The Magnificent German Shepherd: About the Breed
Other German Shepherd Breeds and GSD (German Shepherd Dog) Mixes
There are a number of related breeds that are similar in appearance and temperament. These include: The Belgian Shepherd, the dutch shepherd, and the Bohemian Shepherd. And there are also the King and Shiloh Shepherd. These large German Shepherd breeds have Alaskan Malamute and Great Pyrenees roots.
German Shepherd mixes are popular among pet owners. These dogs often end up with positive traits of both breeds while avoiding some of the negatives. For example, crossing hounds with German Shepherds creates laid back but trainable pups. Meanwhile, Husky mixes (sometimes called “Gerberian Shepskys”) combine brains with sociability. And German Shepherd-Lab mixes often result in a gentler, goofier personality. Mixing with other breeds also lessens the risk of ailments that plague purebreds. Especially problems of the legs and hips.
The German Shepherd as a Family Pet
German Shepherds in Shelters
German Shepherds are among the top ten breeds whose owners surrender them to shelters and rescues.
German Shepherd Rescue Organizations
German Shepherd rescue groups often serve as an excellent resource. For starters, they’ll tell you about the breed and how to be an effective German Shepherd owner. For example, The Westside German Shepherd Rescue of Los Angeles offers training classes. They also set up monthly group hikes, where people can get to know the rescue’s dogs one-on-one. German Shepherd rescues also often work with trainers who can tell you if they’d be a good fit for your family. Many areas have German Shepherd rescue organizations. Volunteering with one in your area is a great way to both help GSDs, and learn whether this breed is right for you.
How to Be a Successful German Shepherd Owner
So you’ve made the decision: the German Shepherd is the dog for you. Now, how can you become worthy of the honor?
- Learn about the breed. Visit a German Shepherd rescue, talk to GSD owners, research, and read. Try to spend some time around German Shepherds, perhaps by volunteering for a German Shepherd rescue, in order to get a feel for the breed. Visit the dog park and talk to any Shepherd owners that you meet there.
- Train your German Shepherd. German Shepherds need strong leadership, mental stimulation, and a sense of purpose. Training provides all of these things. In addition to basic obedience training, Shepherds also enjoy — and excel at — agility, Schutzhund, nosework, and other competitive training programs. You can read specific German Shepherd training tips at Shepped.com, German Shepherd Corner, and Dog Training Excellence. You can watch a video of a German Shepherd agility competitor here.
- Exercise your Shepherd. The GSD is an athletic dog and needs regular exercise. GSDs that don’t get enough exercise are more likely to suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia later in life — not to mention obesity. Hiking, for example, provides both vigorous exercise and the mental stimulation of new and interesting smells. Exercise time can also be a bonding activity between your family and your Shepherd.
- Keep your Shepherd Cool. German Shepherds are sensitive to heat. If you live in an area where temperatures rise above 80 degrees, make sure your GSD has plenty of shade, cool tiles to lie on, and fresh water at all times.
- Give your Shepherd Space. The GSD is a large, active dog that needs room to move around. If you don’t have a yard, make sure your GSD gets a good, long walk or trip to the dog park every day. If your living space is small, you might consider a smaller dog.
- Love your Shepherd! Let them know that they’re an important part of your pack (even though you’re the alpha). German Shepherds are sensitive creatures with big hearts. They will return your love tenfold.
The German Shepherd is a wonderful dog with a well-deserved following around the world. Is it the right dog for you? Only you can make that decision. But if you take the time and make the effort to do it right, it can be the best decision of your life.