How to Decide Whether to Get a German Shepherd
When deciding whether to get a German shepherd, you need to consider how active you are and where you live. German shepherds need constant exercise, and a big space to run around in. You will also need to assess your financial situation and your experience level with dogs. Because they need constant obedience training, and are prone to health problems, training and medical bills can accumulate pretty quickly. Finally, all members of your family need to be on board about getting a German shepherd, and in agreement about where it will live and who will be the leader.
Thinking about Your Lifestyle
1. Reflect on your experience with dogs.
Think twice before you get a German shepherd as your first dog. While they can be great pets, they have a strong guarding instinct and some are prone to anxiety and fear. This anxiety and fear can sometimes cause German shepherds to act aggressively. It's better to own and train other breeds first so that you're confident in your ability to use reward-based training methods. This will help you to ensure that the dog is safely under control.
2. Determine your activity level.
German shepherds are athletic dogs with high levels of energy. They enjoy running around, and they need exercise in order to stay healthy. Without exercise, German shepherds can become frustrated and potentially destructive.
- German shepherds need at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise daily. Rigorous exercise includes running, jumping hurdles, chasing balls, and playing fetch.
- If you cannot provide the adequate amount of exercise, reconsider getting a German shepherd.
3. Make sure you have enough living space.
German shepherds require a living space that is stable, as well as large. Therefore, if you live in an apartment, particularly a small apartment, your living quarters might be too small to host a German shepherd. Ideally, a German shepherd needs a home setting with a large, fenced-in backyard.
- If you live in an apartment, you will also need to consider if your neighbors will tolerate a loud, barking dog since German shepherds tend to bark a lot.
4. Assess your work and social life.
If your work and/or social life prevent you from being home most of the time, this will be problematic. German shepherds need constant companionship and care. Therefore, being ok with sacrificing weekends to stay home with your German shepherd is a necessity.
- If your work requires that you travel a lot, reconsider getting a German shepherd. You cannot and should not leave these dogs at home for extended periods.
Considering Your Finances
1. See if you can afford training.
Training will be one of the most important responsibilities you will have as an owner of a German shepherd. You will need to begin obedience training as soon as your German shepherd can train, i.e., around eight weeks, and continue this training throughout its adult life. Training, along with proper socialization, is essential to ensure that your German shepherd is well behaved.
- Obedience training classes range from $50 to $125 dollars for a four to eight week class.
- Take your dog to the dog park weekly to ensure proper socialization.
2. Take health issues into consideration.
German shepherds have a large number of health issues ranging from allergies to more life-threatening diseases, such as degenerative myelopathy. This means that you will need to take your dog to the vet regularly, i.e. at least once a year. You will also need to bring your dog to the vet if and when any of these health issues arises.
3. Think about the size of the dog.
Adult female dogs will reach a weight of 60 to 80 pounds, and adult male dogs will reach a weight of 70 to 90 pounds. Also, because they grow relatively quickly, a German shepherd puppy's diet needs to be closely regulated in order to avoid potential health problems. And, because they have two coats, German shepherds shed a lot and require constant grooming, such as brushing.
- Also consider the cost of preventative healthcare for large dogs. German shepherds are considered large dogs, and so the cost of essential heartworm preventatives, deworming, and flea control are proportionately larger.
- On average, a German shepherd will cost $3,000 per year in food, grooming, and vet care.
Imagining Your Home Life
1. Ask your family members how they feel about German shepherds.
If you have a family, partner, or people living with you, you must consider their opinions about owning a German shepherd before purchasing one. If other family members rather have another breed of dog, then reconsider getting a German shepherd.
- You also need to be sure that your partner or family members are comfortable with handling a German shepherd on their own when you are away.
2. Decide where the dog will live.
If you plan to keep the dog outside in the backyard most of the time, then reconsider your decision to get a German shepherd. German shepherds need constant companionship, not only for socialization purposes, but also because companionship is a natural part of their personality.
- If you are bothered by a dog that will follow you everywhere, then perhaps a German shepherd is not for you.
3. Determine if you can be a leader.
German shepherds, like most dogs, are pack dogs. Therefore, early on, you need to establish your leadership. If you cannot provide calm, confident, and strong leadership for your dog, then they will take things on for themselves. This will make them very hard to control.
- A confident leader is not someone who is loud, harsh, or demanding, but is someone who is mature, firm, and fair in all areas of treatment of the dog.