“I’ve always wanted a German Shepherd.” People who find out that I own a German Shepherd Dog (GSD) tell me this on a regular basis. What I think to myself when I hear this is, “No you don’t.” The time has come to say the quiet part out loud. Most households will not be a good fit for a GSD.
GSDs are one of the most surrendered dog breeds because they are difficult to own. Far too many of these dogs get cast aside into animal shelters. We have a mixed breed rescue dog named Carmen along with our GSD named Forte. Carmen takes about 10% of the time and effort that Forte does. People need to fully understand the challenges of owning a GSD before they get one.
- GSDs require 4 or more hours of exercise a day. – Young dogs may require 6 or more. Exercise may come in the form of walks, fetch, or obedience training. Forte likes to move logs around the yard while you praise him and show a general interest in his antics. GSDs don’t exercise themselves when they are alone in the yard. Humans must be involved. You may think to yourself, “There’s no way I can do that because I have a full time job.” Then don’t get a GSD. Owning a GSD is like having an extra job. I spend lots of time in my garden, so it is easy for me to throw Forte’s ball and garden at the same time. I like having him with me. If you want a GSD, you have to have a lifestyle that can incorporate the dog.
- GSDs have a strong prey drive you can’t train away. – If the neighbor’s cat wanders into your yard, you may be paying for a pet funeral. If you are walking your dog at the park and a squirrel passes by, you better have both feet planted and a tight grip on the leash or your dog will pull you down and get loose before you know what happened. This year I learned that rabbits can scream. I’ll spare you the details, but that was another life lesson courtesy of Forte.
- A GSD’s mental health declines when left alone for long periods of time. – Some GSDs develop separation anxiety. When GSDs are left alone without getting enough quality time with their favorite humans, they become destructive. They will eat your furniture or destroy their own dog beds just to have something to do. If you leave them in a crate to protect your home, they will lick their legs and paws until sores develop.
- GSDs destroy things by accident. – A mouse decided to make a winter home under the hood of my father’s lawnmower. Before I even knew what happened, Forte “fixed” the problem destroying the mower in the process. The gear shift in my car is out of alignment because Forte was so excited to see Nana that he decided to leap from the backseat into the front seat to help me drive. All the screens in our 3-season room have holes because Forte tries to catch and eat the bees that rest on the screens. Contrast Forte’s behavior to Carmen’s. Carmen has not destroyed anything in the 4 years she has been with us.
- GSDs shed fur 365 days a year. – Your house will never truly be clean again once you get a GSD. If you require an immaculate home to be happy, this is definately not the breed for you. Your car won’t be clean either. I have given up on the idea that I will ever be able to go to church without dog hair on my pants.
- GSDs are expensive to own. – This is not the breed for you if you are on a tight budget. They eat enormous quantities of dog food, which keeps getting more expensive. We go through about a dozen Chuck It Balls a year. GSDs are prone to all sorts of health problems, so you will get to know your vet really well. GSDs may also have problems with anxiety at the vet’s office. It is fairly common to have to give a GSD a sedative before you take it to the vet, so you get to pay for sedatives on top of the office visit. You will also have to pay to repair all the stuff they accidentally destroy.
We love Forte, and we will probably adopt a GSD from a rescue when Forte crosses the rainbow bridge. We have adapted our lifestyle to fit our dogs, so the dogs are happy, which makes us humans happy too. We could not have successfully owned a GSD when we both worked full time. Before you adopt a GSD, please make sure you know what commitment you have to make keep these dogs happy. Many breeds are easier to own. Finding the breed that best fits your family is in the best interest of your family and the dog.
Click here if you want to read more about all the challenges we’ve had with Forte.