It’s official. The Second Dog is a German Shepherd. Vice President Elect Joseph Biden will be accompanied by a beautiful German Shepherd (aka Alsation) when he moves to the Vice Presidential Mansion.
The male GSD puppy, who will be named by his grandchildren, follows in the footsteps of former White House German Shepherds including, Clipper, who was owned by John F. Kennedy and Major, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s companion.
German Shepherds are well known for their intelligence, loyalty and versatility. They can be trained to do almost anything, are faithful servants of mankind and excel at a variety of different roles.
As a result of the strong publicity surrounding the VP’s dog, many people may be tempted to rush out and get a German Shepherd of their own. But, this dog breed is not for everyone. While they make excellent family companions, there are five things you must know before getting a GSD of your own.
1. Find a GSD with good temperament. German Shepherds are not hard to find. But be aware that many are bred by people who are not trying to improve the breed. Beware the puppy mills and backyard breeders. Pet stores and newspaper classifieds are not the place to find a stable GSD. Instead contact a German Shepherd Rescue or locate a reputable breeder.
2. Socialize, socialize, and socialize. German Shepherds are protective by nature. This needs to be properly tempered to prevent over-guarding, inappropriate herding behavior and uncontrolled prey instinct. Expose your GSD to variety of people, places and situations, or you may end up with a liability on your hands.
3. Exercise does a GSD good. German Shepherds are active, athletic dogs. They need a lot of exercise. Letting them run around in a fenced-in yard is not enough. Be prepared to spend at least 45 minutes a day walking your GSD. While they do like to be close to their families, they are not not lap dogs.
4. Support stimulation. German Shepherds are easily bored and can become destructive. Give them a job to do. Keep their minds and bodies active with occupations such as Agility, Advanced Obedience, Flyball, Ring Sport, Schutzhund or Tracking. If you don’t have the time or inclination to get involved in activities with your GSD, you will be better off with another dog breed.
5. Beware the hair. German Shepherds shed a lot. The “German Shedder” has a “double-coat.” They sport a short undercoat, with long, coarse hair on the outer layer. The outside layer sheds all year long while the undercoat is blown twice a year. If you really don’t like to vacuum, this is not the breed for you.
While German Shepherds are an amazing breed, don’t forget that they are high energy dogs that were bred to work.
If you get a GSD and expect to have an instant Rin Tin Tin, you will be sorely disappointed. It takes time, compassion and patience to properly raise a German Shepherd. Before coming home, the VP’s dog will be trained for weeks by police-dog trainer Mark Tobin.
Research the German Shepherd breed before you decide to get one. If you then conclude a GSD is right for you, find a dog with a stable temperament, provide socialization, exercise and stimulation, and make friends with your vacuum.
You will have the companion of a lifetime.