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The German Shepherd Dog’s Mood


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German Shepherds are renowned for their intelligence, alertness and loyalty. However, they are not the best choice for first-time owners because they need to be expertly and calmly handled with a firm yet gentle hand. These dogs must know their place in the pack and that their owner is the alpha dog or they could start displaying dominant behaviours which can lead to all sorts of problems which can make a GSD that much harder to handle.

Being essentially a “working” dog, German Shepherds need lots of mental stimulation as well as enough daily exercise to be truly happy and well-balanced dogs when they are in a home environment. Because they are so intelligent, they are quick to learn new things and this includes picking up “bad habits” all too easily. If left to their own devices and not given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation, a German Shepherd Dog may well become a little destructive and noisy around the home and it could be put down to sheer boredom.

GSDs respond extremely well to positive reinforcement training because they are sensitive by nature. They do not react well to any kind of heavy handed handling which could have an adverse effect on a dog’s nature. Being alert and loyal, German Shepherds can be a little territorial which is something to bear in mind when you know anyone is coming to visit your home and why they have always been so highly prized as watchdogs.

German Shepherds are high maintenance and thrive on being with owners who have the time to devote to a canine companion. They need at least 2 hours exercise every day which must be combined with lots of mental stimulation. Although very versatile, a German Shepherd would not do well living in an apartment and ideally, they should have a safe, large garden to roam around in as often as possible. The GSD prefers to live in a structured family environment and thrives on human companionship which in short means they are better suited to households where one person remains at home when other people are out.

With correct handling, the GSD is one of the smartest, most trainable of dogs on the planet and when tempered with their calm and unflappable natures, they make wonderful family pets and are known for their trustworthiness in a working environment.

Are they a good choice for first time owners?

German Shepherds are not the best choice for first time dog owners because although they are highly intelligent and therefore easy to train, they are better suited to people who are familiar with the breed’s specific needs and who therefore know how to handle and train them.

What about prey drive?

German Shepherds do have high prey drives, but the good news is that with correct training and management, a GSD can be taught not to “chase” anything unless it is a ball or object that has been thrown for them. With this said, they are known to have other “drives” which includes the following:

  • Defence drive – this is very strong in German Shepherds which is why they have always been highly regarded as watch dogs
  • Rank drive – a German Shepherd needs to know their place in the “pack” because they have a very high rank drive and if allowed, a GSD would quickly take on the role of alpha dog in a household
  • Pack drive – GSDs have a high pack drive which is why they hate it so much when they find themselves on their own

What about playfulness?

German Shepherds have a playful side to their natures and enjoy playing interactive games. The excel at many canine sports and thoroughly enjoy taking part in training sessions and competitions. The thing to bear in mind that with dogs like the GSD, it’s important to differentiate between a dog being playful and when they are asserting their dominance which is something to be avoided at all costs.

What about adaptability?

German Shepherds are better suited to households with largish back gardens. They do not adapt that well to living in an apartment. The reason being that GSDs need the room to express themselves and a good back yard to stretch their legs in whenever they can.

What about separation anxiety?

German Shepherd Dogs thrive on human company and are never happy when left on their own even for shorter periods of time. If a GSD is left alone, they suffer separation anxiety which would result in excessive barking and being destructive around the house. When dogs are destructive, it is their way of relieving the stress they experience at being alone.

What about excessive barking?

German Shepherds are intelligent and can be taught not to bark unnecessarily. However, if a dog is unhappy for whatever reason and this includes because they are left on their own for too long, then a GSD could well start barking incessantly because they are stressed out and are trying to get attention. With this said, GSDs are good watchdogs and will bark if there are strangers about or if something they don’t like is going on in their environment.

Do German Shepherds like water?

German Shepherd Dogs do like water and enjoy swimming, but it’s not a good idea to let a dog swim in a pool because of all the chemicals that are used in them. Care should always be taken when a GSD is taken for a walk anywhere near a dangerous water course just in case they decide to leap in.

Are German Shepherds good watchdogs?

German Shepherd Dogs make excellent watchdogs because the need to “protect” is a trait that is deeply embedded in their psyche and why the breed has always been such a highly regarded guard dog throughout the world.

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