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Are German Shepherds Good First Dogs?

Are German Shepherds Good First Dogs?

Each year, the German Shepherd ranks as one of the top 3 most popular dog breeds in the USA and among the top 10 in the world. Not only are they excellent working dogs but also wonderful personal companions. But are German Shepherds good first dogs?

Learn the reasons why German Shepherds can be difficult for a first-time dog owner, but also learn some tips to help make owning a GSD easier.

Are German Shepherds Good First Dogs?

Yes, German Shepherds can be a good option for first-time dog owners. However, owning a GSD involves a lot of work. Before you get one, you need to reflect on whether the breed is compatible with your lifestyle and the level of commitment you’re ready to offer.

German Shepherds need structure, plenty of exercise, and ways to use their working abilities, and if you don’t have time to provide these things, a GSD won’t be a good dog for you.

Reasons Why German Shepherds Make Good First Dogs

German Shepherds have plenty of traits that make them an ideal breed for first-time dog owners. Although individual dogs have their own unique personalities, here are a few general traits that make GSDs a good first dog:


German Shepherds are remarkably intelligent. Training them is not just enjoyable but also incredibly rewarding. They pick up on lessons right away and can easily build up to more complex commands. This brings many advantages, including the ability to quickly learn your house rules.


GSDs are always eager to please their humans. This is a trait that makes them very obedient dogs. After they’ve learned a command, they’re happy to follow almost all of the time. This helps foster peaceful coexistence with you and your family.


Dog ownership in general will help keep you active. But if you already have an active lifestyle, you can count on the German Shepherd breed to keep your pace.

German Shepherd outside in Autumn

They thrive on strenuous exercise and will be happy to join you on your runs or hikes.


A properly trained and socialized German Shepherd can be a wonderful family dog. They are patient with children and can form strong bonds with them through their sweet and playful nature. They can also get along with other dogs and even cats as long as they are introduced properly and socialized.


The presence of German Shepherds is often intimidating enough to deter any ill-intentioned stranger. More than that, they will naturally protective of their home and family without being aggressive.

They are alert to the presence of strangers, bark to keep them at bay, and engage if they deem it necessary. That makes them great guard dogs.


Don’t let their massive size and powerful bark fool you. German Shepherds are actually very affectionate.

They are happiest when they spend time with their humans. Whether you’re gone for days or minutes, they will let you know just how much they missed you. And as much as they love being active outside, they also appreciate frequent snuggle time

Reasons Why German Shepherds Don’t Make Good First Dogs

Unfortunately, the traits that make German Shepherds excellent for first-time dog owners are also those that could make them an unsuitable choice. Their instincts, temperament, and natural abilities need honing, nurturing, and direction.

First time dog owners will need to provide the following things for their German Shepherd:

A firm leader

Since they’re so intelligent, German Shepherds will try to test their limits and see what they can get away with. They need a handler that will set the rules and enforce them.

If your GSD doesn’t respect you and look to you for leadership, they will come up with rules for themselves, this could lead to some undesirable and destructive behaviors.

A job

German Shepherds are working dogs, so they thrive when they have something to do. Otherwise, they will find other ways to use their smarts.

You’ll need to find ways for them to feel useful with something they can do consistently and will allow them to hone their physical and mental abilities.

Many people give their GSD a job or two that they can complete on a daily basis. Others have their pup participate in a canine sport, like Schutzhund, flyball, or agility, to fulfill their working need.

Plenty of exercise

You need to be willing to adopt an active lifestyle if you don’t already have one.

German Shepherds need at least an hour of physical activity per day. Some might be happy enough with long walks while others might need more strenuous exercises.

Ample socialization

To have a well-mannered German Shepherd, you need to commit yourself to provide plenty of exposure to different environments, people, and animals. This is the only way to help them learn how to behave in different situations, play nicely with others, and avoid developing fear-based aggression.

Proper training

Training is key for owning any dog but especially strong-willed dogs like German Shepherds. Training will help you GSD know the behavior you expect from them, and also respect your leadership.

Additionally, the protective instincts of German Shepherds can manifest as aggression if they’re not taught how to direct and control it properly. Luckily, German Shepherds are easy to train, so you’ll have no problems guiding them to become good members of society with a little time and patience.

Lots of attention

When you own a German Shepherd, you need to be ready to give it plenty of attention. Not only do you need to spare time for training and exercise, but also for some bonding.

GSD’s are clingy by nature and will need plenty of attention. Additionally, these dogs are prone to separation anxiety, which will also need to be addressed a certain way.

Tips for Owning a German Shepherd as a First Dog

After having a better understanding of having a German Shepherd, ask yourself if you’re still up to the challenge. If you are, here are some tips that will help ensure a positive experience with your first dog:

Develop a routine

Get your GSD used to a regular schedule. This lets them know exactly what’s expected of them and will work wonders in keeping them well behaved.

Make time for daily exercise

German Shepherds that don’t get enough exercise can develop some nasty behaviors. This includes chewing on stuff they’re not supposed to, incessant barking, and running around like a nut indoors. They need to expend their energy daily to become well-mannered dogs.

Provide ample mental stimulation

GSDs need help finding ways to put their intelligence to good use. Otherwise, they will come up with their own solutions, which won’t always work in your favor.

Whether it’s by giving them a job or by engaging them in some mental exercises, make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to stimulate their mind.

Socialize them early

Exposing your GSD puppy to different situations, people, and animals nurtures their confidence and helps them become well-mattered dogs in any situation.

Get help from a professional trainer

Working with a reputable professional trainer will help you improve your communication and develop a good relationship with your dog. It will also help you address specific concerns and unwanted behaviors.

Be consistent

Set the rules and enforce them at all times. There should be no such thing as “just this once.”

Consistency helps them learn rules and reinforce desirable behaviors. This won’t just lead to a well-behaved dog but also a confident one.

Final Thoughts

Owning a German Shepherd definitely has its challenges. Because of their size, intelligence, and overall temperament, GSD ownership involves a certain level of commitment that not all pet owners are ready for.

If you’re up to the challenge and ready to put in the work, you will be rewarded with an affectionate pet and most loving companion.

However, if you’re not convinced that a GSD is your best option anymore, check out how you might fare with other popular breeds like the Australian Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman, or Siberian Husky.

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