German Shepherds 101

It’s no surprise German Shepherds are the 2nd most popular dog breed for pet owners.  They are highly intelligent, fearless, and loyal creatures.  They are strong, athletic, and eager to protect their loved ones.  These dogs may come off as intimidating with their imposing stature and stern disposition, but at the end of the day, German Shepherds are often just big, fun-loving softies at heart.

The breed originated in Germany in the early 1900’s with the core purpose to bear smart and versatile service dogs.  Throughout history, German Shepherds have served as flock-herders, disability aides, and law enforcement/military workers.  They are ideal workers because of their advanced learning ability, obedience, and desire to please.  The most common breed of police dog today is the German Shepherd.

If you’re looking for a faithful companion, German Shepherds are easily at the top of the list.  Their allegiance to their owners is so strong, they would probably take a bullet for you.  Do you think your heart is set on a German Shepherd? Here are a few things you need to know:

They shed…A LOT

German Shepherds have short to medium length hair and a double-layered coat.  They shed all year long and need to be brushed every few days, if not daily.  Frequent grooming is necessary to keep them comfortable and healthy, so if you’re looking for a breed with little to no shedding, German Shepherds are not for you.

They need physical exercise

These pups are natural athletes.  They are strong and muscular and live for activity.  The ideal German Shepherd owner is someone who loves to run, hike, and exercise regularly with their pooch.  They are a highly adaptable breed and can easily live in apartments and yardless homes as long as they are physically active and receive ample time to stretch their legs. Without physical exercise, they’ll turn to other ways to entertain themselves- including chewing on all of your things.

They need mental exercise

The Germans purposely bred these dogs for their utility and intellect, so it’s in their DNA to want to be challenged.  While your pup probably won’t be herding sheep or tracking down criminals, he/she needs some form of mental stimulation in order to be happy and healthy.  Regular behavioral training, agility exercises, mind games, and therapy work are some great ways to exercise your pooch’s brain.

They are great with kids

With early socialization and proper obedience training, German Shepherds make excellent family dogs.  They are affectionate and gentle with little ones and will take it upon themselves to act as loyal protectors.  

General Information and Health Concerns

When bred correctly and cared for properly, German Shepherds are generally healthy dogs with an average lifespan of between 11 and 13 years.  Full-grown pooches typically weigh between 77-85 pounds.

As with many large breeds, they are genetically predisposed to canine hip dysplasia, a skeletal disorder caused by deterioration of the hip joints.  Early symptoms of hip dysplasia include decreased activity, changes in gait, hindlimb lameness, loss of muscle mass and difficulty rising, walking, running, jumping, and climbing stairs.  While the disease is genetic, factors like a poor diet, weight gain, and obesity can influence the onset of hip dysplasia and exacerbate symptoms.

German Shepherds are also prone to elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy (hind leg paralysis), heart disease, epilepsy, bleeding disorders, hemangiosarcoma (a type of cancer), bloating, digestive issues, and vision impairments.

German Shepherds without proper socialization, obedience training, and physical activity can be more prone to anxiety and destructive behaviors.

But don’t fret just yet. As long as owners actively manage their German Shepherd’s health through regular physical exams (even when apparently healthy), a nutritious diet, exercise, and general best practices, they should live a long, happy life.  

Questions about your German Shepherd? Ask one of our veterinarians anytime in our app. It’s completely free!

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