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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, I am in the process of getting a service dog for psychiatric service work in the next two years and I have chosen a German Shepherd as my breed. This is not my first time owning a dog but my second, and I would like to know from other German Shepherd psychiatric service dog handlers the pros and cons of having a German Shepherd in that particular work. The dog will be from West German Showlines because I like their temperament better than working lines they seem more social and bit calmer.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Seems like it has been a while since I first saw you post looking for an appropriate service dog breeder. How did your breeder hunt go?
It鈥檚 been going good, I narrowed it down to two new breeders I have spoken to, at first I was looking at Vom Hismerh and Alexanderhoff but now I have decided to either go with Alta Tollhaus or Von Den Brookfield鈥檚. Though because of Covid I have pushed back the date of getting the puppy so I have had time to do a little more breeder research. Now I鈥檓 trying to learn more about how training works from people who have owned specifically psychiatric service dogs.
 

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GSDs typically do not make good PSDs. Their excitement level and mental state is often effected by that of their handler, meaning you freak out and so does the dog, when the opposite needs to happen in most cases. I'm not saying that it never happens, but GSDs often wash out of PSD programs. They are much better suited for mobility task work.

Have you spoken with Julie at Alta-Tollhaus about your plans?
 

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I agree with David. I鈥檝e had a GSD as a SD for PTSD/TBI so a combo. She was outstanding but it isn鈥檛 the norm. I was not able to replace her with another shepherd when she died and I use a lab now.

I鈥檓 a few years in with the lab and I really love the difference. He does not react to mine or anyone else鈥檚 emotions really. He is just such an even keel, same happy go lucky guy 24/7, 365.
I鈥檓 struggling to figure out how to word it from my end but it is therapeutic to be around him because he is so even keel. All my shepherds have been outrageous empaths. They almost magnify our emotions reflecting them back at us and that isn鈥檛 always helpful when your own emotions are magnified to begin with.

I was advised not to use a GSD when I started but it was the only breed i鈥檇 ever had and I thought the only breed I would be willing to own or work with. I got away with the one but statistically the chance of them making it is not great.

I also understand better than I did fifteen years ago how empathic dogs respond to people being upset and people thing the dog is 鈥渉elping them鈥. Sometimes, it鈥檚 just that the dog is freaked out and doing appeasement behaviors.

I鈥檝e been doing some thinking on the ethics of dogs as psych service dogs and having a very sensitive dog freaking out fussing over you isn鈥檛 really great for them either.

My lab just carries on and does what he does regardless of how I am. Lastly, I think the shepherd demeanor is less than ideal for anxiety period. They are more serious, they are looking to protect and defend and identify the threat. For someone with anxiety you might think that鈥檚 good but it turns out at least for me, having a dog who thinks everyone is a friend he hasn鈥檛 met yet is actually more therapeutic for anxiety too. Identify the threat and respond is PTSD in a nutshell and you don鈥檛 want your dog helping you do that lol.

So been there done that got the tee shirt and I don鈥檛 plan to use a GSD for service work again. I intend to stick with labs. I may have another GSD someday for competition when my white dog is done, jury is still out on that.

And for the record I really thought I would hate having a lab and I was so, so wrong. He is a joy and I am totally converted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
GSDs typically do not make good PSDs. Their excitement level and mental state is often effected by that of their handler, meaning you freak out and so does the dog, when the opposite needs to happen in most cases. I'm not saying that it never happens, but GSDs often wash out of PSD programs. They are much better suited for mobility task work.

Have you spoken with Julie at Alta-Tollhaus about your plans?
Thank you for the information on the breed as a service dog. It did email her and she sent me an email basically explaining the process of obtaining one of her puppies. But after hearing responses here about German Shepherd not doing so well as psych service dogs I have a world of rethinking to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I agree with David. I鈥檝e had a GSD as a SD for PTSD/TBI so a combo. She was outstanding but it isn鈥檛 the norm. I was not able to replace her with another shepherd when she died and I use a lab now.

I鈥檓 a few years in with the lab and I really love the difference. He does not react to mine or anyone else鈥檚 emotions really. He is just such an even keel, same happy go lucky guy 24/7, 365.
I鈥檓 struggling to figure out how to word it from my end but it is therapeutic to be around him because he is so even keel. All my shepherds have been outrageous empaths. They almost magnify our emotions reflecting them back at us and that isn鈥檛 always helpful when your own emotions are magnified to begin with.

I was advised not to use a GSD when I started but it was the only breed i鈥檇 ever had and I thought the only breed I would be willing to own or work with. I got away with the one but statistically the chance of them making it is not great.

I also understand better than I did fifteen years ago how empathic dogs respond to people being upset and people thing the dog is 鈥渉elping them鈥. Sometimes, it鈥檚 just that the dog is freaked out and doing appeasement behaviors.

I鈥檝e been doing some thinking on the ethics of dogs as psych service dogs and having a very sensitive dog freaking out fussing over you isn鈥檛 really great for them either.

My lab just carries on and does what he does regardless of how I am. Lastly, I think the shepherd demeanor is less than ideal for anxiety period. They are more serious, they are looking to protect and defend and identify the threat. For someone with anxiety you might think that鈥檚 good but it turns out at least for me, having a dog who thinks everyone is a friend he hasn鈥檛 met yet is actually more therapeutic for anxiety too. Identify the threat and respond is PTSD in a nutshell and you don鈥檛 want your dog helping you do that lol.

So been there done that got the tee shirt and I don鈥檛 plan to use a GSD for service work again. I intend to stick with labs. I may have another GSD someday for competition when my white dog is done, jury is still out on that.

And for the record I really thought I would hate having a lab and I was so, so wrong. He is a joy and I am totally converted.
Thank you for the detailed explaination, sounds like I need to rethink the breed I intend to go with, it may take a while the research new breed but I do want to set myself up for success.
 

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Thank you for the detailed explaination, sounds like I need to rethink the breed I intend to go with, it may take a while the research new breed but I do want to set myself up for success.
In all honesty, if this is your first service dog, I would go with a lab/golden breeder that produces service dogs. There is a steep learning curve to life with a service dog and adding in the challenges of an off breed could make things less than comfortable. I'm a professional dog trainer and knowing what I know now, I would have went with a lab as my first service dog instead of my Cane Corso.
 

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Thank you for the detailed explaination, sounds like I need to rethink the breed I intend to go with, it may take a while the research new breed but I do want to set myself up for success.

It's a numbers game. You are buying a puppy to raise as a prospect. What happens if that dog washes out? What will you do with that dog, then?

I washed a shepherd that I hoped would replace my first service dog. I was fortunate that we have the money and space and lifestyle that I didn't have to consider re-homing him in order to make room for a service dog. He wanted to be my competition dog and he wanted to be daddy's boy. He has a great life and we love him SO much.

But when you've put a year or two into a dog and realize isn't for them...it's heartbreaking, exhausting...and why I decided to try again with a lab was that they just have a better success rate. And, there are way more breeders to choose from. There are many lab breeders all over with working service dogs they've produced. You won't find that many shepherds and breeders to choose from. There are more lab breeders, puppies to choose from and they are generally more likely to make it. Stack the odds in your favor.

One step further from David's post-- if this is your first service dog the best thing you can do is get a program dog from a reputable organization. My first service dog was thru a program although I owner trained her with their help. But they selected the breeder, the breeder selected the puppy, and she did go to a puppy raiser for the first 9 months of her life. During that time I met her puppy raiser weekly at group classes so I was able to handle her in classes and start bonding with her but we didn't live together. I don't think many programs offer this, and just getting a finished dog is the best thing for most new handlers in my opinion. All of the support and guidance I got from that program was SO important...there is no way I could have taken that same puppy and turned her into what she was as an adult all by myself. I had weekly support from the head trainer, the trainer who puppy raised her (2 different people) and other trainers that we took classes from.

Especially for people with panic attacks, I personally think it's important to have someone else doing some of the baby socialization and exposure on the dog. I don't want my baby puppy to see me have a panic attack in Home Depot on a socialization trip. That's still a baby and they're much too young and immature to do anything about it and it may just have a negative impact on them. Another reason I think it's great to get an older dog from a program. That dog may be already ready to step in and work.

And one last thing off what David said-- there are definitely some nice goldens who can do the work. Just make sure you're willing and able to either do the grooming or pay a groomer because they do mat otherwise. I run a boarding kennel now and almost every golden I see has some matting unless they go to the groomer regularly for a butt trim.
 
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