First, welcome to the board. I think it is very nice that you are looking into this breed instead of jumping into it. Those of us that learned about the breed before we got one have been very happy and those that did not - well, IF they still have their dogs, they most likely are not happy.
all my neighbors houses are jammed up together like barracks. Nevertheless, we've got plenty of parks and open space just down the road.
Understand that these dogs NEED excercise. YOU will need the dog to have excercise. Without a chance to get out and run and play and learn and run some more and play again and then learn all over, they are hyper, unhappy and can be destructive. They are working dogs. They need a job. Any silly job will do; the dog can carry things for you, can learn to herd your children into a tiny group (though your children may not like this), etc. But they need training and a job. My dog's job is to watch over my children, which she does relentlessly, and she carris things on our walks. Not a big job, I could do either of those things myself, but I think she likes to feel like she is contributing.
We've determined that we know we don't want a lap dog or a toy dog.
While definitely not toys, they can be lap dogs. Some do not like to cuddle. Mine never did until recently. I sleep with what feels like a 50lb dog head on my hip every night. Sometimes she turns and I get jabbed in the ribs with her paws and my DH gets weighted down with the upper half of her body.
She also wants minimal shedding. So do I but we would be willing to accept some shedding as long as we didn't have to change our entire wardrobe into nylon suits only.
This comment has me worried. I knew GSDs were shedders before I got one. But I had NO idea!! Seriously. I have no clue how my dog has ANY fur left on her with all the shedding she does. We vacuum multiple times a day and if I need to go somewhere that I do not want to have dog hair on me, I get dressed in the garage. I really do. Not that it matters as my van is covered with dog hair. We find hair everywhere. In our food, our drinks, in the babies diaper. I have no idea how hair gets into some of the places it gets, but they ARE shedders.
Excercising the dog with a jog or a bike ride to the park and a runaround the park everyday is not a problem for us, but if the dog absolutely needed 2 hours or more a day of excercise away from the house, we probably couldn't offer that.
My dog no longer gets 2 hours EVERY day, but she gets close to that MOST days. Luckily we have a dog next door and behind us that are more than willing to help me out. About an hour of her daily excercise is her running back and forth romping with them, NON-STOP. The other hour is her and I walking, the dog park, a local park where we can play fetch, etc. Sometimes she wants more and I toss pieces of her food down the hall while she chases them one at a time.
while he'll probably never be left at home alone, he won't be the center of attention. He will be in the house with us though.
These dogs WANT to be the center of attention. They want to be a member of the family. The great thing about is, they don't just expect that they'll get it, they also want to EARN it. They find a way to make you WANT to give them attention.
I can appreciate a dog that has the desire and capability to protect. For me, I see the greatest value in a dog that demands authority and responds to it magnificently.
Everyone in my family is very gentle and we would not naturally be assertive or dominate -- we would have trouble with a willful dog if we did not conscientously rise to meet the need. This is something I want. I want a dog that will challenge us if we fail to maintain command, control and leadership.
Most of these dogs will take over if you are not in control all on your own. They are not going to ask that you be the master if they can be the master themself. You would HAVE to be a leader and the boss, while not being cruel or unjust. If not, these dogs will walk all over you.
We want to train the dog to an advanced level of obedience so we want a dog that is intelligent enough that training can be an ongoing thing that continually makes progress because we are able to advance further and further without coming to the dog's limits. We would enjoy a dog capable of advanced obedience, commands in multiple languages, reading hand and body signals, and performing well off-leash. Training for these purposes would be one of the ongoing activities we do with our dog whom we expect to need mental stimulus.
You did mention how you do not have 2 hours a day to spend working the dog. You are going to need at least that to spend working and training if you truly want to go to advanced OB.
I actually thought the Doberman matched many of the things we are looking for best but I have a serious concern about how he might connect with my 2 year old son.
Not that I am recommending one, but when my older DD was born, I had a 2 yo Dobe...They were inseparable.
As an experienced German Shepherd owner, what do you think?
I am FAR FAR FAR from what I consider an "experienced" GSD owner. I am on my first. She just turned 2 a couple weeks ago and I have had her just under 2 years. However, from what you've said, I would not recommend one for you. I think that they require more time than you have. I am not faulting you for this...I go without sleep and miss out on family things to spend time training and being with my dog. But this was a choice I made knowingly going into it.