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Are German Shepherds Good Family Dogs?

Are German Shepherds Good Family Dogs?

Are you thinking about bringing home a new dog? Perhaps you are considering adding a German Shepherd to your family.

German Shepherds can make an excellent addition to active families! Protective and intelligent, a well-trained German Shepherd can be a wonderful choice for families with children.

Every dog breed is different, so it’s important to consider your family’s lifestyle and expectations when getting a dog. The following article will discuss training, temperament, exercise needs, and other factors to help you determine if a German Shepherd is right for your family. 

The German Shepherd Breed

Characteristics such as height, weight, and lifespan can weigh heavily when determining what dog breed is best for your family. Let’s start with a list of basic information on the German Shepherd breed. 

  • Weight: 50 – 90 lbs
  • Height: 22 – 26 inches
  • Lifespan: 7 – 10 years
  • Intelligence: High
  • Shedding Amount: Normal
  • Coat Length: Medium
  • Drool Amount: Low
  • Exercise Needs/Energy Level: High
  • Barking Level: Frequent

It’s important to consider each of these breed characteristics to determine if a German Shepherd is a right fit for your family. If your family is unable to meet a German Shepherd’s high exercise requirement, for example, the breed may not be the best match for you. 

German Shepherd Grooming Needs

With a medium-length, double coat, German Shepherds are not a high-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming. Ideally, a quick brush every few days will rid your dog of dead or loose hairs and keep the coat shiny and healthy. 

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Twice yearly (once in the spring and once in autumn), German Shepherds shed their undercoats. Though brief, this biannual event will drastically increase the amount of shedding your German Shepherd undergoes. Those considering adopting a German Shepherd should be prepared for the upkeep surrounding these periods of increased shedding. 

Overbathing your German Shepherd can strip needed oils from your dog’s coat, so regular bathing should only occur once every few months. Exceptions can be made for adventures that end with a dirty pup, of course, but consider if a quick rinse will do the job rather than a full bath.

German Shepherd Exercise Needs 

Originally bred to be herding dogs, German Shepherds are high-energy dogs that need daily exercise and play in order to remain physically and mentally healthy. An unexercised dog may gain weight, act out with undesirable behaviors, or become frustrated or bored. 

While puppies may be able to fulfill their exercise requirements entirely inside, daily walks or outside playtime are musts for adult German Shepherds. Both on- and off-leash activities are important for the dog’s development, but off-leash play should only be performed in safe, private areas to avoid danger and distractions. 

For families with small children, remember that German Shepherds must be properly trained and socialized in order to ensure everyone’s safety during play. Children as well should be taught to respect the dog’s body language and communication – the best play is the play everyone enjoys!

German Shepherd Health 

As with most purebred dogs, German Shepherds can have some health concerns in addition to their daily exercise requirements. These health concerns make regular veterinarian appointments a vital part of keeping your German Shepherd healthy and happy. 

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Bloat is a condition in which a dog’s stomach fills with air, food, or liquid and twists dangerously. German Shepherds are among the breeds at higher risk for this life-threatening condition. Symptoms include abdominal swelling, failed attempts to vomit, and signs of pain and restlessness. 

Elbow and hip dysplasia are also common among German Shepherds. Although many dogs with dysplasia can lead long, happy lives, the condition does require treatment and additional veterinarian visits, so owners should be prepared for the time and financial considerations of treating such health concerns. 

Additionally, spaying or neutering your German Shepherd is the safest way to ensure unexpected puppies are not a part of your dog’s life. Many dogs adopted from local shelters will be neutered before adoption, but if your dog is intact talk to your vet to learn what options work best. 

German Shepherd Training Needs

For puppies of any breed, initial training concerns are fairly uniform. Housetraining and socialization are key goals to incorporate as soon as you bring your puppy home and can help your dog develop confidence in herself and her environment. 

A German Shepherd’s high intelligence and inborn desire to work means lifelong, age-appropriate training is a must. There’s very little your German Shepherd is unwilling or unable to learn, so sometimes developing your own training routine can feel overwhelming or confusing. 

For some preliminary guidance, the American Kennel Club offers a training timeline for your German Shepherd puppy from eight weeks to two years old. This article also includes a link to a list of German Shepherd rescue organizations – a wonderful starting place for finding the newest member of your family!

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If training still feels overwhelming, try asking your vet for recommendations for local trainers. The Certification for Professional Dog Trainers directory or The Association of Professional Dog Trainers directory also offers searchable lists of trainers in your area. 

Are German Shepherds Generally Friendly?

Will your dog be interacting with strangers regularly? Do you have other dogs? Understanding how German Shepherds react to others is important in determining if the breed is a good fit for your family. Three common concerns are children, other dogs, and strangers. 

German Shepherds are comfortable around children when well-trained and socialized from a young age. If you have small children, consider adopting a puppy rather than an adult dog with an unknown background. Also, consider the high energy and drive of German Shepherds if your family has young children.

With solid training and socialization, German Shepherds are typically comfortable with other animals in their own families. Some German Shepherds may show predatory or chasing behaviors to small, prey-like animals so strong on- and off-leash training is a must. Neutering can also decrease aggressive behaviors in male dogs. 

As a breed, German Shepherds tend to be aloof with strangers. In itself not problematic, aloofness can warp into distrust or fearfulness if the German Shepherd is not appropriately trained. A German Shepherd may never grow to love strangers, but with training, they can come to accept them.

Are German Shepherds Expensive?

Adopting your new best friend can save you money when acquiring a German Shepherd. Just like any family member, your dog will cost money over their lifetime – food, healthcare, toys, and training can all add up quickly. It’s important to be prepared for what those expenses will likely look like.

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Hepper’s 2022 Price Guide estimates that your German Shepherd will likely cost around $12,000 over the course of their lives. Keeping in mind that German Shepherds can live anywhere from seven to ten years, this averages out to $1200 to $1714.29 yearly or $100 to $143 monthly. 

Some expenses, like food and toys, will likely be steady and predictable over the course of your German Shepherd’s life. Other costs such as healthcare are typically higher when your German Shepherd is very young or very old. 

If you’re concerned about the high cost of maintenance, many rescues operate pet thrift stores where basic needs for your dog can be purchased at a lower cost. Proceeds from these thrift stores support adoption services and pets in need. You’ll save money while making a difference in your community!

Where do I get my German Shepherd?

The best place to adopt any breed of dog is from your local shelter or rescue. Many older adult dogs can be found at shelters, so if you’re interested in a grown companion that’s past its puppy stage, check out your city or county shelter’s website to see adoptable dogs. 

Many rescue organizations specialize in certain breeds. If your heart is set on a German Shepherd, search for GSD rescues nearby – or far away if you’re willing to travel! Rescues can often offer recommendations based on your adoption preferences, so be honest with your wants and needs when applying. 

Regardless of whether you adopt from a shelter or a rescue, you’ll be doing your part in keeping loving animals alive, off the streets, and safe. Adoption also helps decrease animal overpopulation, deters cruel and crowded overbreeding practices, and can even save you money!

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Conclusion

German Shepherds can make a wonderful, furry addition to your family. Proper preparation and research can make the transition smooth and enjoyable – for both humans and canines! Dog ownership, while a fun and joyous privilege, also comes with a great deal of responsibility. 

 Intelligent and hard-working, a well-trained German Shepherd can be a loyal family pet and guardian for an active household with or without children. Do your research and you and your German Shepherd will have years of enjoyment together!