Since its first introduction in 1899, German shepherds have gained more and more popularity around the world. They are one of those special dogs that are chosen to serve in the police dog squad, and this is not without a good reason. Recognized worldwide for his remarkable courage, intelligence, loyalty, and devotion, a German shepherd is a dog that anyone would be attracted to and want to bring home to join their family.
If you have been thinking of getting a German shepherd for a while, then you may find yourself asking this question over and over again: “Is a German shepherd a good dog for a first-time owner?” Honestly, the answer is “No!” German shepherds require constant care and upkeep that most novice owners are not prepared to deal with.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you are willing to put the time and effort necessary into raising this wonderful dog, there is no reason why first time owners could not have them. But before you rush and get one, here are a few things that I want you to know about your future shepherd dog.
What You Need to Consider Before Getting a German Shepherd Dog
Although most German shepherds share many same or similar characteristics, they are not all alike. Today, you will find a wide array of German shepherds of all different temperaments (from quiet to very outgoing), energy levels (from highly active to relaxed companions), conformations, and health issues.
In my opinion, understanding a dog’s temperament is probably the single most important thing any aspiring dog owner should do before deciding which dog breed to bring home. You need to mull over what kind of dog’s personality would fit in with you and your family.
If you select a dog with a very different temperament from you, the two of you will clash from time to time, and the relationship will suffer as a result. In the end, you may have to return your dog to the shelter or rescue group, which can be a very disheartening experience for him.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
A hallmark of German shepherd dogs is their unswerving loyalty that is unlike any other dog breed in existence. German shepherds are known as one-person dogs that have and will die for their owners. This is a relationship that you want to have if you are a police officer or work in a related field.
However, if you get your shepherd for a family pet, you will want him to listen to the whole family, not just you. Therefore, if you decide to adopt a German shepherd, you will likely need to spend more time than you would like working on his socialization skills.
Another noticeable character trait of German shepherd dogs, especially those who come from working lines, is they tend to be aloof with strangers. This is a match in heaven for owners who like to be quiet and reserved themselves.
On the other hand, if you are a natural extrovert, you don’t want to bring home a reserved German shepherd puppy; otherwise, you would make him feel uncomfortable all the time. Instead, you’ll want to take home the bolder and more outgoing puppy.
As you can see, before deciding on a puppy, make a list of all things that you want from your German shepherd, then talk to the breeder and ask him or her to help you find a German shepherd puppy that works well with or flatters your own.
What Happens When You Are Not Ready for a German Shepherd
According to some statistics, German shepherds made up the top ten list of the dogs most often found in animal shelters across the United States. At the time of writing this post, I ran a quick search through Petfinder to confirm the statistic and found 6,959 German shepherds available for adoptions. That’s a crazy huge number of abandoned German shepherds!
Most of these dogs wind up in shelters, not because of their fault but more because of the owners who are unprepared and don’t know what to expect from the breed. Most German shepherds that I met at shelters were left fearful and fragile after years of mistreatment.
So once again, I urge you to consider your decision carefully. Don’t just get a German shepherd, so you have a bouncer that will threaten thieves and trespassers. Despite the shepherd’s fierce reputation, it doesn’t work that way.
Do also consider your long-term plans. Dog owners sometimes give up their shepherds if they are getting married, moving abroad, having a baby, moving into a new rental property that doesn’t allow animals, or getting a divorce.
Please consider all of these factors before you consider getting a German shepherd dog and commit to yourself that if one day you have a German shepherd, you will find a way to make things work no matter what the future holds.
What does Every Aspiring First-Time German Shepherd Owner need to Be Prepared For?
To give you an idea of what you are getting into, here are a few things that your future German shepherd will demand from you.
They need plenty of exercises. A German shepherd is a highly active breed that needs to be exercised a lot to release that pent-up energy. If you fail to provide your shepherd with the right amount of exercises, don’t blame them when one day you find a torn-up sheet on your bed or chewed-up shoes.
They need plenty of mental stimulation. Not only his body, but you also need to exercise his mind as well. There are plenty of things that you can do: you can teach him new tricks, get him new puzzle toys, or take him on a road trip.
They need much attention. German shepherds are a type of dog that is attached to their owner. This means you can’t leave them alone all day. What if you have a standard nine-to-five style job? Can you ask someone to spend time with your shepherd while you are at work? Is there a doggy daycare nearby?
They need to be groomed a lot. A German shepherd is a double coat dog. In layman’s terms, this means your dog sheds all year round, as well as blows his coat twice a year. Can you add daily brushing, vacuuming, and a weekly visit to the groomer to your growling list of responsibilities?
They need a big enough space. A German shepherd is a big dog that needs ample space to live. Though your GSD puppy seems small now, he grows very quickly. You may not be fully aware of how large your dog can be until one day he starts to break everything in the house.
They need a lot of money to maintain their health and lifestyle. A German shepherd needs not only time but money as well. While you may be able to afford a German shepherd puppy right now, the cost of owning a dog doesn’t end there. You will also need to have enough money to pay for all the necessities such as a bed, crate, food, toys, vet bills, medicine, insurance, and so on.
Best Dog Breed for First-Time Owner
As an alternative, if you are not ready yet to get a German shepherd, here are 8 best dog breeds for first-time owners according to the American Kennel Club (AKC) (1).
- English Springer Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- Wheaten Terrier