Your furry baby is adorable. You’ve stared at their pics for hours and are counting down the days until they get to come home.
Not unlike bringing home a new baby, preparing for a puppy can be overwhelming. Here are our basics for German Shepherd puppy care so you can have a fabulous start with your fur baby.
Before Bringing Your Puppy Home
Safety is an important part of caring for German Shepherd puppies. The best way to keep your puppy safe is to puppy proof your home, provide a safe space, and supervise.
The term "puppy proofing" doesn’t need to be an overwhelming chore. Simply walk around your home and consider what your puppy can reach, chew, and get into. Eliminate small items and look up any house plants to make sure they are not toxic to dogs.
Your puppy’s area should include dry bedding, water, toys, and a place to potty. Place their potty area on the opposite side as their food/sleep area.
Before your puppy’s big homecoming, do a safety check of your yard. The area should be fenced (no holes or gaps) and free of any toxic plants. If you plan to allow your puppy to spend time outside, make sure they always have fresh water and a place to rest in the shade.
First Day Home – Supply List
- Food & Water Dishes
- Sturdy Chew Toys (A Variety)
- Stuffed Toy
- Pin Brush
- Slicker Brush
- Dog Crate
* Talk with your breeder about other items they suggest or read our new puppy shopping list.
Welcome Home Puppy!
You've just walked in the door with your adorable puppy, now what? The first days are exciting and a little scary for your puppy.
Remember they just left their home, their litter, and are trying to figure everything out. Keep the first days simple and focus on the basics: food, potty, play, and sleep.
Start off by showing your puppy his area. That will include food, bed, and toys. Keep a close eye on him for signs that he needs to go potty. Once he stops playing and starts sniffing around, take him quickly to his potty area. When he goes potty, praise him. This is a big deal!
It’s normal for other animals to not immediately fall in love with your puppy. Keep in mind that it may take time for them to bond and that they all rely on you to provide discipline and guidance.
The first night away from his litter can be extra scary for your puppy. Make them more comfortable by giving them a bed next to yours.
Your sound and smell remind him that you are nearby; puppies rely on this in the middle of the night to feel safe. If left in another room alone, they will likely cry and whine.
Nighttime Potty Breaks
Not all crying means your puppy is scared. He will also need to go potty in the middle of the night. So how can you tell if it’s sadness or his bladder? Start off by assuming he needs to use the potty.
Take him out of his bed/crate and immediately to the potty area. If he uses it, praise him then straight to bed. It’s important to remember, no playing during this time. It’s potty time only then back to bed.
If your puppy continues to cry after having a potty break, pat him gently a couple of times. You can also try giving him a stuffed animal or a shirt with your scent on it. These items can give him enough comfort to relax.
Keep in mind, the first night may be rough but he will adjust and feel more and more secure with his new home.
Potty Training Your Puppy
Potty training may seem like the toughest part of GSD puppy care but it doesn’t need to be. With a little preparation and supervision, you will be able to train your puppy with no drama.
As a potty break guideline: Puppies have a bowel movement after every meal. They are able to hold their urine for approximately as many hours as their age in months.
As an example, if you feed your 4 month old puppy twice a day he will have two bowel movements a day and urinate every 4 hours.
Instead of waiting for your puppy to show that he needs to go potty, take him out regularly. The ONLY way to train a puppy is positive reinforcement. Punishing a puppy does NOT work!
Since we know potty training is all about positive reinforcement, you want to give yourself as many chances to praise them as possible. So what happens if they have an accident?
Your response depends on if you see it in progress or not.
If you catch your puppy pottying in the wrong area, make a loud noise to interrupt them and then QUICKLY take them to their potty place and praise them for finishing.
If you didn’t catch your puppy while they were pottying in the wrong area, clean it up and try again. In this situation you either didn’t take him out enough or missed his signals, either way it was not his fault.
Remember, there will be accidents during potty training. Your German Shepherd puppy is intelligent and VERY motivated to make you happy. Work as a team to get the job done.
Time to Eat
Providing the proper nutrition is one of the most important parts of caring for German shepherd puppies. A trip down the dog food aisle may leave you overwhelmed with options and confused about which food is best.
Before bringing your puppy home, ask the breeder about their food choice. Even IF you decide to change it later, your puppy should be transitioned gently and remain on the breeder's choice of dry kibble for a few weeks.
Choosing the Best Puppy Food
Check out our in-depth guide for choosing the best food for your GSD puppy!
Start by reading the labels of puppy food that is made for large breeds. These will contain the right amount of protein and fats for proper growth.
German shepherd's are considered a large breed dog. They need high protein foods. This means protein from sources that you can pronounce (chicken, turkey, lamb, etc.)
Skip foods that include protein sources listed as "by-product". These are unhealthy alternatives to meat and can come from questionable sources. Any food that lists "corn" as a main ingredient should also be avoided. Skipping foods that are high in corn can prevent digestive and skin issues later in life.
Now that you know what food your breeder uses and what makes a quality choice for your German Shepherd puppy, let's discuss feeding.
Feeding Your Puppy
Provide your dry kibble of choice twice a day, following the guides on the dog food label for portion size. The general portion guideline is 2 grams per pound in weight every day. This amount is then divided into two to three feedings and gives you the amount to put in their bowl each feeding.
Provide your puppy with fresh water throughout the day. You should also leave a small amount out at night in case they become thirsty. Proper hydration is incredibly important for growing puppies.
Puppies are curious and full of energy. The best way to ensure their safety (and prevent destruction of your home) is to provide plenty of toys. An important part of German Shepherd puppy care is play.
Shepherds are intelligent dogs that are used to having a "job" to do. Working dogs are bred with specific abilities that make them fantastic at tasks like herding, guarding, and hunting. Your puppy will use toys to simulate the job they were bred to do.
Provide toys for your puppy that encourage chewing, chasing, retrieving. Many toys they can use on their own to entertain themselves.
Reduce boredom by rotating toys regularly and "hiding" them in new places around your home. This will give your puppy the extra "work" of searching and allow toys to last longer. Keep in mind that you will still need to supervise and play along regularly so they stay busy. Adorable and playful, your puppy will make this part of your care easy.
Enjoy Your Puppy!
Remember that German Shepherds are a popular breed that has been bred for hundreds of years. Consulting experts is a great way to get answers to your questions and some feedback on your experiences. Talk with your breeder about their food choices, favorite dog products, and training tips.
Before puppy's homecoming, find your local obedience class and dog park. Early training and socialization will ensure your puppy grows into their potential as an amazing companion.