Three years ago, we purchased our very first dog, a German Shepherd. Not the easiest startup dog, I’ve heard; but, German Shepherds have always been my favorite canine breed and nothing else will do, especially for my first dog. He was 1 week old when we first met him and his parents. He wasn’t AKC certified or from a well-established breeder but he’s a good and handsome boy nevertheless, and healthy from what we can tell his three years with us.
Initially, we opted to adopt first; but, since we wanted a puppy to grow with our family, the availability was limited. We found a litter at an animal shelter in North Carolina, went thru the process of adoption, had someone come and inspect our home, only to be told that we will be put on the waiting list for another litter because all 6 were already adopted. Whenever that would be, no one knows really. So with our hopes crushed we started looking to purchase.
My budget was $1000, $1500 if I had to push it. Started looking online for a list of breeders to contact and meet nearby. Was not able to find one locally through online search; but, we were willing to drive to get our GSD. A lot of breeders were up north and was a good way of a drive. In the end, we bought him for $600 from a breeder 30 minutes away, in a neighboring city, discovered from a newspaper advertisement. He was 1 week old at the time and the chunkiest of the litter.
Two years later, dropping my boy at a kennel, I met a business man who breeds and train GSD locally, much more expensive of course than the $600 I paid; but, it’s a good information to hold on to for next time. Maybe I will contact him someday. For now, my one GSD is plenty.
It was not an easy road for us raising our GSD since we didn’t know what we were doing half the time, especially since the first 2 years of his life, my husband relocated to Japan on military orders, leaving me to hold the forth on my own. There was a lot of stress that surrounded me that first year without my husband and raising my GSD, while also catering to everything revolving around single parenting. He was a handful, my GSD, very curious, and always hungry.
Here’s a bit of information to refer to when deciding to introduce a GSD in your family:
- At 95 lbs, he could not fit in our 5 seater car with the kids in the back with him. Comfortability is of particular importance to us since we love to take road trips. We had to upgrade to an SUV. It’s still a 5 seater, but he gets the trunk all to himself, which we couldn’t do with our car.
- If he stands on his hind legs, he is as tall as me. This means anything and everything is up for grabs for him. We have since learned to keep things off the counters and/or tables and/or shelves to avoid him stealing items that peak his interest(s). I’m just trying to avoid him eating something that can potentially kill him because of his curiosity.
- Because he is tall, and he is a sniffer, he will get that nose of his press on to my guests’ crotch and ass area to sniff when each enters the front door. I don’t like this habit, I just laugh it off and apologize and stop him. It’s embarrassing none the less. After which, he leaves them alone. A guard dog by through and through.
- Because he is so massive, especially against my petite frame, he can literally pull me if I’m not paying attention. His prey drive is high and so he chases everything and anything that fit his fancy. He has the potential to dislocate my arm if I’m not careful.
- GSDs have so much hair! So much! They shed the greatest twice a year. For me, he just sheds every day. If I miss a day vacuuming, his hair creates tumble “weeds” all over the house. Not to mention, the hair flies in the air, landing on food. I had to come to terms with this one. It’s a huge mental stress for me in the beginning trying to make sure the house is clean to avoid the hair on the food. I’m slightly leaning on the Germaphobe type.
- My GSD attracts dirt, especially during rainy days, even just on his potty breaks. He gets it on his feet, understandable, on his leg, on his belly too. If I don’t towel him dry, he leaves streaks of mud all over the house. This also means I give him a bath at least 2x a month, more when he starts stinking. I know I’m supposed to limit the washing to avoid drying his skin but with his hair, I just don’t know how else to get rid of the dirt and smell off him other than washing him.
- I trim his hair myself to save money on grooming. He doesn’t like it but I trim it nonetheless, esspecially under his paw. His paws are extra sensitive, especially the hind ones. He doesn’t like anyone touching his paws. If I leave it alone, the hair grows pretty long, which also hides dirt. Not to mention, overgrown hair on his paw causes him to slide on our floor, which can potentially cause an accident while he’s running around the house.
- If I don’t trim/shave his underbelly area, he gets rashes on it, which is hard to see under the hair. So I make a point to trim/shave him there too.
- I walk my GSD. I used to run with him but my knees won’t let me get this done these days. I’m old. I’m allowed to say that because my body says it’s true. Because I walk him, I don’t need to trim his nails. The pavement does it for me. If I don’t burn his energy, he gets into a lot of trouble indoors, which I pay for ultimately.
- Trash digging is his favorite past time. We used to have a stainless steel 13-gallon trash bin. He kept knocking it to the ground to scavenge through its contents. My husband DIYed a wooden trash bin and it is much heavier. It was doing great until it wasn’t. He just did the same thing to it last week. We got home from the gym and the trash was all over the floor. He’s eaten everything he wanted to eat. Luckily for us, he was totally fine and did not show any signs of sickness.
- I have gone thru several items throughout his 3 years. I will create a separate post about the things that have worked for us. But just know, if a GSD is bored, he will tear up all sort of things with disregard to its value. That big mouth of his can do serious damage. Bitter sprays did not work to stop him from doing so. Exercise is very important, both physical and mental.
- Whether I’m tired or not, raining or sunny, exercise, potty breaks, and training had to be done. I don’t really know other than out of pure love why dog owners go thru what they do. The responsibility struggle is real! According to www.petmd.com, GSD has an average life expectancy of 10 years. Are you prepared to love and care for one for the long haul?
- I just learned how to clean his ear properly two months ago. His ear tunnel goes all the way to his jaw. I could not believe it. I have been cleaning it, just didn’t realize I was only cleaning the surface. The veterinarian finally taught me how to clean it properly. It requires buying cotton blocks to get it down the long ear tunnel and cleansing should be done twice a month.
- Because he has a lot of hair, when I don’t trim his hair, some of his excrements leave pieces on his hair accidentally. I try to avoid this because he does sleep on the sofas and sofas are not that easy to clean. I use just plain baby wipes to wipe his butt area when I need to.
- That nose and face get really dig deep when he smells a scent on the grass or fire hydrants or fence. I’ve seen him lick grass and other items during our walks too. He just loves to smell other dogs’ urine for whatever reason. So cleansing is a must for me because my kids give hugs and kisses all over that face.
- My boy has seasonal allergies that cause him to nip his body all over because he’s itchy. I did not know dogs can have seasonal allergies too. So I give him Cetrizine during his meals at the advice of his vet. Also, he is incessant with his nipping and does not stop until it’s bleeding.
- When we got him, I was told that he had parasites that we needed to get rid off. This is something they get from their mothers. This is typical for puppies. His vet just gave me meds to get rid of it. This parasite issue didn’t last long.
Food and weight
- He finishes a 24-30 lb bag of dry dog food in a month at 3 cups/day. That’s $50/bag. He also gets treats. In the beginning, we were going overboard with it during his training. To help him stay at his current weight, his vet suggested substituting frozen peas as an extra treat and food for him. That way he still gets substance without the extra calories.
- I also try to make my own treats for him with something simple as peanut butter, bananas, and flour. I have not tried chicken broth based treats, but it’s in the works.
- Within a year, he was at his adult size and weight.
- Every dog owner goes thru this. During this stage, my boy was very nippy. I think even more than a typical dog. The other parents in the kinder class noticed it too during play time too. I’d walk past him and he takes a bite off my leg, my arm, my hands, dresses, etc. Puppy teeth are sharp. I didn’t go without some scabs and bruises and torn clothing during this teething stage. It was a rough experience for us.
- His teeth just fell off on its own one by one. I just find them on the floor somewhere. I’m so thankful to pass the teething stage. To relieve him, we bought him bones to chew on. Frozen veggies or ice. Monitoring his time with the bone so that he doesn’t bite more than he ought. It helped but when we were out, or leave him alone, he wreaked havoc to soothe those gums.
- Because he is a big boy, he’s gone through our open window once. I mopped the floor and pried the window open just a bit to let some fresh air in, after which I went to pick my kid at the bus stop, just a few feet away. He saw a dog pass by and he pushed it wide open to get outside, without his tags because I just gave him a bath too. When he wants something, he finds ways to get it, which is why home proofing is a must. So far, he hasn’t figured out how to open his crate, where I store his things, treats included. My aunt has a dog that knows how to open her crate. Dogs are quite intelligent.
- Socks go in his mouth fairly easily. I lost one of foot liner type of socks and he got a hold of it and swallowed it when I tried to pry it off him. It came out of him two days later, still whole. Not all socks will go out though. If he swallows enough socks, he may need an operation to remove it. See videos from YouTube as proof.
- I’d like to think that training is enough but even the best of them gets tempted. I will admit, he is not police dog trained or anything close; but he listens and follows 90% of the time and I will definitely take that. Maybe he’ll learn to heel, maybe he’ll learn to turn the lights off, maybe he will stop barking at loud motorcycles….maybe he will, someday. For now, he is enough, as long as I am persistent in keeping him safe from his curiosity.
Lastly, the perks.
- Our GSD is super fluffy. He loses half of his bulk when his hair is soaking wet and flat during his bath. We all love to cuddle with him, like a live teddy bear. Nice and warm, especially in the winter months.
- People think twice before approaching us.
- He gets me moving, which helps me stay fit.
- I love his simplicity and company. As I’m typing this, he’s just napping quietly beside me. He gets up when I need him to, he waits patiently when I need him to. He’s a very light sleeper but he catches his ZZZs quite easily.
- Sometimes I catch him running in his sleep. Sometimes he’s barking in his sleep. Sometimes he looks at me and does his side head tilt like he’s trying to understand what I’m saying. It’s super cute and super good for my heart and soul. He’s adorable.
- He is such a people magnet and loves the attention, loves the camera too, even though people think twice before getting close. I get compliments when I am with him. I get so proud like I birthed him myself, also good for the heart and soul.
- He loves to help me wake the kids up in the morning to get them ready for school. He doesn’t stop licking until they are up. haha
- Whenever someone rings the doorbell, he is there at the ready to make sure he knows who is out there. My guard dog.
Our GSD definitely keeps us on our toes when he’s got the energy to burn. In the summer months, we walk him early in the morning or at night to avoid the heat. With all his hair, it’s torture for him to walk at peak hours, especially since the pavement is too hot and can burn his paws. In the winter month, we don’t have much to worry about, especially since it does not snow very much here.
My goal, to visit Shenandoah Valley with him. But with the bear warning, it’s a bit intimidating to bring him. I don’t know if I can protect him while I protect my kids when we come across one. It’s a bit too much for me. Queue Leonard DiCaprio bear scene from the Revenant. He is a barker. And the ticks, hard to see with all that hair.
Every day is a learning opportunity with him. It definitely has its trying times; but overall, it has been great. GSDs are known to be prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia, and surgery or hip replacement can cost thousands of dollars. I’m not looking forward to this. I may have to start looking into health insurance for him. Thoughts?
Comment below about your dog. I would love to meet and learn more about him/her.
Until next time.