German Shepherds are wonderful family dogs, if raised with respect and love. Intensely loyal, their working background instills in them a strong desire to be with human beings and to protect the hearth. They also have a strong play drive, which makes them great with kids.
However, their high level of intelligence requires direction and structure. Training at an early age is highly recommended. German Shepherds can be aloof and independent, and if not integrated properly into their human families and shown their place in the “pack,” they can quickly dominate the household.
These large dogs weigh between 60-80 pounds and need plenty of outdoor exercise. The German Shepherds’ dense under-coat requires regular grooming. This coat helps insulate them from extreme temperatures; however, no dog can handle the hot, humid summers in Florida. Left outside, German Shepherds can quickly develop arthritis, heart worms (from mosquito bites), parasites, ear infections, or die from poisonous snake bites (coral snake anti-venom is in short supply throughout Florida). They become extremely lonely when separated from their human family, which causes behavior problems including yard aggression.
Size: Males: 24-26 inches, Females 22-24 inches.
Weight: 60-110 pounds.
Color: The color may be black, black and tan, red and black, golden with black tipped hairs or gray with black tipped hairs. Also, the GSD may be all white. (This is discouraged by breeders/AKC)
Energy Level: Moderate. Daily exercise is mandatory! Obedience, Herding, Retrieving or Agility work will direct the Shepherd’s energy and build its confidence.
Life expectancy: Around 13 years.
Children: Children are okay providing no roughhousing or chase games are permitted. Young children should ALWAYS be with an adult and NEVER left unattended with ANY dog.
This breed makes a great family pet when properly trained, and will love and protect your children almost to a fault. It can be suspicious of your children’s friends, which could lead to a biting incident if the child shows fear or flight.
Other Animals: The Shepherd may want to chase small animals, cars, bikes, joggers and may be dog-aggressive. It is essential to train and socialize a Shepherd with people, other dogs and all household pets.
Abilities: Initially used for herding, this versatile breed has adapted well to police and military work, search and rescue, tracking, bomb detection, and protection work.
Shedding/Grooming: The GSD has a medium length, course shedding coat with a soft undercoat, which needs to be brushed daily.
Health: The German Shepherd, because of its great popularity, has been over-bred. We see many poor quality, flighty American bred Shepherds with behavioral and structural problems. Many suffer from hip dysplasia, shoulder problems and panosteitis, an inflammation of the growth plates of the bones, which can be aggravated by keeping a Shepherd puppy on a high protein puppy food diet, causing too rapid growth. Breeders who supplement their bloodlines with imported German stock tend to produce more active, stable, structurally sound dogs. DO NOT BUY A GERMAN SHEPHERD FROM A PET STORE!
Best with: A house with a secluded fenced yard is essential (at least 6 feet). The owner of a German Shepherd should be a strong, confident, emotionally secure leader who desires a smart, protective, athletic dog.
Not for: This is NOT a breed for an insecure or immature person. The Shepherd is very sensitive and will reflect the mood and emotions of its owner, often with alarming results. Do not let a Shepherd assert itself against you or achieve dominance in any venue. It will quickly take charge if you spoil or placate it. Allow this and you open yourself to aggression problems. The elderly and disabled may have trouble controlling this active, dominant, intelligent breed. Time to train, exercise and socialize this dog MUST be available.
Pros: The German Shepherd is a large dog that, though included in the herding group, is in fact one of the most versatile breeds. It is strong, agile, loyal, highly intelligent, and possesses one of the keenest noses in the dog world. The German Shepherd is courageous and very territorial and will instinctively protect its home.
Cons: The German Shepherd is extremely perceptive. It is acutely aware of its owner’s moods or any change in its environment, however slight. No other breed is so tuned into its world. Socialization, therefore, must be extensive and must cover as many different situations as possible. Failure to do this may result in an unexpected aggressive or fearful response to certain people or places.
Training is not always easy with a Shepherd. It is so intelligent that it will think of ways to avoid doing what you ask of it. The most intelligent of breeds, contrary to popular belief, are NOT the easiest to train.
General info: Often used as working dogs, German Shepherds are direct and fearless, eager and alert. Bold, cheerful, obedient and eager to learn. Known for their tremendous loyalty and courage. Calmly confident, but not hostile. Serious and almost human in its intelligence. They have a high learning ability. German Shepherds love to be close to their families, but they are very wary of strangers. This breed needs his people and should not be left isolated for long periods of time. They only bark when it is necessary. German Shepherds have a very strong protective instinct, so they should be extensively socialized to prevent over-guarding when they are an adult. Aggression and attacks on people are largely due to poor breeding, handling and training. A well bred, well-adjusted, and trained dog is for the most part generally good with other pets and excellent with children in the family. They must be firmly trained in obedience from an early age. To be successful pets, these dogs should be trained and socialized from an early age with a firm and loving hand. Coercive or angry training does not succeed well with these dogs. To be truly happy, the German Shepherd needs a task in life. The breed is so intelligent and learns so readily that it has been used as a sheepdog, guard dog, in police work, as a guide for the blind, in search and rescue service, and in the military. The German Shepherd also excels in many other dog activities including schutzhund, tracking, obedience, agility, flyball, and ring sport. His fine nose can sniff out drugs and intruders, and can alert handlers to the presence of underground mines in time to avoid detonation, or gas leaks in a pipes buried 15 feet underground. The German Shepherd is also a popular show and family companion.
Information taken from the book Choosing a Dog by Nancy Baer & Steve Duno and DogBreedInfo.com.