German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds and for good reason. They are intelligent, loyal, and protective companions. However, with their popularity comes the question – are German Shepherds good options for first time dog owners?
Here’s a quick answer: German Shepherds can be good first dogs for new owners who are prepared to train, exercise and socialize them. Their intelligence and activity levels require commitment and responsibility. Research and evaluate if you can provide the time, effort and environment needed before getting a German Shepherd as a first time owner.
Background on German Shepherds
The German Shepherd breed originated in Germany in the late 1800s. Originally bred as herding dogs, they were later utilized by the German military and police force. Their intelligence and trainability made them excellent working dogs.
Today, German Shepherds are popular as family pets, show dogs, service dogs, and canine actors. However, they are large dogs that require a lot of time and effort on the part of the owner. Thus, some key factors should be considered before bringing one home.
Factors to Consider for First Time Owners
Here are some important things to think about if you’re a first time dog owner considering a German Shepherd:
Training and Socialization Needs
- Require extensive obedience training and socialization
- Highly intelligent and need mental stimulation
- Boredom can lead to destructive behavior like chewing and digging
- Benefit from activities like agility, tracking, etc.
- Need 45-60 minutes of exercise per day
- High energy level compared to some breeds
- Enjoy activities like running, hiking, playing fetch
- Lack of exercise can lead to behavior issues
- Shed heavily year round
- Require frequent brushing and vacuuming of home
- Occasional bathing and nail trimming needed
- Moderate shedders compared to heavy shedding breeds
Potential Health Issues
- Prone to orthopedic issues like hip and elbow dysplasia
- May develop digestive issues or allergies
- Lifespan of 10-14 years on average
- Large breed dogs prone to bloat
Size, Strength and Mouthing
- Males 24-26 inches, 70-90 lbs; females 22-24 inches, 50-70 lbs
- Very strong and muscular dogs
- Mouthing/nipping during teething and play must be curtailed
- Can unintentionally knock over children due to large size
Are German Shepherds Good for First Time Owners?
Whether German Shepherds are good options for first time dog owners depends on your lifestyle and commitment to the breed’s needs.
German Shepherds can be great companions for new owners who have the time to commit to training, exercise and socialization. First time owners with yards rather than apartments are better equipped to handle this active breed’s space requirements.
Those experienced with large breeds who are aware of the grooming and shedding involved can also make good first time German Shepherd owners. New owners who have the financial resources to provide quality food, veterinary care and supplies can ensure their Shepherd is properly cared for.
At the same time, German Shepherds may not be the best fit for first time owners who are regularly away from home for long hours. Their high activity needs also make them less suited for new owners unable to exercise them regularly.
First time owners with small children at home or those looking for low maintenance dogs might want to consider other breeds before getting a German Shepherd. Without proper training, their intelligence and strength can become challenging for inexperienced owners to handle.
While German Shepherds can be wonderful dogs, they do need dedicated owners who are prepared for the responsibility. Extensive research and careful consideration should be made before any first time owner brings one of these dogs home.
When provided with the proper care, training and environment, German Shepherds can make excellent four-legged family members for even first time dog owners. Those willing to put in the effort will find their hard work rewarded with a loyal companion.
Tips for First Time German Shepherd Owners
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided a German Shepherd is the right dog for you, here are some tips for first time owners:
- Enroll in obedience training – This builds an important foundation and prevents problem behaviors.
- Socialize your puppy – Introduce them safely to new places, people, and animals.
- Childproof your home – Hide shoes, secure trash cans, and put away any items they could choke on.
- Keep treats handy for positive reinforcement training. High value treats like chicken will motivate them best.
- Establish a routine – Take them outside to go potty at regular intervals to promote housetraining.
- Make sure they get adequate daily exercise to avoid destructive behavior.
- Brush frequently – Daily brushing will help control shedding. Invest in a good vacuum.
- Stay patient – They’re highly intelligent so housebreaking and commands will take repetition and consistency.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much space do German Shepherds need?
German Shepherds need room to move! A house with a securely fenced yard is ideal. Apartment living is challenging but possible with a committed owner.
What health issues do German Shepherds have?
Orthopedic problems like hip dysplasia are common. Digestive issues, allergies, and neurologic disorders can also occur. Research health clearances and buy from a reputable breeder.
Do German Shepherds do well with kids?
Socialized German Shepherds can do great with kids! Supervise all interactions and teach kids how to properly interact. Their herding instinct can lead them to nip at heels.
Are German Shepherds easy to train?
German Shepherds are highly intelligent and take well to training. However, they have a mind of their own so training takes patience and consistency. Formal training is strongly recommended.
How expensive is it to own a German Shepherd?
German Shepherds have high upfront costs for purchase/adoption fees and supplies. Annual costs for food, vet care, training, etc can range from $1500-3000. Health issues can increase costs.
German Shepherds are exceptional dogs but they require a lot of time, effort and commitment. For the right owner, they make phenomenal companions and lifetime family members. They thrive when properly exercised, stimulated and socialized.
If you’re able to provide this and are prepared for the responsibility, a German Shepherd can be a good first dog. Do your research to make sure you pick the right breed for your lifestyle!