Raise a German Shepherd

Edited by Mian Sheilette Ong, Lynn, Eng, Jmgf and 7 others

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Also known as the Deutscher Schaferhund, Alsatian, and GSD, the German Shepherd is a popular large breed of working dogs, usually helpful in drug detection, rescue, and bomb detection. The German Shepherd may be a fierce breed at first sight, but if you raise yours right, you will end up with a sweet, trusted friend and companion. Through the Warner Bros Rin Tin Tin movies, the German Shepherd definitely became increasingly popular. They are known as "war dogs" or "dogs of war" and many American soldiers took one home after the World War II. Having a German Shepherd by your side is not an easy task. The GSD is a large breed of dog that needs a strong, firm leader. If you know you can be that leader to a German Shepherd, then this is the dog for you. When you raise your Alsatian right, you will earn a smart, happy, loyal, and loving family member.

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Choosing Your German Shepherd Puppy

One of the basic considerations when raising a German Shepherd is making the right choice. Taking home a GSD puppy may seem to be a very challenging task, especially for first-time dog owners. When it comes to choosing the right puppy, you need to have foresight. You have to think of preparing the space, the food, the accessories, the vet, and the reputable breeder from which you will procure the puppy. The following are things that you have to consider to choose the right GSD puppy:

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    Take note of the breeder
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    Reputable German Shepherd breeders always have pricey puppies because of the kind of care that they provide. The pups you acquire from these professional breeders receive only the best kind of care from food to sleeping areas. Some even provide basic training as a starter for the new owners. Look for experienced and credible breeders who are more than willing to help you care for your GSD puppy. Getting your GSD puppy from a reputable breeder is the best way to start your life with this breed of dog. Reputable Alsatian breeders have all the knowledge about GSDs that you won't be able to get from German Shepherd rescue centers or shelters.
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    Consider the temperament of the puppy
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    Breeders always recommend that new owners look for the puppy with the right temperament. The GSD pup that you take home should be adaptable to many situations. One way to ascertain will be your first contact with the puppy. Your ideal puppy will be curious, slightly excited, but still moving toward you without fear. The puppy should have great coping skills, should not be too excited, and should always be attentive. The temperament is said to be the key in training and raising your GSD pup, whether you want him or her to be a companion, a therapy dog, a rescue dog, or a herding dog.
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    Ask for the necessary information about the breeder
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    You should be able to inquire everything you want about the breeder. Inquire about the breeder's club membership in your area. You should also ask for referrals from German Shepherd owners in your area, and your local dog groomers and veterinarians. You can also do your research online. Bottom line is - you need to do your inquiries carefully so you can go home with a healthy German Shepherd puppy.
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    Visit the kennel
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    Be sure to visit the breeder's kennel. See if it is clean, because this is a neon sign that the breeder is truly dedicated to taking care of healthy German Shepherd puppies. You have to back out immediately if your instincts tell you that the breeder does not keep a pleasant smelling and presentable kennel.
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    Find out if the breeder is concerned about the puppy
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    See if the breeder wants to ensure the GSD puppy goes to a good home. This should outweigh the intention of receiving payment. It's a good idea to talk to the breeder several times to establish trust on both ends and to give you time to bond with the puppy before you take him or her home.
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    See if the breeder has a guarantee or contract
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    This makes sure you get only the best quality puppy. Many breeders include dog food, accessories, and toys in the care package they give when the pup is released to your care.
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    Carefully assess the puppy before making your purchase
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    Ask the breeder for the vaccination records or any type of procedure done to the puppy such as microchipping. See if the puppy is socialized, of proper weight, without parasites, without odors, and without bald spots. Take the puppy to your veterinarian within 48 hours after taking him or her home.
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The Alsatian Qualities

Understanding the German Shepherd breed will definitely help you become a more effective owner. The Alsatian was developed in the late 1800s in Germany. From ordinary herding dogs, they were turned into all-purpose working dogs that are versatile and very dependable. You should start studying about the Alsatian traits, even before thinking of purchasing your GSD puppy. Here are the basic characteristics you should take note of:

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    Physical traits
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    The GSD is a large dog breed. They can grow up to 26 inches tall (at the point of the shoulder). A large GSD male can grow up to 88 pounds. German Shepherds are usually seen as handsome dogs with their agility, nobility, and strength. They have very alert facial expressions. Their ears are alert and their gaze is watchful and direct. Their double coat is short, with a soft undercoat and a dense, coarse overcoat, however, there are other German Shepherds that have long coats. Black and tan, or red and tan are the two most recognized GSD coat colors. Reputable breeders do not prefer white GSDs. The 1970s pulled out white German Shepherd dog club members who wanted to have the pure white GSD recognized and classified as a breed separate from the standard German Shepherd. You could easily spot a male GSD because of its masculine appearance. Females appear soft and feminine.
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    Temperament
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    GSDs are very popular because of their natural intelligence. They are very easy to work with and train. They are very loyal as well, making them the best breeds to work in law enforcement, security, and the military. GSDs are self-assured, eager to learn, and very confident. They tend to be attached and trust only one or two people, or to the family that the dog considers his or her pack. They are very protective and they will always defend you from intruders. That is why they are tagged as aggressive. It's up to you to get rid of all behavioral and socialization problems, so your GSD will be pleasant to be around with. They are not dangerous. In fact, they love to play and they always love to be with their pack. You will enjoy your hike and runs more with them by your side.
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    Health issues
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    Make sure you get a copy of the various tests done on the puppy to let you know it is clear of any major diseases.  
    1. Hip dysplasia is a common concern with the GSD breed. It is has a lot to do with heredity. Reputable breeders always have their dogs hips scored before they mate so there will be a lower incidence of hip dysplasia in the puppies. The hips are usually X-rayed allowing the most optimal animals to breed. Many factors contribute to hip dysplasia, such as rapid weight gain and rapid growth. Police departments prefer GSDs with a straight back or top-line, rather than dogs with a sloping back, which is what show dog breeders desire.
    2. Elbow dysplasia is also another issue affecting GSDs. Elbow dysplasia can be prevented by scoring the dogs elbows before breeding.
    3. Others may have the Von Willebrand's Disease, which is a clotting disorder caused by hereditary factors.
    4. GSDs are also known to have recurring ear and skin allergies or infections. The breed can also suffer from bloat because of their deep chest. Do not over feed or let them exercise or drink immediately after eating.
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    Maintaining your GSD
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    Remember that GSDs are high-energy dogs. They are at their best when they have tasks to perform every day. They can be seen at their fastest and strongest when they run obstacle courses and agility tests. You still need to stimulate them properly with obedience training. Never leave them bored. Look for puppy pre-school that could start the obedience classes for you.
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Raising a German Shepherd

The challenge and the excitement of having a German Shepherd starts the moment you decide to take one home. As you know, it is a huge dog, and therefore, a very significant new member of the family. This is heightened for those who are first-time dog owners. Remember that your GSD doesn't have to live up to a reputation of a mean or aggressive dog. You have to be a dedicated owner and master so that your pup will know exactly who the pack leader is. In case you aren't sure - it's you! Below are basic pointers that you have to take note of when raising your German Shepherd:

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    Submission
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    Your main goal is to make you puppy submissive to you and to your family. This is the main focus when raising a GSD. From puppyhood, you have to instill in the pup's mind that you and your family should never be harmed. Experiencing a bite from your own GSD brings forth emotional and physical harm, which is very undesirable. Take note that the breed is a biter so you have to train your puppy not to bite, even during play. You must create a command to stop your puppy from biting immediately.
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    Consult a professional obedience trainer
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    Barking and biting are two common problems that need to be corrected. A professional obedience trainer can help you to eliminate these or any other signs of aggression.
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    Be the pack leader
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    By nature, dogs are pack oriented and it is your responsibility to let your puppy know that you are the leader. Aggression and dominance rise the moment your GSD puppy believes the leadership role is not established. He'll try to take it. You should, however, never hit or hurt your dog. This will only make them resent you. They remember everything from puppyhood and if you start with respect and love, you will have a good adult GSD.
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    Provide proper nutrition
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    The amount of nutrients that your GSD pup gets also plays a role in behavioral problems. If you only give low quality food, your pup will always end up sick. If they are always ill, they will not relate to you properly because they are focused on letting you know they are uncomfortable. Supplements and a balanced diet will make sure that your GSD will grow up to be a healthy, happy companion.
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    Be patient with the basics
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    Basic things like potty training should be the first thing you teach your GSD. This patience should be utilized for every other command you teach the, such as come, stay, and sit. They are very quick to learn. All you have to do is set up a system of treats that are only given when your GSD does something right.
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    Provide a clean sleeping space
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    GSDs can be inside dogs if you have chosen one for the purpose of becoming a family dog or companion. You should give your pup a ready-made bed that you can purchase from pet stores. This can be placed in your bedroom or in a corner of the living room. Others prefer making their GSDs outside dogs or guard dogs. They have kennels built for them in their yard. Either way, you should always make sure that their sleeping or living space provides sufficient shelter from the weather, is cozy, comfortable and clean. This contributes to their optimal health and good behavior.
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    Update your GSD's vaccines
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    Part of being a responsible GSD owner is to make sure your dog's vaccinations are complete and up to date. You should work with your vet to do this. Your vet will set the schedules for the vaccines and checkups and you just have to comply. Maintaining this routine also helps expose your GSD to other people and other dogs, especially when there is a line at the vet clinic.
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    Do not let your GSD pup walk on grass or on the street unless the vaccines are up to date
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    This will expose your pup to various pathogens that could easily affect his or her overall health.
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    Consult your vet about probiotic supplements
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    GSDs are known to have sensitive stomachs. They tend to have diarrhea when their stomach doesn't agree with what you have fed them. This calls for probiotic supplementation from natural sources such as yogurt or cultured milk. Probiotics are good bacteria that return the balance of bacterial population in your GSD's body. With additional probiotics, your GSD will have less digestive sensitivity.
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    Calcium, iron, and multi-vitamin supplements
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    German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia so you have to make sure that your pup's bones are strong. Iron and multivitamins will ensure proper cell regeneration, especially when small injuries occur. Your pup's immune system should be optimal. Ask your vet for the right supplements to give your GSD. Also, ask for the right dosage. Take note that only vet medications and supplements should be given to your GSD, and never those prepared for human consumption.
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    Always prepare a monthly budget for your GSD
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    As your pup grows, he or she will need more care, space, and food, and it will become more expensive as your dog grows. There are certain things you will need to purchase for your dog.  
    1. Budget for the cost of your dog by setting aside money every month specifically for your GSD.
    2. If you are not home most of the time, you should purchase interactive toys that will keep him or her busy.
    3. Accessories and grooming materials are also a must.
    4. Supplements that your vet prescribes.
    5. Treats for training.
    6. A custom or ready-made bed.
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    Devote quality time to train your GSD
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    German Shepherds are intelligent. They aim to please you and to protect you at all costs. Make sure to tap into that intelligence. Spark your GSD's interest with toys, affection, or treats and you will surely get to teach him or her unique tricks and obedience commands. It is important for you to master the "sit" and "stay" commands because these may save your dog's life. If you want your GSD to be trained at an advanced level, you should hire an experienced dog trainer.
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    Make sure that your GSD has enough exercise
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    The Alsatian breed is a working dog, which means that your GSD has a high amount of energy. If you have a park trail in your area or a nice, shady place to walk, then it's a good area to take your GSD for his or her exercise. There are GSDs that are efficient runners while others like to take their time. Always take them for walks so that they won't divert their energy into something destructive like chewing on the sofa or eating your shoes.
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    Groom your GSD
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    Alsatians are shedders. You have to make sure that you brush their double coats every day so that you don't have that much loose fur all over your home. Also, clean your GSD's ears weekly but never use a Q-tip because you might hit the eardrum.
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Training Your German Shepherd

Having a well-trained GSD is an accomplishment, especially if you do this without the help of professional trainers. You can train your GSD if you have the time, the tools, and the patience. Here are some pointers on how to train your German Shepherd:

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    Use positive reinforcement
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    This is a common technique used by many dog owners or trainers. Positive reinforcement is rewarding your GSD ever time he or she does something right. It doesn't have to be food. The reward can be in the form of toys, petting, or affection in general. It would be wonderful if you get to the point where your GSD performs tricks without expecting any reward.
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    Consider a clicker
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    Using a clicker to train your GSD is an easier way to get each trick or command done. Purchase a clicker and then condition your dog to recognize each click as a positive thing. This can be done by relating the sound of the click to getting a treat after doing something right. Do the clicker conditioning several times every day before you start with any trick or command.
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    Patience and repetition
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    Training your GSD involves a great deal of patience despite the repetition involved. It is through repetition that your GSD will learn his tricks and commands. Consistency in the types of commands repeated is also a key to a great training session. Stick to only one command per trick or per obedience cue. This way, you will not get your dog confused and yourself very frustrated.
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    Timing
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    Remember that you have to reward on time. As soon as the deed is done correctly, present your reward with or without a click. If your GSD knows that there is a reward after the command, then he or she will strive to always get the command right each time.
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    Never be angry or forceful
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    Training should be something positive for you and for your GSD. If you're starting to become frustrated for any reason at all, stop the session, making sure that your dog succeeds with the trick. Start fresh again the next day and end it once again on a positive note. This will let your GSD know that learning is fun and that you should not be feared. When the dog has no fear of you in the sessions, there will be less incidence of biting and a higher success with getting the trick done right.
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    Research and apply
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    Many resources are available when it comes to training your GSD. Just have an open mind and have the patience to apply them on your own. You can also join forums on social networks to supplement what you have already learned.
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    Keep the training sessions short and fun
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    GSDs are like children. You should capture their attention and make sure each session goes for no longer than 20 minutes. This will allow them to learn faster and look forward to the next training. Again, always end your sessions with success on the part of your GSD.
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    Spay or neuter first
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    It will be a lot easier for you to execute the commands knowing that your GSD has fewer hormones to worry about. Spaying or neutering your GSD allows you to have more control over you're her or him. The procedures also decrease the possibility of acquiring diseases in the future.
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    Train when it is almost mealtime
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    You will catch your GSD's attention more if he or she is hungry during training. The allure of food will keep your dog interested in getting the commands right. In the end, you'll have a more successful training session.
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    Always train when your GSD is feeling great
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    If your GSD is sick, postpone the session so that you can establish learning as something positive and not associate training with feeling bad.
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If you are able to train your GSD well, you will end up with a dependable, clever, loving, loyal, and confident companion. Always be positive that your GSD can do it and you will see the results first hand.

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Precautions When Raising a German Shepherd

Caring for a German Shepherd requires a lot of dedication. You should be prepared if you want your relationship with your Alsatian to be harmonious. Take note of the following precautions:

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    GSDs are notorious biters
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    German Shepherds play-bite when they are puppies. If not corrected, they will carry this habit over in adulthood and this can cause problems. They have a powerful bite. You should take control of this at an early age, especially if you have children in your home. Have your trainer take care of this correction if you are not sure of what to do.
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    Alsatians are easily bored
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    You have to keep your GSD's mind occupied all the time because they are easily bored. Remember that they are intelligent dogs and they will look for something to do if their task at the moment is done. Provide durable chew toys or treat dispensers to keep them interested and mentally active. They can destroy your home if you don't provide stimulating activities for them.
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    They can be dominant
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    GSDs are large and powerful dogs that need an assertive leader. You should step up to the plate if no one else in the family wants to. Having someone as the leader will make your GSD aware that he or she is not in charge. Obedience will be easier to achieve.
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The GSD instincts

The following are the Alsatian instinct that you should be aware of:

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    Prey instinct
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    This is the instinct that is tapped into during protection work. GSDs can chase objects and grab hold onto them by pure instinct. They are really fast and motivated. You will recognize this when your GSD reaches seven months.
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    Fighting instinct
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    This is used for active aggression and for offensive tactics. Sudden, rhythmic, and explosive barking signals this. The barking stimulates the high level of alertness and protectiveness.
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    Self-preservation instinct
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    Also known as reactive aggression, this increases the GSD's protective and territorial nature.
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    Social aggression instinct
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    A bark or a growl characterizes this. These are expressions made to display dominance or give out a warning until the GSD actually faces the threat.
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    Pack instinct
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    This instinct is highly developed in Alsatians. This keeps the GSD close to his or her pack. A pack may include other people and animals that are in his home and workplace. This instinct also triggers protectiveness.
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Considerations When Performing Activities With Your GSD

It's fun to take your GSD along when doing physical activities such as marathons, hikes, walks, skating, and cycling. However, you should take certain considerations if you want your GSD to have fun and be safe at the same time. Below are some you might want to look at:

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    Special footwear
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    If you plan to take a very long hike up a treacherous mountain, you probably don't have to take your GSD along with you. Although they are working dogs, they don't have shoes. You have to consider the type of terrain. Your GSD's feet will be exposed to, as they only have footpads to walk on, and not footwear specifically designed for this type of brutal terrain. You can train your GSD to wear special or custom footwear for hiking and rugged terrain. This will make them feel more comfortable when they step on rocky or muddy ground.
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    Health and safety
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    Consider your GSD's overall health if you want him or her to go with you on these vigorous activities. A full vet check up is necessary before each activity. Hip dysplasia, arthritis, and heart conditions should be known so that your GSD won't become sick or injured during or after the activity. If you know your GSD has a health condition, it would be better to leave the dog in the safety and security of your home. Always carry a first aid kit that include things for your dog - just in case.
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    Leash
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    Always put your GSD on a leash, especially in places where you still don't know how he or she would behave. On a forest trail, there are small animals that could easily attract your GSD and lead him or her astray.
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    Hydrate
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    Dogs in general overheat quickly. Make sure that you have water ready for your GSD at all times.
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Tips

  • Always work with your vet in taking good care of your German Shepherd.
  • Socialize your GSD at an early age to avoid biting incidents around the neighborhood.
  • Gauge yourself regarding your level of responsibility. Having a GSD is a major decision that you have to be certain of before taking one home.

Questions and Answers

How to raise a German Shepherd not to be a fierce animal?

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German Shepherds are a very sociable and relational type of dog, and they need constant companionship and interaction. Raising a German shepherd is a lifetime commitment to training and proper care. Generally, this breed of dogs is considered to be one of the world's most intelligent breeds. Also, these breeds are noted as one of the fiercest attack dogs due to their highly dominant personality, but when trained properly and with care, German Shepherds are extremely loyal and gentle companions.

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Some factors that should be considered during the training phase of the GSD are the following:

  • Socialization & Interaction
  • Training Orientation
  • Environment

To make sure your dog does not grow up to be fierce, the early stages of the dog's socialization is crucial when raising a German Shepherd. It is best to begin training and socialization during the first three months of the puppy's life. A lack of socialization for the GSD can lead to troublesome dogs for their owners. Here are some tips that can be used during socialization in order to reduce the animal's tendencies toward animosity against people:

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  • Invite other family and friends and allow them to interact with your GSD pups.
  • Take the dog outside, expose him or her to environments where there are lots of people, and allow him or her to become familiarized with the normal sounds of cars, people and the environment.
  • Allow your friends' dogs to mingle with your pup, but avoid the aggressive types to reduce any risks of fighting.
  • Make your pup comfortable with the process of grooming and constant cleaning, like brushing, bathing, ear cleaning and even nail clipping.

The dog's training and orientation can also be crucial in ensuring that your dog does not become a fierce animal.

  • Ensure that you show dominance over your pup, and establish that you are the alpha of the pack and your dog needs to submit to you. These breeds are generally dominant by nature, so it is important to establish your roles in the household at the beginning of the training and orientation.
  • Make sure to use soft and loving words when training your GSD.
  • Reward your dogs with a treat if they act in a desirable way, and doing so will create positive reinforcement of values and training for your pet.
  • Never treat your GSD with violence, as this will only make the animal grow to resent you and make the dog more fierce as it grows into adulthood.

Interested in adopting a German Shepherd.

I'm interested in adopting a German shepherd, but want to know if you have to be a very experienced owner or would bringing the dog to training work as well

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Planning to buy a German Shepherd.

I'm planning to buy a German shepherd. This is my first time buying a dog, especially a German shepherd. I don't know if the puppy I'm buying is healthy, good and pure breed. I also need some advice about training my Puppy GSD. I have tried: Nothing.. I think it was caused by: Cause I've never owned a dog.

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My puppy is 7 month old. He is not gaining weight.

Previously I had taken him to the vet who told me that he has Anemia. After treatment he was well but again started eating less. I tried everything - egg - royal canine, pedigree, but he is still not eating as he was eating before.

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How can I increase the weight of my GSD puppy?

The 3-month-old GSD puppy weighs 4 kg.

Start giving food 3-4 times a day and follow the basic instructions shown on the bag of the dog food that you feed it. For example, Royal Canin has a chart for puppies that shows how much on average the German Shepherd puppies should be fed: Royal Canin Feeding Chart. Use this chart wisely: if your dog is more active, then you will need to increase the daily dosage, which should be also split into 3-4 meals a day. 4 kilograms at 3 months for both male and female dogs is too low, but be careful and do not overfeed your dog, as dog will eat as much as given to it. As your puppy is 3 months old, you do not need milk in its diet.

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Check the chart below for optimal weight in kilograms for male and female dogs.

  • 3 mos.: male range 10-14 female range 8- 12
  • 4 mos.: male range 16-18 female range 13-16
  • 5 mos.: male range 18-22 female range 16-20
  • 6 mos.: male range 22-26 female range 20-22
  • 7 mos.: male range 26-28 female range 22-24
  • 8 mos.: male range 28-30 female range 24-26
  • 9 mos.: male range 29-32 female range 25-27
  • 10 mos.: male range 30-33 female range 26-28
  • 11 mos.: male range 30-34 female range 27-29
  • 12 mos.: male range 32-34 female range 27-29
  • 18 mos.: male range 32-36 female range 27-30
  • 24 mos.: male range 32-38 female range 28-30
  • 36 mos.: male range 36-40 female range 28-32
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Young German Shepherd adoption process?

I am looking for a young GSD from a rescue center but they are not approving a young one within 1 year of age, rather they are pushing for an adult like 4+ years. I want to have a young GSD and want it to grow up with me.

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What am I supposed to do to tire my GSD?

I have a German Shepard puppy and he is full of energy. We play ball, go for long walks, play hide and seek, search for his favorite food and play around in the garden but he wants more and I simply cannot drain his energy. I need to figure out games and activities that will challenge him further but don't know what to do. I have tried: I've played different games and activities with him in different environments. I think it was caused by: I go to school and I only have the weekend and from 5 till 9 to play with him and I try to spend almost all my time with him.

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Is a GSD the right choice for us, a couple of young working professionals?

My partner and I would really like a GSD That is the only dog we'd consider getting seeing as we love its traits. My partner had dogs growing up, but I've never had a dog. He's quite a confident and assertive (but loving!) person so we think we could handle a GSD's personality. We're both young working professionals, out most of the day, and we are really active, we love hikes and walks as well as working out at the gym, but we are home in the evening and weekends. We have a small/medium garden, so our idea would be to leave the dog outside when we're out and bring him inside with us to play or take him out for walks when we're back home. However we have read that GSDs require quite a lot of attention, so we're wondering whether it would suit us. Any advice/opinion? I need more details on whether a GSD is right for my partner and I. I have tried: Reading and gathering info about GSDs. but advice is quite variable. I think it was caused by: Wondering whether our lifestyle matches this sort of dog.

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Tell me more about German shepherd puppy about his growing?

Please tell me about the precautions as I bought a GSD puppy of 4 weeks from a reputed breeder, when to take it for shot etc. I am very much worried about it. Not so much.

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Categories : Dogs

Recent edits by: nicoleconzucchero, michael martinez, VisiHow

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