Think of one of the most hardworking, intelligent dog breeds out there. Not only is this month’s highlighted hound the second most popular dog in the United States, but it is also the second most popular pooch right here in the state of Florida! You will never guess where this breed originates from! Despite its major popularity in the United States, this breed actually hails all the way from Germany. So, sit back and relax as we share everything you need to know, including some fun facts, about the German Shepherd.
What are German Shepherd’s basic characteristics?
German Shepherds possess a certain nobility, not only in their temperament but also in their looks. Some may think they appear standoffish; however, that may be due to their very rigid and chiseled physique. German Shepherds have a broad head with a long muzzle and unmistakably almond-shaped, intelligent eyes. They have large ears that are floppy as puppies but stand erect as adults. Their sturdy, muscular bodies weigh anywhere from 75-95 pounds and stand around 2 feet tall at the shoulder. Males are usually 24-26 inches, while females are slightly shorter, measuring around 22-24 inches.
German Shepherds have a noticeably bushy tail and a thick, double fur coat that is usually a medium length, but there are some German Shepherds that are longhaired. When most people think about a German Shepherd, they picture the breed with the most common black and tan or sable coloring. However, what most people are unaware of is this breed can be one of eleven colors!
These colors can include the previously mentioned colors as well as black, white, liver, blue, gray, black and silver, black and red, black and cream, and even bi-color. Regardless of what color their coat may be, all German Shepherds will have a distinct black nose. Pet parents interested in showing their German Shepherds should note that the AKC does not recognize the white coat and those dogs are disqualified for showing.
What about a German Shepherd’s temperament?
Many people believe German Shepherds are aloof. Don’t let their fierce appearance fool you, German Shepherds can be very friendly. Yes, it is true that German Shepherds have a watchful eye and a powerful drive to protect, but their personalities are much more than that. Early socialization will help to expose your German Shepherd to different people, animals, and situations and therefore help them to adjust to these situations as they grow. German Shepherds crave interaction and involvement, so be sure to give them a lot of love and affection and include them in family outings when you can.
If you have kids, German Shepherds make wonderful companions for them. This breed is a combination babysitter and police officer all in one! They will watch and protect your children, and if socialized correctly, will love to play games all while maintaining a gentle disposition. The important thing is to remember never to leave your dog unattended around children and to make sure you provide proper training for your pup and appropriate interaction with your children.
How much exercise does your GSD companion need?
German Shepherds are built to move; after all they were bred to herd sheep all day. With volcanic energy, pet parents need to make sure that their pups get plenty of exercise.
This is a great breed to take out for a run or walk, or even to play fetch in the backyard. Dog parks are another great option to help your German Shepherd let that energy loose and play with other dogs at the same time.
A German Shepherd who doesn’t get enough exercise will ultimately become bored and may resort to destructive behavior such as digging and chewing.
Since they do like to put their powerful jaws to good use, consider getting your German Shepherd a few good chew toys that they can self-entertain with when you can’t play with them.
German Shepherds need to be mentally active as much as they are physically active. Training is an excellent way to keep a German Shepherd’s mind sharp, and since they are so intelligent, they thrive off learning new skills.
One thing to consider is to begin obedience training at a young age, which will not only help with obvious training skills, but it will also help to socialize your pup from the start.
Pet parents may want to think about enrolling their dog into an agility type class or obedience competitions as their German Shepherd continues to grow to help keep their mind and body active.
All that high energy and exercising needs to be met with a high-quality, nutritious diet. While German Shepherds don’t require a specific type of diet, it all comes down to preference.
Some pet parents swear by raw diets while others provide dry or wet dog food. Be sure to consult with your vet about which diet is best for your dog.
Regardless of what is being fed, the most important thing is for owners to make sure they are feeding their dogs the correct amount in order to keep their German Shepherds at a healthy weight.
It is very important to take the exercise needs of this breed very seriously. If you find yourself working long hours during the day or don’t have time to dedicate daily for your German Shepherd’s exercise, or if you dread that destructive behavior rearing its ugly head, consider hiring a pet sitter to help ease your mind by playing with your dog when you are unavailable.
Do German Shepherds need to be groomed?
They don’t call them “German Shedders” for nothing! If you are considering adding a German Shepherd to your home, you may also want to invest in a reliable vacuum. German Shepherds have a thick double coat, which means there is an insulated undercoat to help protect the breed in harsh, cold temperatures, as well as a wiry guard coat, which helps protect the dog from water and dirt.
The good news is this beautiful coat doesn’t necessarily need to be washed very often; however, it does need to be brushed. Pet parents can expect to brush their German Shepherds quite often, daily would be ideal, but if not daily then definitely 2-3 times per week to help keep that coat looking lustrous.
Additionally, pet parents need to be considerate of other grooming needs. This could include trimming nails, checking and cleaning ears on a weekly basis, and checking those pearly whites. German Shepherds love to chew so to help keep their teeth clean, you can try brushing their teeth or try giving them a dental toy to help prevent plaque and buildup from forming on their teeth.
Vet and Medical Care for Your GSD Companion
The average lifespan of a German Shepherd is about 12 years. Although they may seem invincible, German Shepherds are prone to a few health-related conditions, many that are inherited, that are important for pet parents to be aware of.
One of the major health concerns is dysplasia. This can rear its ugly head in either the hip or the elbow. Hip Dysplasia is when the femur doesn’t fit properly into the pelvic socket and Elbow Dysplasia occurs when the elbow bones have different growth rates which results in joint laxity. Both conditions are usually inherited and can cause pain and lameness. Some vets can prescribe medication to help control the pain and sometimes surgery is an option.
Another serious health issue is Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, or more commonly known as bloat. This condition can occur when dogs eat one large meal a day, consume copious amounts of water, eat too quickly, or take part in strenuous exercise post-meal. Doing these things can cause the stomach to swell with gas and ultimately twist. This is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Another medical concern to be aware of that extremely common German Shepherds is a genetic disease known as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. This disease makes it so the dog cannot digest food. It is typically diagnosed by a blood test and medication can be provided by a vet.
Finally, much less life-threatening but still something that pet parents want to be on the lookout for when it comes to their German Shepherd’s health is allergies. Allergies can include anything from food to contact and can usually be treated with the assistance of a vet.
It is always a good idea to have a discussion with your vet about any health concerns you may have regarding your pet. Remember to stay up to date with routine vet care and be in tune with your pet and their behavior.
If something seems “off” with your pet, make sure you seek veterinary assistance to help treat conditions to prevent them from getting worse. It is no secret that vet bills can escalate quickly, especially when it comes to an emergency or surgery. It is never a bad idea to consider getting your fur baby pet insurance to assist in paying those vet costs.
Jobs to Keep Your German Shepherd Busy
It is no secret that a German Shepherd is a jack of all trades. They are trained and used in various professional fields and work just as hard, if not harder, as their human partners. Besides being herders, these dogs use their intellect and protective instinct to assist police, military, and search and rescue units. In fact, Cocoa Police Department’s had three of their officers, K9 Bear, K9 Kyra, and K9 Kable, featured on A&E’s America’s Top Dog, which aired on January 15, 2020.
Not only are these courageous dogs crime fighters, but they also help the blind to see. German Shepherds were the very first breed to be trained as seeing-eye dogs and have helped pave the way to building animal-assisted jobs to dogs worldwide. From war dogs to movie stars (we’re looking at you Rin Tin Tin) these dogs have certainly proven they can do it all!
Bringing a German Shepherd Home
Potential pet parents really need to take into deep consideration all these attributes before getting a German Shepherd. If one or more of these features do not coincide with your current lifestyle, please choose a different breed.
Buying a German Shepherd from a reputable breeder can set you back anywhere from $500 and up.
However, please keep in mind the Adopt, Don’t Shop option! Many purebred animals end up in shelters every single day for reasons that are usually out of their own control. If you are looking to add a German Shephard rescue to your family, check out Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue Inc. They are a 501c3 rescue organization that has been around since early 2008.
As always, Space Coast Pet Services is available for all of your fur baby needs, including dog sitters, walkers, and even home visits. Contact us or visit our website today for a full list of services.
So tell us in the comments, do you have a German Shepherd Dog? Did you learn anything new about this breed from this article? We’d love to hear from you!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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