If you have ever heard the following statement raise your hand, “Oh wow, your dog is sooo well-behaved. Well, that makes sense because German shepherds are so smart they must be easy to train.”
Most of us, who know the truth just roll our eyes and smile and talk about how “Yes, German shepherds are the smartest dog ever.”
But, of course, those of us who own them know the truth.
German shepherds are one of the smartest dog breeds, certainly. But they aren’t people and they aren’t monkeys and they aren’t dolphins. Dogs are dogs and they take a lot of work and a lot of training. Shepherds are no exception. In fact, they are about as far from the exception as you can get.
Shepherds are a brilliant dog and can be trained “easily”, that is, in comparison with other breeds, who may not be as willing to learn or who may not catch on as quickly. But you absolutely need to work with them. Not once a week or every other day. You need to work with them EVERY SINGLE day of the week. That is seven days a week and 365 (or 366 days on leap year) a year.
We have well-behaved dogs. I love to talk about it. Our dogs listen, they act on cue and they don’t destroy the house (for the most part), but I like to talk about it so much because it took A LOT of time to get them there (and consequently to keep them there). We work with Smokey and Shelby every day multiple times a day. As a matter of fact, because we work full time, we spend a good chunk of our not-working hours training our dogs. Some days, it is a HUGE pain. After 10 hours the last thing we want to do is take the dogs on a long walk and then train for half an hour. Really, what we want to do is sit on the couch, drink a beer and watch some TV. But that isn’t an option, because we have German shepherds and they NEED the stimulation. If they didn’t get it they would be eating the furniture, investing strange things and ripping everything they saw apart (trust me, I know, Smokey used to do all of this).
Basically, what I am trying to say, is that, yes, shepherds are smart and they can be easy to train, if you put the work in. Lots of work. All of our success stories don’t just happen because we have this magic wand that we waved over our dogs and voila they were well behaved. We have success stories because we worked hard. But you know what the beginning of every success story starts with? A problem. There would be no success if there wasn’t first a problem. Shelby wouldn’t have a successful “leave it” if she didn’t first want to eat something she shouldn’t have. Smokey wouldn’t have a successful interaction with another dog if he didn’t first try to kill another dog. Just because our dogs are smart doesn’t mean they are immune to “problem behaviors”. And smart dogs aren’t going to settle for menial tasks either. You really need to keep their big brains at work.
It takes a lot to own one of these highly intelligent animals, and honestly, if you don’t have the time you are doing yourself and the dog a disservice. Does that make you a bad person? Certainly not! It makes you a person with stuff going on in your life! It makes you a great person if you can evaluate your life situation and make the right choice in dog for you, regardless of what breed it is.
I have a friend who is an attorney. Her husband is as well. They are both very active and fit. They have an English bulldog, one of the most taciturn dogs ever. I asked her once why she didn’t have a more active dog. She said “Honestly, we don’t have the energy.” I admire her for that. She knows what it takes and she made the right decision for her.
So when choosing a puppy, especially a shepherd, please make sure to do the most noble thing and ask yourself “Do I have what it takes?”