Whether you want a German shepherd to show in competitions, as a family pet, or as a working dog to protect your property, there are several things to understand about the breed. Here's what you need to know.
There are several types of German shepherds
The breed has several types based on their traits and origin, with each type having unique qualities of physical appearance, temperament, and drives. You'll find show types with American, Canadian, and German lines. There are also working types with German, Czech, and various mixed lines.
If you want to show your dog, you'll obviously want a show bred German shepherd, which will have a gentler disposition than a German shepherd from a working line. However, if you're looking for dog that will guard and protect your property, a dog from a working line is ideal.
German shepherds need socialization when they are young
German shepherds are intelligent and fast learners. They are also protective and, like most dogs, prefer to be in a pack. When you take a German shepherd home, you'll need to establish their relationship within the family, which they'll consider their pack. Due to their protective nature, they can try to take on the role of the alpha dog if the humans in the household do not appear to be in charge.
Fortunately, some German shepherd breeders socialize their pups, which helps the pups to recognize who is in charge. Therefore, be sure to choose a breeder who has a hands-on approach on taking care of and training the puppies while they are in their care.
German shepherds can have hip and shoulder problems
Large breed dogs and German shepherds in particular are prone to hip and shoulder problems, such as hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joints do not develop properly, which can lead to various degrees of arthritis. These issues are hereditary in nature but can be exasperated by environmental factors, so it's important to get your German shepherd from an experienced reputable breeder who understands the benefits of free exercise in young pups while they are still under the care of the breeder.
One thing you can do is to look for a breeder that offers a guarantee against hip dysplasia, which is a sign that the pups are not at high risk of having the genetic trait that causes hip dysplasia. Many breeders who offer this guarantee ask owners of the puppies they bred to have hip dysplasia testing done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals when the dogs are roughly two years old.
German shepherds have a nickname: German shedder
German shepherds have two coats of fur. The outer coat is generally coarse and can be long or short, depending on the lineage of a dog. German shepherds shed their outer coat nearly year-round. There will always be fur to contend with when you have a German shepherd. However, arm yourself with a broom, vacuum cleaner, and lint rollers, and you'll be able to stay on top of the fur as it's shed.
German shepherds also have undercoats, which are thick and very soft. Undercoats are shed over the course of several days once or twice a year. There's actually a term used for this phenomenon. It's called blowing coat and can resemble a fur explosion. When you first start to see clumps of puffy fluff, you'll want to take your dog outdoors and give their coat a good raking. It's typical to rake so much of the undercoat off of the dog when it's molting that it can become a mound as large as the dog.