German Shepherd Puppy Running

Getting to Know Your German Shepherd

German Shepherds are smart, loyal, and hard working. They also make great companions and can fit in well with a family. Of course, owning a dog is a real responsibility and the German Shepherd comes with his own unique needs.

Learn more about this exceptional breed in this guide so you can make sure it’s the right dog for you and you are ready to take on the responsibility.

Physical Characteristics

German Shepherds are a large breed that will weigh somewhere between 75 and 95 pounds by the time they are full grown. They usually grow to somewhere around 2 feet tall at the shoulders by the time they reach adulthood.

German Shepherd Look

They have a sleek and muscular build that’s full of power and speed. His fur is medium length and very thick. There is a wide variety of coloration but the most common is black on his back, top of the tail, and black markings on the snout and face, tan/golden markings along the legs and neck, and white or grey along the chest, stomach and bottom of the tail.

Personality and Temperament

German Shepherds were originally bred to be herding dogs (hence the name “shepherd”). However, they are now more often thought of as guard dogs. Whatever your thoughts on a German Shepherd are, they are very gentle and loving dog with their family.

With new people and animals, they tend to be much more reserved and cautious as they try to assess whether or not the new face poses a threat. They will not be quick to aggression, however, unless they perceive an actual threat.

And once your German Shepherd knows he can trust you, he will become one of the most loyal friends you’ve ever had.

German Shepherd Puppy Chasing a Ball

This also an extremely smart breed that’s eager to serve and please their family. But in return, he needs plenty of attention and companionship so that he feels loved and appreciated.

Common Health Issues

This is a strong, healthy breed but, of course, it’s not completely free from health risks. Some of the more common problems you’ll be likely to find in a German Shepherd include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: this affects a lot of breeds. It’s genetic so you should be able to know if they have it fairly early on. The condition causes the thigh bone to fit incorrectly into the hip joint. This leads to pain and difficulty moving. If you notice limping, difficulty sitting down or getting up, or tenderness around the hip joints, you should take your German Shepherd to the vet.
  • Bloat: when large breeds eat too fast and then are too active shortly after, they are at risk for this potentially fatal condition. The stomach fills with gas and then gets twisted so that the gas gets trapped. Symptoms include bloated abdomen, attempting to vomit without success, and lethargy. If you notice these, take your dog to the vet immediately for treatment.
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: this is a genetic condition in which the pancreas is unable to produce the enzymes your dog’s body needs to digest food. As a consequence, they cannot absorb the nutrients from the food or even breakdown the food properly. It can be fatal if untreated but, luckily, it is very treatable. Once diagnosed, your vet will give you pancreatic enzymes that are simply added to his food. These enzymes will do the digesting for him. Symptoms to watch for include gassiness, weight loss, loss of appetite and changes to his stool.

Cute German Shepherd Puppy Eyes

Basic Care Instructions

Caring for a German Shepherd is an important responsibility. Here are the basic guidelines for how to provide him with a happy and healthy life:

  1. Feed your German Shepherd 3 to 4 cups of dry food per day, depending on activity level. Divide this into at least 2 separate meals.
  2. They do need a lot of exercise. Your German Shepherd should get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day but more is better. They love to run around. And if left too long without exercise, they prone to start becoming destructive.
  3. German Shepherds do tend to bark a lot so you’ll want to make sure you teach him the “Quiet” command early on to control his barking.
  4. In addition to barking, they do shed. A lot! Ultimately, you’re just going to have to accept that your home and clothes are going to have dog fur on them. But you can minimize the problem with daily brushing.
  5. Bathing is generally not necessary unless he roles in something particularly stinky. And if you do bathe him too much, his coat will lose its natural oils turning it into a dry, dull, and damaged coat. So, be conservative with the baths.

German Shpeherd Jumping Over Obstacle

German Shepherds are both smart and eager to learn, making it one of the easiest breeds to train. So focus on making training sessions fun and rewarding experiences for both of you. Positive reinforcement is highly effective because they already want to learn how to please you.

Final Word

While they do need a lot of exercise and attention, we feel the reward of having this loyal and loving friend with you is well worth the responsibilities. Plus, their need for exercise is a great way to encourage you to be more active. And giving your dog plenty of attention and affection is a great bonding experience.

This is definitely one of the best breeds you will find. It’s no surprise they are such a popular breed in the United States. But because of their popularity, it’s very important to get yours from a rescue shelter or thoroughly vet your breeder before you agree to buy a German Shepherd from them.

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