Know the Breed
Are You Ready To Adopt A German Shepherd Dog?
German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) are the number one breed in rescue. That is to say, there are more homeless, abandoned or unwanted GSDs than any other breed in the world. Sad, but true. Unfortunately, we see staggering numbers being euthanized daily or simply abandoned. The lucky ones are re-homed, but not nearly enough to stem the tide. It stands to reason, therefore, that we ask you to read the following and make sure, first and foremost, that this is, indeed, the right breed for you and your current lifestyle.
There is considerable variation within our breed with respect to type (structure) and temperament. Each of these dogs is so much an individual that one size cannot and will not fit all. Lack of research frequently results in mismatches; wrong type of GSD for an individual or family, unrealistic expectations and general misconceptions about the level of commitment required to share one's life with a GSD. German Shepherds are not the easiest, but most certainly the most versatile breed. They typically are not mellow nor are they easy keepers.
All German Shepherd Dogs require ongoing mental and physical stimulation, as well as HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP, SOCIALIZATION, AND TRAINING.
This is not a breed to be left out in the yard, away from its family, isolated or deprived of
touch or attention. GSDs are not couch potatoes, and they will insist on interacting with
their person or family.
They will not thrive as a kennel or backyard dog. If left outside, even for just while you are
away at work, any number of behavioral issues will result. These issues range from, but are
not limited to, digging, barking, separation anxiety, fear aggression, jumping and bolting,
destructive behavior and an overly defensive/protective posture with both people and other pets.
These dogs need to be exposed to the outside world, strangers, strange dogs, the movement and noises associated with being away from home, as well as, at the very least, basic obedience training.
Regular exercise and activity is a must. German Shepherds are all about interacting their people and being with their person. While degree varies, this is a working breed.
This equates to
TIME, SACRIFICE & COMMITMENT
on the owner's part.
All German Shepherd Dogs shed year round and "blow" their coat twice a year. If you are finicky about dust bunnies or hair on your clothes or furniture, perhaps a non-shedding breed would be more suitable for you.
German Shepherds are naturally protective of their family and territory, and bond for life. They are extremely loyal, hence the decision to adopt a GSD should not be made on impulse. Without proper training and socialization, they can become either a "loaded gun" or extremely timid and fearful.
German Shepherds are sometimes aloof with or suspicious of strangers, and are seldom submissive with other dogs.
GSDs tend to be more gender-specific than most other breeds; that is to say they are more apt to get along with the opposite sex. Putting 2 males or two females in the same home could spell trouble, even if they get along initially. If not well socialized, they can often become dog aggressive with any strange dogs.
German Shepherds do not respond well to being left alone for excessive periods of time. They are high energy dogs that enjoy having a job to do or otherwise staying busy. Their mind needs as much exercise as their body does.
Although it can sometimes work, generally speaking, GSDs do not make good "pack" dogs as in multi-dog households. They tend to compete for attention and they require lots of individual time with their person, which is seldom available when there are lots of other dogs in the home. This can be a demanding breed, and 'lack of time' (for them) is the number one reason they are in need of a new home.
Some with higher drive levels were bred to work and must have a job, or the relationship will fail.
There are significant differences between the various genetic lines: West German show lines, West German working lines, East German show and working lines, Czech, Dutch, American, American show lines and backyard bred dogs all differ in terms of their original purpose. The average companion dog owner, for example, is not likely to want a German Shepherd out of lines bred with the intention of pursuing Schutzhund, bomb detection or border patrol.
Contrary to popular belief, GSDs are extremely sensitive, emotional dogs and most stress easily. They are all about being with you.
All German Shepherd Dogs require extensive and ongoing socialization, beginning in puppyhood, and training beyond puppy classes.
The GSD rarely becomes a Canine Good Citizen all by itself...you get out what you put in.
GSD puppies are a full-time job, and they are puppies until they are two years old. It is a widely held belief that if you get a very young puppy it can be "molded" to your existing household thereby assuring a strong bond and success within your pack. This is particularly prevalent in families with children. In reality, there is ALWAYS an element of risk with ANY puppy; you will not know what you really have with respect to health and core temperament until that dog is mature. Bringing a puppy up from an early age does not guarantee a good fit. In general, German Shepherd Dogs of any age acclimate very well to new environments in which their needs are met.
Many people believe that, because they are on acreage or a ranch, they have the ideal environment for a German Shepherd Dog. GSDs do not need 2000+sf homes nor do they need acres to run on. They want to be with and be active with YOU, they want their physical exercise to include either you or a job. Very few GSDs do well around livestock; they are herders. If you have horses, fowl, pigs, goats, sheep, etc. PLEASE rethink your breed choice. We cannot count the number of German Shepherds that have been relinquished because they cannot peacefully coexist in such a setting. If you don't have livestock but think your GSD will be content to run around on acres of land and you don't do it WITH THEM, they will often take to chasing and possibly killing small game such as prairie dogs, rabbits and then cats.
Folks in their 60's to 80's are all different, as are their lifestyles, health and activity levels.
Generally speaking, however, we prefer not to place very young German Shepherd Dogs or
puppies with seniors. We ask that you seriously consider the dog's needs and be realistic as
to how well you are able to fulfill them. Please give thought to any physical challenges, as
well as your ability to accommodate the dog's need for exercise, training and socialization.
What might have worked very well in the past may not be quite the same now. Life changes
occur more frequently as we age. Keeping the dog's best interest in mind usually results in a
successful placement. The majority of younger German Shepherds require more than just
walks in the neighborhood. Mature dogs, however, might be more closely matched to your activity level and schedules along with less disruption to your routine which generally equates to a happier owner and dog.
Our thanks to SouthWest German Shepherd Rescue for use of the above material.
"A dog is not a thing.
A thing is replaceable.
A dog is not.
A thing is disposable.
A dog is not.
A thing doesn’t have a heart.
A dog’s heart is bigger than any 'thing' you can ever own."
- Elizabeth Parker.