How to Care for a German Shepherd

How to Care for a German Shepherd

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German shepherds are great working dogs that need plenty of activity and exercise. Learn how to care for them here.

German shepherd dogs are known for their loyalty, intelligence and trainability, making them a preferred breed for many uses, including police work. being assistance dogs, herding sheep, and being active family companions and guardians. Reserved with strangers, German shepherd dogs form close bonds with their owners. They require owners who provide the leadership, training, games and work they need. Bred to be working dogs, German shepherd dogs must have plenty of exercise, and thrive when they have jobs to do in close partnership with their owners.


German shepherd dogs are sociable, requiring the companionship of other dogs and people. Beginning as puppies, German shepherd dogs must have plenty of socialization that puts them in a wide variety of settings. Dogs kept at home do not gain the experiences needed to become familiar with the larger world. German shepherd dogs are bred to be poised, self-confident, good natured and at ease with the world. Nonetheless, German shepherd dogs allowed to mature without proper socialization can display uncertainty around strangers and shyness or fear in unknown situations. Training classes or dog clubs are excellent settings for some of the socialization your young dog needs. Along with learning obedience and polite behavior, your young German shepherd dog will regularly meet many other people and their dogs.

Separation Anxiety

German shepherd dogs need to be full, active members of their families. Left alone, these energetic dogs easily become bored. German shepherd dogs can find ways to amuse themselves that their owners may not appreciate. They love to chew. A variety of play objects, including large, indestructible chew toys of various types, can help keep them busy. Be cautious, however: Very few objects are truly indestructible in the determined jaws of a German shepherd dog. Once your dog begins to succeed in destroying an object, pieces of the object can become hazardous to the dog's health.

Daily exercise and games that tire your dog out can help to prevent problems such as separation anxiety. Confining your dog to a comfortable, large crate, or preferably a sheltered kennel, can help prevent your German shepherd dog from indulging in destructive behavior when left at home alone. The presence of another dog can help prevent loneliness. Consider having a dog walker exercise your dog if the dog must be left alone longer than four or five hours.


German shepherd dogs are by nature even-tempered and self-confident. The American Kennel Club lists aggression as a serious fault that automatically disqualifies a German shepherd dog from the show ring. In Germany and other European countries, German shepherd dogs must pass thorough temperament testing and must have working titles before they can begin to qualify for breeding. When aggression is seen in a German shepherd dog, it is usually the result of poor breeding and poor socialization, or abusive, unethical training that has deliberately taught the dog to act first in self-defense.

Defense Drive

Balanced with other drives, the defense drive of German shepherd dogs once made the dogs useful protectors of flocks of sheep, and now makes this breed useful in police and protection work. While a German shepherd dog may generally be neutral with another person or a dog, if the dog is threatened or detects a threat to a family member, the dog likely will act in defense. Socialization is important because it allows a good-natured dog to easily discern what is normal from a threat. Obedience training is crucial so that the owner has control of any situation.

Prey Drive

As a herding breed, German shepherd dogs generally have a strong prey drive, which is necessary for much of the work the dogs perform and which is displayed in games such as searching for and retrieving objects or racing to catch Frisbees. They may not get along well with cats and other household pets unless they have been raised with them. German shepherd dogs should not be left alone with such pets, even if they have been raised with them.

Keep your German shepherd dog on a leash when you are outdoors and outside a secure fence. A German shepherd dog can run into traffic or other dangerous situations if the dog accidentally escapes your control and is tempted to chase a squirrel or other wildlife.


German shepherds are typically indifferent to strangers, and may take a while to warm up to new people. They are alert and generally polite with strangers, but once they get to know someone, the dog becomes a loyal and playful companion, eager to please.

A German shepherd dog in the show ring is expected to be bold, confident and calm during examination; the same temperament should be present for service dogs, police dogs and your family companion. While your German shepherd dog, unless they are still a puppy, won't be greeting strangers with sloppy licks as new-found friends, the dog should be confident, easy-going, and basically friendly.


Many German shepherd dogs excel in herding competitions, and training for such work can give your dog the exercise this energetic breed requires, while reinforcing obedience commands. German shepherd dogs often help out on farms, taking part in herding cattle and other livestock. Herding dog toys, which are large rubber or plastic balls, can provide a way for your dog to exhibit herding behavior. You can teach your German Shepherd dog jobs around the home that make use of the drives used in herding, such as fetching items you point out.

More on Caring For Your Dog

What To Do About Your Dog's Separation Anxiety
How To Crate Train A Puppy
Your Large Breed Dog

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