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Top 10 Characteristics
of a German Shepherd Dog Owner

So, you want a German Shepherd. But is a GSD the right dog for you? A German Shepherd is not a typical dog. The breed requires a special kind of human partner or the relationship can go bad quickly. Here are some characteristics of successful German Shepherd owners. 

You might make a good German Shepherd owner if…

You want to join the German Shepherd lifestyle.

Dog owners who want a dog to fit into their lifestyle need to look elsewhere. As a German Shepherd owner, you will quickly learn that your life is intimately bound to your dog. Your daily habits and activities must include and, in some ways, be centered around your GSD. Daily exercise, bathroom trips, walks, food time, and cuddling are “team sports. And you make up half the team!

You want a dog with high energy that needs a lot of exercise.

Looking for a dog that will go on runs with you? Chase balls? Jump in ponds? Catch frisbees? German Shepherds are exactly the high-energy canine companions you want! This is the same high-octane drive that makes them excellent police and protection dogs, herders, and search dogs. Lack of activity equals boredom to a German Shepherd, and boredom brings mischief.

You like your dogs smarter than some people you’ve met.

As dogs go, German Shepherds are at the top of the class. They learn quickly and are eager to please. GSDs are keen observers and consummate problem-solvers. Many owners tell stories of their dogs learning to turn door knobs, open windows, and remember the names of people and objects. If they are not given work (or play) that challenges their minds and bodies they will find something to entertain themselves. Since GSDs often find digging holes and shredding furniture entertaining, new owners can see the value of working with their dogs. 

You have room in your family for a strong-willed addition.

All dogs are social; they are natural pack animals. You and your family make up a pack—and you have to be the top dog. Make sure your plans for your German Shepherd are inclusive: he or she will want to be an active part of the family not just an observer.

Size matters. And large is what you want.

German Shepherds are large dogs. Some are very large. It stands to reason that a big dog requires a large space to move around. It’s not that a GSD cannot thrive in an apartment, but it can only do so if the owner makes a point of taking the dog out for daily, intense exercise.

You don’t mind cleaning up hair.

Every German Shepherd owner knows the feeling of futility that comes from sweeping up a small Chihuahua’s worth of dog hair multiple times during the day.

You can learn to speak German Shepherd.

German Shepherd Dogs have a distinctive whiny sound that can mean anything from “I am hungry” to “I need to go out” to “Your sandwich looks particularly delicious.” Then there is barking. All owners know the difference between happy barks signaling a family member coming home and the sharp, booming tone when the dog sees a stranger on home turf. And no one will forget the sound of that friendly pup if he or she is actively protecting one of its pack. Scary.

You can lead a loyal pack.

A German Shepherd will take over the leading role in the pack, if the owner doesn’t show that he or she is top dog. Dogs naturally respect a hierarchy, and a German Shepherd instinctively respects a strong leader. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean. Instead, successful GSD owners are loving, compassionate, but firm and unyielding when giving commands and managing the dog. Dogs sense weakness and respect strength. They aren’t furry children. They are dogs.

You understand what a herding dog does by nature.

Many people are surprised to learn that GSDs’ origins are on the farm. Shepherd dogs were bred to control herd animals like sheep and cows. In their natural setting, the German Shepherd’s intelligence, speed, and stamina make it a winner. Some GSDs will wander off to herd (or chase) other animals they might see, getting them—and you—in trouble with the neighbors and possibly the authorities.

Tough love doesn’t bother you.

Herding dogs not only guide the flock but they also protect it. This guard dog mentality is hard-wired into German Shepherd Dogs. Their first thought is to keep their loved ones safe, and they react to perceived threats in a very simplistic manner: bark, growl, and, as a last resort, bite. As the owner of a GSD, you have to be able to provide leadership to your dog so it knows what response is acceptable. 

Well, do you match up to this list?

If you scored 10 out of 10, then you are the right person for the job. 8/10? Provided the two characteristics you don’t have can be changed or learned, you should consider a German shepherd dog. Less than that, get a cat.

That’s not a joke! The 10 characteristics of successful German Shepherd owners listed above are all about commitment, personality, and the ability to create a nurturing, supportive environment for your dog. If you don’t have them, there’s nothing wrong with that. Many would-be pet owners want an animal they can engage with on their own terms and times. Cats are great for that. They also make terrific memes. German shepherds just are not the right choice unless you can check all those boxes.

If you’ve checked the boxes and feel a German Shepherd is right for you, take a look at our available and upcoming puppies.

Richard Williamson writer

About the author

Richard Williamson has enjoyed a three decade career in marketing, advertising, and public relations. Formally trained in graphic design and copywriting, he is a partner at BackBurner Marketing and founder and lead designer of the Logo Design Group. Find out more about his writing career at www.RichardWroteThis.com.

Richard is available for brand and marketing consulting, business coaching, writing, and as a fractional Chief Marketing Officer.