Jump to section: First Day | Diet | Sleep | Socialization | Vet Visits | Spay/Neuter | Hip Dysplasia | DM | AKC
First Day Home:
This is a very exciting day for both you and your little furry bundle of joy! To make it go as seamlessly as possible, please be prepared. You will need to have several items on hand on that big day. Firstly, a crate that can grow with you pup. I would recommend a 42inch wire crate which comes with a divider which allows you to adjust crate size as the pup begins to grow – which will be rapidly. You will need a good quality kibble (Blue Buffalo, Core Wellness, Taste of the Wild), to name a few. Choose the puppy formula for large breeds dogs. You will also want to have canned food and goat milk/plain yogurt (see below). It is a good idea to have canned pumpkin on hand (not pumpkin pie filling) in case the little one gets loose stool upon the transition to your home. Adding a tablespoon or so each feeding should help with that. You can also offer new toys for play – Kong has some very durable pup toys which can withstand years of usage. The first night home can be scary for the pup so once in the crate, give him or her a large beef soup bone (found in meat section) which will keep him soothed and allow you to get some sleep! If there are other pets in your home, PLEASE be protective of the puppy. At this point, the pup is the intruder to your other housemates and contact needs to be well guarded and monitored for several days to ensure everyone is accepting their new pack member. A leashed walk outside together works well for the first exposure, and once inside, pup should be kept safely in his crate for the other animals to see him without direct contact for a couple of days or until all seem to have fully accepted his presence.
What should my puppy eat?
Puppies get many nutrients from their mom’s milk providing them with a firm start which you must build upon. At about 3 weeks of age, I introduce goat’s milk and follow up with a mixture of goat milk and warm blended kibble at 4 weeks. By 5 to 6 weeks of age, they get yogurt, canned food, high fat ground beef/cooked chicken or pork which they will continue until they go home with you after 8 weeks. Once home, the pup should get this same mixture for a couple of weeks then wean off the goat milk. As the pup grows, it is good to add a probiotic such as Forti-Flora and a high-quality enzyme product like Miracle Enzyme. I prefer GF kibble but that is not a must as long as you pick a higher quality kibble. The lesser the ingredient list, the better in most cases. Your pup never needs the fillers added to cheap foods. You will want the protein content to be between 25-30% until he is a year or more, then switch to an adult food with a protein content of 20-25%.
Where should my puppy sleep?
I am a firm believer in crate training, both in regard to house soiling and as a safe place for your pup to unwind and relax. During the day, pups should be crated if you are away from home until they can be trusted to behave well inside while unattended. They should also stay crated or tethered to you to avoid any accidents in the house for the first couple of days home. He will love his crate, as dogs are derived from wild pack animals who found security in dens and in numbers. Which gets to the next point – placing crate in your bedroom at night so your pup can become part of ‘your’ pack. By virtue of sleeping alongside of you, he can smell you and form a bond, while you are doing nothing more than getting a few Z's. Quality time without lifting a finger is a win- win situation.
Early Training and Socialization:
People often mention upon pup pick up that they can’t wait to have the pup meet everyone. They are very excited, and understandably so. But that is not a good idea for the first few days, at least. The pup has been close to his mom and siblings as well as us here at Meer Küste and will need time with you, one on one, to readjust and bond. This is a time where he needs to learn that you and your family are his new pack, not Uncle Charlie or Bob next door. He will be confused if too many people are greeting and handling him. After a few days to a week, then sure, bring him with you to as many places as you can. Friends’ and families’ homes, pet friendly stores like Petsmart or Home Depot, but NOT dog parks. Dog parks are germ filled places with many unruly dogs who could hurt or scare your pup. Avoid them, please. Your pup can socialize with pups you know through friends or enroll him in a local age-appropriate puppy kindergarten class, preferably with trainers who are GSD savvy. German Shepherds, even at a young age, are very intelligent and inquisitive about the world around them and will continue to amaze you with what they comprehend!
Please make an appointment with your own vet once you have purchased a Meer Küste pup. Although the pup will receive a health certificate and initial shots and microchip from our kennel, it is important you introduce the pups to your own vet. Be sure you are choosing a vet who will be open to hearing about German Shepherds and work with them accordingly. Always bring a stool sample to each visit as this gives the clearest picture into the gut and if it is a healthy microbiome, imperative for good immunity. The vet will give your pup a brief exam and also fill his microchip information into their system. I am Not a fan of over vaccination and only give Rabies and the DHPP series as is a legal necessity. If you and your vet want a wider vaccine protocol, please discuss spreading vaccines out so as not to overburden the dog’s immune response all at once. I also recommend detoxifying herbs after every vaccine to move the toxicity through. Sustenance Herbs is a great company with many fine herbs to try out!
On Spay and Neuter:
The topic of spaying and neutering your pup will surely come up on your vet visit. You have just purchased a very high-quality West German dog so please let him or her grow into the magnificent animal they should become by not spaying or neutering too soon, if at all! Your vet may argue detrimental health related reasons to spay or neuter young, but I have seen just the opposite. It is imperative to wait at least two heat cycles, or till 18- 24 months of age for a female, and over two years of age for the male to mature. In most cases, males don’t fully body out until they are 3- 4 years of age. Dogs, like every other species, need their hormones to develop both physically mentally AND emotionally. Research has consistently shown that early spay or neuter can promote different types of cancer, hip dysplasia and development of ligament tears as hormones are crucial in both bone and cartilage development. AKC Canine Health Foundation-funded research has led to the following conclusion: “Most dogs in the United States are spayed or neutered, and for years the procedures have been completed prior to maturity. The research suggests that veterinarians should be more cautious about the age at which they spay and neuter in order to protect the overall health of dogs.”
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia:
Hip dysplasia. A term so well associated with the German Shepherd one might think it was as inherent as their pointed ears or ability to herd sheep. However, according to the OFA, Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the German Shepherd ranked 42nd among the many breeds examined in 2021! And it is hard to talk percentages overall since the most numbers tested through OFA are the most popular - Labs, Golden Retrievers, and GSDs, in that order. The Olde English bulldog, and many other bully breeds have a far higher number of cases as do St. Bernards or Bloodhounds to name a few.
What is hip dysplasia and why does it occur? There are two primary causes of hip dysplasia, which are genetics and diet. The hip joint is basically a ball and socket structure which should grow equally throughout the formative years of a pup’s life. With hip dysplasia this may not occur if it is an inherited trait. The genes involved have not been conclusively identified, but it is believed to involve more than one gene. The result is laxity of these joints followed by degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis which occurs in response. The body will attempt to stabilize the joint and accompanying limb, therefore putting excessive strain on the tendons and ligaments as well. Secondly to the genetic predisposition, is the diet component. Advances in nutritional research have shown that diet plays an important role in the development of hip dysplasia. Large breed puppies like German Shepherds, should be fed a special large breed growth diet during the first year of life, keeping protein between 25-30%. Beyond those two factors, over exercising a youngster, as well as early spay and neuter, are believed to play a part in the subsequent pain and lameness. Interestingly, many dogs with significant hip or elbow dysplasia evident on x-rays, may not show any clinical signs of pain and lameness where others with minimal changes experience more severe incapacitation.
As an owner and breeder of German Shepherd Dogs for over thirty years, I have asked, and been asked, many health-related questions regarding the breed I am so enamored by. In the past several years, aside from hip dysplasia, the biggest concern is the occurrence of degenerative myelopathy, or DM. For those not familiar with DM, it is a progressive degenerative spinal cord disease in older dogs, similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease in humans. Characterized by progressive hind limb paralysis, and an eventual decline in overall quality of life, it is said to be a relatively painless condition nonetheless devastating.
In 2009, a mutation in the gene superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) was identified as a major risk factor for DM. Dogs that have two copies (homozygous) of the mutant allele have been shown to be at risk for developing DM. In other words, not all dogs that have the mutation will develop DM so the available mutation test is currently a test for risk. This variant is also reported to have incomplete penetrance, meaning not all dogs with two copies of the variant will go on to develop clinical signs of the disease. Veterinary experts are still investigating other genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to whether a dog develops symptomatic DM.
So even in breeds, such as GSDs where DM is more prevalent, many dogs testing at-risk from the variant will live long lives and never develop the disease.