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Are German Shepherds Bad Dogs? (Or Simply Misunderstood)

Last Updated: December 28, 2023

When it comes to dog breeds, few are as iconic and as controversial as the German Shepherd. Known for their intelligence, loyalty, and versatility, German Shepherds have found roles ranging from family pets to police dogs.

However, a lingering question often surfaces in discussions about this breed: Are German Shepherds bad? This question, steeped in myths and misconceptions, deserves a closer look.

German Shepherds are not inherently bad. They are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and protective nature.

Like any breed, their behavior largely depends on training, socialization, and the environment they are raised in. Proper care and positive reinforcement are key.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the heart of this debate. We’ll explore the origins of the German Shepherd, their temperament, and the factors that influence their behavior.

By examining my real-life experiences, scientific studies, and expert opinions, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of this noble breed.

Whether you’re a German Shepherd owner, considering adopting one, or simply curious about the truth behind their reputation, join us as we separate fact from fiction and uncover the real character of the German Shepherd.

A Young GSD sat on the base of a couch after throwing the cushion off it
My young GSD sat on the sofa’s base after throwing the cushion off!

Are German Shepherds Bad?

There is no “good” or “bad” dog, but some breeds can be a bad fit for your household. The following reasons could persuade you against getting a German Shepherd.

German Shepherds could be seen as ‘bad’ as they shed a lot, are high-energy, and can become aggressive if not socialized. They are prone to separation anxiety, may try to dominate you, and are expensive. Above all, they may develop medical conditions like hip dysplasia and arthritis.

To put this into context, German Shepherds aren’t ideal for busy individuals, people living in small spaces, introverts, and those who have difficulty saying ‘no.’

An essential place to begin this article is the potential for illness, of which, unfortunately, I have some experience.

1. Prone to Medical Conditions

German Shepherds can develop medical conditions, so it is crucial to get your puppy from the right dog breeder. The breeder must be reputable and show you the pup’s parents before you pay for and acquire the puppy.

You must also ask for specific tests to prove low to no risk of the following diseases:

You must take your German Shepherd to the vet twice a year for a checkup, even if there are no signs of medical issues. A qualified vet can help prevent or slow down any future problems.

Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that your dog won’t develop any genetic disorders despite doing your due diligence when buying a German Shepherd. Unfortunately, this is one of the cons of German Shepherds.

Although I conducted thorough checks (such as checking the hip scores of the sire and dam) when getting my GSD, sadly, she recently developed osteoarthritis. However, I manage Willow’s symptoms with prescribed medication and exercise modification.” – World of Dogz

2. German Shepherds Shed A Lot

The kind of dog you should have is determined by the work you’re willing to put in. And if cleaning up fur and regularly brushing your dog isn’t an option, you should not get a German Shepherd. 

GSDs have double coats (except for long-haired varieties), and their undercoat hair sheds faster than a middle-aged dad with financial stress.

That said, they don’t lose their complete look by shedding because the fur is replaced at almost the same rate at which it is shed.

Nonetheless, loose fur takes a lot of cleaning up! When your dog feels cuddly and rubs up against your leg, the loose hair will switch over to your denim. Carpets, sofas, and clothing are other surfaces that catch loose fur via friction.

With German Shepherds living between 9 and 13 years, you have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to invest two hours every week brushing your dog 2-3 times a week. If not, German Shepherds are bad for you.

However, you can have a little compromise if you opt for the long-haired variety instead of the short-haired German Shepherd, as they shed less due to their open coat.

A GSD After Being Groomed
My GSD after being groomed

3. GSDs Can Be Aggressive

One of the most significant reasons to avoid a German Shepherd is that a poorly trained GSD can get aggressive. While the breed is among the smartest in the canine intelligence hierarchy, its constituents aren’t naturally good at socializing. 

In fact, their perception of the norms is dictated entirely by their early experiences.

If you’re too busy to take your German Shepherd puppy on walks and don’t often have friends over, you might be cornered into isolation.

German Shepherds decide the baseline for “zero danger” by observing the stable factors in their environment. If sleeping alone is one of those factors, the dog might be pretty suspicious of finding someone in your bed!

Unsocialized GSDs can jump to the conclusion that any human except the ones that live in the house is a potential threat.

The dog’s self-esteem is the greatest danger of having an asocial German Shepherd. You can always keep strangers safe by putting the dog on a leash or in his crate. But what about the dog’s own sense of worth?

When humans are on edge and cautious around a German Shepherd, his self-image gets negatively affected by the experience. The more cautious people are around him, the more hesitant he is.

German Shepherd on Hind Legs

This kicks off a vicious circle where caution inspires suspicion, leading to more caution and distance.

“GSDs were bred to yearn for approval, which they cannot get unless properly socialized.” – World of Dogz

To socialize a German Shepherd, you don’t have to do much in the way of tactical training. You just need to expose him to enough people at a young age to have him feel confident in the presence of other humans. 

Read more: 7 Easy Ways to Socialize a German Shepherd

You also need to socialize your pup with other dogs and pets. Many people unknowingly fail to provide a decent intra-species social experience to their dogs.

Doing so can make your pup inherently dangerous to dogs of smaller stature. Again, this is relatively easy to mess up, given German Shepherds’ predatory instincts.

If you’re new to raising dogs, you need to take some time to decide if this breed is for you. If you’ve kids at home, always go for a German Shepherd puppy, as the dog bonds better with your family, and aggression can be addressed easily.

On the other hand, if you’re adopting a grown-up dog, you must spend enough time understanding his/her needs and training them.

Watch This Video on Why You Should Not Get a German Shepherd…

4. GSDs Require Lots of Active Involvement

The key takeaway from the possibility of German Shepherds becoming asocial is that they require effort. To some, this is a drawback in itself. The fact that you cannot passively own a German Shepherd is seen as a disadvantage by many people.

“German Shepherds need one to two hours of daily exercise – or their pent-up energy results in torn unscheduled test-driving of their teeth and claws.” – World of Dogz

So, unless you want your furniture to be at constant risk of doubling as a chew toy, you must find ways to exhaust your dog’s excess energy.

German shepherd playing in snow
German Shepherd playing in the snow.

Fortunately, a dog walker/sitter can do this if you are too busy. Nonetheless, it helps to keep in mind the kind of hours you work and how often you or a member of your family can be around the German Shepherd every day.

Your answers to these questions will determine if a German Shepherd suits you.

5. They Are Prone to Separation Anxiety

German Shepherds can develop separation anxiety, making them a bad fit for people who need to leave their dogs for hours on end.

They are such an affectionate breed and love to be around their family that they don’t do well if left alone for long periods.

Perhaps there’s a common misconception that they’re aggressive and aren’t compassionate, but that’s quite wrong.

“The breed can get so stressed and anxious in the fear that their owner will never return. This causes them to engage in destructive behavior such as chewing, howling, barking, panting, digging, trying to escape, or peeing in the home.” – World of Dogz

German Shepherds can also be emotionally volatile depending on their owner’s personality. They can pick up on their masters’ emotions and mirror them.

This recent study also identified that dogs can relate human emotional expressions to subsequent actions.

Some breeds have a stable emotional profile that can stay rigid regardless of the owner’s emotional makeup. That’s not the case with German Shepherds, as they pick up on how you react to situations.

“Unfortunately, the only emotion that seems to be rigid among German Shepherds regardless of owners’ personality is separation anxiety.” – World of Dogz

However, if you teach your pup that it’s okay for him to be alone for a few hours, then he’ll get used to being separated from you and will cherish your return.

Check out my guilt-free guide on how long German Shepherds can be left alone for greater insight.

Most German Shepherds also prefer to be inside dogs, meaning they like to be near their family as much as possible. This is due to their innate protective instincts and loyalty.

Note: GSDs can live outside, but you must train them to stay out as young pups.

There are ways to manage separation anxiety, from doggy camera products to utilizing doggy daycare services, dog sitters, and dog walkers.

However, if you have a demanding job that keeps you stuck at the office for long hours, you should reconsider your choice of breed.

6. German Shepherds Need Larger Space

While I maintain that German Shepherds can live in smaller spaces and be apartment dogs, the effort required to have one be apartment-friendly is excessive. This fact alone makes them not suitable pets for some people.

Generally, they are best suited for larger or medium-sized homes with backyards. The German Shepherd’s size isn’t as big a contributor to this demand as his need for activity. 

GSDs grow up to 26 inches (shoulder height) and can be bulky, especially if they are show-line German Shepherds instead of the working-line variety. Their size creates a space burden that a cramped apartment cannot accommodate.

Moreover, you cannot crate GSDs all day, which means that the dog will be on the move and consequently put items in the apartment at risk.

One can control the German Shepherd’s size by making two choices:

  • Getting a female German Shepherd – Female German Shepherds grow 2 inches short of an adult male GSD. While this may not be a large difference, it is enough for medium-sized homes.
  • Opting for a working line German ShepherdWorking line German Shepherds are denser in mass, which results in a slightly more compact structure. However, they have higher energy levels, which puts a higher exercise burden on the owner.
GSD Dog Lying Down

Nonetheless, no discourse about not acquiring one type of dog would be complete without comparing other choices. Any medium-sized dog, including a Gerberian Shepsky, will be more apartment-friendly than a big dog.

So even though you can technically raise a German Shepherd in an apartment, the question is, are you willing to put in the extra effort?

7. They Can Reject Your Dominance

One key thing that puts German Shepherds in the “bad” category is that they will not naturally accept the owner they are constantly exposed to as their guardian or alpha.

While many GSDs imprint on their owners and start following them around as puppies, people who aren’t assertive and fail to anchor and execute commands can rapidly lose status. 

GSDs need to learn their position concerning you and can reject your alpha position if you don’t know how to show dominance over a German Shepherd.

If you do not have the time or patience to communicate your social status and have your doggo obey you, you might want a more passive dog breed. GSDs are single-master dogs, and working on your bond with them will enhance the association.

8. German Shepherds are Expensive to Own

The final disadvantage of German Shepherds is that they’re pretty expensive. The average price of a German Shepherd puppy is $2,000, as discovered in research in this article.

However, if you adopt a German Shepherd, such as a rescue dog from a shelter, you may pay as little as $300. Some organizations are happy to recover just the cost of feeding, vaccinations, and primary care.

Once you’ve chosen your new dog, you then have to factor in other initial costs, such as a crate, bed, toys, collar, leash, etc., and ongoing monthly expenses, such as food, treats, vet fees, flea and de-worming treatments, and possibly pet insurance.

So, what’s the bottom line for basic monthly costs?

The cost of owning a German Shepherd can be around $85-$100 per month after paying out the initial price of the puppy.

High-quality food will cost about $60-$70 per month for a 12-month-old dog of average weight and activity levels, and you may spend $10 on treats and $15 on health and care.

You can read more in my article Costs of Owning a German Shepherd, where I provide many examples to give you a better idea.

Alternatively, you can also watch this video:

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are best suited for families or individuals with large homes. Owners need plenty of time and patience to properly train and care for a new pup, as an isolated and untrained GSD can become aggressive and dangerous.

If you cannot dedicate time to your dog or simply don’t like walks and socializing, then a German Shepherd is a bad dog to have. Opting for a smaller breed that doesn’t require as much exercise is recommended in that case.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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