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I've always been confused as to why GSDs are so often referred to as a "dominant", "stubborn", "hard-headed" breed. Now Kenya is my first GSD of my very own, but growing up, they were sort of a family favorite. Several close relatives had them, including an aunt and another uncle on the other side. Neither of these people are people I would consider particularly dog-savvy, they just picked GSDs as their breed of choice and were happy with that choice. They never did any real training with these dogs, yet they were *good* dogs. When I first contemplated finally getting my own dog, I researched GSDs and Malinois for over a year before actively looking for a GSD. In that time, I don't recall ever meeting a GSD that I would consider an excessively dominant, hard-headed, stubborn dog. Maybe I was just over-prepared or have a higher tolerance for such things (you know how some people's dog will have one accident in the house and they say their dog is being dominant and peeing out of spite...). Sure I have seen many that probably get less exercise and mental stimulation than needed, and several adolescents pushing the boundaries, but so far in my experience, GSDs have been the most well-mannered, biddable, smart, obedient breed of dog in general. When I volunteered at the animal shelter, the GSDs were the ONLY dogs that would remain calm and composed when someone approached their kennel. They were the only dogs I could take on a long walk without getting excitedly nipped at or dragged, even the ones with no leash training were happy to just follow right along side me just for the sake of being right next to a person. Before I got really into GSDs, the only people I knew with GSDs were "normal" families who have always had a GSD as a family dog. They did not do competitive obedience, SchH, or anything like that.

I guess my question is....which is it? I've grown up viewing GSDs as a very loyal, smart, noble, biddable, obedient breed that is relatively easy to train because of their bond with the handler and willingness to work. But the more I read on dog boards these days, people are constantly referring to a GSD as a "dominant" or "difficult" breed. I guess in my experience, GSDs have not been any more dominant or difficult that my uncle's Labradors, my neighbor's Chessie, my friend's Pointer....

I am reluctant to use the types of terms I've quoted in this post b/c I feel the GSD already has a bad rap and describing them as a whole in these terms is like admitting that I agree they are dangerous, which I do not. I believe ANY dog will bit given the right circumstances, ANY dog can and should be loyal to its people, and ANY dog can be protective. My reality is that I have known many people who have had GSDs and never had any problems, and these people really knew nothing about proper training or selecting the appropriate breed. Perhaps I'm too much of an optimist...
 

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I have no idea why they are considered dominant or stubborn. Our Chessie is the epitome of those words. He is a male and our female Chessie was the complete opposite. She reminded me very much of a GSD. I think that many people only see them as "police dogs" and do not view the sensitive loving side of them.

I do agree that ANY dog can be a biter. Nurture vs Nature thing in my book. I do see many more people training their dogs these days. That just may be due to the availability of training centers though.
 

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In my personal opinion, GSDs can be biddable and truly *want* to work for their owners. Many are easy dogs for someone who is committed to good training. However-- there are some GSDs, and within some lines especially, that have active dominance agendas. Dogs like those require firm leadership to live comfortably in harmony with an owner-- or else there will be constant challenges to the owner's position. For many people, living with this sort of dog is overwhelming, or, they simply haven't the leadership skills that a dog like this demands. Dogs with high rank drive push limits, push the envelope, push their owners-- and can hardly wait for the next opportunity to challenge and snag that coveted spot at the top, even if it means growling at you to get the spot on the sofa, ignoring a critical 'Come' command, biting when you try to pick up a toy he wanted, or simply barging through doorways and bodily displacing you from your space. Subtle or blatant, there are bound to be MORE dominant GSDs than in other breeds where that urge to rule the household has been deliberately selected against, such as the popular housepet breeds.

Again, there are GSDs with no real dominance agendas. Then there are other GSDs who would be a disaster waiting to happen if placed with the same type of person only suitable for the less dominant type of GSD.
 

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As a whole GSD's are nowhere near stubborn or hard headed and very few are truly dominant. There have been some very good threads recently discussing how dogs are diagnosed as dominant and are nowhere near dominant. Even most rank issues have little to do with dominance and more to do with leadership or more importantly lack thereof. Every GSD that I have spent a significant amount of time with was an absolute big baby in real life. Not just a sweet disposition (which they did have), not just affectionate (which they were) but MASSIVE babies that just want to be with you. Every professional groomer or veterinary employee that has interacted with my dogs has said the same thing about my dogs and the breed in general... "big babies - until it's time not to be".
 

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Quote:GSDs as a very loyal, smart, noble, biddable, obedient breed that is relatively easy to train because of their bond with the handler and willingness to work.
I agree with that! But..

Quote: But the more I read on dog boards these days, people are constantly referring to a GSD as a "dominant" or "difficult" breed
I'm thinking is felt by people unprepared for their need for interaction, stimulation, and exercise. People unprepared for a dog.

When I was young, dogs ran the neighborhood. I don't remember dog fights or anyone getting bitten - they were part of our world. Today, tighter quarters, less freedom and less interaction means there is more need for owners to provide more time and attention to their dogs.

Don't think GSDs - the well bred ones - have changed, but more and more people seem to want cute pets of convenience - Just look at pet stores springing up everywhere with accessories for surrogate babies - not dogs. I mean, dog prams??!

When the little ankle biters misbehave you hear comments like - "he just wants to play." If they jump on you, you hear "he likes you." Ugh... when a GSD jumps on you -- well, nuff said.
 

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I'm inclined to agree that these sentiments are expressed more by people who are unprepared for their dog.

GSDs are smart. If there is a leadership vacuum, they will fill it. Also, people who are not effective in communicating with their dogs label their dog stubborn because the dog is looking at them and "ignoring" their commands. Most of them time I think the dog either doesn't know what to do, or it knows it doesn't have to do what is asked. I think you get a lot of labeling and vocabulary errors. What actually is dominant behavior? What counts as difficult? Like someone said earlier, How many times have you seen pet owners say their dog is marking when it's an accident? Say their dog is tough and aggressive when clearly the snarling and hackles come from fear?

My friend's Maltese is more dominant than my Shepherd, but it's just dismissed as "Aww he thnks he's a big dog!"
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Here's another, related question: In general, would you discourage a first time dog owner from getting a GSD? Why, why not?
 

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I think saying they are a dominant breed is often a generalization. Most of the people I hear using that term are referencing that it's not a 'dummy' breed. It's smart, strong & determined. It requires more work than many other types of pets need to be well behaved.
 

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i wouldnt discourage them, but i would explain to them that they need to do some serious reaserch, and talk with breeders and other knowledged GSD owners before jumping in and getting a puppy. Mya is my first "own" GSD, we've had family GSD's before, but she was my first dog i got when i moved out of the parents house. Honestly, i made a few mistakes, as all owners do. Im not afraid to admit their is a lot more potential in Mya then i tend to use sometimes. We play all sorts of mental stimulation games at home, and im a runner so she gets to take my 2K runs with me. But she is a family companion, i never planned to do any sort of "breed like" activities with her, she is smart, but doesnt have the drive to care for any of them.

Bear on the other hand, i used all the info i gathered from this site, plus things i knew did and didnt work when training Mya, and have been jumping lengths with his training, due to trial and error. He has a crazy amount of drive, and after reading all the great stories and friendships you all have with your local clubs, im considering visiting with a few to get him involved. He is super smart and he is always looking for a way to please me.

Their is so much i still dont know about this wonderful breed, but i love to learn from everyone, and i continue to pick up books and dvd's to help create a better relationship with them, and how to figure out whats going on in their heads...lol
 

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Originally Posted By: LiesjeHere's another, related question: In general, would you discourage a first time dog owner from getting a GSD? Why, why not?
Provided the person was not a meek little wall flower (stature and sex have nothing to do with leadership, I refer to attitude) and was willing to put in the time training and socializing I would not discourage it. I know four people very well (one being myself) whose first dog was a GSD that did quite well with them.
 

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Originally Posted By: BrightelfHowever-- there are some GSDs, and within some lines especially, that have active dominance agendas.
Is this a generalization or are their specific known lines that have more active dominant agendas? I don't know anything about any of the lines (still in the learning phase!) so I'm just curious.

Thanks!
 
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