Acquired: Rescue / shelter organization,
Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Training: Previous owner, I haven't learned care / training techniques, Attended conferences / shows, Books, Friends
Texas, United States
Posted January 24, 2013
Throughout my extensive volunteer work and job as a kennel attendant at an animal hospital, I have had plenty of experience with German shepherds, both good and bad. I personally love the breed and have always admired them, but there are many factors you must consider before jumping into buying that cute puppy with the big ears.
They are VERY intelligent! They have a great capacity for in-depth training and can be a wonderful asset if trained properly and early. (you may know that they are generally the go-to breed for service dogs...military, police, and medical companions)
They are very loyal and protective. GREAT watchdogs/guard dogs!
They are very affectionate and playful.
They are very energetic, perfect for those with active lifestyles.
Can be very gentle and protective of small children (I have seen both sides of this trait though).
Beautiful animals with a couple of coat colors, coming both in long and short hair. (I have seen an all-white German shepherd before, but that's not the norm)
SHEDDING! If you don't like daily brushing and frequent bathing of your pet, this is not the dog for you! Not to mention if you particularly mind having dog hair all over everything you own.
Prone to hip and joint dysplasia, cancer, ARTHRITIS, bloat (must be cautious of how fast and soon they eat before exercise), and eye problems.
Very attached to owners and can suffer from separation anxiety and can cause issues if need to board or have friends look after dog while you are away. (I've had a man have to come pick his dog up from the kennel just 15 mins after leaving because the dog would not come in from the outside run and was exhibiting aggressive behaviors. The moment his owner stepped outside the dog ran to him and gave him lots of kisses. Dog would not allow anyone else to care for him.)
Some have trouble with excessive barking.
TRAINING! If you don't consistently and properly train your dog early or at all, shepherds can be absolutely unmanageable! (At the kennel there were two shepherds who were siblings that would come in and destroy their whole kennel, jump on the employees, urinate all over each other, chew the fences, run away from owners, fight with each other, etc. This is an example of an owner who didn't train his animals and everyone suffered the consequences.) These dogs are TOO BIG to not be trained!
German shepherds are known for their "crankiness" when aging. The older the animal gets, often the less patience they have for small children or anything that annoys them. I have seen these dogs snap often when they are rather elderly.
These dogs are also well known in the veterinary community for having neurological issues. Some may call them "quirky" and others may call them neurotic. The personality of every dog is different, but I have seen many shepherds in my day that were clearly neurotic (this can be a bigger issue with purebreds).
Overall, German Shepherds are beautiful, intelligent, loyal, energetic, playful, affectionate, and protective dogs who will lay their life down for you and your family. They are a perfect breed for use of service dogs due to their intelligence and trainability. These dogs are prone to lots of health issues, especially with age, but these are common with large dogs.
Bottom line: if you are not willing to put in a lot of work training and caring for your pet and prefer something more low-maintenance, these are not the dogs for you.