Are German Shepherds High Maintenance? Important Facts to Know


Are you considering buying or adopting a German Shepherd puppy? German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) are a lively bunch with oodles of charm. But before you get one, it’s important to explore the following question:

Are German Shepherds High Maintenance?

German Shepherds are relatively easy dogs terms of obedience training and acclimating to families. However, GSDs require extra care and effort when it comes to grooming, exercise, and separation anxiety to make sure they grow into healthy and well-adjusted adult dogs.

If you’re an through-and-through GSD enthusiast, then read on to discover all there is to this wonderful breed. From personality traits, grooming tips to health concerns and more – we’ve covered it all!

German Shepherd running and jumping

Throughout this article, you’ll find links to other super-helpful resources within this site to give you even more in-depth knowledge on the points that we’ll cover.

German Shepherd Breed History

GSDs have a long and illustrious history. They’re descendants of a family of German herding dogs that tended to vary in specific characteristics from area to area.

However, all that changed when Captain Max von Stephanitz appeared on the scene.

The German Cavalry officer was interested in creating the uber-GSD, and towards the end of the 19th century, he set off on the journey to do just that with the help of other like-minded breeders. 

Captain Von Stephanitz bred several strains of GSDs from central and northern German districts and ended up producing the predecessor of the GSDs we all know and love today.

He also went a step further and co-founded the world’s first German Shepherd club that carried his work forward to refine and improve the breed. 

The name ‘German Shepherd’ makes more sense now, doesn’t it? That’s where the GSDs’ speed, stealth, intelligence, and air of authority come from. 

German Shepherds rose to popularity in the U.S during the 20th century thanks to Corporal Lee Duncan, who found a small GSD puppy during his time in France during WW1.

He took the pup home with him to Los Angeles after the war and trained him to become one of showbiz’s most famous canines – Rin Tin Tin

What Are GSDs Like Personality-wise? 

There’s a reason why people say instinct is everything in the animal kingdom. You see, when breeders select specific strains to promote unique qualities, your canine’s DNA is hardwired to display certain tendencies. 

In other words – instincts can be genetically bred into animal, and German Shepherds are no different in this regard.

Here are some of the more common personality traits you can look forward to in your GSD pupper.

Personality Traits

In quite a few ways, GSDs exhibit the alpha-dog traits – they’re naturally assertive, super-intelligent, calm, athletic, powerful, and confident. 

Because GSDs were bred to be working dogs, it’s not uncommon for them to be a little aloof at first. They’re not instantly friendly like Labradors – but once they get to know you, German Shepherds are unfailingly loyal. 

What’s more, German Shepherds have an innate protective instinct – which means they won’t let anything threaten their loved ones.

Will My German Shepherd Protect Me Without Training?

Despite their size, GSDs aren’t aggressive, and they’re super-friendly, approachable, and playful with their families. GSDs are also good around children, thanks to their patient and calm nature. 

Are German Shepherds Good With Kids?

However, there’s nothing a German Shepherd loves more than being trusted with a job. If ever there was a canine breed with a strong work commitment – then GSDs are it.

What’s more, you can train a German Shepherd to do almost anything – be it becoming a service dog to bomb detection. Take a look at the links below for excellent follow-up information about the different roles GSDs play throughout the world:

Are German Shepherds Good Livestock Guardians? All You Need to Know

Are German Shepherds Good Service Dogs?

Why Are German Shepherds Good Police Dogs?

Separation Anxiety

The only thing that GSDs don’t do very well – is being on their own for long periods. German Shepherds have a strong need for companionship, and they need to be active – mentally and physically to thrive.

A bored German Shepherd equals a frustrated German Shepherd, and that’s not something you want ever. GSDs are prone to coming up with their own inventive ways to deal with separation anxiety – such as excessive barking or chewing. 

How to Keep a German Shepherd Busy While You’re at Work

You should also note that GSDs need early socialization to grow into mature, well-adjusted adults.

It’s best to get a German Shepherd familiarized with different sights, sounds, experiences, and people and at an early age to make sure they don’t develop any behavioral problems later on. 

How To Socialize Your German Shepherd

What Kind of Maintenance Do German Shepherds Require?

Did you know that German Shepherds are one the most popular and recognizable breeds of the American Kennel Club? There’s no doubting that GSDs make excellent pets, but getting a dog is a commitment, unlike any other. 

That’s why you must understand how to properly look after a GSD before thinking about getting one. Not all doggos are created equal, and they all have their needs.

When it comes to GSD maintenance, you’ll have to pay special attention to the following factors:

Dietary Requirements

German Shepherds weigh anywhere between 75 to 95 pounds when they reach maturity. A lot of that weight is due to a solid muscle mass and a substantial bone structure.

Additionally, GSDs are an active breed, and that’s another reason why diet needs to be power-packed.

A German Shepherd’s nutritional requirements should include:

Protein

German Shepherd’s are carnivores, and they require a high protein diet to stay fit. Proteins help the body in various functions.

For example, protein helps build and repair cells and body tissues, and it’s also vital for the immune system. 

Your GSD’s diet should include at least 22% of protein, and that’s why you should avoid dog food with harmful fillers like corn syrup, etc., to make sure your doggo stays healthy. 

Take a look at the following article to learn how to feed your German Shepherd the right way – it’s literally the best resource on the internet on the topic, and we stand by this!

German Shepherd Feeding Guide: All You Need to Know

Fat

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) recommends that the fat content in your GSD’s diet should be no more than 5 to 8%.

Dogs get 2.5 times more energy from fat than they do from carbohydrates. Not to mention, fat helps dogs with nutrient absorption and aids in reducing inflammation. 

Your best source of information concerning your GSDs health should always be your vet.

While feeding guides and nutritional charts go a long way in making your life easier – it’s best to refer to your veterinarian for your doggo’s individualistic needs. 

Grooming

A GSD’s grooming needs include bathing, regular brushing, and shedding control. 

Thankfully, German Shepherds are relatively clean and odor-free naturally. Bathing them once every three months should suffice, unless, of course, they go out and get filthy!

Bathing GSDs too often can strip their skin of natural oils and lead to dryness and excessive shedding. Don’t forget to use a shampoo formulated for dogs to ensure you avoid any irritants and skin problems. 

In this regard, we love Burt’s Bees Natural Shampoo for Dogs. It’s really gentle on your dog’s skin, so even if you find yourself having to bathe you pup more often than usual, it won’t strip away natural oils like many other shampoos tend to do.

Also, it’s important to remember to never use human shampoo on your GSD. Doing so may result in a host of skin allergies and just an overall itchy German Shepherd, which is highly uncomfortable for your pup!

Itchy German Shepherd? Why and What to Do

German Shepherds possess a double coat – that means they have a soft wooly undercoat and a topcoat that consists of long hairs. To make sure your GSD’s fur remains debris and tangle-free, you should use a brush that includes long teeth and a sturdy handle.

The Pet Neat Grooming Brush is a big hit with GSD owners because it’s pain-free and rather effective at shedding control.

Pro Tip: When brushing your GSD, make sure that you always brush in the direction of hair growth. Going against it can actually be painful to your pup and aggravating to her skin.

Grooming a German Shepherd: All You Need to Know

Exercise

German Shepherds are famous for being an athletic and active breed, which is why they require lots of exercise for mental and physical well-being. 

Adult GSDs require a minimum of two hours of exercise every single day. However, before you get too anxious, you should know that the term “exercise” includes everything from walks to extra playtime. 

It’s best to spread your dog’s exercise throughout the day, rather than trying to complete two-hours worth of activity in one go. This way, you can spend lots of quality time with your pet, while making sure her workout needs are met.

What’s more, if you’re unable to take out the time to take your doggo out on walks on a regular basis, you can hire someone to help you out.

There’s always the option of hiring a dog-walker or asking a family member to take your pet out for its daily dose of exercise. 

If you’re dealing with a GSD pup, it’s best to introduce her to exercise slowly. A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to GSD puppies is adding 5 minutes of walking time per month.

If your pup is around four months of age, don’t walk her for more than 20 minutes per day. And, once again, remember to spread this time out throughout the day. 

Over-exercising your German Shepherd pup can affect its joint and bone development and lead to related health conditions later on. Joint problems are a serious issue for German Shepherds, so it is important to be extra-careful with this.

We recommend that you take the time to understand all that you can about GSD joint issues to make sure that know how to minimize the risks to your pup. Be sure to read over the article linked below to do just this:

German Shepherd Joint Problems: All You Need to Know

Training

Nadia Adams – a GSD breeder with over 15 years experience, states that GSDs are

“…highly intelligent, thriving on praise and wanting to please the owner. This combination makes them very trainable, which is one of the most appealing qualities of the breed.”

So, you don’t have to worry too much about the level of difficulty involved in training your German Shepherd.

However, it’s super-important to focus on early socialization and puppy training classes to ensure that your GSD grows up to be a well-adjusted adult dog. 

Additionally, remember that the key to training your German Shepherd lies in consistency and positive reinforcement (reward-based training).

The fact that your GSD is smart and always ready to please you will make your life easier when it comes to training. Focus on making your pet a part of your family life by including her in all your activities. 

What Health Concerns Can German Shepherds Be Prone To?

No animal lover likes talking about pets and health concerns in one sentence. But, each canine breed is susceptible to specific health conditions. T

hat doesn’t mean your GSD will develop these issues, but you should read up on these potential problems to take precautionary steps to avoid them altogether. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can cause a malformation of the hip joint and lead to instability problems. 

Canine experts agree that hip dysplasia is strongly related to genetics, which is why testing and responsible breeding practices are essential for the management and reduction of this problem.

The symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

  • decreased activity
  • lameness in the hind end
  • loss of thigh muscle mass

Digestive Problems

German Shepherds have sensitive tummies and can develop digestive issues if their diet is lacking. GSDs need a high-quality diet with low-sodium and little to no fillers and additives. 

German Shepherd Upset Stomach: A Complete Care Guide

Can You Give Pepto Bismol To Your German Shepherd?

German Shepherd Diarrhea: All You Need to Know

Aside from all that, GSDs may also be prone to food allergies. That’s why you must keep a weather eye out for allergy symptoms when trying out a new diet. Symptoms of digestive issues include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Change in appetite

German Shepherd Allergies: All You Need To Know

Bloat

As a medium-to-large sized breed, GSDs are also prone to developing bloat. The scientific term for bloat is Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV). This condition involves a sudden attack of abdominal swelling. 

What’s even more perplexing is that the cause of bloat isn’t always easy to determine. Its causes range from swallowing a lot of air to eating in an awkward position.

Bloat can develop into a life-threatening situation if not detected and treated early. You can keep your GSD safe by looking out for the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Restless behavior – continuous pacing or seeking seclusion
  • Drooling/ foaming at the mouth
  • Vomiting (or attempting to vomit) at regular intervals
  • Drinking more water than usual

FAQs

Do you still have some GSD-related queries? Good! Because we’ve compiled an FAQ section to make sure all your worries are laid to rest.

Are German Shepherds Good Family Dogs?

German Shepherds generally have a calm and patient nature, making them ideal family dogs and great with children. GSDs are also famous for their protective instincts, which means they have natural guarding instincts.

10 Reasons Why German Shepherds Are Great Family Dogs

Typically, GSDs are perfect for large, active households where they are not left alone for long and are distracted by the household activities.

However, it’s best to remember that GSDs are super-active and require early socialization and puppy training to become well-behaved adults.

Take a look at these adorable clips of GSDs being loving and protective to give you a good idea of what you can expect in terms of a German Shepherd being around your family:

How Long Can You Leave A German Shepherd Alone During The Day?

According to Dr. Vint Virga (board-certified veterinary behavior expert), all dogs are highly social and should never be left alone for an entire day.

However, German Shepherds, being one of the most active dog breeds, need a constant mental or physical stimulation source. And that’s why you shouldn’t leave your German Shepherd alone for more than 4 hours max.

If you must leave your pup alone, it’s a good idea to provide them with a puzzle treat dispensing toy to help kill the time spent away from you. There are many to choose from, but one that we’ve often used with great results is the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball.

GSDs were initially bred to be herders, and after that, breeders chose to focus on making GSDs more work-focused. This breed excels at doing jobs to this day and isn’t suited for a solitary existence.

Are German Shepherds Hard To Train?

German Shepherds are highly-intelligent, super-eager to please their owners and thrive on praise – all of which makes them relatively easy to train.

However, they do require consistent socialization and training from puppyhood to ensure proper behavior as adults. 

Additionally, some canine behaviorists recommend crate training for GSD puppies to get them used to their own company and keep them safe and out of trouble. 

Final Thoughts

GSDs require as much general maintenance as most dogs need – more in some areas, but less in others – so fairly average. But, their energy-drive and intelligence makes them a cut above the rest when it comes to proper rearing and management.

German Shepherds aren’t built for inactive or solitary lives. They require extensive socialization and puppy training as puppies, along with an adequate diet and regular grooming. But, that’s also more or less what all dogs need as pets.

Adopting or buying a puppy is a big responsibility – one that you shouldn’t undertake without 100% commitment.

However, if you’re entirely ready to go the extra mile for your little furball – then prepare yourself for a fun-filled, joyful future!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 20 years now. While I've lived in many different places and traveled extensively - the places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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