If you want a real insight into life with a German Shepherd, look no further than Lola.
She’s a German Shepherd with over 450,000 fans on TikTok who have learned lots about GSDs through her content.
Debunking stereotypes around German Shepherds, Lola and her mum Amie provide a glimpse into what can be a challenging but rewarding relationship between dog and owner.
Whether you want to see how German Shepherds can be affectionate and loving, some great enrichment and training ideas for your GSD or you just want to learn more about the breed, Lola has you covered on Instagram and TikTok.
We spoke to Amie to learn more about Lola’s personality as well as the German Shepherd breed as a whole.
So if you’re thinking about getting a German Shepherd, you’ll want to read Amie’s valuable guide on all things GSD below.
You can follow Amie and Lola on Instagram (@amielauraphotography) and on TikTok (@amie_laura).
1) Why did you decide to get a German Shepherd?
Purely because I love the breed so much. I always have, and I always will. I certainly don’t think Lola will be the last shepherd I ever have. A lot of people are scared of GSDs, we hear it a lot when we are taking Lola out on walks, or even on social media, people cross the roads and generally edge away, but I always found them to be such a versatile, intelligent and loyal breed. As such, I’ve always pictured a German Shepherd in my life at some point. First I had to persuade my partner though! My partner had never grown up with dogs, and had actually spent a lot of his life being scared of dogs. As soon as I met him, the work in converting him to a dog lover started, and he’s certainly converted! Now just to persuade him into a second dog…
2) Did you have previous experience with German Shepherds?
No I didn’t. I’ve always grown up in an extended family of dogs – small to big, breeds of all sorts. Dogs are always something that I saw part of my life from an early age. I knew as soon as I moved away from home that getting a dog of my own would be one of the first things on my to-do list. Growing up, GSDs are always a breed that I loved and admired. For as long as I can remember, a GSD was the breed I would get. I remember countless hours playing Sims Pets, the dog I would make every time would be a GSD! But, before I committed to getting a GSD, I did a lot of reading into whether a GSD was the right breed for me and my life. I researched into their typical personality traits and common issues people face. I knew that owning a GSD could potentially be a lot of time, dedication and money, but this was something I was committed to do. GSDs are an amazing, loving and family-orientated breed, but they certainly don’t come without their difficulties. Admittedly, I probably underestimated how difficult they could be, but a year ahead now and I’ve found that the key really is patience and dedication.
3) Can you give our readers some background into how you ended up with Lola?
Lola actually became part of our lives at such a stressful, busy period (I still wouldn’t change it for anything). Shortly before we got Lola, we finally became homeowners. We’d spent a lot of time saving up, and searching for a house, but upon signing all the contracts, the house move came super quickly and all of a sudden we had an empty house. So being the super smart 23-year-old that I was, I decided this was the perfect time to get a puppy! I swear when I told everyone at work they actually thought I’d lost the plot. Moved house, then a week later announcing we were looking for a dog? Madness. And that’s how the story started. I spent a lot of time searching the Kennel Club website for reputable breeders before eventually settling on one that was located near London (we live in Hull so this was quite the trek). So one early Saturday morning, I pulled my partner out of bed and we drove down to see some puppy litters. I ensured that we would only see litters with all health testing in place, good, accredited breeds with puppies brought up in family environments. As soon as I saw Lola, my heart melted and I just loved her. In Lola’s litter there were 8 pups, and at the time of seeing Lola there were two female pups left, one long-haired (Lola) and one short-haired. The breeder allowed us some time to make sure we were making the right decision, and before we’d even driven home, I’d text her to say we would love Lola and sent across the deposit there and then! I’m so glad I spent the time searching for the right breeder. Since having Lola, we keep in touch with every pup from the litter and get regular updates on photos and their progress through life! One of Lola’s sisters (Luna) is an exact replica of Lola, it’s amazing and baffling to see how alike some of the puppies look to each other!
4) What is Lola’s personality like?
Now, that’s a question! The personality that me as her owner will describe is just completely different to something a complete stranger would see! I love the side of Lola that I get to see every day. Lola is the biggest sweetheart. The breeds nature to be family-orientated is very obvious in Lola. She is very in-tune with the emotions you’re feeling on a certain day. When I broke my ankle late last year, Lola pretty much spent an entire 8 weeks being the most easy-going, affectionate dog there could be. Every time I made any indication that I was in pain, she was there with me, either licking my face or climbing on top of me to reassure me. If I was ready to get up and play, so was she, if she could see I needed to sit down and chill, she would join me and chill. It is quite fascinating how much they feel what you feel. She’s the biggest cuddle bug around, no joke. For a 35kg dog, she will jump up every single night for cuddles. When I say jump, I mean literally climb into your lap, roll on her back, and just stare at you with these big soppy brown eyes, waiting for you to give her a belly scratch. Aside from this, Lola is very intelligent and easy-going. She has never destroyed the house, and rarely kicks up a fuss about anything. She will pick tricks up with a few repetitions and has a very good understanding of the things you’re asking her to do. We do a lot of mental training with Lola too as opposed to psychical exercise so she is very good at switching off and knowing when is chill time and when is play time. Of course this is completely the opposite when she meets strangers, which I will detail in the next questions!
5) Does Lola exhibit some of the trademark characteristics of German Shepherds?
To shortly answer this, yes she does. Lola is very dog reactive, and previously was very people reactive. If there are dogs in the immediate surrounding area to her, she will bark, rise onto her hind legs and appear very aggressive. We do occasionally get this still with people, usually only if someone is directly approaching or running at us, or when a stranger comes into the house. In situations where we are walking and we pass someone, she could not care less about a person being nearby. Regarding her people reactivity, she has come on leaps and bounds. Dog reactivity… well, there’s still a lot to do here. Her reactivity was not a result of any poor socialisation or lack of training at an early age, in fact, from the day we brought Lola home, we took her to various places such as train stations, bus stations, pubs and shops so she could become used to people in dogs. She attended doggy day care, play and training sessions and loved playing with her friends. We have various memories and videos of her rolling over for strangers and wrestling with dogs (usually being the mischievous instigator!). At around 6 months in age, she began to change and see things as more of a threat, a very typical problem GSD owners will face, and I know many people who have faced similar problems. It’s a lot more common with the breed than I first anticipated. We worked on this as soon as we realised using positive reinforcement, prioritising people reactivity first. It’s an ongoing battle we face on every walk but I won’t be giving up anytime soon, especially with how far she’s already come! Aside from this negative trait Lola exhibits, as previously mentioned she is very loving, caring, intelligent and loyal. I also see great potential for her with the more natural traits of agility and scent training. She’s been great with basic agility like tunnels and weaves but once she’s fully grown (~18 months) we will start with the jumps. Let’s just hope for some good summer weather this year!
6) Do German Shepherds shed a lot?
The age old question – yes!!! The amount of times I have to hoover my house daily is ridiculous. I could easily hoover 5 times a day and there would still be dog hair everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It gets stuck in the carpets, in the laundry, I find it in my food. I even bring it to work with me and find it in my work diary. I bathed Lola the other day, ended up clogging the drain up and had to go out and buy drain unblocker before I could use my shower again. Shedding season is even worse. We’ve had one full shed with Lola so far, each day was a different part of her body shedding. Hair everywhere, enough to make a new dog friend made of her hair for her. Aside from this, Lola gets near daily brushes using an undercoat rake and a slicker coat. Doing so tends to keep the hair under control, but you still find it everywhere. We like to call it ‘German Shepherd glitter’ at this point. Before we got Lola, we were endlessly told that long-haired shepherds shed less than their short-haired counterparts. I’m not sure how true this is (since as I’m typing this, I’ve just seen the dog hair on my keyboard), but if it is the case that short-hairs shed more, I certainly do not envy them!
7) Are German Shepherds easy to train?
Yes and no for us personally. Lola is a perfect pup in the house, she was from day one and still is now. We had no issues with barking or howling, she was toilet trained by 12 weeks and has not had a house accident since, and she’s never chewed anything of value, just two sets of oven gloves, some towels and a gnaw on some skirting boards so far. We knocked out a lot of tricks early on and she’s great at them now, all it took us was a few repetitions and reinforcement. Lola is great at picking things up in a quiet environment, such as when we are home and in the garden, but there are a few things which we still can’t get the hang of.
I’ve tried countless times to teach her speak, however, problem being is that Lola only barks when there is something she is not happy about, and trying to teach a dog that is barking and wound up to speak on command just hasn’t panned out at all for us. GSDs are highly intelligent dogs, and that shows with firstly, how quickly training is picked up, and secondly the eagerness they have to please. When training with Lola, you can see the glint in her eyes about how happy she is to be doing something and working for her treats.
The reason I say no, is because for us, Lola is a bag of nerves. She is obviously a very shakey and nervous dog, to the point where people out and about have commented about how young and nervy she is, or sometimes we pull up places in the car and she’s shaking, scared to get out. This isn’t the same for everyone but this nervousness makes it difficult to train Lola outside the house. Her attention is on loud noises or even something like wind, but we try and remain patient with her at all times. We use positive reinforcement training only and will continue on this path for the rest of her life.
The idea of positive reinforcement is that you reward your dog when they do a behaviour that you like. Let’s take toilet training as an example. When little Lola accidentally made a mess in the house, I wouldn’t shout at her or be disappointed, I would clean it up and act like it never happened. To me, this was my mistake that I didn’t read her behaviour or I wasn’t there to take her out, she should not be punished for doing her natural business no matter how frustrating it was for me. You don’t want your dog to fear you by shouting and raising your voice. Instead, you take pup to the garden, you wait as long as it takes (we got Lola in January and we had way too many freezing nights standing outside waiting for her to go), and when they do go, praise and reward them for their good behaviour. This basic principle is used across all training, when Lola does a behaviour that I want, I reward her, and it has worked so well up until now. Lola used to be very people reactive on walks, now with treat or ball reinforcement, she’s fine!!
8) Are German Shepherds loyal?
German Shepherd loyalty is often a typical GSD trait that people misunderstand. GSDs love their families, and that much is obvious. You can see how happy they are to be around their family, and how much they change when strangers are around, but I’m not sure this is necessarily any different to other breeds of dogs. I had a Beagle previously that was exactly the same. However, I think people get confused with a GSDs ‘loyalty to their family’ and how ‘protective’ GSDs are. Lola loves her family, but she is not protective. She might bark, lunge and growl at dogs and sometimes unfamiliar people that get too close, but she is not protecting us when doing so.
I get a lot of people commenting on my TikTok videos about how ‘protective’ their GSDs are when out walking. A lot of people do not understand that when a dog is showing aggression because a stranger is coming closer, they are not actually protecting you, they are protecting themselves out of fear (unless otherwise trained to do so). A dog’s natural response when they are confronted with something unfamiliar, or worrying is to ‘fight or flee’, it just so happens that a GSDs response is to fight (mostly) and go up the ladder of fear aggression, giving the false image that they are protecting their owners.
9) Would you consider getting a second German Shepherd?
A hundred percent, yes, but my current opinion would be to not own a second GSD at the same time as Lola. With Lola’s reactivity, owning Lola is almost a full-time job in itself. With reactivity being such a common personality trait in GSDs, I don’t think I would have the time and dedication (as well as actually working full-time) that a second GSD deserves in the event that it would also be reactive like Lola. I love the GSD breed, and even with my experience with Lola, they still remain my favourite breed, but they also require a lot of work. Every day is a training day with Lola. However, Lola is still young so we still have plenty of time to work her reactivity away, so there is every possibility that my opinion may be different by this time next year!
10) How much exercise does Lola need?
I’m so glad this question was asked because I get asked this ALL of the time on TikTok. When people think of exercise, they tend to purely focus on physical exercise and completely forget about mental exercise. In short, Lola is probably walked 5 times a week for 30-45 minutes each time.
Before I got Lola, I read so many articles which shout about GSDs requiring over 2 hours of exercise every single day, and honestly it is a load of rubbish.
Mental exercise with dogs is often underestimated to the point where the majority of people don’t do it at all. Mental exercise includes things such as training, enrichment, scent finding and socialisation. Not a day goes by where I don’t do mental exercise with Lola, and when you begin doing mental exercise with your dog, you will find they require a lot less physical exercise.
On a day where we spend an hour with our dog trainer, or family members have been around, Lola is flat out for the rest of the day and doesn’t require the physical exercise to ‘tire’ her out. I try and put fun and easy enrichment ideas out there for people on TikTok that they can easily do with their dogs.
Dogs are intelligent and it is extremely important that owners stimulate their full capabilities, and don’t just focus on physical exercise.
11) What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a German Shepherd?
To think about realistically first. German Shepherds are beautiful in looks and family nature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right dog for you. Lola has tested me in ways that dogs never have before.
Nearly every walk we’ve had to date has been stressful to me in some way. I see a lot of dog reactive dogs out on our walks where the owners are clueless on how to work with their dog, when you own a strong German Shepherd, spending the time to train them correctly is inevitable. She’s hard work and I’ve had to be extremely patient with her in situations. I’ve almost had to train myself to read her before she reacts and understand why reacts the way she does.
You’re also probably thinking Lola is a one-off example of a reactive German Shepherd, but I can honestly say of all the GSDs I’ve connected with through Facebook and Instagram, well over half have experienced, or are experiencing the same thing.
Aside from the training, if you’re considering a puppy, paying more for a health tested puppy is always something I would recommend. GSDs have a lot of hereditary problems which is something you need to be aware of because if they did happen to get these problems, or if they were diagnosed with hip dysplasia for example, you’re looking at hefty vets bills, potentially for the rest of their life. There are plenty of things to consider with GSDs, and there are breeds which may be much better suited to you if you’re after a dog so please don’t get a GSD, or any breed, purely because of social media fame.
12) Why did you decide to start an Instagram page for Lola?
For me, dog Instagram pages are always something I followed on my personal Instagram account. There are numerous German Shepherd Instagram accounts that I followed long before I got Lola. So, when I got Lola, inevitably I knew that my personal Instagram page would be inundated with photos of Lola (I even had jokey comments from my work colleagues complaining that all they would see would be dog photos from now on). Naturally I decided to start her Instagram page so I could document her growth journey, not only to myself, but also to others who have an interest in following dog Instagram pages.
13) What’s been the key to your success so far?
I think they key to success with Instagram is so not get too hung up on like/follow statistics. It is important to remember that Instagram is supposed to be a platform to share photos that you want to share, and in my case, Lola’s growth from a puppy, and all our adventures together. There was a time on Instagram for me where it almost felt like a chore. I spent most of my time panicking about what to post, and stressing about posts that performed poorly. When I stopped robotically posting, and became more engaged with the people I follow, I found Instagram became a lot more rewarding to me. Be yourself, be kind to others and never go in with the expectation of amassing thousands of followers. If you’re using Instagram solely for followers and monetary purposes then you probably won’t get a genuine and rewarding following behind your account.
14) What are the pros and cons of owning an IG page for your dog?
The biggest pros I’ve discovered from owning a dog Instagram page, are firstly the great messages you get from people which say how much Lola makes them smile, and secondly the amazing people you meet online with similar interests to yourself and the opportunities this brings for meet-ups. There have been some truly amazing people that I’ve met through Lola’s Instagram that I have now end up speaking to every day.
In other ways it was extremely helpful to me to find a group of German Shepherd owners with similar aged dogs so we could talk about, and share advice of all the pains of a puppy growing up, and most importantly, knowing that I wasn’t alone in the problems I faced with Lola.
In terms of cons to running an Instagram page, I can honestly say there are not many. Perhaps how time-consuming running the account can be, but other than that, my Instagram journey has been somewhat positive up to now. Once you bat away the people that will step all over you for their Instagram fame, the Instagram dog community is a lovely place that I’m proud to be a part of.
15) Is there a big GSD community on IG? If so, is it helpful?
I suppose I dived into this accidentally in the previous question, but yes, there is. I suppose with Instagram, most groups form based on dog breeds, and for me I’ve found that the GSD community is large and there have been plenty of people to seek advice from should I need it. One of the most helpful things I found with Lola is that through all her problem stages, is the reassurance from others that I was not alone and that Lola’s issues weren’t something that bad ownership created. Even when little things came up that I wasn’t sure of, I had a group of people to turn to and obtain advice from. These were people whose dogs were younger, the same age and older than Lola, so it was interesting to know when these typical GSD life events impacted everyone else.
16) How did your first hear about TikTok and why did you sign up?
I first heard about TikTok in September 2019. I saw my friend (Maverick) had been putting up some videos on the platform and had gained a pretty big following in a short space of time. Strangely, I’d never heard of it before this time, or the pre-existing musically platform. I signed straight up and instantly found it to be an exciting, new and different platform.
Previously, I’d never really taken videos and had solely focused on photos, so Instagram was the natural social media platform for me to be on so to try something new, that I had no experience in was somewhat daunting at first, especially considering it took me a long time for my account to start getting off the ground.
17) What’s your favourite thing about TikTok so far?
My favourite thing about TikTok so far has probably been how rewarding the platform is. An important thing for people to realise with TikTok is that your account will be on the rocks for a while (unless you go viral straight away).
When I first started my account, it felt like I would never get off the ground. I was stuck on 500-1000 followers for a long time, like a good month. I was constantly posting videos every single day, 2 or 3 times a day to get my account out there, and every single one flopped to around 100 views (if that!).
One morning, I woke up, checked TikTok, and one of my posts had hit the for you page and got a measly 6,000 views – but this was all it took! After this, all my videos hit the for you page and eventually I worked up the following I have now with a handful of 1million+ views videos along the way.
I’m happy with the point I’m at now on TikTok. It’s got to the point where I am no longer caught up on trying to grow my account, but instead I actually enjoy using the platform. I lose hours scrolling the FYP, and really enjoy trying to think of videos for the challenges that appear on the discover page.
Also worth noting how friendly everyone is on TikTok. I’ve always found with Instagram that people are too quick to judge and pick on people for looks or because they accidentally used a wrong word. I had a video go viral on TikTok, full of lovely comments about how Lola made people smile on a daily basis, comments that I love seeing. I posted the same video onto Instagram and all I got was hate because it was seen as ‘pulling the wool over people’s eyes over the true nature of a GSD”.
So for me, TikTok is a great, friendly and rewarding platform so far, full of people that just enjoy making videos of anything or everything!.
18) Do you spend more time on TikTok or Instagram?
TikTok! No comparison. I see Instagram as a photo-based platform and I know a lot of people have broken into Instagram with videos, but on my account, videos have never done particularly well so I’ve always shied away from them. I’ve always really enjoyed looking at photos, and whilst there are a lot of inspiring accounts on Instagram, videos are much more engaging and enjoyable to watch.
The problem with this is that you can get lost scrolling on TikTok for hours, just because every video is so different. When I first set up Lola’s Instagram account, I was spending countless hours a day trying to get the perfect photo or catch up with all my friends posts. Since the start of TikTok, I probably spend 30 minutes a day on Instagram as an absolute max. I can’t even remember the last time I scrolled my Instagram feed.
TikTok on the other hand…. Way too much time is spent on that app. So much so that for Christmas my boyfriend bought me some headphones, because he was so sick of listening to TikTok songs on constant repeat until I perfected the Tiktok video! TikTok requires a lot of time to be spent on it. You’ve got to be on top on trends with TikTok, and unfortunately you can’t be fresh to trends if you’re not spending time on the app.
When you’ve finally thought of a video idea, you then have to film it. Bringing the ideas in your head to life is actually very difficult when your lead actress is a one-year old dog. She’s the biggest diva, honestly, some days she completely refuses to co-operate for videos and will actually just walk off and not listen to a word I say. So, when you’ve finally got video clips for your TikTok video, you then have to sit down, crop videos, merge videos and edit them. Then don’t forget it is often the case that the videos you’ve spent hours designing and making usually flop, whereas the video that took a minute to throw together is the one that ends up with the million views so don’t be too surprised when this happens to you!
19) What tips and tricks do you have for dog owners on TikTok?
To not underestimate the power of cute puppy videos. My first big viral video was a super easy, simple video of puppy Lola doing a little head tilt. Play on the things that people love. Everyone will always love cute little puppies, all my puppy video compilations do well, but don’t forget about cute actions, head tilts, winking, kisses, just think major cuteness overload!
Teach your dog some simple tricks for better videos (a strong stay command is absolutely crucial). There are a lot of dog videos on TikTok now but you need to show people that your dog brings something different. With Lola, I definitely think it’s the head tilts. Every live stream I start I just get a hundred requests of “get Lola to head tilt please!!”. It’s adorable, and luckily Lola loves her head tilts. You main TikTok audience will be kids and people that have dogs, so think about interesting things that will draw their attention.
Every now and then I like putting together enrichment videos, or the funny quirks of owning a GSD so people experience the real behind-the-scenes life with Lola.
20) Moving forward, which platform will get more of your time…?
TikTok of course. It’s fun, exciting and actually makes your followers smile. Instagram is great but I almost feel like it has run its time a little bit. Whenever I seem to use Instagram these days there just seems to be glitches and I turn it straight back off again. I find the competition on Instagram extremely difficult too, there will be always be better photographers than me that dedicate all their free (or working) time to bettering themselves.
Unfortunately working a full-time job, and British winter time being dark when you leave for work, and when you return, I just don’t have the available time to get out and practice photography. I don’t stand out when it comes to photos on Instagram, but the thing with TikTok is that you have the opportunity to be original and come up with a new video idea, trend or sound that gets people talking about your page. Sure not all of them pan out, but I’ve have a lot of fun in the past making videos with Lola that I thought turned out to be great!
German Shepherd Pros and Cons
• They love adventures – They just love getting out and exploring! Lola’s happy face when she’s swimming in the waves or running up and down a field after her ball is so lovely to see.
• Eager to please – As a breed they thrive off pleasing you. You can see the happiness sparkling in their eyes when you praise them for doing something well.
• Cuddle bug – I love having a dog that will chill out with me and just cuddle. Especially great in the winter months when you’ve got a 32kg furry blanket to keep you warm!
• Like a cheeky child – they’re too smart for their own good. If Lola doesn’t want to listen to the training commands I give her, she will just look at me with a cheeky smile, run off and return with a ball because she wants to play. She’s so mischievous and knows she can get away with things.
• Hard to keep the long coat clean – so this is probably something that all long-coated dog owners feel, but Lola always seems to be muddy somewhere. It could be a perfectly dry day, she’ll go outside, come back and have mud in her fur! We have to constantly wipe her feet and fur clean before she can go into the carpeted areas of the house.
• Shedding/allergies – GSDs are often allergic to many things. Luckily with Lola, I think we’ve just narrowed it down to chicken. However, her skin is always so irritated no matter what allergy tablets or oily fish we give her. During winter time she’s itching due to the central heating, summer time, the sun makes her hot, which all goes nicely hand in hand with just how much shepherds shed… you can make an entire new dog from their shedded hair, literally!
• Reactivity – summed up in a question above, their reactivity is a nightmare. I’ve met a lot of people through Facebook and Instagram that relate to the struggle too. Just got to persevere and wait until we come out the other side!