German Shepherd as a Pet: What to Expect, Positives, and Negatives

Assessing the Good and Bad Sides of German Shepherd as a Pet

German Shepherd as a Pet: Advantages :

Exceptionally loving, loyal, easy to train and cares about your feelings. I had a habit of leaving food on the table and going out for hours: My German Shepherd mix guarded it instead of eating it.

Sensitive, gentle, friendly and playful. At some point I got a kitten and my dog went absolutely crazy over it. They would roll on the floor together for hours. The kitten would jump on his tail and get a kick out of scratching him and biting his face, while the German Shepherd would snuggle up and lick him.

Intelligence. Stanley Coren ranks them among the top ten breeds in terms of working intelligence. From my own experience, I would say that they are very easy to train rather than very intelligent.

They are very beautiful and athletic, especially the working lines.

They are instinctively protective and usually sensitive in that regard. I felt safe walking my German Shepherd mix alone at night, even in difficult neighborhoods. The only times he became aggressive towards people was when he sensed that I felt threatened – in which case he could be extremely intimidating. None of my other dogs had such good judgment.

German Shepherd as a Pet: Disadvantages:

They are somewhat nervous: because they are also loyal and protective, they need extensive socialization to ensure they do not endanger people or animals. This could be not adding value and a waste of time. Some shepherds will never be trustworthy with small dogs, which means you should never leave them off-leash in a public place. I knew a well-behaved German Shepherd, owned by very experienced and responsible people, who severely bit a stranger in his territory.

They bark about as much as the average dog, which is too much for many people, so you need to train them to bark less. They also shed their fur and smell bad on average.

Some people are really afraid of them. They may have trouble getting a lease.

They are usually velcro dogs. They don’t want to be alone and when they are awake, they really want to participate in everything you do. If you have to go out often, if you don’t want tennis balls thrown on your lap while watching TV every night, or if you like to shower alone, you shouldn’t get a German Shepherd.

These are pretty active dogs, both mentally and physically. To avoid being miserable, they need about an hour of exercise a day, toys to chew on, and large areas to explore.

Young dogs are too big and too rough to be around small children without frequent intervention.

They have had periods of popularity where unscrupulous breeders have produced lines with unreliable temperaments. Also, some responsible breeders choose much more robust guard dogs, while others aim for a more gentle and friendly animal. Therefore, it will be difficult to find the right breeder.

They are prone to a range of health problems, which are many, in a greater proportion than other similar breeds. Be prepared to spend money on hip surgery. For this reason alone, I would choose a first generation mixed breed if possible, rather than a purebred German Shepherd. You might also consider a Belgian Shepherd, which is very similar but has fewer problems.

Most of these disadvantages cannot be predicted or controlled for a particular dog. There are ways to treat them, but they are expensive. German Shepherds very often end up in shelters because their owners didn’t think or found that they couldn’t handle these problems when they occurred. This is heartbreaking for everyone involved and especially for the dog. You may consider adopting an older dog, as shelters usually choose them carefully and know what problems are likely to occur.

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