I have always had a thing for German Shepherds. Though I loved my Siberian Husky, and yes, Nanook and the Huskies are one of my favorite breeds, GSDs (as they are called) are most certainly at the top of my breed list for best dogs EVER!
Back in April, when the pandemic started, my husband and I bought Dorian from a sweet family in Milledgeville, Georgia. He was 8 weeks old and 10 pounds.
Now he is 6 months old and 70+ pounds (and growing.)
I have to admit, he is my first puppy. I’ve always acquired or adopted older dogs, or at least young adults.
Here are some things I have learned from owning a German Shepherd:
They are adorable puppies! Big puppies, but really, really cute. Their fur is so, so soft and they bond really quickly. That was something I was looking for. Of course, they look nothing like their adult versions.
They grow really, really fast. And they love to chew everything they see! Thank goodness I splurged on some heavy duty chew toys early on. They came in handy! Always offer the toy over your hand. That is a really bad habit (chewing & mouthing hands) that is really hard to break. I was big on no mouthing, Tim let him mouth. We are still working on it! Plus, they have little needle teeth as babies.
They are quick to train. We had this guy potty trained in 2 days and he learned to sit, lay down and stay in 30 minutes. Super smart! Take advantage of this time to train quickly. We rarely had any accidents.
Leash training should be consistent and started early. We have not had the best luck with it. Again, I use a leash, my husband prefers not to. I think consistency is key.Tim and I just have different philosophies when it comes to the dog. (Can you imagien if we had a baby together?!)
5. I know people say raw hide and pig ears are not the best for dogs due to the issues they can cause with their insides… but I have to admit, sometimes a good pig ear calmed my little guy down. He was busy eating every stick he could find, I thought the ears would be better. He may have eaten 4 in his entire 6 months, but it definitely saved me a ton of time and kept him calm.
The Kong really is a great way to keep them calm and busy when you are trying to get them to adjust to being in their kennel. I would scoop kibble into his kong, top it with a plug of peanut butter and freeze it. It would take him about 30 minutes to work through it, but it was an awesome tool to use. Especially when he had such anxiety about me going to work.
Don’t sweat the ear issue. I was under the impression you had to pin a shepherd’s ears to get them to stand up and thank goodness I took the time to do the research. The ears you see above naturally do that. Basically, while their teeth are coming in, they are beginning to build cartilage. Around 4 – 6 months, all of their adult teeth are in and their ears will now receive the rest of the cartilage and they will stand up on their own! You do have to get used to this milk maid look for a while!
Exercise is critical! We try to let our little guy run outside as much as possible. If it is raining or too hot to go outside, we simply throw the ball inside and he runs from one end of the house to the other playing fetch. WHICH, btw, I did not have to train him to do. He literally knew what was needed. Amazing breed! Just this month we are learning to catch the ball and he is, again, outstanding at any thing he learns. It reminds me of those natural athletes. They just know!
Water has not been a problem with this breed. My little guy loves running through his splash pad or jumping in the tub after we have taken a bath. And baths are a piece of cake! I can’t wait to take him to the beach and see his reaction!
His growth has been very, very fast. At 5 months he was 68 pounds, and he is still growing. We started off with a large kennel inside, but ended up at 5 months purchasing the largest size we could find for indoors. He is a big boy and making sure he is comfortable is key!
When it comes to health, I have noticed he needs a lot of water and he has very sensitive skin. I make sure he stays hydrated and cool in this South Georgia Summer heat and I am now washing his bedding and blanket with no-perfume or dye detergent. He ended up with a terrible rash all over his belly and spent a week or so on antibiotics and steroids. He recovered just fine, but it is something to look out for. Also, people food. Let’s be honest, we all hand over the scraps from time to time, but apparently GSDs have super sensitive tummies. He will get a bout of diarrhea quick!
A lot of time people ask me what I feed him. He is growing up so healthy and his coat is shiny and soft. We feed him Diamond Naturals Large Puppy Breed food. Our vet suggested we do this until he is one. We have also decided to neuter him when he turns one also. (Another suggestion from the vet.)
13. We do use a monthly heart worm preventative (Interceptor,) and we use a 3 month flea & tick protection internal prevention (Bravecto.)
14. His paws can cause serious injury – I have so many scratches all over my body. You will have to file and get his nails trimmed often.
15. Be careful when purchasing chew toys and stuffed animals. Once, while we were driving, he vomited in the car and out came tree bark and half of a stuffed animal. These guys will eat anything. Only purchase super hardy items.
16. They are known as velcro dogs and will follow you everywhere – including the bathroom.
17. They are very loyal, so make sure to show them plenty of attention. However, make sure you socialize them with children and other dogs early on. Our dog will bark if you come to the door like he is going to kill, but once you come in, he will lick you to death.
18. Finally, the jumping and mouthing can be a lot. They are, no doubt, a handful.
At the end of the day – KNOW what you are getting. They are a LOT. You need to be strong, be consistent and patient.
Follow the blogs that are specifically about GSDs. Make sure to read up on the forums with the Kennel Club, and ask your vet.