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German Shepherd Pros and Cons: Is Owning One Right for You?

german shepherd pros and cons

Before bringing home a German Shepherd, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s a great pick.

As a parent to 3 gorgeous GSDs over 21 years, I can tell you a few advantages and disadvantages of the German Shepherd breed, that only a seasoned owner will know.

So, in this article, you’ll learn all the good and bad about this magnificent breed which will help you decide if adding one to your family is the right choice.

German Shepherd Pros and Cons

German Shepherds, like any breed, come with their own set of characteristics that potential owners should consider.

The table below highlights key pros and cons of German Shepherds, shedding light on both their admirable qualities and potential challenges.

Highly intelligent and trainableVery high energy levels
Loyal and protectiveRequire regular exercise and mental stimulation
Versatile working abilities (e.g., police, service, search and rescue)Strong prey drive, may chase small animals
Excellent guard dogsHeavy shedders, require regular grooming
Great family pets, good with childrenMay exhibit territorial behavior
Athletic, energetic & good lookingCan’t stand being alone
Highly adaptable to various environmentsRequire consistent socialization from an early age
Highly playfulMedium tendency to bark
Generally healthy breed with proper breeding and careMay develop behavioral issues if not properly trained and socialized
Easy to groomWary of strangers
Don’t drool muchNot suitable for small houses/apartments
Can tolerate hot & cold weatherExpensive
Pros and Cons of Owning a German Shepherd

It’s important to note that individual dogs may vary, and proper training, socialization, and care can mitigate many potential cons associated with German Shepherds.

In the rest of the article, we will discuss each of these pros and cons of owning a German Shepherd in a bit more detail.


German Shepherd Pros

1. They are intelligent & easy to train

German Shepherds are known for their exceptional intelligence and ability to learn quickly.

They ranked third out of 137 breeds in a study in 1994. Only the Border Collie and Poodle are more intelligent.

This breed is highly trainable and often excels in various tasks and activities. German Shepherds are frequently used as working dogs in roles such as search and rescue, police work, and service dogs for individuals with disabilities.

Their intelligence makes them excellent family pets as they can be easily trained to be well-behaved and obedient.

German Shepherds are quick learners and have a strong desire to please their owners, which contributes to their trainability.

german shepherd advantages and disadvantages

2. They are very affectionate with the family & kids

German Shepherds are loving dogs who form strong bonds with their human companions and enjoy being a part of the family unit.

They are often seen as protective and gentle with children, making them excellent family pets.

Because of their high intelligence, they can sense and respond to the emotions and needs of their family members, providing comfort and companionship when it’s needed most.

Their loyalty and devotion make them great companions for children, as they will always be there to play, cuddle, and offer support.

RELATED: German Shepherd Signs of Affection That Will Melt Your Heart

3. They are loyal & highly protective of their families

German Shepherds are known for their unwavering loyalty and fierce protectiveness towards their families. These intelligent and devoted dogs form strong bonds with their owners and will go to great lengths to keep them safe.

Whether it’s keeping a watchful eye on the house or accompanying family members on outdoor adventures, German Shepherds are always by their side, ready to defend and protect.

Their loyalty is unmatched, and they will do whatever it takes to ensure the well-being and security of their loved ones.

This protective nature combined with their affectionate temperament makes them an excellent choice for families with kids.

Parents can have peace of mind knowing that their German Shepherd will watch over their children and keep them safe.

RELATED: Male vs Female German Shepherd: Which is Better?

german shepherd pros and cons

4. They are athletic and good-looking dogs

German Shepherds are known for their strong and muscular build, which allows them to excel in various physical activities. Their agile and powerful bodies make them perfect for tasks such as agility training, herding, and search and rescue work.

In addition to their athletic abilities, German Shepherds are also known for their striking appearance. They have a noble and confident expression, with a well-proportioned body and a beautiful coat.

Furthermore, they have a proud posture and an alert expression that exudes intelligence and confidence.

Their erect ears and almond-shaped eyes contribute to their overall appearance, giving them a distinguished and captivating look.

5. They are highly versatile and adaptable

German Shepherds are known for their intelligence, trainability, and ability to excel in various roles and tasks.

German Shepherds are commonly seen working as military and police dogs due to their exceptional tracking abilities, obedience, and courage. They can be trained to detect drugs, and explosives, and even search and rescue missions.

Not only are German Shepherds highly adaptable in terms of their working roles, but they also make excellent family pets.

They are loyal, protective, and affectionate towards their owners, making them great companions. German Shepherds are known for their ability to bond deeply with their families and are often gentle and patient with children.

RELATED: 5 Types of German Shepherds: Your Ultimate Breed Breakdown

6. They are courageous and confident

German Shepherds are known for their courageous and confident nature. These qualities make them excellent working dogs in various fields such as search and rescue, police work, and military service.

Their bravery allows them to fearlessly face challenging situations and protect their loved ones.

German Shepherds are also highly confident dogs, which is evident in their posture, alertness, and assertiveness.

This confidence makes them reliable in any task they are given. Whether it’s protecting their family or performing complex tasks, German Shepherds exude a sense of fearlessness and self-assurance.

7. They can withstand different weather conditions

German Shepherds have a thick double coat, which provides insulation and protection against extreme temperatures.

In cold weather, their dense outer coat helps to keep them warm by trapping in body heat. Additionally, their undercoat acts as a layer of insulation, keeping them comfortable even in freezing temperatures.

On the other hand, German Shepherds can also handle hot weather thanks to their adaptable coat. The outer layer of their coat is designed to reflect sunlight, preventing them from absorbing too much heat.

Their undercoat also plays a role in regulating body temperature by providing insulation and promoting airflow.

RELATED: Can German Shepherds Live Outside?

8. They are generally healthy

German Shepherds are generally robust and have a strong immune system, which helps them fight off common illnesses and diseases.

They are also known to have fewer genetic health issues compared to some other breeds.

With proper care and regular veterinary check-ups, German Shepherds can live up to 9-13 years or even longer.

However, it’s important to note that individual dogs may still be prone to certain health conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy.

RELATED: German Shepherd Life Expectancy

German Shepherd Cons

1. They are high-energy dogs and require lots of exercise

Due to their strong working dog heritage, GSDs have a natural drive to be active and engaged.

Regular exercise not only helps them burn off excess energy but also helps prevent behavioral problems that can arise from boredom or pent-up energy.

An adult German Shepherd should ideally have at least one to two hours of exercise per day.

This can include activities such as brisk walks, jogging, playing fetch, or participating in dog sports like agility or obedience training.

Mental stimulation is also important for these intelligent dogs, so incorporating training sessions or puzzle toys into their exercise routine can be beneficial.

Puppies may have shorter bursts of energy but require more frequent play sessions throughout the day. Older dogs may still enjoy physical activity but may need shorter or less intense exercise sessions.

2. They need socialization and training to prevent behavioral issues

Without proper socialization, German Shepherds may become fearful or aggressive towards unfamiliar people or animals. This can lead to problems such as excessive barking, lunging, or even biting.

Starting socialization at a young age is crucial, as it helps them develop confidence and learn appropriate behaviors in different situations.

German Shepherds are eager to please and highly trainable, making them excellent candidates for obedience training.

Basic training commands such as sit, stay, and come should be taught early on, as they provide the foundation for more advanced training later.

Training not only helps prevent behavioral problems but also strengthens the bond between the owner and the dog.

3. German Shepherds don’t like being left alone

German Shepherds are highly social animals and thrive on human interaction. As a result, they can become anxious and distressed when left alone for long periods of time.

These dogs have a natural instinct to be part of a group and feel secure within a pack. When they are left alone, they can feel isolated and vulnerable, which can lead to separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is a common issue among German Shepherds and can manifest in various ways.

Some dogs may exhibit destructive behavior, such as chewing furniture or digging holes, as a way to cope with their anxiety.

Others may become excessively vocal, barking or howling for extended periods. In severe cases, they may even try to escape from their confinement in an attempt to find their owner.

RELATED: German Shepherd Behavior Stages By Age: Puppy To Senior Years

4. They are heavy shedders

German shepherds tend to shed a lot of fur throughout the year.

German shepherds have a double coat, which consists of a dense undercoat and a longer outer coat. This double coat makes them particularly prone to shedding.

The shedding of German shepherds can be quite noticeable, especially during certain times of the year when they experience heavier shedding periods.

During these times, you may find clumps of fur around your home, on your furniture, and on your clothes.

Regular brushing can help to minimize shedding by removing loose hair and preventing it from ending up all over your house.

5. They can inherit breed-related health problems

Due to their genetic makeup, they are prone to certain conditions that are more prevalent in this breed.

According to PetMD, some of the common health issues that German Shepherds can inherit include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and bloat.

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain.

Elbow dysplasia, on the other hand, affects the elbow joint and can cause lameness and discomfort. Both of these conditions are hereditary and can be passed down from one generation to another.

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive neurological disease that affects the spinal cord. It starts with weakness in the hind legs and gradually progresses to paralysis. (Source)

6. They have a high prey drive

German shepherds have a strong instinct to chase and capture small animals or objects.

This prey drive is a characteristic that has been bred into German shepherds for their role as herding and working dogs.

It is important for prospective owners of German shepherds to be aware of this trait and to provide appropriate outlets for their dog’s energy and instinct.

Without proper exercise and mental stimulation, a German shepherd with a high prey drive may exhibit unwanted behaviors such as excessive barking, digging, or chasing after small animals.

It is also important to note that while German shepherds may have a strong prey drive, they can still be trained and socialized to coexist peacefully with other animals and people.

RELATED: Are German Shepherds Good With Other Dogs?

7. They are expensive

German shepherds are often considered to be expensive dogs.

The initial cost of purchasing a German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder can range anywhere from $500 to $3000, depending on factors such as the dog’s pedigree, bloodline, and the breeder’s reputation.

In addition to the initial cost, there are also ongoing expenses to consider when owning a German shepherd. These include regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, grooming, and food.

German shepherds are known to have specific dietary needs, requiring high-quality dog food that can be more expensive than generic brands.

Additionally, German shepherds are an active breed that requires daily exercise and mental stimulation. This may involve additional expenses such as dog toys, training classes, or hiring a dog walker.

RELATED: How Much is a German Shepherd Puppy in the USA?

8. They are wary of strangers

Due to their strong loyalty towards their owners and their territorial nature, German Shepherds tend to be cautious and suspicious of unfamiliar individuals.

This wariness towards strangers can manifest in various ways. German Shepherds may bark, growl, or even attempt to establish a defensive stance when encountering someone they perceive as a potential threat.

Their acute senses and keen observation skills enable them to quickly assess the intentions and behavior of strangers, allowing them to act accordingly.

It is worth noting that the wariness of German Shepherds towards strangers does not necessarily mean they are aggressive or unfriendly dogs.

With proper training, socialization, and positive reinforcement, they can learn to be more accepting of new people and adapt to different environments.


German Shepherds are renowned for their intelligence, loyalty, and versatility, making them exceptional companions and working dogs. Their keen sense of smell and trainability make them ideal for roles in search and rescue, police work, and assistance tasks. Additionally, they form strong bonds with their families, offering protection and affection.

On the downside, their high energy levels and need for mental stimulation can be challenging for owners who may struggle to provide sufficient exercise and engagement. Furthermore, German Shepherds may be prone to certain health issues, such as hip dysplasia, requiring regular veterinary care.

In conclusion, German Shepherds are an excellent choice for those seeking a loyal, intelligent, and versatile companion. However, it is essential to understand their energy levels, training needs, and potential health issues before bringing one into your home.

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