There is a neck-and-neck race with factor #2 though: The right exercise regime. However, food and diet for your dog is the factor #1 because if this is not chosen wisely, then no exercise regime in the world can make your GSD live longer and healthier. You'll see below why.
While too little or the wrong exercise will first have dramatic behavioral and thenhealth consequences, if you feed your GSD the wrong diet you can be sure to significantly reduce its life span - by 3 to 5 years on average, and in some cases it may halve the dog's life span.
Sure, it is convenient to quickly tip dry dog food or canned dog food into the eat-slow bowl until it's full... - and in 'emergency' situations we have done this too. Such 'emergency' situations are unscheduled and unanticipated appointments and traveling with the dogs. Normally however we will have a food container with us that has fresh homemade food in it!
Serving your dog commercial dog food is convenient, no doubt. But what if I tell you that, after we gained some practice, it now takes us just 45 minutes a week to prepare the healthiest diet for our own GSDs? That's only 6.5 min a day. Total time, yes. Including the shopping (you have to do that for canned dog food and kibble too), cutting, chopping and cooking (usually for the week ahead and then freezing parts of it), and including our renowned Feeding Routine incl '10-sec' Gesture Eating. For all of it!
Plus, of course, we really feel this as pleasure time with and for the dogs. From their behavior you can tell that they too feel the love and care you put into feeding them.
Edit: By the way, I am just seeing that there are dog "food" (LOL) ads on this page which is about REAL dog food. You shall NOT buy that crap. Amazon servers put those ads automatically when they read our page content (which is about "dog food" here after all).
So, with the argument "more convenient/quick" out of the way, there isn't really a reason not to consider to put your GSD onto a homemade dog food diet, is it? A fresh or partly fresh and GSD-appropriate diet.
Now don't counter "I feed raw anyway". Because then I counter with what one of our dog experts had to say: "You need to have a degree in nutrition to get a raw food diet balanced". - Do you have a degree in nutrition?
All seems good - why change?
Still, you may be thinking "Why change? I know that the commercial dog food I feed my dog is of the best quality, I have no reason to change the food." - Fine, but didn't we just agree we wanted to take an unbiased look at this topic for a moment?
For most dog owners, all they know about the commercial dog food they buy is what they've seen in TV ads or other ads - from the dog food industry. Meaning, from those who want to sell the products they are advertising. - The pictures of happy dogs, supported by an upbeat soundtrack and a deep tone of voice make for convincing arguments, don't they?
A typical advertisement by the dog food industry
And then there's the other side of the story, often told by 'mavericks' motivated by the tragic loss of their own dog, trying to warn others not to lose their dog to the same causes they lost theirs...
What I witnessed myself
Part of the other side of the story also is: When I was younger (pupil and student) I worked in retail (large super/hypermarkets) to earn some money. I witnessed not the dog food production but the handling of dog food down the chain to the customer. I will never forget what I saw there. And the more I got around, the more I realized that this was common practice, rather than anecdotal evidence:
The pet food area was always the last in line, the area cared for least by management (and staff alike). When stocking the shelves (behind the rather nice-looking frontline) we would routinely meet and say hello to all sorts of crawling and creeping parasites in the pet food area. They were feeding on the typically many broken-up packages of dog food and cat food.
It could be such a big meet-up (party) that you would see chunks of 'Premium Tasty Dog Food Dinner Plate', 'Balanced Superior Dog Diet', 'Puppy Premier Growth Formula' and the like (names I am making up now, I don't remember the brands we stocked!) ... magically moving out of the limelight that hit them when we moved cases to fill up stock (you put the newest stock at the back and bottom). Dog food moving around, yes. Looking closer (fighting back my disgust and revulsion) I could see why the pet food could move about: It was being carried by an army of unidentified mini-critters.
Like in the woods where you can sometimes see leaves and twigs carried by an army of ants. Only more nauseating in this case when you were thinking of your dog...
I would never buy any food package that isn't entirely intact and sealed. And, being a dog lover, I regularly said to customers something like this when I passed them while they were lingering in the dog food area: "What dog do you have? - Nice! - Don't feed her industrial dog food! (S)he deserves proper food that you prepare. If you feed this kind of stuff here, don't be surprised that your dog will die young".
No customer ever complained to management about this. They all felt that I had their best interests at heart. - Sadly, convenience reigned though: They took the commercial dog food to the tills nonetheless.
Not enough yet?
Jonathan: "Thank you for your period advice. It is excellent! My GSD puppy is now 8 months and we read your advice regularly."
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Stay with us and your dog will stay with you, both of you healthy and well-behaved.
If you are ever unhappy with anything we write, do or don't do, we want to be the first to know, thanks.
Disclaimer: Always apply your own common sense when you follow anyone's suggestions. As much as your dog is special (s)he may react different too.
There's nothing quite like a healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd who freely guards every corner of your home, who brings you peace, who brings you joy! Welcome to MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG - we help you that YOUR DOG does not end up in a(nother) shelter!