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German Shepard?(38 Posts)
I am looking for some advice on beginning a dog search. We have tentatively decided to go with German Shepard as our dog of choice - we live in the countryside, I’m at home so would be able to walk the dog regularly and we have 2 DC (3 and 5) who would love a new family addition. DH and I were thinking that a puppy would be a good option as it would become socialised to the kids and chickens from the beginning. I’m struggling to figure out how to navigate the dog breeder world so any tips people have would be much appreciated. We would be open to a dog who was maybe not quite suited to be a guide dog or similar but again I’m not sure how to go about searching. We have done quite a lot of research on the breed and I understand they vary massively in temperament and health problems. What is the best way to ensure we end up with a healthy dog which will be suited to family life? Are there any GS owners out there with any training advice (or just general advice!) about the suitability to our current set up?
Many thanks for all your help!
Socialise socialise socialise!!! I cannot stress this enough.
GSD’s are not aggressive by nature. That is a myth. They’re actually originally a herding breed and a lot of them have the habit of herding children and toddlers. That could be a problem for you.
They can be highly strung and demanding.
Are you looking at male or female? Of course there are exceptions but they both tend to have different characteristics. Females tend to have a favourite person and will feel protective of that person (and their family) where as males tend to be protective of the house/their surroundings. I also find females to be more clingy.
Please do your research on the breeder. Always see their mum with the litter. Be careful with exercise - whilst mine gets off lead exercise over the field every day you have to be careful of their hips and elbows.
If you want a dog who will settle with just 1 or 2 short lead walks do not get a gsd. Be prepared for field trips rain wind or snow.
Lots and lots of mental stimulation. Puppy classes, scent training etc. These dogs don’t like to be bored. They’re extremely clever and like to use their brain! There’s a reason why they’re used in the police etc
You mention chickens - this breed has a high prey drive! We tried EVERYTHING and I mean absolutely everything and mine would not leave the cat alone. Even now random cats, I honestly think if she was off the lead and managed to get one she would kill it.
They’re very ‘aloof’ and don’t really pay attention to people. When I’m over the field and other dog walkers chat to me, they can call my dog until their heart is content but she won’t go. She used to as a puppy but now she’s fully matured she’s very stand offish towards people out the house. My girl doesn’t let strangers come too close to me, she is very protective but should never be confused with aggressive.
Have you thought about failed police dogs? I just worry they with a 3 and 5 year old a GSD puppy would be a lot to take on. At least with a failed service dog they’ve already had a lot of training.
Be prepared for judgemental people. They will avoid you, they will refuse to let their dog near yours. Not everyone of course but a lot! My dog has never started a fight but she always finishes them. She usually gets the blame just because of her breed.
Pet insurance!! It doesn’t come cheap because of their health risks but please get some.
We once rescued a GSD and she was one of the loveliest dogs you could ever meet. My current girl is a lot more hard work (I don’t mean this in a bad way).
Bare in mind GSD's are a working breed and need lots of mental stimulation as well as exercise.
We are on our 2nd GSD After losing our 1st one 16 months ago.That about broke me,he was an amazing boy and we all adored him.He was brilliant with the kids and loved it when we adopted a small breed rescue puppy.He was very social.
Our current one is abit of a dickhead,he's obsessed with my husband and is quite mischievous but affectionate.
Make sure you work on any mouthing/nipping immediately due to the kids.
Sounds as though you have an ideal home for one and as you've little ones a puppy you can train from scratch would be better.
Our first GSD was a failed police dog;I wouldn't recommend one for a family with little ones as they'll be a working line with a higher drive.
Ironically my hubby is a dog handler in the private sector and the failed dog flew through his assessments and training and was a faithful working dog
I know exactly what you mean about how aloof they are 😂 they like the fuss but decide when they've had enough and just walk off
A GSD with small children? I'm sorry, but in my opinion you are completely out of your tree to even consider it. Any breed that has the potential for aggression would be totally out for me, I couldnt take the risk. A labrador or retriever would be much better suited to a family. Gun dogs in general are amazing family dogs, they tend to be gentle, they have what's called 'soft mouths' so they don't lock their jaws and damage game. I'd pick from that group depending on your activity level as a family, they go from a laid back lab to a bouncy springer. A GSD - absolutely not. They are used as police dogs for a reason and hell would freeze over before I'd allow one near a small child. We've had springers with small children and they are so gentle, mad and bouncy and high energy but all of ours have been fantastic with kids. We got our first when our youngest was four.
We have 3 big dog breeds, GSD (2 in sept), Irish woldhound (16 months), great dane (11 months)
By far our GSD is most demanding... the need for mental and physical situation is huge, I can take him on a 7 mile walk and he will still have energy for the rest of the day, hes highly intelligent and interested in everything, he has a tendancy to "prowl" - ie, walking circles around the house, garden etc. We recently put a gated fence to protect our lawn from the dogs, fence had to be raised from just over 4ft as the GSD was sneaky jumping over when we weren't around and peeing all over the garden... then jumping back before we came downstairs/outside. We didn't even click on until we noticed the lawn and plants dying from strange dead grass circles
We raised said gate to almost 6ft. Bugger cleared it again (only just) the other night when we had friends over!!!
I second PP on judgmental people. We have 2 giant breeds, and the GSD. Guess which on people are petrified of?
People cross roads, instantly sieze up, not too long ago I had a woman in a park walking ahead of me, looking totally freaked out, she actually started warning other walkers heading my way "there's a huge GSD coming up, be careful"
I was gutted and embarrassed, he was on the lead, causing no harm. Luckily most other dog walkers took not much notice after I spoke to them.
Big socialisation is a must with GSD, but even with all that, thier nature might override things. We can't take our GSD into our local micro bar due to his behaviour, despite him being socialised in there as a pup, he became very guarded of the back door in the beer garden, jumping up at the door, wanting to get in/out and wanting to personally greet anyone who dare enter or exit. After a certain age, it was a nightmare and he became very stressed. We no longer take him into that building... our other two, we can take in with no problems, so its not to do with our training practices, just breed specifics.
Strangers coming into the house are another (almost) issue, he will bark and want to greet said person, he will jump up, despite training not too - again more of a breed specific IMO, as our other two dogs will not jump- having said that, hes very friendly.
Great points with the GSD, I have a DS just turned 6 and the GSD is his best friend. GSD will follow DS everywhere. Play times are fun. My son can boss GSD around all over, throw things for him and play games. On the beach GSD will follow Ds around, you get the feeling GSD is walking around sayjng "what you doing now?? Whats that? Shall we look at this? What have you found there?"
Hes a wonderful dog with my son.
My DP handles the GSD better than I do, a GSD needs a strong hierarchy of where they stand. My DP commands great respect from the GSD to the point that the GSD does fear him a little, if GSD tries to come 'above his station' - where as if try for authority sometimes GSD thinks it is a game.
Having said all this, GSD is a wonderful dog, funny, protective, good family dog - PP said they find the breed to be aloof with strangers, not the case with ours who loves visitors and will come to us and others for attention.
Hes my first GSD, and I adore him. We had him from pup from a kennel club breeder who was very, very good and we are still in touch with. I shall try and get you details if you're still interested.
Our dog gets regular compliments from those who love the breed, hes a fantastic looking dog.
Please think so carefully before getting GSD, theyre definitely the most challenging breed of dog, for time, effort, stimulation etc that I've owned- although you will be rewarded with a loyal and protective (not aggressive unless trained to be) family dog.
If it wasnt for DPs love of GSD, I probably wouldn't own another - just because of the sheer demands of them - our IW has the size, but her demands are absolutely next to nothing (happy to be fed, sleep, cuddle, 20 minute jumping around/run/walk - sleep for another 10 days, lol)
DP claims our GSD is the most relaxed and easy GSD hes owned, with very little territory aggression and no possessive aggression - although I personally think this is down to my (great lol!) Training and good breeding genes.
Will be watching with interest to see what you choose to do! Sorry if my post is rambling, just love to help a potential dog owner with true stories from another first time GSD owner!
Just to add, first poster who replied to your post is spot on, with all accounts of the breed.
I have to mention: high prey drive for certain, my GSD was barking at something up the garden a couple of days ago, IW & GD mostly just stood there. Turns out was a rat on the bird feeder.
Local pigeons have now learned that GSD can't get to them on wall by lawn. Like to sit and tease him. He will bark and bark at them.
GSD is really bothered about flies and will spend hours prowling around, chasing flies, jumping around snapping jaws trying to get them.
A cat ventured into our house once, via front door. GSD clear view from kitchen, let just say - cat won't even WALK past our house now, and crosses over the road... poor thing.
This is not to say that GSD can't be around small animals, but again -i have to say that they can change from accepting puppy, to 'i have my own ideas, test me in the blink of an eye - whereas again, my giant breeds, i can hardly even tell they've grown up! They're both as soft as ever.
I have had 5 GSD in the past and currently have two. I think they are fantastic family dogs. To the poster who said they are aggressive is talking absolute crap. The reason the police use them is because they are so devoted to their person that they would jump off a cliff for you, not because they are savage. Actually the police have predominately moved onto maliniois now so most police dogs you see are not German shepherds at all.
All of mine have been different lines, working/show and a fluffy pet and not one of them has ever shown aggression to family and we have young children. I would trust them 100% with family. One of them was nervous with strangers and even she was the sweetest most loving family pet.
They are Velcro dogs, mine follow me everywhere- to the toilet, bed, to go get the post in. Personally if your not willing to allow them to be 100% a family member they aren’t the dog for you.
There are obviously bad points. They shed. They are vocal, they bark and whine.
They are always a little bit alert, it’s hard to keep the mentally stimulated.
Lots of them have weak and nervous temperament as- avoid anything that’s parents are shy, nervous, guards or anything like that!
Mine need a lot of attention throughout the day. They aren’t really the type that can be ignored, they get walks and training and cuddles and they are still ready for more an hour later if I allow so a good settle command is essential.
They aren’t brilliant being without me for long. They cope but wouldn’t be happy left while I was out all day.
Prey drive they chase. I’ve managed to teach mine not to hassle the cats too much but even now they stare and stalk if I allow it. I think chickens would be chased but mine haven’t been raised by them.
Mine have been extensively socialised and I would say not one of them has been 100% with everything. They are very sensitive dogs and pick up on every little thing. My current ones are lovely with other dogs and people but I always put them on leads around strangers because everybody is terrified of them.
I found my latest one through word of mouth, meeting people with a lovely one and tracing the breeding and going from there. I did have to for-fit show quality for temperament, mines the fluffy pet type and she’s the best one I’ve had temperament wise.
I would say in all honestly there are easier breeds out there (I can think of a few that would be suitable!) but once you’ve had shepherds it’s hard to step away!
We have a 4 yo GSD. My boy is EXTREMELY bonded to his family which offers little flexibilty (we haven't been on holiday abroad without him for 4 years).
Demanding is an understatement, there are essentially 4 adults caring for my boy and I still consider him "a lot". My boy is not aggressive outside the house but he is extremely territorial. We've had one of the best behaviourists in the country tell us we basically just have to accept it as it is in his DNA - which we do.
Having said all that I couldn't be without him and he is truly a member of the family.
Requires a lot of mental stimulation (I;m forever playing hide and seek with him)
Needs 3 walks a day minimum
People (dog people included) have negative views on the breed
Inflexible re being with non-family
Barks at strangers who enter his "territory"
Strong- I'm always on alert with him when he's on lead around ducks, rabbits etc as he could floor me easily
FUR - we hoover twice a day
Feels like a mini person
Easy to train (we were lucky when he was pup..not so much now)
Gentle with his family (doesn't like to jump on/over us)
Sense of humour
My boy as a puppy was very mouthy and "bitey"- could never have had him around a child (supervised or not).
We had to socialise him slowly around kids.
Also, as a GSD owner (hate that word) I feel like we're held to a higher standard due to the (false) reputation of GSD's as aggressive. My boy has to be extremely disciplined when outside the house.
I'm personally loving reading other GSD owners experiences, I have to agree on strong too. My gsd pulls on the lead terribly- again been trained not too, but it just started as he got older - our other dogs walk lovely.
GSD is so strong I can struggle with him sometimes, and I can only walk him on his own (not with other dogs, giant breeds are walked together).
We had all the puppy classes and dog behaviourist too, yet still have these minor issues.
Thanks so much for all of the feedback. All your comments are so useful! They have definitely brought up more questions for me though.
Here goes! I’m not too bothered about male vs female but do you think that one is better suited to family life?
For those who say that they were mouthy when younger do you think that was because of their ‘line’ - working rather than the ‘pet’ variety?
I’m not too bothered about them being clingy. They would be a member of the family but the space we were thinking of designating as ‘bed’ is downstairs. Would that be an issue with whining/barking/dog stress?
We don’t know many people around here currently so socialising might be tricky. What did you do for maximum exposure? We would sometimes leave the country to visit family for a couple of weeks at a time (Covid allowing!!). Family who have another dog would like dog-sit for the duration. Would that be a big mistake?
I think that’s all that’s sprang to mind for now. Thanks again!
Oh yes! Fences. Out the back of our house there are fields. Fields which sometimes have sheep for the season. They’re directly accessible from our fence (which is maybe 4ft). Do you think that would be a major problem?
You will absolutely need a higher fence.
If your dog gets among the sheep, the farmer may shoot them.
We would definitely raise the fence. I was more thinking would it be a great distraction for the dog with sheep so close by? I don’t think they use the field for sheep every year but this year they were in there all winter. It was adorable but they’re very close to our fence!
The sheep with a 4ft fence will be an issue.
I also think being out of the country for a couple of weeks time will be. Ours, luckily, would quite happily stay with a family member who she absolutely adored. Anyone else and she’d not eat until we got back.
I love GSDs but imo they are a breed in absolute crisis and terribly bred generally speaking imo.
I can count on one hand the number of GSDs I’ve come across who have had what I would think of as a ‘stable’ temperament.
At best, the ones I’ve met have been excessively bouncy, nippy and rambunctious.
As the first poster said, the GSD is supposed to be aloof...
At worst, and I’m sorry to say this is the vast majority I’ve personally met, have been weak nerved/neurotic, nervous and overly reactive.
Aggressively barking, lunging and generally going absolutely batshit at very threatening things like people walking past and children in prams.
I would be very, very careful with a GSD.
I think there are far more dreadfully bred examples out there than good
Hmm okay. That’s a good insight. I have met many GSDs and most have been fine but one definitely stands out as being terribly territorial and growly. I put it down to owners/lifestyle of the house but perhaps it’s more indicative breeding than I realised.
I should also give some more thought to the pulling on the lead. My OH is a shift worker and so often isn’t around and I’ve relatively recently had heart surgery. I am back to normal but I can imagine a pulling dog would hurt my chest for some time still...
Lovely dogs, but high prey drive, so not a good idea if you have other pets.
Load of issues to consider if getting a GSD many have been mentioned. I would not recommend for a first time dog owner you could be ok but on the other hand.
The biggest issue is to find a well breed healthy GSD. This will need a lot of research and be prepared to travel distances and wait maybe months to find a healthy dog.
Your chances of getting a failedguide dog are low - not a lot of GSD are used for this work anymore.
I would be wary of a failed police dog - they have failed for a reason and that may be lack of confidence - you do not want a GSD with no confidence or fear or any sort. Unless you are happy to spend hours and hours on behavoural training.
Can I ask why you have considered a GSD? What is it that you are looking for in a dog maybe there are some other breeds you have considered that may be a better fit (I promise I will not suggest greyhound!!!)
If you want an energetic dog that is soft as butter and lovely with children and other animals, I'd really recommend a Brittany, Golden retriever, or Labrador
I would say for your fence you need to add at least another 2-3 feet to it for it to be dog-safe. My beagle (so much smaller than a GSD) can jump a four foot fence from standing - it's absolutely no deterrent to him whatsoever.
As for leaving the dog for two weeks - most would be fine however some dogs really struggle being away from their owners. It really depends on the personality of the dog and the environment you leave them in. If you're going to leave them with family, you need to get them used to it from young imo - so regular dog-sitting, sleepovers etc.
I would also be aware that GSD's are big dogs. If you have a heart problem you'll to make sure you lead-train from the word go, and really work on it. Big dogs that pull can be really dangerous - especially if the owner isn't fully capable of holding them back. I've seen people be pulled to the ground and be forced to let of their leads before - which obviously can be really dangerous. But GSD's are intelligent, so with good, solid training you should be fine.
Thanks for all the tips. I’m not totally wedded to GSDs but I’ve always thought they were beautiful dogs. My husband works odd hours and because of our relatively isolated location I’ve had a few instances where I’ve felt vulnerable. I thought I’d feel more secure having a big loyal bark-y dog around as a bit of a deterrent.
We aren’t in a mad rush to get a puppy immediately so would be happy to do some research for a healthy dog. Any tips would be very welcome about how to do this effectively!
My husband loves large dogs, I’ve always had medium-small dogs growing up so this would be a first large dog.
I’m open minded so welcome to suggestions!
I’ve maybe over dramatised my heart issue. It’s been fixed but it’s more that as I had a sternotomy my sternum isn’t yet at full strength. I anticipate by the time we have anywhere near an adult sized dog I’d be fine!
I thought I’d feel more secure having a big loyal bark-y dog around as a bit of a deterrent
Oh trust me, you won’t need it to bark to be a deterrent!
I remember feeling quite cross when the plumber came round and I asked if he was okay with dogs.
Yes, as long as they aren’t German shepherds!
Both my mum and FIL are petrified of them.
I have always loved GSDs, we very nearly got one before our current dog and have seriously thought about getting one as a second dog but I wouldn’t consider a pet line one, partly because I don’t agree with turning working dogs into pets and partly because the only ‘stable’ ones I’ve met bar one have been working lines.
But we have a very small submissive cat so the higher prey drive alone I think would be a bit irresponsible, coupled with the bred in possessiveness and needing an assertive owner, I think I’d perhaps be a bit out of my depth.
And when I was researching and talking to working breeders, it was clear that bad breeding, that is, nervous, overly reactive temperaments is a problem within the working lines as well the pet/shows.
That cemented it for me.
No GSDs here.