Bringing Your German Shepherd Home
After a lot of work and effort, you’ve found the perfect puppy or adult dog and the day is quickly approaching when you will finally be able to bring your German Shepherd home. Whether you are adopting an adult dog or purchasing a puppy, you have several preparations to make for your new canine buddy.
Bringing home a new dog is a big event and it is not uncommon for new owners to forget to purchase all the supplies they will need when the shepherd arrives. Among the most critical items are food, bowls for food and water, a collar, a leash, several safe chew toys, supplies to clean and clean up after your shepherd, and of course, there’s the crate and all the supplies that go with this purchase.
Food and Bowls
Your new dog will need to eat only a few hours after you bring him home, so be sure to have food and bowls on hand. Not just any food will do, so make sure to ask your breeder or the shelter/rescue staff, if adopting, what food your dog is currently eating and how much he eats at each meal. Whether or not you plan to continue with this food, you shouldn’t introduce a new food immediately as this could cause gastrointestinal problems.
Ceramic bowls are heavy enough to be stable, but break easily, and are often not dishwasher safe. Stainless steel bowls are easy to clean, are relatively durable, and bottom weighted bowls won’t tip.
You’ll need to know what size collar your shepherd currently wears, so call your breeder or the shelter/rescue to find out your dog’s size. Otherwise, you can measure the dog’s neck, making sure that you allow room for comfort without making it too loose. Next, you must decide what kind of collar to purchase. A flat-buckle is a good choice for a puppy or an adult, as this collar is often used for early puppy training. However, a young puppy can grow through several sizes before he reaches maturity.
An adjustable collar can last longer as your puppy grows, but it is a little more dangerous. When the collar is at its tightest adjustment, it leaves a significant amount of collar to be tucked, forming a loop. An active puppy can get this loop hung up on his crate or outside on the fence. Additionally, the adjustable collar typically fastens with a plastic clip. Some of these clips are much more durable than others, so make sure that you don’t buy one that will break easily. Training or choke collars are made either of rolled nylon or leather (like rope) or metal links. The collar is made to tighten, or choke, as the dog pulls. You may wish to use this collar for training purposes, but it should not be used as your shepherd’s everyday collar. This collar is easily caught on protruding objects and could potentially strangle your shepherd.
Leashes come in varying thicknesses, lengths, and materials. If you are purchasing a puppy, choose a lightweight leash with a small clip. Owners frequently make the mistake of running out and purchasing the thickest, longest leash as possible. A thick leash has a heavy clip, which will clunk against your puppy’s head. As your puppy grows, you can increase the weight of the leash and clip accordingly.
Leashes come in assortment of materials: nylon web, cotton, leather, and metal chain links. It would not be wise to purchase a chain leash for a German Shepherd as it is associated with a negative impression that you are using your dog as a weapon.
A good leash to choose is one made of leather because it is durable, lightweight, and strong. The only drawbacks are price and taste. Leather is more expensive than nylon web or cotton, and some dogs find leather irresistible as a chew toy; however, a nylon web can be tough on the hands if you have to reel a dog in, and cotton must be cleaned often and tends to wear on the edges.
Chews and Toys
You shouldn’t spoil a puppy or dog with too many toys or chew items at once. Many trainers recommend that you keep about twenty items on hand but only offer the dog a few of these at any one given time. You can rotate the chews and toys to create the element of surprise. Dogs are very much like children. If they haven’t seen a toy or chew for a few days, its reappearance is treated like a special event. If you have many items for your shepherd, keep roughly half of them out and the rest hidden in a cupboard. Every day, replace four items that have been out with four items that were hidden.
The toys and chews you select should all be shepherd-safe. Puppies and adults have strong bites and can break a rawhide bone into chunks or tear a weaker rubber toy too easily. Unfortunately, the smaller chunks or torn pieces can become choking hazards. When selecting these items, look for things like knotted rope toys, sturdy tug toys, tough rubber shapes that can be stuffed with dog biscuits, and extra-large tennis balls that are too big for a shepherd to swallow.
Cleaning Strategies and Supplies
Even if your shepherd is coming from a reputable breeder or rescue, you may still want to bathe your puppy or dog before allowing him into your home. Make sure you use a shampoo that is tear-free and designed specifically for dogs. Shampoos made for humans may be too abrasive or too difficult to rinse out of the dog’s coat.
If your dog is not yet housetrained, you must be ready to deal with a few accidents. You should be prepared to spot-clean your floors and carpet with a supply of paper towels, stain remover, and an enzyme-eating cleaner. Several products are specifically made to break down the chemicals in dog urine so that the wet spot no longer has an odor. Stain removers can be very helpful, but make sure you test yours on a hidden area first. If the product does not discolor your carpet or upholstery, it is safe to use in the future.
In the last few years, the crate-and-carrier market has expanded greatly with the addition of many new and innovative products. From side-loading metal wire crates and pop-up tentlike mesh crates to collapsible and partitioned kennels, there is a crate out there for every dog and every budget.
The German Shepherd loves to be able to see what is going on around her. The wire crate enables your puppy or dog to see her surroundings even when she’s spending time in her special space. The metal wire crate provides the best air circulation possible when traveling by car, and thanks to the removable tray at the bottom, this crate can be completely and thoroughly cleaned.
Hard-Shell Plastic Carriers
These plastic carriers come in two pieces, with a top and a bottom that fasten together. They are inexpensive and a good airline-approved crate may cost as little as $25 for a puppy or up to $75 for an adult dog. Plastic carriers are lightweight and just about perfect for the puppy or dog that prefers a warm cozy space. The plastic crate does have a few shortcomings. For one, the crate cannot be partitioned. That means it will be necessary to purchase a smaller crate for a puppy and upgrade to a larger crate when your shepherd reaches adolescence. Additionally, the air circulation is not as good at that in a wire crate or mesh crate, and the crate doesn’t break down into pieces that are easily stored or stowed away. Finally, because of the cracks and tiny fissures that occur in plastic, it is nearly impossible to completely clean and sterilize this crate.
Mesh crates set up like tents and are the ultimate in lightweight temporary housing. Mesh traveling crates are made with a screen-like material that is supported by PVC tubing. They collapse into very manageable sizes, have tremendous air circulation, and are nice options for a well-behaved, calm dog that is reliable and quiet in a crate.
For the majority of shepherds, this crate can only be used while the owner is supervising the dog. A shepherd, whether a puppy of an adult, can rip through the mesh walls easily, if she is so inclined. The mesh kennel is also not safe for traveling in a car because it doesn’t limit the dog’s movement in the event of a sudden stop.
The most important thing to remember to bring with you when you go to pick up your shepherd is a crate in which to bring her home. New owners often forget to bring a secure way of transporting the German Shepherd. This can cause several problems.
With puppies, the ride home is possibly their first ride in a moving car. Puppies are known to have sensitive stomachs, and it doesn’t take much motion to make them vomit. If the new puppy is in your lap when this happens, it can be a bit messy. If the puppy is in a crate, on the other hand, this is relatively easy to clean up.
Puppies can also be quite nervous and squirmy during the car ride and have been known to get themselves and their drivers in trouble. Accidents and near accidents have occurred when puppies have wriggled underneath the brake pedal, inadvertently hit the automatic window button, or knocked the gearshift into neutral.
Adult dogs should be brought home in a carrier for all the same reasons: ease of cleaning up after accidents, limited distracting movements, and safety for the dog in case of a sudden stop or accident. Adult dogs have been known to act in unusual ways when in a strange car. In fact, perfectly well-tempered dogs have been known to panic to the point of biting the driver or a passenger in their rush to get out of the car. Play it safe, and keep the shepherd contained during the ride.
Patience is the key ingredient to a successful first night with the dog at home. If you are bringing home a new puppy, don’t plan to get a lot of sleep that night. With any luck, you don’t have to work the following morning. This is your puppy’s first night away from her mother and littermates, and the experience can be unnerving for any dog.
Your puppy will be used to sleeping in a warm, cozy puppy pile. Now she’ll be alone in her crate. You can help her adjust by making sure she has a lot of warm, comfortable bedding. You might also consider wrapping a warm hot-water bottle in a towel and placing this in her crate, too.
There is one more item that will help comfort your puppy on her first night with you. A female dog emits a specific hormone while caring for her puppies that the pups find comforting. In fact, research indicates that the scent of the hormone is comforting to the dog for the whole of her life. If you don’t have an item with the mother’s scent on it, consider purchasing a product that contains dog appeasing pheromone (DAP). These products usually come in the form of a spray and can be applied to your puppy’s bedding.
Put your puppy’s crate in your room so she can see and hear you. Close the door so that you know exactly where she is at all times. And don’t worry, she’ll let you know when she needs to relieve herself. Of course, it might be difficult to discern this request when her howling, crying, and barking could seem nearly continuous. Many owners find that cozying up next to the crate for the night and reaching into the crate to stroke the puppy is enough to help settle her.
Adult dogs are typically much quieter their first night home. Still, you might find that instead of crying or howling, your adopted dog pants, paces, or otherwise acts uncomfortable. As with the puppy, keep your shepherd’s crate close to you in your bedroom. Your presence will be comforting to her. Also consider giving her a good chew toy to work on in her crate.
Before you pick up your puppy or rescued dog, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your shepherd’s health checked within twenty-four hours of bringing him home. A good breeder will provide a health guarantee for the puppy; however, you must have the puppy examined by a veterinarian within forty-eight to seventy-two hours for this guarantee to be valid and binding.
Another appointment you might want to make is with a groomer. Adopted or rescued dogs are often in need of a bath, possibly a flea-and-tick dip, a good brushing, and a nail clipping. Professional groomers are well equipped to deal with anxious, nervous dogs. Just be sure to apprise them of your adopted dog’s temperament and experiences if any with water and a brush.
You already know the importance of beginning training with your shepherd as soon as possible. What you might not know is that early puppy training classes fill up very quickly. Unless you reserve a space before you bring your puppy home, you may find that you can’t get into a class for months.
Scout out the training classes in your area and choose one that supports a positive, reward-based training program. Be sure to make a deposit to hold a spot in an appropriate, upcoming session, and mark the dates on your calendar.
An adopted adult dog should begin training immediately. He won’t be able to attend an early puppy class, but he should be enrolled in a beginning obedience class. You may find that your shepherd knows all of his commands and breezes through this class. That’s fine; the experience is building trust in you, as well as his self confidence. This also presents an opportunity for you to reward his good behavior and teach him what you expect of him on a daily basis.