You’ve watched the police dog demos at the fair. Your friends own one and you love the way he tolerates your kids. Perhaps you’ve even seen a highly trained Shepherd tend his sheep. Maybe it’s as simple as seeing the movie Finding Rin Tin Tin (2007). Whatever it was, you’ve taken that first step – you’re pretty sure you want a German Shepherd to join your family.
A German Shepherd can make a wonderful pet, but they can also be a handful if you aren’t prepared. So before you go and pick up one of those floppy-eared puppies or rescue one from the shelter, ask yourself the following questions.
#1 – Do I Have The Room?
German Shepherds are a bigger breed, so you want to make sure you have room for them. It’s something people don’t think about, but it can really impact your life. Do you have room for their crate in your house? How about in your car? If you live in an apartment do you have enough room for him to walk around without constantly breaking things with his tail? If not, you may want to get a smaller breed that will “fit” better in your home.
#2 – Can I Provide Enough Exercise?
As a herding breed, German Shepherds need a lot of exercise. If you don’t give them enough, they will find a way to release that pent-up energy and you probably won’t be happy. Common ways include: Barking, herding the kids, chewing on things, digging, and frantic pacing. Be sure you are willing to commit to some semi-strenuous exercise daily before picking out your pup. Of course, if you adopt an older Shepherd, you may be able to get away with less exercise, but be sure to check with the shelter or foster parents. Some shepherds are very active into their senior years.
#3 – Am I Willing To Train Him?
Along with physical exercise, a German Shepherd needs to exercise that smart brain. This means, at the very least, basic training. Shepherds thrive on training, however, and many would be happiest in advanced classes such as competition obedience, rally, agility, and/or herding. Shepherds competing in these sports tend to be better behaved house pets because they are getting enough mental and physical exercise to satisfy their needs.
#4 – Am I Ready To Socialize Him?
German Shepherds can be the best family dogs you will ever have. They can also become a reactive nightmare. To help ensure your Shepherd is the former, you need to be dedicated to socializing him correctly. This is a time consuming job that requires you taking your puppy on outings, to puppy class, to meet other people/dogs/animals, and above all, making sure each outing is a positive experience. Even if you adopt, you may have to do this with an older dog who may not have been socialized correctly. In that case, you will have an even harder job because your German Shepherd had past negative experiences that you will have to work through.
#5 – How Often Am I Away From Home?
German Shepherd Dogs are not an aloof breed with their family. They become very closely bonded to them. It’s one of the reasons they excel at military and police work – they will do anything for their people. This also means that if you are gone a lot, your German Shepherd will be very lonely and may even develop separation anxiety. They are not a breed that likes to be left alone, so if you have a job that includes lots of travel and/or long hours every day, another breed of dog may be a better fit.