So you’re experienced with dogs and want a devoted canine companion that’s loyal to the family, good with kids, and a good house dog. Congratulations! You’ve just described the German shepherd!
The German shepherd is both intelligent and sensitive, which means in the right hands they make great family dogs. A young person walking alongside an obedient German shepherd is a real boost to the former’s self-confidence, plus peace of mind for you, the parent, knowing that few people will take liberties with someone who has a GSD on the other end of the leash.
Likewise, if you want a dog in order to get fresh air and exercise, then a GSD is one option. They love to be active and need an outlet for that energy. Their quick learning means they will thrive when challenged with advanced obedience training or physical activities such as agility trials.
Not for nothing do the police and security forces use German shepherds and the imposing presence of a GSD makes them an ideal family guard dog. It is indeed a foolhardy burglar who breaks into a house where a GSD resides. But don’t forget you’ll have the best of both worlds, because your guard dog is also a devoted and loyal companion who loves to be with you and worship the ground you walk on.
In short, a German shepherd is a great match for the experienced dog handler who craves exercise and wants to be involved in the challenge of advanced dog training. In addition they make a devoted companion and an imposing guard dog ...for the right person.
The intelligence and quick wits of the GSD mean this is not a breed for the beginner to learn dog handling skills with. The dog will just as readily learn bad habits as good, and so the hesitant trainer could quickly get out of their depth and end up with a dog that runs rings around them. The GSD is an energetic breed and if left for long periods of time without a chance to run and chase, is liable to develop bad habits. These include barking, chewing, and destructive digging. So if your lifestyle does not allow for daily long walks, you’ll either need to employ a dog walker or consider a different breed.
GSDs also have certain character traits such as a tendency to mouthiness. This needs correcting at an early age in order to reduce the risk of serious bites, which even when done in play can be painful and dangerous
Another quirk of the breed is a love of their own voice. This means they don’t hold back when it comes to barking, and also exhibit an impressive array of ear-splitting howls and whines. Beware the bored GSD as he’s liable to make his own amusement by singing...and not in a way the neighbours enjoy.
Despite their imposing presence German shepherds’ are described as “sensitive”, meaning they are prone to anxiety or nervousness, especially when poorly socialized as puppies. This can be corrected with the help of a confident owner who knows how to react (and when not to react!) when the dog shows signs of fear aggression or unwillingness to approach a strange situation
Unfortunately, German shepherds are also prone to a number of health problems, so the savvy owner is wise to insure their pet. These conditions issues include hip and elbow dysplasia, lack of pancreatic enzymes, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergic skin conditions. Once diagnosed, the dog is liable to need lifelong treatment which can be costly, especially for a large dog like a German Shepherd.
And last but not least, German shepherds shed heavily. If you are house proud and object to dust balls of hair wafting across the laminate flooring...then a German shepherd dog isn’t for you unless you like cleaning.
Know the GSD is a Working Dog - Your dog is descended from working dogs and as such has an insatiable appetite for exercise. When you meet his needs to run, chase, jump, and retrieve on a daily basis, you have a happy dog that is eager to please. This means he’s tuned in when it comes to training, rather than distracted and looking for trouble. Know that boredom is the enemy when it comes to training. Your first task is to meet the dog’s need for physical activity. Take stock and see what adjustments you can make to schedule at least two, 45-minute active exercise sessions each day. If your work schedule doesn’t allow this, then consider using a dog walking service.
The 3 C’s:- Clear, Consistent, Cues! To train a GSD means a combination of exercise and mental stimulation. To be effective you need to stick to certain basic rules, which include the 3Cs: Be clear - Have a clear set of commands that everyone uses. Remember, English is a foreign language to your dog so using “Down” and “Drop” for the same action will confuse him. Decide on command words and stick the list on the fridge door so the family know the correct cues to use. Be consistent: - by applying all house rules consistently. No feeding from the table means just that 7 days a week, with no exceptions at the weekend. Use cues - the tone of voice to guide your dog and give verbal cues to mark good and bad behaviour. Let your know he’s about to make a wrong choice with a short, sharp, “Uh no”, followed by a happy “Good boy”, when he does as asked.
Reward-based Training - Dominance theory is disproven. Yes German shepherds need a firm hand but alpha rolls and harsh punishment are liable to create a nervous, sub-servient dog that behaves unpredictably and resorts to aggression. Instead, train your dog by rewarding their good behaviour. The rules are easy, you use a treat, praise, or play to reward the dog when he correctly carries out a command. Guide him with a disapproving “No”, when he makes the wrong decisions. This way he learns the way to earn goodies is to be a good boy and training becomes fun...This is the basis behind Royvon’s training techniques.
Dominance theory is disproven. - Yes German Shepherds need a firm hand but alpha rolls and harsh punishment are liable to create a nervous, sub-servient dog that behaves unpredictably and resorts to aggression. Instead, train your dog by rewarding their good behaviour. The rules are easy, you use a treat, praise, or play to reward the dog when he correctly carries out a command. Guide him with a disapproving “No”, when he makes the wrong decisions. This way he learns the way to earn goodies is to be a good boy and training becomes fun...This is the basis behind Royvon’s training techniques.
Consider the GSD Character - Understand your GSD is intelligent but sensitive. When training, use compassion, kindness, and knowledge, to teach your dog how to behave. Engage your dog’s intelligence and motivate him with things he loves doing. For example, if he loves playing ball, use this is a reward for a command well done. Likewise, remember GSDs are capable of learning complex routines (think of what service dogs do!) as long as they are broken down into individual steps. For example, provide mental stimulation by teaching your dog to put his toys away in a box. Teach one step at a time (Pick up and drop a ball, fetch and drop a ball, fetch and drop a ball into a box) only moving onto to the next step when he’s mastered the first.
Don’t ‘Baby’ your GSD - A GSD feels most secure when he knows and understands the rules. He thrives on firm, consistent (that word again!) fair, leadership. To this end don’t treat him as a lapdog as it will confuse and unsettle him. Know a happy dog looks for guidance and finds routine reassuring. Once again, write down the house rules and stick them to the fridge for all the family to use. Know that treating your dog to the occasional cuddle on the sofa will only confuse and unsettle him
Health Matters - GSDs are prone to joint disease and hip dysplasia. Protect the developing joints of a young dog by feeding a good quality diet that is designed for large breed growth. Also, avoid over strenuous exercise such as agility training until those bones have finished growing at around 12 – 18 months of age.
Weighty Issues - GSDs are meant to be wedge-shaped with a lovely tucked up waistline. It’s all too easy for a GSD to pile on the pounds and lose that midriff definition. If this is the case watch out for hidden calories in training treats. Keep up the rewards but be sure to cut back on his meal-time kibble, and weigh out his ration at the beginning of the day and put some aside in a pot to use as training treat
Use the Right Tools for the Job - Perfection doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does the perfect recall. Be realistic and take the pressure off yourself by using the right tools for the job. For the non-responsive returner, attach a long line to his collar. That way he has the option to respond of his own free will, but if he’s too distracted you still have control. Likewise, if your dog is over-reactive and behaves aggressively, consider using a muzzle. The peace of mind that he can do no harm will relieve your tension, which in turn helps the dog be more relaxed.
Seek Professional Help - GSDs are strong, demanding dogs. If the training isn’t going to plan don’t be afraid to call in the professionals. It’s much better to get a plan put in place sooner rather than later, before bad habits become deeply entrenched and are hard to correct.