The German Shepherd – Herder, Companion and Guard Dog



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Best Dog Breed For Me – German Shepherd



This week series article on Best Dog Breed For Me, I had the great privilege of interviewing Rosemary at

Rosemary is an owner of two beautiful West German Shepherd Show Line Dogs. She has worked with several severely abused rescue German Shepherds, and has been around them all her life.

Who better to get the scoop on what it is like to own and care for a German Shepherds then from someone who has walked the walk, and walked that dog.

Suzanne: Rosemary in order to determine what kind of person would enjoy owning a German Shepherd, what is the exercise level of German Shepherds?

Rosemary: German Shepherds were originally bred for sheep herding in Europe, so you can imagine the breed’s exercise requirements are high. Activities like long daily walks, games of fetch and tug as well as sports like agility, flyball and schutzhund are great ways to exercise this breed.

The working line types like the Czech, West German, and East German working lines will naturally need much more. However, don’t be fooled by the West German and American show line types – their stimulation needs can be high too. Nevertheless, their needs don’t stop at exercise.

The German Shepherd also needs plenty of mental stimulation or you run the risk of destructive behaviors developing. Scent work, trick training, and interactive toys are easy ways to offer the necessary mental stimulation.

Suzanne: Does the German Shepherd need a lot of grooming?

Rosemary: Do you have a good quality vacuum? Because German Shepherds shed 365 days a year! Their owners affectionately call them “German Shedders”. They have a double coat, which makes them pretty much weatherproof, and this is the reason they shed a lot.

Their topcoat sheds all year round and they “blow” their undercoat twice a year.
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This happens once before the winter and again in spring. Daily grooming will help with leaving hair in your house but you will need to sweep or vacuum daily.

Suzanne: A full-grown German Shepherd is a large dog, do they require a large home, or can they be apartment dogs?

Rosemary: If you ask 20 different people you’ll get 20 different answers to this question. In my opinion, it is possible to keep a German Shepherd in an apartment, city, of course in the country would be the most ideal setting. An apartment should be a large one and the dog gets a lot of outside time, physical exercise, and mental stimulation on a daily basis. I don’t mean a quick 15-minute visit to the dog park. As an owner, keeping a GSD in an apartment you’ll need to be 100% committed.

The risks of not fulfilling these needs will lead to boredom, frustration, and depression.
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The spin-off of this will be destructive behavior and bad habits like nuisance barking, whining, and howling – your neighbors won’t be happy and neither will your dog.

I live in a city and keep 2 German Shepherds and my limited edition GSD Border Collie mix. German Shepherds can and do thrive in cities as long as they get the exercise and stimulation they need. Again, that doesn’t mean a 15-minute visit to the dog park.

Suzanne: When deciding to become a pet parent you should always think about cost that can incur beyond food, toys, and the basics. Do German Shepherds have any special medical issues that a pet parent should plan for financially?

Rosemary: Most people are aware that the German Shepherd breed does suffer from Hip Dysplasia. Those who love and advocate for the breed are calling for stricter breeding practices and working hard to reduce this preventable hereditary disease. In German, it is standard practice for a dog to pass on its hips before being allowed to pass on its genes.

Interestingly though, the breed only ranks 40th for the hereditary disease of Hip Dysplasia with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. However, ranks in at #4 for the hereditary disease of Degenerative Myelopathy, which is the degeneration of the spine.

The German Shepherd Dog is also prone to skin problems, digestive issues such as bloat and colitis. Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, Epilepsy, and a range of heart problems can also arise. Keep in mind though, that many of these medical issues do affect other breeds as well.

Financial planning is important no matter which breed of dog you have
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but in my opinion the top priority when it comes to financial planning for the German Shepherd centers around food. Which brings me to my next point – diet.

Suzanne: I’m glad you mentioned that food is part of the expense of owning any dog, in your opinion what is the best diet for a German Shepherd.

Rosemary: What we feed our dogs has become a hot topic in recent years as more and more people are questioning what ingredients go into the commercially manufactured foods, and the quality of the ingredients. Dog owners are beginning to realize that if whole foods are good for us then surely they are good for our dogs too.

In short, my opinion on the best diet for a German Shepherd is a 100% raw one. My view on this topic is controversial and often upsets people, but I have seen the results for myself and therefore advocate a 100% raw diet. Specifically for the German Shepherd, this is a breed that struggles with many health issues. Granted, food can’t heal all medical issues such as hereditary diseases but despite this fact, it will and does improve the overall health of a dog, which can slow down or better manage certain issues.

No scientific studies have been done to prove this but hundreds of thousands of German Shepherd owners and dog owners, for that matter, around the world can testify to the drastic improvement in their dogs from eating a raw diet.

I can only speak from my experience and will use this to give a few examples…

Before I began feeding my dogs a raw diet 2 years ago I was spending a fortune on the best vet endorsed food money can buy. Despite that, I made 2 to 3 visits to our vet on a monthly basis spending a ton of money on consultations, shots, potions, creams, and tablets. Each time was a different problem like, hot spots, continuous itching, colitis, diarrhea, vomiting, conjunctivitis and the list goes on and on. 3 months, and terrible detox symptoms later, my dogs were free of all these issues.

I visit my vet now for their yearly booster vaccination and besides that, I never see him. I always joke and say I’ve forgotten what his face looks like!

My youngest GSD suffers from Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. This is a destructive disease which, if not treated will cause the dog to waste away into skin and bone and eventually die. It’s caused by a lack of enzymes being secreted by the pancreas and so the dog’s body is not able to digest and absorb nutrition from food.

The treatment is a lifelong commitment. They get the enzymes their body lacks from porcine pancreas, either in the raw form or in power form. While my boy was still on kibble, the enzymes just weren’t working well. He was thin, had a dull coat, and was not thriving.

Once he started eating a raw diet, the enzymes seemed to skyrocket his recovery. He began picking up weight, his eyes were bright he had loads of energy and his coat was shiny for the first time in his life.

With all that being said, if you want to feed kibble, go for a totally grain free option. There are many good quality kibble brands on the market that don’t use any grains in their manufacturing process.

I would like to give a big thank you to Rosemary of for giving us an up close and personal experience of what it is like to own a German Shepherd.

Is a German Shepherd the “Best Dog Breed For Me”?

As you have read, an active lifestyle will definitely be on the agenda, as

this breed needs activity of all kinds
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physically as well as mentally. Whether you live in the country, an apartment, or the suburbs, it will all work as long as you provide the necessary exercise.

A full-grown male German Shepherd can weigh anywhere between 66 to 88 pounds. Full-grown females can weigh 49 to 71 pounds.

If the breed you are looking for is a large, lovable dog then the German Shepherd may be the best dog breed for you.
Rosemary has also provided a really great info graphic of “Fun-Facts about German Shepherds”

If you would like more information on training, feeding and all the information you could want on the German Shepherds visit Rosemary at

Until Next Time

Paws & Wags,

Suzanne Dean, ABCDT

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Originally posted and authorized for PGAA re-posting by the The Dog Training Lady Visit the Dog Training Lady’s site for more training information and watch for new training books and E-books. Just who is the The Dog Training Lady? Copyright © 2015