experiences with german shepherds please

(153 Posts)
VicarInaTutu Tue 27-Aug-13 00:28:19

thinking of getting a german shepherd pup. This would be my first "big" dog , i work in the police and have already enlisted potential help in training from a bobby who is a dog handler and does dog training as a second job.

i have thought about getting one for a while - met quite a few through work, and love them. DD met one while staying with a relative last week and is smitten with them.
i would get a dog rather than a bitch and a long haired GSD. House is not huge but garden is of a good size and the park is just 2 mins walk away.

i do have an aging cavalier king charles. totally going for a change here....(and to soften the blow when my beloved girl goes....she is knocking on)
so. GSD owners.....what do i need to know before i get one.
i have the name and number of a reputable breeder and am prepared to go on a waiting list. not in a huge rush.

AdoraBell Tue 27-Aug-13 00:41:21

Mine are wonderful, but I'm not the expert you are looking for. We have 4 (actually 3.5 as one was a stray so I can't be 100% sure)

Obvs as with any big dog if they play rough they can do more damage, but you train them not to play rough with humans. We started training properly, with a retired police dog handler, last week. All but the eldest (my stray) learned what was expected the second time a command was given. Not the second class, but the second word in the first class. My Pirate would not behave for the trainer but would for me, she 's the only one who gave him trouble.

You need to check for health problems, particularly hip problems, but using a reputable breeder as you are makes that easy. They need lot's of affection and excersise and need to be treated kindly, are hugely loyal and obedient. Plus they are just plain gorgeous.

VicarInaTutu Tue 27-Aug-13 00:45:56

I am going to take my police dog handler blokey with me to pick a puppy - he can tell which one to go for.

i intend to have a well mannered, obedient dog - so training will begin at 14 weeks.
I will go to the police handlers puppy classes for 2 months and have some one to one training too.

the dogs at work amaze me. They are incredible - sadly due to cutbacks dog handling positions are being halved so the opportunity to work with one is now highly unlikely, so this is the next best thing.

plus i work shifts - i would feel so much better knowing there was a dog in the house that means business - and to protect dd.

AdoraBell Tue 27-Aug-13 03:10:32

One of mine, my teddy Bear really protects. We were attacked by a sick stray bóxer when the puppies were only 4 months and while DH and my Pirate tríed To flight it off the teddy Bear got between it and DD2, a 40 kilo wall a muscle. And he lets her stradle him like he's a horse. Once DH was mucking about trying To chuck me in a pool when the teddy Bear just sauntered over, walked between us and shoved DH away from me.

The early training is importante, the only reason we didn't do it was because DH is one of them genius blokes who knows how To handle puppieshmm he's learning now.

AdoraBell Tue 27-Aug-13 03:13:14

Forgot To say, good plan getting the dog handle To help you choose the puppy.

The plus sides are they're beautiful, loyal dogs who protect you and make you feel safe.

The downsides are that grooming them is hard work, I'm not sure if i'd want a long haired one! I seem to be constantly brushing mine and still seem to be ankle deep in dog hair and I vaccum every day - it's a bit like shovelling snow while it's still snowing - really I should just attach the Dyson to her.

They're often also very noisy dogs so be prepared to listen to a LOT of barking. They can also be a bit neurotic, scared of loud noises etc and I say this as someone who used to train (agility and obedience) with the local GSD club and a lot of the dogs there were the same and turned into nervous wrecks if there was a loud bang. All of that said, mine is a complete pita as she's a nutcase rescue who is still driving me potty even though she's 10 years old but I adore her more than I have loved any other dog and I've had dogs all my life. There is just something about how loyal they are that melts your heart!

They are amazing, we had a rescue GS who was about 16 months old when we got him. He was the fantastic. Loyal, loving (loved to sit on knees for cuddles), protective and just adorable.

He needed a lot of exercise (3 - 4 hours of walks per day and would have been happy with more), seemed to need constant grooming and could get a bit over protective but he was a well trained wonderful ball of fluff smile

Greyhorses Tue 27-Aug-13 07:34:44

I have two big males and also work with a few.

Bad points:
- they shed ALOT. Be prepared to Hoover every day all year around. Clumps of hair fall out no matter how much I brush mine.
- as a breed I find them aloof and wary of strangers. Mine are very much family dogs and take a while to trust people. In a vets we rarely trust them with
- they are quite expensive. Cost of feed and insurance is quite high.
- they suffer from health issues. Hip dyspasia, sensitive stomAchs and later on splenic masses are very common. Also read up on CDRM which is common in the breed, health testing is important but there are still risks.

However!! If you can deal with the above you will get the most fantastic loving family dogs ever. Mine come everywhere with me and love walks and playing most of the day. They are great at protecting the house and I never feel unsafe when walking them! Mine are great with children, cats and small animals and once they know someone people too.
They are highly intelligent and train so easily if you put the work in, sadly a lot of people don't hence why rescue is so full!!

Good luck

idirdog Tue 27-Aug-13 08:01:54

If you want a well trained dog start before 14 weeks.

Just a word of caution some (many) police dog handlers have outdated training methods that are not suitable for pet dogs.

Research research research to make sure that you get a healthy straight backed GSD - it may take many months to find a healthy mating

tabulahrasa Tue 27-Aug-13 08:29:17

"i would feel so much better knowing there was a dog in the house that means business - and to protect dd."

If you do all the socialization and training required to make a good family pet there are no guarantees that it will protect anyone or be anything other than a friendly pet dog...unless you're planning on actually training for that as well.

Archetype Tue 27-Aug-13 08:43:24

we have a gsd x rottweiler and shes a perfect mix of the breeds. molts twice a year which can drive me a bit potty but shes funny and loving! long haired gsd would drive me mad with the hair!

chrissiegsd Tue 27-Aug-13 11:06:29

Were you aware that there are different types within the GSD "umbrella"?

There are the Show lines - mainly black & gold, some sable (though different from W/L sable. They mainly have sloping backs. Bred in this country, purely for their looks. Nerves can be an issue.
Interestingly Germany requires S/L GSDs breeders to ensure that their breeding dogs also have working qualifications.

The Pet lines - mainly long haired and multi coloured, including the whites. Usually straight backed. Some lines have bad hip dysplasia & epilepsy. Bred for their coats/colour for the pet market.

Then the Working lines - mainly sable, bi-colour, black or black & tan. Within these are the "sports" lines & the working/police lines (which I have). Bred purely for their working ability, so must form strong bonds with their handler and want nothing other than to please their handler.

The ones you've met through work are more than likely the working line ones &, in my experience, nothing at all temperament wise like the long hair pet lines that you are thinking of getting. Remember the police need entirely different qualities - brave/loyal/protective/intelligent/integrity/good health etc - from a dog , so aren't so bothered about coat length/colour/looks - just that it's got the right temperament make up to get the bad guy.
Whereas the pet line breeder will be breeding for the latest "in" colour - which is not in the breed standard - or coat length & not necessarily for the correct GSD temperament.

Of course there will always be exceptions in and out of the specific lines, but generally this is what I've found over the years.

I think that you should have a long hard think exactly what you want from your GSD. and if you have still have your heart set on a long haired one, then at least make sure you get it from a breeder that doesn't specifically breed for long coats. L/C occasionally occur in normal coated litters. From what I gather, the L/C pups used(decades ago) to be culled as they weren't deemed suitable for work as they didn't have an undercoat.

Have you considered one of the police "rejects"? You're in an ideal situation for one, plus it will have been house/obedience trained, out of the puppy mouthing stage etc. GSD puppies are really full on with their mouthing & playing, so this will need very careful supervision with your old Cav & your daughter as they can unintentionally hurt when playing when they're pups/juveniles, an older dog should have outgrown this .

I've found the females much more "serious" & not so full on as the males (mine have been slow to mature "goof balls"). Though, if your Cav is a female, you're probably better off with a male.

absentmindeddooooodles Tue 27-Aug-13 11:17:19

We have a gsd pup. Shes about 9 months now. Lovely lovely breed. Very loyal. We have had some problems ( she is literslly only just house trained in the last 4 days) and she does nip ALOT. She has huge amounts of energy and does get a little rough with my toddler. Although obviously they are never left alone togwther and we monitor any play situations very carefully.

We got her from a reputable breeder and saw both parents etc so have checked for health problems and temprement.

I would say they are a great family dog but need training from day one. Ours has been amazing with recall from day one. Just whistle and shes back by yourfeet. Although its got to the point where I cant take her for a walk on my own now as shes too strong ( iim5.9" and quite strong but still struggle)

If you are willing to get all the training done properly they can be the most amazing pets. Also so bloody cute.

Oh and re the protection issue.....a friend of mine had toclimb over our back wall as I had forgotten my key.....the dog is left to roam in the courtyard. When he went over the wall the dog screeched ran away full pelt tripping over her own legs and proceeded to hide behind the fridge and pee. Not the greatest gaurd dog the big wuss. ( btw shes not a nervous dog at all. Just atotal wuss.)

ParkerTheThief Tue 27-Aug-13 11:37:26

We had three amazing GSDs over a fifteen year period.

They were fantastic dogs, great with other dogs, brilliant guard dogs, but we did have to introduce them every carefully to new people.
The main downside is that as they got older two of them had hip problems.

If you are at all house proud they are not for you, the fur will roll across your floors like tumbleweed and the wet dog mud splatter will decorate your walls.

TheFallenNinja Tue 27-Aug-13 11:58:23

I only skimmed the topic but as far as I am concerned German shepherds tend to be far more disciplined with their flocks, rather than spending their days wistfully staring at the landscape and writing ballads and sad poetry they tend to see themselves more as flock managers.

VicarInaTutu Tue 27-Aug-13 12:36:03

i hoover daily anyway - long haired cats and long haired cav = lots of hair to hoover! the downstairs of my house is all tiled and laminated for that very reason! so hair - while it can be a bit of a pain doesnt really bother me.
the dogs dont go upstairs.

im in the police and the handler i am going to get help from also works as a dog trainer - no outdated modes as far as i can see - he said from a puppy point of view the most important thing is teaching manners and socialisation. he is very knowledgable.

i dont want a guard dog - i want a pet first and foremost. dd is 16years old btw, not a toddler....ds is 21.

i fully intend to start training from day 1 - but would go to the puppy classes from 14 weeks for 8 weeks. other training would be done at home.
i dont want an unruly 10 stone dog - i need a dog i can walk, control, recall, as i can my other dog.
i have found that most smaller breeds tend to be more wappy and fussy than bigger breeds.
going into this with eyes open.....

not sure about getting a police "reject" if they are different lines - though the dog handler who works our shift has the most loving beautiful dog, you can love and pet him, he switches to business mode when required. we gave DH a lift after a job once and dog sat inbetween the seats licking my ear.....though he is an exception i think.

might speak further to the handler who will be helping me about that possibility....

chickchickchickenkeeper Tue 27-Aug-13 13:05:58

Health is the most important factor for me. You want a breeder who has hip and elbow scored the parents, has tested for eye problems, the male is Haemophilia tested, and ask them about Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy (CDRM - I am not sure if it can be tested for) and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) in their lines. If they deny they have either, be very very suspicious.

I would also personally avoid any european lines (unless blended in with UK lines) as they are typically very pushy and worky, and don't always have the most stable of temperments. If someone is breeding from Schutzhund lines, avoid for a pet imo.

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 27-Aug-13 13:33:55

Having worked with a client who is an ex-dog handler who got his first 'pet' GSD if can tell you police/forces dog work is all about winding the dog up. The client was unconsciously doing this with his pet and spent 3 months with a behaviourist unlearning his habits.
Another thing that I see regularly with shepherds is that they are very aware of their pack and will want to protect it. An example of this would be we had a GSD in the clinic hospitalised two colleagues got out the kennel to take him to the garden all fine happy with both of them, one goes back inside and the comes back out and is barked at as he is no longer part of the pack.
I love shepherds, but would never have one myself as they are very high maintenance dogs IME.

lookingforbaubles Tue 27-Aug-13 13:48:12

i have such lovely memory's of my GSD, she was very faithful

she could almost read my mind as to what i wanted her to do without telling her, trained very easily, walked beautiful but yes very aloof as in ignored other dogs, never played with them. Not really interested in food, she just 'did' because she wanted to please.

would have another one in a heart beat, after my walking stomach -Labrador- ever gets off the sofa and shuffles off over the bridge

chrissiegsd Tue 27-Aug-13 14:36:51

My 2 are both from police breeding programmes & are "just" pets! They are just lovely. The female is nearly 8yrs & the male 3yrs. I've had them since they were 7/8 weeks old.
The police assess each puppy when it's about 7 wks old with a series of "tests" - some aren't suitable & are offered up for sale to the public. Also the police mainly favour males for their operational dogs, just keeping some of the females for their breeding programmes, so more female pups tend to be available than males. This was before all of the cut backs.
Please don't be put off by the working lines - they tend to have the true GSD temperament & make wonderfully loyal obedient pets. They do tend to have higher drives though, so need lots of exercise & training.
The "reject" thing - the puppies are usually put out to puppy walkers for the first year (as you probably know) & come back to the police at various intervals during that year for training & to be assessed. The dogs are then handed back to the police at a year old for their "formal" police training - some just don't make the grade & fail somewhere along the line - tracking/loud noises (gun shots) - these "rejects" are then rehomed. This is one of the reasons that the protection/defence training is done last.
You mention that you have cats - you need to make sure if you decide to have an older dog that it's been brought up with cats - very important.
I very much doubt that the police dog you are describing is an exception!
My very first GSD was a 3year old fully operational dog. I house trained him & had him living in the house with us for over 10 years. Not once during his entire time with us did he ever put a foot wrong with us, or our 3 children. In fact when my daughter was learning to walk, he would walk sooo slowly along with her, her hand on his back, using him to balance. He was so very gentle with her, only taking food from her when she offered to share it with him by holding it out, & then taking it so very carefully from her fingers.

I've just seen Chicken's post re the European lines - all mine have/had these in their pedigrees(complete with lots & lots of Schutzhund 3's) and have had 100% stable temperaments so far.......

Before a dog is even accepted for Schutzhund training it has to pass a temperament test anyway, & is rejected if it's not deemed stable. Schutzhund 1 is the training element (long stay/recall etc), then the dog progresses to Sch 2 which is the tracking element, & finally Sch 3 which is the protection/defence.

chickchickchickenkeeper Tue 27-Aug-13 16:18:49

There are people bringing in schutzhund lines GSDs from Europe, esp at 4m old who are NOT suitable pets, and are often going to homes that are far from suitable and being bred on from. I am sure there are nice ones but I would personally recommend people avoid them as I have seen what they are like in 99% of cases. I don't like to tar one group but these GSDs are not good pets. Well bred lines will be, but the majority around arne't these dogs

tabulahrasa Tue 27-Aug-13 16:31:56

"There are people bringing in schutzhund lines GSDs from Europe"

In a few European countries though...Germany being one, dogs have to have a schutzhund title to be passed as fit to breed, that's as well as passing a confirmation title, and passing endurance, obedience and temperament tests.

I'd rather have a German GSD than one from someone down the road who threw together any old dogs even if they were health tested.

chrissiegsd Tue 27-Aug-13 17:06:16

Tabulahrasa - I agree, I said more or less that up thread.

Chickchick - There are lots of unscrupulous breeders out there in pet/show/working GSDs as well as in every single other breed - fact.

Vicar has posted that she has a dog handler contact that has offered to guide her through the minefield of choosing a correctly bred GSD puppy that will fit in with her family.

I've posted my first hand experience with my working line GSDs that have been obtained from police breeding programmes that are my pets. In my opinion & experience they are what a "proper" GSD should be - trustworthy, loyal, obedient & protective. When the time comes for me to get another GSD I will get one from the police again - whether it be a puppy or a "reject". I personally wouldn't touch a U.K. line GSD with a barge pole, but that's just my opinion.

Lookingforbaubles - you've summed up the character of a correctly bred GSD beautifully in your post.

VicarInaTutu Tue 27-Aug-13 22:40:51

i think i will email our dog handler unit and ask about "rejects" then chrissie....its worth a look.

our unit do ask for pupper adopters for that first year - i have shied away from that as i know i would never want to give the dog back after a year.

i will call our training unit in OSS and ask - but in our force the number of dog handlers is being halved. not sure how this wll affect the breeding programme. sad

chrissiegsd Wed 28-Aug-13 09:53:03

I just don't think you realise what a really fab position you are in being able to access your dog unit, Vicar.

It's got to be, at the very least, worth some of your time to explore the possibility of acquiring a dog or pup from there.

I know for a fact that all of the different Dog Units "share" their stud dogs with each other when required in order to enhance their own Unit's breeding programme, so I suspect that quite a few of the Head Trainers will be mates or at the very least have some sort of working relationship with each other. Why don't you arrange to meet up with the Head of your Dog Unit to explore all of your options, he can then put some feelers out for you at other Dog Units as well?

I wouldn't do the puppy adopter thing for the exact same reason as you either.

I know you mentioned that you'd like a male, but some of the dog units place their future brood bitches (from 8wks) in "foster" families which might very well be an option for you as she would just have to return to the dog section briefly when she needed to be mated, etc which wouldn't be until she is over 2yr anyway. When she's "retired" from her "mum" duties(usually 3 litters) , the "foster" family is given the option as to whether they want to keep her or not. Of course, all the different dog sections will have slightly different rules, but that's the gist of it. The dog section covers food, vet bills, etc as it's essentially "their" dog, but she would live with your family & obviously in her eyes(which is the most important thing) you would be her family.
When the time comes for me to have my next female GSD, this is definitely going to be an option that I thoroughly explore.

One thing that has been niggling me is a reference up the thread regarding GSDs & their pack, so I'm just going to give you an example of my experience with mine.

My middle son started Uni last September, so it was weeks, sometimes months that he wasn't home for. But every single time he came back my 2 were sat at the door with their tails wagging waiting for him to walk in. Also when he's home he obviously goes out at night with his mates, coming in late at night (something the dogs haven't been used to him doing since before last Sept), with different cars dropping him off (sometimes very late) - we haven't had a single incident where the dogs haven't known who he was when he's walked in the door.

Also the comment I made about GSD's with U.K. lines - if you search the GSD forum over on pedigree database for some of the kennels with "pet" lines, you will find information backing up what I said. There was a thread the other year that shocked me - certain "pet" line breeders had been using dogs with hip scores in the 90's (should be 20 & under), using dogs riddled with epilepsy - for decades -, even putting down a dog as the sire of litters when it had been dead for years - all just to "enhance" their "breeding" programmes. There were also some truly heart breaking posts from some of the poor people who had purchased puppies from these "breeders" as well.

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