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Do German Shepherds make good family pets?(124 Posts)
Thinking of getting a German Shepherd puppy. We have 4 cats and a Cavapoo aged 10. My 16 year old daughter would look after it most days. Is this safe? Do they get along well with other animals? If anyone has experience with this breed, would they make a good family pet?
Thanks in advance
Not a breed I would choose. A 16 year old will be in education so can’t look after it most days surely?
How much grooming, walking and training can you do? How much space do you have and what attracts you to this breed?
A good German shepherd is worth it’s weight in gold, do you have that much to spend? I would not touch anything solely bred in the U.K. for the last 40 years unless it had solely been bred for the police or RAF. Nervous temperament and hip issues are massive problems. Mine is the result of an RAF brood bitch and a Slovakian sire, waited 2 years for her. Yes she is an exceptional working dog and a fantastic family pet. If I hadn’t been competing in working trials for over 20 years I wouldn’t even have been on the breeders waiting list. Lovely dogs, always had them but a good one is not easy to get
If you have to ask then no, you're not knowledgeable enough.
They make excellent loyal pets in the right hands. They're highly intelligent but can be very vocal. It sounds as if you have enough on at home and in no way would I assume a y16 year old the responsibility of walking or looking after such a large breed.
They make great family pets, very clever, gentle, pretty easy to train but do require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. I’ve never had one that has had issues with my other pets, I introduce them gradually.
I don’t think a GS would be a good dog in your circumstances though, I can’t imagine a 16 year old taking the time to walk the dog for a couple of hours a day whatever the weather etc. Be aware they live for around 15 years or so, are you prepared to take on that responsibility?
What will happen when your DD moves out in 2-3 years? She certainly can't be certain to stay living at home for the next 12 years of the dog's life - she'd be 28!
From personal experience, it's exceedingly difficult to find dog friendly landlords, so the chances of her being able to take the dog with her when she moves out are slim.
Please don't buy any pet with the intention that a 16yo will do the bulk of the care. What happens when she's at school? When she wants to go out with her friends? When she moves out and goes to uni? She can't take the dog with her so it'll be your responsibility for about 12-15 years.
And as PP have said, well bred German Shepherds are worth their weight in gold and are fantastic dogs but good breeders are hard to find and in the wrong hands they could easily get aggressive.
I have a 3-year-old GSD who is our family's pride and joy. He fits our family well but he is very needy. GSD's can be naturally timid and despite having spent £1000s on trainers/behaviourists he's still fairly anxious. He is VERY attached to his close family members- he couldn't be left on his own for more than an hour or two. And anytime a family member leaves with a suitcase/bag his whines sound like he is being murdered. I would wonder how your daughter presumably moving out would affect him. When I left for university my boy wouldn't eat for a week but there were 4 other adults to care for him.
I have friend's who have commented on how "demanding" my boy is but our family structure and schedules allow it to work.
Your 16yo will not look after the dog.
Ask me how I know that....
Whether they make a good family pet depends how you train them and how you treat them.
I’ve met some lovely GSDs, some badly behaved ones, but also an absolutely vile Golden Retriever, abreed that supposedly make the best family pets.
You have experience with dogs, it’s all up to you.
Incredible dogs. I’ve had a pure bred and a half bred and both have been so good with kids and so easy to care for.
I have heard of many incidents where GSD's suddenly behaved badly without warning, eg biting child's face or attacking a visitor. IMO they are not suitable family pets.
They are lovely dogs but are prone to joint issues and the really well bred ones are ££££
In your circumstances I would say it’s not a good idea, the 16 year old probably won’t do most of the care and may move out in a few years anyway
They are big strong dogs who need a lot of training to make good family pets. I have a vet friend who says she’s not keen on dealing with them because most dogs will give a good warning before they bite but GSD’s don’t ( no idea if this is true). The ones I know are lovely big goofballs but I’ve never tried to get one on an examining table!
* I have heard of many incidents where GSD's suddenly behaved badly without warning, eg biting child's face or attacking a visitor.*
You could say that for every breed out there, though @coronapop. There are badly trained and poorly controlled dogs of every breed - from huskies to pomeranians.
Did you know the breed most likely to bite is actually a Labrador?
It entirely depends which end of the scale you get, we had two, one was bright, very family oriented, confident, keen to meet others, (mostly) biddable and conscientious. The other was extremely bright, very needy, a one person (me) dog, spontaneous, anxious, and a huge drama queen. He'd have been awful as an only dog.
I would echo the pp who said you MUST do your research, their health issues can be devastating.
And as for the pp who is worried about biting, my mother would be keen to share her experiences of being savaged by a labrador whilst walking her doberman (who tried to keep between them but ran off when the lab started on him)
Longstanding nerve damage to one wrist and bites to both arms and legs, she is lucky she didn't fall or I reckon that lab would have gone to town!
Again, one bad apple, but one breed is not any worse than any other.
Another option for a good dog is to consider a reject guide dog, they have GSDs or GSDx and those have been socialised within an inch of their lives which is key with shepherds imo, and at (probably) 2 years old or thereabouts will mean your carpets are not going to be troubled!
My friend wanted a GSD for years and years and finally got her dream puppy two years ago. It’s been a nightmare. The dog is fantastic but needs 2 very long walks a day to keep her on an even keel. She’s spent ££££ on trainers and behaviourists and the dog is not “bad” it’s just her breeding means she needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation. Without this she becomes very vocal and stressed out.
Unless YOU are prepared to take 4 hours out of your day to exercise the dog then don’t even think about it
Worth noting that socialisation periods in GSDs (and presumably other guarding breeds) would appear to be slightly shorter than in some other breeds (e.g. the companion breeds). I wonder if this explains the relatively high instances of behavioural problems - I recently reviewed the annual reports of APBC behavioural cases and GSDs frequently appeared in the top 3 breeds referred for behavioural problems.
Short socialisation period means you have less time in which to give the dog a wide range of positive experiences while s/he is still young enough to accept them as 'normal'. This seems like a full time job, to me, and so beyond the capability of a 16yr old.
Noe of that means I don't think it is a lovely breed, I love them. As is so frequently the case, proper research, education and self-honesty is key to knowing if this is the right breed for you.
The GSD in its current form is an absolute car crash of a dog as stated further up thread.
Myriad of health problems and temperament wise, they are in a real mess.
They are rapidly getting a reputation for being nervy and neurotic.
I strongly suspect this is due to the ‘correctly bred’ GSD being a naturally domineering, overbearing fellow and in an attempt to mellow it and make it easier to handle for the average pet owner breeders have attempted to reduce its working traits and inadvertently messed about with its nerve in the process.
As someone else said upthread, unless it’s specifically bred for working I wouldn’t touch it.
And if you did go for a working one you’d have to be careful to handle it properly, the expected ‘pet dog’ temperament of super friendly and biddable and tolerant with everyone, super friendly, biddable and tolerant with other dogs, low prey drive, low fight drive doesn’t apply to most working shepherds.
What happens when your 16 year old moves out in 3 years?
GSD do make good family pets but from your op, they are not the right breed for you.
I am on my 3rd gsd now, I love the breed.
However, my current dog is a mess. He costs me a fortune in behaviourist fees, he’s medicated, dog and people reactive, and it is life-changing. And I did my research.
He is much loved by all of the family, and will be cared for as we’d care for any family member with issues, but I can’t say it’s easy.
I would strongly advise caution, as others have said.
They are good working dogs - so not for the stay indoors types. Have you outside space? They need a lot of walking and stimulation as they are very smart dogs.
Soft as butter, highly intelligent and loyal as anything. As a breed they do tend to suffer from lower back and hip problems when they get older though.
i think there are some unfair comments on this thread - as i longstanding and current GSD owner i thinks its totally incorrect that people say 'their temperament is a mess'. These dogs are not bog standard dogs. They are sensitive and needy, people who don't understand that and expect them to act like a labrador will find it difficult, but as long as you are aware of how to handle them and put the effort in they are incredibly rewarding. They are emotionally high maintenance, and yes agree physically the breed isn't at its strong point currently. i wouldn't have any other breed, but its not one that a teenager should be responsible for. too complicated.
I find collies and huskies completely bonkers!
Thanks for all your comments and advice. A lot of mixed reviews so will have to see closer to the time. Would maybe a GSD cross be better?
Why would it OP? What attracts you to this type of dog and what do you think you can offer it?
@Wolfiefan I'm attracted to this breed as I like how loyal it is to its owners. However, on the other hand, it makes an excellent guard dog. We can offer it lots of physical and mental stimulation, as well as time and care.
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