The German Shepherd

September 18, 2018

The German Shepherd

The German shepherd; majestic, loyal, bold, intelligent, and eager to please. With their satellite-sized ears and beautiful coat, is it any wonder why they are ranked 2nd out of 194 most popular breeds in the U.S.A.? Not only are they the most commonly used dogs in the work force such as police dogs, military work and guide dogs, they have also become a popular family pet. Although these dogs have many traits that make them hard to resist, they are not suited for all families. Let’s take a closer look at this breed’s traits in order to determine whether or not the German shepherd would be a good fit for your family.

Characteristics and Maintenance:

The German shepherd is a highly intelligent, highly trainable breed. He is always eager to please and becomes very loyal to his family. They tend to bond very tightly to one person, although they do show love and loyalty to their entire family. Although this breed creates a thick family bond, they tend to be aloof toward strangers and can be quite territorial. Puppy training and socialization classes are essential to ensure that your pet grows to be a friendly dog, otherwise aggression has been known to develop in this breed.

The German shepherd is a herding dog, which means they have a high amount of energy and need constant stimulation, both mentally and physically. Since they are always eager to please and form strong bonds with their handler, they tend to excel at doggie sports such as agility. Constant training and exercise is essential with this breed to keep them stimulated so that they may stay out of trouble. A bored dog is an unhappy dog.

They require weekly brushing in order to keep their coat shiny and healthy. They tend to shed a lot during the change of seasons, so brushing more frequently during these times may be necessary in order to remove the extra fur. As with any dog, dental hygiene is important, so brushing daily will help reduce tartar build up. Their big ears can accumulate dirt and wax, therefore their ears should be cleaned on a monthly basis. Keep an eye on their nails, if they are not being worn down naturally, they will need to be trimmed more frequently.
A proper diet tailored to large breed dogs is essential for this breed to thrive and remain healthy. They are known for joint issues and GI upsets, therefore starting them off right with a well balanced diet is extremely important.

Is This Dog Right For Me?

The German shepherd can be such a wonderful family pet. They are protective of their families and very loyal. Easy to train because of their intelligence and eager to please attitudes, they make for attractive pets. Unfortunately, people do not always realize the amount of work that must be placed into this dog in order to make it the perfect companion. Although they are not born aggressive, they are very alert and tend to be hesitant toward strangers. They can be territorial, and if they feel threatened it is possible for them to become aggressive. They are powerful dogs, full of muscle and with a strong intensity. Problems can arise when an inexperienced handler acquires a German shepherd dog and does not provide them with proper training or socialization. Remember, unlike what we see in movies and T.V shows, no dog comes pre-trained, and all training is lifelong. If this is not something you have time or the budget for, then the German shepherd is not the right breed for you.

Berger allemandUnfortunately, with the latest boom of the German shepherd, over breeding has damaged the lineage of these dogs and has caused for the development of some serious genetic diseases. The German shepherd is prone to developing certain diseases such as elbow and hip dysplasia, epilepsy, keratitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and certain bleeding disorders such as hemophilia A and Von Willebrand disease. They are also prone to degenerative myelopathy which is a disease that greatly affects the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis.
The cost of treatment for any disease can add up quickly, especially in a large breed dog. Pet insurance is essential when considering this breed, especially since they are known for many health issues. If this is not in your budget, then please consider a different breed that is not prone to as many illnesses.


The German shepherd makes for an excellent family pet. Loyal, intelligent and a strong work ethic make it an attractive option as an addition to your family. Keep in mind however, without proper training and socialization, this breed can be very hard to handle, especially since they are so powerful.

They are a large breed dog, prone to many illnesses. Veterinary bills can add up quickly, especially when an animal falls ill. Pet insurance is strongly recommended when considering this breed. If your budget is limited, then the German shepherd may not be the most suitable addition to your family.

As always, before considering a German shepherd, please speak with your veterinary team to see if this breed is a good fit for you and your family.

– Chelsey Lough, Certified Animal Health Technician