26 Critical Time in a GSD’s Life That Every Owner Must Be Aware of

German Shepherds can live for an average of 10-12 years, some even longer. From the very first day you bring your perfect puppy home, you will be living with her for the rest of her life. Although it may be a bit overwhelming for first-time owners, if you ask any GSD owners, having a GSD could be one of the best experiences they have ever had with an animal in their lives.

We have compiled a list of the most common questions (with answers) beginners ask about the time of occurrence when it comes to raising German Shepherds. Knowing these 25 critical times in your German Shepherd’s life will give you a good idea of what to expect.

1. When is the best time to bring a new German Shepherd puppy home?

The AKC suggests that any time within the 8 to 12 weeks of age is probably an appropriate time to release a puppy to a new owner. The main reason for this is socialization. When a puppy is with its littermates and especially its mother, it learns valuable behaviors. A reputable dog breeder will never let a puppy leave before 7 weeks at the minimum.

A resourceful guide for any first-time GSD owner.

Do you want to know how to find a purebred German Shepherd puppy? What are the pros and cons of purebred dogs? How to identify a responsible/reputable breeder? What questions should you ask a breeder before you buy a puppy? How to make sure your puppy is purebred? What’s include in the puppy sales contract?

You will find answers to all these questions in this guide.

Read the guide.

2. When will my German Shepherd puppy’s ears go up?

A German Shepherd’s ears stand up on their own anytime between 8 weeks and 5 months old, or about 20 weeks of age. Until they are completely up, they flop around, go up and down.

You can help your puppy to strengthen her ear muscle by whistling and making funny noises that perk up her ears. Some people suggest adding calcium to your puppy’s diet with yogurt.

3. When do German Shepherds puppy stop nipping/biting?

Puppies use their mouth to explore their environment, so nipping is very common. This behavior, called teething, can last until the puppy is 6 months old when all her adult teeth have started showing.

Related resources: German Shepherd Puppy Training Guide for Beginners – PART 6: Stop Biting

4. When do German Shepherds stop growing?

A male German Shepherd will be fully grown at about 18 months old. Female German Shepherds are fully grown around two years old. 

5. When do German Shepherd puppies calm down?

German Shepherds grew into their full size between 18 months to 2 years old. But they are not considered adult dogs until they reach the age of 3 years old. They’re also likely to calm down and become less energetic when they reach this age.

If your pup is still young, one of the most effective ways to calm her down is to give her regular mental and physical exercise. The rule of thumb is that you should give a puppy 5 minutes of exercise for every month old they are. For example, a 4-month-old puppy would need 20 minutes of exercise.

6. When do German Shepherds get their full coat?

At about 4 to 6 months of age, they’ll begin to grow in their new adult coat. She will start the coat change on her face first. Then her fluffy puppy coat will be replaced by the smoother adult coat down her back, towards to trail and gradually down her sides.

7. When do German Shepherds start teething?

Starting at 4 months old, German Shepherds will begin to lose their puppy teeth. But some puppies start losing their teeth earlier or later. You may discover a discarded tooth on the floor. Or you may see a few drops of blood on her chew toy. And it is not uncommon for a puppy to swallow her tooth, which is perfectly normal.

8. When do German Shepherds get all their adult teeth?

An adult German Shepherd should have 42 adult teeth. The adult teeth don’t all come in at the same time, and they usually come in right under the puppy teeth. The small incisors in front usually come in first, followed by the big canines, the premolars and the molars.

All adult teeth should be in place around 7-8 months old. It’s around this age that your puppy will stop teething or at least start to calm down a little, and by the time they reach one year, they will definitely be out of the teething stage.

9. When do German Shepherds start shedding?

German Shepherds are also known as “German Shedder” because they shed constantly, year-round. While their shedding is especially intense during the spring and fall, they lose their undercoat during the rest of the year.

Related post: How to Deal with German Shepherd Shedding? (Other Than Vacuuming)

10. When should I bring my puppy for the first vet visit?

You should bring your new puppy to see a veterinarian no later than 2 days after coming home. Some breeders require this within 48 hours as included in their sales contract. It is very important for your vet to examine your puppy to look for signs of disease. If that’s the case, you have the right to return the puppy to the breeder.

11. When should a German Shepherd puppy get her vacinnation?

Your German Shepherd puppy is recommended to get her first vaccination (distemper and parvovirus) between 6-8 weeks of age. Here are the recommended vaccinations from AKC for your reference:

AgeRecommended VaccinationsOptional Vaccinations
6 — 8 weeksDistemper, parvovirusBordetella
10 — 12 weeksDHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus)Influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle as recommended by veterinarian
16 — 18 weeksDHPP, rabiesInfluenza, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella per lifestyle
12 — 16 monthsDHPP, rabiesCoronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 — 2 yearsDHPPInfluenza, Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle
Every 1 — 3 yearsRabies (as required by law)none
Source: AKC 

Some dogs do not need every vaccine. Factors such as your location and your dog’s health condition must be considered. You should always discuss it with your vet.

12. When should my German Shepherd puppy be wormed?

A German Shepherd puppy should be wormed for the first time at 2 weeks of age, then at 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks old (fortnightly until 12 weeks of age). 

After this, they can be wormed monthly until they are 12 months old.

13. When can I take my puppy for the first walk?

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recommends that pet guardians begin taking puppies on walks and public outings as early as one week after their first round of vaccinations, at about 7 weeks old. 

Related resources: German Shepherd Puppy Training Guide for Beginners – PART 3: Leash Training

14. When can I start running with my German Shepherd?

You are advised to take your German Shepherd for running until they are fully grown at 2-3 years old, depending on your dog’s health condition, diet, location and weather. Instead of going for a marathon for the first time, it is advised to build up the distance with your GSD with time.

Remember dogs cannot sweat like humans to reduce their body temperature. Avoid hot days over 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24°C) to keep them safe from heatstroke.

15. When can I walk my German Shepherd without a leash?

Don’t give your puppy off-leash freedom outside your fenced yard until she is mentally mature enough or well-trained at around 2 to 3 years old. Never let your dog go off-leash where there might be traffic or where he could injure himself.

16. When should I start training a German Shepherd puppy?

You can start training your German Shepherd puppies as early as they are 8 weeks old.

Crate training and potty training are the very basic skills you and your puppy will need once she gets home. You can start right away when she comes home. (usually at 8 weeks old)

In fact, it’s so easy to train them you have to remember that you’re always training—whether you think you are or not. 

17. When should I start socializing my German Shepherd puppy?

You should start to socialize your puppy as early as 8 weeks. (Check with your vet for vaccination before she is ready to meet other dogs) Things you can introduce to your puppy include, but not limited to:

  • People and children
  • Dogs and puppies
  • Other animals (e.g. chicken, goose, birds, squirrels, etc.)
  • Different sound or smell
  • Cars, trucks, bikes, scooters, etc
  • Different surfaces like concrete, stones, bricks, mud, sand, etc.

At first, your puppy may get a bit uncomfortable because everything is new to her. Give her encouragement and make reward her with a treat if she does approach it.

Socialization is a lifelong exercise for your German Shepherd. You should keep stimulating your dog with new encounters as much as you can.

Related resources: German Shepherd Puppy Training Guide for Beginners – PART 5: Socialization

18. When can I start feeding my German Shepherd twice a day?

German Shepherd puppies have tiny stomachs and they should be fed 3 times per day from 8 to 12 weeks of age.  And they can be fed twice a day thereafter.

19. When to switch to adult food for German Shepherds?

By 12-18 months, it’s generally okay to transition fully to an adult formula as German Shepherds are considered fully grown at this age. While every dog is different, you may talk to your vet or even the breed to make sure that your feeding plan is suitable for your GSD.

20. When do female German Shepherds go into the first heat?

Female German Shepherd started their first heat as early as 7 months old, but this may vary from dog to dog. During that time, they may begin mounting other dogs or could become touchy or grumpy. There will be discharge and many owners use feminine pads and a diaper-type arrangement to keep the house clean.

21. When should a German Shepherd be spayed/neutered?

The most important finding in German Shepherd Dogs is that there is no advantage of neutering or spaying before 12 months of age. 

Dr. Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, Ph.D., DACVB, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine says, “I advise owners of German Shepherd Dog puppies to be in no hurry to neuter a male or spay a female, I always tell them to wait until their dog is at least a year old before neutering.”

(Source: Study Finds Early Spay-Neuter Surgeries in German Shepherd Dogs Increase Risk of Joint Problems)

22. When do German Shepherds lift their legs to pee?

German Shepherds begin leg-lifting when adolescence hits around 7-8 months old. Both intact males and neutered males will lift their legs to urinate. Some adolescent females also lift a leg to urinate. Leg-lifting is more of a marking behavior than the biological need of emptying their bladder.

23. When do German Shepherds become protective?

German Shepherds are born with a protective instinct that can manifest as early as 12 weeks but definitely when it starts to become an adolescent at around 6 months of age. If they feel like their owner or property is in potential threat, they will usually bark to intimidate the danger away.

24. When do German Shepherds become aggressive?

German Shepherds can become aggressive at around 3 to 6 months old. This escalates as adolescence hits from 6 months to two years old – as sexual maturity arises and hormones fluctuate.

With that said, German Shepherds needs to be properly socialized with people and other dogs and animal to prevent the development of aggressive behavior.

25. When do German Shepherds begin to have hip dysplasia?

According to AKC, some dogs begin to show signs of hip dysplasia when they are as young as four months of age. But it is more typically seen in pups aged 9 months to 1 year. Others develop it in conjunction with osteoarthritis as they age.

26. When do German Shepherds start to get cancer?

Hemangiosarcoma is common cancer affecting middle-aged to older German shepherds. Studies have found it is slightly more common in males than females.

Hemangiosarcoma most commonly occurs in the spleen, though it can originate in other organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys, skin, muscle, and bone. This cancer occurs most commonly in dogs older than 6 years of age.

(Source: Hemangiosarcoma Study Aims to Deter Cancer Growth to Help German Shepherd Dogs)

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