THE IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISE:
German Shepherds were bred to herd flocks all day in harsh climates. Their medium-length double coat acts as protection from rain and snow making them resistant to picking up burrs and dirt. German Shepherds are built for action. This means they’ve got lots of energy that they need to burn off with daily exercise. They must be kept busy learning, playing, and working.
If you leave them alone for long periods of time without exercise, expect trouble. Boredom and inactivity lead to behavior problems—chewing, digging, and barking. The German Shepherd desperately needs daily exercise, both physical (jogging, a romp at the dog park) and mental (training exercises like agility or obedience competitions) is a must. Ideally, the minimum should be 30 to 45 minutes daily. This can be just once a day, or two walks a day is even better.
This is a generally robust breed. Some may develop eye disease and elbow or hip dysplasia. Like many large breeds, German Shepherds can suffer from a wide variety of heart diseases, including murmurs, valve diseases, and enlarged hearts. An annual heart exam is critical in catching these conditions early, as many of them respond well to treatment. Epilepsy, vision problems, bleeding disorders, immune-mediated diseases, hemangiosarcoma, digestive problems including exocrine pancreatic insufficiency – all these conditions are relatively common in the German Shepherd.
The ears should be checked once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection, then wiped out weekly with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent problems. Just like certain diseases, temperament is also heritable. An unstable, aggressive or shy German Shepherd can be a dangerous animal.
THE GERMAN “SHEDDER”:
The German Shepherd Dog has a thick, medium-length double coat that sheds, a lot and constantly like a snowstorm, twice a year. Because these dogs lose so much hair, that their nickname is the “German shedder.” They require occasional grooming. If the German Shepherd is your breed of choice, brushing two to three times a week will help more of the hair come out in a brush. However, purchase a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner; you’ll need it. Even then, be ready and prepared for hair on your black pants, on your white couch, and pretty much all over the house.
The undercoat sheds heavily in spring and fall, and the German Shepherd must be brushed and bathed frequently during that time to get out all the loose hair. Bathing the dog too often strips the coat of oils that keep it healthy, so start running the bathwater only if your dog really needs it. It shouldn’t be that often; despite their notoriety as a shedder, the German Shepherd tends to be fairly clean and odorless.
German Shepherds like to chew, and the habit helps keep their teeth clean, and their powerful jaws can destroy most materials. If they pick the wrong thing to gnaw on, they can damage their teeth, swallow something that makes them sick, or even choke. Save your dog, and your belongings, by giving them safe dental chew toys and bones so they can entertain themselves when you’re not playing with them. They’ll be fighting tartar buildup as they gnaw, especially on the back molars. Brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and doggy toothpaste also helps keep gums and teeth in good shape.
Like many herding breeds, German Shepherds are barkers. Barking isn’t necessarily a problem, but it can be if the dog is bored. Learning the “Quiet” command should be part of every German Shepherd’s obedience training. The rest is basic care. Trim his nails every few weeks, as needed (once a month), and brush his teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Don’t get a German Shepherd if you have allergies or are a fussy housekeeper.