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Hello all,

Been reading through a number of threads for a while now, in addition to lots of research on GSD's and breeders.

Background below (sorry this is a long read, but I feel like it's good to give lots of info, not just 'Looking for a breeder in XX area, any recommendations?"). Long story short though I am looking for a WGSL breeder to get a companion dog that my fiance and I plan on hiking, camping, and taking on adventures with us. Visual deterrent and intelligence to evaluate situations as a protector of home/person is partly why we want a GSD for where we live (San Jose), but we are looking for a more friendly/laid back dog than most working line type dogs I've seen and read about.

Our plan is to eventually have him/her stay with my fiance at her work during the day (Scuba Diving Shop). We are both active and plan on giving the dog plenty of exercise and training between the two of us. We want a lower drive dog that will be more laid back, and needs to be comfortable around lots of strangers in the shop (i.e. Be okay if people come up to him/her, but does't need to be outgoinglly friendly with strangers). Short term living arrangement for first year or so of the dogs life will be in a large house with us and another couple who are good friends of ours (Bay Area home prices... have to save up somehow). Other couple has a 40lb rescue dog (mix) who is very laid back, good with other dogs and people, likes to play, and even tempered. Small backyard, but the dog will be with my fiance at work or traveling with us on the weekends 90% of the time. We plan on moving into our own small-med size house or apartment after that. Having a backyard will be a requirement. Kids eventually in 4-5 years.

We understand a young GSD will have have lots of energy, and will require lots of training before he could be a good "shop dog," so that will take time. Really looking for a breeder in NorCal (possibly SoCal) or the Illinois area so that I can meet the breeder and dogs before putting down any deposit.

Some breeders I like so far: Alta-Tollhaus in MI, Huerta Hof in IL, Vom Ragnar in IL, MyBodyGuard dogs in IL.

West Coast German Shepherds in SoCal, Hinterland GSD's (not totally sure on this one, kind of hard to tell dog's health certs/titles and current number of dogs they have), Zwinger vom Roten Wald (Kennel of the Redwood Forest) in CA

We originally were thinking male (both of us have always loved the male dogs we've had or known), but after some research I'm thinking a female might make more sense given our lifestyle and desires (friendlier/more open to strangers, more agile and lighter for long hikes, less possessive, mature faster/easier to train). These are generalizations and of course the individual temperament of the puppy is what matters, but please correct me if any of these assumptions are wrong.

Any feedback on these breeders (in thread or via PM) or suggestions for other breeders to look at would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.



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Read on for more detailed info.

My fiance and I are looking at purchasing a dog together in the next year. Both of us have grown up with dogs, mainly labs. My fiance lives in CA - I moved back to IL this year to finish up my engineering degree and will be moving back to CA (Bay Area) in March or April.

Both of us have been wanting our own dog for years and finally feel that we have the time and resources to properly take care of one and fit him/her into our life. While we both love Labradors, we are attracted to GSDs in part for the home/personal protection aspect (we will be living and working in San Jose, which is not the safest area). Both of us do not feel comfortable with her walking the neighborhood alone or generally even with a dog (i.e. a labrador or small dog). She's been harrassed, catcalled, followed by homeless, etc. Even I've been followed around at times and I'm a large/fit male in his 20s. We definitely want the visual deterrent, as well as the actual nerves and intelligence to assess when to be protective or passive - know the difference between a jogger running by and someone actually harassing us (or in worst case a physical confrontation), or friends we welcome into the house vs someone breaking in.

I'd say 98% of the time the visual deterrent of a GSD would probably be enough, so we are not looking for a very protective/body guard type dog in that regard. At all. I think the hallmark 'aloof but not aggressive' personality describes what we are looking for. Doesn't need to want to be friends with everyone he/she meets, but should calm around strangers when we are out and about, and friendly with our friends and family. Needs to be okay with people and dogs coming up to him/her in public settings. We don't plan on having kids for a good 4-5 years or so, but this dog will definitely be around at that time so we must have 100% confidence in the dog around kids when the time comes.

We are both very active, and will be planning on taking the dog with us camping, hiking, and maybe even on some backcountry skiing tours (my brother has an Aussie who loves this). Obviously nothing strenuous until the dog is an adult and bones/joints/musculature fully formed). That is mostly a weekend thing for us though, during the week primary exercise will be from walks, runs (with me), going to the park to play fetch. First house we will be in has a small yard. Not really planning on leaving the dog in the yard pretty much ever, mostly will be used for bathroom purposes or perhaps if for whatever reason we had to leave the dog alone for a long period of time when he/she is older. Puppy will be crate trained and eventually have access to a decent sized indoor house space when older and trained.

We are aware that GSD's need mental stimulation as well as physical. Definitely planning on taking the dog to training sessions and doing some obedience work (don't think we'd ever want to compete though). My fiance's father is a dog trainer (never been full-time job) and lives within a few hours, so we will also be planning on going up there a couple times a month, especially in the first few years, to work with him on obedience and learning tricks.

I will be working full time M-F, but have flexibles hours, can occasionally work from home, and can drive home at lunch. My fiance works at a scuba diving shop and as a dive instructor. Her hours are more flexible (starts work later in the day). The shop she works at has had 'shop dogs' in the past, and a key requirement for us will be the ability for her to have the dog at the shop with her during the day. This is a big reason we feel like we can responsibly own a dog with the intelligence, activity level, and requirements as GSD has, because we aren't planning on leaving the dog home in a crate every day while we work. We are planning on introducing the pup to the shop very early to start getting used to being around equipment, sound of compressors, and all the different types of people that come in. Our plan is to introduce him/her in shorter bursts and work up as he gets older and better trained. The dog can be safely kept in the large back area of the shop (no customers) in a crate or possibly a small pen to take a break from being up front during that time and can be a place to relax when the dog is older as well. It will certainly be a learning process and plan on progressing as the dog is ready.

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With all that in mind, I think a show line will be much more in line with our lifestyle. We want a low drive dog (on the GSD spectrum) so that hanging out in the shop all day (with breaks for walk, tricks, training) will not be a problem. I mentioned protection earlier, but I would definitely stress I'd rather have a dog more inclined to be friendly with strangers (which the dog will be around a lot of in the shop) than it being protective. Aloof is fine, aggressive, scared, or anxious is not. Visual deterrent and the intelligence of the dog to be able to understand it's surroundings in all seriousness will be plenty. I supposed a low-drive working line dog would be okay (we love the black and sable colors too) but I'd be very weary about getting more dog than we can handle if the drive happens to be on the higher side and this could cause a lot of problems with the shop.


I like the WGSL's for the health and temperament testing requirements, as well as looks. Not against ASL though.
Obviously requirement for any breeder will be OFA or German A-Stamp Cert to be clear of dysplasia, as well as DM tested/clear.

I must be able to visit the kennel to meet the breeders, both parents, and see the facility. Have had bad experiences in the past with breeders and not doing those three things. I want to see the dogs and their temperaments before I put any deposit down on a future litter. I'd also like to be able to visit the puppies as they grow up. I know I am picking a breeder and not a puppy- and I will trust the breeder to pick the puppy that's best for us. However I want to be able to meet the puppy beforehand and feel confident that it will be a good fit too. I'd sincerely hope the breeder would be honest enough to tell me if there isn't a puppy in the litter that will fit our needs and push our deposit to a future litter.

I've read a good deal on early neurological stimulation and the 'Super Dog' program for puppies in first two months of life. Having a breeder that can explain to me how they socialize the puppies during this time is important, as I believe this can make a big difference in the adult dog knowing dogs whose breeders did this. Once we get the dog we will spend a lot of time socializing the dog to different places, sounds, people, activities, and animals as well.

I've looked at a lot of breeders and unfortunately haven't found too many yet that really impress me for one reason or another.

As I mentioned earlier, that leaves the general Chicagoland area or Northern California (possibly SoCal but not ideal) for breeder locations, as I will be visiting California often over the next 6 months). Some breeders I've seen look like they have good pedigrees, work and title their dogs in IPO or Show, but have tons of dogs (25 females) and 4 litters at a time. To me that seems concerning that they can't possibly put enough time into all the puppies, but maybe I'm wrong about that. Other breeders have small programs, seem like the spend a lot of time socializing puppies, and good health certs, but don't work/title their dogs and when you start digging back in the dog's pedigrees I see a lack of titling and health certs. (More BYB type).

For me I'd ideally want somewhere in the middle - smaller size kennel, health certs, works/titles their dogs, and has solid pedigrees (health/titles) going back a number of generations.


Anyways, general thoughts and suggestions would be very much appreciated! This is a huge decision and we are not in a rush. I want to feel very confident in our breeder. My brother and his wife have been dealing with an anxious/somewhat aggressive Aussie (they did not do their research on breeders before buying) and he has been very difficult to deal with for them. Thankfully with a lot of work and trainings (Thousands of dollars worth) he is doing better. I am willing to put in time, money, and training to have the best dog possible, but I know having a great breeder and puppy to start with is key.

Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Crickets? Maybe I wrote too much haha.

Simply put just looking for some good West German Show line breeder recs in Illinois and Northern California for a family companion to an active couple - looking for a more laid back and lower drive GSD relatively speaking. Seems like a female may do better with lots of strangers? But not sure. Thank you
 

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I don’t have anything to add in regards to breeder selection, just want to mention “off switch “ as another qualifier you may want to look for. We’ve only had the two wgsl’s, however both struggled a bit with settling inside. This is not necessarily a wgsl thing as it can be a problem with other lines as well, however folks get the wrong idea that lower drive equates to a calmer dog and thats not always the case.
 

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Alta-Tollhaus just had a dog at the USCA Nationals. He had people on their feet during his protection routine.

As far as male or female being better with strangers, it really depends on the individual dogs.
 

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I definitely wouldn’t limit myself to one gender, especially based on the generalizations you’ve made. Of my 4, the one that would meet your requirements is actually a 60ish lbs male. He had some energy as a youngster but much lower drive than my others. Yes he’s pretty chill and laid back as far as his personality but being less driven, he was the hardest to train.... that said, there was less that I felt I needed to train too. Drive, in my mind, equals focus/determinination/confidence. What you likely want is a biddable dog with moderate drives. My girls, in their younger years were way more social and people oriented than the boys. And while smarter and more mature, I felt like it resulted in a more dependable dog once trained.... but they’ll certainly challenge you, just in different ways than my boys did. Also coincidently, both girls out weighed my boys by 15+ lbs.

So as you can see, generalizations won’t do you much good, so personally I’d free my breeder up in that regard to have a wider selection of potentials for you guys.
 

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Hello and welcome to the forum!

I don't know any breeders in those areas to recommend, but I believe I have read good things about Alta-Tollhaus and Huerta Hof on this forum.

I would choose the opposite sex of the dog already in the household to optimize the chances of their getting along. I highly recommend investing in some training classes (led by an experienced trainer) for the puppy's first year or two. It's great for socializion with other dogs and people, and the setting is relatively controlled (unlike, say, a dog park).

Best of luck in your puppy search. It sounds like you have done a lot of research and know what will work for you.

Keep us updated!
 

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Have you considered a Doberman? They're smart, athletic, guarders, and visual deterrents too. They seem to fit your requirements more so than a GSD. It's another option for ya.
 

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Thanks for all the replies. Been researching and talking with some owners and breeders. I went and visited a local USCA trial which was an educational experience. Kind of confirmed for me that show lines seem more in line with the type of dog we need - there were some awesome working line dogs there but most seemed quite intense/high energy (they were practically vibrating waiting to get out on the field haha). But also very impressive dogs and well trained. Anyways-

Still leaning more towards a female, but I think with whichever breeder we go with we'll tell them we'd be okay with either sex and care more about the individual puppy's temperament being the best match.

I talked with Kathy at Vom Faehnrich in IL and really liked what she had to say about her dogs and program. Also met some owners at the trial who highly recommended her. Unfortunately I do not think timing will work out for us to get a puppy from her in the Spring (no litters planned until later in the year).

I also talked to Julie at Alta Tollhaus today and had a great conversation with her. Some of the breedings that will be available in Feb-March range would work perfect for us timing-wise to so I am very excited about that and I'm planning on continuing the conversation with her and visiting sometime in the next month.

Still planning on trying to talk to a couple other breeders, but Julie seems great and the timing would work out excellently so hoping that everything continues to go well with her! Everything I've read from members on here has been pretty glowing about her and her dogs.
 
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