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  1. #1
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    Default Thinking about a GSD, have some ?'s

    We've been mulling over getting another dog lately and through a friend have come across a gorgeous 11 month old black GSD that is in need of a new family. We currently have my older lab but both of us have owned and been around dogs all of our lives. I always had labs, my SO most recently had a pitbull who passed away a few years ago. He has wanted another dog but just wasn't quite ready, he took the loss of his pittie very hard. He proposed this girl to me when he heard about her so it seems he is ready but neither of us have owned a GSD and I have a couple of breed specific questions. I know there are quite a few people that are experienced with dogs in this board so I thought I would pose a few questions in addition to doing other research!

    We're very early into deciding if this lovely girl will be a good fit for the family and we're asking all of the general "new dog" questions. I do know that GSDs are predisposed to hip issues, especially North American show bred dogs. I don't know anything about this dog's bloodlines at this time or what she was originally bred for - show, companion, or work. She is purebred and papered so I will have that information before we make a decision. Are there any other health issues that we should be aware of before we jump into GSD ownership?

    From what we've been told she was raised around and is good with young kids and cats, which is good because we have 3 cats and kids that visit regularly. She's never been around chickens or horses so I expect to need to do some training with that, but in general do GSD's have any natural behavior tendencies when it comes to small animals and livestock?

    Finally, what sort of training do they generally need? In all honesty this would be my area of least experience. I have always had labs who were super easy to train. I instilled the basic sit, stay, heel plus some little tricks in my current dog without a single obedience class. I never had to teach her how to behave around the chickens and horses - she's just always been a sweetheart about everything. My SO is more experienced in this area - he did a very good job training the above mentioned pittie. I don't yet know what kind of training this little girl has had and if she has any major behavioral problems we will likely pass so for the purpose of this question let's assume she is a blank slate. I know trainability will also depend on breeding and temperament but in general how challenging are GSDs to train? I'm assuming obedience classes would be a good idea?

    If you think of anything else not covered above please feel free to share, all input is greatly appreciated. We want to go into this as educated and with eyes as wide open as possible as our home is always a permanent one for cats and dogs.



  2. #2
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    Dec. 29, 1999
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    Good luck to you! I have 3 GSD.

    Caveat through all of the following is I'm talking generally. If your GSD has had previous trauma or temperament issues that are causing her to be rehomed, that's entirely different.

    Generally speaking, the breed is very intelligent. Extremely trainable, learn quickly, no worries there.

    You could always have hip x-rays done as a pre-condition of taking her, however, I can't stress enough to find a vet that knows how to do them, and isn't a GSD-hater and will assume that they all have crappy hips. Sometimes even iffy hips on x-rays...well, you'd never know it by how active the dog is; it doesn't affect them.

    Some GSD do have intense prey drive when it comes to little quick moving things. I have one that I don't let have the run of the house if I'm at work lest playtime with one particular cat gets out of hand (cat is a Philly street-thug stray who longs to die in battle and thoroughly enjoys face-hugging the GSD and then running for his life. Things might get out of hand if I wasn't there). The other 2 are perfectly fine with the cats.

    If your SO has trained the pit, I don't see a problem. GSD love having a job. I'm sure there are couch potato GSD out there but I sure hope you're an active family who will make her part of a non-sedentary lifestyle. They do best like that. They look at dog-human as an equal partnership, IME. Think about that for a moment. They're bright. They know they're bright. They want to use their minds as well as their bodies.

    You may have to teach her how to behave around the chickens & horses. Some take to it naturally, others have to be taught NOT FOR EATING.

    Generally speaking, they are very bright dogs who are extremely devoted and do well in rehoming, in that once they learn to love & trust you, they will be devoted to you plus just be a lot of love & fun. As intimidating & protective as some can be, that same dog can be, as my daughter says of my 90 lb. Schutzhund dog, "the biggest goofball I've ever met."


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  3. #3
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    Feb. 23, 1999
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    Good info above.

    I'd add that it will be important to know how your dog is bred to give you a better idea of the expected behavior and temperament. The working bred dogs tend to have more prey drive and require a job and a good deal of training. They are not really meant to be pets. The show bred ones often have much softer temperaments but are less healthy.

    And GSDs are herding dogs, so you WILL have to spend some time teaching her not to chase the horses. If the dog is of working lines, this can be a real challenge and might actually have to be accomplished by someone who knows how to properly use an electric collar.

    In addition to hip issues, many GSDs have skin allergy problems and eye allergy problems.

    Overall, if you get one that has not been too badly bred (read: if it's not one of those sloped backed mutants currently so prevalent in the show ring) you should have a nice, loving, loyal dog that will be a joy to be around after you've done some basic training.
    Visit Sonesta Farms website at www.sonestafarms.com or our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/sonestafarms. Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.



  4. #4
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    Thank you guys for your input, it's so helpful.

    I am supposed to get some more information tonight and will see what I can find out about her background and bloodlines. We definitely don't mind a more active dog - we are very active and have a small farm back on a quiet street surrounded by other small farms so there is plenty of room to exercise and miles and miles of trails for her to ride with my older horse and I (if she comes home with us and once she's trained to safely behave around horses). She wouldn't be a working dog per say but we're very active and she'd get a ton of exercise. We are lucky because our work schedule is kind of staggered. My SO goes to work very early and is home by early afternoon. I don't go into the office until mid-morning plus I work from home sometimes so she'd get lots of attention and wouldn't be left alone for too long at a time.

    I will keep your feedback in mind as we investigate. I'll keep you guys updated as I get more info and let you know what we decide


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  5. #5
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    Do you know why she's being rehomed? And of course individuals often vary from what they're "supposed to be." My 3 are a German working line, a German Show Line, and my pound puppy is what I affectionately call "American Pet Line." All 3 are attractive to look at, all 3 are very bright, very happy, very trainable and easy. However, in my case the German working line dog is definitely softer than the show line dog. ("Soft" is a bad word to a lot of GSD people). When the show line dog got his IPO 1 last Spring (that's the first level Schutzhund title), he was high scoring dog in all 3 phases (Tracking, Obedience, Protection), high scoring IPO 1 and high in trial as well. He was the only Show Line dog in the trial. All the others were sable working line dogs and he smoked every one of them. So beware of judging her only by her pedigree.

    That being said, I agree with what Sonesta wrote. As she wrote, working dogs *tend* to etc. etc.



  6. #6
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    Anne - She was originally purchased from a breeder although I don't yet know who the breeder was - that's one of the things I'm going to find out. I'd like to see if anyone knows the breeder and has thoughts. Now she is needing to be re-homed by the family who originally purchased her (they are friends of a friend) because they're living situation has changed and apparently they are not allowed to have dogs where they are now at. Trying not to judge on that one as I don't know the circumstances of the move... Just that moving somewhere that didn't accept my animals is not something I would ever consider unless absolutely desperate. The chickens come and go and I've sold a horse or two over the years but the rest of our animals are lifelong keepers Like I said, not going to judge without details though - situations come up that are out of our control. We haven't met her yet so I can't say what her current owners are like or what her personality is like but just from the pictures I have of her she appears alert and happy, groomed, well taken care of, and in a well kept home at least.



  7. #7
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    Dec. 29, 2001
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    RedmondDressage,

    If the original breeders were good breeders, they would have taken the product of their program back and found the pup a suitable home themselves. Ah well, it is what it is, no doubt. My first GSD was the product of a BYB that I would never ever ever support these days, yet he turned out to be my perfect, wonderful, forever dog, and all subsequent dogs will (and have) paled in comparison. Unfortunately his heart and mind far exceeded his the limitations of his body, and that was a heartbreaker. Good luck to you and the pup!



  8. #8
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    Feb. 23, 1999
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    Quote Originally Posted by libgrrl View Post
    RedmondDressage,

    If the original breeders were good breeders, they would have taken the product of their program back and found the pup a suitable home themselves. Ah well, it is what it is, no doubt. My first GSD was the product of a BYB that I would never ever ever support these days, yet he turned out to be my perfect, wonderful, forever dog, and all subsequent dogs will (and have) paled in comparison. Unfortunately his heart and mind far exceeded his the limitations of his body, and that was a heartbreaker. Good luck to you and the pup!
    We had one of these rare treasures too. But those are not common.
    Visit Sonesta Farms website at www.sonestafarms.com or our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/sonestafarms. Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.



  9. #9
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    Jan. 25, 2009
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    Default

    I am by no means a GSD expert, but I do think that getting along with chickens, cats, and horses is related to prey drive. With a really high prey drive dog, you can probably teach the dog a "leave it" command for when you are right there, but they will always have the prey drive in their brain and probably shouldn't be trusted alone with prey animals (at least that is my opinion and how I manage my high prey drive dog).
    For those more experienced in GSDs like Anne, one thing that I have observed is that some GSDs can be very vocal - I don't know if that is just the ones I've known or a breed trait. It doesn't sound like the OP lives in an apartment situation, but it's something to keep in mind.
    I think it is nice that the dog isn't a young puppy because when you meet the dog, hopefully you'll be able to assess what she's like and decide if she'll be a fit for you.



  10. #10
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    Jul. 26, 2001
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    Toronto, Canada.
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    Default

    They are like any other breed, you will have some great ones and some lemons.

    Temperment wise, I like them because they are generally very trainable and loyal, similar to the lab, however I find GSD's generally smarter. They need to work, or have some type of job.

    I meet a lot of GSD's and prepurchase them for many police foundations. Many of them have mediocre hips, some have extremely poor and there are a handful (mostly european) that are good. Meidocre hips can be managed. I suggest before you commit to her, have a hip radiograph taken so you know what you are getting into.

    Love the breed, hate the hair, but I will always have a soft spot for a good GSD.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  11. #11
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    AnneFS: "... cat is a Philly street-thug stray who longs to die in battle...."

    Favorite description ever!!! I'm picturing a torn-eared crooked-tailed chubby-cheeked Russell Crowe type with a Popeye eyepatch...
    When someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE THEM.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by libgrrl View Post
    RedmondDressage,

    If the original breeders were good breeders, they would have taken the product of their program back and found the pup a suitable home themselves. Ah well, it is what it is, no doubt. My first GSD was the product of a BYB that I would never ever ever support these days, yet he turned out to be my perfect, wonderful, forever dog, and all subsequent dogs will (and have) paled in comparison. Unfortunately his heart and mind far exceeded his the limitations of his body, and that was a heartbreaker. Good luck to you and the pup!
    Thanks Anne! I agree, the original breeder should take her back but I actually don't know if they even contacted him/her. I wonder how many people think to do that? I would, but I've been in horses long enough to know that when someone is in distress the breeder should always be the first call... Not sure if regular folks know to do that. If we don't go through with it I may just mention that to them in case they didn't think of it. Either way I will let you guys know what I find out and what we end up deciding... And of course if we do end up going through with it I will post pics



  13. #13
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    Nov. 24, 2006
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    I LOVE my GSD. Never had one before, wasn't particularly attracted to the breed as a whole before. We got ours because we wanted a big,black dog as a visual deterrent. He is the absolute smartest dog I've ever been around. I put a huge amount of time into him. When he was little, I was constantly directing him, talking to him, touching him, taking him everywhere. Now, at almost 2 years old- he can be directed what to do, where to go, to leave things, to drop things all with hand signals. We have horses,cats and chickens- he's no more interested in them than I allow him to be..has NEVER offered to chase or bark at the horses. I think if you get her, my biggest suggestion would be to start to put a great base on her-a solid sit, stay and recall- once you have those- you can control pretty much any reaction she might have to anything. Be prepared for a dog who's eyes never, ever leave you.....
    Kerri


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  14. #14
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    Dec. 31, 2000
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasjordan View Post
    Be prepared for a dog who's eyes never, ever leave you.....
    I agree. We had one when I was a kid, and I have a shep/boxer mix now. Both dogs were incredibly loyal, and always 'shadowing" me. The one I have now is very sensitive to even a slightly raised voice. When she passes on, I will definitely look for a GSD or part GSD.



  15. #15
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    If you're used to goofy, rowdy laid-back labs and pitties you will find a GSD to be a very different sort of dog- have you interacted with any to see what they are like? you may not like them if labs and pitties are the kind of dog that you prefer. In my experience most people who are fond of the "lab" type of dog don't really go for the GSD temperament and vice-versus.

    From your comments about the breeder, I'm guessing this is an american pet line. They are, unfortunately, often neurotic, fearful, and/or aggressive, and devoid of useful drives. Hopefully you can meet the individual and see for yourself what this particular dog is like. Sadly many of the "pet" GSD we see have horrible temperaments. Statistics indicate they are very high up on the lists of "dogs that bite people", and are also way up on the lists of "dogs that attack other dogs". Because of this, check your local insurance/legal regulations- many insurance companies won't insure your home if you own one, many rental places won't rent to you, and some places have outright bans.

    as to health, well, unfortunately the modern GSD is a genetic disaster. People always think of hips, but hips are the least of your worries. Hip dysplasia affects about 20% of the breed in general, but hip dysplasia is a very manageable, treatable disease. It's the OTHER diseases you should be frightened of. Elbow dysplasia and degenerative myleopathy are crippling and tend to not be treatable, and each affect about 20% of the breed overall, much higher in poorly-bred "pet" lines. Many GSDs have digestive problems, everything from pancreatic insufficiency to chronic diarrhea to bloating. Other fun problems- spinal stenosis, allergies, skin problems, the list goes on. Many working groups have dropped the breed due to the difficulty of finding healthy ones.

    I have to admit this is one breed I'd be quite reluctant to accept as a "rescue" dog- the odds of "lucking into" a healthy individual with a good temperament in the rescue system is quite low. However, if you know the breeder, you can actually investigate and see if the dog is likely to be carrying multiple diseases or not, and see what the temperament may be like.



  16. #16
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    Even the working lines can have hip issues.

    Basically what has been said.

    I really like a good working GSD. I have zero interest in most American show or pet bred ones. I have seen way too many fearful dogs. I help with training classes, so I've seen quite a few, btw. And the fear gets worse with age. I'm not trying to talk you out of the dog, but evaluate it carefully.

    Also, be really honest with yourself about your lifestyle and your family's committment to training the dog. My friend has one and I think it sometimes drives her husband insane. Unfortunately, he is the person who works from home. Everyone should be on board, is my point, and learn how to handle the dog. GSDs are a very active, higher energy dog. Needs a job, training, and exercise. Also, they will tend to "herd" things, like horses by the ankles, so be ready to work on that. I have another friend who's horse is a unconfirmed (giver her some time and she'll get one eventually) dog-killer thanks to an older GSD pup that a BO had that thought herding the horses was a blast. Luckily my horse, who was a yearling and also bit by the dog, seems not to hold any grudges.

    GSDs are easy to train, but will get bored--intelligent dogs. Like most dogs the ones I've known chill out a bit with age. I agree with your idea of doing obedience classes.
    Last edited by TrotTrotPumpkn; Dec. 6, 2012 at 05:22 PM.
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  17. #17
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    check your local insurance/legal regulations- many insurance companies won't insure your home if you own one, many rental places won't rent to you, and some places have outright bans.

    as to health, well, unfortunately the modern GSD is a genetic disaster. People always think of hips, but hips are the least of your worries. Hip dysplasia affects about 20% of the breed in general, but hip dysplasia is a very manageable, treatable disease. It's the OTHER diseases you should be frightened of. Elbow dysplasia and degenerative myleopathy are crippling and tend to not be treatable, and each affect about 20% of the breed overall, much higher in poorly-bred "pet" lines. Many GSDs have digestive problems, everything from pancreatic insufficiency to chronic diarrhea to bloating. Other fun problems- spinal stenosis, allergies, skin problems, the list goes on. Many working groups have dropped the breed due to the difficulty of finding healthy ones.

    I have to admit this is one breed I'd be quite reluctant to accept as a "rescue" dog- the odds of "lucking into" a healthy individual with a good temperament in the rescue system is quite low. However, if you know the breeder, you can actually investigate and see if the dog is likely to be carrying multiple diseases or not, and see what the temperament may be like.
    THIS. You'll want to call your farm insurance agent as well, because the presence on your property of the "wrong' dog - or, in some cases, ANY dog - can invalidate not just your homeowner's insurance coverage but your farm insurance coverage. The "dog clauses" in farm insurance policies seem to change every year or so, with the trend being toward more and tighter restrictions. It's best to find out what's what BEFORE you fall in love with a dog and bring it home. Saying "No" to a prospective dog is a lot easier, logistically and psychologically, than trying to re-home YOUR dog, even if it's been yours for only a week. Good luck!
    Home page: www.jessicajahiel.com
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  19. #19
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    Jan. 19, 2006
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    Until about 5 yrs ago.....the only breed of dog I ever owned as and adult were GSDs (we had lots of mixes when we were kids though) I have had at least 8 of them over the years. Ive had some really nice german lined dogs, a couple american and a couple were 'unknown' not even registered but obviously purebred.....both dogs and bitches....some spayed/neutered and some intact and bred one litter back before I had kids and had the time to devote to them. I was always very careful about temperaments and stayed away from spooky shy types. Those are the fear biters.

    The thing I can say about all of them is they were very smart and highly trainable and have very good 'common sense'. They just seemed to know right from wrong as far as basic behavior. They didnt chew up household items, get into the garbage, steal food off the counters etc.....and if the did... it only took one good scolding with my voice and that was the end of it. They are very brave and will bond very closely with their family and usually will have one person who they just live to please......they are also very sensitive and act like big babies with their people. Mine we very obedient and most could be trusted off lead in many situations. They would stop on a dime and come when called.

    Ok, so in the past 5 yrs I have had 2 Airedales and one pit-bull mix. BIG BIG differences! One, that may not matter at all to but something you should know about.....is that they shed BIG time 24/7/365. They are one of the highest shedding dog breeds out there. My Airedales do not shed at all and the pit bull does but NOTHING in comparison to the GSDs. They are double coated so have a fuzzy undercoat as well as their top-coat. There will be hair everywhere.

    The next big difference I found that my GSDs were not the kind of dogs who get all wiggly and waggy when they saw another dog, as my current dogs do. They generally did NOT like other dogs much. Some were OK with dogs they got to know from seeing them frequently but on the whole they were not dogs to could just take to a dog park for instance.....and just let them 'play' or you'd be asking for a dog fight.

    So as someone mentioned before.....that is one of the differences between Labs and GSDs and why people ususally go for one type of dog over the other. If you want a happy go lucky all I want to do is play play play type dog, the Lab is a better choice. I found my GSDs to be more on the serious side and they want a job...they love to 'work'. Not they are not playful and love to play ball, fetch a stick, go swimming...they will do all of that and more.

    Also, my Airedales and my pitty have absolutely no interest in chasing the horses....they like to sniff noses and be their friends. ALL of my Shepherds barked at and chased the horses to some degree. Most we were able to control but it took training and always keeping them in check. We had one that lived to chase them and we had to correct him on a daily basis.....other than that, he was perfect!

    They are wonderful dogs.....it was the hair.....and grandchildrens allergies that prompted me to find a new breed to live with. If they didnt shed......I'd have at least two


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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuvMyperch View Post
    Also, my Airedales and my pitty have absolutely no interest in chasing the horses....they like to sniff noses and be their friends. ALL of my Shepherds barked at and chased the horses to some degree. Most we were able to control but it took training and always keeping them in check. We had one that lived to chase them and we had to correct him on a daily basis.....other than that, he was perfect!
    I have a picture of my Airedale trying to pull my TB by his tail. Fortunately Irish is tolerant.

    StG



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