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Are German Shepherds Bad: 8 Reasons NOT to Get a GSD

If you’re having a disagreement with your partner regarding getting a German Shepherd, you should know all the drawbacks of why German Shepherds are not good pets. When choosing a dog, it’s crucial to know all the cons of the breed before deciding if you’re compatible. So, are German Shepherds bad?

Here are the reasons why German Shepherds are bad – and might not be a good fit for you:

  • German Shepherds are prone to medical conditions.
  • German Shepherds shed a lot.
  • GSDs can be aggressive.
  • They require lots of active involvement.
  • German Shepherds can develop separation anxiety.
  • They need larger space.
  • GSDs can reject your dominance.
  • German Shepherds are expensive.

This article will cover all the different reasons you should NOT get a German Shepherd. Not all of these will apply to everyone because the breed is the perfect dog for millions of owners, including myself.

However, my experience allows me to see why you should not get a German Shepherd, so you’ll know exactly what to expect. You can read more about my personal and professional knowledge on my About Us page.

A Young GSD sat on the base of a couch after throwing the cushion off it. Are German Shepherds Bad?
“I’m not that bad!” says Willow, my German Shepherd.

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So, let’s delve into all the disadvantages of owning a German Shepherd.

Are German Shepherds Bad Dogs?

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 are bad as they shed a lot, are high-energy, and can become aggressive if not socialized. They are prone to separation anxiety, don’t do well in apartments, 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 are bad 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. German Shepherds are 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 should 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 will need to 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 German Shepherd, sadly, she recently developed spinal osteoarthritis. However, I manage Willow’s symptoms with prescribed medication and exercise modification.

Key takeaways:

  • Only get a German Shepherd if you can afford to take multiple trips to the vet or invest in a good pet insurance policy. 
  • German Shepherds can develop medical conditions and require due diligence before acquisition and patience and care after adoption.

2. German Shepherds Shed A Lot

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

GSDs usually have double coats, except for long-haired German Shepherds, 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 if they have an open coat.

Key takeaways:

  • German Shepherds shed a lot. They are not hypoallergenic. 
  • You will need to dedicate two hours a week to brushing your dog.
  • Opting for the long coat variety can help reduce the grooming burden.
  • Easier to groom long haired types are usually harder to enroll in a dog show.
A GSD After Being Groomed. German Shepherds Shed A Lot
My German Shepherd being de-shedded.

3. GSDs Can Be Aggressive

One of the most significant reasons not to get 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 to find 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.

Learn more about German Shepherd aggression here.

Remember, German Shepherds are universally loved because they can be very friendly when trained right. That’s why most canine films feature a German Shepherd. The only problem is that if you do not have the time to help the puppy assimilate into your social culture, you can damage him for life. 

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. 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 gels better with your family, and aggression can be addressed easily. On the other hand, if you’re adopting a grownup dog, you need to spend enough time understanding his/her needs and training them.

Key takeaways:

  • German Shepherds are large and powerful, which is why you don’t want them thinking of an average human as a potential threat.
  • German Shepherd puppies need to be exposed to a variety of people to keep them open-minded about new faces.
  • It is easy to make a German Shepherd asocial. However, you’ll have to deal with the negative consequences of having an asocial dog.
  • German Shepherds’ prey drive needs to be reigned in with appropriate care and controlled exposure to other animals. Here’s how to tame GSD prey drive.
  • A GSD that puts people on edge also feels bad about not receiving encouragement and attention.

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

German Shepherd - 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't 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. So unless you want your furniture to be at constant risk of doubling as a chew-toy, you need to find ways to exhaust your dog’s excess energy.

German shepherd playing in snow

Fortunately, a dog walker/sitter can do this on your behalf if you are too busy. Still, 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 is bad for you.

Most importantly, you need to constantly align their routine based on the external temperature. During summer, they can easily get exhausted and you may have to engage them indoors more than usual. This is the kind of active involvement expected from your end as you raise a German Shepherd.

Key takeaways:

  • German Shepherds require one to two hours of daily exercise and a few chew toys to help exhaust their pent-up energy. 
  • This task can be done by a family member or a dog walker if you’re out at work during the daytime.
  • If no one can exercise your dog, German Shepherd behavior problems will occur and the house furniture can be at risk of getting torn apart.

5. German Shepherds Can Develop Separation Anxiety

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

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.

While your personality might be functional enough with your emotional makeup, you are not a large dog. Ask yourself if your emotional energy transferred to one of the most commonly used police dogs would create a positive environment. If not, you might want to adopt a less emotionally malleable dog.

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’s it 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. GSDs can live outside, but you have to 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.

Before getting a German Shepherd, you have to ask if you can execute what’s required of you to prevent or reduce your German Shepherd’s anxiety.

Key takeaways:

  • German Shepherds can mirror their owners’ emotions, making them bad dogs for anxious people to have. 
  • GSDs are also naturally nervous about abandonment and can develop separation anxiety.
  • If you work long hours or can’t accommodate your GSD’s separation anxiety with additional care, you should get a breed that’s relatively stable and secure in your absence.

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 of 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 itself 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.
German Shepherd 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, is going to 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?

Key takeaways:

  • German Shepherds can be raised in an apartment but require a lot of effort. 
  • Male showline German Shepherds are larger than female working lines.
  • If you have your heart set on a GSD, you could always consider a smaller crossbreed such as these 21 German Shepherd mixes.

7. GSDs 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 do 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.

Key takeaways:

  • German Shepherds work well with assertive owners. If you have a “live and let live” philosophy of dog ownership, you should opt for a more passive breed. 
  • GSDs can challenge your authority and require patient enforcement of rigid boundaries. Only get the breed if you have that kind of capacity.

8. German Shepherds are Expensive

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 choose to 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 German Shepherd, 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 pet insurance, which is optional of course. All of these things added together are not cheap.

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. A 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 tons of examples to give you a better idea.

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.

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  • 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. Find her on Linkedin!