There’s no doubt about it. German shepherds are gorgeous animals. Those big brown eyes, that gorgeous fur and muscular stature pretty much make them look like a real-life teddy bear, but in the most regal way possible. Throw in an amazing personality, and you’ve got what seems like a dream dog. (There’s a reason a German shepherd took the 2017 Westminster Best in Show.)
But before you take the leap and adopt a German shepherd for your family, there are some things about them you need to know. Parenting one of these guys is a huge commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you’re seriously considering adopting a German shepherd, you should know that there are dog people, and then there are German shepherd dog people. I would be lost without my German shepherd, and she knows it. And while you’ve probably already done a little research on your own, some advice can only come from an experienced GSD lover. So here are the 10 things you really need to know before adopting a German shepherd.
1. They are smart
The first thing any prospective German shepherd adopter needs to know is that German shepherds are smart. Very smart. Scary smart. These dogs will have your routine figured out before you do, and they are extremely sensitive to human moods. How smart are German shepherds? Not only do they know what “walk” means, but they can also spell it. Backward. Have a training plan in place before you bring your GSD home, and stick to it. Their high intelligence also comes with an eagerness to please their owners. They want to use their smarts in a constructive way, so have a strategy ready to make that possible. A bored German shepherd is no fun for all parties involved.
2. They can have high-energy needs
German shepherds are working dogs. There is a reason they are frequently used as military dogs, police dogs and service dogs. They love having a job to do, and your German shepherd is no exception. Be prepared for lots of long walks with your German shepherd and then some. Take them to a large park where they can run at full speed or consider signing them up for agility course classes. Trust me, if you don’t give your GSD proper and adequate exercise, they’ll start taking their built up energy on your favorite belongings.
3. They require mental stimulation
Long walks might tire out other breeds, but not the German shepherd. In addition to daily exercise, your new German shepherd will also require some mental stimulation. Obedience classes and dog sports can be especially helpful for rescue shepherds. Classes and training give you a bonding experience that builds trust and helps your dog figure out their place in your household, and it can help you diagnose any behavior problems early on.
4. They’re cuddle bugs at home but aloof in public
Don’t be surprised if your rescue German shepherd is a total cuddle bug at home but aloof and distant in public. This is trademark GSD behavior and not something to worry about.
5. German shepherds are natural guard dogs
Without proper socialization, this can sometimes turn into territorial behavior and even aggression toward strangers and other dogs. Adopting an older German shepherd means you don’t know if their previous owner took the time to socialize them. This is a risk potential GSD adopters need to be aware of so they can take the necessary precautions when bringing guests and other dogs onto their property.
6. They are excellent listeners
Nobody is a better listener than a German shepherd. Once you have a GSD in your life, you will never be lonely again. Those radar ears are always listening for your voice, and watching them tilt their head is sure to get a smile out of you on even the toughest day.
7. German shepherds are actually made of Velcro
It is a little-known fact about German shepherds that they are actually made of Velcro (OK, not literally). While not all shepherds are clingy, you can be sure your GSD will never be too far from you, whether you are going to the bathroom, taking a shower, gardening, watching TV, cooking or taking a nap. GSDs take loyalty very seriously.
8. They’re not ideal for first-time owners
German shepherds can be a handful. They require consistent training and a level of experience that makes them a poor choice for first-time dog owners. If you do choose to adopt a GSD for your first dog, make sure you work with an experienced trainer so that your GSD does not develop any potentially dangerous or destructive habits.
9. Not all landlords love German shepherds
Sadly, German shepherds are not always welcomed by landlords. Adopting a GSD might not be a good idea if you are renting. If you are renting, make sure to ask your landlord or property manager if you can have a GSD in your rental before you bring one home.
10. You can’t have just one
Adopting a German shepherd might seem like a harmless decision. What you might not realize is that German shepherds are like potato chips. You can’t have just one. You might find yourself owning German shepherds the rest of your life, which really means you’ve been adopted into the German shepherd family — not the other way around.
Updated by Sarah Long 8/23/2017.