Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
German Shepherd Puppy Care
German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) are one of the most popular dog breeds on the planet. They are strong, loyal and a pleasure to be around. These dogs, however, require a great deal of care.
This breed is known for shedding and they are also prone to a number of health conditions. If you want to make sure that your German Shepherd has the happiest life possible, the best option is to make sure that you start caring for them at a young age. In this article, we are going to describe the best ways for you to take care of a young German Shepherd puppy.
Preparation Stage: Choosing a Puppy
If you haven't already purchased your German Shepherd, there are a few things that you might want to consider before doing so.
One thing to keep in mind is the temperament and behavior of the puppy's parents. This means that, if possible, you should meet both of the dog's parents. This will give you some idea of the temperament that it will likely develop when it grows older. Try to avoid bringing puppies home on a whim, just because you think they are cute.
This means that you should avoid buying a German Shepherd from common pet stores. Make sure that you don't order them online, either. Buying a puppy from either one of these places makes it difficult for you to learn about his lineage. Furthermore, these puppies are likely to come from puppy mills, where dogs are treated unfairly.
Your best bet is to seek a dog that was raised by a German Shepherd breeder. Breeders know a lot about the dogs and will be able to tell you what you need to learn about raising them properly. They will also be able to inform you about the dog's ancestry, and probably be able to introduce you to his parents.
Other good choices for choosing a puppy are animal shelters, which help to relocate abandoned dogs, or from specific German Shepherd rescuers.
How to Pick a German Shepherd Puppy
How are you supposed to know which dog to choose from? They are all going to be adorable. How can you tell which one will grow up to be the type of dog that you were looking for?
If you are not prepared to deal with it, try to avoid getting a dog that has undergone trauma. Signs of trauma, like anxiety, distance, or antisocial behavior can be indicators of this. If there is any suspicious behavior from the breeder or anything that gives you cause to question the way that they care for their dogs, then you should not hesitate to seek a different breeder.
Make sure that the puppy you are choosing has just as much energy as its peers. Make sure that it is relatively easy for you to develop a connection with the dog before purchasing it. If he does not approach you or does not seem interested in developing a connection, they may have experienced trauma, or they may simply not like you. Some dogs simply don't enjoy affection, and in many cases, this does not change when they become adults.
However, you must consider all aspects. If you are looking for a dog that will primarily be guarding your house or business, and we'll be spending ample time alone, then perhaps it is wise to choose a dog that fares well on its own.
Considerations: Cost, Diet, Size and Temperament
One of the first things that you should consider is the cost of a German Shepherd. In addition to the cost of a normal dog, which is anywhere from $300 to $700, you will also have to pay the cost of keeping the puppy healthy and safe.
German Shepherds cost about $1,500 to $2,500 a year. This cost will cover things like food, the supplies that you will need to groom your dog, and care from a veterinarian. This depends on where you live, the price of decent dog food, etc. In my country, I can keep costs below $1,000.
Another thing to consider is the diet of your dog. German shepherds grow up quite quickly, and you will need to adjust their diet according to the age and size of your dog. Diet is also incredibly important for a German Shepherd because a proper diet can help reduce the chances of them developing joint and bone conditions later in life.
Also important is to learn about the type of dog that you are buying. Understanding the temperament of a German Shepherd, as well as their intense energy levels, can help prepare you for raising one.
Taking the Puppy Home
Taking your puppy home safely and soundly is the first step in caring for your dog. Trying to get them to lie down and fall asleep before starting the vehicle.
One of the most important things to do is make sure that you take your puppy to a vet. Doing this within 24 hours after purchasing the dog will help to ensure that you know what it needs. Don't skip this step just because the dog is being seen by a veterinarian already.
Taking Your Puppy Out to Potty
One of the first things that you will have to do after you get your dog home is take them to the bathroom. Have a place prepared for them to relieve themselves. Take them here, and praise them they successfully relieve themselves in the proper area.
A German Shepherd puppy will have a very small bladder. This means that it will need to relieve itself quite often, probably at least once every 2–3 hours, if it is drinking enough water. One way to know that your German Shepherd needs to go to the washroom is that it will be walking around in circles, sniffing the ground.
When I get a new puppy, I usually take a couple weeks of vacation time. I fence off a small part of the garden for them to play and we have an area with beach sand and poles where the dog can pee and poop.
Some people train a puppy to relieve themselves using a newspaper. Encourage them to relieve themselves on the newspaper, and then move the newspaper outside. Once they are accustomed to relieving themselves on the newspaper, and if you praise them enough for doing so, they will then want to relieve themselves outside when you move the newspaper outside. I prefer not to do this, it takes too many steps for me. I put the puppy in a bench the first couple of weeks, when I'm not around in the house and just get them out very often.
Raising the Dog: Training and Socialization
There are many things to consider when raising a German Shepherd dog. Having a dog is no small responsibility. Think of it like having a small child—the dog requires lots of love, lots of food, and lots of education.
If you don't train your dog early in its life, it will become more and more difficult to train it as it gets older. If you want your dog to behave well, then it is vital that you train it early in its life. It’s also extremely important to properly socialize your dog so that they can interact with humans and other dogs comfortably.
Tips for Socializing Your Pup
One of the first things that you will want to do with your dog is socialize it. The best way to do this is to introduce it to all manner of people and dogs as early as possible. You will want it to get to know people of different sizes, ethnic backgrounds, and ages, so that it becomes familiar with these types of people as soon as possible.
It's also important to get your dog to bond with other types of animals. One of the best ways to do this is to enroll your puppy in a training school. This will not only help your dog get to know other dogs, but it will help them become properly trained.
Tips for Training Your Pup
Training a German Shepherd takes an exorbitant amount of time, and unless you have a huge amount of spare time it may be difficult for you to train your dog.
One of the best ways to tackle two of the most important parts of raising a puppy— socializing and training—is to enroll them in some sort of puppy kindergarten or training course. Try to do this before your dog reaches 6 months old.
After you have completed basic training courses, your dog can be moved up into more personalized and advanced training lessons. German Shepherds are highly intelligent and can retain a lot of information about their lessons.
Be a Good Leader
One of the most important things about raising a dog is to make sure that you assert dominance. If you don't exert dominance, then your dog probably won't want to listen to you.
One of the most difficult things about having someone else train your dog is that they may not learn to respect your dominance. For this reason, it's wise to establish dominance before you sent them off to training.
Some people confuse the idea of being dominant and assertive with being abusive. There is certainly no reason to be abusive to your dog whatsoever when asserting dominance, or ever. There are a number of influences involved in establishing leadership and dominance over a dog—namely body language, consistency, and training.
There are many guides on establishing dominance available, and there is too much information to convey here. Some tips, though:
- It’s important to establish boundaries with your dog. Remember that it’s not just OK to say 'no', it’s vital. This lets your dog know that you’re the boss and helps them know what is acceptable behavior.
- Learning dominant commands, such as 'leave it' or 'sit down,' will help your dog positively respond to your influence.
Again, it’s probably a wise idea to do some basic training with your dog before you send them off to another trainer so they don’t begin to respect the trainer more than you.
Nutrition and Health
Like any dog, it's important to feed your dog the proper food. There are a number of things for you to consider when feeding your German Shepherd.
German Shepherds do not digest grains very well. For this reason, you should avoid getting them food that contains grain, according to a recommendation from the official German Shepherd dog resource guide.
The ideal diet would be similar to what the dog would eat in the wild. Most dog foods marketed specifically for German shepherds will have some ingredients that reflect this. Read the ingredients carefully if you are choosing a dog food not specifically made for Shepherds.
The dogs can eat up to a hundred pounds of dog food on a monthly basis.
When your dog is young, you will want to feed them between three and four times a day. This will help to ensure that they get the nutrition that they need to grow strong and healthy. In between feedings, remove the dog bowl so they do not beg.
Dogs older than a year can generally feel comfortable eating three meals a day, whereas adults only need two meals a day.
Make sure to regularly take your dog to the vet during its first couple of years. The vet can evaluate whether or not your dog is growing at a healthy rate, and can comment on the diet that you are feeding it.
Your dog may experience health problems during its life. One of the best ways to avoid health problems is to make sure that you only purchase a puppy from a breeder who can provide health records from the dog's parents. Ideally, they will be able to provide a record of previous joint testing done on the dog's parents, as well.
In addition to developing joint and bone problems, some shepherds are also likely to develop cancer and pancreas problems. They may also develop heart disease. Preparing for these possibilities is one of the best ways to ensure that your dog will be properly cared for if they occur.
Grooming and Aesthetics
These are beautiful dogs, and this means that they require a significant amount of upkeep. Here are some basic tips for taking care of your German Shepherd.
You are going to need to brush your German Shepherd quite often. They have long hair, and they shed quite a bit. Make sure that you brush them at least twice a week, preferably once a day if you have time. If you don't have time expect a lot of that fur to end up on your furniture.
During the spring and fall seasons, your dog will shed a lot more than usual. During this time, you can be expected to be vacuuming a lot more than usual. It's also vital that you make time to brush your dog at least once a day during these times.
Bathing is another important aspect of taking care of your German Shepherd. It's important not to bathe them too often because bathing them every day can cause their skin to stop producing natural oils. Over time, this can lead to irritation.
During their shedding seasons, you will probably want to bathe them as often as is necessary to keep them clean. However, for the rest of the year, you should not bathe them more than twice a month. Unless they are really smelly. Make sure you only use a shampoo that is made specifically for dogs and preferably made specifically for this breed.
Also very important to make sure that you clean behind your dog's ears. German Shepherd ears stand tall and upright and are therefore prone to collecting bits of dirt and dust. If you don't clean this dirt and dust out of their ears, they can develop infections and hearing problems.
Cleaning their ears is quite simple. All you need to do is give a gentle, thorough wipe with a damp rag. Many pet stores sell moist wipes specifically for this purpose, but there’s no harm in making your own.
Lots of Love
Much like raising any other dog, it's important that you give a German Shepherd a lot of love. They are very strong, powerful, and loving dogs, but they also require a great deal of care.
It's very important that puppies are socialized at an early age. This ensures that they will be comfortable and happy with other dogs and people for the rest of their lives. It's also important to make sure that they get a lot of exercise, both during their childhood and otherwise.
Following the tips provided in this article should give you enough information to begin raising a German Shepherd puppy - but remember, discussing the issue with a trainer or breeder can help you learn more about your dog.
- 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.
- Monks of New Skete. The Art of Raising a Puppy. Little, Brown and Company, 2011, 352 p.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2019 Sam Shepards
Jean on August 20, 2020:
Is the shephard available
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on December 18, 2019:
THank you for your comment. German Shepherds are not aggressive by nature normally. It all depends how they are brought up and trained. In general they are a safe breed, but I would not advise getting a dog as first time owners when having one or more very small children. You need to know what you are doing and that both the dog as the kids are safe and have space.