With all the incredible breeds of dog out there, it can be hard to just choose one—why can‘t we just have them all? However, if you’re reading this article – then chances are that the lovable German Shepherd puppy made your short list of furry friend candidates. This guide will help you learn how to select the best German Shepherd puppy to add to your family.
Before you go to your nearest dog rescue or breeder and pick up your new German Shepherd, let’s run through the finer points of German Shepherd ownership.
Is a German Shepherd right for me?
This is the first question you should ask yourself before you even consider bringing home a new German Shepherd puppy.
You need to evaluate your personal and family lifestyle by asking yourself the following questions:
- Where do you live? German Shepherds are often on the restricted breed list for apartments.
- Do you spend much of your time at home, or do you have an active work and social life?
- Are you willing to spend more time at home on the weekends and evenings during puppyhood, even if it means missing social events?
- Do you love travelling a lot? If so, will you take your puppy with you?
- If not, do you have someone or some place you trust to watch your dog when you travel?
- Do you have children and/or a spouse? Is your whole family excited about the idea of a new German Shepherd puppy?
- Is your work schedule (or someone in your household’s) flexible enough to be able to take time off or work from home when you first bring your new puppy home?
- Are you already active or willing to become more active?
- Do you have time in your schedule to devote to training?
Knowing the answers to those questions will help get you a couple of steps closer to deciding whether or not a German Shepherd is the right choice for you.
Important things to know about German Shepherds:
- German Shepherd dogs are sometimes affectionately known as German shedders. German Shepherds shed all year long, however, they blow their coats twice a year during which time they will shed exponentially more. When considering getting this breed, you should be comfortable having a dog that sheds.
- Grooming your puppy is also important—but luckily they don’t require expensive visits to the groomer like some breeds. Trimming their nails, cleaning their ears, brushing their teeth, and brushing their coat regularly is sufficient. Of course, during the shedding seasons more frequent brushing will be needed. During this time, I brush Allie outside and when I’m finished the grass is covered in black fur.
- German Shepherds were originally developed for herding sheep. Accordingly, they have the desire to work and respond best to proper training from a young age, and an active lifestyle.
- The German Shepherd is a social animal that doesn’t like to be left alone for long periods.
- German Shepherds are known to be clingy, so be prepared to have a shadow following you around the house (and maybe even in the restroom).
- German Shepherds are good with kids and are great family dogs. However, they need proper socialization and training at a young age so they can learn how to behave around both kids and adults.
- German Shepherds require a lot of mental stimulation and have high energy levels, especially as a puppy. As much as I love Allie, she was more than a handful as a puppy. I have seen instances where people underestimate the time, energy, and training a German Shepherd puppy requires and get overwhelmed after bringing their puppy home. These people end up giving up their puppies. I was told by Allie’s trainer that she was lucky to have gotten me as an owner, because as crazy as she was as a puppy many people would have given her up. It breaks my heart to know these awesome dogs are given up because of a lack of knowledge when selecting a breed of dog. Although they are a handful if you are willing to put in the effort they are in my opinion one of the best breeds of dog to own.
- German Shepherds are too smart for their own good. They learn things scary fast and sometimes get themselves into trouble because of how smart they are. They learn your routine and habits, and they also learn when and how they can get away with mischief.
- German Shepherds are incredible loyal and become very connected to their owner and family.
- German Shepherds are typically loving and affectionate. From the second I met Allie she greeted me with a wet tongue to the face. That is still her favorite greeting she will kiss anyone that will allow her to get close enough.
- German Shepherds need training. They need to know that you are the leader and in charge. If not, they will quickly take over the role of being in charge and that is where problems arise. A bored, untrained, not active German Shepherd can become one of the stories you sometimes hear on the news about a GSD being aggressive. In most of those cases, the problem was with the owners and not the dog breed as a whole.
Adoption or Breeder?
First, you need to decide if you are going to adopt a German Shepherd puppy or buy one from a breeder. Here are some of the benefits of adopting:
- Rescue puppies are often already sociable, at least partially trained, and loving dogs. Therefore, you will save a lot of time on house training your new puppy.
- Older puppies or dogs are likely to be calmer than a younger puppy.
- You are saving the life of a dog that might not have otherwise found a home.
- The cost of adopting is typically much cheaper than buying a puppy from a breeder.
- Typically, nothing is wrong with the puppy at the shelter, sometimes people give up a perfectly good German Shepherd because they get overwhelmed or realize too late that they don’t have the time to devote to training.
If you decide to get a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder, here are a few things that can help you identify a good, ethical German Shepherd breeder:
- Ethical breeders care about the health and wellbeing of the puppy and are not just in the business for money.
- Ethical breeders always make sure that only healthy dogs breed together and follow a strict breeding program where they ensure that breeding and puppy spaces are clean.
- Ethical breeders have medical examination paperwork on the puppy’s parents detailing hip, elbow, and health tests for any disorders. They should also have papers showing the age of the parent and the family tree of the puppy.
- Ethical breeders will happily show you around their entire setup; they should have nothing to hide.
- Ethical breeders will happily answer as many questions as you have to ask.
Selecting your German Shepherd puppy from a litter
You don’t want to go home with just any German Shepherd puppy, although they all are adorable. You want to select one that will be compatible with you and your family. Consider the following when picking a puppy from the litter:
- Choose a puppy that is sociable around you, and other puppies.
- Pick a puppy that walks confidently with its head high and tail up and wagging.
- Choose a puppy that has clear eyes, ears, and teeth, walks evenly and appears clean. Basically, choose a puppy that looks healthy.
- Look at the personalities of the puppies. If the pup doesn’t play nice and bounces off the walls at the breeders, it is likely that will be how he acts once you get him home.
- Choose a welcoming puppy that wants to greet you as opposed to one that retreats or appears shy.
- Ask to interact with each puppy one by one after seeing them with their littermates. That way you can get a better sense of how the puppy responds to you without distractions.
Many potential owners make the mistake of choosing the largest, loudest, or most rambunctious puppy in the litter, but that doesn’t guarantee that this will be the best dog for you. If possible, visit the litter at least three times before making a final decision, this will allow you to determine the personalities of each of those little fluff balls, and see which would best fit into your family.
How old should a German Shepherd puppy be when you take it home?
Any puppy should be at least 8 weeks old before being separated from their mother. Until then, the puppy still needs the mother’s milk and the company of his littermates to develop social skills.
By this timeline, their sensory organs will have also developed fully which will help you to spot any deformities or medical issues.
Be wary of any breeder that will allow you to take your puppy home before 8 weeks old.
How do you puppy proof for German Shepherds?
German Shepherds are naturally active and tend to explore the world with their mouths, especially during their adolescent period. So, before you can bring your new puppy home, there are a few things you can do to puppy-proof your house:
- Get rid of any poisonous plants or put them out of reach of your new puppy.
- Cover electrical cords with cable wraps or PVC pipes.
- Buy a new laundry basket that has a lid, no holes, and is tall.
- Make sure both your kitchen and bathroom trash cans have lids. Your new puppy will dig around for anything to bite, like chicken bones, diapers, used hygienic products or even a disposable razor. If possible, you should buy new trash cans that only open when a button is pressed.
- Store all the chemicals in secured cabinets or even better on high shelves. German Shepherd puppies have strong teeth and can open plastic containers by biting through even the toughest of plastic!
- Put away any small items or toys that are small enough for your puppy to swallow. Think of small kid toys (like Legos or doll house furniture) that could be dangerous for a curious puppy.
- Find a safe spot for your shoes. Whether in a closed closet or in the laundry room behind a closed door. I remember losing a pair a brand-new shoes because I forgot to put them away and Allie thought chewing them was a fun idea.
Bringing home a new German Shepherd puppy
The period of bringing a new German Shepherd puppy home and introducing them to your home and family takes time and above all, patience.
If possible, plan to take off work for at least a few days after bringing your puppy home. I picked up Allie on a Saturday, and then took most of the following week off to spend time getting her adjusted to her new home.
Remember, your new puppy has been taken from the only family it knew, and you are now it’s new family. You don’t want your puppy to go from having its mother and littermates to being alone all day right away. That first week home was a good week of bonding with Allie. It helped her feel comfortable with her new life and allowed me to really get to know my new beautiful energy filled puppy.
The best tip for a smooth transition when bringing your German Shepherd puppy home is to begin crate training as soon as possible. As a breed prone to separation anxiety, you want to give your GSD a zone to feel safe, comfortable, and content to be on their own.
While the initial steps of crate training can be time-consuming, it can make the difference between a dog that is a joy to own, and one that can never be left on their own – so, be the dog parent your pooch deserves and put the time in!
New German Shepherd puppy checklist and things to buy
It is important that your new puppy feels welcomed into their new home. This checklist will help you to know what to buy when getting a puppy.
Although selecting a German Shepherd puppy is an exciting time, it can also be stressful because bringing home a new family member is a huge change to your life. Following these guidelines can help ease the transition and allow you to focus on loving and enjoying the new furry edition to your family.