The beautiful German Shepherd holds the number 2 spot on AKC's list of most popular dog breeds in the United States. His even temperament and loyalty to family attracts many people, but you have to be careful when bringing one home.
The German Shepherd was developed into the breed we know today in the early twentieth century for herding, police, and military work. His loyalty to those closest to him, high energy, and need for a job make him an ideal candidate for such work. German Shepherds have also been greatly used as guide dogs and search and rescue dogs. He is highly trainable, and can accomplish nearly any task you give him, but training must start early and be consistent throughout his life. Socialization is very important for all dogs, but if you are going to own a big, powerful breed like a German Shepherd, it is especially important that he is socialized properly and that you have control over him.
One thing you need to give thought to when considering a German Shepherd is his size. He is typically between 22 and 26 inches tall and can weigh anywhere between 60 and 140 pounds. If you live in an apartment or small house and decide to get a German Shepherd, know that he can adapt to city life, but he must have plenty of exercise, as much as 2 or more hours a day. He seems to have boundless energy, and if he is not exercised properly, he may develop destructive behaviors out of boredom.
The German Shepherd is self confident, yet even tempered. He is very loyal and affectionate with his family and friends, but can be reserved with strangers. He is very intelligent and easily trainable. He is good with children and typically good with other animals, but his natural herding instinct may become a problem if his need for a job is not satisfied. Do not allow him to nip at the heels of anyone or anything, even at a young age, if you do not plan on practicing herding with him because without correction he will think this is acceptable behavior, and he could unintentionally hurt someone or another animal.
Always be sure to do your homework when looking for a breeder because German Shepherds are prone to several diseases that are sometimes hereditary. Some diseases to watch out for in German Shepherds are Bloat, Epilepsy, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, and Panostetis. Make sure that if you are purchasing a German Shepherd from a breeder that you know the lines of the puppy you are purchasing and his risk, if any, of contracting any of these conditions.
So who should own a German Shepherd? If you are looking for a lazy dog who does not require much training or exercise, this is not the dog for you, but if you are looking for an active, loyal, even tempered dog, and have the time and willingness to provide for the needs of this powerful breed, then the German Shepherd will make an excellent pet for you for many years.