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German Shepherd Pros and Cons: What To Consider Before Buying

There’s no doubt that German Shepherd Dogs are among the most popular dog breeds in the world. And although adored for their loyalty and intelligence, they also come with their fair share of disadvantages. So what are some of the pros and cons of German Shepherds worth noting?  

German Shepherds’ biggest pros are their courage, loyalty, affection, and intelligence. They are also highly trainable, good with family and kids, and protective. However, GSDs also have some cons in that they are predisposed to several breed-related illnesses, shed a lot, and are expensive to own. 

Before adding a German Shepherd to your family, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s a great pick. As an owner of a gorgeous German Shepherd, I’ll let you know a few advantages and disadvantages of the breed that only an owner will know.

As you can see in the below photos of my German Shepherd Willow, she is protective and guarding (pro) on the left. In contrast, in the picture on the right, she had separation anxiety and became destructive (con). But we’ll explore more in the article.

German Shepherd Pros & Cons. A GSD guarding next to a destructive GSD.

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Read on as we take an in-depth look at the benefits and challenges of owning this large but highly loyal and intelligent dog breed. 

What Are The Pros and Cons of a German Shepherd?

Dogs are the most prevalent pets in our homes. For centuries now, they’ve earned their famous title as people’s best friends.

Owning a dog is known to have many advantages for humans. Still, dogs also have characteristics that may challenge their owner’s patience, increase their financial strain, and burden their time management.

Like all dogs, one should weigh up a German Shepherd’s advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a tabled view of the pros and cons of German Shepherds.

German Shepherd ProsGerman Shepherd Cons
German Shepherds are athletic, good-looking dogsGerman Shepherds are pricey pets
German Shepherds are intelligent and highly trainableGerman Shepherds are high-energy dogs
German Shepherds are affectionate with family and kidsGerman Shepherds have a high prey drive
German Shepherds are protective and good guard dogsGerman Shepherds aren’t the best for multi-pet homes
German Shepherds are highly adaptableGerman Shepherds can inherit breed-related disorders
German Shepherds are loyal dogsGerman Shepherds are heavy shedders

In the rest of the article, I’ll give you all the facts you need to know about these German Shepherd pros and cons.

German Shepherd Pros

Almost all dog lovers will agree that the German Shepherd is an outstanding pet due to its personality and physical characteristics.

Since looks and temperament are some of the top factors dog owners consider when deciding on a dog breed, you can expect the German Shepherd to pass the look-temperament test with close to flying colors. 

Below are 6 German Shepherd pros worth noting. 

German Shepherds Are Athletic, Good-Looking Dogs

German Shepherds are large, strong, well-muscled, and agile dogs with an alert and athletic disposition. Their bodies are well balanced with smooth curves and a harmonious body appearance.

You’ll notice a German Shepherd’s overall muscular fitness, long muzzle, erect ears, and bushy tail at very first sight. The dogs also come in various colors, including black, sable, black & tan, white, and bi-color. 

Such a good-looking dog is no doubt a source of pride for any dog owner to walk around with.

German Shepherd In River
My German Shepherd enjoying the river

German Shepherds Are Intelligent and Highly Trainable

The professor of dog psychology, Stanley Coren, set precedence with his book “The Intelligence of Dogs” by ranking dogs according to their ability to:

  • Perform what they were bred for (instinctive intelligence).
  • Successfully solve problems in different situations (adaptive intelligence).
  • Be trained and learn from humans (working & obedience intelligence).

Gauged on these types of intelligence, the German Shepherd ranks 3rd overall, meaning you can expect the following from your dog: 

  • Excellent at its original herding role.
  • Good at finding its way in new situations.
  • Highly trainable; understands new commands with minimal repetitions and obeys them most of the time.

The German Shepherd’s prowess in all three types of intelligence explains why many leaders in animal care rank the breed first for intelligence. For these animal care pros, no dog outdoes the breed in versatility.

In fact, a German Shepherd can be trained to herd, detect drugs, attack the bad guys, guide people with disabilities, and be a movie star. All these are clear signs of the breed’s trainability for a wide range of roles.

As a former Police Officer, I’ve seen firsthand just how smart the German Shepherd breed is. I loved being part of a search and watching a police dog find what he’s sniffing for, such as narcotics and then letting his handler know it’s there by giving the alert signal. They certainly made my job easier!

Learn More About The Pros & Cons of German Shepherds In This Video…

German Shepherd: The Pros & Cons of Owning One

German Shepherds Are Affectionate With Family and Kids

When you say a dog is affectionate with family, you can expect the pet to:

  • Treat all family members as best friends.
  • Show affectionate eye contact.
  • Lean and cuddle with family members (not be aloof and independent).
  • Be excited and happy when family members return home.

When you say a dog is good with children, it means that it has these 3 qualities:

  • It is tolerant and patient around children and will not get worked up with children’s behavior.
  • It is playful and will enjoy and keep up with children’s play energy.
  • It is protective of children and won’t allow any harm to befall them.

The German Shepherd is great at being both affectionate with family and good with young children and has a 5/5 score on the AKC breed standard for both traits.

German Shepherds Are Protective, and Good Guard Dogs

Protective guard dogs naturally tend to protect the family and their home. They will alert you with a bark when strangers are around and react with protective behavior when they sense potential danger. 

A German Shepherd’s overly-protective nature means proper training (and socialization) is necessary to avoid attacks on guests, well-meaning strangers, neighbors, and other pets. 

Read more: Are German Shepherds Protective? (Ex-Cop Weighs In)

German Shepherds are alert and fearless like other breeds that are good protection and guard dogs. But they will equally warm up to strangers who are welcomed into the home. These qualities explain why the breed features in the “Most Protective Dog Breeds” and “Best Guard Dogs” lists.

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German Shepherds Are Highly Adaptable

One of the reasons German Shepherds are popular is their ability to adapt to different situations and handle change. This is greatly linked to their high intelligence and trainability.

GSDs will be happy in a home with a large yard, but they can easily adapt to apartment life as long as they get enough daily exercise. 

They will also adapt to different weather conditions and diverse living conditions. 

German Shepherds Are Loyal Dogs

Loyalty is associated with all dogs. That’s why they are universally referred to as man’s best friend. 

People link dog loyalty to pack behavior, which does not imply dominance but a sense of family group. In the wild, the dog’s ancestors, the wolves, stay in a pack for survival through pack hunting and mutual protection. But pack behavior also points to a basic dog characteristic of social animals. 

German Shepherds are known to develop strong bonds, show affection, protect, and stick with family through thick and thin. GSD loyalty has also been nurtured over the centuries by training in their original herding role. 

Besides, a GSD’s high level of intelligence allows it to reciprocate the care and affection given as a form of spontaneous allegiance.

3 German Shepherd Puppies

But, like all other breeds, German Shepherds are not all affection and loyalty. They also come with their fair share of drawbacks that are worth noting before bringing one home. 

German Shepherd Cons

Every good thing has drawbacks, and that goes for German Shepherd Dogs. Nonetheless, it is important to note that indicating a dog’s con does not in any way qualify them as bad. On the contrary, it means knowing them well before committing to be their parent.

Here are six German Shepherd cons to keep in mind when deciding on your next pet:

German Shepherds Are Pricey Pets

You’ll part with a pretty penny to own a German Shepherd (from a reputable breeder). As one of the most popular dog breeds in the US and the world, and with its many great qualities, purebred dogs definitely come with a fat price tag. 

After scouring through breeder and listing websites, I found the average price of German Shepherds to be around $2,000, but you can end up paying a whopping $3,200 (and more) to own a dog of this popular breed.  

Additionally, you’ll also have to factor in maintenance costs as your pup will require regular vet checkups and a well-balanced diet to remain healthy. So you know what you’re letting yourself in for, check out this article, Costs of Owning a German Shepherd.

German Shepherds Are High-Energy Dogs

Being a high-energy dog is essentially a good quality. Expending energy comes with a myriad of health (and overall well-being) benefits for German Shepherds and all dogs. 

A poorly exercised GSD can quickly become overweight and develop destructive behavior due to boredom and unused energy. If they’re left alone for too long, they develop separation anxiety

If you are the kind that works all day or are a senior citizen that can’t keep up with the energy levels and exercise needs of a German Shepherd, you might want to try out other dog breeds. 

On average, adults require around 2 hours of exercise daily. That can be divided between morning and evening walks and other engaging activities at home or as part of training.

If you’re considering getting a puppy, don’t worry, as here are 7 fun ways to exercise a German Shepherd pup.

German Shepherd on a Hike
Willow enjoying the view on a hike

German Shepherds Have a High Prey Drive

Prey drive is a dog’s natural instinct to chase and capture prey or other moving objects. This behavior was inherited from their wolf ancestors as a hunting and survival skill.

Since German Shepherds live with us and cannot show their hunting skills whenever they feel like it, prey drive is tamed through training. 

But as the saying goes, where there was fire, ashes remain. German Shepherds can put out their hunting instinct once in a while. 

If your GSD’s prey drive is not tamed, your dog could:

  • Chase, bite, or kill smaller animals, including cats and squirrels.
  • Risk his life chasing moving cars or bikes. 
  • Become a stalker of other smaller animals.
  • Focus on moving things and fail to concentrate on training or commands you give.

Learn how to tame a German Shepherd’s prey drive to prevent these situations.

German Shepherd High Prey Drive. A German Shepherd chasing a squirrel up a tree.
My German Shepherd chasing squirrels – clearly needs more prey drive training!

German Shepherds Aren’t the Best for Multi-pet Homes

While you can train your German Shepherd dog to warm up to other pets in the home, these dogs aren’t your number one choice if you want a multi-pet home.

On one side, they are rated slightly above average in their ability to be friendly toward other dogs. You’ll certainly need to supervise your GSD when adding a new dog to the family. 

On the other side, you should be extra careful if you want to keep cats and smaller pets like rabbits or birds. Remember that GSDs have a strong prey drive and are likely to see smaller animals as merely game. 

To prevent this, you should gradually introduce your doggo to a cat early in life and gradually. But you may want to avoid pet rabbits and birds altogether if dealing with a fully grown GSD.

German Shepherd Can Inherit Breed-related Disorders

German Shepherds are usually healthy dogs. That is especially true if breeders test their dogs for possible genetic-inherited conditions before breeding.

Nonetheless, the breed is associated with several health conditions, including:

In its official statement, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America recommends that dogs of the breed pass the OFA hips and elbows test and the club’s temperament test.

As a good rule of thumb, you should always take your pup to the vet for regular checkups to ensure that you identify potential health problems early enough. 

Learn All About The German Shepherd In This Video…

German Shepherd Everything You Need to Know

German Shepherds Are Heavy Shedders

German Shepherds have a medium-length double coat. While the inner coat is wooly and soft, the outer coat has long, thin hairs. Double coats in dogs have a protective role and an adaptive function when seasons change.

German Shepherds shed all year round. Your dog will shed the outer coat in the fall to prepare for the winter cold. In spring, however, they’ll shed their inner coats to prepare for the summer heat. 

If you are sensitive to dog fur, the heavy-shedding German Shepherd is certainly not for you. Also, be ready to co-exist with your dog’s fur on clothes and couches. You can control your dog’s constant shedding by brushing his coat regularly to remove loose hair.

Do you want the above German Shepherd’s pros and cons in a summarized form? See a recap in the next section.

High Shedding German Shepherd. A GSD being de-shedded.

Let’s Wrap This Up!

Pros and Cons of a German Shepherd

A German Shepherd is a smart, easy-to-train dog with a well-built, athletic body and a loving disposition towards family and children. However, they can be pricey to own and require a bit of your time for daily exercise. Besides, they are heavy-shedders and don’t easily get along with tiny pets.

Below is a summary of the German Shepherd’s pros and cons:

Pros

  • Good-looking
  • Athletic
  • Intelligent
  • Highly trainable
  • Affectionate with family
  • Good with kids
  • Protective
  • Good guard dogs
  • Highly adaptable

Cons

  • Pricey
  • High-energy dogs
  • Have a high prey drive
  • Not great for multi-pet homes
  • Can inherit breed-related health issues
  • Heavy shedders

Although dogs come with tons of advantages, they also have their fair share of breed-specific shortcomings. So If you consider owning a German Shepherd, you should know the breed’s pros and cons. 

Factoring in the challenges and advantages will ensure you make an informed decision based on your ability to accommodate and care for the dog. And the good-looking, affectionate, and high-energy German Shepherd deserves good care.

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