|Accessories for your dog|
|Collars||Leashes and Leads||Health Issues||Grooming||Dog Beds||Fences and Gates||Water and Food Bowls||Recommended Dog Food Brands||Toys and Bones||Vests|
Hi! I'm Mark, and my home is a foster home for rescue German Shepherds. I'm part of a large group who rescue dogs. We get them out of pounds and shelters, or surrendered to us by people who can no longer care for them. We clean them up, calm them down, train them a bit, and find them a safe, loving home. I go through at least a German Shepherd a month like this. Over the course of fostering over 21 dogs and being part of a group that includes professional trainers and highly experienced amateurs, I've learned a lot, much more than I knew when I simply had a dog as a pet, or kept a dog as a pet for my kids. The people who adopt my dogs for their forever home are sometimes a bit new to dogs, especially large dogs like German Shepherds who often require more exercise, playtime, and control than the humans are used to. I wrote this page for them.
Some dogs are friendly, calm, easy going and easy to control when meeting new people or dogs. By the time my dogs get adopted they all fit this description, and if their new owners keep up their training they will stay that way. A dog that rides well in a car and is easy to control in public places is a dog that you're going to take with you, and that's what the dogs want. They desire and need the stimulation and exercise of long walks, playtime and new environments. So anything you do that helps socialize your dog winds up getting them what they want too. If you get the right food, leash, collar and toys your dog will quickly learn to behave well and play nicely.
Socialization doesn't just happen, you have to make it a priority. I take all my dogs a couple times a week to walk through Home Depot and Lowe's, and I also take them regularly to Petsmart. In all of these places the dogs meet adults and children and other dogs, and get used to introductions. The calmest dogs are the ones that are used to this, and even perhaps a bit bored by it. Having a dog that's well behaved on walks means you will want to walk more, in more areas and at more times. Having a 75 pound German Shepherd with you on an evening or nighttime walk is a great feeling of security.
The rules are actually pretty easy. Someone is going to run your house, and everyone will be happier if it's you and not the dog. This means it's your job to supply consistency, boundaries, discipline and love. Dogs thrive in such an environment and will be the loving, attentive companion you want and need.
Just getting started? Here's a basic kit to pick up quickly and relatively inexpensively. You can save a bit of money by searching for the Kong, brushes, bed and collar on EBay or Amazon.com, but your stuff won't be here for a few days.
|Basic Dog Starter Kit|
|A nylon or leather snap or buckle collar is a good choice for holding ID tags. This is a poor choice for using with a leash. If your dog becomes excited by a squirrel, cat, or another dog, they can generally pull backwards out of these and leave you walking an empty collar.||A choke collar is a poor choice for most dogs. You can control your breathing - you can choose to hold your breath. Dogs do not have controlled breathing, so they are no more aware of their breathing than you are of your heart beat. When a dog is pulling on a choke collar and choking and gasping for air, they are only aware of the pull, not the choking.||A pinch or prong collar is a good choice for a large dog like a German Shepherd. In the wild, dogs discipline each other by nipping at necks. A prong collar simulates this natural act. When you put a prong collar on your dog, she will pull hard once, yelp once, and then never again. Within 10 minutes she will be walking beside you with the leash hanging loose. Many people think that somehow these collars torture the dog. In fact your dog will be better behaved, you will take her on more and longer walks, and everyone will be happier. About $10 -$25 at Ebay, Walmart, Petsmart or Amazon.com. A German Shepherd will typically require a 14" to 18" collar.|
|A dog harness is easy on your dog, but won't do a thing to help train heavy pullers. On the other hand, get yourself some roller skates and let him do the work. If the leash clips on the top, as shown, the harness has no anti-pull properties. If the leash clips on in the lower front at your dog's chest, shown to the right, the harness has some anti-pull properties. About $5 to $30 at EBay, Amazon.com, Petsmart, Target, Walmart||This anti-pull dog harness is easy on your dog and discourages pulling. The leash clips on in the lower front at your dog's chest, so when the dog pulls it gets turned in a circle around you. About $15 to $30 at EBay, Amazon.com, Petsmart.||These anti-pull dog harnesses work by pulling back under your dog's front legs. They're comfortable for the dog and work. This is the only type of collar endorsed by the ASPCA. $6 to $25 at Ebay, Amazon.com, Petsmart, Walmart.|
|A Gentle Leader fits over your dog's muzzle and neck. When you pull it turns the dog's neck, much like a horse harness. Your dog can still play catch or bite, these don't hold the mouth closed. These have been known to break dog's necks in extreme cases, and I don't recommend them. $15 to $30 at EBay, Amazon.com, Petsmart.||A bark collar will train your shepherd to stop barking. He barks, he gets a shock. You'll need spare batteries, the batteries on these only last for about a day. It's not very pleasant, but then neither is being sued by your neighbors. Available on EBay or Amazon.com for $5 to $95.|
|Leashes and Leads|
|I recommend a two handled leash. When walking your dog if you are crossing the street or in a crowded area, you can hold onto the short handle and she will naturally heel. Available at Target or Amazon.com, about $10-$15.||If you want your dog to heel, or if you keep your dog off- leash a lot but want a leash attached to her, you can get a 12" leash. About $5 - $15 at EBay or Amazon.com.||Another choice for your Shepherd is a retractable leash. The fully extended length will be 16 feet to 24 feet. You can choose to pull her in to the shortest one foot length and lock the leash there for crossing roads or crowded areas. This is a poor choice for a difficult to control dog in an area with kids and other dogs. It's a good choice if you want to bicycle with your dog. About $15 to $25, available at Walmart, Target, Petco, Petsmart, or Amazon.com.|
|6-way leashes are adjustable in length from about 4' to 7'. You can put them around your waist for hands-free walking, or adjust them shorter for public places. Available in Nylon or Leather. About $10 to $30 at Ebay and Amazon.com.||Bungee Leashes stretch so that you don't get a big jerk when your dog pulls. I think it's better to get a proper collar and train the dog to not pull. About $10 to $30 at Ebay and Amazon.com||Leash couplers help you walk two dogs at the same time. When one goes left and the other goes right, they pull on each other instead of you getting drawn and quartered. Available in nylon or chain. About $2 to $20 at Ebay, Walmart and Amazon.com|
|Dogs will get ear infections from time to time. If you notice your dog shaking his head a lot, this is a likely explanation. Get an eye dropper, $1 to $3 at Walmart, Rite-Aid, or any pet store. Squirt three or four droppers full of olive oil into each ear, then wipe up the excess with a paper towel. Repeat once or twice on roughly 6 to 12 hour intervals. If that doesn't fix it in a day or two max, you need help from a vet with anti-biotic and anti-fungal ointment.||When Shepherds get old they can get arthritis just like a person, and possibly start to have some hip problems. A 325 mg aspirin every 12 hours will help your older dog get through her day. This is for large (60+ pound) dogs who are about eight years old or older. Aspirin is poisonous to cats.||Dogs can get bladder infections. If your dog is urinating a small amount every 15 minutes and starts doing it in the carpets, this is a real possibility. Unfortunately you can't give your dog cranberry juice; you'll have to bring her to the vet and get her a prescription for some antibiotics. The same symptoms can also indicate type I diabetes, but this is rare in dogs so don't get all excited.|
|Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. But if she sees you eating some, she'll want it too. Too bad, don't let her have any.||If you suspect your dog of having a fever, you need a rectal thermometer. A dog's normal temperature is about 102° (39c). About $3 to $10 at Target, Rite-Aid or Walmart.||Need an on-line diagnosis? Help My Hound.com. Don't go all hypochondriac, chances are your dog is basically ok.|
|Your dog will need a bath from time to time. There are a lot of dog shampoos available, but I just use baby shampoo. Try to keep your dog's ears dry, which means don't wash their heads. You can wash them indoors in a tub, or if it's more than about 75° (25c) you can wash them outside on the lawn with your hose. It's best to wash them in the late morning or early afternoon so that you can take them for a walk to help dry them off. Dogs need a certain amount of oil on their skin and hair, so they should not be washed more than a few times per year. If you wash a dog too often their skin will dry out and they will eventually have skin problems.||You can give your Shepherd a dry bath in cold or rainy weather to keep the dirt and smell down. Get some corn starch and corn meal at the grocery store. Mix up about a cup of corn meal and corn starch, about 50-50. Take your dog somewhere that can get a bit messy, like the garage or a porch. Begin by brushing your dog's fur against the grain to loosen dead hair, dirt and debris. Start at his neck; don't use the cornstarch on his head and keep it out of his eyes. Lightly sprinkle some cornstarch on the ruffed-up hair, and gently rub it into your dog's skin. Be sure it gets all the way down to the skin, not just in the fur. Brush the fur back down in the direction that it grows, until you have brushed out any excess cornstarch. Unlike wet baths, you can do this as much as a couple times a week.||If you want to bathe your dog in the tub and she's a wiggler, get a bath tether. Two suction cups attach to the sides of the tub, then clip onto her collar to hold her in place. About $6 - $15 at Petsmart, Amazon, Drugstore.com|
|Your Shepherd is going to shed. You can brush her every other day or so, or just let it happen. For routine brushing a brush with metal tangs is a good choice. $4 to $12 at Walmart, Target, Petsmart, Amazon.com, Ebay.||If your dog has longer hair, or it's the spring switch from her thicker winter coat to her thinner summer coat, a rake brush will work miracles. This is the tool to start with on a dog that desperately needs deshedding. Not so great on shorter hair dogs. Good chance she'll also like how it scratches her back. $3 to $12 at Walmart, Target, Petsmart, Amazon.com, Ebay.||The Furminator or FurGoPet is good for deshedding shorter hair dogs, or finish the deshedding on a longer hair dog. Available in 1", 2.65" and 4" widths. The 1" is for cats. About $6 (Shedding Brush on EBay), or $20 to $60 for the name brand at Ebay, Amazon.com, Petsmart, Petstore.com, Walmart, Target.|
|Perhaps the single biggest mistake you can make with your Shepherd is to let him sleep on your bed. This makes dogs confused about who runs the house and will lead to bad behavior and challenges to your authority. Also, dogs tend to be awful to sleep with: they roll, kick, stink and wake up a lot. Just don't do it.||Your dog will like having a place that's hers. She will be perfectly happy spending the night in her crate, and will sometimes enter the crate on her own during the day to nap. The crate gives your dog a sense of security, and prevents her from wandering the house at night and chewing or making messes. It's also a safe retreat from certain young kids. Available from Walmart, Amazon.com, PetCo or Petsmart, $50 to $100. You can put a cheap blanket or piece of scrap carpet on the floor of the crate for comfort.||Other dog beds are available from $40 to $100 at Sam's Club, Walmart, Amazon.com, Target, Petco and Petsmart.|
|Doors, Fences and Gates|
|Lockable screen doors for dogs and cats. Snap the plastic frames of the door together through the existing screen of your patio door, cut out the screen door, and your dog or cat can easily enter or exit anytime. Lockable, or close the glass door on it. About $14 to $25 at EBay, Amazon, Petsmart.||Most Shepherds will respect a child gate. You can place one of these in a hallway and keep your Shepherd out of parts of your house. If you place the gate with a 5" gap underneath, then your cat can run under and the gate will stop the dog. About $15 - $50 at Walmart, Target, ToysRUs.||Some Shepherds are great diggers and will dig under your gate and let themselves out for a little walk. You should consider getting some 1' by 1' concrete stepping stones, about $3 each at Home Depot, and putting them under your gate. You might also get a couple pieces of 1" by 5" redwood and reinforce the bottom of your gate. Curiously, my own experience is it's the females who dig and go walkabout. The males seem to have a better sense of where their food bowl is.|
|Water and Food Bowls|
|You will need food and water bowls. A German Shepherd will drink two to six quarts of water per day, depending on the temperature and her activity level. Her water bowl should be heavy - stainless steel is a better choice than plastic - and large, 10" to 12" diameter, 4" to 5" deep. A similar bowl in plastic is fine for food. Available at Target, Walmart, Petco, Petsmart or Amazon..com, about $5 - $15.||The Lixit hose attachment means you can leave your dog outside all day and she will never run out of water. Highly recommended for outside dogs in warmer climates. About $8 to $16 at Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon.com.||Get a heavy food bowl, or your dog will be chasing it around while she's eating. Plastic or stainless steel are both fine so long as it has some weight. $4 to $20 at Walmart, Target, Petsmart, Amazon.com|
|Recommended Dog Food Brands|
|Which dog food? Does it really matter? I don't know of a good scientific study, but I've heard several stories now of
people who feed their dogs superior food and supplements and their dogs live half again longer than average. How do you judge a dog
food? Here's one hint: if your dog has serious dog breath you're feeding her garbage. Without a big chemistry lab and a study involving
thousands of dogs it's difficult to really scientifically know. You can learn about ingredients, suppliers and processing. The largest
brands switch suppliers on a moment's notice based on price and convenience, so what you get next week might be completely different
from what you got last week. The cheaper brands are mostly corn, "vegetable by-products" and "meat by-products." I'm sorry, I have
trouble imagining a vegetable by-product, and I shudder at the thought of a meat by-product. Corn and corn syrup have not proven very
good for our nation's waistline or health nor has corn ethanol proven any good for our cars, and I'm very skeptical that corn is any
good for our dogs.
As an alternative to buying dry food, you can cook up your own, save some money, and know that she's getting only excellent ingredients. There's a recipe below, or you can google "home made dog food" and find several interesting alternatives.
The brands below are made with superior ingredients and processes, no "by products," and more meat than other brands. Obviously avoid any dog food imported from China - they put poison in their own children's powdered milk and consider dogs a tasty ingredient, do you really think they care about your dog's diet? Do your dog a favor and feed her actual food. Find one of the brands listed below that your dog likes - the tail wagging test is also important. None of these brands are available at Walmart or Target, you're going to have to go to an actual pet store to get them. Or buy the Kirkland brand at Costco, made by Diamond who is represented here with several of their other brands. Some of these brands are perhaps slightly better than others, but all are excellent and any of them is far superior to Ol' Roy, the greasy Walmart house brand made by this week's low Chinese bidder.
The garbage dog foods cost about 50¢ per pound; common not-so-great dog foods are about $1 per pound; the really good stuff will be more like about $2-$3 per pound. A decent sized German Shepherd will eat about a pound a day.
Sadly, Vets are not very knowledgeable in this area and their recommendations are to be considered suspect. I fed one of my dogs a rather expensive and inferior brand for years on the advice of a vet. They're trained in things like ear infections, hip problems and worms, not nutrition.
To find some of this food near you, try a few things. First Google "pet stores" and click on their map. You'll see a list of pet stores near you that stock better brands of food. Out in the country you might need to check out your local feed store, and perhaps ask the owner to start stocking a particular brand. Also Google a specific brand, like "blue buffalo dog," then click on the "shopping" button on the left. You'll find prices, and if you tell Google your zip code they'll also add in shipping and tax for you. Sometimes you can get your best price while sitting on your butt at home.
Back To Basics
Castor And Pollux
Newman's Own Organics
Solid Gold Barking At The Moon
Taste Of The Wild
|Home Made Dog Food|
|Dogs have been living with people for 100,000 years and can eat most of the same stuff we do. Exceptions: don't feed your dog
avocados, raisins, grapes, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, chocolate, onions, garlic. Remember, dogs are basically carnivores who chose to
hang out with people; they need more meat in their diet than you do. If you want to make your own dog food, here's a recipe:|
Put the rice, water, bullion, vegetables and oil into a large pot or a rice cooker. Bring the rice to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes. Let the rice sit covered for another 15 minutes to cook the vegetables. While the rice is boiling cook the meat on the stove in a bit of oil. Put the eggs into a blender, shells and all, and blend them up. Dogs need a lot of calcium. When the meat is done cooking, pull the meat out of the pan and pour in the eggs, then scramble them into the juices and oil. Chop up the meat into bite- sized cubes and stir the meat and the eggs into the rice. That's it. You should be able to find meat for $2 to $3 per pound, so this entire batch of about 10 pounds of food will cost you about $8 to $12, about $1 per pound. This is less than the premium foods listed above, and you would be willing to feed this stuff to your kids. Heck, it's considerably healthier than what most American teenagers live on. Serve small dogs about a cup per day, large dogs 2 or 3 cups a day. Refrigerate the leftovers, it will keep easily for a week. Guaranteed no doggy breath on this stuff.
Some people will tell you that dogs thrive best on raw meat. There is absolutely no scientific evidence either for or against this claim. Given how animals are processed in the US, I would be very reluctant to feed a dog raw chicken or eggs.
Alternatively, you can cook up just the meat and eggs and mix them with a good dry dog food - if you have a picky eater this will get her going, and it's a lot healthier than canned food.
If you have a severely underweight dog, in addition to normal feedings feed her a bed-time snack of about a pound of liver cooked in a bit of oil. She'll be all over that and will put on weight quickly. Liver is high calorie and full of vitamins.
|Toys and Bones|
|Some Shepherds love playing tug-of-war. You can get a 5 or 6 foot length of 1" manilla rope at most hardware stores for about $5. Tie a knot in each end to hold it together, and get set to pull. If you have two dogs, you can get them pulling on each other which will wear them out and amuse you.||Rawhide bones are great for chewing and keeping teeth and gums clean and healthy. About $3 at Walmart, or available in 10, 20, 50 packs at Amazon.com or Costco. A 10" rawhide bone will last two days if you take it away half way through, two hours if you leave it. I get the 10" rawhide chews at Costco and cut them into thirds. One piece a day, max.||Nylon bones are good for younger dogs who seem to need to chew 8 hours a day. About $6 - $12 at Walmart, Petco, Petsmart, Amazon.com.|
|A flirt pole is a fishing rod for your dog. You put a rag or piece of leather or a toy on the end, and bounce the
toy around for your dog to chase. The idea is to get your dog chasing and jumping. Highly recommended for high-energy dogs, this will
wear her out in 15 minutes or less.|
Make your own for about $5: Buy a 4-6 foot long 3/4" or 1" PVC pipe, 10-15 feet of rope, and a dog toy. Thread the rope through the pipe and tie a knot at either end of the pipe to keep rope from sliding in and out. Optionally use a fender washer between the rope and the end of the pipe. Tie the toy to the end of the rope. Go play.
|Some Shepherds like to play catch, but tennis balls get chewed up in one day. The Kong ball is completely indestructible, and will survive a nuclear war. In a parking lot with a decent throw it will bounce and roll 200 feet or more before your dog catches it, so you need a lot of room to throw these. These are relatively heavy so it's more difficult for your dog to catch them on the fly than a tennis ball. I recommend the small 2½ " ball for all but the very largest dogs, those who weigh over 90 pounds. About $8 to $15 at Target, Petsmart, Petsolutions.com, Dog.com, Amazon.com.||The Kong Extreme Toy is popular with some dogs. It's a little bigger than a tennis ball, completely indestructible, and bounces in unpredictable ways for added excitement. For more entertainment put some peanut butter inside. Available in normal indestructible strength, red, and in nuclear indestructible strength, black. After the war all that's going to be left is cockroaches and black Kongs. About $10 to $25 from Target, Petsmart, EBay, Amazon.com and others.|
|Kyjen toys are somewhat more durable than the less expensive alternatives. Makes a plaintive squeak when you chomp on it. Some shepherds really go for these. Expect a short life for the little 'gator. $3 to $15 at Walmart, Ebay, Amazon.com, DogSupplies.com, Petsmart.||If you throw like a girl, get a Chuckit. With one of these you can wear out your Shepherd in half an hour even if you're not Nolan Ryan. About $8 to $12 at Walmart, Target, Petsmart, Amazon.com||Some Shepherds like to play catch, so Frisbee are a good choice. Frisbees are not so good for puppies or older dogs or dogs with hip problems - these dogs should keep four paws on the ground. Frisbees will get chewed up fairly quickly, so expect to buy new ones from time to time. About $6 anywhere, or $2.50 each in bulk on EBay. For more durability get the Hyperflight Jawz Disk on Amazon.com.|
|Vests and Backpacks|
|A reflective vest is a must if you're taking your dog hunting, and a very good thing for walks in the woods so that you and others can easily see her. Get neon green, yellow or orange - colors that never appear in nature. About $3 to $30 at EBay, Amazon.com, Petsmart.||If you're going to take your dog out on an extended boat ride, get her a life jacket. Dogs can swim but they're not Michael Phelps, they have limits. The best float vests have a chin piece that helps her keep her head above water, as shown above. About $15 to $75 at Ebay, Amazon, boat stores. The good ones are more like $50.||Dog Backpacks or Saddlebags are great for taking your dog on an extended hike. If you put about 20 pounds in the saddlebags, your Shepherd will slow down to pretty much the same pace as you. These let your dog pack in her own food and water. She'll learn quickly that this means camping out in the mountains, and will get very excited every time she sees them. About $15 to $100 from REI, EBay, Amazon.com and others.|
|Collars||Leashes and Leads||Health Issues||Grooming||Dog Beds||Fences and Gates||Water and Food Bowls||Recommended Dog Food Brands||Toys and Bones||Vests|