Owning a German Shepherd for the First Time (Your Most Important Tips)

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Are you thinking about owning a German Shepherd for the first time and want to know the most important tips to feel confident and successful?

You can have a happy, healthy relationship with your German Shepherd even as a first-time owner when you know the best ways to prepare for this demanding breed.

If you want to have confidence with your first German Shepherd, then read on…

What to Expect Owning a German Shepherd For the First Time 

what to expect as a first time german shepherd owner

First and foremost, living with a German Shepherd can be highly rewarding or very frustrating, depending on the place they hold in the family. 

At heart, the German Shepherd is a pack animal and needs a role in your family, his pack. The frustration begins with you not giving your dog a job and setting standards to follow.

So instead, your dog creates their own jobs for themselves. Usually, to your disagreement.

That’s why you must set standards of expectations for living within your pack and reinforce them.

Owning a German Shepherd for the first time means you need to prepare for this breed. They will eventually become large, powerful dogs that require a confident handler.

Here are the most important first time German Shepherd owner tips for having a healthy relationship.

1. Socialize Your German Shepherd.

socialize your german shepherd

After your dog has had time to settle into your home, start providing new socialization opportunities.

Introductions can take the form of petting, playing fetch, even just going for a walk. Don’t force your dog to accept new people if they’re not interested.

Take meet and greets slowly to avoid developing stress and anxiety-related problems.

Tell your visitors to not reach for your dog. Let the dog come to the visitors on their own accord. If they don’t go to the new person, the new person should just ignore the dog.

After the dog has met and sniffed the visitor, suggest to the visitor they softly touch the side of the dog’s neck or side of the shoulder, rather than the top of the head.

Patting the top of the dog’s head may cause stress in some dogs as this gesture might look like a dominance attempt. It can be a challenge to some dogs and frightening to others.

Avoid any dogs you don’t know. Only interact with dogs that are safe and you know for sure will have positive reactions to your new German Shepherd.

It’s better to have a limited number of positive interactions that a lot of negative encounters. Think quality, not quantity, when socializing your German Shepherd.

Meet all different types of people with varying races, hairstyles, wearing hats or not, men, women, and children. Let your puppy walk on different surface types, such as tile floors, wood, and bricks.

Especially expose them positively to different weather conditions. Train them early that thunder and rain are just parts of everyday life.

2. Begin Obedience Training.

begin obedience training

The first few days offer you lots of opportunities to praise good behavior and establish yourself as a leader.

One of the most important things to remember is don’t punish your dog. It’s too soon to discipline for any behavior since your dog does not understand what you expect of them.

Punishment will only cause your dog to fear you and increase anxiety.

Whenever your dog focuses their attention on you, either by looking up at you or following you, say their name happily and smile. Crouch down to offer them a gentle scratch and pet.

This connects their name to paying attention to you and marks you as a pack leader, which is important for obedience training.

Keep training sessions positive so your dog looks forward to training because they have good associations with it. Never end training on a bad note. For example, if you are tired and angry, don’t work with your dog.

2 to 3 minutes is plenty long of training for a puppy. Keep the sessions short, but have multiple training sessions throughout the day.

Always work on rewarding good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. The goal is to build trust in the first few weeks and months that you have your new dog to create a bond.

Read this guide to learn all about the basics of proper German Shepherd obedience training, including a training schedule and the foundation commands.

Train daily. Make it fun. Don’t stress out if your dog doesn’t understand something the first few times.

3. Prevent Biting, Nipping, and Chewing.

prevent biting, nipping, and chewing in your german shepherd puppy

Biting and chewing are natural instincts for dogs and puppies. 

These actions provide them with opportunities to investigate the different amounts of pressure to use in relation to the purpose of their biting.

When very young, your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you during rough play.

They are showing natural and normal behavior and are now without their littermates to play-fight with one another. This means you must react in such a way to get their attention and alert them they are biting you too hard.

When puppies nip or chew each other too rough, they let out a high squeal. This high pitch lets the biting puppy know they’ve used too much pressure and should let go or ease up on their bite.

Copy the behaviors puppies use to communicate with one another in their packs to teach your puppy not to bite you.

  • When they bite too hard or at all give a high-pitched squeal or yelp.
  • They should let go or look startled.
  • Follow their release with praise or a tasty treat when your dog stops the unwanted behavior.

If this doesn’t work for you, then read this guide on how to stop your German Shepherd puppy from biting and nipping.

Sometimes puppy’s teethe and their gums are sore and need something to chew. Other times adult German Shepherds have a desire and natural urge to bite for relaxation and to reduce anxiety. 

Only use safe, non-toxic chew toys, which are found listed here, in the best strong chew toys for German Shepherds to avoid boredom.

Alternatively, use pet-safe baby gates to close off areas where your dog is prohibited to go unsupervised.

4. Potty Training is a Necessity.

yes, potty training is a necessity

Take your puppy out every 2 to 3 hours and especially first thing in the morning, after eating, after play or exercise, and right before their bedtime.

Puppies, like a toddler, will have accidents because, at first, they don’t have full control of their bladders.

The most important thing to remember with potty training is to never punish or demean your dog when there’s an accident. Don’t yell or push their face into the mess.

It’s your fault for not watching your dog, reading their body cues, or sticking to a routine. 

Create a set routine and schedule and stick to it to avoid accidents and train your puppy faster.

You’ll want to read the full guide to potty training your German Shepherd to ensure you’re sticking to a routine that is healthy.

5. Food Routines Keep Your German Shepherd Healthy.

food routines keep your german shepherd healthy

After the morning potty break, feed your dog his morning meal. 

If they don’t eat after 10 minutes, take the food up for half an hour and try to feed them again after this time is up.

They soon learn when you put the food down, they eat or wait until the next meal. Don’t offer them another tastier option, as this creates a cycle for them to become a picky eater.

German Shepherds aren’t the type of dog to get by on low-quality foods. Learn what the most trusted puppy foods for steady growth are and how much to feed your German Shepherd.

6. Leash Training Gives You Better Walks.

leash training gives you better walks

The point of leash training isn’t to teach a great heel or walking skills necessarily. 

It’s getting your dog used to having pressure around their neck. Most dogs happily wear their collar and leash, but some experience stress or agitation when learning to wear them.

First, you need the correct supplies. The best collar for a GSD is a safety release breakaway collar.

A safety release breakaway collar snaps apart if your puppy gets caught. This saves their life if there’s an emergency.

Some dogs don’t do well with a collar and for those dogs, you’ll need a specially designed no-pull safety harness

Associate the tools with activities your dog likes, like snack time or during their meals. Place the collar or harness on them before playtime or letting them out into the yard to have a sniff.

Use the same techniques for teaching acceptance of their leash. Let them drag around the leash while playing and walking around in your home or garden.

You can also leash your dog while they’re distracted and eating to help them get used to it.

They soon become agreeable and even happy to use them.

7. Prevent Jumping on People.

prevent jumping on people

A happy dog that early awaits to greet you or your friends at the door gives a feeling of love and bonding. 

But this cuteness can easily destroy your work suit or push over unsuspecting guests. And remember that your GSD will grow to become a powerful dog capable of great strength.

It’s best to start early to prevent unwanted and nuisance jumping on people to help avoid any later catastrophes. Not everyone will tolerate your large breed puppy or dog like you and the nails on a Shepherd can easily scratch or tear the skin.

Don’t make coming and going a big deal. 

Don’t get excited, speak in a high pitched, happy tone or start playing with your puppy right before you leave or return. Going in and out of doors should simply be a natural task that doesn’t require a show.

  • Bend down to say hello to your dog in a calm, low-pitched voice if you want to greet them. 
  • Have them give you a sit before you pet them and make sure they have all four paws on the ground before any petting takes place.
  • If they jump on you, turn away and ignore them until they calm down. This could take just a few minutes. 
  • Only after they show you calming behaviors, such as lying down or waiting nearby quietly, should you pet them or offer them attention again.

Shepherds can become territorial when not conditioned to an expected, acceptable calm behavior. You must teach your dog that unacceptable jumping isn’t tolerated.

This avoids safety issues with your large dog jumping on others and accidentally injuring them.

8. Sleeping Arrangements are Personal.

sleeping arrangements are personal

There are two schools of thought where a new dog should sleep. 

Some people suggest letting your puppy sleep in your bedroom to reduce the chances of whining or crying at night.

Others contend that letting a Shepherd sleep in your room from the start encourages them to become needy and you’ll disrupt their schedule as you attempt to move them out of your bedroom at a later time.

If you begin with your small puppy sleeping in bed with you, keep in mind they’ll eventually expect to get in bed, even when they’re full grown. This can lead to many behavioral problems as your pup grows, including insecurity and over protectiveness.

Many people crate their puppy in their bedroom right next to their bed, in the beginning, to help ease them into their new home. This is perfectly acceptable and may help calm an anxious puppy.

Learn effective crate training skills that won’t stress you or your dog by following the step-by-step guide to crate training your German Shepherd.

Don’t give your dog free roam of the whole house at first! It will be too overwhelming! A smaller area, like the kitchen or living room, will do to start. 

Use pet-safe baby gates to section off the doors instead of closing them.

Closing doors can cause your Shepherd to develop anxiety since they can’t see you. A GSD needs to see and be near their families to feel safe and welcome. 

Pet safe baby gates allow them to see their families without getting into trouble.

9. Exercise Your New German Shepherd the Right Ways.

exercise your new german shepherd

German Shepherds really love to exercise and can cover miles of territory protecting a flock every day. 

But, when under-exercised will develop excessive, annoying barking that becomes a nuisance to yourself and neighbors, as well as other unwanted behavioral problems.

Easy, gentle exercise is best for a small puppy since their bones are still growing and not fully fused. Stay away from high impact exercises, such as jogging or running, and use dirt paths and grassy areas for walks.

Swimming is a wonderful way to let your puppy exercise and build their muscles without straining your German Shepherd’s joints.

Build up their stamina by slowly increasing their walking time and pace. Don’t expect a small puppy to walk for long distances. 

Know that you won’t make it far with a new puppy, but eventually, your GSD will run for miles and miles.

Adult German Shepherds prefer upwards of two hours a day of exercise, including walks. Keep in mind your schedule when owning a German Shepherd for the first time, as this breed will literally make you get up off the couch or turn destructive.

You need more than just walks to meet your high energy dog’s exercise needs. Find ways to work their muscles, raise their heart rate, and include coordination, balance, and flexibility.

Read this exercise guide for optimum German Shepherd puppy health to choose a safe exercise routine that includes all the aspects of fitness.  

A dog who gets regular exercise is healthier and happier and less prone to behavioral issues.

Help for First Time German Shepherd Owners

Above all, owning a German Shepherd for the first time means being patient, firm, and consistent. 

Use positive reinforcement and lots of praise when they’re good. When mistakes are made, correct them when it’s happening. Praise him when he modifies his behavior and learn the best ways to make a German Shepherd love you.

First-time German Shepherd ownership sometimes means you may need to try more than one approach to solve a problem, so be ready for your breed to keep you on your feet. 

Most of all, prepare to give and receive more love, warmth, and devotion than you ever thought possible! 

If you want to be a kind, compassionate German Shepherd owner, then enroll yourself in scientifically-backed brain training for dogs to have access to dog solutions at any moment you need it. 

Do you still have questions?

Then read the essential owner’s guide on how to take care of a German Shepherd puppy.

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