It's easy to see why German shepherds are so popular — just look at the 2017 Westminster Best in Show winner, Rumor. She is gorgeous, regal and those looks are accompanied by a winning personality too. And while it is seriously tempting to rush out and get a GSD of your very own, it is a big commitment that should not be taken lightly.
If you're seriously considering adopting a German shepherd, you should know that there are dog people, and then there are German shepherd dog people. I would be lost without my German shepherd, and she knows it. And while you've probably already done a little research on your own, some advice can only come from an experienced GSD lover. So here are the 10 things you really need to know before adopting a German shepherd.
They are smart
The first thing any prospective German shepherd adopter needs to know is that German shepherds are smart. Very smart. Scary smart. These dogs will have your routine figured out before you do, and they are extremely sensitive to human moods. How smart are German shepherds? Not only do they know what “walk” means, but they can also spell it. Backward. Have a training plan in place before you bring your GSD home, and stick to it. Their high intelligence also comes with an eagerness to please their owners. They want to use their smarts in a constructive way, so have a strategy ready to make that possible. A bored German shepherd is no fun for all parties involved.
They can have high-energy needs
German shepherds are working dogs. There is a reason they are frequently used as military dogs, police dogs and service dogs. They love having a job to do, and your German shepherd is no exception. Be prepared for lots of long walks with your German shepherd and then some. Take them to a large park where they can run at full speed or consider signing them up for agility course classes. Trust me, if you don't give your GSD proper and adequate exercise, they'll start taking their built up energy on your favorite belongings.
They require mental stimulation
Long walks might tire out other breeds, but not the German shepherd. In addition to daily exercise, your new German shepherd will also require some mental stimulation. Obedience classes and dog sports can be especially helpful for rescue shepherds. Classes and training give you a bonding experience that builds trust and helps your dog figure out their place in your household, and it can help you diagnose any behavior problems early on.
They are excellent listeners
Nobody is a better listener than a German shepherd. Once you have a GSD in your life, you will never be lonely again. Those radar ears are always listening for your voice, and watching them tilt their head is sure to get a smile out of you on even the toughest day.
They're cuddle bugs at home but aloof in public
Don’t be surprised if your rescue German shepherd is a total cuddle bug at home but aloof and distant in public. This is trademark GSD behavior and not something to worry about.
German shepherds are natural guard dogs
Without proper socialization, this can sometimes turn into territorial behavior and even aggression toward strangers and other dogs. Adopting an older German shepherd means you don’t know if their previous owner took the time to socialize them. This is a risk potential GSD adopters need to be aware of so they can take the necessary precautions when bringing guests and other dogs onto their property.
They Need a Job
There are very rare cases of German Shepherds that are couch potatoes. But aside from these few, German Shepherds must have a job. If you don’t get them an appropriate one, they will find one you may not like, such as chasing cats, barking at cars and neighbors passing by, or herding the kids. If your Shepherd has some naughty behaviors, training for a sport can help curb them.
Taking Care of Their Joints Is Non-Optional
German Shepherds are known for bad hips, elbows, and knees – pretty much any joint they have. It is almost a certainty that yours will develop arthritis and/or some other type of joint issue as she ages. This means you need to monitor her joints, have her checked early for dysplasia, and be prepared to pay for the maintenance of these issues, which may include surgery. Many veterinarians recommend to begin supplementing with Glucosamine, MSM, and Chondroitin as young as 12 months, or when the dog stops growing.
You Must Test For The MDR1 Gene
The MDR1 Gene is something anyone with any herding breed, including German Shepherd Dogs, MUST know about. The mutant gene causes sensitivity drugs, including the following common health products: flea/tick/worm controls (including the very common ivermectin), sedatives (including acepromazine), antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and pain medications. (Check out this complete list here. It’s updated as they learn more.) Your Shepherd can die from these sensitives, so it is imperative to find out whether or not he has the gene, which is done through testing. Contact Washington State University to find out how to get your German Shepherd Dog tested.