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experiences with german shepherds please

(154 Posts)
ThatVikRinA22 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.

jahm123 Wed 16-Jul-14 09:20:17

Hi there,

I just saw this about your German Shepherd and I hope you are getting on ok with the training - was it easy? I have also just got a German Shepherd puppy having previously had black labs. I found really good information on which had masses of information on German Shepherd health and training. Some articles were more useful than other. I am also going to try and book some training for my German Shepherd when she is a little older. They are amazing dogs!

ThatVikRinA22 Thu 30-Jan-14 02:11:14

this is him a couple of weeks ago....


big bear!

he is growing so fast but he is just beautiful.

ThatVikRinA22 Thu 30-Jan-14 01:49:12

well i just thought id update.

he is now almost 6 months, and weighs 5 stone! all muscle! he is very lean.

he is just wonderful.
easy in every way. he is obedient. loyal. he behaves in the car. he behaves out walking. in the park. He was so easy to housetrain and he goes into his (huge) crate without fuss or bother.
he barks if anyone knocks at the door.
i feel safe with him.
he knows the main commands and usually obeys them.
we walked today through town centre, he sat at every road and waited for the command to move, he didnt pull, his attention was completely on me, he was friendly to passing children, he even managed not to bark at 2 dogs who barked at him!
out and about in the park he is fine off the lead. his recall is good (mostly!!unless he finds a dog to play with!)

training is going really well though his classes have been a bit of a let down - cancelled almost every week, they were cancelled over xmas then due to bad weather. so far he has only attended 2, but luckily we are doing really well on our own. He has been a revelation. He is so quick and intelligent. Everything he has learnt has been through kindness and rewards. He loves us and we love him!
and DH absolutely adores him. im surprised as dh is not prone to displays of passion and doesnt get attached to animals - but this has been different! he calls him his big bear! blush he talks to him in silly voices and walks him daily. (we take it in turns! so he gets plenty of walks!)
we all love him so much. im so glad i got him and the research and help on here was invaluable.
he is truly an amazing addition to our family and is so loved. The comments people make when we are out with him make me so proud! he is a beautiful dog, a real head turner!

no regrets at all. i would have a houseful of GSD. The breeder has said she is looking to rehome his so tempted!

Booboostoo Wed 13-Nov-13 17:34:09

He looks absolutely gorgeous, I am very jealous.

I have never had any problems training my GSDs with positive reinforcement methods, they are extremely intelligent dogs and learn very quickly. I would strongly suggest you go and observe a training class before committing to joining to make sure the trainer is using the right methods. Also, a lot of places run puppy parties for puppies under 16wks old so you can take them before their vaccinations are done - they are the best fun ever!

Personally I don't use the word 'no' as it is used so commonly dogs become desensitised to it. I do like my dogs to learn that 'uh ah' means 'stop what you are doing immediately', but I use the command very sparingly and only when really necessary. For simply puppy things like chewing, jumping up, mouthing, etc. I use either distraction or counter conditioning.

GladitsnotJustMe Wed 13-Nov-13 10:52:47

Hi Vicar how is your gorgeous boy getting on?

Hope the training is going well, sounds like you're getting some great support from your colleagues.

Is he 'out and about' yet? Ive lost track of timescales.

My GSD is going through a mega shedding phase at the moment (oh the joy that you have ahead of you!), we brushed enough out of him to stuff a cushion the other day. He's also a bit smelly - not sure why, but I suspect he just needs a lot more grooming.

Hope you're still loving every minute with your new boy

Catsmamma Mon 04-Nov-13 18:09:56

we have two gsds and have numerous pups through the house...we puppy walk.

All pups are a bit different, the two gsds we have are both highly typical, but opposite ends of the scale and depending on where they fall depends how you handle them

Zac is needy, clingy, very much MY boy, aloof with most strangers, fairly eager to please me and has been fairly easy to train
Keller is very family oriented, he needs to know where everyone is and will sulk if he forgets someone is out and he cannot find them, he is much more independent than Zac, much deeper and thoughtful, he knows full well what he is supposed to do but will do it in his own time and on his own terms, thankyou very much.

As a pup Keller was very bitey withdrawal worked for helps if you crouch to give a fuss, the second they nip or jump you straighten up hands folded, turn away, not even looking at them. You wait till they sit and give more fuss, it really shouldn't take long for the penny to drop and then you can lessen your reaction to a hands off/look away/"NO!"

He as also very keen on ankly biting....we used distraction and walking quite slowly with "watch me" or "close" while distracting ith a hand pinchy motion to get a focus.

I'd also third the getting out with him up in arms....the more they see and hear at this young age the better.

Lilcamper Mon 04-Nov-13 17:39:48

And the link was all about dealing with a bitey puppy, which is what Barney is.

Lilcamper Mon 04-Nov-13 17:38:57

I am not saying a yelp doesn't work for some dogs, it does but for others a yelp from a human turns them into a big squeaky toy and can excite the pup further and make them play more roughly.

My kissy nose is a POSITIVE interrupter. It can't be done in a negative way. No is negative (obviously) and it is a word we humans use far too much. It's starts to lose it's effectiveness after a while.

'Leave it' isn't an interrupter, it is a cue that my dog has learned.

GladitsnotJustMe Mon 04-Nov-13 17:32:50

But what is the difference between "No" and a kissy noise or "Leave it"...? they're all just interrupter noises. It is us that has put a negative connotation to the word "No" but in reality, you could just as well say "Bananas" or "Rainbows" as long as that's your consistent word. It's just that 'No' is more widely understood by other humans and you won't look bonkers shouting 'Rainbows' on the beach grin

The Facebook link is good, but really doesn't relate to dealing with a dog that is biting you. I think a loud, puppy like yelp while withdrawing from the dog really works. They understand that you don't like it, and my dog very clearly inhibits his bite (in play) after such an incident, so he really does seem to understand it.

Sorry again Vicar, dont' want to derail your thread. Keep updating us on the gorgeous bear's progress (I'm very jealous and want another GSD puppy soooo much!)

Lilcamper Mon 04-Nov-13 15:06:54

As far as the 'no' is concerned there is just no need, I use a positive interrupter, a kissy nose to distract and redirect. My dog won't eat a jellyfish on a beach because I have taught him a 'leave it' cue.

As far as the pinning and scruffing goes, you said it right there, the pup voluntarily rolls over, it isn't forced. It just isn't needed and dogs are smart enough they know we aren't other dogs. Scruffing a dog can go one of two ways, the dog becomes fearful of it's owner's hands, the owners hands become a bad thing, the owner approaches the dog to put a lead on, dog pees itself and runs away or dog finally has had enough and fights back in self defence.

Far better to deal with a land shark pup this way

GladitsnotJustMe Mon 04-Nov-13 14:54:34

Just reading further mrslaughan you say that "'[pinning] is not a way to develop a healthy long term relationship, by forcing him into submission?"

But that is exactly what other dogs do to each other - particularly adult dogs with puppies. My GSD will gently hold a pup down with his paw, while the pup rolls over into submission. It isn't aggressive at all, it's simply giving a clear message of who is in charge.

And the kind of play pinning that Vicar describes is hardly 'forcing' the dog into submission. If the dog really wanted to get up, he really could.

I'm prepared to be told I'm wrong on this, but I really don't get the problem with pinning??

GladitsnotJustMe Mon 04-Nov-13 14:47:33

I don't get what the problem is with pinning?

When my GSD was young, particularly when he went through the 'boisterous teenager' stage and started testing his boundaries, I used to play games with him which involved me pinning him. When he was naughty I would hold his muzzle and look into his eyes and growl. When he was in his play biting stage, I would yelp loudly whenever he tried to bite. My logic was that these were all behaviours that other dogs use to teach each other boundaries, so they would be things that he would understand. I watch my dog with other dogs, and these are signals he uses towards others to show him his boundaries and what is acceptable to him. I never, ever hit him or hurt him. He got the message quickly, and has rarely, if ever, done anything naughty in all his adult life.

So what is the problem with teaching a dog the same way his litter mates or mother would teach him? I'm not asking this question to be confrontational, I'm genuinely interested as to why this school of thought is considered wrong?

I also use a firm 'No' when necessary - yes, it's just another word, and it could be any word / sound, you could be saying "Bananas" for all the dog cares, and I think the tone of voice is just as important as the word. But sometimes it needs to be used quickly without time to think e.g. when the dog is about to do something dangerous, and it needs to be a command that other people understand and are able to use - so it makes sense that we use a word that we humans understand... what's the problem with 'No'?? It's not a punishment as Lilcamper suggests, it's merely a signal to stop doing what he is doing. You are then able to redirect him if appropriate.

Also, if you don't establish this 'No' signal and choose to simply show him what you do want him to do instead - how will you control him in later life when he isn't in your immediate reach and you need to stop him doing something e.g. on a beach about to eat a jellyfish?? I have prevented many a potential accident with my dog by using a swift 'No' which he reacts immediately to.

Sorry Vicar for this rant on your thread - I think it sounds like you're doing a wonderful job with Barney Bear, (love the name BTW) and he will turn out to be a lovely, well rounded GSD.

Lilcamper Mon 04-Nov-13 07:42:30

Scruffing him IS harsh and old school, the only time a mother dog would scruff a pup is to move them somewhere else. You aren't his mum and he knows you are a different species. I wouldn't be using 'no' on him either, it's just another word, show him what you DO want him to do instead of punishing what is wrong in your eyes.

idirdog Mon 04-Nov-13 07:27:34

Vicar you are using harsh handling grabbing by the scruff of the neck is ridiculous old fashioned training methods. But if you think it is fine......

He does not know what no means he knows that when you say know you turn into a loon that grabs him by his neck.

ThatVikRinA22 Mon 04-Nov-13 04:38:54

thanks chrissie - i sought advice from our various dog handlers today - they all think he is lovely and have advised against anything harsh.

ive been told to get a dog whistle and use rewards.

ive been told to teach him what "NO" means - he already knows it. and ive been told to mimic what his mum and litter mates would do if he goes too far - so just to grab him by the scruff and say a very firm "NO" if he is doing something naughty.
this has worked very well so far. he tends to bite feet.....but he clearly knows what NO means as he stops the moment you say it.

ive no idea where the idea that dog handlers use antiquated techniques - ours are all very much of a different school of thought. Even the most hard handler told me today not to do something the breeder had told me to im getting good advice and he is very lovely natured anyway and wants to please.....makes training him that much easier!

chrissiegsd Sat 02-Nov-13 15:15:44

Sorry Vic, cross post!

chrissiegsd Sat 02-Nov-13 15:14:31

Vic, I must say it sounds like he's coming along really well! You've only had him a week & he's going to the door for the loo, fetching a ball AND giving it to you, he knows his name, it sounds as if he's good in his crate at night & you're working on sit! You've had him a week! I would say you're doing brilliantly well with him - honestly!

Yep, you definitely need to be careful with those stones as they can be lethal. Not sure how large your garden is, but would it be easier to fence of a section of it so you can safely leave him to play in it for a bit rather than tackle the borders?

Your Cavi sounds like she's doing a sterling job getting Barney into shape! She will be setting him boundaries & showing him how far he can go. She'll need to whip him into shape quickly before he gets too big, so if I were you I wouldn't tell her off at all if she snaps/growls at the pup-obviously keep an eye on things tho'. I realise that this will be even more work for you now, but honestly it will be worth it long term.

Are you feeding them together? I would - I do - mine sit & wait when their food is placed in front of them, & then to eat only from their own bowls. I also make a point (even when they're all grown up!) of making sure that they're comfortable with me handling their food bowl - they wag their tails when they see me coming towards their bowls. This is very easily accomplished by just putting higher value food in while they're eating their kibble. I just work this into my regular routine by feeding the dogs after we've had our tea, but before I've cleared away. Then as the dogs are eating & as I'm clearing away, I just scrape the leftover meat/veg directly into each dogs' bowl.

Re the pinning thing - generally speaking, the vets I've come into contact with over the years aren't that clued up on behavioural advice. Lots of people have conflicting views on it, as well as training methods in general. It's not something that I have ever done.

I totally agree with you, all of the police dog handlers that I've come into contact with over the years have been had beautifully trained, obedient, well looked after happy dogs that they can rightly be proud of.

I reckon in another week(tops) Barney will have worked out how to get onto your sofa!

ThatVikRinA22 Sat 02-Nov-13 14:27:39

yep hear you all with the pinning stuff - as i have said - and will say again - im not particularly "pinning" him anywhere - he is quite happy to be groomed and examined, and actually rolls on to his back for me. i dont have to "pin" him - this is what the vet and breeder said but he isnt putting up the least bit of resistance so far to being groomed or examined - he goes floppy like a little rag doll and just lets me get on with it.

im grooming him daily and checking his paws, ears, eyes, mouth etc so he gets used to it. he is very compliant.

i trained my other dog after she had come from a home of abuse, she learnt to trust me, because i used praise and treats, i never smack or hurt my dogs - ever.

i hope i dont have to keep repeating myself here.....

mrslaughan Sat 02-Nov-13 09:59:01

Whats with the pinning? He does need to respect you, but I would be have thought this is not a way to develop a healthy long term relationship, by forcing him into submission?

yes he needs to be comfortable with you handling him, but Pinning him I would have thought could make him less so?

Also you have to be bloody strong to carry this on once he gets dog is 54KG, there is no way I could force submission, but he gives it to me because he trusts me.

ThatVikRinA22 Sat 02-Nov-13 00:30:03

thanks for the thoughts folks - anyone who knows me will realise that i am not in the least bit "old school", we are starting puppy training as soon as he has had his second vaccinations.

chrisie - he is actually very accommodating and lets me examine him and brush him quite well. it was the vet and the breeder who said plenty of pinning games and hands in his mouth....all the police dog handlers at work have gone gooey over him! no one has advised harsh tactics at work at all. Our dog handlers are actually very enlightened.

he also plays fetch. he toddles off after the ball....brings it back....drops it to be thrown again.
he seems to understand his name now and "come here"
ive tried a few "sits" but nothing much he has found his feet i will try a few more commands and see if he gets it. He wants to please - he is such a good natured little fella....he has found his naughty side but its "puppy" naughty....nothing i would tell him off for, though he is starting to understand the word "NO!"
im happy to use clicker training.

my little cav....oh deary me....she has gotten over the slightly nervous phase and is now firmly within the pissed off phase.....
so far she is holding her own. He is very boisterous and mithers her a lot....she is an old lady really and cant be bothered with it, though she does play chase with him in the garden. So far he cant get on the couch so she knows if she gets up on there he cant pester....

he is quite submissive with her - she tells him off and he lays down and tries to lick her.....but she is having none of it. She is tolerating him, but i cant say she seems impressed! nor are the cats. They all seem to have accepted he is here to stay though.

im not thinking about the "kevin" phase.....he is actually very good but it really is like having a toddler in the house again.....i cant turn my back for a minute. Im going to have to sort the gravel borders out as he is determined to eat the stones.....(so far i have always got them off him) i could leave him to play in the garden if not for the stones....he is still very much a baby and plays, then crashes out fast asleep.....which is a relief! god knows what ill do when he stops napping.....

for his own safety and my sanity he is crated at night or if i go out and leave him alone - which isnt often i have to say. he is very happy that it is his bed. no whimpering at all and no protests.

he is super sweet natured.he is just at the hard work stage!

chrissiegsd Fri 01-Nov-13 14:21:04

Vic, you are absolutely correct that Barney needs to be 100% comfortable with you examining all of his bits & by continuing to groom him & checking his ears, eyes, mouth etc regularly he will soon build up his trust in you.

If he starts getting all wriggly & won't calm down when you're grooming him I would either distract him by giving him something to chew & continue grooming him- mine love cold (washed) carrots from the fridge - or break up his grooming sessions into smaller chunks. He'll be bored that's all.

What I also do is that anything that I do that the dog may find even slightly unpleasant, such as cleaning their ears, checking between their pads, applying flea treatment, giving them worming tablets -I counterbalance it at the end by ALWAYS giving them a treat.

When they're puppies it's usually a high value food treat such as chicken, & as they get older I'll mix it up - so sometimes a ball game, extra walk, or a food treat. They quickly learn that if they stand still, whatever treatment will be over faster & they can have their treat.

I've recently had my female quite poorly & she's had to have quite a few meds given to her in the form of anti b's, ointment, drops, tablets etc - so much so that even the vet enquired if I was ok administering them all. I didn't have a peep out of her, she stood as good as gold waiting patiently for her treat to arrive at the end of it - & that was 3x's a day for 2 weeks at the beginning.

When he's being naughty I would simply redirect him.
Have you tried training him to sit yet? You should try - you'll be really surprised at how quickly he picks it up. As he's so tiny just remember to keep the training sessions short - say 5 mins. Several shorter sessions a day at this age are much better than one longer one.

Also try rolling a ball just a few feet away (one that fits in his mouth, but make sure he can't swallow it obviously, & don't leave him to chew it), you may need to get him interested in the ball first before you roll it, then as he starts to follow the ball insert a command such as "fetch", as soon as he picks up the ball call him back to you with another command "come", "here", whatever you want, but it's important that you choose your command words & stick to them. Make sure you're crouched down to his level as he arrives back to you, then lots & lots of praise for being the cleverest poopster in the world. All this will help build up the bond between you, which is the key to getting him to do all you ask of him as he won't want to displease you.

I would just have a google before you fork out for a Furminator - I think(but not 100%sure) that they work by removing the undercoat & most long coated GSDs don't have an undercoat. Get a Sebo instead!

As for the nervous breakdowns - wait until he hits the "Kevin" stage! Oh my! You'll be having at least 3 a day!

What does your little Cavi make of him?!

Dirtybadger Fri 01-Nov-13 10:31:49

I was gonna say something similar to idirdog. Maybe teach him a cute play dead. He lies on his side. He gets up when released. Build duration (he's only a baby I doubt he'll have the self control to manage long to start) and then make it trickier by him allowing you to handle him whilst he plays dead. Reinforce. reinforce. Eventually you'll have a dog who loves to lay on his side and be handled for a game or tasty now and again!

I've never owned a GSD brain so he might get it quicker than I'm thinking, actually.

idirdog Fri 01-Nov-13 09:15:58

Knowing who is boss is a really old fashioned and dangerous way to train a dog. Although a way of training that is hanging around with GSD trainers sad

GSD do not need to be trained in a different way from other dogs. Why force a dog to do something when it is easier for the dog to want to do things. Rather than pin him on his back reward him for lying on his back for a command and moving when you give him a release command- you will be stimulating his brain and building trust.

Good books to read although there are 100's on this topic

How dogs Learn by Mary Burch and Jon Bailey
Dominance Fact or Fiction Barry Eaton

The majority of Police dog handlers are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to dog training. Although some are now beginning to use a clicker and are being amazed at the speed they can train the dogs smile so hopefully things will change.

MartyrStewart Thu 31-Oct-13 23:50:17

You won't need him to know you are the boss - he just needs to know that you are the gateway to all things exciting!

Also, I forgot to recommend a furminator - don't pay forty quid, get one off of E-bay. You can thank me later wink

ThatVikRinA22 Thu 31-Oct-13 22:40:07

he seems quite happy to be "pinned" - when i say "pinned" its more like he rolls on to his back for a tummy rub....

i do examine him daily and brush him - he has to learn to allow this? so i lay him on his side, he turns on to his back for tummy rubs, i check his ears, mouth, paws.....then give him a quick once over with a brush, i leave him alone when done and praise him like mad.

he is very laid back. not an ounce of aggression in him. he loves to lay on his back for his tummy i just sort of utilise this and use it as an opportunity to examine and brush him....sometimes he wants to get up before ive done, so i keep him where i want him until im done brushing or examining....

i am conscious of the fact he will be a big strong dog with teeth.....i need him to know that we are the not rough...but i do make him stay put while i do what i need to do.

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