When trying to decide between a male German Shepherd and a female German Shepherd, there's plenty that a future German Shepherd Mom and Dad should take into consideration. It can seem overwhelming initially, but there are quite a number of ways to start narrowing down which option is best for you and your family.
Why do you want to get a German Shepherd?
First, what do you plan on doing with your pup? Female German Shepherds and male German Shepherds are both excellent family dogs as well as fantastic sport/working dogs. If you're interested in getting into a competitive protection spot, like Schutzhund, or an advanced agility driven sport, like dock-diving, it's best to research which gender performs better. Schutzhund for example is a sport developed in Germany that tests a dog’s mental and physical strengths, their ability to be taught difficult commands and execute those commands, and tests whether or not a dog comes from a lineage that should be considered for breeding. It's also a male dominated dog sport, as dog and handler are judged and awarded points for how they perform. It's more common for male German Shepherds to perform well vs female German Shepherds - that's not to say that there aren't amazing female German Shepherd competitors, but the chances of having a high scoring female are less likely than a high scoring male German Shepherd due to their differences in size and strength.
If you're looking to bring a German Shepherd to the family as a pet and companion, the next question to ask is who will be spending the majority of time with this doggy? Male German Shepherds are more prone to challenging their authority figure, and will do so even more so to another male. If this pup is going to live in a female dominated household, a male German Shepherd would be the perfect fit. Female German Shepherds, on the other hand, are attracted to the energy and testosterone of a male counterpart. More often than not if a male human becomes the handler/owner to a female German Shepherd, that dog will be easier to train and more willing to please her human than a male German Shepherd dog.
Of course it's not just about what human companions this pup will be living with, but about whether or not you already have another doggy in the home. If so, it's smart to choose the opposite gender, unless you've seen your current pet demonstrate otherwise.
German Shepherd Spaying
Female German Shepherd’s are susceptible to a life threatening disease called pyometra if not spayed, however if they're spayed too early they can develop health issues down the road, like incontinence. Spaying a female German Shepherd after she’s experienced at least one or two heat cycles is currently the most recommended approach based on this U.C. Davis study which means as an owner you'll need to be prepared to handle your female German Shepherd’s heat cycle. What does that mean? Well, she's going to bleed, she's going to be emotional, and she's going to need you to keep an extremely close eye on her so no accidents happen with the neighbor’s randy unaltered dog. Also, that doesn't just happen every few years - it can happen as often as every seven months until she is spayed.
German Shepherd Neutering
Unlike female Shepherds, male German Shepherds won't ever experience a heat cycle, however they too can be negatively affected by early neutering. The same study done by U.C. Davis recommends waiting until a male German shepherd is over a year before removing their testosterone, but unlike a female German Shepherd who will experience more physical elements of staying intact, a male German Shepherd will experience quite a few emotional side effects. Do you feel like dealing with a moody male German Shepherd who has decided that he'd like to challenge his authority figure because he's a big one year old and refuses to do what he's told?
Or do you feel like worrying where he'll lift his leg, and if he'll howl all night because a female German Shepherd is close by and is in heat? If you answered no to those questions, a female German Shepherd is probably the right choice for you. Remember, all dogs will challenge their owners at some point - especially the terrifyingly smart German Shepherd breed - you just have to be equipped to handle it.
How is the German Shepherd Temperment?
Most dogs, especially the cunning German Shepherd breed, will want to challenge their authority figure at some point. If you've set healthy boundaries for you puppy and given their training the attention it deserves, those challenges should be fairly easy to negotiate. But if you're not naturally an "Alpha Dog" and you're intimidated by the idea of an eighty pounds barking at you, a male German Shepherd may be just a bit too much to handle. When given the right job, exercise, and instructions, a male German Shepherd will grow out of his ego driven years, but you have to be ready to handle him prior to that. If you aren’t, consider the more sensitive female German Shepherd, who will have her own share of fits, but is less likely to continue challenging you than the male German Shepherd.
How big do German Shepherds get?
Are you looking for a large, muscular dog that will take up most of the bed and half of your car? Male German Shepherds can weigh up to twenty pounds more than their female counterparts, however it's also important to mention that even with a female German Shepherd, you can still get a very large dog. When it comes to how to decide on a male German Shepherd versus female German Shepherd, only use size as an indicator if the pup is over six months old or if you’re in general sure you want a bigger pup. For example, a male German Shepherd's breed standard size is, at the minimum, the largest size of a female, but a male German Shepherd can get much larger than that.
German Shepherd Protection
The last thing to put into consideration is whether or not you want your male German Shepherd or female German Shepherd to guard a person, or an area. Both a female and male German Shepherd will be protective, it’s part of the breed, however a male German Shepherd tends to gear his protection toward territory.
What that means is that your male German Shepherd will focus on keeping the house (or den, in his mind) and the areas that belong to the ‘pack’ safe, while the female will focus more on keeping the actual members within that pack safe. Of course, this is a breed generalization, not a rule. And if you’re a family of all females, a male German Shepherd will more than likely change his protective instinct toward the pack members as well as the territory.
When it comes down to choosing which gender is right for you, the criteria is vast, and sometimes it's best to allow yourself to just take a deep breath and go meet some puppies in person. Regardless of gender, a bond is a bond, and if you're truly struggling to decide whether a female or male German Shepherd is best suited for your family, the safest option is simply meet the German Shepherd you're considering. If you're looking at rescues, you'll know fairly quickly if you feel the tug of a bond that wants to form, regardless of gender. If however you're working with ethical breeders and are meeting a litter of puppies, choosing a puppy based on the breeders recommendations may be your safest option with getting the dog that will fit your family the best.
Welcome to the Pack!
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