The German shepherd has been one of the most recognizable dog breeds since the early 1900s. Although they are loyal, intelligent and easy to train, German shepherds may have some characteristics that are not considered desirable. Like all dog breeds, the German shepherd is an excellent fit for some families and not right for others. When considering a German shepherd, don't focus on the breed's advantages alone. It is important to learn about the disadvantages before deciding to adopt one.
Research the breed using objective sources such as kennel clubs. Many German shepherd breeders will point out the positive characteristics of the breed without listing the difficulties. The dogs are very loyal and protective. As a result, they can be wary of strangers and unfriendly until they get to know someone. They are strong willed and intelligent, but so intelligent that they can sense when their owner is not the alpha and can walk all over the owner and the family. Many of the positive characteristics can come with a catch, and while these downfalls are not a big deal for the right family, they can mean the dog will be a bad fit in some homes.
Volunteer with a rescue group that specializes in German shepherds and shepherd mixes. Getting to know the breed and learning why these dogs were given over to shelters and rescues can help you decide whether you are prepared to deal with the negative traits.
Talk with people who own German shepherds. Visit a dog park and chat with shepherd owners, or visit online message boards to see what problems and questions owners post. Owners will tell you that shepherds need constant grooming and will shed heavily. They also can tell you how they trained the dog not to bite, growl and bark, and how much exercise the dog needs each day to keep it from becoming bored and destructive.
Research breed-related health problems. Some German shepherds suffer from hip dysplasia, digestive issues, skin problems, blood disorders and even epilepsy.
Research breeders. With any breed, there may be some unethical and disreputable breeders who are only out to make a quick buck off their puppies. Puppies can come with a host of health problems that stem from improper breeding or sick parents.