Congratulations on your new puppy!
To help make your relationship with this new member of your family a positive one, I have enclosed some basic information for you.
When your puppy first arrives, expect him to be nervous and possibly fearful. Remember, this is the first really big change in his life. Everything familiar is gone and he is in a totally strange new place. It may take him a few days to settle in. Loss of appetite and loose stools are not uncommon at this time, as the puppy adjusts to environmental differences. Night crying is also common for the first few nights. Letting the puppy sleep (crated) in your room or leaving the radio on for the puppy may help quiet him. Take the puppy out to relieve himself if he needs it, but do not give him other attention. Comforting him, giving him treats, even yelling "Shut up!" at him will reward the puppy, and encourage him to keep crying. The first few days may seem pretty rough, but the puppy will adjust.
Feed a high-protein (26% at least, 15% fat) good quality dog food. German Shepherd Dogs do not do well on soy-based foods or generic dog foods, including puppy chow. Purina Pro-Plan, Eukanuba, and other comparable non-soy foods are all good (read the ingredient list on the back of the label!). Most are available through vets and feed dealers, a few may be found in the larger grocery stores. Feed dry food (soaked with water for a very young puppy). Whatever food dish you use, the secret to minimizing chewed-up food dishes is picking the dish up soon after the dog is finished eating. Offer fresh water regularly. Using a heavy non-tip dish will save spills.
All puppies chew, and German Shepherd puppies chew well into their second year. Nylabones are the best and only really safe chew toy to leave with a German Shepherd. The largest size is the only one worth using with a German Shepherd. The smaller ones are either too small to be safe, or can be chewed up in such a short time that they are not worth the expense. Other dog toys are safe only when you are playing with the dog, or supervising his play. Toys should be large enough that they cannot fit entirely into the dog's mouth. Latex rubber toys are much safer than vinyl toys. Individual dogs vary in their chewing habits, and you will just have to observe and learn your dog's style. Again, the Nylabone toys are the best and safest chew toys. They are NOT the best for retrieving, however, or for child-dog play because they are hard enough to cause injury. Tennis balls are usually too small for German Shepherds to play with safely. If you keep a puppy on linoleum, watch that he does not start chewing the floor! Puppies like to explore using their teeth. Bitter Apple is a wonderful product that stops most puppies from chewing furniture, floors, etc.
To housebreak as quickly and easily as possible, either crate the puppy, put him outside in a proper enclosure of 6ft. height, or supervise him when he is loose in the house. Giving a command such as "Hurry and go" when he eliminates in the right place, and then praising him will help him make the connection. I have found that after a young puppy has eliminated outdoors, you can let him play 15-20 minutes in the house before he is likely to need another trip outside. Activity and stimulation can cause a puppy to move his bowels and bladder. This is also true of adult dogs, elimination is stimulated by excitement, noise, and activity. When a sleeping puppy awakens and fusses, get him out quickly. Puppies under four or more months of age usually do not hold through the night, their bodies are not mature enough yet. Ease of housebreaking is also related to the food you feed and proper de-worming. Time feeding and watering so that the puppy does not eat or drink within a few hours before bedtime. Make sure he gets to go out right before going to bed. In spite of supervision, crating, and time to go in the proper place, accidents will happen. There are many products on the market to clean up accidents. The quicker you clean it up, the easier it is to clean and the less scent will remain. Dogs return to the places that they have gone before, led by scent. Outside, you can get your dog into the habit of going in a certain area by taking him there enough times that his scent is well established there.
I recommend basic obedience training on all dogs. A German Shepherd Dog, in particular, is like an intelligent three-year old child-he will push you to see where you set the rules. Then he will test the rules to see if you REALLY mean it. Obedience training establishes you as the dog's master. The dog has to learn to respect you and do what you want him to. (It really is much like raising a child!) There are many methods, books, and schools. Any which produce a happy, willing, accurate worker is good. Beware of people teaching classes who have no knowledge, there are many out there. A good teacher should have put some kind of working title on a dog. A good teacher keeps the class in control at all times, not permitting dogs or people to act uncontrollably. The results of a bad class can be a mentally ruined dog. Incidents such as another dog attacking yours in class will remain in your dog's memory. Whether or not you choose to compete with your dog, you will find that the Novice AKC CD exercises are very useful in your life with your dog.
Color on a puppy can change as a puppy grows. Sables start out with a lot of black overlay, then go through lightening and darkening stages. First the black tips seem to disappear, and the puppy appears dirty yellow to grayish tan, and then the black reappears and the color intensifies again. This happens two to three times in the first year of a puppy's life. After that the density of the black in his coat will increase, if it changes at all. Color in mature sables can vary slightly from season to season due to changes in quantity of undercoat. Sable adults range in color from those that look like saddle black and tan dogs all the way to very dark, nearly black dogs. Generally the marking colors (silver, red, tan) on both sables and pattern (black/tan saddle, blanket, bicolor), dogs become richer and clearer as the puppy matures. In young puppies, tan often has a grayish cast, red looks tan with just a hint of orange, and silver can appear light gray with a tan cast (but should be obviously lighter and different in shade from tan.) In black and tan pattern puppies, and in some sables that are carrying the saddle black and tan gene recessively, the tan spreads upward and the dog lightens as it grows, in nearly all cases with the exception of some dark bicolors. Many black and tans have silver hairs sprinkled across the withers and down the back, sometimes referred to as peppering or salt and pepper. Such dogs are still black and tans or black and reds. They are not black and silvers unless the rest of the light markings (legs, etc.) are silver as well. Solid blacks, of course, remain black. Sun bleaching or dead hair can give a black a rusty tinge, and many blacks have light hairs sprinkled on the legs or in the tail hair. Small white markings on toes, forechest, and sometimes, the tail tip, are not uncommon in a German Shepherd Dog. Small white markings diminish as a dog grows and may totally disappear. Large white chest blazes, etc., usually do not disappear, but may become more cream and less noticeable in color as the dog matures. Snow nose is a condition where a black nose develops a light center (usually during the wintertime), and the nose will return to black. Eyes can lighten and then darken again, usually over several months time. For an in-depth explanation of GSD colors and patterns, their genetics and development, see the coat color genetic article at: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/6869
Whether or not ears are up on a young puppy, they may go down again during teething. Puppies may not eat well and may have loose stools during teething. Check your puppy's mouth as he is teething, baby teeth can stay in as adult teeth are coming through the gums. If you see this, the baby teeth, especially canines, should be pulled, as adult and baby teeth trying to occupy the same space can cause problems. After a puppy is through teething, usually around seven months, he will CHEW MORE, not less, as he works to strengthen the adult teeth in the jaw. Ears should be at least halfway up by the time a puppy is six months old. Generally, if the bases are up, the ear will rise. Most of the better books on German Shepherd Dogs cover ear taping, should that be necessary.
Flies can cause problems during the summer months, because they bite the ears and draw blood. If fly bites are neither prevented or treated, they can ruin a dog's ears. The best product I have found for fly bite prevention is VIP ointment, available from veterinarians. Ear infections are not uncommon, either. If a dog is holding an ear to the side, or shaking his head frequently, have him examined by a vet. Panalog ointment and early treatment will clear up an ear infection, although ear infections do have a tendency to recur.
The German Shepherd is a breed that has an undercoat and an outer coat. Most German Shepherds will shed undercoat heavily at least twice a year, and most dogs, like people, shed a little hair daily. Bitches may shed more often, such as after a heat cycle or after having a litter. Puppies also shed as their puppy coats change during developmental stages. The best way to deal with the shedding hair is to groom the dog with an undercoat rake and remove as much of the dead hair as possible. Often most of the dead hair can be combed out during two or three grooming sessions. I take the dogs out by the woods, comb them out, and the wildlife and birds come and gather the dead hair to use in their nests. If you have a long coated GSD, you may want to trim some of the hair behind the ears (where it is most likely to mat), around the rectal area, and on a male, right in front of the sheath (to minimize urine smells collecting in the hair.) Some long coated GSDs may have long hair between their toes, this should be kept trimmed as well, especially during muddy or snowy weather, as the hair between the toes can collect dirt and ice, and cause lameness. There are other tools for grooming you may find useful, but I have found the undercoat rake to be a necessity, and the tool I use by far the most frequently of all.
One very common problem in young German Shepherds, often misdiagnosed as hip dysplasia, is panosteitis. Simply, it is growing pains in the long bones of the legs. It is sometimes called wandering lameness because if will shift from one leg to another as the puppy grows. It can occur more than once in the same dog. Age when a dog is affected can range from a few months old to several years old (the oldest I have heard of so far has been a four year old,.) It can vary in severity of pain from a dog that hardly shows pain at all, to a dog that is completely carrying a leg from pain. The cause is not understood (at least one expert has theorized that a virus might be a cause.) Dogs that have had panosteitis may have progeny who are unaffected, and the reverse is also true. Time is the only cure. Dog aspirin or other painkiller, as directed by the veterinarian, can help the pain. In the rear, the middle of the femur will be painful, and the dog will show pain if you apply pressure to that area. The hip joint should not be painful with panosteitis. Also, with panosteitis, the affected leg will improve with a few weeks time. These are some of the ways to help determine panosteitis versus hip dysplasia in a rear leg. On x-ray, the two problems appear very different. If a puppy is showing persistent lameness in a front leg, and the lameness does not get better, the problem may be elbow dysplasia. Ununited anconeal process (UAP) is the most common form of elbow dysplasia. The anconeal process should be united by five months of age. If a puppy's x-rays do show he has UAP, the earlier surgery is done on the elbows, the greater the likelihood that the elbows will function normally during the dog's lifetime. Applying pressure to the middle of the long bones of the foreleg will cause the dog to show pain, if panosteitis is the cause of the lameness. If flexing the elbows causes pain, then x-ray diagnosis is needed. It is possible for a dog to have panosteitis in combination with hip or elbow dysplasia.
Other common causes of lameness include sore foot pads, toe or claw injuries, and injuries. A puppy with sore feet may try to walk using his pasterns to take the pressure off the foot. This can cause the pup to be "down on his pasterns." Usually, this problem corrects itself when the pup's feet heal. Crating the pup to limit his activity helps. Hard damp surfaces are a common cause of the sore feet and resulting compensatory pastern drop. If the problem does not correct itself in a reasonable length of time (perhaps a couple of weeks), or if the dog appears to be walking on the back of his legs, then he should be seen by a vet as a condition called carpal syndrome does exist.
Every dog has its faults and virtues. As puppies develop, they can go through many stages, and some appear worse before they get better. Males seem to go through these stages more obviously than females. This is where knowledge of bloodlines and typical development for a bloodline helps you understand how a puppy is growing. Most of the bloodlines that I personally am working with develop slowly, and continue to broaden and gain substance after height is attained. Most German Shepherd Dogs do not mature until they are two to three years of age, and some males may not finish developing until four. Adolescent puppies can go through some very awkward , disproportionate stages as they develop, much like teenage children. I once believed that waiting for a dog to reach 18 months to 2 years was beneficial. I have since changed my belief on this matter due to all the medical benefits of Spaying or Neutering before 6 months of age. Medical research now suggest that your dog may actually even live longer! My position is 4 to 6 months.
Your puppy has been lovingly handled by children since birth. He also has been positively exposed to a variety of household sights, sounds, etc. This is done to give the puppy the best start mentally as possible. Behavior problems are often a combination of environmental factors and developmental stage of the puppy. Many behavior problems can be successfully resolved if they are handled before escalating into monster-sized behavior problems. I strongly recommend the book "The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete, for a good understanding of mental development of puppies. Puppies go through fearful, learning, and defiant stages, and this book is excellent in teaching you to positively deal with a growing puppy.
Your puppy has been vaccinated and wormed before sale. I strongly recommend talking to your Vet about heartworm testing and keeping your dog on preventative year round. There are some preventatives that also offer protection against other worms (Interceptor). Heartworm preventative must be obtained from your vet. A dog must first be tested before heartworm preventative can be given. If a German Shepherd Dog gets heartworm, it may not survive treatment. Keep your dog on preventative! Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate vaccination schedule for your area of the country. The vaccinations your puppy has received will be recorded on the puppy's health record in the puppy kit that came with your puppy. Be sure to have a puppy vaccinated as recommended by your Vet.
If you are interested in breeding or showing your dog, learn all you can about the breed. Read the Standard and study as many examples of the breed as you can. It takes time and effort to develop your eye for the breed, faults, virtues, and variations within the breed. Do your homework, you'll be glad you did!