GSDs as PSDs - Working Lines?
(This post is going to have a lot of background information, so please, bear with me! I’ve pretty much combed this section of the forum but I still have some questions. For those of you who want to skip to the end the million dollar question is this:” is a working line breeder going to think I’m nuts for wanting one of their dogs as a PSD?”)
I’m a 20 year old college student (studying psychology and English, trying to make a career in animal assisted therapy) and I was recently diagnosed as Bipolar II. I’ve always had “mood issues” as it were, I just never had a name for it until recently. I’ve decided, for now, to try and managing things without medication. It was a tough decision, but using strict diet, a sleep schedule, a consistent exercise routine, and by structuring my days (in addition to the work with my therapist) I’ve managed to get myself in a pretty good place. I’m in the middle of the seesaw right now, and I’m doing everything in my power to stay that way (or at least make sure that if I do slip and slide, I don’t make it to either extreme end of the seesaw like I have before).
I’ve worked with therapy animals for quite a while- my current dog (a sheltie) and I make the rounds at local nursing homes (we’ve also visited several special needs classrooms and groups) and I am a PATH International certified therapeutic riding instructor for a non-profit group that strives to enrich the lives of mentally and physically handicapped children and adults through interaction with horses. This past year I got involved with a service dog training organization through my college and I will be fostering one of their SDs in training over the summer.
In my work with the service dogs in training I started doing quite a bit of research, particular in the areas of Psychiatric Service Dogs. For a while there I thought it might be an interesting thing to consider- ‘a psychiatric service dog for someone who is bipolar! How neat!’ but I eventually brushed it off because I simply thought I “wasn’t disabled enough”.
A few weeks back I took the SDIT who I will be fostering home to introduce him to my dog and cat. In just the short 3 days I was with him I noticed that I stuck to my schedule much more regularly (he gets up every morning at 6 because of his current foster’s habits, so I got up at 6 every morning- a bit of a pain, but it got me thinking). The gears started working in my head and I looked further into the idea of a psychiatric service dog. I figured out that I was very much NOT looking for an emotional support animal. I don’t need something to hug because I’m sad- when that depressive swing hits I can deal with the sadness and the tears (though animals help). It’s the apathy that brings my life to a grinding halt. I plotted out the “tasks” I would need a PSD to perform: provide a wake up call every morning to make sure I maintain my schedule (especially during depression when hypersomnia is a huge problem for me), provide tactile stimulation and initiate activity (going for walks, etc) during depression, “ground” me when I’m hypomanic and my thoughts are racing so fast I can barely concentrate, and remind me to go to bed when I’m hypomanic and feel like I’ll never need to sleep again.
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it might be a good idea. Having a PSD would be another piece in the puzzle, another tool in the toolbox for managing BP successfully. It sometimes feels like a funny idea to consider since I don’t feel ‘disabled’ right this second, but I know when that day comes and I inevitably start sliding towards one end of the emotional seesaw I’ll be grateful for the dog on the other end balancing things out.
Now on to why I’m really here- and a treat for you if you’re still reading.
When I considered the idea of a PSD, the question of “what breed should I get?” inevitably came up. When I looked at what I needed and what I wanted I compiled a list of breed and began researching. I’ve had friends with GSDs before, but I never knew much about them. I started researching GSDs on this forum and elsewhere and discovered that there is a whole world within the breed and there was way more to learn than I anticipated! I’ve tried to absorb all I can, but I still have questions.
I need a dog who is as active as me (I run, bike, hike, kayak, ride horses- and I try to forgo the use of my car when I can. Bike to work, to and from the stores, etc.) and is okay with being sedentary on occasion (sitting quietly in class for an hour and fifteen minutes at a time) and that on/off switch needs to be rock solid. He/she needs to be great with other people, including but not limited to the disabled children he will encounter in my line of work (always supervised, of course). I’d love for my dog to be involved in therapy work at the local hospitals and nursing homes as well. Essentially I’m looking for the ultimate adorable, wonderful, cuddleable family dog in an intelligent, hardy, athletic, working dog package.
I have no doubt that a GSD could do this, but now the question becomes what kind of GSD do I want? I’ve seen beautiful show line dogs and I’ve seen beautiful working line dogs. I’ve seen show line dogs titled in shutzhund and I’ve seen working lines as family pets. From reading on here I’m fairly sure I don’t want a “high drive” dog, but I’m certainly not looking for the village idiot either. How on earth do you find the happy medium? What is the happy medium?
I must admit, I lean towards the working lines. Trolling the internet I have fallen in love with the physique (and coloring - I’ll admit it- I love a black GSD) of some of the working line dogs. Has anyone ever met a successful SD who was from working lines? Or a successful therapy dog from working lines? Is a working line breeder going to think I’m nuts for wanting one of their dogs as a PSD?
Last edited by Lunazul; 04-25-2012 at 02:50 AM.