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Avanti 04-05-2014 09:19 PM

Unusual Request - Assistance Appreciated :]
Bit different from many other threads I've seen, but I thought I would inquire anyway if there's anyone who could help. :]

I'm currently located in Canada, but I am looking to relocate to Ohio by late summer/early fall of next year. I have experience with small dogs (both solo trained for light obedience work and conformation work), and am well-acquainted with larger dogs (grew up with them, but no solo work myself). Over the years my lower spinal discs have deteriorated to a point where independent movement issues (stairs are the equivalent of dipping myself in hot magma) and staying cooped up due to fears of falling have become the norm. To top it off, two years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD, which has made trying to overcome the fears of going outside alone more of a hurdle. As you can imagine, I've grown rather weary of the situation.

After extensive discussion with my doctor, we've determined that a service dog could assist with both mobility issues as well as the psychiatric assistance. After I move I will have the live-in assistance in the form of my supportive wife to assist with the physical aspects of a rather rambunctious new puppy. After some research into the three breeds that were suggested to us by a local PTSD service dog organization (Newfoundland, German Shepherd, Great Dane were given to us as strong success candidates due to both the mobility and psychiatric service needs) we've selected the German Shepherd.

I don't have much experience with this breed in particular, but a friend who has owned one in the past informed me that the breed has a history of being suitable for PTSD work, so I'm hoping we've made the right selection (please correct me if the GSD is unsuitable for this kind of work!). I would like to find the right breeder, but I've run into a few snags. I'm hoping the forum has some knowledgeable members who can lead me in the right direction!

- I've been informed that GSDs have both a very high prey drive and an extremely strong will that makes them difficult to train. Is this true?

- Is the GSD suitable for an owner who only has experience with small dogs?

- Are there any GSD breeders in the southern Ohio area who have dogs that are on the calmer, easier side of temperament? I'm hopefully looking to find a very laid back shepherd with a friendly temperament and am not sure if the GSD is the breed for this.

- I have a preference towards the longer, plush coat German Shepherds and would prefer to find a dog with this coat. The colour doesn't matter. :]

- Most importantly, is this work truly suitable to the GSD? I have seen many PTSD GSD success stories, but I would like to know from owners/breeders if they feel the breed is suitable.

- I am aware of the importance of having hip and elbow tests, but are there any other health tests I should be looking for?

I think that's all the questions for now! Your responses are deeply appreciated. :]

- Ava

onyx'girl 04-05-2014 09:29 PM

I wouldn't limit your search to OH....but look for breeders that are breeding dogs that can do what you need.
Check out Alta-Tollhaus German Shepherd Dogs in MI. There have been a few dogs from there placed as service dogs. I train locally with many dogs from the kennel, they are of good temperament and health.

Avanti 04-05-2014 09:35 PM

Yes, I should have clarified, sorry! We are welcome to suggestions that are from neighbouring states. We would prefer not to ship, though, as we would like to see the puppies and meet the breeder in person. So suggestions from Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, and such that are close to Ohio are more than welcome! :]

I will look into Alta-Tollhaus - thank you for the suggestion!

- Ava

SuperG 04-05-2014 09:41 PM

I'm neither a breeder or a trainer ( except for my own pooch ) but as far as your question...
- I've been informed that GSDs have both a very high prey drive and an extremely strong will that makes them difficult to train. Is this true?

If in fact this is true, the offsetting attribute GSDs have is their incredible ability to be trained and I would say they are not "difficult to train" whatsoever. They are an incredible quick study. This is what my experience has taught me. What I find to be truer and truer with each GSD I have had over the years is the limiting factor in my dog's abilities is not due to the dog but is due to my lack of ability in properly training the dog. The more I have learned has only brought my dog to a higher level, they say, " the ball is in your court".


Chip18 04-05-2014 09:59 PM

A GSD would be my last choice as it is also the last choice for a seeing eye dog these days also Labs and Goldens for the most part GSD's make up 15%.

GSD's carry some baggage that you don't need in a service dog, not saying that can't do it.

If you want a dog that "looks" like a GSD without the "baggage" that can come with the real deal consider a Shilo or King Shepherd.

Personally if you can train little dogs, I don't think you'll have any problems with a "real" dog. :)
Assistance Dogs International : Dog Breeds & Behaviour

KZoppa 04-05-2014 09:59 PM

There are plenty of people who have GSDs as service dogs. They're very well suited to the task when the right temperament is matched for the job.

Yes, you can find a plush coat but as far as the dog, focus more on temperament. You can let the breeder know your coat preference but a good breed, as the one Jane recommended, is going to focus on temperament above all else. Be open and honest with the breeder you choose as to your experience and needs. Chances are they'll help you either find an adult dog to work with training or they'll have an older puppy they think will work for your needs.

Far as prey drive, each dog is different. My female has zero prey drive. None. My male is about medium. As far as training, again, each dog is different. Most are incredibly easy to train. Just have to find what drives them *food, toys, praise, etc*.

This is a breed that is meant to work. They like to work. They need and enjoy having a job to do.

Sri 04-05-2014 10:18 PM

I just want to add that yes, this breed is very easily trainable, they seem to get things right away. But they do need a good amount of exercise and discipline. They will test you as they grow older. It will be a while before the puppy matures to a stable and calmer temperament. A trainer said to me that a GSD is a very hard dog to have even when you are exerienced with dogs, because they can have issues without a thorough and appropriate socialisation process, and it is time consuming.

All that said, they are very loyal and loving and love to please.

Avanti 04-05-2014 10:33 PM


They will test you as they grow older.
This, I think, is what I'm afraid of. My little dogs were always very pliant and carefree. They were spunky as puppies but I never received "challenges" and such that my friend told me she experienced with her GSD. I think I just get nervous that I'll "fail" the dog in some way by not being "enough" of a trainer (if that even makes sense!).

Exercise would not be too much trouble, I don't believe. Where I am moving to has access to two off-leash dog parks, a local all-breed obedience club (despite knowing what to do, I would be attending obedience classes as both a refresher and place to socialize), and it is close to several hiking trails. My wife enjoys hiking and I'm sure would have no trouble taking the pup hiking (if necessary I could even hop in my wheelchair to take the dog along the trails, albeit slowly!).


GSD's carry some baggage that you don't need in a service dog, not saying that can't do it.
Could you please elaborate on what you mean by "baggage"? I apologize if it's obvious and I just missed it! :]

- Ava

Wolfenstein 04-05-2014 10:35 PM

I know someone you should talk to! Her name is Michelle, and she breeds GSDs and trains dogs for service work, and has had clients with PTSD. The icing on the cake, her dogs carry the long coat gene so you have a shot at a long coated puppy! She's in WI, so big terribly far from OH. She's super nice and will be honest with you on whether she thinks you'll be a good fit for one of her dogs.
Schroederhaus K9 - Home
Good luck in your search!

Sri 04-05-2014 10:42 PM

First thing most people will tell you is NO dog parks.

but sounds like you are going to be good for the exercise :)

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