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I'm about two months into my research to find the dog I'm looking for, and I'm SO happy to have stumbled on these forums! I've been lurking for a few weeks and have tried to absorb as much as I can, but would love any advice/words of wisdom that all of you wicked smart folks can offer!

A little background: I am 35, stay-at-home mom of two boys (ages 5 and 7), both of whom will be in school for a full day in September '13. I live in Central NJ (Exit 135 on the Parkway for anyone local ;)!) on about 3/4 acre, and my yard is NOT fenced, and likely won't be (neighbor issues... ). I grew up with dogs, and have loved GSD's my entire life, but have never had one. When I was in college, I worked for a woman for three years who had a beautiful import with an incredible temperament - this was when I was sold on the breed as my future dog. I've been waiting as patiently as possible for a time in my life when getting a dog was "right," and with both boys in school for a full day for the first time this fall, it definitely feels that the time is right.

It's helpful that my boys are at an age where they're starting to beg for a puppy, too!

SO. Here's what I'm looking for, and questions I have:

-- I'll start with the superficial. I like the look of West German Show Lines, black and tan/black and reds. Is there a more "P.C." way to approach this subject with a breeder - that I really don't want a sable? Superficial. Yes. I know. I apologize! I think all dogs are beautiful (well... maybe not the Mexican Hairless, but that's a topic for another forum... ), but my "dream" dog has always been a black and tan!

-- I am a runner, and would like to take my GSD trail running with me when it is old enough. Obviously he/she would need advanced obedience training in order for me to comfortable with him/her off leash - but - is this even a realistic expectation for the breed? Assuming I have done my homework and my dog has OFA excellent/good certs, would there be any orthopedic limitations/issues/dangers? Overheating issues? I only plan to do this for my shorter runs ~4-8 miles, 2-3x/week, and in the morning when it's cooler - NOT in the dead heat of summer. Ironically, I have hip dysplasia!!!

-- I don't see myself participating in Schutzhund or Agility, but as an occupational therapist in a past life, I plan to pursue TDI training and testing. Would regular visits to the VA Hospital where I volunteer be sufficient "work" for my GSD?

-- The fence issue. Should I even consider an Invisible Fence?

-- I'm considering a somewhat older pup, possibly one with some basic obedience, but preferably at an age where his/her temperament is a little more obvious and the breeder can be as confident as possible that the dog would be a good fit for therapy work. Is four months too early for this? I'd like the pup to still be small(ish) when we bring him/her home for my boys' sake. They are great with dogs (everyone in my family has them in all sizes), but I'd still like them to enjoy the puppy phase and have the opportunity to bond with the dog from the time it's smaller....

-- I'd love any breeder/trainer/etc/etc recommendations! I have a few in mind, but haven't contacted anyone yet. Is there a "right" time to get in touch with someone, especially given that I plan to wait until late fall to bring a dog home?

Thanks for reading (I know I'm wordy!) and thanks in advance for any advice!
 

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I am not familiar with any show line GSD's. In the GSD group I attend, two members have American showlines. From what I've seen, they have a more slender, athletic build and could probably endure a lot more running than my working line GSD, and are very mild in temperament, you can take them anywhere- and they do!

The only thing I could recommend at this time is that since you have small children, to really focus on temperament above all else when choosing your pup. Hopefully someone here can recommend a breeder that has GSD's with great temperament around kids.

As far as invisible fence goes, you can search this website and find stories of" it's great" or failures and cannot keep animals out. Some people have recommended am enclosed dog run or pen if you do not want to fence your entire property.
 

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My thoughts:

(1) It's great that you've put so much thought into everything! It sounds like you'll make a great home. :)

(2) Nothing wrong with having a color preference. Most show breeders take color into careful consideration, after all! Just be diplomatic in expressing your preference to a breeder and I'm sure it will be fine.

(3) The wisdom of running off-leash depends a lot on the individual dog and the environment in which you are running. I have one dog who is about as close to 100% perfect off leash as a dog can reasonably be (recalled off a groundhog and a spooked bunny at our last Rally trial), but I would never run him off leash in the city.

On the other hand, when we go out hiking or on vacation to dog-friendly places, Dog Mob goes off leash and does fine. There is nothing about the breed that will make off-leash work intrinsically unreasonable; it's mostly about training, socialization, and having reasonable awareness of your environment and what it is and is not fair to expect from your individual dog in that situation.

I think the duration of the runs you're describing sounds reasonable for a healthy dog who is mature enough to have fully developed bone structure and young enough to enjoy that level of exercise. I would be a little concerned if you're going to be running on gravel (which can be abrasive on paw pads) or hot asphalt (which can burn) for any length of time, but if it's a forgiving surface then it should be fine.

(4) Therapy work is a great job for a dog who enjoys it. :)

(5) Personally I'm not a fan of invisible fences. I've seen too many bad results and I don't think they're safe.

(6) An older pup with training will probably cost more if you are buying from a breeder. Even basic obedience from a board-and-train program typically runs into the hundreds or thousands of dollars; you probably will not get that level of training for free unless you're adopting a rescue dog from a good foster who trains the dogs to increase their adoptability.

I personally would not be quick to guarantee that a four-month-old pup would have the right disposition for therapy work. You can make an educated guess, but there are so many intangibles that go into whether a particular dog is going to love a particular type of work -- and therapy work, which requires (IMO) an intense love of people and innate sense of what is and is not appropriate in interacting with people of various physical and mental ability -- is particularly hard to call. Even among therapy dogs, there's a wide range of preferences. Some therapy dogs love children but don't like to work in senior centers, and vice versa. Some gravitate intensely to specific handlers and make stellar PTSD or psychiatric service dogs, but don't enjoy playing social butterfly with the general public. And so on.

A lot of therapy dogs grow into the calling as they get older, too. Many dogs are too high-energy to enjoy (or be suitable for) the work when they're young, but develop a more suitable temperament as they mellow out with age.

So... it can be a hard call. I would believe a good breeder who said a particular puppy MIGHT be suitable for therapy work. I would be skeptical of promises that a puppy would DEFINITELY grow into a dog who would love it.

(7) Never too early to start talking to breeders. I've already pestered a couple and I'm not getting my next pup until 2015/2016 at the earliest. ;)
 

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Sent the thread link to Robin. She's a breeder of GSL. Huerta Hof Shepherds if you want to look them up. She's very knowledgeable and I imagine can answer your questions.
 

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with small children i think you should get a pup. find a reputable
breeder, decide male or female, color. but the pup. train
and socialize. feed the pup well. enroll in a puppy class.
in 6 months your pup will be somewhat trained, in 9 months
a little more trained, in 12 months trained but needs a little more
training, 1&1/2 years old nicely trained, 2 years old well trained
but you have to make it happen.
 

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I've been doing adult rescues most of my adult life. My next pup will come home at eight weeks, so I can ensure proper socialization and training from the start. I don't have small children at home any longer, but if I did, it would that much more important to me.

Coat color preference is nothing to worry about. If you don't want a sable, no biggie. I have a Black and Tan rescue, and as it turns out he LOVES children. He's reactive with adults, but absolutely adores children. And they love him. He's easily recognizable to children as a GSD and they flock to him. Just had three new children (weekenders in our lakeside subdivision) come last Sunday, dying to meet him and he made me so proud. Gentle as a lamb with all of them, and most especially with the 7-yr old girl who petted him for 20 minutes straight and then ran skipping home proudly that she met "Jack Jack!!"

Shop for the dog you *really* want. Don't be afraid to be straight with your preferences and direct with your questions. If a breeder is offended, shop elsewhere :)


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Oh, and as far as off leash training goes. Well, my dogs are all fairly well behaved. We get compliments from all the neighbors, but honestly, I only Just started OB with Jack and he's 2-1/2 years old. But put me, an 8-yr old boy and flirt pole in a golf cart, and that dog would follow us straight to China... wouldn't change course if 1000 squirrels crossed our path :)

Haven't proofed him on 1000 squirrels, lol! Just the usual neighborhood distractions :) But there's a reason they're called "Velcro" dogs.


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When I was looking for a pup, I looked for 3 things:

Great temperament- this is a must having a 2 yr old back then.
Black/Red- there was no compromise. I want that color.
Health-



:)
 

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Second Huerta Hof for a West German Showline.

Merciel had some great thoughts. I too am not a fan of invisible fences BUT if that is all you can have, it is better than no fence. The other option is leashed walks in your yard several times a day.

Why would neighbor issues preclude a fence? Not really my business, but your property is yours. Or fence only 1/4 acre of it, that is still a pretty good sized yard area.

You sound like you have thought this through, know what you want and would provide an excellent home for a GSD.
 

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WOW. Thank you ALL for such speedy and thorough advice!

GREAT points that any pup I bring home may or may not be interested in therapy work. Makes total sense. Stability/Temperament/Health definitely come first, and I'll consider an interest in therapy work as a bonus! Assuming the interest just isn't there, does anyone have any alternative "work" suggestions? Again, given that this is my first GSD, I'd like to ease in to things... and am not so sure about jumping into Schutzhund, etc.

I've only considered gender with regard to the fact that a smaller female might be easier to handle, but am completely open to male or female unless someone has suggestions otherwise. My hope is that I can clearly explain to a breeder that I'm not looking for the pup with the highest drive in the litter, so whether *my* pup's male or female, I'm o.k. with it.

Regarding the fence issue - it's actually the opposite of what you might expect! We LOVE our neighbors and have a wonderful relationship with them, and they're dog people as well (but don't currently have one). But from the time we both moved into our homes nine years ago (our houses were both built on one subdivided lot), they've frequently asked if we ever planned to fence our property and have been happy we haven't - they love the open feel of our backyards, and quite honestly, we do, too. I'm considering fencing on the opposite side, though - on that side, our other neighbors already have a fence and two dogs who are both dog and kid-friendly. I need to measure, but it would be a decent size space and would have access to the door leading into our basement. In the end, if we need to fence off our entire property, we can and will, but if I can find an alternative solution, I'd like to (definitely sounds like the Invisible Fence is OUT!). Any dog that comes home with me will be taking long walks in the morning after the kids are on the bus, and hopefully in time those runs! Merciel, that was a FANTASTIC point regarding hot asphalt and gravel! Luckily the trails I run are dirt paths in the woods.. I'm not sure I would've thought of that, though - I grew up in a very rural area where most of the roads were dirt, and asphalt was never an issue with my dogs, so it didn't even cross my mind! Thanks for that point!

Thanks again for everyone's help! This really is an invaluable source of information!

Cheers!
Jess
 

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i would go with an adult,only because puppy gsds are land sharks with 4 legs and the landshark phase might scare your two boys. i like Envy on her site under available dogs, http://teamhuertahof.com/available/ she is good with children,other dogs, etc and you bypass the puppy stage of housebreaking and crate training and land shark stage... i have raised puppies and adopted adults, and for a home with children that young an adult to me would be the better solution, as you will be running with keeping up with the boys and an adult wont have to be let out for potty every 2 hours like a puppy would and an adult dogs temperment is set, what you see is what you get... if i didnt have 2 females and a male i would jump at the chance to try to adopt Envy.

i know the area where you live, and i wouldnt have a dog offleash , too much city traffic to take a chance. if you lived up here in the woods where i live it would be no problem,, but in your area its too risky with cars..

everyone else answered great on the other stuff so i wont comment as they all said great advise
 

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Assuming the interest just isn't there, does anyone have any alternative "work" suggestions? Again, given that this is my first GSD, I'd like to ease in to things... and am not so sure about jumping into Schutzhund, etc.
It's going to depend what's in your area, what your dog likes to do, what you like to do, and how much time you have to devote.

Truthfully, many dogs would be completely happy going on regular trail runs with you and exploring the woods and playing with the kids and just being a happy family pet. That's a rich, active life with plenty of mental and physical stimulation and emotional fulfillment. If you work with a good breeder to choose a lower-drive dog, then while that dog might enjoy more (and some formal obedience training is seldom a bad idea!), it need not demand more.

With that said, there are loads upon loads of dog sports to choose from. Poke around the subforums, watch some youtubes, see which ones look appealing to you. :)

Some sports require a greater degree of commitment than others. It's basically impossible to pursue Schutzhund, tracking, or agility at a super-casual level; the space, time, training, and equipment demands are significant. Flyball needs specialized equipment and a team. Competition obedience at any serious level is all about precision, which can get pretty dull for dogs and people alike if you're not hooked on chasing perfection.

On the more casual end of the spectrum, Rally is probably the most newbie-friendly of the "serious" sports and tends to draw a very friendly, supportive crowd (although it, too, does have some fairly substantial training requirements at the high levels).

Canine freestyle is not as popular as the others and can be difficult to find teachers in, but is as easy or challenging as you feel like making it. Trick Dog is the same -- you can keep it super light or you can get very complicated and technical in your training (in my opinion, if you want it to be, freestyle and Trick Dog can be harder than anything else -- because there is no upper limit to what you can do). Both are ultra-flexible and can be adapted to meet any team's needs. Nosework can be another good, versatile option as well.

There's tons of stuff out there. Find a good facility, watch a few classes, see which instructors seem like people you'd want to work with for a while.
 
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