German Shepherd Dogs

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Bloodnut

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My family has had two Great Danes in the past (both of who are now in doggie Heaven). We currently have to mixed breeds, one of which is a GSD mix - she is on the smallish side.

We have been looking hard at getting another dog, partly for protection when I'm away (not very often). I was looking hard at a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but I can't talk the wife into that and they look like they may be a bit problematic due to very high energy levels, prey drive, and intelligence. So, we're back to the GSD.

I'm thinking that a pure bred GSD would be an ideal dog for my family. I live in rural area with a good-sized yard. I have two smart kids ages 6 & 10 (they have lived with dogs all their life and don't do stuff like pulling tails, etc.) While the GSD would be partly for protection and I want a *good* dog, I will not spend the $500++ it would take to buy from a breeder. I feel particularly strong about this given the number of abandoned dogs there are running around. With two exceptions, we have always gotten rescue dogs, or dogs someone no longer wanted - we have mostly had very good luck with this.

With all that said, my concern is ending up with a GSD that is either mean toward my family or too passive. (The GSD mix we have is pretty passive which I believe is a result of being abused as a small pup.) I have looked fairly hard trying to find a local GSD to rescue, but have had no luck finding one that I think would work. (Has to be a male to avoid pack issues with the two females we presently have so that limits the selection right out of the gate.) Should I just set aside my desire to "rescue" a dog and shell out the $$ to a breeder? The other concern I have is that after shelling out the $$, the pure bred won't be any better than a rescue dog.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them. Thanks.
 
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Big_Ed

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I've always been a fan of rescuing animals. There are lots of good dogs, and cats too, that need good homes and will provide many years of companionship. I rescued a one year old cat from an animal shelterway back in February 1996, and she's still a faithful buddy. In fact, she's sitting on my lap as I type this. :)

Take your kids to some animal shelters and see how well a prospective dog reacts to them. I'm sure with some patience, you'll find a good dog that needs a good loving home, and will reward you with many faithful years of companionship. Not to mention, it feels good to rescue an animal that really needs it!

Good luck!
 
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pinepoint

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i have owned gsd for 25 yr only problem some become overly aggresive but my children can torment them allday long with no aggression love east european imports working dogs watch out females overly aggresive good dogs for family dont tell your insurance co
 
da.gee

da.gee

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I grew up with two GSDs, had three brothers and a sister and they were awesome dogs. No problems with over aggressive behavior or passive for that matter. Very active dogs. One female (all black) named Killer, who was a sweetheart and a very large male, named Wolf who was also a great companion. Both would scare the pee out of the wrong person. A family member could stick an arm in their mouths with no trouble. I wouldn't if I were a stranger. They also got along perfectly with Samantha, our springer spaniel and the local mutt Butch who was always hanging with our gang.

As far as purebred vs rescue, you buy a purebred to have a better chance of consistent health and demeanor. This is not to say a rescue or mix would be problematic but you roll the dice a bit. IMO $500 is a small price to pay for the next 10-15 years you'll have your dog.
 
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Bloodnut

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Thanks all. The wife located a local rescue GSD last night. I'm going to try to check him out this week.
 
dougie

dougie

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Like some of the other guys here I've been around GSD's since a kid and was exposed to GSD working dogs whilst in the forces.

GSD's in common with some other breeds are renowned for their loyalty and intelligence but are essentially a working dog. Whilst this doesn't have to be a problem in my experience the following seems to be true:

Males require a firm hand much more than a ***** as they tend to be competitive about being the pack leader. The male qualities of greater size and strength are great for protection but can be problematic if not kept in check by the handler. For this reason it is often better for a male GSD to have grown up with the family from puppy hood so as to instill in it respect for the existing pack members (wife & kids).

As with any working dog GSD's thrive on stimulation and a challenging environment and can be ill-tempered if this energy isn't channeled constructively.

Of course if s**t hits the fan a male is far more likely to defend you successfully due to its size and aggression.

This being said GSD bitches can also be a handful if they are allowed to become too dominant in the household but are less likely to be a problem for the wife and kids and their aggression is usually well controlled.

As to whether it is better to acquire a mature rescue animal rather than a puppy that's a difficult question to answer. Plainly breeding has an enormous influence over temprement but then so does how the animal is brought up. If a puppy isn't properly educated until it's fully grown then it can be a problem for the rest of its life just as much as an abused animal.

Plenty of mature GSD's have gone on to be re-homed without problem but my advice would be to get the animal before it is 12-18 months of age. Only get an animal where you have an idea of its history and only after it has been checked out by a vet.

Doug
 
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binky

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I grew up with dogs. We had labs and a jack russell terrier and had lots of friends with dogs, also friends with lots of dogs. As one who never owned a GSD I can offer this -- GSD's scare friends as well as bad guys. You've got a couple already so you've certainly been through that. I bet yours are nice ones because you're a caring dog owner looking to keep a happy bunch of dogs. Every GSD owned by my friends has bitten me, except one unusual one. I think that's 3 or 4 bites here in the states and one in Portugal. One of the owners was like "Gee.. he's never bitten anyone before at all!" I was thinking "Are you sure? So why do think your parents keep him chained to a freakin' lally column in your house when people come over???" They're just too psycho for me to like, and I'm sure now they can all tell I hate them, except...

Recently I met a guy who has a really, really great GSD. He said it's from some famous breeder in Germany and bred for the cops, for its intelligence instead of looks, etc etc. He said that he'd never had and never will have any other breeder's dogs, etc. It was the biggest freaking GSD I've ever seen so you'd think I wouldn't have gone near it but that dog and I were great with each other from the start. You know how you can just tell that the dog is comfortable, confident, and not snappy? Hey, it knew it was in charge and I'm sure it could tell that all 6'4" of me was terrified of it from the beginning but it didn't take more than a minute for me to calm down because it was just a smart, strong, well mannered dog. I really, really liked that dog. You could wrestle with the dog and he was just happy. He knew what was what.

It's one of those situations where I'd say "that dog." If you can figure out how to get one of "that dog" then that's what I'd recommend from a non-owner's perspective, but I gotta say for that breed I unfortunately vote against going for a rescue. FWIW. You were asking for sorta votes too weren't you? :whistle:
 
half-watt

half-watt

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i've owned and trained dogs for over 20yr (including personal protection training).

breeding (genetics), socializing (as a pup), and training, in that order are the keys to a well adjusted, well disciplined dog.

for the most, part training CANNOT make up for many aspects of poor genetics, and at best, extensive behavior modification can SOMETIMES make up, IN PART, for lack of proper socialization at key points in a puppy's upbringing. severely abused dogs also fall into this second category, IMO. i wouldn't expect perfect results when a dog is poorly bred or improperly socialized as a pup or abused.

i've had dogs i've purchased from breeders, rescued dogs, and even one from a pet store (a cut or two above your run-of-the-mill puppy-mill supplied pet store, but still a pet store - it was a CairnTerrier-Poodle intentional first-gen cross - the mixed breed aspect made me feel better about purchasing from this store - this dog is a natural at Agility Training and almost ready for competition).

the rescued dogs, which i carefully screened for temperment, especially due to the presence of wife and children, have turned out fine (Rottweilers and Pugs), but have required a firm hand in training - even the first Pug, dominant little guy that he wanted to be! Rotties are quite powerful and excellent "man stoppers" and quite trainable with a firm "hand". Breeding is very important here as Rotties have become rather popular and "backyard breeders" are doing great harm to the psyche of some representatives of the breed by being unfamiliar with compatible breeding lines. these dogs can be a recipe for disaster.

best dogs i've owned have been from EXPERIENCED breeders utilizing sound LINE BREEDING schemes - this avoided both physical and psychological problems sometimes associated with poorly bred dogs. though again, i've had nothing but good dogs from the breed rescues i've obtained Rotties and Pugs from, and the current mixed breed i own (that Cairn-Poodle cross) is the second most intelligent dog i've ever owned.

i always feel, especially with larger, more powerful breeds, that you really need to know the breeding and upbringing of a dog, or you are taking greater chances. this is even more important with children about - especially friends of your children. this does not mean that good dogs cannot be obtained from a breed rescue organization - i've only had good dogs acquired in this way.

also, every member of your family needs to be "trained"/educated regarding canine/pack psychology and how to train a dog and display proper behavior to maintain "alpha" dominance. my 5yr old daughter used to put my first Akita (a Shutzhund trained male) with strong dominant tendencies (particularly toward other male dogs) which needed to be kept in check, through his paces (she was 8 by the time he was fully trained and had no problems commanding him).

IMO, just like with a gun, ownership of a large dog (even if not protection trained - which has both pros and cons, IMO) brings with it responsibilities. so, you may want to get a professional to observe the rescued dog that you are thinking of adopting and also to perform a temperment test on it before taking ownership of the dog.

another breed i've done a lot of training with, including behavior modification of other's dogs, is Boxers. their appearance has a deterrent affect (as, with their undershot jaw, they look like they mean business both with natural and cropped ears - i prefer natural ears) and they are typically both alert and brave (when well bred) and easy going with children. they are also highly trainable in my experience. there's a reason Boxer's are often selected as a rough-and-tumble child's companion. their athleticism, speed, and quickness make up somewhat for their slightly smaller size and weight. IMO, they are still a dog not to be messed with by an intruder.

Bull Terriers (think "Spud MacKenzie" here) are also a good choice for both a child companion and as a deterrent - a 70lb male can be quite formidable; even a smaller female can be quite formidable too. in my experience, they have a very high pain threshold which more than makes up for their smaller size when used as a "man stopper", plus their strength and athleticism produce a very violent "gripper and ripper" beyond what one might suppose from a 70lb dog (or even a smaller female), and they are also generally tougher than many much larger dogs. They require a firm hand in training, but are also quite trainable. a well bred Bull Terrier will take a lot of abuse from a child without retaliating. in my experience, they don't know what the word "fear" means - very brave dogs, even fearless.

other "bully breeds" can be a good choice too (take a look at the large American Bull Dog), but i'd stay away from some dogs billed just as "Pit Bulls" (as opposed to somewhat similar dogs described as AmStaffs, i.e. American Staffordshire Terriers) as these can have poor breeding behind them versus those who breed AmStaffs.

as you already know, GSDs (especially european bred dogs, or dogs from european lines) are wonderful dogs, so intelligent and willing to accept training from the pack leader(s) as well as very sagacious and protective. my preference and others as well is for european bred dogs (or dogs from European lines) over "American Shepherd Dogs" which can exhibit over angulation of the hind quarters which may signal hip problems as they mature and age. also, be aware that often White GSDs are too in-bred (not always, but often). in-breeding is a recipe for psychological problems and to a lesser extent physical problems (meaning psych. problems generally show up before phys. problems - though both may be present in an in-bred dog).

consider adding Dobies to your list (though IF with natural ears, people don't seem as afraid of them as with cropped ears). Dobies are generally very intelligent and easily trained, and have a [largely undeserved] reputation which makes someone up to no good think twice about what they are considering doing. they too are generally very intelligent and can easily be a "man stopper" - incredible atheleticism, speed, and quickness, and pretty good size and strength too.

obviously, there are other good breeds too.


my two shekels.
 
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nanoWatt

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I live out in the country, and don't worry much about needing protection. I have a 6' fence. One GSD I have, which was a rescue, barks at anyone that comes by. The other is a 1/2 wolf, 1/2 shepherd, and he's all black and about 85 pounds. The Wolf side makes him somewhat more skittish, but he's my favorite. To me, he's a companion, and sleeps in my room at night.

GSD's are some of the best for protection, I agree. But for me, that's not my purpose in having this specific breed. The wolf is my favorite, followed by the shepherd. I made sure I didn't have anything more than 50/50 mix, because then too much wolf makes them harder to train.
 
B

Bloodnut

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Well, I'm just getting in to read these last few posts this evening. I kinda thought this thread had died. What a difference a day makes.

We had decided to move forward with a young, male GSD when we found a Ridgeback/Chocolate Lab mix at another shelter. This puppy is only about six weeks old and has been at the shelter for less than a week. My wife is going tomorrow to check him out.... and probably bring him home. She has an uncanny connection with animals (I call her Doolittle, it drives her nuts). If the dog passes muster with her, home he comes.

I am fervently hoping that being able to get him so young will allow me to train and socialize him in the best way - and will hopefully offset any genetic/abuse issues.

In my past experience, mixed breeds have worked out best as you don't seem to get such an intense concentration of traits which could end of being problematic; rather you get a melding of characteristics which result in a more rounded dog. The smartest (and most long-lived) dog I've ever had was such a mix, you could only guess at her lineage. I'm hoping for round two of that with this one. As a bonus, I'm hoping I can train this one to hunt as well. Both the Ridgeback and Lab have hunting backgrounds.

We'll see how it works out. I may post at some point with an update. Thanks to all who chimed in.
 

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