Question – What is the best security that I can provide my GSD while allowing it the freedom that I want it to experience and enjoy?

Answer – By all means, the resounding answer is a fence. Many people, particularly those living in rural settings, would disagree. They argue that life in the country is a dog’s dream; they argue that running through the fields and woods is not only a dog’s right but also the rewarding life that any dog deserves.

Regardless of where you live, DON’T let such liberal thoughts interfere with rationale and responsibility. Hazards are abound for country dogs as well as city dogs who are allowed to run free.

There are many types of available fencing but not all serve the same purpose:

Nine gauge chain link fencing is by far the best way that a responsible owner can provide protection and security for the family pet(s). Such fencing is almost indestructible, yet it allows the family pet(s) the freedom to romp and to exercise, as well as the opportunity to enjoy the sites of nature and the environment. The size of the dog will help the responsible owner decide upon the appropriate height of the fence. Six foot fencing is highly advisable for the GSD(s). Although this type of fencing is the most secure, the responsible owner should also ensure that his pet(s) cannot push through the fence, dig under it or jump it.

Privacy fencing would be the second best alternative. Although it is not as secure as the previously mentioned fencing, it may be more of a deterrent to a dog who is prone to nuisance barking or one that is constantly running the fence because of neighbors’ pets or other distractions. Most privacy fencing, however, is wood and thereby is prone to need replacement because of age, climatic conditions, and possible chewing.

Either split rail or PVC fencing may be preferred by rural families because of aesthetics. While these types of fencing lend to rustic beauty, in themselves, they provide no protection or security for the family pet. Additional fencing, such as wire fencing, should be used in conjunction with them. Otherwise, our canine friends could easily slip in between or under the slats. The use of the additional wire mesh fencing, which is NOT entirely chew proof, may or may not be as attractive as hoped.

Without a doubt, the invisible type of fencing aka ‘underground fencing’ is the LEAST desirable. People feel that this type of fencing provides security for their pet(s), but that is VERY FAR from the truth. First of all, such fencing depends upon an electrical source that can fail. Secondly, the underground wire can easily be broken – more so in harsher climates – thereby making the fence worthless. Thirdly, the only thing that this type of fence can do is to keep the dog(s) within the perimeter that is set up by the owner. Any creature or predator can cross the fence from the outside, thereby maiming or even killing the pet(s) inside the yard. The contained pet can also be easily exposed to sick animals and perhaps even rabid animals and the contained pet can also be easily stolen. The possibilities of such endangerments are endless.

Lastly, a pet with high prey drive will go through this type of fencing – whether the fence be in working condition or not – to pursue prey.

Robert Frost, the great American poet, summed it up in one of his poems. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Fences are a sure sign of responsible dog ownership.

Question -What is Hip Dysplasia? I’ve heard a lot of Shepherds have this problem.

Answer- Hip dysplasia refers to an ill-fitting hip joint. When a hip joint doesn’t fit together properly with rotation and movement, excessive wear occurs resulting in arthritis. On some occasions, dogs are born with such a poor hip joint that they must have total hip replacement surgery, be euthanized, or be forced to live a painful, crippled existence. Hip Dysplasia can impact all breeds of dogs. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) statistics, German Shepherds rank 38th on the list for all purebred dogs, far below many other popular breeds. Around 19.1% of GSDs have hips rated poor. Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers are slightly higher at 20.5 and 20.6%, respectively, and 12.6% of labrador retrievers have poor hips.

Question – Is this breed good with other dogs in general?

Answer- German Shepherds generally do well with other dogs if they have been socialized and trained properly. Socializing your German Shepherd with other dogs is important from day one. For German Shepherds, spaying/neutering is one of the most important keys to having a dog-friendly animal. Pack position is also important and will affect and vary each dog’s acceptance of other dogs.

Question – Are German Shepherds easy to train?

Answer- German Shepherds are highly intelligent and generally, some can learn tasks in 2 to 10 repetitions. Like humans, each dog’s abilities, likes, and dislikes will vary. You must give a German Shepherd good structure, leadership, and rules in their life or they will structure their own life, and make bad decisions based on their own rules. These dogs should attend structured classes with a good instructor. there are many good instructors in the Rochester area who can assist you. The time required to housetrain a German Shepherd Dog will vary depending on each dog and on the method used. Positive methods and consistency will work best for all training with this breed. Crate training seems to be of great assistance for most dogs in housebreaking.

Question- Do GSDs make good family pets?

Answer- German Shepherds tend to love and be dedicated to their human family and can be especially fond of children. GSDs are naturally protective of their “pack”. Your dog’s ranking in the “pack” should always be established as the bottom. The dog’s temperament, socialization, and training levels all need to be considered before bringing it into your family. Like children, each dog is different in personality, energy, and patience levels. Each dog and family member relationship should be considered individually.

Question- What traits are inherent in GSDs generally?

Answer- GSDs are natural herding dogs. Your GSD will try to “herd” you and your family. They are often thought of as a “mouthy” breed, for they use their mouth like a human would use their hands. Often, they will “follow ahead” by walking in front of you and looking back to make sure you’re going where you should. Although the GSD is not used as frequently for herding anymore, there are many breed lines still known for their herding. The breed is naturally loyal, intelligent, and protective (which makes it good for police work). The GSD has an excellent nose, making it good for tracking and Search and Rescue (SAR) work. They are calm and have a steady temperament, which is why they have been used as “Seeing Eye” dogs. A GSD thrives on regular exercise, mental stimulation, and a well-balanced diet.

These traits make a GSD an absolute pleasure to own when well trained, but in the hands of a careless owner, their intelligence and drive can become difficult to manage.

Question- I’ve heard that GSDs are a “mouthy” breed? What is mouthing anyway?

Answer- The secret here is to look at the last 4 letters in the breed name: herd. German Shepherds herd; it’s what they do. And chances are, that’s all he’s doing to your friends and family. This is called mouthing. It’s what happens when those cute little puppy bites go uncorrected. And if your dog is doing it, he/she will continue to do it–and do it harder and stronger–until YOU correct it.

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to fix in most dogs. There are lots of tips on the internet (just search for “dog mouthing”) and your veterinarian can probably help as well. If the problem is really out of hand, you may need to call in a trainer for a few sessions.

Question- If I buy a puppy from a “good” breeder, can they guarantee my puppy will not have hip problems?

Answer- NO! Hip dysplasia is caused by a combination of genes that may not show up in any litter previously. No matter the certifications in the pedigree it is possible that your puppy could be predisposed to hip dysplasia. That’s why preliminary hip x-rays after 6 months are a good idea. Treatments (both surgical and drug) can be done early to alleviate problems down the line. If in doubt, find an orthopedic specialist. Be wary of a breeder that says their puppies will definitely not have hip problems. A responsible breeder will guarantee their puppies for life. The guarantee may vary. Some breeders will require you to return the puppy for a replacement; some will refund all or part of your money; some will not require you to return the puppy, but still offer a replacement or refund. Do not be dismayed at a requirement for a return of a puppy. A puppy may be in severe pain and an owner may not be emotionally prepared to put a puppy down who really should be put down. A responsible breeder will want what’s best for the puppy/dog.

Question- Should I get a male or female?

Answer- This is an age-old question and almost strictly a matter of preference. Some people will say that males are more “location” protective while females are more “pack” protective. Males are generally more territorial, so unless training steps are consistent, marking could be a problem. Neutering may help alleviate this problem. Any dog not intended for a breeding program should be neutered or spayed. Besides eliminating the possibility of unwanted puppies and reducing some undesirable behaviors, it’s considerably healthier for your dog since it eliminates or severely reduces the chance of testicular or mammary cancers.

Question- How big will my GSD be?

Answer- The full adult size of your GSD will depend in large part on the genetic background of its parents. The AKC Standard states that adult males should range between 24-26″ at the shoulder blade, females from 22-24″. Males within the standard may weigh anywhere from 65-90 lbs., depending on their bloodlines. Females may weigh anywhere from 55-80 lbs. (Again, much depends on the genetics and bloodlines. The above information will give you only a ‘rough idea’.) Although your pup will reach close to adult height by 10-18 months, s/he will continue to fill out until up to 3 years old.

Be wary of breeders who emphasize “oversize”, “huge”, “big-boned” breeding stock or puppies. Bigger is not better in German Shepherds. The German Shepherd is not built to have a skeletal and muscular structure of an oversize breed. An inch or so out of standard may be acceptable providing the general line is not consistently out of standard. A responsible breeder will offset an oversize dog by breeding with a line that is a bit smaller in order to maintain the standards as closely as possible.

Question- What is “socializing” and why is it so important?

Answer- Socializing refers to exposing your dog to a variety of experiences, including meeting lots of people of various ages, races, sizes and both sexes as well as teaching them how to acceptably interact with other dogs.

Socializing is important because it helps strengthen your dog’s confidence and reduces the chance that your dog will become shy or fearful. Fearful dogs can become fear aggressive or fear biters.

Question- What is the life expectancy of a GSD?

Answer- Most lines of GSDs will live to between 10-13 years of age. 11-12 years is probably a very reasonable expectation. A GSD becomes “middle-aged” between 5-7 years old, and is generally considered “geriatric” at about 10. Their food intake and exercise and nutrition needs may change over this period of time. They may begin to develop stiffness in their joints (much like how people do as they get older). Healthy teeth are important as bacteria from decaying teeth can affect the health of the dog.

Question – I talk to some breeders who tell me to not look at GSDs from American bloodlines. I talk to some who tell me that I shouldn’t look at GSDs from German bloodlines. Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Answer – Both and neither. There are some fairly distinct general differences between the two lines, and there are some breeders trying to breed for “the best of both worlds” by crossing American lines with German. The best thing you can do is determine what you want from your German Shepherd Dog and want to do with him/her, and find a line and breeder that breeds for those traits in a responsible manner.

German Shepherds from American lines are typically longer, taller and leaner than GSDs from German lines. American GSD lines tend to have sharp angulation in the hindquarters, more so than any other breed. This angulation allows them to move seemingly without touching the ground. American lines tend to be bred for elegance and nobility. A well-bred GSD from American lines is calm, discriminating and intelligent: never fearful. They are often less active and less dominant than their German counterparts, which can make them better pets for the potential owner looking solely for a good companion, especially novice owners.

To the negative side of GSDs from American lines, many lines lack working ability or drive. If you’re interested in any kind of work or sport activity with your dog, look for a breeder who tests working aptitude in their breeding stock. (Aptitude can be tested separately from actually taking the dog to trials and competing in events.) The AKC does not require breeding dogs be able to work or have any titles.

GSDs with German lines are generally stockier than their American counterparts and more moderate in both structure and movement without the severe angulation found in American lines. They may not appear as graceful and dignified but instead have an air of muscular agility. German lines typically produce high-energy, high-intensity dogs. German breeding stock is required to pass minimum standards for both conformation and working ability, so dogs from German lines are rarely lacking intelligence.

A poor-quality German-line German Shepherd Dog may be too heavily built for real agility and/or may have a temperament that isn’t suitable for any but the most experienced owner. Dominant aggression is more likely to be found in these lines than fear aggression. Some breeders breed for size and aggression rather than a well-rounded, well-tempered dog.

Hip certification in Germany follows different rules and guidelines than that of the OFA. Dogs are x-rayed at one year of age rather than two years, and hips are rated “A-normal”, “fast normal” or “noch zugelassen”. Hips rated NZ may not pass OFA certification.

Good examples of either German or American lines should be highly intelligent, trainable, and extremely loyal to their families. All German Shepherds, regardless of their ancestry, should be bred for good health and stable temperaments.

You will find fans of the American lines who will tell you that all German dogs are ugly and brutally aggressive, and some lovers of German lines would have you believe that American dogs are unsound, stupid, and cowardly. Both of these extremes are exaggerated: Healthy, mentally sound dogs can be found in either bloodline. The most important thing is to find a good breeder whom you trust and whose breeding stock (both the chosen sire and dam) fits your lifestyle, regardless of style or registry.

If you are interested in showing your dog in the AKC conformation ring with the intention of getting a championship, you are probably better off looking at American lines. It will be difficult if not impossible to win with a German Shepherd from German lines. American (AKC) GSDs from responsible breeders are bred with an eye to what the AKC breed standard demands and what AKC conformation judges reward. A German line GSD may be beautiful but still won’t be right for the AKC show ring.

If you are more interested in competing in Schutzhund, training for protection work, herding, SAR or other working discipline, you may be better off getting a GSD from German lines. There are American dogs who have the courage and drive, but their ancestors may not have competed for the last 6 or 8 generations. All of the German dog’s ancestors have been selected for working ability, so you have a greater chance of finding a suitable puppy without having to test litter after litter. Also, since a breeder of German lines are more likely to be involved in working disciplines, you will know someone who can mentor you.

Given the above generalizations, choose the type more suitable to your needs, lifestyle, and abilities. Both German and American lines have their passionate advocates, but the decision of what bloodline to purchase is ultimately a matter of taste, need, and expectations. If you do your “homework” in researching breeders to find someone who is responsibly selecting and testing their breeding stock to produce healthy, well-tempered German Shepherds, you are far more likely to end up with a puppy who fits your expectations more comfortably. Be totally open and honest with your breeder in your desires so s/he can help you select the right puppy for you.

Question-Do German Shepherds shed a lot?

Answer- Yes. The GSD is a “double-coated” dog with an undercoat and guard hairs. The guard hairs will be shed all year. The undercoat is “blown” twice a year.

Question-What about long-coated GSDs?

Answer- The correct GSD coat is relatively short with an obvious undercoat. It is quite waterproof. Some dogs are born with long coats, which usually, though not always, are devoid of undercoat. Such coats can be more difficult to groom, but many pet owners seem to like the long-coated version. Thus there is not strong selection against it, though very few breeders would deliberately breed from long-coated stock.

Question-What type of things can I do with my GSD?

Answer- Today, the German Shepherd is distinguished for its loyalty, courage, and ability to retain training for a number of special services. Members of the breed are widely used by police officers and the military, as guide dogs for the blind, guardians, drug and contraband detection dogs, herding dogs, and Search and Rescue dogs. Most, however, are purchased to serve the important role of devoted family friend and protector.

Question-What is the difference between play and prey drive?

Answer- Prey Drive – This drive is the desire to chase, grasp, and vanquish an item. In the wild these items are normally animals. It is normally seen in the dog as a desire to play with balls, fetch things, tear apart toys, etc. This behavior is used as a foundation for training in the protection field and sport. The dog’s tail will raise slightly above back level. Its ears will be erect and attentive and his overall appearance will be of a happy but intense demeanor. The seriousness of prey behavior should not be underestimated in a wild dog; this is a survival instinct.

Play Drive – Often confused with pack drive, play drive is the desire to have physical contact with a member of the pack. The dog that continually brushes against its handler, jumps up on him, and solicits attention from its handler is said to have strong or high play drive.

Pack Drive – Social contact is the hallmark of pack existence for the dog. The dog who is continually seeking that contact is said to be a highly pack driven dog. An example of a highly pack driven dog is one which continually checks back with the handler.