Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
Who knew that there was so much you needed to know about one breed of dog? Anyone who’s ever seen a well-trained, well-adjusted German Shepherd knows just how sweet and compassionate these dogs can be. They might have been bred as guard dogs, but they are sweethearts, and when they are raised with the proper care and love, they are loyal companions that really make the best dogs.
In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at three books on this breed:
- Your German Shepherd Puppy: Month by Month by Liz Palika, Deb Eldredge, and Joanne Olivier
- Training Your German Shepherd Dog by Dan Rice
- The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture by V. Stephanitz
Your German Shepherd Puppy: Month by Month
Your German Shepherd Puppy: Month by Month, by Liz Palika, Deb Eldredge, and Joanne Olivier, focuses on helping owners understand their shepherd puppies and how to raise them into well-adjusted adult dogs. Here is an overview of what this book does well, and areas where it might fall a little short:
This Book Has Depth
This is probably one of the most in-depth books you will read on German Shepherd care. This book follows a shepherd from birth to adulthood and discusses even what is happening before you choose your puppy from his litter and after puppyhood.
Besides the month-by-month chapters, there are also a number of extensive appendixes that discuss everything from how to assess your shepherd’s body condition to poisonous plants that you should avoid planting in your yard, as well as common hazards in the house and in the yard. It is incredibly in-depth, which might be off-putting for some owners who just want a little bit of knowledge about their breed, but is very useful for those who want to fully understand their dog and his needs.
How This Book Is Written
This book takes an original month-by-month approach, as it says in the title. It starts from birth, and each chapter details a month of a German Shepherd’s first year of life. Unlike little dogs that start little and stay little, a shepherd will grow by leaps and bounds during this first year, which is also the most important year for training and behavioral changes. While he isn’t done growing at month 12, he is a young adult, and this book even addresses the challenges that come with transitioning from a young adult, into adulthood, even beyond month 12.
This approach makes it possible for an owner to get very specific, necessary information about their dog’s immediate stage of growth. It isn’t a general overview of puppyhood, it’s a reference that the owner can open up to his month and get detailed information about what is going on with his puppy right now. While some might prefer a general overview, this more detailed approach is preferred by most owners.
This is a long book, which may be daunting for some owners. It is, however, sectioned into smaller, distinct chapters, which make it more accessible and functional. Instead of having chapters that focus on diet, exercise, training, and behaviors separately, it is written to make it very accessible for the owner.
It’s one drawback, however, would be that the 12-month approach makes this book largely inaccessible for people who adopt an adult shepherd. But for new owners, this book is packed with information that is very easily accessible.
The writing style is casual and friendly, and is encouraging when it needs to be. The three authors of this book obviously have firsthand experience with young shepherds and know that new owners will need as much patience as they need a sense of humor. The writing is designed to help owners find the information that they need quickly and easily.
Class of Information and Practicality
What makes this book truly unique is that it does not just focus on what it is “like” to own a puppy. It provides very real advice, as well as breed-specific information, ranging from the history of the breed, specific health issues, what jobs they are best suited to (like therapy work and search and rescue), and even legislation that has to do with German Shepherds.
There is both basic and detailed information, making it possible for the reader to glean what he needs from the book. This is where this book really shines, in comparison to other puppy books: it provides both deep and expansive information, in a format that is great for both practical use and for learning about dog training theories and the history and legacy of a breed.
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Training Your German Shepherd Dog
As a dog owner, you have essentially two choices when it comes to your dog. The most common option is to not train the dog, and most owners just let their German Shepherds grow up naturally and might train them to do a few tricks and to not use the hall rug as a bathroom, but they do not put any serious time or effort into training. The other option is to put very serious time and effort into training. For those owners, Training Your German Shepherd Dog by Dan Rice is an essential book.
The goal of this book is not just to give you some tips and tricks to use as you try to get your new puppy acclimated to living in your house—this book is a very detailed approach to training, from standard training like housebreaking, sitting, heeling, and leash manners, to more advanced training like agility training and herding.
While some owners might not find all of the information pertinent to their dog, those who want a well-trained, responsive dog can find all of the information they need and more in this book.
This book’s approach is very different from most training guides. Not only does the author give a step-by-step training process, but he actually also discusses training theories and purposes. This makes it an especially valuable read for someone who wants to understand his dog better.
Many owners will say that they “don’t understand” why their shepherd chews on furniture or messes in the house, even when he has access to the outdoors. For those owners, reading about the breed's mentality, as well as the origin and characteristics of the breed, can be extremely valuable.
Chapter three also covers some great information about how to determine whether or not you are ready for a dog and how to find the right dog for you or your family. One of the very small weaknesses of this book is that it does not discuss looking at local shelters for shepherds or shepherd mixes.
It makes up for this omission, however, by discussing the danger of puppy mills and of not purchasing your puppy through an AKC-certified breeder (which usually means the breeder uses ethical and human breeding, housing, and rearing practices).
One of the great points made by this book is the necessity of training a breed like a German Shepherd. These dogs are extremely smart and active, and like a child that is smart and active and is not given an outlet for that intelligence, a shepherd can start to act out.
It also discusses the importance of acting how your puppy expects a pack leader to act, so that he is more likely to follow your instructions and attempt to earn your trust and accolades through behaving properly.
This book recognizes that dog training is about more than just giving your dog instructions, it is about teaching yourself and the dog how to communicate and act. It covers very specific methods of training a shepherd and helps owners correct bad training behaviors that often result in a dog who misbehaves or acts out.
How Effective Is This Book?
What’s great about this book is that it takes a very direct approach to training—the more complex kinds and the basic kinds. The advice that it provides helps owners to stop undesirable behaviors and gives very helpful advice for those thinking about purchasing and raising one of these intelligent dogs.
The background information, about the dog’s early breeding and uses, especially in the military and hunting, can help a new owner understand why the shepherd does what he does. It even talks in very detailed terms about dog shows and assistance dog training.
While this can result in some of the more complicated topics getting only a cursory glance, any owner who wants to find out more about their dog and get great, in-depth basic training information and an overview of some of the less popular, but still necessary training methods, should read this book.
Because German Shepherds are such a popular breed, and because they were bred originally for a very specific purpose, it is important to put a little extra time and effort into making sure they are well-trained, well-behaved, and friendly and that their owners understand them and take their place as head of the “pack” in that dog’s mind.
The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture
Unlike some of the more popular books that detail how to train these dogs or what you can expect in the first year or two of life, this book deals strictly with the history of the breed and its relation to humanity. It starts even before dogs were domesticated and speaks at length and very specifically about German Shepherds as a breed, why they were bred, how they were first bred, and how they are still bred.
For those who want a very in-depth and very extreme look into the history of not just the breed, but all dogs, this book is an excellent choice. The text, which is interspersed with pictures of dogs doing everything from being dressed up by children to being trained in the military, extensively covers the history of shepherds and what roles they have played throughout history.
What You'll Find
The first part of the book, which will probably be of the most interest to those who are looking to learn about how the breed has evolved over the centuries, shows pictures of dog show champions throughout the years, and a detailed description of why those dogs won and how they are related to the stereotypical shepherd that we see today.
While this book is packed with interesting facts, it’s probably not the most practical book for someone who wants to learn about German Shepherds because he is thinking of adopting or buying one to make part of his family. Those who are interested, however, in showing this breed, might be very interested in all of the information and pictures in this long book, especially the sections related to dog show champions in the last century.
The biggest downfall of The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture is the dated information this book contains. It definitely does not have the most updated training or showing information. For shepherd enthusiasts, however, this might be exactly the book they are looking for. For those who want to see how this breed is related to other breeds or are just interested in a very extensive look at this breed, from how they should look, to how they should act, to where they came from, and how they got their name (both in English and in German) then this is the perfect book. Otherwise, it is interesting to skim and get some brief information about the breed and look at the pictures that sort of show the breed’s evolution.
- Palika L. and Albert T. Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month, 2nd Edition: Everything You Need to Know at Each State to Ensure Your Cute and Playful Puppy. Alpha, 2016, 352 p.
- Rice D.V.M. Training Your German Shepherd Dog. B.E.S. Publishing, 2010,200 p.
- Stephanitz M. V. The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture. Read Books, 2009, 712 p.
© 2019 Sam Shepards