The most important thing about dog ownership is knowing what you’re getting into before you buy. The term “buy” is used loosely as it pertains to rescue, adoption, or purchasing from a breeder. Any way you spin it an animal is financial responsibility and they can be costly. The second thing to consider is a breed that suits your lifestyle and living arrangements. A German Shepherd (GSD) would not be a good dog for an elderly person or someone that spends their day loafing about playing video games unless you are also physically active because a GSD requires exercise. They are an extremely active breed and will have behavioral issues if their activity level is not met.
Many apartment complexes do not allow residents to own or house a GSD on the property. If a landlord provides you with the opportunity, know what is proper practice of owning an active breed in apartment living. They are working dogs. Yes, that is a term that has recently received criticism in the resent animal rights activism complaints, but there is a reason why certain breeds are classified as such. A GSD requires at least 2 hours of physical exercise each day, rain or shine, according to the American Kennel Club. As someone that lives in an apartment and does not have a yard to exert the animal’s energy that means the owner must be able to accommodate the dog, not the other way around. Taking a GSD on simple walks is not a viable form of exercise. If you have selected this breed and live in an apartment map the area and know the places where your dog is allowed off-leash so they are able to run. Keep in mind that for the next 9-13 years (average life expectancy of a German Shepherd) 365 days a year, two hours of your time will be required for a minimum exercise regimen.
German Shephards can be medium to large in the standard dog size categories. An apartment dog is generally confined to smaller spaces and thus will retain energy when cooped up. That energy can express itself in behavioral issues if it remains pent up. GSDs also shed. Expect to be cleaning up dog hair in your daily tasks as well. Smaller spaces seem to look cluttered quickly. Grooming is also more important for those owners in apartments. Likely you are in a more populated area than a GSD raised on a farm. Grooming is a courtesy for your animal and your neighbors. Most GSDs are double-coated dogs. That means they have an underlayer of fur to protect them. Because of the double-coat, grooming should include at least a thorough brushing every other day. The longer coated GSD does not have an undercoat but still needs frequent brushing to prevent matting. Dreads are not comfortable to a dog and the matting or knots can relate to other health-related problems for an animal.
Altering your Dog:
Altering your dog includes surgical procedures such as cropping ears, docking tails, gastropexy, and obviously spay or neuter. Due to the GSD being a deep-chested dog they are at a higher risk of bloat and thus gastropexy should be considered. It is not recommended to perform the operation until the dog is 9 months of age and often done at the same time as the altering of the reproductive system. Something to keep in mind with medium to larger breeds is hormones are required for proper muscular-skeletal growth. Therefore, spaying or neutering should not be done until the full growth has been achieved. Doing so before the animal reaches full size can increase the risk of arthritis and hip dysplasia. Approximately 19% of GSDs will develop the latter. Options to consider for concerned pet owners are the Ovary Sparing Spay (OSS) or Vasectomy. We have two, five-month-old Great Danes. Male and female. We opted to have the OSS done on our female at 4.5 months old. She still has her ovaries but the cervix and uterus were removed. She will still produce the hormones of an intact female and still have heat cycles but will not be able to become pregnant. OSS does increase the risk of mammary (breast) cancer but reduces the risk of Pyometra (infection of the uterus). A Vasectomy for a male dog is similar to that of a human male. We will have our male neutered after sixteen months of age rather than the Vasectomy which is why we chose the OSS for our female. Some of the reasons we chose the OSS for our Dane was she isn’t going to be bred and at 47 pounds at the time of surgery, the cost was significantly lower than it would have been at 14 months of age.
For a GSD ear cropping is not usually necessary, although taping of the ears might be beneficial if they droop. GSDs usually have perked ears and don’t require cropping. It is also not standard practice to crop tails. Due claws can be removed but should be done in the first week of life. Most breeds do not utilize the dewclaw and they can be more cumbersome than useful. Again, that practice has been cannon fodder for animal rights activists. Consider the safety of your canine friend over the rantings of groups that consider it to be inhumane. Removing dewclaws is like baby boy circumcision, it is done for health and wellbeing of an excess, unuseful part.
Gastropexy is when the stomach, floating in large chested dogs, is sewn to the abdominal wall. While the surgery does not eliminate the risk of bloat it prevents gastric torsion or the flipping of the stomach, which is the often lethal aspect of bloat. There have been many studies done on eliminating the issue of bloat and Gastropexy is the most efficient thus far. There is no evidence that suggests limiting activity before or after feedings, elevated feeders, or quality of food decreases the risk as well as the elected surgery. Expect the procedure to cost at least $400 and up to $1,000. We would have done the Gastropexy for both our Danes at the time we did the OSS but our vet did not recommend it at the time because of their age and risk of tearing while they grow.
Feeding and other such Goodies:
GSD require a diet that meets the needs of their active lifestyle. As with any of the larger breeds, starting as puppies their diet should be closely monitored. The key is getting your pup to grow at a healthy rate, not a competition to get the biggest fastest. That being said, quality dog food might be a little more painfully on the pocket-book, but less costly than food-related health issues. Higher protein and caloric intake is important for an active breed, but watch out for the crude fats. They are the over-all amount of fat per serving and too much can be as bad for your dog as it is for you. Better quality food will produce healthier bowel movements. A gross topic, right. The better quality the dog food is the less fecal produced and as long as your dog is regular, less is better. Not to mention most states have a Pooper-Scooper law which means not cleaning up after your dog is illegal.
It doesn’t matter what bread of dog you have. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and advocate on behalf of your animal. Dogs have a carbon footprint and it is the responsibility of the handler to reduce what you leave behind. GSDs are beautiful, loving, and active dogs. They’re loyal and extremely intelligent. Be respectful of a historic breed and know what you’re getting before you buy. If we all do our part in caring for our own animals as well as bettering future animal practices we are protecting the four-legged friend for future generations.
Written by: Candiebar1976