The environment plays a significant role in the development and well-being of your Kirchenwald pup. These guidelines result from my 40 years of experience in raising and training German Shepherd Dogs.
Feed only high quality food. Certain commercially available, pre-mixed raw diets are acceptable. A homemade raw diet, although currently fashionable, will negate your hip warranty. The proper calcium/phosphorus ratio is critical to proper puppy orthopedic development. Kirchenwald Shepherds cannot assume liability for home-based nutrition.
Food must be fed in standardized measures. One cup = 8 oz, not whatever volume your extra-large coffee cup may contain!
Restrict the amount of food to the daily portion recommended by the manufacturer—or (usually) less. Adjust food volumes in ¼ cup increments. Sometimes pups need a little more–sometimes a little less—food. Body condition should show a distinct “waist”. Ribs should easily be felt under light palm stroking. There should be no “love handles” over the hips. This is true for all stages of the dog’s development.
Slow, steady growth over 2 years is the healthiest path for your pup. Bigger is not better.
At full maturity and in optimal condition, males will range from 75-90 pounds; females normally vary from 55-70 pounds. Over weight, or too sudden weight gain, is an enormous risk factor for orthopedic issues. A six month old pup who weighs 70 pounds is a grave source for concern. Kirchenwald Shepherds will carefully review veterinary records for appropriate developmental weights when evaluating any hip warranty claim.
Regular kibble is the best “treat”. No Milk Bones! There are tiny, soft treats available. The smallest morsel possible should be used to develop food drive.
Dogs need to chew. There are positives and negatives to most chew items. Ask your vet for advice.
Raw carrots, apples, tomatoes and many other veggies are great for the dogs. Do not be alarmed if they raid your garden. Absolutely NO GRAPES, RAISINS, CHOCOLATE.
Growing bones are fragile. Growth plates do not fully close until close to one year of age. You must actively protect your pup. Moderation in all exercise is best. Too little exercise and too much (and inappropriate exercise) can be detrimental to your pup.
- No jumping exercises until after 12 months.
- No jumping in and out of automobiles.
- No jumping down stairs
- No excessive stairs
- No controlled running until 12 months.
- No free play with older, larger, physically mature dogs. (Would you let a toddler play tackle football with a high school line-backer?)
- No slippery surfaces.
- Free walking/sprinting/cavorting on grass is ideal. Leash walks are fine—just no marathon miles at early ages.
- Swimming is ideal for growing joints. Some dogs love the water, others are strictly land-lubbers.
- Agility exercises where all four feet remain on the ground are fine. No hurdles, no tables, no elevated dog walks until after 12 months.
- Crate training is highly recommended.
- Outdoor kennel runs are highly recommended as an alternative to a fenced yard. Ask for more details.
- Kuranda dog beds are highly recommended. As advertised, these are virtually indestructible (and all parts are replaceable!)
- Non-slip surfaces are critical. A dog slip-sliding on polished tile is an orthopedic problem waiting to happen.
- No tennis balls of any kind. The fabric erodes tooth enamel and they are easily destroyed (and eaten) resulting in intestinal obstruction.