If you have spent anywhere between 20 and 40 seconds on this website you probably have already seen pictures of my dog Moxie. I’ve had Moxie ever since she was a 2 month old fluff ball and I love her SO much. Before getting her, I had always had small breeds around, such as Mia, my parent’s french poodle mini. You’ll see her around the page too. Caring for a big dog is very different than caring for a small one. It requires a serious lifestyle change and a lot of trial and error, training investment and tolerance for a million destroyed things around the house for the first few months! So here’s a small list of things to prepare you for your German Shepherd Dog (GSD).
1. Puppy proof e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g
This one seems obvious but my god, I did not expect the level of destruction that came from having this young pup. It makes sense though, puppies are excited to explore the environment around them and since they don’t have opposable thumbs, they can only do that with their mouth. They grab and bite on all the things that are within their reach. This is when puppy proofing becomes extremely important. As they explore, puppies are encountering a billion things that were never part of their environment of optimal development. The wild is drastically different than your living room! (hopefully). For the most part it’s really not that big of a deal if a pup destroys books or shoes. But there are many everyday items that could be dangerous.
Most commonly, batteries. They are everywhere. When I first got Moxie, I was so scared she would chew on one that I locked all the remotes up before leaving the house every. single. time. A lot of batteries contain Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) which is good for them because it increases cell life. The problem is that KOH is very corrosive and if ingested it would cause burns along the digestive system, causing pups a lot of pain. ♕
I remember one time when Moxie somehow got a hold of a decorative toy that lights up. She was still in that stage where they want to chew on everything and so she did! When my mom found the remnants she only saw 2 out of the 3 watch batteries that the toy had. My parents and sister rushed Moxie to the Animal Hospital and she had her stomach pumped. The battery came out in one piece but was already darker than usual. I count myself very lucky that my family was there and was able to take Moxie to the vet right away, but this happened while I was at work. Puppy. Proof. Everything!
2. GSD pups bite. A lot.
You may read this one and think, we get it Laila. Yes puppy proof, you just ranted about puppies exploring with their mouths in the last point. But this is a different thing to keep in mind. German Shepherd pups have the pointiest and sharpest of teeth. They are like tiny thin needles that can dig into your skin very easily. I had countless of scratch marks the first few months I had Moxie around. One time, I was playing with her outside and I was laying on the grass. She playfully jumped on my chest and bit my lip, but her teeth were so sharp that she actually punctured it! There was a lot of blood. I was obviously fine a few minutes after but I remember getting back home and googling GSD forums to figure out whether this was normal or whether I had some sort of demon dog. It’s very normal! Forums even refer to German Shepherd puppies as Landsharks. ♕
Once that stage was over though, Moxie became the snuggliest of fur balls and she is extremely careful with her mouth. She developed incredible control of strength and can now play without hurting me or anyone around us.
3. Your closet will never be rid of dog hair ever again…
GSD dogs are famous shedders & that is because they have a double coat. The under-layer is thick and the outer layer is packed with flat hairs. ♕ Make sure you brush your GSD regularly, I typically Brush Mox twice a week. I bought a hand brush that fits snuggly on my palm so she feels like I am petting her while I brush her.
Also, since we are talking about fur now, (and because I know you are dying to know) Moxie is a Black & Tan Sable GSD. Theres many different coat colour combinations though, including all white and all black.
4. Keep their brain engaged
German Shepherds are incredibly smart dogs. Make sure you are engaging their minds in play, specially in the first years of life. When I first got Moxie I didn’t know about any ways to keep her entertained and she would often get bored. But a GSD pup that is bored, finds a way to have fun and that often meant destroying a bunch of my books or chewing on shoes. I eventually caught on and realized something needed to be done. I initially I used to freeze a mix of her kibble and wet food paired with some chicken or beef stock in a Tupperware. Then I would leave that mix out on a plate for my monster to consume while I left for work or school. Eventually I nailed down a routine that included taking her out on a walk or run twice a day to burn all that energy, and she was at ease. But that didn’t last long! As summer came my trick of freezing a treat stopped working. It melted very quickly and she was easily distracted. That’s when I began researching toys that would keep her mind engaged. You can find a list of good ones on The daily Shep.
I settled on a KONG, and it worked wonders. It’s a tough rubber toy that can be stuffed with treats, and dogs need to chew on it and bang it around to figure out how to get the treats out. This kept Moxie entertained and tired her out enough to nap longer. Giving me time to come and go from work without her destroying much. We live and we learn.
5. Get ready for a serious lifestyle change.
I always joke around when making plans, saying I am a working single mother and I need time to schedule things in advance. I definitely have had to implement major daily routine change since having Moxie. I am fortunate to live at home still, my parents and my sister help me out a bunch with her. Simply having people come and go at different times of the day means she doesn’t stay alone for long periods of time. Still, GSD dogs are demanding (albeit adorable) little creatures and I have had to make some changes and adapt.
For example, I wake up at 7:30 am everyday to take her out to do her business. Even if I hope to sleep in a bit more after that. She’s gotta go when she’s gotta go. Now that we are entering the summer season (finally, right?), the Vancouver sun shines bright and with this, heat waves come. I now have pushed back my wake up time to 6 am most days so that Moxie and I can go on a walk, run or to play fetch (depending how awake I am able to get) without her overheating.
But the weather is not the only thing to consider! Vet bills can rank up quick. Moxie has had a few stomach flus and ear infections and its not cheap to treat. You also have to think of having a doggy daycare on hold, or having someone who could potentially take care of her on short notice or take her to the vet if you can’t make it. If you live in Vancouver, check out DogTaxi Daycare, Its my daycare of choice.
Sounds scary doesn’t it? It’s not that bad! Moxie literally brightens up my days in ways I never could have anticipated. I love her to bits and I hope this post doesn’t discourage you from getting your pup. Dogs, like any other beings, are a responsibility to take on. You are nurturing another life and bonding with it. It’s good to try to be prepared for it.