German Shepherds make excellent guard dogs. And great pets. But does their media portrayal have some truth to it? Here’s what you need to know.
While some breeds were bred to be companions, others, like German Shepherds, were bred to guard livestock or fend off intruders. While they’re still used for that purpose today, many families have German Shepherds as housepets as well.
Because of their size and potential as guard dogs, the breed has a reputation for being hot-headed. However, this beautiful breed is not inherently violent, and German Shepherds do make good and loyal pets.
Still, they have the instinct to be guard dogs. If we don’t address this, it can get in the way of raising your dog to be a well-behaved pet. If you wish to get a German Shepherd as a pet, you should know a few things.
German Shepherds Are Territorial
Most dog breeds will have a bit of a territorial streak. In guard dog breeds like German Shepherds, it is especially prominent. Without proper socialization, German Shepherds may become overly vocal if someone gets into “their” territory.
The best way to deal with this is with proper socialization. If you have a new German Shepherd puppy, socialization must begin early. Your puppy should get plenty of opportunities to interact safely with people and other dogs. Remember to praise and reward your dog after successful social interaction to help them form positive associations.
Conversely, you mustn’t reinforce any territorial behaviors your dog might show. If your puppy growls when you go near their food bowl or their toys, stand your ground and firmly tell them to stop. If they learn that pushy behavior works, they’ll keep doing it.
German Shepherds Will Need Space
If your home doesn’t have a lot of space, the German Shepherd probably isn’t the right dog for you. Aside from the fact that German Shepherds are very big, they should have plenty of free space and room to run around.
Tying up your German Shepherd for a long time is also not a great idea. If you confine your German Shepherd to a small space, they may grow restless and stressed. Ensure your German Shepherd has plenty of time outside to keep them from getting agitated and remember to exercise regularly.
German Shepherds Need a Lot of Exercise
We bred German Shepherds to be guard dogs and herders. Even now, they’ll generally be inclined to stay busy and active. If they’re stuck as housepets with nothing to do all day, they may channel their energy into feisty or territorial behavior. So, you must exercise your German Shepherd and allow them plenty of time outside.
German Shepherds are VERY intelligent and as a result, can be high maintenance dogs; they’ll need a lot of attention and care. They’re also extremely active and energetic. Your German Shepherd should be getting at least one or two hours of exercise a day to keep them healthy and happy.
German Shepherds Are Protective – Sometimes Too Protective
A properly socialized German Shepherd makes a great family pet. While some might say they are not the best choice for a family with very small children, the same could be said for most large breeds. German Shepherds are loyal, loving, and protective of their family’s kids – and that’s precisely why there is the potential for danger in a house with children.
The problem with guard dogs is that they won’t always accurately assess if something is a threat. An adult who sees two kids roughhousing will probably understand that the kids aren’t hurting one another. The Shepherd might see one kid trying to hurt the other and intervene inappropriately. If you have children, they must know not to play rough in front of your dog.
The same thing might happen if your child plays roughly with the dog – if they pull their ears or tail or try to play-fight with them. Most dogs will react if they feel threatened, but a dog as big as a German Shepherd could do more than snap at their fingers.
A well-trained German Shepherd is able to coexist with a family with kids peacefully. Just make sure your family knows to be careful. Remember! All dogs need to be treated with respect regardless of their size or breed.
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