Dog Rating Levels
German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) are known as high maintenance dogs. Do not add a GSD to your life if you do not have the time, patience and energy to exercise, train and manage them in interactions with all people and all animals.
Most German Shepherds:
- Are intelligent, energetic, powerful, alert, bossy, noisy and mouthy
- Are protective, possessive and territorial, and usually won’t let strangers walk in the door
- Are control freaks with strong herding drive (instincts), and usually have strong prey drive
- Shed all year long, and will shed twice as heavily in the spring and fall
- Need ongoing socialization, structure, leadership, exercise, training and affection
- Need to be made a part of the family; not good as outside-only dogs
- Need a purpose in life, or will find their own amusements by barking, chewing, digging and escaping
Note: Any dog can exhibit atypical behavior under conditions that are stressful. Changes of residence, family and having been in a shelter situation are highly stressful. Because of the loyalty of the breed, you can expect to put in more work at the beginning of the relationship with a new GSD pet. Many times they are aloof on meeting, then become overly-bonded (Velcro dogs), then finally settle into their family routines after 3-6 months.
About Dog Rating Levels
The Dog Rating Levels were developed based on the German Shepherd Dog’s inherent drive, confidence, attitude and personality. We use these ratings to match dogs with appropriate adopters and foster homes. We do our best to account for breed-specific differences when evaluating non-GSDs that enter our rescue. There is no universal rating levels or evaluation systems; this is simply how we do it.
The higher the Rating Level, the more confident and demanding the dog is, and the more of everything the dog will require e.g. exercise, obedience training, management and supervision. Young dogs under 2 years old will probably mature up a Level when they reach adulthood. A 5 year old German Shepherd is typically a mature dog.
Level 1 (Soft & Submissive)
Level 1 dogs require the least exercise and training. They tend to be willing to go along and get along, and want to avoid trouble. They tend to be gentle, soft, mellow dogs. Usually Low to Moderate Energy. Most German Shepherds at Level 1 are over 3 years old.
Level 1 dogs are suitable for senior or novice households as they require less than 1 hour of daily training and/or exercise.
Level 2 (Moderate & Adaptable)
Level 2 dogs tend to be a mix of confidence and submissiveness and want to please their owners. Usually moderate energy that can be satisfied with daily walks and play or training time. They tend to need some basic obedience lessons and refresher courses as well as some supervision and management in certain situations.
Level 2 dogs are suitable for novice homes that are willing to provide 1-2 hours of daily training and exercise.
Level 3 (Confident & Challenging)
Level 3 dogs embody the standard breed temperament. Confident, assertive and pushy, will challenge leadership status. Usually Moderate to High Energy. Independent problem-solvers that will try to out-think their owners.
Level 3 dogs are our “typical” rescue: 1-3 year old adolescent dogs (especially males) often physically stronger who have not had strong early leadership, and who have not benefitted from training by someone who understands the breed; however, they are highly trainable as family pets. With professional training, these dogs often mature to Level 2 at the age of 3-5 years old.
Suitable for homes with strong leadership that are willing to provide 1-2 hours of physical and mental exercise every day, including rain, shine or snow. Past breed experience is extremely helpful and homes must be open to support of professional trainers with breed knowledge.
Level 4 (Competitive & Intense)
Level 4 dogs require tremendous amount of time commitment and knowledge of the breed and training.
Puppy Level 4: All GSD puppies (8 months to ~ 2 years) are Level 4. They require owners who are home often enough, and have enough patience, time, energy, and experience to appropriately exercise and train a GSD puppy. Owners need stamina to make it through the nipping, chewing, digging, jumping up on people, clawing, mouthing, barking and destroying your most expensive items stages. Most rescued GSD’s are in rescue because a prior owner failed to anticipate or meet the early needs of a GSD puppy, and by the time the pup is 1 year old the owners have given up.
Adult Level 4: Usually High Energy. When awake they never slow down. This type of dog is highly trainable but is fast, strong, and intelligent with strong working desire. This dog is always ready to work and requires lots of obedience work and play time every day to thrive. Level 4 dogs are usually competition dogs or powerful dogs who need a job. These dogs live to work for a toy. These dogs are rare in our rescue.
Suitable homes require knowledge of the breed, strong leadership and have multiple hours to devote, daily, to exercise and training. For puppies, suitable homes must also have prior puppy training experience and be willing to work with a professional trainer.
Level 5 (Tough & Serious)
Level 5 dogs are very confident, very pushy, extremely competitive. Usually ball, toy or prey obsessed. Very high drive and high focus, will often scream, whine and nip in frustration to DO SOMETHING, NOW! High Energy, always in high gear. Need several hours of physical and mental challenge every day, live to outwit, outplay and outlast everyone else. Never slow down, never wear out. Level 5 dogs are extremely rare in our rescue.
Suitable homes require professional handlers or top competition owners with knowledge of and experience with the breed and the strength to handle; these dogs are not suitable for the family home.