make a friend, save a life.
make a friend, save a life.
Caring for German Shepherds
The German Shepherd Dog originated in Germany in 1899. Called the Deutscher Schäferhund in its native land, the dog was originally bred to herd sheep and continues to participate with distinctive in herding and agility trials into modern day. The GSD has a protective temperament that, when properly channeled, can make for an excellent guard dog and protector. This breed characteristic, combined with its natural intelligence, is why so many German Shepherds are used by law enforcement agencies.
As with many deep-chested dog breeds, German Shepherds are at risk for bloat, a condition where the stomach twists upon itself and the dog often dies, even if veterinary assistance is immediately received. Many GSD owners recommend feeding the dog smaller, more frequent meals to avoid bloat and limiting food and water immediately after exercise when bloat most often occurs. This is especially important as the dog ages and is more susceptible to the condition. Some owners also recommend elevated food dishes; however, no research supports this practice.
Because of the breed's popularity, a number of dog food companies have created special formulas for German Shepherds. Many of these formulas are adequate to the needs of an adult dog; however, a balanced, organic dog food with high quality proteins and grains, is better for the dog overall. As with any breed, the first ingredient should be a recognizable protein and should not contain corn, which often causes diarrhea. Avoid feeds with more than 30-35% protein content as those can contribute to both obesity and aggression. Also avoid switching brands too often as this can cause issues.
In part because of their herding background, German Shepherds require regular, daily exercise to prevent boredom, frustration, behavioral problems, and/or weight gain. A GSD owner should expect to spend a minimum of two hours each day exercising their dog, although some high-energy dogs will require more in order to meet their needs. This exercise should include walking/jogging, hiking, playing Frisbee, or agility training to exercise its mind as well. Leaving a shepherd to its own devices in the background is not sufficient.
Later in life, German Shepherds typically experience hip and elbow dysplasia and arthritis, although many breeders are attempting to test their dogs and only breed those with good hips and elbows. At this time, it is estimated that a GSD has an approximately 20% risk of developing these later life complications, which may reduce its ability to run and exercise.
German Shepherds shed seasonally and at an above-average rate. This means they will require grooming about three times per week to minimize the amount of dead hair that they leave inside the home and on furnishings. Expect to spend about twenty minutes per grooming session, as long as the dog has not been neglected.
An owner can typically groom his/her own GSD, even the long-haired variety, as it does not require special techniques or tools beyond what can be bought at a pet supply store. These tools include a coat rake, shedding blade, and metal comb, in addition to a standard brush and nail clippers. Taking the dog to a professional groomer is also an option; however, the dog must be well-socialized and should not bite or mouth the groomer.
Shepherds must be groomed due to their thick undercoats. Without grooming their coats can form uncomfortable mats very close to the skin. The dogs many then attempt to remove the mats themselves, resulting in bald spots or skin infections. For future grooming ease, they should be habituated to the process during puppyhood when they are still small and easy to handle.
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