You may have just found the love of your life and are now in the process of adopting a new furry family member. You’re probably anxiously awaiting their arrival to meet them for the first time! One question that might be crossing your mind is, “what should I expect?” Well, I’m here to help answer that question with 19 tips for every first-time German Shepherd owner.
1. Be Sure You’re Ready for The Commitment
A dog is many things. But above all, a dog is a companion. And having a companion means being committed to their needs for the time it takes to raise them from puppy-hood into adulthood and well beyond. A German Shepherd can live up to 15 years old! So be sure you’re ready for that kind of commitment. Make sure you have the time, energy, and resources to make such an investment worthwhile for both you and your new furry friend.
2. Know Your Budget
Don’t get into the dog-adoption process without a firm grasp on how much you can afford to spend. It’s good to have an idea of what you might be able to spend and stick with it. Remember, adopting a German Shepherd doesn’t mean just buying food and toys; there are also vaccination costs, spay/neuter fees, and potentially medical treatment when it comes to dogs with pre-existing conditions.
3. Find Advice From Experienced Owners
Once you decide a German Shepherd is the right breed of dog for you, seek out other first-time owners who already own one or more dogs of this breed. Ask them tons of questions. Find out what their experience has been like and how that can help you be a better owner to your new dog.
4. Plan for Milestones in Puppy Development
Just like human children, German Shepherd puppies go through different developmental stages. Therefore, you will need to adjust the way you interact with your puppy depending on where they are at in their development. For example, when they’re still little:
- You’ll need to socialize them to as many new people, places, and experiences as you can.
- You’ll have to potty train them by taking them outside every hour or so after they’ve eaten, at night when they wake up from a sleep cycle, and shortly after you get them home.
- You’ll have to learn about the puppy fear periods and how to guide them through them properly.
- You will need to train and teach your puppy obedience commands such as sit, stay, down, heel, and come here. Remember to reward good behavior generously.
It all goes by really quickly! But it’s important to be ready for everything that comes with raising a puppy in order to provide the best life possible to our furry friends.
In addition to these general milestones, you should also consider issues that are specific to German Shepherds, such as:
- They have a stronger prey drive than some other breeds of dogs, so you’ll need to find ways to deter them from chasing after smaller animals.
- They should be taught how to control their “protective instinct” towards strangers so that you aren’t constantly worrying about your dog charging at every person who comes near you.
5. Have an Emergency Plan for Puppy Emergencies
When you first bring your German Shepherd puppy home, you’re going to have a wide variety of questions. You might be wondering how much food they should be eating in one sitting or what type of dog shampoo is best. But the most important question you can ask yourself is, “what happens if something goes wrong?” What do I do if my puppy is lost? How do I react if they are in danger on the street or get hurt somehow at my home?
Do some research with your veterinarian, local animal specialist, or search online for different methods of handling potential emergencies. Think about which scenarios could potentially happen and how you would deal with them before they occur. There’s nothing worse than being unsure of how to react in an emergency and having it escalate.
6. Stock Up on Dog Supplies
German Shepherd puppies need a lot of supplies. They need food, bowls to eat and drink from, a collar and leash, bedding for their crate or dog house (if you have one), toys, grooming tools like brushes and nail clippers, shampoo and conditioner for baths, chews in case your pup gets into something they shouldn’t…the list goes on and on.
7. Choose the Right Dog Food
Make sure you choose food that’s right for your German Shepherd puppy. Puppies go through rapid growth spurts, which means their nutritional needs change depending on what stage of life they are in at the moment. Make sure to ask your veterinarian or do some research online ahead of time so that you’re choosing a formula that suits your puppy.
8. Follow The Right Feeding Guide
Just like with food, you’ll need to adjust your German Shepherd puppy’s feeding schedule depending on their age and where they’re at in their development. When I was first starting out with my puppies, I followed the instructions on the back of the dog food bag as most people do. But once I got some experience under my belt, I started following a more advanced feeding schedule that focused on the individual development of my puppies. (You can learn more about this here: German Shepherd Feeding Guide: Nutritional Needs, How Much & How Often)
9. Be Prepared For a Messy First Few Months
German Shepherds are notorious for being messy when eating. They tend to be “sloppy” eaters, which means that food will get stuck in your dog’s hair and around their face while they eat. This will require extra cleanup work throughout the first several months. Keep a small towel on hand so you can wipe off any dried food or dirt whenever it gets too messy to handle.
10. Do a Puppy Development Checkup
The first time you bring your German Shepherd puppy home, it’s important to do a little physical evaluation of the dog as well. This way, if anything seems wrong with their development right off the bat, you can get them medical attention quickly and safely.
11. Puppy-Proof Your House
A puppy’s sense of exploration and curiosity is going to lead them to some areas of your home that can be dangerous to them. Things like electrical cords, breakable items on shelves, and other fragile/sharp objects should be placed out of reach under a table or behind doors. If your home has staircases with banisters, they should have an area blocked off so that the puppy can’t slip through the spacing between the railings. Consider installing gates to keep them out of dangerous areas.
12. Train Consistently
Training should be done in short sessions throughout the day rather than a few long ones at one time so that your puppy doesn’t become overwhelmed or feel too stressed to retain what you’re teaching them. Consistency is key when training German Shepherds because they need to know exactly what’s expected of them at all times. For puppies, obedience and crate training are two of the most important things to get down right away. If you don’t have time to train your dog yourself, consider attending obedience classes.
13. Exercise is Essential
Just like with any pet, exercise is essential for German Shepherds. They need daily walks or playtime in order to stay healthy and stimulated. Without exercise, they will get bored, which can lead to negative behavior like chewing on items around the house not meant for chewing or digging at your carpet.
14. Find a Veterinarian You Trust
If your puppy ever becomes injured or sick, you want to know that they’re going to receive the best care possible. Ask around at a few different veterinarian offices in your area and schedule an appointment to have your dog examined by each one. Afterward, choose one whose office staff is friendly and seems knowledgeable about how their practice works with German Shepherds.
If you just bring your German Shepherd puppy home, the first thing that you need to do is make sure that they’re properly vaccinated. It’s common for puppies to have health issues at first because their immune systems haven’t been stabilized yet, but a proper vaccination schedule should help with this.
15. Be Patient with Your Puppy
Puppies aren’t going to know what you want from them right away. They haven’t lived enough in the world to understand how humans work fully, so be sure not to get frustrated or angry if they don’t learn something as quickly as you would like.
Try to be kind and patient with them as they grow, because the person you’re now is completely different from how you were when you first learned everything yourself.
16. Prepare for Behavior Problems
Just because your puppy was well-behaved at the breeder doesn’t mean that they will be when they come home with you. Puppies are like toddlers who haven’t yet been taught how to behave properly –their curiosity and playfulness lead them to do things they shouldn’t. Know that you will run into behavior problems and be prepared to deal with them.
17. Prepare for Health Problems
Just like with behavior problems, health problems are something you should be prepared for. Puppies tend to get sick and injured easily because their immune system isn’t fully developed. Watch for any changes in behavior, like not wanting to eat or a change in energy levels, which could be caused by something as simple as an ear infection or something more serious.
In addition, there are certain health problems that can be passed down from generation to generation in a German Shepherd breed. Though German Shepherds, on average, live a long life of around 10-13 years, there are a few genetic disorders that can shorten their life expectancy, like hip dysplasia.
18. Find Convenient Ways to Groom Them
German Shepherds require regular brushing and combing to keep their thick coats clean and looking sharp. Brushing them out yourself every week or so will make the process much easier than if you wait until they are covered in knots and mats, which will take much more work to detangle.
Furthermore, German Shepherds shed their undercoats once or twice a year. During shedding sessions, be prepared to groom and vacuum more frequently, as you’ll be covered in dog hair on a regular basis during these times.
19. Don’t Stress Out Too Much!
A new puppy can be a lot to handle at times. After all, it’s not just them who have things to learn—it’s you, too. It’s best to be prepared for the things that are going to come, but try not to stress out about it. There’s plenty of time in your life to learn how to handle everything a German Shepherd puppy brings with them!