Pros and Cons of the German Shepherd Dog: Significant Characteristics of This Popular Breed

As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

If you are considering a German Shepherd Dog (GSD) there are a few pros and cons to examine. These relate to the strong characteristics of the breed.

It will depend on you and your personal circumstances whether each feature is to be considered positive or negative. Correctly bred, raised and handled the GSD is a wonderful pet, gentle, good natured and beautiful. It is worth emphasising from the start that this is a larger breed, a fact that will soon become apparent in expenses such as food and veterinary care, so you must be confident of being able to meet these needs financially. We now consider other pros and cons of the breed.

Pro: They are Active Dogs That Love, and Really Need, to be Part of Family Outings

The GSD is a breed that loves the outdoors, loves travelling in the car, and loves going places with his family. The dog wants to be included whatever the daily plan and will show his enthusiasm with a wagging tail and a happy expression. With his rugged coat the breed enjoys all weather exercise, but it’s best for your house and the dog to rub him dry afterwards! If you are happy to take the dog out regularly this breed is ideal and you will have a lot of fun together.

Con: They are Active Dogs That Love, and Really Need, to be Part of Family

If you are looking for a dog that is content to spend about an hour an evening with you and then toddle for five minutes around the block, the GSD will not suit. The dog thrives on activity, playing and interacting with his owner. These are dogs that will be upset by a lack of involvement, and will not tolerate being shut in the house alone most of the day while you go out.

Pro: They are Natural Guard Dogs and Require no Training to Actively Protect Their Home

Once settled into his home a GSD will be instantly alert to anyone nearing 'their' house. They will warn you of the approach of strangers with an extremely loud and imposing bark, and a GSD in such full cry is very off putting for anyone with less than good intentions! The reaction is completely instinctive, and does not need to be trained into the dog nor encouraged. If anything the zeal of the dog may need to be checked.

Con: They are Natural Guard Dogs and Require no Training to Actively Protect Their Home

If you find the noisy, repetitive bark of a dog extremely grating, you are likely to be severely tried by the GSD. They are very vocal, very loud and particularly so whenever someone approaches the house. Anyone who does find barking hard to tolerate and has a lot of visitors would have very little peace! Also anyone with friends and family who are nervous of dogs may find that the welcome they receive if they only visit occasionally is too off putting for them. Not everyone wants a guard dog.

Pro: They are Intelligent Dogs and Learn Very Fast

Training a GSD is a pleasure and may make you feel you have discovered a hidden talent for working with dogs! They quickly get the idea and are eager to please. With clearly spoken, consistent phrases and a few snacks as a reward the standard commands should pose them no Problems. If correctly introduced to the concepts they will also housetrain and learn other positive standards of behaviour very quickly. Get experienced advice if you feel your Shepherd is difficult to train and have the expert watch you and your dog interact- there is a possibility that the fault could be yours!

Con: They are Intelligent Dogs and Learn Very Fast

If you are not careful your clever dog could end up training you. A typical example is allowing your puppy to pull you everywhere on the lead. He will learn that he dictates where you go and how fast- and it's not so cute to be towed about when he is adult! He will also learn that jumping on you gets attention, that you won't interfere with his food if he growls… a broad spectrum of undesirable behaviours can develop as your dog learns how his behaviour influences you. There are few breeds more adept at owner training than the GSD, with the type of brain that needs to be occupied or which will soon conceive mischief. The breed is best suited to a sensible, kind but firm owner who will consistently draw the line for them and gently enforce it.

Pro: They are Popular Dogs

If you want a GSD you won't have to search for months or join a lengthy waiting list unless you want a dog from a particular bloodline or breeder. They are popular because of their desirable combination of beauty, courage and intelligence, and you should be able to find a breeder or someone with a dog to re-home near you. Contacting the Kennel Club and making general internet searches as well as keeping a watchful eye on the local free ad papers should soon produce a likely candidate.

Con: They are Popular Dogs

The popularity of the GSD has been their downfall. Intensive and careless breeding has resulted in inherited genetic defects such as hip dysplasia and haemophilia A. These remain rife in animals that have not been carefully bred with a mind to these problems. There is also some debate over the body type of the GSD with the working bred dog tending to be more level along the back with straighter hind limbs whereas the show bred dog exhibits a distinct downwards slope towards the hind legs. An Internet search will reveal kennels that are dedicated to each type and you can make your choice based on your own preference.

This is a wonderful breed, deserving a similarly wonderful home and owner. Make your choice carefully and after thorough research if the GSD appears on your dog shortlist.

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