General Ownership and Maintenance of Dog Breeds

Before buying a puppy, a German Shepherd or any other breed, certain considerations must be taken into account. Firstly, remember that you are acquiring this dog for life, possibly as long as fifteen or sixteen years. You are purchasing a living being, which is going to be a completely dependent on for its food, housing, exercise, training and affection. You must ask yourself: “Can I give sufficient attention and time as a daily commitment, and not just now and then?” If the answer is “Yes”, take it one stage further and weigh up the responsibilities of dog ownership.

Are you in a financial position to be able to keep your dog? Yearly inoculations, food, veterinary bills and boarding kennels (if you decide to go abroad for your holidays) must all be taken into consideration. If you plan to keep your puppy outside, there is a cost of kennel and fencing for the run, plus general maintenance. There are just a few items to consider, there will probably be quite a few more expenses which will crop up as time goes by. If you are buying a puppy, you, or somebody else, must be constantly there for the first few months of its life. More behavioral problems are caused by puppies being left on their own for long periods with no companionship, than by almost anything else. Puppies, like children, get bored and will then get into mischief and start to chew, usually your new shoes of settee, or they will bark and howl causing neighbors to complain. Your puppy needs your companionship, and, in this way, it will bond to you and make future training that much easier.

A puppy needs regular feeding and, as soon as it has been fed, it must be given the opportunity to go outside and relieve itself. If you only have time to give the puppy only its food and then dash back to work, you will never have a house-trained puppy. Eight-week-old puppies do not need much exercise, but they do need play-time, which usually consists of half an hour’s hectic running around, chewing, playing with toys, digging up the garden, or whatever. Fatigue overtakes them and they will then flop down in a deep sleep, and will not want to be disturbed for some considerable time. Decide where you want the puppy to sleep and put it there. The puppy will soon recognize its place and will always go there when it needs a rest. The period between two months and six months is a crucial time of learning for your puppy, and the more you can teach him during this period, the better trained your puppy will be in adult life. From what has been written so far, you can see how important it is for somebody to be with your puppy, from the moment it first arrives in your home.

Before you buy your puppy, you must decide whether it will be living in the house with you, whether it will sleep outside and come during the day, or whether it live entirely outside. Whichever option you choose, suitable accommodation must be prepared before the puppy’s arrival.

The kennel should be located as near to the house as possible, preferably backing on the prevailing wind and, in the Northern Hemisphere, preferably facing south. The ideal is a kennel built of bricks and breeze-blocks, with cavity walls and a double roof, to insulate against both excessive heat and cold. For cavity walls, use brick on the outside, and breeze-blocks inside. This will cut down cost considerably, and don’t forget a damp course both in the walls and under the floor. This will ensure a dry kennel. A concrete floor is best, but ensure that there is sufficient fall towards the door, making hosing down easy.

If the dog is going to spend a long period shut in the kennel, a window is necessary. Make the door high enough for you to walk in without bending over, and check that it fits well enough to avoid droughts. A German shepherd can put up with extreme cold, but not droughts and damp, and if you don’t eliminate them you will soon pay the price in vet’s bills. A metal door is an advantage, and saves a lot of chewed doors and door frames. For the same reason, we are against the wooden kennels, although there are quite a few good makes on the market. If you decide on a wooden kennel, take the precaution of lining it with the sheet metal, which is not too expensive and very easy to install. It will save an awful lot of expense at a later stage. If you take these precautions, your wooden kennel will last you for many years.

Use unbreakable Perspex for the window in your brick kennel, and construct it so that it can open outwards. To stop the dog jumping out make an inside frame of welded mesh. Remember, at first your puppy will be too small to jump out of the windows, but you are making your kennel for the future, and you will find that, by six to eight months of the age, the pup will have grown into quit a hefty animal, well able to get out of a window. If you are buying a wooden kennel, it will already have a window, probably Perspex, and either welded mesh or bars on the inside. The type of kennel we have described is ideal in a temperate climate such as UK. In tropical or very hot countries,modifications are necessary. Site your kennel in a shady area, out of the sun if possible. Double walls and roof are still desirable, but make certain there is plenty of ventilation to give maximum airflow. Contact your local builder about building materials, to ensure that your kennel remain as cool as possible. Likewise, if you live in a country with extremes of temperature – hot days and cold nights for instance – adaptation must be made accordingly. Advice from your local kennel owners and builders is the best bet.  

It is sometimes possible to convert a garden shed into a kennel, but be certain it is drought and damp-proof, and that there is no possibility of the puppy chewing its way out unless you are lucky enough to have a puppy that does not chew! Also, make sure the floor is concrete (with damp course) or wooden, as lying on the earth floor could be fatal for your young puppy.

Another type of kennel is modular unit, which consist of concrete slabs in standard heights and depths, according to what you require. You can either have just one kennel, or block which can be extended at a later stage. Modular units require a concrete base. The advantage of this type of kennel is that, because it comes in prefabricated slabs, it is both easy and quickly to assemble and, if at any time you decide to move, it is possible to dismantle it and take it with you. You can contact your local supplier on cost and delivery.

The run will, of course, be the same for either brick or wooden kennels. The surface can either be left as grass, gravel, concrete, or paving stone. We favor concrete, for the following reasons. Grass quickly turns to mud in the mud in the winter and dogs love digging holes, so after a relatively short length of time your lovely grass run looks more like a ploughed ground! Gravel is OK for the older dog, but puppies are inclined to eat pebbles, which can cause very serious problems, leading to possible surgery. Gravel can quickly get weedy, and there is problem with cleaning. So concrete or paving stones are preferable, again, make certain that you have sufficient that slope for cleaning with a hose. The area should be surrounded by a chain-link or welded mesh fence, of 1.5 meters of minimum height. An entrance at one end, consisting of gate which will open either way, will complete your run. Welded-mesh although are more expensive than chain-link, can be bought-in panels which include a gate.

It is a good idea to make a bed board to go inside the kennel. It is easy to make, and can be regularly scrubbed. A rug or fleecy, synthetic bedding will make a comfortable, warm bed for winter and in summer it can be left bare. Shavings make a very good bed, and will keep your puppy dry and smelling sweet, but they can cause problems blowing all over the place, and they can also be nuisance to dispose of. We burn them, but this can be a bit impractical in a built-up area. One of the large plastic beds, obtained from a trade stands at most dog shows and also pet shops, lined with a rug or synthetic bedding, can make very cozy sleeping quarters and is easy to keep clean.