Are German Shepherds a Good Fit For First-Time Dog Owners?

german shepherd being trained by a first time owner

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There are a rising number of households all over the world looking to add a dog to their family. With so many different breeds of dogs to choose from, it can be overwhelming for first-time dog owners!

One of the most popular breeds that new dog owners look at is the German Shepherd. The German Shepherd has earned its reputation for being an intelligent, loyal, athletic dog that is capable of doing everything from being a beloved family pet to racing through an agility course to assisting in a drug bust with the local police department.

As a lifelong German Shepherd lover and owner myself (take a look at my two current German Shepherds in the image below), I can attest to the fact that these are fabulous dogs!

My German Shepherds posing for the camera!

But do German Shepherds make a good first dog?

German Shepherds are an excellent choice for first-time dog owners. They are intelligent, easy to train, and adapt well to most living situations. They can be high energy, protective of their owners, and require some grooming effort, but they generally get along well with children and other pets.

Below we will take a deep dive into why German Shepherds are a great option for first-time dog owners, what type of lifestyle is best for a German Shepherd to thrive in, and what to look for when picking out your new German Shepherd. We’ll also go over some tips for first-time German Shepherd owners and how to prepare for when you bring your new pup home.

Do German Shepherds Make Good Dogs For First Time Dog Owners?

German Shepherds are an intelligent, easily trainable dog breed which makes them a great choice for first time dog owners.

While they are sensitive dogs, they are eager to please and enjoy interacting with their family. They have been bred to have strong protective instincts which makes them a good choice for families with children, and they also do well in both urban environments and more rural locations.

Provided they are introduced properly, German Shepherds also get along well with other dogs, cats, and livestock and they can be great apartment dogs as long as their physical and mental needs are being met.

3 Reasons Why German Shepherds Make Great Dogs For First Time Dog Owners

1) They are intelligent.

Do you enjoy being around dogs that can think on their feet? German Shepherds are known for their high intelligence levels! A higher level of intelligence means that these dogs also have a lot of common sense and great problem-solving skills.

Unlike some other breeds of dogs, German Shepherds have been bred over time to be able to “think on the fly” and they are able to adapt to a variety of living situations.

2) They are easily trainable.

How about having a dog that can show off some cool tricks to your friends? The German Shepherd breed also has a great reputation for their trainability.

As a first-time dog owner, training is probably one of the biggest concerns you might have. Thankfully, the German Shepherd is a breed that excels in learning new behaviors and they are easy to train.

German Shepherds are also very responsive and willing to please their owners (provided they are treated right and understand what is being asked of them) which makes them more like to focus on you as you are training them.

3) They are adaptable.

Want a dog that can not only take on a challenge, but enjoys it as well? As a whole, the German Shepherd is a very adaptable and hearty breed.

They do well in apartments, large homes, urban environments, and rural communities.With proper training and socialization, German Shepherds can be a favorite to take along to public parks, breweries, and other busy locations.

They excel in a wide variety of dog sports and dog jobs and they enjoy learning new things and tend to be very sociable with their households.

Would A German Shepherd Make A Good First Dog For You?

When considering a German Shepherd as your first dog, there are a few things to consider to make sure they would make the best fit for you and your household.

1) Lifestyle

German Shepherds are social dogs and require a lot of feedback and interaction from their owners.

They enjoy being a part of family gatherings and don’t do well if left to their own devices for too long. They want to be where you are!

While German Shepherds can do well in daycare settings, they do best when their owners are able to make time to play with them, train them, and interact with them.

Well-known for their loyalty, German Shepherds are a good fit for owners who are really looking for a “Velcro dog” that is both fun-loving and protective.

With their high energy levels and enthusiasm for activities, they excel in dog sports such as obedience trials, rally, agility, nosework, and Schutzhund.

German Shepherds also make great companions for those who like outdoor activities such as hiking. While they aren’t considered a typical water dog, German Shepherds do love a good swim and are great dogs to take to the lake or on a camping trip.

2) Time

As part of the herding dog group, German Shepherds do tend to have quite a bit of energy and their owners must dedicate time to spend with their dogs and make sure all of their needs are being met.

They do best with some kind of job, or at least in environments where activity levels are high. They are also highly intelligent dogs and will need their owners to provide them with activities or toys that engage all of their senses in order to truly tire them out.

German Shepherds can do well in a crate provided they are trained properly but are not the best dogs to leave in the crates for long periods of time and they can develop some behavioral issues such as separation anxiety if their owners do not spend enough time with them.

3) Living Environment

German Shepherds are considered a large breed dog and can weigh anywhere from 40 to 90 pounds depending on the breeding.

Despite being so large, they can do well as apartment dogs and be fine in smaller spaces as long as they are getting frequent exercise and have all of their physical and mental needs met.

They love to be around their owners and family members at all times and can get stressed when left outside alone for long periods or if they are kept separate from the excitement of a family gathering for too long.

If you are considering getting a German Shepherd and you live in an apartment complex, housing development, military base, or other area where there are stricter pet regulations, you should also check to make sure German Shepherds are even allowed where you live. Some areas have weight restrictions that German Shepherds exceed, and other areas have breed restrictions that can sometimes include German Shepherds.

4) Finances

Due to their large size and activity levels, German Shepherds do require quite a bit of food and care.

As with any dog breed, unexpected medical costs also need to be accounted for and the German Shepherd does have a reputation for being more susceptible to some genetic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia which may add to potential veterinary costs.

Equipment, grooming services, and training costs for your German Shepherd should also be taken into consideration.

5) Personality

German Shepherds are fairly adaptable to most personality types, but they do best with those owners who can match their enthusiasm and activity.

These dogs can be emotionally sensitive to harsher punishments and tones, and they respond well to reward-based training and patient owners who can work with them on any training issue they may be having.

They also tend to be a very vocal breed, so if you live in an apartment or neighborhood you may want to work with a trainer to figure out why your German Shepherd might be barking so much and what you can do to help fix that.

German Shepherds also tend to be clingy and can develop separation anxiety, so an owner who does not mind having a dog attached to them at all times is ideal!

How To Choose A German Shepherd

If you’ve decided that a German Shepherd is the right breed for you, your next question might be how to go about getting a good German Shepherd.

What To Look For

German Shepherds should be between 40 to 90 pounds, with males generally being larger than females. They are even in proportion from head to tail and there should be no discernible slope in the hind end or arch in the back unless the dog has been asked to enter the “stacked” position that is often taught for use in the show ring.

Their ears should stand upright, and their tail should be relatively straight with no curve. Personality-wise they should be curious, alert, and slightly rambunctious if they are a young puppy.

For German Shepherds who are out of the puppy stage, their personalities may vary more based on what they’ve experienced and been exposed to in their life. German Shepherds are not usually naturally aggressive dogs, but they can be quite vocal and protective of their owners and households which can sometimes be misinterpreted as aggression.

Is It Better To Get A German Shepherd From A Breeder Or A Rescue Group?

The truth is there is no “better” way to get a German Shepherd.

You can run into similar issues whether you get your German Shepherd direct from the breeder or adopt one from a rescue group or animal shelter. Deciding on where to get your German Shepherd is a personal decision and there are a lot of external factors that can contribute to that decision.

No matter where you decide to get your German Shepherd, always remember to research the breeder or facility heavily and get as much information and history about your potential German Shepherd as possible.

Rescue groups and animal shelters frequently have purebred German Shepherds available for adoption, and many groups also get in litters of purebred puppies from an accidental breeding or from breeders who are getting out of the business.

If you opt to purchase from a breeder, make sure you conduct thorough research into their breeding practices and if possible, consult with other owners who have also purchased puppies from them.

Tips For New German Shepherd Owners

No matter where you are getting your German Shepherd from, getting a new pup is a big responsibility! Here are some tips to help you prepare for bringing your new German Shepherd home:

Training

Depending on the age of your new pup, training should begin soon after your new arrival has gotten acquainted with your home and everyone in it and has had time to decompress after all of the excitement of going to a new home.

You can start basic training at home and consider reaching out to a local dog trainer to get your German Shepherd enrolled in some group classes or ask about receiving one-on-one help for specific issues or concerns.

For young puppies, you can begin potty training them almost immediately and start working on creating a good potty-training schedule to help speed up the process.

Care

German Shepherds are a high energy breed no matter what age they are, so make sure to plan accordingly!

Make sure you are tailoring your German Shepherd’s exercise and physical activity to their age level and physical condition and provide them with plenty of opportunities for mental exercise as well by utilizing puzzle toys, snuffle mats, or other enrichment activities.

German Shepherds, while they do not require regular trips to the groomers for a trim, do require frequent brushing and they will shed their undercoat heavily once or twice a year. During those shedding seasons, the amount of hair is enough to make it seem like you have another German Shepherd!

Nutrition

Whether you adopt an adult German Shepherd or bring home a puppy, you will probably see some minor digestive upset due to stress and changes to your new pup’s food and feeding schedule.

This is pretty normal but can be minimized by making any food changes gradually and adding in a probiotic to help the transition go a little more smoothly.

You’ll also need to pay attention to your German Shepherd puppy’s growth and make sure to feed them accordingly so that they maintain a healthy weight.

Supply List

Before getting your new German Shepherd, make sure you have basic supplies on hand.

This includes a good quality leash, collar, bowls, and toys. Additional supplies to think about include a crate, training treats, a bed, and anything else that you feel is important to have on-hand before bringing your new family member home.

Planning For The Future

Oftentimes first-time dog owners forget about something very important…what to do with their dog once they’ve got it!

German Shepherds, just like any breed of dog, require a lifelong commitment to making sure they are cared for, and their needs are met. You’ll need to make plans and arrangements for your new German Shepherd if you work for long periods outside of the home, or if you are planning on taking any trips or vacations where your dog cannot accompany you.

Unexpected veterinary costs and the fluctuating cost of dog food and supplies are also things that need to be taken into consideration before bringing home your new furry friend.

If you are planning on having children, you’ll also need to think about how you will introduce your German Shepherd to the new human addition in the household.

Closing Thoughts

German Shepherds make a fantastic choice for first-time dog owners and can be a better choice than many other breeds.

They are intelligent, athletic, easy to care for, and easy to train. Because they are one of the most popular breeds, there is a plethora of information available for new owners to help them care for their new friend.

There are frequently purebred German Shepherds available in shelters and from rescue groups at a much lower cost than if they were purchased from a breeder, which makes them an easily accessible breed for those owners who are financially stable enough to care for a dog but who do not necessarily want to shell out the big bucks for a puppy, or those who would prefer to adopt and rescue an at-risk German Shepherd rather than shop for a young puppy that requires more time and energy.

Overall, this breed is a great choice for single owner households, families with children of all ages, and even senior citizens.

German Shepherds are versatile, loyal, friendly, and love to socialize with their owners. If that sounds like your ideal dog, then the German Shepherd may be the right fit for you!