Why is the GSD a bad choice for 1st time owners? - Page 4 - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #31 of 48 (permalink) Old 02-20-2016, 11:16 PM Thread Starter
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A German Shepherd's most important job is to be a family dog at the end of the day, regardless of venue worked, if any. There is no reason that if a person does their research of the breed and selects a GSD based on the breed being a good fit for their family, and purchases from a reputable breeder, that there should be any heroic actions necessary to incorporate the puppy into one's household.


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I love this! Sometimes you feel like there is an unwritten rule that says GSDs have to have a formal job. I agree working lines should have more structured jobs though. I think training will be one job and Im hoping when she is older she can be my running partner.
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post #32 of 48 (permalink) Old 03-21-2016, 01:39 PM
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Why are people discouraged when thinking about getting a GSD a their first dog? I think it may be because people are surprised by the amount of time/work/money required but don't those apply to all dogs in general? Is it mostly because some can have dominant tendencies? Thank you.

The warning should not be taken lightly. Dogs have different abilities and needs and owners must learn and respect these. While you are correct that these needs apply to all dogs, the degree varies a lot and the repercussions of failing to meet some dogs needs is MUCH higher.

I have had dogs my entire life including field Labs, Spaniels, Beagles, Terriers, and various mutts. I also now have a 6 month old working line GSD with high drive. All dogs need to get exercise and interaction, but the GSD is a whole different ball game.

My GSD is the most intelligent, loyal, and fun dog I've ever owned. He is also the most demanding. I run him an hour every morning before work and he gets up to another hour of training and play per day. If I have an early meeting and cannot run the GSD before work, my wife is in for a heck of a day. Thankfully she stays at home and our kids are home schooled so they can still play with him and take him for a walk (but that alone is not close to enough to satisfy his work needs). His pent up energy will drive him (and others) crazy as he runs through the house and tries to play with everything and everybody. Putting him in an exercise pen can provide the family with a little relief but it's also depressing for the dog who needs more activity. He is exactly what I wanted in a dog, but for the average person who is not going to put significant time into their dog every day, he would be a disaster waiting to happen.

I also currently have a Lab and Terrier. Neither require more exercise or stimulation than a 15 minute walk and a little bit of tug or fetch. The difference in their needs is night and day.

A GOOD breeder will identify puppies personalities and match them to the type of family they are going to, but just as there are a lot of bad/uncommitted dog owners, there are a plenty of breeders that are not so great either.

Further, a dog without structure and discipline will be naughty because they are bored and lack respect because they've been indirectly taught that's ok. Evidence proves that the VAST majority of people are willing to put very little effort into their dogs. How many little dogs do you see out walking their owners, pulling on the leash, barking at everything while the owner appears confused and distraught trying to control them while (maybe) offering an apology and excuse? I see them every single day. Do you think they thought to themselves when they first got the dog that they would intentionally be bad at giving the dog exercise and training? I doubt it, they were simply unrealistic. Imagine if these owners had a high drive 80 pound GSD? They would probably be hurt and/or sued in short order.

Most first time dog owners simply have no idea what they are willing to put into a dog. Romantic visions of playing ball in a field and hiking those trails each day quickly fade after the dog has chewed their furniture, dug up the garden, pooped on the floor a dozen times, and demands to go for a walk in the rain after their owner had a long day at work and just wants to watch TV. It's far better to start with a lower-need dog where overestimating your commitment will not cause an animal unnecessary stress and possibly cause a dangerous situation. If one finds out they love working with dogs, has the consistent time to invest, and gains some experience training, then they might love stepping up to a dog with more capabilities (but more needs).
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post #33 of 48 (permalink) Old 03-21-2016, 02:16 PM
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The warning should not be taken lightly. Dogs have different abilities and needs and owners must learn and respect these. While you are correct that these needs apply to all dogs, the degree varies a lot and the repercussions of failing to meet some dogs needs is MUCH higher.

I have had dogs my entire life including field Labs, Spaniels, Beagles, Terriers, and various mutts. I also now have a 6 month old working line GSD with high drive. All dogs need to get exercise and interaction, but the GSD is a whole different ball game.

My GSD is the most intelligent, loyal, and fun dog I've ever owned. He is also the most demanding. I run him an hour every morning before work and he gets up to another hour of training and play per day. If I have an early meeting and cannot run the GSD before work, my wife is in for a heck of a day. Thankfully she stays at home and our kids are home schooled so they can still play with him and take him for a walk (but that alone is not close to enough to satisfy his work needs). His pent up energy will drive him (and others) crazy as he runs through the house and tries to play with everything and everybody. Putting him in an exercise pen can provide the family with a little relief but it's also depressing for the dog who needs more activity. He is exactly what I wanted in a dog, but for the average person who is not going to put significant time into their dog every day, he would be a disaster waiting to happen.

I also currently have a Lab and Terrier. Neither require more exercise or stimulation than a 15 minute walk and a little bit of tug or fetch. The difference in their needs is night and day.

A GOOD breeder will identify puppies personalities and match them to the type of family they are going to, but just as there are a lot of bad/uncommitted dog owners, there are a plenty of breeders that are not so great either.

Further, a dog without structure and discipline will be naughty because they are bored and lack respect because they've been indirectly taught that's ok. Evidence proves that the VAST majority of people are willing to put very little effort into their dogs. How many little dogs do you see out walking their owners, pulling on the leash, barking at everything while the owner appears confused and distraught trying to control them while (maybe) offering an apology and excuse? I see them every single day. Do you think they thought to themselves when they first got the dog that they would intentionally be bad at giving the dog exercise and training? I doubt it, they were simply unrealistic. Imagine if these owners had a high drive 80 pound GSD? They would probably be hurt and/or sued in short order.

Most first time dog owners simply have no idea what they are willing to put into a dog. Romantic visions of playing ball in a field and hiking those trails each day quickly fade after the dog has chewed their furniture, dug up the garden, pooped on the floor a dozen times, and demands to go for a walk in the rain after their owner had a long day at work and just wants to watch TV. It's far better to start with a lower-need dog where overestimating your commitment will not cause an animal unnecessary stress and possibly cause a dangerous situation. If one finds out they love working with dogs, has the consistent time to invest, and gains some experience training, then they might love stepping up to a dog with more capabilities (but more needs).


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post #34 of 48 (permalink) Old 03-21-2016, 02:46 PM
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Because it can be dangerous if you don't know how to control a powerful dog.

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Originally Posted by Agaribay805 View Post
Why are people discouraged when thinking about getting a GSD a their first dog? I think it may be because people are surprised by the amount of time/work/money required but don't those apply to all dogs in general? Is it mostly because some can have dominant tendencies? Thank you.
If you don't have any experience raising a dog, you may not know what it takes to make it clear to the dog that you are in charge and the pack leader. They WILL test you and you have to know the proper response and what is acceptable. A lot of people that have this problem don't even know why their dog is acting aggressive-- it is because they think they are in charge. This becomes very dangerous when you have a large dog, especially one with such protective traits. I'm sure you can imagine the difference between an aggressive chihuahua and an aggressive german shepherd.
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post #35 of 48 (permalink) Old 11-05-2016, 11:54 AM
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Bumping this thread because it speaks to me and, I think, to anyone else thinking of getting a GSD for the first time.

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Originally Posted by car2ner View Post
...An older GSD might be just fine for a first time dog.
Having adopted a couple of older dogs, I want to add this is true as long as the dogs have been properly assessed by the shelter or rescue. The stress of being in a shelter or being in the midst of adjusting to a foster home can hide a dog's true nature. A dog can behave out of character. Takes time for a dog to relax into their real self. I'd want to research NILIF, crate training, house breaking and other crucial info before bringing an adult dog into your home.

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I think they are bad for a casual owner,not necessarily a first time owner.
It's the descriptions of intense training that make someone like me wonder. I imagine this is for working line GSDs and young GSDs in general. Would an older, softer working line GSD work for someone with medium energy?

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Older GSDs can be amazing first dogs, a great introduction to the breed for people who've never owned a dog before and haven't a clue where to start.... As puppies and adolescents, they're often pretty stinking crazy. I don't even particularly enjoy fostering them temporarily at that young age, at least compared to older dogs. They're bonkers. I'll take a 6+ year old foster dog over a 4 month old ANY day.
All the puppy threads I've read have convinced me I'm not up for a GSD puppy. You've confirmed what I've been thinking. Maybe an adult GSD 5 or 6 years old.

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Originally Posted by DutchKarin View Post
I think the reason why it isn't a good first time dog is that when a GSD is poorly bred, poorly socialized, not trained, the problems have more consequences. The protection breeds were bred to be confident and use their mouths to make things happen...

...The risk and liability is greater I think. I also think training and handling a confident and smart dog takes consistency, clarity and structure that humans, as we project fur baby stuff, are not always that good at....
Yes. My shepherd x was fearful, dog-reactive and had a prey drive. Even with ongoing training, I had to manage her environment for her. Got used to it. Took my current, uber-social lab to realize how restrictive it was (but worth it).

From the POV of someone thinking of getting a GSD someday, good thread.

Agaribay, hope all is going well with your puppy.
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post #36 of 48 (permalink) Old 11-05-2016, 12:40 PM
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Bumping this thread because it speaks to me and, I think, to anyone else thinking of getting a GSD for the first time.

It's the descriptions of intense training that make someone like me wonder. I imagine this is for working line GSDs and young GSDs in general. Would an older, softer working line GSD work for someone with medium energy?

All the puppy threads I've read have convinced me I'm not up for a GSD puppy. You've confirmed what I've been thinking. Maybe an adult GSD 5 or 6 years old.
We've had GSDs for 30 years - 2 American lines, 2 West German show lines, and one West German working line, in that order. Each of them have been SUCH individuals that it makes it very difficult for me to make generalizations about lines. The two that have been the most similar are the two we have now - Keefer, WGSL, and Halo, WGWL. There are also distinct differences between them, but it's interesting that he's more like her than like his half sister Dena.

My first dog as an adult was a GSD, and other than going through a destructive chewing phase (she liked plastic flowerpots, garden hoses, cardboard boxes and newspaper, and it didn't matter how good a job we thought we did of keeping them out of reach she still managed to find and shred them, lol), Sneaker was extremely easy. We took one obedience class with her and she was good to go. She sold me on dogs in general, and GSDs specifically. She lived to 14-1/2 years old.

Our next dog Cassidy was totally different. Well, except for the destructive chewing phase, lol. Super reactive, basically a temperamental mess. We had pretty much forgotten the little we knew about dog training by the time we got her after Sneaker died, and spent a lot of time in classes with her. I'm by no means an expert, but probably at least 75% of what I know about dog training and behavior can be attributed to her.

We lost her at 4 years old to discospondylitis, and after that we got Dena, who was pretty much perfect. I did a lot of training because everything I'd learned from Cassidy was still fresh in my mind. She aced all her classes, she loved people, especially kids, and she got along great with other dogs. Not a reactive bone in her body, not a chewer, and she was trustworthy around the house from a very young age. Where Cassidy was difficult, Dena was easy. She was so wonderful that when a half sibling became available about a year later, we jumped at the chance.

Keefer is a big sweet mush of a dog who loves everyone. He is a bit leash reactive, but it's due to him being overly social and wanting to meet every dog he sees. He gets frustrated when he can't, so he'll bark at a dog at a distance but is friendly with dogs right in his face. He's 11 now and slowing down with age, but when young he was much more energetic than Dena who was very laid back, except when it came to tennis balls which she was obsessed with. Like his sister, he was never a destructive chewer. Sadly, we lost her at 4 years old too, to lymphoma.

Halo is my working line girl who we got a few months after Dena died, and I was a bit wary about making that leap. Would she be too much dog for us? I didn't know, but she was a confident and fearless pup, so I threw everything I could at her. I started training her immediately, she went into puppy class 3 weeks later, and was in four more basic classes after that. She is intense, focused, and driven, but also sweet and affectionate. She's less interested in people in general than Keef, but if she likes you she can be obnoxiously kissy. She won't start anything with another dog but she will not take any crap either. She's good on leash walking past other dogs but does not like them in her face. She'll also snark at dogs that snark at her first if we're out walking. Even though she is a drivey little beast (around 55 pounds), she has a terrific off switch and is very easy to live with around the house. But at nearly 8 years old (her birthday is next Wednesday), she still sometimes finds things to chew. Because she's so athletic I found a sport for her to compete in, flyball, which she's excelled at.

I will say that Halo went through kind of a spooky phase when young and has been a challenge in some ways, so she's been an education for me for sure, even after raising 4 previous shepherds. I was up for the challenge though, I'm very determined and have access to very good training here in the Bay Area. I think she was more dog than I was expecting, but not more than I could handle. I just needed to learn what to do with her drives and how to channel them appropriately. She and Keefer are similar in energy and enthusiasm, the main difference is her intensity and work ethic. She works hard, plays hard, and then sleeps hard. She is assertive, determined, charming, devious, and a lot of fun!

If you're interested in a GSD puppy I think finding a good breeder is key. And then be VERY honest with them about what you're looking for, and what you can and can't live with. They will know their lines, and if they're producing the kind of dogs that would be a good fit for your home, or not.
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Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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post #37 of 48 (permalink) Old 11-05-2016, 12:59 PM
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I go back and forth on this question. I was once a first time dog owner. As an adult that is. And my first dog on my own was a GSD. She was a dream of a puppy and dog. WGSL. I never had any major issues. Could have been because I started right away working her, in SchH and the SAR. And I got full on into the working dog world. I will never know.

Recently by friend got a GSD puppy from very strong working lines. This is her first GSD. But she has raised, and well, plenty of strong breeds, mainly Rottweilers or RottX. She was raised with dogs and was a vet tech for years.

And this pup is super challenging. He is independent and has shown some resource guarding already. Never when I was with him. But 3-4 times he has shown pretty scary behavior. She and I worked on the "trade up game" when I was visiting and that seems to be taking the edge off and I think she will be able to extinguish the issue. But this is a smart driven puppy. I warned her, a lot. I hope she makes it to the other side.

I think many people think, I have had/raised Rottweilers, Doberman, other breeds and I can do this. But a good GSD is a different animal. Very different.

I try to just be honest in expectations. I don't sugar coat how tough they are as youngsters.

But everyone needs their first dog, and everyone gets their first GSD. As a rescue volunteer we get lots of first timers and I advocate for them. We have the extended support in the rescue to help. But it's a balance between finding them the right dog and being a resource when they run into issues.
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post #38 of 48 (permalink) Old 11-05-2016, 01:23 PM
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And this pup is super challenging. He is independent and has shown some resource guarding already. Never when I was with him. But 3-4 times he has shown pretty scary behavior. She and I worked on the "trade up game" when I was visiting and that seems to be taking the edge off and I think she will be able to extinguish the issue.
This is something I do routinely with a new puppy as a preventative, and so far it's always worked for me. Rather than waiting for a potential guarding issue to crop up and have to deal with it later, I do trading games proactively. Of the GSDs we've had, Halo is probably the only one who might have become a resource guarder if left unchecked. But because I did SO much work with her right from the very beginning, including both trading games and tons of impulse control stuff, she's the one dog who will bring me a bone to hold for her while she chews, or she'll come to me with a ball so I can take it away from her and give it back before she goes away and plays with it. Those are little games that she made up and initiates.

I think if you start out with a puppy realizing that you have no idea what problems you may encounter along the way and do what you can to prevent them before they ever begin, it can make a huge difference in the long run. I never take food away from my dogs after I give it to them, but I can give them a pat on the side as I walk by while they're eating, or put my hand in the bowl to drop something yummy in it, and they're totally fine with that because they trust me.
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-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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post #39 of 48 (permalink) Old 11-05-2016, 01:30 PM
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I go back and forth on this question. I was once a first time dog owner. As an adult that is. And my first dog on my own was a GSD. She was a dream of a puppy and dog. WGSL. I never had any major issues. Could have been because I started right away working her, in SchH and the SAR. And I got full on into the working dog world. I will never know.

Recently by friend got a GSD puppy from very strong working lines. This is her first GSD. But she has raised, and well, plenty of strong breeds, mainly Rottweilers or RottX. She was raised with dogs and was a vet tech for years.

And this pup is super challenging. He is independent and has shown some resource guarding already. Never when I was with him. But 3-4 times he has shown pretty scary behavior. She and I worked on the "trade up game" when I was visiting and that seems to be taking the edge off and I think she will be able to extinguish the issue. But this is a smart driven puppy. I warned her, a lot. I hope she makes it to the other side.

I think many people think, I have had/raised Rottweilers, Doberman, other breeds and I can do this. But a good GSD is a different animal. Very different.

I try to just be honest in expectations. I don't sugar coat how tough they are as youngsters.

But everyone needs their first dog, and everyone gets their first GSD. As a rescue volunteer we get lots of first timers and I advocate for them. We have the extended support in the rescue to help. But it's a balance between finding them the right dog and being a resource when they run into issues.
It depends on three things. The dog's genetics and breeding, the owner/handler's abilities, and matching the right dog with the right owner. My first purebred GSD as an adult was a high prey drive WGSL with a sociable personality. She wanted to chase anything that moved and could not easily be distracted, but she was very good with people and small children. I had small children and a houseful of friends, so I needed a dog that could go anywhere and tolerate a lot of traffic and commotion. We had a short landshark period, and then she settled in. It still took three years before she grew into her maturity and possibilities. We did not get her at 8 weeks. She was a breeder hold back to evaluate for show, but by 3 months didn't have the lines, so we bought her. By the time we got her, she was already socialized and partially trained. We fostered and rescued many dogs between that first puppy and my newest WL dog. Some were young puppies. For all my experience with prey drive, his drive is different with a whole new type of challenges. He is much more dog than I expected, but his personality is great and we are working on everything else. He is scary smart, but also very resistant, so we take a few steps ahead and then stall. Training is taking much longer than I planned. He needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. He gets bored doing the same thing over and over again, so I need to do different things with him all the time. My next dog is going to be a couch potato to mellow out the pack. My older dog is a rescue with strong herding drive. They could use a calm, mellow lazy dog. I'm thinking about it.
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post #40 of 48 (permalink) Old 11-05-2016, 01:45 PM
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And this pup is super challenging. He is independent and has shown some resource guarding already. Never when I was with him. But 3-4 times he has shown pretty scary behavior. She and I worked on the "trade up game" when I was visiting and that seems to be taking the edge off and I think she will be able to extinguish the issue.
This is something I do routinely with a new puppy as a preventative, and so far it's always worked for me. Rather than waiting for a potential guarding issue to crop up and have to deal with it later, I do trading games proactively. Of the GSDs we've had, Halo is probably the only one who might have become a resource guarder if left unchecked. But because I did SO much work with her right from the very beginning, including both trading games and tons of impulse control stuff, she's the one dog who will bring me a bone to hold for her while she chews, or she'll come to me with a ball so I can take it away from her and give it back before she goes away and plays with it. Those are little games that she made up and initiates.

I think if you start out with a puppy realizing that you have no idea what problems you may encounter along the way and do what you can to prevent them before they ever begin, it can make a huge difference in the long run. I never take food away from my dogs after I give it to them, but I can give them a pat on the side as I walk by while they're eating, or put my hand in the bowl to drop something yummy in it, and they're totally fine with that because they trust me.
I agree. I do the same. It's second nature to me.

But not to her. The first incident, I was there (stayed at her house while the family, including puppy, went to soccer game of son). She told me about it when they got home.

We tried to replicate the item (an empty plastic bottle). He did not repeat the behavior. She was disappointed I did not get to see it, I was happy. Had to explain WHY I did not want to see it. The more he practices that behavior the worse it is.

She also has young boys, who leave stuff EVERYWHERE! So the pup gets constant attention to get things away from him. And sometimes it's a quick issue, but it's not always easy for her to do a " trade up".

But, she is smart( my friend) and she told me about a recent issue where he got all tense around a bone and she was easily able to call him off and trade up. So she gets it. Her 8 and 5 yo are the concern. Fingers crossed. Resource guarding has never been an issue for any of my dogs. And most likely would not be with this puppy. But different homes, different outcomes.
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