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German shepherd dogs are famous for their intelligence, athletic abilities, and dedication to their family. Their mental and physical capabilities have made the breed the most popular police dog in the world. They are also among the most popular breeds for dog owners, who are drawn to the German shepherd’s handsome appearance, guarding ability, and acute intellect.
If you have decided to get a German shepherd, congratulations! You will be getting a faithful and loving companion who will be by your side for many years. However, you should be aware that not all households can accommodate a German shepherd. Before getting one, you need to be sure that you are able to provide the care that this dog needs. Furthermore, there are common problems that you should be aware of. Rampant breeding has resulted in some German shepherds that suffer from hereditary diseases.
While owning a German shepherd is a very rewarding experience, buying a puppy is something that you should do with a great deal of care to ensure that you and your dog have a wonderful life together. Read this article to discover what you should know about choosing and caring for a German shepherd puppy.
Is a German shepherd the right dog for you?
While many people would love to own a German shepherd, it is a very demanding breed. Being highly intelligent, they must have something to occupy their active minds, otherwise they can become destructive and neurotic. They are very active and require a lot of exercise in order to burn off all their energy. Do you have a large yard where they can exercise? If you do, a walk or two a day may be sufficient exercise, but if you don’t, you will have to exercise a German shepherd several times a day. Being a high-energy dog, it is more suitable for people who lead active lifestyles and engage in bicycling, running, swimming, and other activities.
This is not a dog that is happy away from its owner. A highly social animal, German shepherds thrive on companionship and don’t like being left alone for long periods. If you are planning to keep the dog in a backyard by itself for most of the day, a German shepherd is not the dog for you. Furthermore, German shepherds shed a lot all year round, so you should be ready to deal with plenty of dog fur in your house. As a large breed, feeding and caring for the dog will be an expensive proposition. The fact they live long lives and can suffer from health problems, particularly later in life, means that you may also have to face hefty veterinary bills.
The German shepherd is not the ideal dog for first-time owners. As a working dog with powerful guarding instincts, German shepherds need an assertive, knowledgeable owner who can teach the dog to be obedient and docile. Without proper training and socialization, German shepherds can become unruly, possessive, and aggressive. German shepherd puppies love to chew, so you have to be prepared to teach proper manners early on (and also bid some of your favorite footwear goodbye). They also tend to be very vocal, so they are not suitable for those who like their peace and quiet.
Where to buy a German shepherd
If you have decided that a German shepherd is for you, the next step is to decide where to get a dog from. Should you buy from a breeder or get a rescue dog?
The young German shepherds that you find at an animal shelter will be around six months to a year old and may be perfectly sociable, loving dogs. Being older, they are already house-trained and will be calmer than a rambunctious puppy. It is much cheaper to adopt a dog rather than buy one from a specialist breeder. More importantly, you may be saving the life of a dog as many rescues have to be euthanized. However, the rescue dog may have inherited health problems, and there is a real possibility that it was a problem dog that its owners were unable to deal with.
If you are buying from a breeder, make sure that you get a dog from an ethical one who obviously devotes a lot of time to the care and wellbeing of the dogs. An ethical breeder will want to question you thoroughly to ensure that you are able to meet the needs of a German shepherd. You, in turn, should check that the breeder is genuinely committed and not just in the business for money.
A conscientious breeder will be happy to answer your questions and show you around the place. It is preferable to buy from a person who only breeds German shepherds as opposed to someone who has several different breeds. A dedicated breeder will be able to take better care of his dogs.
Overbreeding has led to some sickly German shepherds, so make sure that you see the parents and verify that they are in good health. You should be able to see medical paperwork that shows that the puppy’s parents have been checked for health disorders, particularly hip and elbow problems. You should also be able to see the litter’s family tree and paperwork showing the age of the parents. Responsible breeders make sure that the dam is at least two years of age before breeding.
It may be tempting to buy from a pet shop. However, you will not be able to see the parents and check on their health. Furthermore, the parents’ behavior has considerable influence on the puppy’s personality, so you should ideally verify that both parents are active, well-behaved dogs that are properly socialized and don’t display undesirable traits such as nervousness and aggression. It is always better to buy from a breeder as you will be able to examine the environment in which the pup has been born and raised, giving you a better idea of the kind of dog that you are getting.
What type of German shepherd is right for you?
German shepherds vary in the length and color of their coats. You first need to decide if you would prefer a dog with a medium- or long-haired coat. German shepherds come in five different coat colors: saddleback, black, sable, panda, and white. However, the acceptance of these colors by kennel clubs around the world varies, so you should check with your kennel club if the color you want is acceptable for the breed. Of course, if you simply plan to have the dog as a pet, and don’t plan to show the dog, any color that you find attractive will be fine.
The saddleback is the most common German shepherd color and refers to the black fur that covers the dog’s back. They also have black muzzles. The rest of the dog is either tan or red.
Solid color German shepherds tend to be either black or white. While black is generally accepted in competition, whites are usually disqualified. Contrary to popular belief, white German shepherds are not albinos.
Panda German shepherds are quite rare, having occurred as a result of a mutation in a litter in the US. They have white on their stomach and legs, but black or tan over the rest of their bodies.
Sable dogs start off as tan, but their colors darken with age. These German shepherds develop varied patterns of tan, gray, black, and gold.
You may encounter dogs advertised as miniature German shepherds. Like humans, German shepherds can be affected by genetic mutations that result in dwarfism. The breeding of such animals is severely discouraged as it results in serious health defects, such as chronic pain. Furthermore, these dogs have poor longevity and don’t live for more than five years. Therefore, these dogs must be avoided.
Once you have decided on the type of German shepherd that you will be getting, you should ideally find a dedicated breeder to buy the pup from. Picking the one you want from a litter is not easy; all puppies can be adorable. Take your time. Having a German shepherd is a serious commitment, and it’s important that you select a healthy dog whose personality is right for you.
An important factor to consider is the age of the puppies. A responsible breeder will not offer to sell pups that are less than eight weeks old. Until that age, they still need their mother’s milk and learn valuable social skills from their mother and siblings. Dogs that have been properly socialized are less likely to engage in undesirable behavior, such as biting and being aggressive. Furthermore, by eight weeks, their sensory organs are fully developed and you will be able to more easily spot any defects.
The other important factor you will have to decide on is the gender of the puppies. Male and female German shepherds are different in several important ways, so it’s important to consider what kind of dog you want. Male German shepherds are larger and more powerful, with dominant, assertive personalities that must be kept in check. They also tend to be more “one-person dogs,” bonding closely with one member of the family. They are more possessive and territorial and may wander off to extend their territory. In contrast, females are smaller and less dominant and would suit an owner who prefers a more docile animal. Females are less possessive and territorial. They bond with the whole family rather than just one person and are less likely to wander away.
Selecting the right puppy
Once you have checked out the breeder’s setup and are satisfied with the way the operation is run, you should verify that the parents are in good health and have good personalities. Now carefully examine the puppies one by one. Are they clean and in good health? Check their eyes, ears, and teeth. Are they in good condition?
Observe the way the puppies walk. They should have an even gait. Check their paws, coat, and overall skin condition. While all the puppies should be healthy, choose the ones that appear more robust. On the other hand, you don’t want a dog that bullies its littermates and generally appears to be a terror, so don’t go for the one that acts like a bully.
Pick a puppy that appears bright and alert and interacts amicably with its siblings. It should walk confidently, approaching you with its head held high and tail wagging. You don’t have to make a decision on your first visit. Particularly with German shepherds, it is vital that you get a well-adjusted dog that doesn’t have any undesirable character traits. Therefore, you should visit the breeder at least three times before making a decision.
Remember, you don’t want the loudest, most dominant pup who is likely to challenge your authority and be a handful to deal with. Neither do you want the most timid and nervous one as these are undesirable features in a German shepherd. Choose the one that interacts with you sociably and who appears well-built and energetic without being too assertive.
Once you have narrowed down your choice, there are some tests that you can perform to check the temperament of the puppy. Make eye contact and check the puppy’s reaction. If it looks directly back at you, it is a sign of confidence. However, if it looks away, it may indicate that the dog is nervous and anxious, which is not desirable in such a fearless breed. Similarly, check that it comes to you when you clap your hands. If it runs away, it is another sign that it is a timid dog. If it comes to you, it is an indication that it is eager to make friends.
Call the puppy to you and pet it. Does it come willingly? If it does, it shows that it likes to socialize. Does it respond warmly and affectionately to petting? That is a good sign. On the other hand, if it growls and tries to bite, it is a sign that it has a poor temperament. You may want to bring a ball with you that you can toss to the puppy to play with. A high-energy, well-adjusted puppy should be eager to play with a new toy. When you take it away, gauge the dog’s reaction. A docile dog will part with the ball willingly, but if he growls and shows signs of displeasure, it indicates that the pup has already developed a dominant, possessive personality.
Try picking up the puppy and holding it over your head. A dominant or fearful puppy will struggle and growl. On the other hand, if the puppy stays relaxed, it is displaying its trust and confidence in you. Roll the puppy on its back and gently hold it. An even-tempered pup will resist for a little while before letting you hold it, while a dominant puppy will struggle and growl. A more submissive dog will not resist in any way. Grab the puppy’s paw and hold it gently but firmly. Here too, a dominant pup may show aggression. If the puppy unquestioningly allows you to hold the paw, it shows that it is timid. A puppy that is even-tempered will resist for a little while before accepting what you are doing.
You can further check the temperament of the puppies by making a sudden, loud noise. A timid dog will whimper and try to hide, while a dominant puppy may growl and try to bite. A well-adjusted pup will be surprised but will want to find out what is going on.
Of course, you may find that the puppy you are looking at gives a mixture of reactions. You may prefer a slightly submissive dog, especially if you are selecting a male puppy and don’t want to have to deal with a dog that is constantly challenging your authority. On the other hand, if you want a dog for guarding duty and are confident in your ability to control the animal, you may opt for a puppy that is tough and doesn’t scare easily.
A large part of selecting a puppy is finding one that seems right for you. After three visits, you should be able to accurately gauge the personalities of the puppies and find one that is just right for you. As highly intelligent animals, German shepherds have individual personalities, so if you find yourself building a rapport with a particular puppy, the chances are that you will get on well together. Don’t forget to also ask the breeder for his or her opinion. A good breeder will have an excellent knowledge of his puppies and will be able to offer an insight into their personalities, ensuring that they are a match for what you are looking for.
Bringing the puppy home
Once you have made your selection, your next step is to bring the puppy home. Try to take a family member or friend along with you, so that you can look after the puppy and clean up if it is carsick. If you are bringing it in a puppy crate, you can ask the breeder to introduce the puppy to it for a couple of days beforehand. That way, the puppy will be familiar with the crate when you transport it.
Remember that the first day away from its mother and littermates will be a traumatic experience for any puppy. Make sure that your puppy feels as comfortable and unstressed as possible. You should ideally have a few days to look after and bond with the puppy. You should take the puppy over a long weekend or you might want to take a few days off to be with it.
From the breeder, you should collect the pup’s veterinary records and an adoption contract. If the parents are registered with a kennel club, make sure you get a certified copy of the pedigree of the puppy. This will be important if you plan to show it or use it for breeding purposes.
Find out exactly what food is being given to the puppy as it will be too traumatic for the dog to consume different food on its first day in your home.
The unfamiliar sights and smells of your car may frighten your new pet, so give it some time to become accustomed to the vehicle before setting off. The puppy will, in all probability, start whining, and you may be tempted to keep it on your lap. If you do, don’t forget to cover your lap and the seats of the car with a thick sheet. Puppies are prone to be carsick, especially on their first ride, and a frightened pup may also urinate. This is another reason why having a puppy crate is a good idea.
Don’t scold the puppy if it cries and starts whining. On the other hand, don’t be overly affectionate as this risks reinforcing the behavior. Pet him gently, but set him on the floor by your feet if the whining persists. Some puppies are soothed by the hum and vibrations of the engine. If it is a longer trip, you may have to stop for the dog to relieve itself and stretch a bit.
Introducing the puppy to its new home
You have finally made it home! It’s time to welcome your new companion to its future abode. You should have thoroughly prepared your house beforehand and made sure it’s safe for an inquisitive pup. You should go down on all fours and make sure there aren’t any exposed electrical wires, hazardous materials, sharp objects, or anything else that a puppy might try to chew on or swallow. Cover any electrical outlets that the puppy can reach.
You should also have a good stock of what the dog was accustomed to eating, food and water bowls, treats, and basic grooming equipment such as brushes, combs, shampoo for puppies, and nail clippers. The puppy will be teething, so make sure you have some chew toys as well. There are bound to be some accidents, so make sure that you have a cleaning detergent to remove stains and smells.
Decide on what room in the house is going to be the puppy’s main living area. Even if you eventually plan to allow your German shepherd to have the run of the house, it is a good idea to restrict it initially as “accidents” are bound to happen. You will want to restrict the dog to areas that have easily cleanable flooring. A German shepherd puppy has surprisingly sharp claws, so don’t let it loose on expensive hardwood flooring.
Your puppy will be extremely nervous when you bring it home. It will want to have a bathroom break, so take it to the area designated for that to relieve itself. After that, bring the pup indoors. Let it run around and explore its new home. If you have any other pets, such as cats and dogs, hold off on introducing them immediately. First, let the puppy become accustomed to its surroundings.
If you have adequately puppy-proofed the house, you should not have any problems with him roaming around. If he chews or bites the furniture, simply offer him a toy to distract it. Remember, you shouldn’t try to punish it or shout at it in any way. However, you must establish yourself as pack leader. Most dogs have a strong instinctual drive to serve the person they perceive as being the pack leader, so it’s important to establish your role early on. It is easier to do it now rather than later, when the dog may be tempted to challenge your authority. If the dog looks at you, say its name and speak encouragingly. Remember, the pup will be looking to you for leadership.
Introduce the puppy to the family members. If you have children, make sure that they know how to properly handle the puppy without being too rough. Let the puppy get the scent of its new family. Carefully introduce any other pets that you have. Cats are unlikely to take much notice of a new puppy as they generally prefer to just leave dogs alone. They might sit on a couch and observe the new arrival. Make sure that the puppy doesn’t get scratched by trying to be too forward with the cat.
Introduce any dogs carefully. Most dogs are not aggressive, especially with puppies, so it is unlikely that you will have any problems. If you suspect there may be issues because you have an aggressive dog, you may want to muzzle it to make sure that it can’t hurt the puppy. Once they have been introduced and seem to be getting on, you can remove the muzzle.
After a while, your puppy should be ready to eat. Offer it some food, preferably of the type used by the breeder. As soon as it has finished eating, take it outside. Wait around ten minutes to eliminate. If it does, praise it warmly, but if nothing happens, bring it in.
Puppies between the ages of eight and sixteen weeks must be fed several meals a day and must have plenty of clean water. Remember to take the puppy out immediately after every meal and as soon as it wakes up every morning. This is the beginning of house-training and should be followed scrupulously. Puppies have small bladders and will urinate often. Praise the puppy fulsomely when it dirties on being taken to the designated area after meals, but don’t scold it if it makes a mess in the house. It is too young to understand that it is wrong and should be given time to house-train. There will inevitably be accidents, but you must do your best to minimize them.
Take your puppy outside after every play session and after it wakes up from a nap. This will help ensure that the puppy seldom makes a mess in the house. Also, don’t feed it or give it water after six pm. The puppy will want to eliminate at least three times after that and you want to minimize nighttime accidents.
The puppy will want to take several naps during the day. You should have a designated area for it to sleep in. This can be a puppy crate or an area of the house where you can keep an eye on it. Once it gets used to sleeping in that area, it will automatically go there when it feels sleepy.
First night with the puppy
You have managed to get through the first day with your new companion. Now you have to prepare for the night. This will be a stressful experience for the puppy; it will be the first night that it has spent on its own. The puppy’s instincts will cause it to whine and cry because, as a pack animal, it believes being on its own is dangerous. This is its way of calling to its mother and siblings. This is a great opportunity for you to build a rapport with your puppy while establishing your leadership.
Don’t give your puppy any food or water at night or you will have to constantly take the puppy out or end up with several messes in your room. Before going to bed, make sure that the puppy is tired and ready to sleep. Play with it for a while and don’t let it have a nap shortly before bedtime. Just before going to sleep, take the puppy to the soiling area and praise it when it does its job.
You may be tempted to let your puppy into your bed. Don’t do it! The puppy will become accustomed to sleeping in your bed and it will be difficult to get it out of the habit. The best method is to keep it in its crate. The crate should be kept in an area of the house where you can readily keep an eye on your dog. You can keep it in your bedroom. If you plan on keeping the crate in another area of the house, you should let the puppy spend the first couple of days in your bedroom. Apart from being able to take the puppy out on toilet breaks if it wants to during the night (and it will), this is a great opportunity to bond with your dog.
You can buy a puppy crate or have an adult one that is partitioned for your puppy. The crate should be furnished with soft, comfortable bedding and plenty of toys, including something to chew on. Once you have placed your puppy in the crate, give him a treat and close the door. It will shout and cry, but leave it alone. After some time – and the puppy will cry for some time during the first night – it will eventually drift off to sleep.
The puppy will want to go out during the night, and you should count on taking it out every three hours. Until it is about nine months old, you will have to take it out at least once. If it appears to want to relieve itself, promptly take it out to avoid getting it used to soiling the crate. It will soon start seeing the crate as a safe place and will go into it on its own accord to sleep and rest.
House-training a German shepherd puppy
Now that you have got your German shepherd puppy, you will want it house-trained as soon as possible. After all, no one enjoys cleaning up the messes a dog makes. Fortunately, German shepherds are highly intelligent and will quickly figure out where they need to go for bathroom breaks, unlike some breeds that can take ages to become house-trained. With the right training, you will soon put an end to your puppy soiling your house.
Prevention is key. You should watch the puppy closely to ensure that it doesn’t make a mess in the house. As soon as it starts squatting, you need to pick it up and head outside. You should also take it out after meals and play sessions. Take it out every two to three hours to reinforce the habit of using the designated area for toilet breaks.
You should also clean up thoroughly after any accidents. This is because the scent of its mistake may cause the puppy to become accustomed to doing its jobs at that particular spot. Use a powerful cleaner to get rid of the smell.
Crates are very helpful in teaching the puppy not to soil in the house. It instinctively doesn’t like to eliminate in the place where it eats and sleeps, so you should make sure that the puppy views the crate as a safe, comfortable refuge for rest and sleep. Once the puppy starts regarding the crate as its designated sleeping area, it will avoid soiling the place.
In order to get the puppy to love its crate, you should never force it into the crate. Let it take its time and give it a treat when it goes inside. You could also give at least one of its meals in the crate. Praise and pet the puppy when it goes voluntarily into the crate, and make sure you don’t slam the door shut.
Having a strict schedule is an important means of getting your dog house-trained. This will also ingrain the habit of going outside to eliminate. When a puppy is eight weeks old, it should be taken out for a bathroom break every two hours. When it reaches twelve weeks, it should be taken every three hours. At sixteen weeks, it can be taken every four hours. Bear in mind that this is a rough guide and your puppy may want to go out sooner.
You should start teaching your dog to eliminate on cue. First, observe your dog for signs that it is about to eliminate. It will stop whatever it was doing and sniff the floor. It may circle a particular spot and paw at a carpet or floor. It is likely to go to an area where it has made a mess before. As soon as you see this, you should rush the puppy outside. As they start squatting, use a cue word such as “go potty.” Also use the command just before and during the elimination. Praise the puppy once it’s done and give it a treat. Your puppy will soon make a connection and learn to eliminate on command.
Feeding your puppy
An eight-week-old German shepherd will be fully weaned and ready to consume dry food. This can be a special puppy feed. Alternatively, you can have a veterinarian create a menu for your dog. You can continue with the breeder’s diet or switch to a food of your preference. If you are switching, you should not do it straight away. Instead, you should add a progressive greater quantity of the new diet to the puppy’s food. Milk should not be given to the puppy at this stage as it may cause diarrhea.
The puppy should be fed four to five times a day and given plenty of clean water. As puppies are still growing, the food should be higher in fats, proteins, calcium, and calories than food given to an adult dog.
Don’t just leave the food out for the puppy to eat. Give it ten minutes to consume the meal, then remove the bowl. It will soon understand that it has to eat at that specific time. This is important obedience training for the dog.
Between the ages of four to six months, the puppy can be fed three times a day. The quantity of food should be increased, and the dog should be given around 12-15 minutes to finish eating. You can start mixing meat, fish, and vegetables into the food. Treats should never be used as a food supplement but only provided for obedience training. Remember, leftover human foods should never be given to the puppy as they contain salt, sugar, and seasonings that are very unhealthy for dogs.