How to Take Care of a German Shepherd Puppy (Essential Owner’s Guide)

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Wouldn’t it be amazing if you knew exactly how to take care of a German Shepherd puppy to have a successful life with them? 

If you’re like me, then you want all of the essential information that’ll give your dog the best life possible in an easy-to-understand guide, just like this.

All you have to do is read along to feel confident in understanding your new, rambunctious GSD puppy.

Preparing to Take Care of Your New German Shepherd Puppy

preparing to take care of your new german shepherd puppy at home
You must first prepare their sleeping arrangements and special areas before you bring your puppy home.

You’ve been waiting for months or even years to bring home your new puppy! 

But, don’t let the excitement overwhelm you. 

Instead, focus on what you can do now to prepare yourself to feel confident that you understand how to care for your German Shepherd puppy. 

Plan for your new puppy’s arrival by having all of the necessary supplies on hand. Have their special puppy-safe area already set up for them.

  • Choose an area for their bed where the family spends much of their time so your pup isn’t alone for too long.
  • Place their bed in a corner of the room, out of the way of busy footpaths.
  • Make sure their bed is away from cold drafts or hot heaters.
  • Pick a place to put their food and water dishes that will not cause your family to trip over them while they’re eating and drinking.

Keep your pup in their special room when you can’t watch them. It only takes two seconds for them to soil the carpet, eat a table leg, or chew an electrical cord. 

Be sure to use the pet safe baby gates instead of closing doors. Keeping doors shut prevents your dog from seeing you, and this can cause anxiety and stress, especially in a GSD that craves and needs human attention.

Communicating the Essentials 

communicating the essentials to your new german shepherd puppy
Learn to communicate effectively with your new German Shepherd.

When learning how to take care of a German Shepherd puppy, then you must commit to the role of teacher and guide for your dog. 

They look to you to learn the ways of their world and want to understand what you expect.

The best way to accomplish this is through clear, effective communication. 

Use the following words to convey your message.

Word Meaning
“Let’s go”Encourages your pup to follow you, use on loose-lead walks and around the house.
“Wait” / “O.K.”“Wait,” tells them to control their impulse and encourages them to look to you for direction before proceeding, while “O.K,” tells them to proceed, use this pair of words when going through doors or crossing roads.
“Sit”This keeps your pup’s behind on the ground and is useful when you need to get their attention or keep them from going through with another unwanted behavior, use this before giving them their meals or a treat.
“Stand”“Stand,” tells your dog to raise to all 4 paws and allows you to get them ready for their next command or for grooming, use this for bathing or brushing.
“Excuse me”Encourages your dog to think about where they’re at in relation to you and reminds them of their manners, useful when your dog blocks your way into a door or room, runs into you, or ignores your directions.
“Down”This word places your pup on their belly to keep them in a position for a longer time or while you’re busy, use it when you’re standing while talking to a friend for a longer period.
“Settle”“Settle,” tells your pup they need to relax. Use this command while they go to a specific place (like their dog bed) and you need quiet time, or when you are reading silently, or having dinner and don’t want them under your feet.
“No”“No” tells your dog they’re performing an unwanted or inappropriate behavior and need to stop it, it’s best used when catching the in the thought process before a behavior, for example – use “no” when you see your dog sniff the air in the kitchen near the countertop where you just set down the cooked chicken (before they place their paws up on the counter to grab the food).
“Uh oh”“Uh oh” works best for younger dogs (under 4 months old) to discourage inappropriate behavior, use “uh oh” to discourage their interest in objects or rooms you don’t want them in.
Their NameTeach your dog their name and associate it with food during the early stages (8 to 10 weeks old), use it to get your dog’s attention and preceding any command to let them know that you’re speaking directly to them.

Familiar words such as those in this list help your dog feel connected and directed. 

Follow this easy German Shepherd puppy training guide to begin all their basic obedience commands.

Your dog doesn’t develop impulse control until 6 to 8 months old. Keep this in mind when discouraging behaviors and using corrections.

You’ll need to use the right discipline for a German Shepherd puppy to keep your expectations understood.

After safety and security, your dog has five basic needs: eating, drinking, sleeping, bathroom time and playing. They live their days around these basic needs.

Your dog may become easily overwhelmed if you don’t meet these needs. A dog who nips and scratches you isn’t always wanting to play but may have other needs that you aren’t meeting.

It’s your job as their leader to understand what your puppy needs and to make sure you meet these demands.

Communicating and Meeting Your German Shepherd Puppy’s Basic Needs

teaching your german shepherd puppy the essentials
Meet your new puppy’s needs for effective leadership.

In this section, you will learn how to communicate their needs to them and understand how your pup must meet these needs on a daily level.

Your Dog’s Need Key Words or Phrases Your Routine
DrinkingWater, want a drinkKeep the water dish in the same spot and show them the water bowl when they are likely to have thirst (after playing or after a walk).
EatingHungry, eat, go eat, want dinnerSchedule all feeding times and don’t allow them to eat all day. Keep the food dish in the same area and have your pup sit before offering their meals to them.
PlayingGo play, toy time, ball, boneEnsure all four paws are on the ground before you give a toy or toss a ball. Maintain a play area inside and outside the home in the same areas so your dog knows what actions to expect.
SleepingGo to bed, on your mat, to your crate, nap timeHave one spot in each room you share with your dog that is their quiet sleeping space. Take your dog to this spot when you give the phrase and offer them a chew toy to keep them on the spot and quiet.
Going pottyGo potty, outsideTake them to their designated potty spot and follow a potty schedule.

Leaders meet needs.

Every time you meet your pup’s need, they develop a stronger bond with you. 

Over time, this bond grows as you continue to show your pup that you can and will meet all their needs.

Feed Your German Shepherd Puppy for Steady Growth

feeding your german shepherd puppy for steady growth
Choose healthy foods for proper growth.

Puppies eat frequent meals as they’re growing. 

Split their meals into regular intervals throughout the day to suit their high metabolism.  

Typical Feeding Schedule for Growing Puppies

Age Morning Meal Midday Meal Afternoon Meal Evening Meal
8 to 10 weeksXXXX
10 weeks to 4 monthsXX
X
4 to 6 monthsX

X

This is a general schedule. Your dog may eat more or fewer meals at each stage. Around 4 to 6 months old, your dog naturally eats less.

Your Shepherd’s longevity, health, energy, and overall condition all depend on the quality of their food. 

A fit and healthy dog is one that is less likely to have behavior issues and gives you more daily cooperation.

Poor nutrition increases your dog’s susceptibility to diseases and infections and could increase aggressive disorders.

What to Feed Your New Puppy

Each dog food company can choose the ingredients it wants to meet the federally regulated nutritional requirements. And many boutiques and fancy formulas try to include more person-acceptable ingredients to entice people to buy the food.

Some food companies use shady marketing tactics, like adding in sweet potatoes, peas, and blueberries as these ingredients are more appealing to the human buyer. However, these boutique and fancy formulas rarely use their own in-house testing to ensure their products don’t cause long-term ill health.

Choose the top scientifically-researched foods to keep your German Shepherd puppy healthy and avoid lifelong complications.

And feed your pup the right amounts for proper growth. You can read the top-rated foods for your German Shepherd puppy right here…

How Much to Feed a German Shepherd Puppy (All You Need to Know)

Play Routines for Fun and Stimulation

take care of your puppy with fun exercise and play
Play is natural and fun!

One of the most natural urges is that of play. 

Your dog wants to explore their world through fun and excitement. Use play to help your dog understand appropriate behaviors.

Think twice about using confrontational and rough games like roughhousing, when your dog is little and forming connections between you and their behavior. 

Stick to cooperative games such as:

  • fetch,
  • playing with toys of all types together,
  • brain games, and
  • gentle play that avoids confrontation.

Some people think rough games early on may produce a more confrontational relationship later. Whereas cooperative games instill a fun-loving attitude that doesn’t involve your dog having to pit their strength against you.

Only use toys that are non-toxic, and made for heavy chewers, like the ones listed in this guide for safe toys for German Shepherds to prevent boredom.

And, I don’t know about you, but I think every German Shepherd puppy should have a job from the very beginning.

I bet your dog will love it when you give them one of the best jobs for German Shepherd puppies!

Sleeping Routines to Avoid Puppy Crankiness

sleeping routines for your german shepherd puppy
Find a sleep routine that works for you and your puppy.

Since you’ve already created a quiet space for your pup before they arrived, this part should be easy. 

Make it clear to your family and friends that when your dog is sleeping, leave them alone. Naptime is off-limits time for any other activity.

You don’t want an overtired, cranky pup that will become impossible to control and deal with. A stressed pup that doesn’t get enough rest may snap or growl under pressure.

Your puppy sleeps an average of around 6 hours a night for the first few weeks you bring him home. Sleep allows your dog’s body and mind to recover from their work. 

They awake refreshed and ready to begin anew!

Try these tips to help them sleep more soundly:

  • Place a white noise machine nearby so they’re not in the quiet alone. This also drowns out any usual house noise that may keep your dog awake and disturb them.
  • Install a soft night light so they’re not in complete darkness. If it’s too bright pull the curtains or install blackout curtains.

Keep their sleeping area clean and free from unnecessary distractions.

Help make them feel secure and comfortable, but don’t coddle them or you could validate their fear. 

Ever wondered about your German Shepherd’s sleeping position? See what sleeping on its back really means.

Potty Routines to Prevent Accidents

potty routines help prevent accidents with your new german shepherd
Stick to a strict schedule to avoid soiling accidents.

Many new puppy owners dread the dirty bits of care—like the house and potty training. 

But it’s a necessity that you can’t overlook.

Good news! Shepherd pups are easy to train and catch on quickly to new routines. If you keep to a regular schedule, you can excel at the house and potty training.

Puppies usually want to eliminate after waking, eating, drinking, play, or exercise. They may signal this by putting their nose down and sniffing or walking in circles with their heads lowered down.

Quickly place your dog in their designated potty area. Praise them when they urinate or mess in the correct area.

It’s pointless to punish your pup after an accident and even worse to shove their noses in their mess or hit them! If you catch them in the act a simple stern “Uh oh” is all that’s needed. 

You must always watch them when they are loose in the house, or else they will have an accident.

Follow this guide on potty training your German Shepherd, step-by-step, for a stress-free experience.

Gentle Exercise for Fitness

gentle exercise for your new puppy's care
Gentle exercise is part of puppy care.

Your breed is highly active and loves the challenge of new activities!

But these activities must consider their age. 

Aim for two brief daily walks. Start with a shorter walking session and work on building up the time and distance as your dog matures.

Increase distance very slowly to avoid injuries to your dog. Puppies can’t walk for long without tiring out.

Begin with only 5 minutes of slow walking for every month your pup is old. So, an 8-week-old pup can walk 10 minutes at a time.

A 12-week-old pup can handle 15 minutes of walking at a leisurely pace.

Don’t push your pup too fast or too soon! Your large-breed pup needs time to let its bone fully fuse and to gain an increase in strength.

Use safe, healthy German Shepherd puppy exercise for steady growth. This is the same program I used for my GSD and she now jogs a 10k routinely.

Mental Exercise for a Well-Behaved Puppy

mental care and exercise is best for a new german shepherd puppy
Let your dog explore their world and increase their brain activity.

Without proper mental exercise, your dog becomes bored. 

Boredom leads to destructive and annoying behaviors such as excessive barking, inappropriate chewing, and digging up your yard.

Brain games mentally stimulate your dog. These games require your dog to figure out a small task to receive a reward.

Mental activity is shown to help keep dogs more engaged in their environments and prevent boredom. They control unwanted behaviors from boredom.

As your dog becomes proficient in a game, you make the game more challenging. There is no end to how easy or hard you can make these games.

Read this helpful article on how to keep your German Shepherd mentally stimulated and happy. which gives you plenty of easy, inexpensive, and free ideas that increase your puppy’s intelligence.

Proper Grooming for Supple Skin and a Shiny Coat

brush your german shepherd puppy to care for them
Puppies need early exposure to brushing and grooming.

GSDs need a brushing routine that keeps them and your house free from excessive loose hair and helps their skin stay healthy.

Expect to brush your dog at least three times a week. Even better, follow this example on how to brush your German Shepherd puppy to reduce shedding.

Use grooming gloves on puppies. They are soft and gentle and create a positive association with future grooming.

Above all, help make grooming and brushing positive experiences. 

A baby German Shepherd that tolerates and even enjoys a daily brushing is a dog that is easier to keep in better health and experience less stress.

Vaccinations for Long-Term Health

vaccinations help take care of your new puppy
Vaccinations are necessary for health.

Caring for your baby GSD pup means staying on top of a strict immunization schedule. While a puppy gets immunity through nursing in the first weeks of life, the immunity wears off shortly.

It’s impossible to know when this immunity wears off. Therefore puppies get a series of shots during their initial vaccination schedule.

Vaccines prevent illness and keep your pet safe from disease. Stay on top of your dog’s routine vaccines.

Your breeder should give your pup their first vaccination series before you bring them home. Bring this vaccination history with you to your vet on your first visit.

Keep to a yearly vet exam, even if you think your dog doesn’t need it.

Conclusion: Taking Care of Your German Shepherd Puppy for Life

While there are many aspects to puppies, this guide is a great start on how to take care of a German Shepherd puppy.

First impressions are important, especially from your puppy’s point of view. These early encounters set the pattern of his future relationship with you.

Use these ideas to offer plenty of love and affection throughout the day to bond with your dog.

Don’t use harsh punishments when correcting your pup. Know how to discipline your GSD pup the right way.

With proper care and attention, you and your GSD will enjoy a long, happy life together. Creative thinkers like you choose to train their puppy and avoid behavior issues.

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