Caring For German Shepherd Dogs
German Shepherd dogs have many qualities that make them wonderful family pets. In the right environment and with the proper care and training, they can remain fit and active through most of their lifespan. To keep them healthy and disease free, it's important that they receive vital vaccinations, a good diet, regular brushing and plenty of mental and physical exercise.
German Shepherd dogs (puppies) should have their first vaccinations when they are eight to ten weeks old and again a couple weeks later. It's important that they are protected against distemper, parvovirus, canine hepatitis, coronavirus, parainfluenza and leptospirosis. They should receive their initial rabies vaccination at six months.
The most common hereditary disorder in German Shepherd dogs is hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip socket. It can result in joint pain and arthritis. You can help prevent problems from developing by ensuring that your dog does not become overweight. Over-exercising German Shepherd dogs, especially puppies, can put extra strain on the joints as they are forming, so exercise should be gentle for the first six months.
It's vital that your dog be fed a proper diet as inadequate nutrition can result in problems such as dry, flaky skin or ear infections. If you decide to feed your pet a commercial dried dog food, choose a premium brand that has been scientifically formulated and comes in different varieties suited to puppies, adults and aging dogs. Correct diet is imperative for healthy dogs.
The most nutritious diet for this type of dog would be largely made up of fresh meat. However, the cost would be prohibitive for many owners. A balanced approach to diet is to supplement dried food with meat such as hamburger or pork chops. You can even feed German Shepherd dogs a whole chicken or rabbit, which they will consume bones and all. This is a natural way to keep their teeth and gums clean and healthy. Be sure to serve it raw, otherwise the bones could splinter.
Grooming is less important for German Shepherd dogs than for some other breeds, but they do require regular brushing. They have a woolly undercoat beneath their longer outer coat. If this undercoat becomes matted, they may develop skin problems or bald spots. Brushing will prevent mats and keep the outer coat shiny.
As working dogs, bred for herding sheep, German Shepherd dogs need plenty of exercise. They should be walked twice a day and given plenty of open outdoor space in which to roam. They enjoy running and hiking their owners, especially through fields or woods. They will jump into water and swim when given a chance. This should be encouraged as it is one form of exercise that is safe for their joints.
This breed of dog is highly intelligent, which is why they are used as police dogs and guide dogs. If they don't get a chance to exercise their minds, they can become listless, bored or destructive. Training which challenges them to learn new behaviors or tricks on command can be just as rewarding to the dog as to its owner.
German Shepard dogs love to please their masters and thrive on human attention and stimulation. If you put in the time and effort to ensure your dog's health needs are met, you will be rewarded with years of faithful companionship.