The German Shepherd breed (GSD) is the second most popular dog breed in the United States out of all breeds. The GSD is only behind the Retriever breed. The American Kennel Club welcomed the German Shepherd dog in 1908. Even though they only became an officially recognized breed in 1908, the dogs existed in Germany in the late 1800s. Germans bred these dogs to be herding dogs. Later, they became helping dogs in World Wars, police forces, and search and rescue missions. The AKC even changed their names to just "Shepherd dogs" to avoid association with Germany. As we all know, the AKC later changed their minds.
These dogs have an average lifespan of seven to ten years. This article will help owners navigate the best ways to keep your German Shepherd puppies healthy and happy.
1. GSD's Need Regular Exercise
The German Shepherd dog breed was initially trained to be herding dogs. The breed was recognized for its size and energy, as well as its intelligence. Because they are one of many large breeds of dogs, they were eventually made into working dogs. They became rescue dogs, police dogs, and even retriever service dogs. The first officially recognized service dog in the United States was a German Shepherd, who helped a blind veteran navigate life.
These large dogs became so popular, and they are the second most popular breed in America after the Retriever breed. They became so popular because even though they have excellent work ethics, they are also great family dogs.
Their history as working dogs gave the breed qualities of a lot of energy. These dogs are also brilliant and need mental stimulation to satisfy them. The best way to care for a German Shepherd puppy is to allow two hours of daily exercise. Two hours of running or playtime can help your dog have a great physical and mental life. These dogs also love routine, so allowing them these two hours at the same time every day may help your German Shepherd puppy thrive.
While these dogs have tons of physical energy, they also have tons of mental energy as well. They need regular mental stimulation to make sure they stay sharp and behave well. Giving these dogs puzzles to solve or hiding treats or toys that they have to seek out will help your dog get its needs.
2. A Healthy Diet
A large breed dog like the German Shepherd needs excellent dog food. Your family pet will require high-quality food because of the number of supplements and vitamins they need to be healthy and strong.
The right amount of food for a German Shepherd puppy depends on their activity levels, weight, and sex. Asking your vet what the right amount of food is for your German Shepherd puppy will ensure they are eating the healthiest diet possible.
It's also important not to change their diets up too quickly. Changing the food you give your German Shepherd puppy can cause them discomfort and sickness. If you need to change the food you're giving them to something better, you need to do so gradually. It's best to split food, so it's 75% your dog's old food and 25% the new food. As you do this, gradually increase the percentage of the new food until your dog is just eating that diet.
Quality of food is crucial for your new puppy. The German Shepherd needs a lot of protein to ensure they are at the peak of their health. About a quarter of their food should be protein. It's also essential to make sure they get the necessary nutrition levels from vitamins and minerals.
3. Good Oral Hygiene
German Shepherd puppies must have excellent oral hygiene. Make sure you brush your German Shepherd puppy's teeth regularly. Creating a healthy oral hygiene habit for these puppies will help them get used to regular teeth brushing sessions. Also, try to give them teeth-cleaning treats occasionally.
Scheduling regular examinations are some of the most essential parts of a dog's oral hygiene. A vet may be able to notice decaying teeth or chipped teeth before you do as the owner. They will also know what to do if your dog has oral hygiene issues and will be able to advise you on how to help your German Shepherd puppy get better.
Identifying the symptoms of oral health issues is vital in making sure your dog has the best oral hygiene possible. If your dog has incredibly bad breath or swollen or bleeding gums, these are signs you should check in with your vet about their oral hygiene. Plaque buildup can cause health illnesses that make it hard for your dog to chew hard food. If you notice redness in the gums or extremely pale gums, these are also signs you need to get your GSD to a vet ASAP.
4. Early Socialization
Behavior problems in GSDs almost always link back to their early socialization period. During puppyhood, socialization is critical to their overall health and wellness as an adult. These first three months have a lot of effect on their personality and how they react to their environments.
Give German Shepherd puppies plenty of time inside and outside to reinforce safe experiences. Giving dogs lots of praise and treats while they experience new things will help them understand the joy of trying something new. The key is to socialize your pup, so it becomes accustomed to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in positive ways. Doing this helps them behave better later in life. Did you know the most common cause of death for dogs under three years of age relates to behavioral issues? Early socialization is vital in many ways.
Try to encourage your new puppy to walk up to passive observers. Introduce them slowly to car rides, loud noises, gentle handling, and different environments. Have your puppy meet people in a wheelchair, people wearing hoodies, and people holding umbrellas. Puppies are entirely new to the world, so giving them as many experiences as possible will only help them thrive. Expose them to police sirens, loud bells, and car horns. Have your puppy meet elderly people, strangers, and children.
Another thing to consider is training. Puppy training can help them learn about crates and basic commands at a young age. Obedience training can teach them these same simple commands or help them prepare to become watchdogs. A dog's trainability at this age is easily attainable. Take your dog to the pet store, on playdates, or even to dog parks to help them get used to exciting new environments.
5. Regular Health Check-Ups
Health check-ups are vital to make sure your GSD is as healthy as can be. Yearly or twice-yearly visits are the keys to best health practices. Ensure your dog gets all their shots and vaccinations to help them from contracting health issues or spreading them. A family dog can get random diseases from ticks or fleas, so make sure you take preventative measures there.
It's also important to be on the lookout for signs of common health issues German Shepherd puppies may experience. This includes things like dysplasia and also a blood disease, and something called degenerative myelopathy. Be aware of the sign and consult your vet if you think one of these issues might be the problem.
6. Be Aware of GSD's Joint Issues
German Shepherd dogs have a ton of joint disorders. These disorders are often caused by a lack of activity or lack of sufficient vitamins and nutrients. Sometimes, joint issues can be caused by obesity.
Ways to avoid these issues are more manageable than expected. For example, prevent your GSD from lifting anything heavy until their joints are fully mature, which is about one to two years old. Supplements might help your dog have good joint health if they aren't getting all their dietary requirements from treats and dinners.
Joint issues and discomforts don't typically happen until a dog is a larger breed. It's essential to be aware of symptoms of arthritis, dysplasia in the hip or elbow, and other illnesses large breed dogs are prone to. Knowing signs to look out for can help reduce the affected quality of life a dog may get if they're exposed to any of these diseases.
7. Be Aware of Bloat
Bloat is when gas gets trapped in the stomach, causing pain and discomfort and eventually twisting the stomach. When the stomach twists, blood circulation gets cut off from traveling to the rest of the body. Some stomach tissue dies when this happens. Some dogs may go into a stroke, have a seizure, or lose consciousness when this happens. To avoid bloat, be aware of the causes of it.
Scientists aren't sure what causes bloat, but they know what may increase the risk of it. A raised food bowl can raise the risk of bloat. If a dog runs around a lot after eating or drinking water, this may also increase the risk of bloat. Bloat is already typical in large, deep-chested dogs because their stomachs have more room to twist. Don't let your dog do anything that may raise the risk when you can avoid these things easily.
Signs a dog is experiencing bloat include pale gums and a swollen stomach. If your dog keeps looking at its stomach, this may also be a sign. A prevalent symptom is a dog vomiting but failing to vomit anything up. Bloat can kill a dog in a few hours, so if any symptoms are noticed, it's important to take your dog to an emergency vet clinic immediately. If caught in time, a vet may be able to perform surgery to help.
A preventative surgery called gastropexy surgery attaches the stomach to the abdomen, making it hard for the stomach to twist. A vet may do this surgery on a dog that has already experienced bloat or on a dog at high risk of experiencing bloat to lower the chances. It's scarce for a dog that's had this surgery to ever experience bloat.
8. Avoid Overheating
The GSD is much more susceptible to overheating in warmer months because of their thick double coats. They also usually have darker colored coats, which makes the heat more attractive to them. To help a dog avoid overheating, ensure they have access to shade and water constantly and never keep them in a hot car. Family members could always pour water on your dog's coat or soak a handkerchief for your dog to wear. If you live in warm climates year-round, your dog may adapt by shedding its undercoat.
9. Regular Grooming
As said in the previous section, these dogs have heavy dark coats. They can be brown, tan, gray, white, and sable. The most common color of a GSD's coat is sable. Their thick double coats need regular grooming to maintain proper skin and coat health.
Brush your GSD's coat twice a week minimum to make sure they are healthy as can be. These dogs don't shed an excessive amount, but if they live in warmer climates, they may shed more fur to adapt. They're regular shedders, though, so beware of the dog hair all over your couches. If that's an issue for you, consider a German Shepherd puppy may not be the right breed for you.
10. Choose a Responsible Breeder
One way to get a German Shepherd is to go through a breeder. The American Kennel Club shares some reputable breeders on its site. German Shepherd puppies for sale may be tempting, but make sure these breeders take proper care of their puppies. A lot of GSD health issues are caused because of improper breeding.
Socialization, exercise, and diet are all conditions that may appear early in life. If a breeder is ignoring bloodlines that have hereditary health issues, these breeders are being unethical. Or if breeders are letting litters of dogs go unvaccinated, that's an issue. These breeders need to be able to start handling and socializing a dog while they are with them.
Another option for acquiring a German Shepherd is to find a German Shepherd Rescue. Some animal shelters are dedicated to solely rescuing one type of breed. GSD's have a few rescues devoted to just them. Do your research when you are looking to get your German Shepherd puppy.