Are German Shepherds High Maintenance?

German Shepherd relaxing in a field at sunset.

If you are considering adopting a German Shepherd you may be wondering how much of your time and energy one will require. German Shepherds aren’t the lowest maintenance breed out there, but they don’t need as much as some other breeds.

Are German Shepherds High Maintenance? Although German Shepherds are fairly low maintenance in regards to haircuts, working off leash, and encouraging obedience, this breed can be high maintenance in terms of shedding, activity requirements, and separation anxiety.

Learn everything that you need to know about how high maintenance German Shepherds are and what you need to know about maintaining them, including their grooming, training, and health.

Why German Shepherds Are Low Maintenance

German Shepherds aren’t low maintenance in every way, but there are a few areas where you can expect minimal maintenance to be required.

Haircuts

German Shepherds have a medium length coat that will never need to be trimmed. A German Shepherd’s thick undercoat keeps him warm in the winter and will be shed in the summer to keep him comfortable, and in fact, trimming or shaving the coat can ruin its protective qualities.

Off Leash

Unlike some breeds, like many hound dogs who are happy enough to slip out of the yard or get away from their leash if given the opportunity, most German Shepherds will stick with their owner and not run away.

If you want a dog who can spend some time in the backyard without you worrying about him jumping the fence or digging out, the Shepherd might be a good pick.

Training

If you want a dog whom you can train to not drag you down the road when out for a walk or counter surf at the first opportunity, the German Shepherd is a good choice. Once your Shepherd understands what you want from him, the chances are good that he will do his best to obey.

Why German Shepherds Are High Maintenance

Of all of the breeds in the world, the German Shepherd is far from the lowest maintenance dog you’ll find. Physically and mentally, Shepherds require a good deal of maintenance. Here are some things to prepare for:

Shedding  

German Shepherds don’t need to have their coat cut, but that doesn’t mean that maintaining all of that fur isn’t a bit of a chore. German Shepherds have dense, plush double coats which can shed a great deal, especially seasonally. 

Smart and Active Personalities

German Shepherds were never designed to be house pets. While many German Shepherds can and do live happy lives as family pets, they only do well in homes that offer lots of activity and engagement. 

Your German Shepherd will want to be part of everything that you do and likely will need extra engagement outside of your normal family activities.

Velcro Dogs

The bond that German Shepherds tend to have with their family or handler is one of the things that makes them so trainable and eager to please, but it also means that many of them do not like to be separated from their person. 

German Shepherds tend to be “Velcro dogs”  who stick by their person at all times, and it is not uncommon to find separation anxiety in the breed.

Caring for a German Shepherd

German Shepherds need love, high-quality food, and adequate shelter, just like any other dog, but there are certain other aspects of care that should not be ignored. Here are some things that you will need to do in particular for your Shepherd.

Grooming

German Shepherds need to be brushed regularly to remove mats and dead hair from their coat and stimulate the growth of new hair. You will need to brush your German Shepherd three or four times per week throughout most of the year and spend hours each week brushing during shedding seasons.  

The German Shepherd’s hard, black nails usually need to be filed or clipped regularly unless your dog is often very active on rough surfaces that will naturally wear down the nails.

Training

German Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs who require regular training from puppyhood all the way through adulthood. For most Shepherds, the bare minimum of basic training will be insufficient. 

Your Shepherd needs activities, tricks, or a job to do in order to stay properly stimulated and to avoid destructive behavior. Don’t get a German Shepherd unless you are looking forward to training them to do things with you. 

Exercise

The German Shepherd is a highly active breed who needs lots of exercise. If you don’t give your dog enough exercise, it will be evident as he’s running all over your house creating mayhem. Most Shepherds need at least an hour or two of active exercise a day in addition to training. 

Food and Supplements

If you want your German Shepherd to grow strong and healthy, they need extremely high-quality food. Since most German Shepherds are very active, a high protein diet is ideal for them.

Because German Shepherds tend to be prone to joint problems, you should add nutritional supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-6s to their diet.

Common Health Issues 

In many ways, the German Shepherd is a very healthy breed. However, there are a few health concerns that are unfortunately rather common. Here are a few things to look out for and what you can do about them.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This is a terrible genetic disease of the spinal cord that runs in a number of breeds, including German Shepherds and German Shepherd crosses. There is nothing that can be done to prevent or treat degenerative myelopathy. 

As the disease progresses, paralysis increases until the spinal cord has fully degenerated and the hindquarters are immobile. 

If your dog is diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, you can help delay the onset of serious symptoms and help your dog deal with his mobility changes by providing physical therapy, special boots and splints to protect and stabilize the legs, and in the advanced stages, a wheelchair.

Elbow and Hip Dysplasia

Unfortunately, the elegant lines of the German Shepherd do not necessarily lead to great joint health. While many dogs never experience problems, a large number do have issues with elbow or hip dysplasia, especially as they get older. 

There are a number of things that you can do to delay the onset or reduce the symptoms of these problems.

Neuter or Spay – Ongoing research suggests that it may be beneficial to neuter or spay your dog after the first birthday in order to avoid incorrect growth which can result in joint problems.

Exercise lightly during puppyhood – Dogs who are exercised too strenuously during puppyhood are more likely to develop joint problems, so only exercise your puppy five minutes twice a day per month of age.

Low impact exercise throughout life – Low impact exercise, such as walking or jogging on sand or another soft surface, swimming, and posturing exercises can help your dog develop the muscles and tendons around their joints to support their function even when joints begin to degrade.

Supplements – Research has found that supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are extremely effective at preventing and treating joint disease in dogs and have no negative side effects, so supplement your dog throughout life.

Bloat

Bloat is a sudden swelling of the stomach which can be life threatening. It occurs in most deep-chested breeds, such as the German Shepherd. In order to prevent your dog from suffering bloat, do not allow them to exercise for at least 45 minutes after eating and consider feeding smaller portions. 

Related Questions

When is a German Shepherd’s fearlessness a problem?

While a German Shepherd’s courage is often an asset, that fearlessness can cause problems if your German Shepherd takes on challenges that he isn’t quite prepared for, such as attempting to intimidate a much larger dog, or bravely dashes toward an unforeseen danger, such as chasing away an intruder who has run into a busy street.

Are German Shepherds sociable?

German Shepherds who are raised with or slowly introduced to other animals and who are carefully socialized with other people are generally very sociable animals and make wonderful companions. They are prized for their loyalty and thrive when treated as part of the family.

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