Possibly getting a GSD for a service dog questions - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 09:25 AM Thread Starter
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Possibly getting a GSD for a service dog questions

I am new to this site. I've never had a GSD before, but I love how they look and the few that I have met and how I have had their temperament described to me (and read up on).

I'll be getting a service dog on my own, no help from a grant or anything, but I've met a great trainer and am going to pay out of pocket to have one trained (have a gofundme account to help). My question is, will a GS make a good match for me? I am trying to lose weight, and get into hiking, so I am becoming more active. I have PTSD and sometimes get so depressed I don't leave the house. I'm hoping that having the SD will make me leave the house at least to go walking during these times (that is not the only reason, just one of many). I want a dog that will bond well with me and be my dog, if you know what I mean. I have two kids and they have a small, spunky rescue dog that very much thinks this is his territory, but he got along well with my chow before she passed two years ago. I guess it is a very general question I'm asking. I know they are very smart... I'm also wondering if I can keep the dog entertained and active enough to keep her from getting bored to tears. I plan on a short morning walk around my neighborhood when we get up, a longer 1-2 mile walk around lunch during the week days (on days we are not super busy going out places), shorter walks on the weekends for lunch and another after-dinner walk around the neighborhood (my neighborhood is rather small). Would that be enough or am I overdoing it? Oh, and hikes on the weekends that we can get out. I really love outdoors and plan on hiking as much as I can once I get in shape, which will probably be before I get my SD (I know it takes a while to get them trained).

My husband wants me to get a Golden Retriever, and I understand why, they are very friendly dogs. But I really want a GSD, and a dog that will bond more closely with me as well as be more alert to me. I have frequent panic attacks and need a dog that will be more alert. I have social anxiety as well.

One of the reasons I was told I should not get a GSD is because I am so anxious, I was told that they are anxious dogs and me being anxious would make that worse. I've only been up close to a few GSD but they didn't seem like anxious dogs to me, so I wanted to ask y'all if that would be an issue? Or does it depend on the individual dog? This seemed like a misconception to me, but I wanted to check with people who have more experience with GSD before I buy one.

I don't have a small house, but I don't have a big one. I don't have a fenced in back yard either, so she would have to be on a leash all the time. My neighbors have a GSD puppy (11 mo old) that is not very well trained (I can't say much my little dog is not very well trained, but we are working on remedying that before I get my SD). Will this be a problem for having a GSD? Do I need to have off leash time outside for her? The only dog park around here that I know of is about 45 minutes away.

And last, how often do you need to bathe a GS? Should I take her in for a bath at the vet once a month? Or can I bathe her at home a few month and then take her in to the vet once a quarter? I know they shed a lot so I will have to brush her a lot, not a problem, just want to know if they need more frequent baths.

Thanks!! I have more questions, but can't think of them at the moment!
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 12:49 PM
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I will be honest with you. GSDs can make awesome service dogs. I train service dogs and my son has a GSD service dog. But many of them wash out, are unable to do the job. They then make very nice well trained pets. From what you've said of your house and yard, I'd have to say I wouldn't recommend a GSD. A GSD would need more than I think you'd be able to give. Walks on a lead wouldn't be enough exercise for most GSDs, especially if you want to have a service dog that is calm and reliable. It would need to be able to burn off energy to be able to settle into working. Getting a puppy and hoping it can make it as a service dog is always risky. It is the same for any breed though. But the odds are higher for not making it with a GSD. If your pup is trained and is washed out, you would have to look at doing it again with another pup. Do you have the room to have multiple dogs? And again, the lack of a yard to be able to exercise in would come into play. I wish I could be more positive for you but I'm only being honest.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 01:11 PM
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I'd agree with Deb, GSDs are awesome dogs but they're also very high energy and need room to work it off. I'd be inclined to go with a more even keeled service oriented dog, golden retriever would definitely fit the bill. I wouldn't be worried about a golden not bonding to you, my golden is my wife's dog and has been for years, even though I trained him and play with him and work him more than she does, he's still her dog, and if both of us called him, he'd go to her 10 times out of 10. They're way more fiercely loyal than people give them credit for I think.

Last piece of advice, don't get a dog like this for its looks. Get it for what it can do and how well it fits your needs, looks should always be secondary. Way too many dog owners get into trouble because they bought a beautiful looking dog that they have no capability of handling (GSD, husky, shiba, akita, etc. etc.) Good luck finding a dog to suit your needs!
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 09:19 PM
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I have a GSD service dog for the same reasons you are looking for one. However......mine has been professionally trained and his temperament is excellent but I had the professionals pick him out for me. I didn't request a "certain one" because they are the ones that know the personalities and if the dog is capable of being a service dog and suited for our lifestyle.

Hakki is very affectionate and playful but knows his job and absolutely loves his job. He is worn out by the end of the day as he is working all day long with me. He is fiercely loyal to me. He will obey my husband but if we are together he looks for direction from me at all times and follows me from room to room. I have had him for only 3 weeks now and the bond between us is so strong.

We do take him on hikes on the weekends so that he can run because we live in an area where he has to be on leash and we don't have a back yard. He does not look for trouble as he is mentally worked 7 hours a day. We do take long walks but it is the off leash hikes that we are trying to step up. Been a little difficult due to the snow, cold weather and also this dog is getting used to the high altitude that we live in - it will take him a bit to adjust to it so I am not pushing him.

His manners are impeccable - I take him everywhere. People don't even realize he is in a restaurant, etc. as he makes no noise at all. It is easy to forget he is in one of our vehicles because he lays down and is quiet the entire trip.

If you are serious about this then I would highly suggest you get a young adult and not a puppy. You want a dog that is proven to be a service dog or you will be highly disappointed as not all of them can do this type of work and many that are trained by their owners don't have the top level of obedience like mine does.

You have to find the "right" dog (especially temperament and medium drive) and a great trainer.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 09:41 PM
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Honestly, no, I would very much advise you not to get a GSD. I wouldn't say they are anxious, but they are super in tune to people's emotions and they can get emotional about people's emotions. This is not an ideal dog for a psych service dog. A golden or a lab who is happy and cool no matter what, a dog who does not get emotional with you, is the right dog.

GSDs have natural protective tendencies. That has a whole host of issues for a person with PTSD. Among others being the dog acts protective of you, that might be attractive to a person with PTSD who doesn't feel safe. But it's a very messy issue for a service dog and can prevent them from working. A lab or a golden is much more likely to just do their job, which is NOT protecting you.

There are GSDs who are successful PTSD dogs. But what Deb said is spot on, you have to play a numbers game. You have whatever percentage chance of success with a lab or a golden. Less than that number with a GSD. And it is no small question- what happens to the dog if it doesn't work out? What happens if you are not able to get active with the dog since you are not active already?

Finally, you said your small dog is not well behaved. If your small family pet is out of control, you probably aren't ready to jump to a GSD.

I believe any dog, GSD or not, needs offleash space, yard or otherwise. I do not think a dog park is a viable option for a service dog. Career ending fights or attacks could happen and your dog is way too valuable for that.

Do you own your home, can you fence in the yard before you look for a dog? Have you selected a trainer already? If you find a competent trainer with real experience training service dogs they probably know of a breeder of suitable dogs.

I would strongly advise you to find a breeder of goldens or labs with more than one dog working as a real service dog. I saw a lab breeder's page recently who had a video of a dog of their breeding working presumably with an autistic child. The child was harnessed and tethered to the dog and the dog was showing stress signs already. I am not huge on info with autism dogs but the last I knew tethering the child was not a respected method.

Another consideration is size. I have a GSD service dog candidate who grew to be 88lb, bigger than I thought he'd be, and he is very very long. I can't imagine how I'd ever fit him on a plane with me.

If the dog is only for PTSD, consider a medium sized dog or a smaller lab 40-50lb, because trust me, finding room for a very big dog in public accommodation is not that easy.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 10:50 PM
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Another consideration is size. I have a GSD service dog candidate who grew to be 88lb, bigger than I thought he'd be, and he is very very long. I can't imagine how I'd ever fit him on a plane with me.

If the dog is only for PTSD, consider a medium sized dog or a smaller lab 40-50lb, because trust me, finding room for a very big dog in public accommodation is not that easy.

I have to agree with these statements. Hakki is 80 lbs at 18 months - is 66 cm tall and is long in body. No, I wouldn't be able to fit him on a plane with me to where he would be comfortable so he will either fly in his crate or we will have to drive.

At the restaurants we always ask for a table in a corner of the restaurant because he will not fit under the table but is well behaved to where he can lay down between the chairs and the wall without problem. None of the waiters/waitresses have even batted an eye at him while serving me. They will get within inches of him and he doesn't even lift his head up.

I keep him right next to me (and I mean right next to me) walking down the aisles in grocery stores - his body is touching my legs as we walk. If I stop he automatically sits.

The key to all of this is consistency - the commands need to be direct and you can't waiver from them.

What I forgot to mention earlier is that Hakki is not food driven, nor treat driven. To him it is all about praise and affection. I think that is part of the reason he is such a great service dog. His reward is praise - not me getting out a toy or having to give him treats.

I was very fortunate in getting this special GSD. I can't thank the breeders and the trainers enough for picking out the perfect dog for me and for what I needed him for.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2017, 09:04 PM
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I am going to agree with all of the previous posts and mostly for the reasons that they gave. I never (and many others including trainers and SD Handlers) would never recommend a German Shepherd for a First Time SD especially for use as a PSD. I would also never recommend an owner-trained* German Shepherd as a SD for anyone that has never owned and trained a GSD in the past. Most professional SD organizations use Goldens and Labs especially with first time handlers.

* Owner-trained dogs include dogs that attend puppy and obedience group or private classes given by a professional dog trainer.

Also you mentioned using a GoFundMe. I hope that you also have other sources as an owner trained SD can cost as much as or more than a Program Dog.

Along with food, vet care, medical testing such as hip & elbow X-rays, training via classes and the like it is not unusual to spend $5,000 - $7,000 to raise a dog through a prospect up to a working SD. It takes on the average of 18 to 24 months to raise and train up to a SD level.

At any time during this period you may have to wash the dog out and begin over again. Looking through other areas in this forum you can see some of the problems that a GSD may face in health and temperament. If you have never owned a GSD before you may not be aware of what some of these are.

The emotional strain of washing out a dog can be higher than a financial strain for many. This is why in many cases a Program Dog is highly recommended for a first time handler.

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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2017, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ILGHAUS View Post
I am going to agree with all of the previous posts and mostly for the reasons that they gave. I never (and many others including trainers and SD Handlers) would never recommend a German Shepherd for a First Time SD especially for use as a PSD. I would also never recommend an owner-trained* German Shepherd as a SD for anyone that has never owned and trained a GSD in the past. Most professional SD organizations use Goldens and Labs especially with first time handlers.

* Owner-trained dogs include dogs that attend puppy and obedience group or private classes given by a professional dog trainer.

Also you mentioned using a GoFundMe. I hope that you also have other sources as an owner trained SD can cost as much as or more than a Program Dog.

Along with food, vet care, medical testing such as hip & elbow X-rays, training via classes and the like it is not unusual to spend $5,000 - $7,000 to raise a dog through a prospect up to a working SD. It takes on the average of 18 to 24 months to raise and train up to a SD level.

At any time during this period you may have to wash the dog out and begin over again. Looking through other areas in this forum you can see some of the problems that a GSD may face in health and temperament. If you have never owned a GSD before you may not be aware of what some of these are.

The emotional strain of washing out a dog can be higher than a financial strain for many. This is why in many cases a Program Dog is highly recommended for a first time handler.
yes, yes, yes. And Also, something that ocurred to me about the GoFundMe. Are you reliant on that money and have you actually raised it? Because what happens if people just don't donate? Can you still afford the dog? Emergency bills?
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2017, 09:27 PM
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A fully grown dog or a puppy? Because raising a puppy is very stressful even to experienced dog owners, your anxiety might be an issue raising a pup.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2017, 09:34 PM
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A fully grown dog or a puppy? Because raising a puppy is very stressful even to experienced dog owners, your anxiety might be an issue raising a pup.

^^ This ^^
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