Every year, about 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted. Of that number, a large amount is returned simply because the owners couldn't care for them. This is especially common for puppies that don't receive proper training.
You might think that German Shepherds are exempt from these numbers. They're so obedient. They're trained to be police dogs; they're in the military; they're even trained to herd animals on farms.
They take a lot of training to get there, though, especially German Shepherd puppies. While adopting a German Shepherd puppy is possibly one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever think of, it's definitely something to think about before taking the plunge.
Luckily, we're here to help you learn all you need to know about taking care of puppies and even what you need to know beforehand.
Read on to learn all you need to know about taking care of and raising German Shepherd puppies.
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Ensure You'd Like to Adopt a German Shepherd
The very first thing you need to consider is whether or not a German Shepherd puppy is going to match your lifestyle. They're a physically demanding breed that requires a lot of regular exercise and stimulation. If they don't get this, you can expect behavioral problems like chewing on and getting into things they shouldn't (a common thing for any breed).
They're a particularly aloof breed, but they make excellent and watchful family pets. German Shepherds may take time to warm up to strangers and even children, but with proper training and boundary establishment, they're very well-behaved dogs.
The two other large things to consider before you decide; how much their care costs and just how big they can get.
While some females can be as small as 51 pounds, some males can weigh up to 90 pounds. Typically, females are smaller than males, but German Shepherds are by no means a small breed.
Their average height is anywhere from 22 to 26 inches. If you need a size comparison, the average height of a Pomeranian is around 10 inches tall.
The other thing to consider is how much they're going to cost not only to adopt but also to care for. Since German Shepherds are typically a large breed, they're going to cost more to feed, transport, and care for on a day-to-day basis.
On average, their food alone can cost almost $700 a year.
Tips for Picking a Puppy
Once you've figured out whether you can handle the financial responsibility of a German Shepherd puppy, it's time to pick out the puppy themselves. Here are a few things to consider, whether you're adopting from a breeder or a shelter.
Look for Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Abuse or neglect is likely to be more common in shelter puppies, but it's definitely a possibility if you're adopting from a breeder. Some signs of abuse can include:
- Food aggression (or refusing to leave food when called)
- Separation anxiety
- Antisocial behavior
Submission can be a tricky thing to spot at times, but it isn't impossible to detect. Sometimes in it's a dog's nature to be naturally submissive, and it's an important trait to have if they're going to be around established packs. Here are a few signs of abnormal submission that can point to emotional abuse, though:
- Cowering in fear or hiding when approached
- Rolling over or walking away with tail tucked between legs when approached
- Laying down or cowering while urinating
These puppies aren't impossible to rehabilitate, but they're going to require patience. Scolding or becoming angry with an abused puppy will only make the problem worse, so it's smart to consider whether or not it's something you can handle.
Is the Breeder AKC Certified?
If you're not adopting from a shelter, it's important to ensure the breeder you're looking to work with is a reputable one. The American Kennel Club (AKC) actually has a list of breeders and contacts that have been vetted for humane practices.
Adopting these breeders is an especially important thing you can do to ensure you're getting a healthy and well-cared-for puppy.
Look Out for Their Demeanor
But also be aware that, while they're still a puppy, you do potentially have some effect on their personality as they grow older. While there are definitely things you might not be able to change (how much they enjoy affection, whether or not they like playing for hours or a few minutes), but there are still a lot of things you can affect.
The things you can affect usually have to do with their overall temperament. With proper training and boundary-setting, aggressive puppies can be taught to socialize. The same goes for shy or insecure puppies.
Curious and hyperactive puppies are already set up for success on the socialization front, but you'll have to show them proper interactions with other dogs and even humans.
Once you've decided on a puppy, it's time to start training. These are important guidelines to take into consideration and also important to ensure you can achieve. While this article is going to focus on GSD puppies specifically, they're also milestones to take into consideration no matter what breed of puppy you decide upon.
Socialization is important for any breed because it ensures that you can take your dog out in public safely. It is especially important, however, for German Shepherd puppies from the age of 12-16 weeks old.
As we talked about earlier, this breed is naturally protective of its owners. That's why it's important to establish from an early age which strangers are friendly and what situations are not a threat.
The more variety you can provide with your puppy's interactions, the better. This means typical interactions, like going for a walk or visiting the dog park, but also rarer ones. Some examples might be a blind person's white cane that helps them navigate or meeting a person in a wheelchair.
While these interactions aren't exactly uncommon to see, if your puppy is unfamiliar with them as they grow older, they might see them as a threat the first time they come across them.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to proper socialization, however, is that your puppy will pick up on your cues. This means that confidence is key when it comes to training. If you're nervous the entire time you're attempting to socialize your dog, they're going to notice and become hesitant as well.
Ensuring that you're safely exposing your puppy to new sounds, smells, and sights will give you both the confidence needed to live and work together.
Crate training is a great way to help your puppy avoid developing social anxiety. Like socialization, confidence and safety are crucial to this particular method of training.
Your puppy's crate isn't a punishment. In fact, it's usually seen as a safe space for them to go when they want some alone time. To start crate training, begin by placing them in their crate for feeding times and when you sleep at night.
It might be difficult when you first start, but it's important to stay consistent, as this shows your puppy that their crate is a place they're safe in.
It's also great to leave them in their crate when you leave the house. How long you're gone is going to depend on their age (the older they get, the longer they can wait to use the bathroom), but it's still a good way to ensure they're safe when left alone.
Crate training is also a great way to supplement house training — especially for GSDs. House training is usually simple for this breed, especially accompanied by supervision, patience, and consistency on the owner's part.
When you first bring your puppy home, it's important to take them out at least once an hour, though this number will go down as they get older. Reward them when they use the restroom outside, and don't punish them if they have an accident inside.
When you use harsh reinforcement, like shoving their nose in their urine, they're not necessarily going to understand what's going on. Instead, if they have an accident and you catch them in the act, simply pick them up and take them outside. This shows them where they're supposed to go, reinforcing the boundary rather than training from a place of fear.
The same goes for chewing on or getting into items they're not supposed to. Yelling, hitting, or scaring your puppy is not an effective way to train them.
Instead — when they're getting into things they shouldn't — remove the item from their possession or move them to a different location while firmly saying "no." Then, place a toy in front of them and say "yes."
Just like you often have to explain to a child what they've done wrong in situations like that, you have to show your puppy what you expect from them. In this case, toys are expected to be chewed on.
Setting clear boundaries and expectations from day one is not only going to make training your puppy easier, but it's going to make it easier for them to trust you.
Starting at three months, obedience training should take place for your puppy. This includes basic commands, impulse control, and teaching them which behaviors are inappropriate for them to exhibit.
For impulse control, that means teaching them to stay when food is set in front of them. Inappropriate behaviors will depend on the owner, but this usually means things like excessive barking, digging, chasing (especially cats and cars), or even jumping and begging.
Establishing trust is important for your dog because the key to obedience training is having their focus be on you. You're the one giving the cue, so they have to be able to trust that you're guiding them appropriately.
Having your puppy sit before getting food, being greeted by house guests, playing with a toy, or opening the door to go for a walk is a great place to start. In these situations, the more you can have the puppy's attention on you instead of the impulse, the more effective their training will be. (That means lots of positive reinforcement with lots of treats!)
After 1 Year
For many breeds, one year old is considered the "end" of puppyhood, but for a lot of german shepherds, that doesn't come until the age of two to three years old.
It's important to continuously reinforce training methods like impulse control, obedience skills, and even possibly advancing to other, more specific, training skills like agility, herding, and even protection work.
GSDs are capable of performing all these duties and even excel at them. When you give your puppy something a job to focus on at certain points throughout the day, you give them something to look forward to — dogs of any breed thrive on this.
Ready to Venture Into the World of German Shepherd Puppies?
No matter what decision you make, a puppy will make a wonderful addition to any family they're added to — German Shepherd puppies are no exception to this.
Overall, the breed is a very loving, loyal, and protective breed. They're going to have a natural affinity for you from the start. If you give them the proper love, affection, and training, you're definitely going to reap the rewards of the decision you made to adopt.
Once you decide to adopt, your puppy is going to need a few supplies of its own. Check out our custom german shepherd gifts to show off your love for your puppy no matter where you both choose to venture.