10 Essential German Shepherd Diet Tips
For most of my life, I have an unexplained love for German shepherd dogs. Due to my parent’s high rise living quarters and my not wanting to imprison such a majestic dog to a balcony for fresh air, I did not have one until later in life. But regardless, I loved them from afar.
I think the TV series about Joe the German Shepherd trained for military and police operations had a lot to do with this love, but I digress.
I was almost 30 when I moved into a house with a large yard and friendly neighbors when I got my first German Shepherd. Her name was Nicky. I have had small and midsize dogs before but never a German shepherd. Old habits die hard, and I went to the local pet store and bought what I believed to be a high-quality kibble for her. She was about a year and a half when I got her. So, she was fully grown and no longer needing puppy food.
The first thing I noticed, she was too thin for her age. I could feel her ribs when I touched her the first time. But I thought her owners, who were about the leave the town, were not feeding her “the good stuff.” So, I started feeding her what I thought was the quality kibble.
A few weeks passed, but I didn’t notice any difference in her weight or looks. I was worried. So I started researching the essential German shepherd diet tips and how to take care of my girl Nicky. Today I want to share my findings on German shepherd dogs and their nutritional needs.
10 German Shepherds Diet Tips
1. Protein, Protein, Protein
Feeding your dog protein should go without saying, as every dog’s diet should contain protein as the main ingredient. But for German shepherds, this is extra important. This breed is a working dog breed, and working dogs need to build up muscle mass and sustain their daily lives.
Protein, especially high-quality protein, like beef, chicken, lamb, pork, etc., must be on top of the ingredients list. Proteins should measure at least 25% of your German shepherd’s diet.
2. Grains, Vegetables and Fruit
Everyone knows that dogs are carnivores. However, after canines became domesticated, they became accustomed to human food containing grains, vegetables, and fruits. Dogs, including German shepherds, extract nutrients out of these, just like we humans do.
But, dogs struggle to digest food in the raw form. So, be sure to thoroughly cook your fruits and veggies before giving them to your German shepherd.
3. Foods to Avoid
Of course, you should keep the things we humans eat with pleasure, but they can be deadly poisonous for our four-legged friends, such as onions, garlic, grapes, chocolate, and many more. If you perform an internet search about “harmful foods for your dog,” you will see many websites listing those. I will not include them here, but you should take those lists to heart if you love your dogs as much as I do.
4. Fats For Energy?
Fat provides energy for German shepherds, and they need this energy for their normal development and function of their body cells, muscles, tissues, and nerves. But too much of it causes unnecessary weight gain for your dog and should be avoided.
Also, fat intake is different for German shepherd puppies and fully grown adults. While puppies can eat about 8% of their diet in fat, it should not exceed 5% for adult dogs.
5. Dry Food vs. Wet Food
Pet owners debate about what is the best type of food to feed their dogs. In reality, providing either kind of food doesn’t matter, as long as the ingredients in the food are at correct proportions and you are feeding the right amount recommended by your veterinarian.
But keep in mind, wet food contains almost up to 75% of humidity. To feed your German shepherd properly, you will need to provide a lot more than the dry food, weight-wise. And this is going to get considerably more expensive than feeding dry food.
6. How About Human Food?
I am the primary dog custodian in my household, and once a week, I cook lean chicken or beef in a slow cooker to add to their dry food. Otherwise, I have had my share of dogs who turned their nose up to dry food and not touching it until they were literally starving.
One of my previous German shepherds refused to eat dry food if there were no additives in it. So, as much as I think I trained them, they taught me equally. But giving them human food is not wrong. It makes your bond with your dog stronger.
Fun Tip: Mix the dry kibble and meat with your bare hands so that your dog senses your scent while eating.
7. Feeding Schedule
Some dogs are okay if you put an entire bowl of food down once a day. They eat it, and they are content for the rest of the day. German shepherds? Not so much. As they are an active breed, they want to eat multiple times throughout the day.
My suggestion is two to three times a day feeding. I usually let my dogs out of their crates in the morning and let them out to the back yard to run around and spend their pent-up energy throughout the night, as well as taking care of their unpleasant business, if you can catch my drift.
After that, I generally feed myself and my spouse for the next hour or so. Then I put half their daily ration into their bowls, fry an egg and scramble it. Then mix that egg with the dry kibble and serve them around mid-morning. Sometimes, if I had bacon for breakfast, I substitute the fried egg with bacon fat drizzle.
Another feeding comes just before I start making the humans’ dinner. My dogs get fed their dinner first, then we, the humans, eat.
Additional read: Best Smart Pet Feeders for Dogs
8. What About Before Bedtime Snacks?
My dogs are crate trained and have their own crates side by side in my home office. A little treat before bed calms their nerves down as well as providing some nutrition and other benefits.
They each get a piece of chicken jerky, which I prepare weekly in my food dehydrator, and they get a special chew for their dental health. I also add a doggie biscuit for the fun factor, but it changes nightly.
Sometimes, if we had steak or chicken for dinner, a piece is always reserved for treat time. If you have dogs, who are reluctant to go into their crates for the night, I suggest enticing them with treats like I do.
9. Raw Food Diet
The jury is out on that at this time. Some swear by it, saying in nature, a canine family of animals hunts and consumes their food raw. So why should domesticated animals be treated differently? On the other hand, the opposing party says, in nature, canines consume their food as soon as it’s retrieved, not kept in god knows where for days, if not weeks.
Both sides of the argument have merit, but to be on the safe side against salmonella bacteria, it's always a good idea to cook poultry and eggs before feeding them to your dogs. German shepherds are no exception to that.
10. Home Prepared Food
Some people take pride in preparing their canine companions’ food just like they prepare food for their loved ones of humankind. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but before venturing into home-prepared food, it's best if you talk to or at least consult a dog dietitian.
The commercially available dog food brands, in an overwhelming majority, adhere to the guidelines issued by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). In its heart, these guidelines tell what is good for the animals to eat and in what proportions. When preparing your dog’s food at home, you should know what goes into your dog's food, including the nutrients from food items.
Your German shepherds’ diet needs are slightly different from that of a Yorkshire terrier or a lazy dog breed, which does nothing but lounge around all day. So, when you are making food or serving store-bought food, pay attention to that.
There you have it, the top ten essential German shepherd diet tips. Let us know if you have any suggestions to add to the list in the comments below! We look forward to hearing from you 🙂
Additional Resource: Your Guide to Dog Nutrition: The Best Dog Foods for Optimal Health