every now and then she’ll go pick up a toy and bring it to me. I’ll throw it and she’ll run and catch it and it goes back and forth until one of us gets bored. She loves it! Jonny loves being pet or being brushed. It’s the simple affectionate gestures that she seems to love. Shepherd do need exercise and Jonny and I go for many long walks. She starts almost moaning with excitement if she sees me grab her lease.
Don’t get me wrong. Shepherds are high energy and do need lots of exercise but that can be in walks, jogging, and playing catch. Wherever I am is where Jonny wants to be. Jonny is getting up there in age, and I know she probably won’t be with me much longer so I make the most of every day with her.
When she is no longer with me, I have so many wonderful memories of the best dog and the best breed in the world. If I ever get another dog, you can bet it will be another German Shepherd!
German Shepherds- My Two Sweet Girls
My personal experience lies with raising two German Shepherd dogs. Each shepherd I have owned in my life has had a lot of unique characteristics but there are many unifying characteristics that one can see when examining the breed. The two beloved dogs that I owned were named Pebbles and Baby. Both are now deceased which I will later explain the circumstances of their deaths.
First, I would like to state a few things I feel you should know about the breed before you consider getting a German Shepherd. These are my opinions after working and living with Shepherds for 20 years.
A German Shepherd is NOT a sweet Golden Retriever. I think that sometimes people believe a standard personality for a dog is affectionate and social. While many dogs do have this type of personality. These aren’t typical traits for shepherds. Shepherds generally steer clear of quick new friendships with other humans (which is a defining characteristic of the breed). From my experience with this, both of my dogs were always suspicious of new people. They were trained to be polite with new encounters but they did not want to be everyone’s friend. Offers of treats from other people did not sway either of my dogs into trusting a stranger. They always kept a calm demeanor but stayed alert for most of the time they were around the stranger.
Loyalty - I know that loyalty is a common characteristic associated with German Shepherds. Both of my shepherds were fiercely loyal. However, you should be prepared for your shepherd to become very loyal to a specific person in your family. They often latch onto one person and become solely loyal to them. This happened with both of my shepherds, Pebbles attaching to my brother and Baby attaching to me. While both dogs would certainly defend and protect the entire family, they preferred the company of their specific person.
Piranha - A serious forewarning, German Shepherd puppies may be more closely related to the Piranha than the wolf. They are extremely mouthy and can easily pierce through your skin with little teeth that are small daggers. I have have several permanent scars in my left hand to prove this. Both Pebbles and Baby were very mouthy as puppies until they were about 8 months old. We were diligent with training but it was difficult to break. This is definitely an important aspect of the breed to consider when getting a German Shepherd if you have small children.
You’ll never be alone again. German Shepherds are notorious busybodies, they like knowing where you are and what you’re up to all the time. They will follow you around your house constantly. Both Pebbles and Baby would tail us anywhere.
Hair - Also known a “German shedder”, these dogs are prone to shedding enormous amounts of hair. Both Pebbles and Baby were classic black and tan German shepherds. This allowed for hairs of every color to show up on my clothes, furniture and across the kitchen floor. If you keep your shepherds in your house full time you may want to consider hiring a cleaning lady. The amount of hair build up from their double coats is impressive.
Rough housing - German Shepherds really like to play rough with other dogs and people. They are easy to rouse up and get excited if they know they are going to rough play. A problem with this is that they aren’t always so delicate with their mouths. It can even be difficult to tell that they are actually playing because they do become aggressive. Something I also noticed is often shepherds aim for the throat during play and do a lot of wrestling. Pebbles and Baby loved to aggressively play with each other. They had no concern of the location, if one began provoking, they could end up fighting in the living room.
Singing - German Shepherds have a tendency to be very vocal animals. They have different variations of this “singing” as I call it. Some dogs are whiners, they will loudly whine about their excitement about whatever situation. Some bark more often. Pebbles would bark as if it was just a way to hold a conversation. Meanwhile, Baby would whine so ecstatically it sounded like he was singing. He would also get the most vocal when he saw me putting on my shoes by the door. My experience has shown it is difficult to train this dog to be quiet. This should definitely be something to consider when you are deciding if you want a German Shepherd. Your housing situation should be accommodating to a dog that likes to sing and bark.
Physical Health Issues Of German Shepherds
German Shepherd are known for a multitude of health issues. Each shepherd I have encountered has some sort of ailment whether itis small like allergies or a life threatening disease. The breed definitely carries predispositions to certain diseases that typically happen in purebred lines of dogs. Some of the ailments are really heartbreaking, but some of these ailments are the norm.
My dog baby seemed to be plagued with hip issues. He was larger in size than the standard for the breed (he weighed 130 pounds), so there was extra weight burdening his hips. He also suffered from a more unfortunate ailment called Perianal Fistula. This disease caused him to have oozing opening around his anus. There were many times, as the disease progressed, that I could hear him crying as he tried to have a bowel movement. It also caused him to become constipated in his later days of having the disease because he didn’t want to have a bowel movement. Unfortunately, German Shepherds’ tails don’t over their anus’s very well, allowing for the first point of infection to take place. The ailment is really debilitating for some shepherds and it was the mix of this disease and old age that caused us to decide to put Baby down to sleep at the age of 11.
Pebbles also suffered from a common disease for German Shepherd dogs. Degenerative Myelopathy caused her rear legs to gradually become weaker until she was nearly paralyzed. About 9 months from her diagnosis we put her down to sleep at the age of 13. The disease didn’t just claim her movement, it seemed to really claim her spirit as well. It was particularly sad watching the disease take her.
Because German Shepherds have so many different potential health issues it is absolutely essential that you find a good veterinarian. Early detection of the common diseases for shepherds can help them to have longer, better lives. Research the vets in your area to make sure you have one that specializes in treating shepherds. This can really make a world of difference for your pet’s care.
Mental Health Issues Of German Shepherds
In addition to a plethora of physical diseases German Shepherd dogs are plagued with, they also have some mental health issues that should be monitored carefully. Because these dogs have such high energy, they really need exercise for both their bodies and brains. Many shepherds have developed anxiety issues, have become bit neurotic, and become scared of loud noises.
It is extremely important to socialize German Shepherds with people and animals at a young age. This helps them to burn energy and to learn proper social cues. Pebbles was well adjusted to other humans and animals, despite being reasonably suspicious of strangers. However, Baby struggled with anxiety from a younger age. I believe we did not do a proper job socializing him when he was younger. He was an excellent dog, but he never urinated the way male dogs do, always squatting.
I have always loved German Shepherds. Their fierce loyalty and willingness to protect their family make them very admirable dogs. Despite a multitude of health problems, I would still highly suggest this breed for families that are suited to support, house and care for a German Shepherd. They are truly magnificent creatures!