You know, I have been dying to write this article. Well, this is certainly the year to do it!!
I currently have NINE shepherds training with me…Not all at the same time, of course, but participating in various different programs: daycare, obedience, reconditioning, service etc.
If ever there was a dog that could take on many tasks, it is this breed. Forever dear to the hearts of Americans, these dogs are iconic in the Dog World and represent so many of the dog traits that we admire. Alas, along with the fond stories we hear about Great Shepherds in people’s lives, there are as many scary and distressing ones.
I have come across people who are afraid or nervous about meeting any new dog because of some unfortunate incident in their lives involving a German Shepherd.
In England, we have referred to this breed as “Alsations” until 1977 and that was the name I knew these fellows by. They are as beloved in the UK and of course, all over Europe as they are here; however, they are definitely regarded as “working” dogs.
The result is that a European Person, taking on the ownership and upbringing one of these guys has a different expectation of their task ahead. May I first say that there are now, many, many different lines of this breed? And all Shepherds are NOT necessarily the Shepherd that we are expecting to invite into our homes.
From the “Bench Bred” or West German Show Line Shepherd with the sloped back and mellow temperament to the East German Working Line Guy who would like to leap from a helicopter!! There are so many variations in between.
I am working with a fierce 16-week old scaredy-cat, a Gentle Giant who needed guidance and an action-packed female working dog who is NEVER still. I am training a high-prey drive 6-month-old who would like to rule the world and a “Mr. Social Butterfly who would like to be buddies with everyone! I have owned Cool Guys, Rude Guys and Great Travel Companions and have enjoyed working with every one of them BUT these dogs are NOT a piece of cake!!
They are beautiful, loyal, athletic and smart. They are sensitive, powerful and charismatic. Once you have loved a Good Shepherd, it is very hard to switch brands….However….They can be difficult, dangerous and obstinate. I have seen scary, fearful and pushy. I can tell you how intimidating they can be and how hard they can bite!
So I would like to offer these tips to anyone who is considering joining the German Shepherd Owners’ Club.
- Do your research!!! Be honest about what your requirements are in a dog and if you have limited time and/or energy…avoid this breed.
- Check out your breeder’s qualifications. There are a LOT of backyard breeders out there. Be picky.
- Don’t think you are getting a “bargain” if you are bringing home a “purebred” puppy for $200
- Meet the parents, Dad not available?? Skip this one…
- Decide how much hair you want to deal with. Fluffy is cute when they are little, not so much when they are 80lbs and look like a bear! A good grooming will cost you around $100 and should be done twice a year.
- Touch ears, nails, tail and belly frequently during the puppy stage, your groomer will thank you…
- Socialize, socialize, socialize. Every new person or dog a GSD meets after six months is NOT family. By this I mean take your dog OUT to new places and/or have new people come over.
- If you wonder if you are doing something wrong, call a trainer…before things start to go too far South.
- Do NOT let your kids under 12, raise this dog…they cannot.
- And last but not least…Remember that Disney and the TV companies are in the business of selling seats and Rin Tin Tin was a difficult and dangerous dog who bit MANY people before he headed off into the sunset!!!
I Love My Shepherd and will happily offer free advice to anyone with a question about how to bring one of these guys to their full potential!!!