The German Shepherd Today
After suffering so long at the hands of the inept and the illicit, where does the German shepherd stand today as a potential canine companion? Currently, potential German shepherd owners will find an array of temperaments (from the very good to the very bad), different levels of energy (from highly active to relaxed companions), a variety of conformation (from near perfection to something that might be confused with a shepherd mix), and a mixed bag as far as health.
But before you panic that the search for a German shepherd will be too taxing, take heart in knowing there are excellent breeders and quality puppies and dogs out there. The goal is to find a conscientious breeder who values dogs with balanced temperaments and outstanding health — with conformation and soundness ranking a very close second.
Your typical German shepherd
Is This the Dog for You?
All who know and love the German shepherd will readily admit that the breed is not for everyone. And, though veteran German shepherd owners regularly take the breed's challenges in stride, those who are new to the breed may be surprised or alarmed by some of the shepherd's characteristics. If you are considering owning a German shepherd, it's best to become familiar with both the pros and the cons associated with this dog.
Things You'll Love
The German shepherd can be a fantastic companion to all kinds of people. The following are some of the positive traits this breed carries:
Protective of family
Gentle with children
Gets along well with other pets
Plays nicely with other dogs
Easy to train
Long-lived (12 to 14 years)
Versatile; can compete in many performance events
Easily washable coat
Adaptable to small and large homes
While German shepherds make great pets when well-bred and given the proper care, some dogs still exhibit challenging traits and habits, including:
Tendency to escape
Destructiveness when bored or lacking exercise
Not suited to living only outdoors
High activity level
Demanding of attention
Requires training throughout life
Frequent barker; uses lots of vocal communication
Significant shedding, especially during change of seasons
Severe separation anxiety*
Aggressive toward other dogs*
Aggressive toward people*
Fearful, fear biting**
Poor hips; high rate of hip dysplasia**
High rate of spondylosis**
*Many of these traits can be moderated or prevented entirely with good socialization skills and training from an early age.
**These traits are most often found in poorly bred German shepherds and can be avoided almost entirely by purchasing a puppy from a quality breeder or adopting an adult German shepherd from a reputable breed rescue.
Weighing the Good and the Bad
No breed is perfect. Furthermore, no individual dog is perfect. Every breed and every dog have characteristics that can challenge any owner. The questions you need to ask yourself are these: How challenging will owning a German shepherd be for you? How challenging will this dog be for your family? For your significant other? Can you meet this breed's specific needs? Are you willing to change those things in your life or lifestyle that don't match a German shepherd's needs?
The correct name of the breed in the United States is German Shepherd Dog (GSD). The German shepherd is the only breed to have the word “dog” as part of its full name. When reading about this breed you will commonly see the acronym GSD used to refer to this breed.
If you find the German shepherd is the right dog for you, and you are ready and willing to invest the time, money, and patience involved, your efforts will be rewarded tenfold with the experience of a great pet. When good dogs are paired with good people, there really is no other breed like the German shepherd.