Is a GSD Right for You?


Will you have a job or a task for the dog to do?
Do you plan to obedience train?
Are you a positive and capable alpha leader?
Do you mind shedding and brushing?
Do you want a territorially protective dog?
Will you mind that your dog doesn't welcome strangers?
Are you physically able to handle a 75-100 lb. dog?
Do you have the space and ability to exercise a large dog?

While a properly bred, trained, and groomed German Shepherd can make a splendid companion, this breed is not for everybody. In uncaring or abusive hands, a German Shepherd can be dirty, dangerous, overbearing, and annoying.

Most all-breed dog books will tell you that the German Shepherd is among the most intelligent and trainable of all dogs. That much is true. Their appearance is one of beauty, strength and nobility. What most books do not go on to say is that buying a German Shepherd without doing your homework can be a terrible mistake -- for you and for the dog.

German Shepherds are enormously popular and, as with any breed experiencing extreme popularity, they are frequently bred with no more thought than to satisfy demand. That means that with the exception of responsible breeders (and there ARE many caring and responsible breeders out there!) folks will breed two AKC registered German Shepherds together to produce puppies without any regard for temperament, suitability, or the presence of hereditary and congenital problems.

German Shepherds are extremely intelligent and if you do not give them direction in the form, first, of obedience training and later, in the form of instructions about daily routine and who is the boss in the household, guess what? They will move to assume the position of boss and make their own rules about what their "job" may be. You probably won't like it!

German Shepherds shed. Yes, even the ones that don't have long hair. Although the long-hairs with their softer, often porous, coats require more attention, ALL German Shepherds carry double coats that require raking and brushing during periods of shedding. Besides the heavy sheds, they drop a little hair 'year round, especially if kept indoors a majority of the time.

German Shepherds take their protective duties very seriously. That's not a bad thing, but it's also not something to go overboard in encouraging. A GSD that doesn't know when to shut up, which throws itself against the front door when visitors or delivery people arrive, or who fills your car with deafening volleys of barks at the sight of any other dog, cat, or person coming within four feet of your vehicle is not a pleasure to live with! Happy German Shepherd owners known how to set limits and begin socializing and obedience training early in puppyhood.

Your adult German Shepherd will always be *your* friend, but you can expect that he will not welcome the advances of others until he is introduced and discerns that you welcome the presence of another person. GSDs are not -- and will never be -- the lovers of humankind that Golden Retrievers are. In fact, they are notoriously aggressive with small dogs who are not family members.

While not all German Shepherds are enormous, many are because of the number of breeders fixated on "size" as a desirable attribute. And most are athletic, energetic animals especially when young. Don't bring a German Shepherd home if you don't have the room to adequately exercise this spirited dog or the physical ability to restrain one (the exception being if the dog has already been trained to act as a leader dog or some such to a physically disabled person).

After reading the above, you may be wondering just WHO is the sort of person who would enjoy owning a German Shepherd Dog:

  1. Someone who wants to teach the sort of dog that loves to learn. Folks interested in obedience, tracking, schutzhund, agility, therapy, and other work will find a willing partner in the German Shepherd Dog.
  2. Someone who admires a big dog and has the physical ability to handle it.
  3. Someone confident and able to provide direction without being abusive; someone who will communicate clearly that they are in charge.
  4. Someone who is not "house proud" and does not mind the grooming and exercise involved in keeping a coated, energetic dog.
  5. Someone who appreciates a protective dog who may intimidate strangers.
  6. Someone who is willing to accept that there are both pros and cons to owning any dog and that the German Shepherd -- despite its traditionally glowing press -- is not the perfect dog for everyone.

(This being the case, we at MAGSR can tell you that there are GSDs who do not have a protective bone in their bodies, some that are, to be honest, not the sharpest crayon in the box, or some who would rather sleep on the couch all day then doing anything physical.  But they are the exception.  Please keep the typical GSD in mind when deciding if one is right for your family.  It only takes one time for your GSD to show you all his GSD colors and make you regret the decision.  Please don't put your new dog in this kind of position, particularly a rescue dog who has been through so much already.  We don't just want to find our dogs a home, we want them to find the right home!)

Good luck is finding the dog that is right for you. Please realize that it may not be a German Shepherd Dog

Dedicated to the Memory of SUSHI OF HIDDEN FOREST
Loved by Peter & Becky McGovern  ( of Portland, Oregon 1985-1999

Reproduced by consent of Becky McGovern for

Click here for information on health concerns common to the GSD.

If you are sure there’s a GSD or a GSD mix in your future, 
CLICK HERE to complete the Adoption Application.