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One of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, the Alsatian or the German shepherd dog was originally bread as a herding dog. Fearless, agile, and very clever, it soon became the gold standard for police and army canine units. Known for its loyalty, courage, and excellent guarding instincts, the German shepherd also makes a fantastic family dog. But before you rush to get one to have as a pet, here’s some things you should know about them.

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Life Expectancy is Average

Before you commit to getting a German Shephard, be sure that you’d be able to care for this breed of dog well into its old age. A healthy and well looked after dog will live for up to 13 years, but the average lifespan is 11 years. That's twice as much as a French Mastiff, but far less than a crossbreed. Towards the end of their life, they tend to have joint disorders, bone and back problems, and hypothyroidism. Being so popular, it’s also a breed that you will tend to often see at dog rescues. So, if you don’t think you’d be able to care for a German Shepherd this long, consider adopting an adult dog.

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They are Very Loyal

Inherently loyal, German Shepherd dogs are happiest when they spend their time with their owner, never leaving their side. They yearn for companionship, and they thrive in a family environment. They become attached to children and other pets quickly, and they take excellent care of puppies, injured animals, and vulnerable people. They make excellent guide dogs, military service dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

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German Shepherds are Outdoorsy

As the name suggests, German shepherds are herding dogs. As such, they feel at home in the wild, and they love family outings. They also need regular exercise in the great outdoors. So, if you’re unable to walk them every day, you should ideally provide a large garden for them to be able to explore and defend claim as their territory. For herding dogs, running and barking goes with the territory, so Alsatians can be very inquisitive and sometimes loud.

outdoorsy German shepherd alexandrumagurean / Getty Images
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German Shepherds are Protective

Alsatians are loyal and caring with all the members of their family, including children and other pets. But unlike other dogs, they’re also fiercely protective and brave. With the right amount of socialization and some professional obedience training, Alsatian puppies will develop into balanced and well-rounded adults. However, without early intervention, they may become over-protective and aggressive toward strangers. They’re quick learners, and they’re very easy to train, so owners are generally happy for them to take classes.

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German Shepherds are Playful

This breed is happiest when they spend time with their family. They should always be around people and other pets, able to meet other animals and socialize under supervision. They should never be confined to a kennel or left alone in the backyard. This can harm their self-esteem and affect their behavior toward people and animals. They’re very trusting and submissive toward their owner. They love to be given commands, and they’re very happy to do as they’re told, but especially if the atmosphere is playful and nurturing.

playful German shepherd SashaFoxWalters / Getty Images
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German Shepherds are Attentive

German shepherds always keep an eye out. Their posture, with upright ears upright and a straight back is iconic. Poised and competent, they listen intently for commands, and they’re eager to execute them. They’ll fetch, search, sit, jump, and heel in an instant. Because they’re so eager to execute commands, they’re excellent guard dogs. However, they should never be made to attack out of boredom or curiosity. They’re fierce fighters, and they’re not only quick to comply, but also very powerful dogs.

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German Shepherds are Friendly

Few dog breeds are as tolerant and as accommodating as German shepherds when it comes to new family members, pets, and friends. Though they may be very suspicious of strangers, reacting to their gestures and words with distrust and overprotection, they adapt to new family circumstances easily, and they welcome new members naturally. They’re very sociable pets, and large as they are, they will happily extend an arm to shake your hand if they like you.

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These Dogs are Clever and Astute

A clever and astute Alsatian will serve and help you without being told. Because they’re so intelligent, they need to be kept occupied. Otherwise, their boredom can turn into mischief, and because they’re such large and strong animals, they can cause quite a bit of damage. Mental enrichment is a key phrase for any Alsatian owner. Working on the dog’s mental integrity is just as important as maintaining its physical health. Enabling them to play, forage, socialize, and have a family life of their own will improve their behavior and solidify your relationship.

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Alsatians are Energetic

Taking care of a German shepherd dog can be very demanding. Brushing them every other day to control the shedding and giving them a soak and scrub every week is all it takes to maintain their coat and their look. But ­­­keeping them fit is an entirely different issue. They are active, love running and swimming, they like to keep busy, and they live to explore. They need playmates and a large play area. Without an energy outlet, their morale and behavior can suffer, they become high-strung, and they resort to barking and digging.

energetic dog breeds German shepherd alexandrumagurean / Getty Images
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Alsatians are Lovable

The journey from pup to pal is very short with Alsatians. They have a genuine unconditional love for their master, and this attachment will last a lifetime. They’re not needy, they’re clever and independent, and they’re ready to guard their family with their life. Because they’re so great with kids and other pets, keeping them busy and engaged with their family members is the best way to make them happy.

Alsatians or German shepherd AleksandarGeorgiev / Getty Images

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