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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My wife and I (mostly I) are looking for a dog to accompany us on backcountry trips in the mountains. We live near Lake Tahoe and try to spend as much time as possible in nature. During the summer we like to camp and hike and during the winter we like to snowboard. A Siberian Husky was our first choice, but due to its temperament (not very protective, strong prey instinct, not particularly loyal) and the fact that it is very unlikely we'd be able to let the dog offleash while camping or riding down the mountain we have decided to look at other breeds.

How well would the GSD fit into this picture? How does it do with snow and winter in the mountains?

On paper the GSD looks like it will fit in with us perfectly - mostly we're just worried about health problems. GSDs are not reputed for having great health, especially as it concerns bloat and dysplasia. How much truth is in this reputation? How accurate is the general lifespan estimate of 10 years?

I can't afford to buy from high end breeders or import a dog from Germany so researching the bloodline's health history is most likely not going to be a realistic option for us, that's why the general health of the breed is an important consideration.

We feed very good food to our pets (our chihuahua gets Bill Jac - best food on the market in our opinion) and I have no problems preparing a raw meal for our pets several times a week. So if we get a GSD it will eat very well (better than us for sure). Can this help prevent, offset or delay early debilitating/mobility affecting health problems, especially dysplasia?

Thanks!
 

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To answer some of your questions. German Shepherds love snow. I think hiking and the cold and mountains would be a great environment for a GSD. When it's snowing or there's snow on the ground, I can't get Lucy indoors. She runs, rolls, hops, digs and does everything else possible in the snow. A cold, snow environment is just fine for a GSD, in moderation, of course. Just like any warm blooded animal or person, they can't stay in the cold all day and have to warm up at some point.

Not all GSD are heroic and protective. The only thing i can count on lucy to protect me from might be a squirrel or a chipmunk. Anything other than that I'm on my own. GSD's also have a high prey instinct. Anything that's small and moves, my gsd will chase. I'm talking even spiders and bugs here.... anything.

Health problems come with any breed. Just do your research and make sure you do your best to prevent possible problems down the road. Hips and elbows (dysplasia) are a major issue with this breed. You want to buy from a breeder who have had your pups mother and father both x-rayed and approved by the OFA. All reputable GSD breeders will have their dogs with good OFA ratings. If you buy from someone off of craigslist (or something of that nature) without their dogs x-rayed, you're taking a much bigger chance of problems down the road.

You say "researching the bloodline's health history is most likely not going to be a realistic option for us". I say that is a HUGE mistake with any breed you decide to go with. Health and temperment are the two most important things you want to research and why you want to go with a reputable breeder instead of just anyone. You may pay more now, but you'll save in vet bills down the road. From what i've heard, hip replacement surgeries are not cheap. Are you prepared for possible vet bills like that? I suggest you do as much research as possible.

Bil-jac is not the best food on the market. It's not even a good food. I woudn't even call it a mediocre dog food. I think it's one of the worst choices you can make in dog foods and you can do much better.

Dog Food Reviews - Bil Jac Select Dog Food - Powered by ReviewPost

If you have the time, space, and resources than raw is a much better option. If raw isn't an option for an everyday diet, i'd be more than happy to suggest some better foods.
 

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Lucy Dog covered quite a bit....I don't live in the mountains, but I do live in a snow belt in the Muskoka Ont. region. My dogs have all loved winter and most are extremely active animals. My current boy is extremely high drive and comes from solid working lines....tho, he is a rescue...it's possible to get some information about the potential animal even if you aren't spending $2000.00. I wud very much encourage you to find out all you can; and avoid BYB's. In the far past, two dogs suffered bloat, one had DM and my last died of liver cancer. Since then, my approach to nutrition and health changed dramatically and therefore so does the overall health of my pets. With good diet and proper exercise you can limit a lot of issues. No breed is without it's concerns, for example many toy breeds lose their teeth at young ages, reality is you take the good with the bad. But being educated about what to look for/care for is a vital part of picking a breed for your family.

I'm not hear to hammer you about nutrition, but IMO Bil-Jac is not a good choice. I like that you add raw a few times a week, but I encourage you to take a closer look at the ingredients in your current food.

Finally, after spending 35 years with GSD's, I have come to realize I could never live without one. I love the beauty of them, their unique personality, their trainability, the protective nature and the fact that they are like velcro! That said, be prepared for proper training, the need for mental AND physical exercise and the need to be a strong leader.....result: you will have a friend like no other.....good luck to you and I praise you for taking the time to ensure the breed you pick, matches your family needs.....regardless of your decision in the end.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm surprised about the opinions on Bill Jac. I've had two vets recommend it over the food they sell themselves. I'll look further into it and see what I can find.

I didn't mean that I won't research the bloodline of the dog, but rather that I haven't seen one under $1100 that showed a good health history.

Further, if I decide to rescue an animal odds are researching its bloodline for health issues will be impossible. :(

The exercise and training won't be a problem. As I said, my biggest concern is health.

Thanks for the advice so far! Let me go read up on the food now and see why Bill Jac is terrible. :D
 

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Welcome, Superhero.
If you are in no rush for your next companion that hopefully will live with you for the next decade+, it would be best to save a bit while you research lines, etc and get a good pup from a reputable breeder. If not, rescue would be the option I would choose over going with a BYB. The temperament, and health of a rescue is usually known vs a BYB bred pup with unknown pedigree and health testing on the parents.
The nutrition threads have several opinions on kibble, but the concensus is ~best=not heavy in the grains/fillers or no grain period and certain companies have bad reps with recalls and such.
Orijen, Acana, Wellness, Blue Buffalo, Solid Gold are a few of the better kibbles out there.
RAW is my #1 choice!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yeah I'm in no rush. I also would rather rescue than to support a breeder who isn't selective and careful about their dogs.

What do you mean by BYB?

I'm checking out foods now. I'm just surprised the reaction to Bill Jac was so bad.

Raw is best for sure. :D
 

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Oh what food do you guys feed?
Now I feed raw....but i have fed home cooked and supplemented with Orijen. I learned the very hard way that vets don't always give you unbiased or well educated information. You must take charge of your pets health and that means being better informed than you ever have been; specifically about nutrition, vaccines, "prevention" medication and making sure you address underlying health problems, not just symptoms. In the end, as long as you make a well educated, thought out decision about nutrition and health it will be what is best for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Of course. I ended up doing the same for my health. Amazing what you can learn that your doctor doesn't even know. I try to cook most of our meals from scratch using fresh ingredients. I am actually thinking about doing the same for our cat and dog. I seem to remember seeing something showing that it costs about the same to feed your pets raw food as it does to feed kibble.


Now I feed raw....but i have fed home cooked and supplemented with Orijen. I learned the very hard way that vets don't always give you unbiased or well educated information. You must take charge of your pets health and that means being better informed than you ever have been; specifically about nutrition, vaccines, "prevention" medication and making sure you address underlying health problems, not just symptoms. In the end, as long as you make a well educated, thought out decision about nutrition and health it will be what is best for you.
 

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Based on what you said you would like to do with your dog (once you find the right one!), a gsd would be a wonderful addition for you. There are a few members up in the Tahoe and Sierra's near there. And the pics folks have posted of their dogs in the snow and hiking in the mountains on here are great stories.

I added a few links on other rescues and such for your research in your other thread. Here are a few on food analysis for you to look at -and of course there are plenty of others as well. One note-many vets are not nutritionists or well versed in dietary means so be careful taking advice without checking the background.

TruthaboutPetFood.com

Dog Food Reviews, Ratings and Comparisons

Dog Food Reviews - Main Index - Powered by ReviewPost

Pet Food information, manufacturers, products, ingredients, cat, dog, pet food.

The Dog Food Project - Grading kibble - easily?
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
You are very helpful and generous with your time. Thank you for the added links!

The rescue groups you linked to had some beautiful animals and I'm saddened to see that so many are in shelters. Once we are ready to pick one I intend to thoroughly explore those options, but I don't want to spend too much time browsing the available dogs because then I might be forced to get one earlier than I intended! :wild:

I'd really like a puppy though (except for my wife's chihuahua we've always rescued our pets) so we'll just have to weigh everything and see what's best for both us and the dog.

My wife and I talked it over and we're probably going to switch from the Bill Jac. I'd like to go back to a partial raw diet supplemented by good kibble and learning about the food we've been using is a good motivator to do just that.

I've never heard of most of the kibble that's rated highly. Sadly, I'm only familiar with what vets and big box retail stores sell. Pricing is definitely a concern (paying for wife's law school isn't easy especially when you don't make much) but our animals give so much to us the least we can do is provide the best nutrition we can to them.

I've looked at the BARF stuff in stores before but it's extremely expensive, and honestly after looking at the BARF website I think I could make the same thing for a fraction of what it retails for. It wouldn't even be much of a bother. I can cook once a month for the pets and freeze their leftovers without a lot of effort. I think I'll need a new freezer...

Thanks again!


Based on what you said you would like to do with your dog (once you find the right one!), a gsd would be a wonderful addition for you. There are a few members up in the Tahoe and Sierra's near there. And the pics folks have posted of their dogs in the snow and hiking in the mountains on here are great stories.

I added a few links on other rescues and such for your research in your other thread. Here are a few on food analysis for you to look at -and of course there are plenty of others as well. One note-many vets are not nutritionists or well versed in dietary means so be careful taking advice without checking the background.

TruthaboutPetFood.com

Dog Food Reviews, Ratings and Comparisons

Dog Food Reviews - Main Index - Powered by ReviewPost

Pet Food information, manufacturers, products, ingredients, cat, dog, pet food.

The Dog Food Project - Grading kibble - easily?
 

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You really seem like you have the perfect attitude about wanting to learn everything possible before just jumping in and getting the first cute puppy or rescue you see. Very smart thinking and very commendable of you. I think a GSD should be perfect for your lifestyle and family.

There's plenty of good info on this site and if you ever have any questions about lines or breeders and our opinions - don't hesitate to ask anything.

About the cost of food. Some of the better foods may cost more, but they are much more dense in calories because there aren't all those fillers that you find in all the junk brands out there.

What I mean, and i'm just making up numbers here, is a 30 pound bag of bil jac may cost like $30 and a premium bag may cost $40, but you don't have to feed nearly as much of the premium brand as you do the bil jac. You may be feeding 5-6 cups a day of the bil jac, but will only have to feed 3 or 4 of the premium brand, so that 30 pound bag of the premium brand is going to last much longer. So it may look like you're paying more, but really you might be paying less in the long run.

Here's a good website that helps explain the ingredients in foods. You might want to take a look.

Dog Foods - How to Choose?
 

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One of the great things about GSDs is their ability to adapt to any lifestyle...the only main requirement is that they want to be with their people! Not too hard though, is it! ;)

From snow climates to humid and arid ones, they adapt well and love to have fun!

When I first started with raw, I supplemented our kibble (blue buffalo available at petsmart/petco) with chicken quarters and pork necks every once in a while. Then I did at 50/50 diet with kibble and raw and now I'm full raw.

Good luck with your search...you can find a lot of great info on here!
 

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Hi! We are half way moved up to your neck of the woods and my dogs just LOVE LOVE LOVE it up there! They have so much fun. We spent a good portion of winter up North and some of Spring (although, the dogs and I are currently back in So Cal for one last trip). We took them cross country skiing, hiking, to the lake, etc. We've also spent a bit of time hiking with them around Mammoth (we haven't explored as much of Tahoe yet because of the snow, but I have book marked several hikes for the summer). Our friend up there recently adopted a GSD from GS Rescue of Nor Cal.

I also feed raw and am starting my search for meat distributors in that area. Hopefully I'll have a list compiled soon!

(Sorry I didn't really skim the other posts in this thread, we had a long drive back to So Cal today and my brain isn't all together yet!)
 

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My wife and I (mostly I) are looking for a dog to accompany us on backcountry trips in the mountains. We live near Lake Tahoe and try to spend as much time as possible in nature. During the summer we like to camp and hike and during the winter we like to snowboard. A Siberian Husky was our first choice, but due to its temperament (not very protective, strong prey instinct, not particularly loyal) and the fact that it is very unlikely we'd be able to let the dog offleash while camping or riding down the mountain we have decided to look at other breeds.

How well would the GSD fit into this picture? How does it do with snow and winter in the mountains?

On paper the GSD looks like it will fit in with us perfectly - mostly we're just worried about health problems. GSDs are not reputed for having great health, especially as it concerns bloat and dysplasia. How much truth is in this reputation? How accurate is the general lifespan estimate of 10 years?

I can't afford to buy from high end breeders or import a dog from Germany so researching the bloodline's health history is most likely not going to be a realistic option for us, that's why the general health of the breed is an important consideration.

We feed very good food to our pets (our chihuahua gets Bill Jac - best food on the market in our opinion) and I have no problems preparing a raw meal for our pets several times a week. So if we get a GSD it will eat very well (better than us for sure). Can this help prevent, offset or delay early debilitating/mobility affecting health problems, especially dysplasia?

Thanks!
I think a GSD would be a good choice for you! I cannot think of too many dogs that I know that are passing before 10 years...most are more in the 12-13 year mark if they are otherwise healthy. GSDs are very trainable, enjoy their people, can have excellent endurance (AD certification for breeding Germany require a 12mile run), are an active breed, and are generally excellent companions. While not necessarily an "easy" dog for first time owners, they are great for people who are interested in being active in training.

Of course there are general breed health issues- Dysplasia being at the top of the list. Looking for parents who have Hip certifications, and have a general history of good hips in their pedigree among ancestors and siblings, while no guarantee is a good place to start. There is not a lot of solid research regarding HD or Ed in terms of if you do this or if you don't do this...Generally. Allowing the dog to grow slowly with a good diet with low calcium/phosphorus ratios, staying lean, and not forcing repetitive exercise and jumping as a puppy seem to be the basics for preventing created joint issues. Truly though, I've seen dogs with HD and you would never know. Personally, I think a more debilitating concern we see in the breed is allergies and generalized immune problems that manifest as skin problems, food intolerances, etc. There's also have EPI, SIBO, Mega-E...the list goes on! :) Although really there are many purebred dogs with problems. The Cancer and dysplasia rate is higher in Golden Retrievers than in GSDs.

Personally with what you describe I would probably also look for a slightly smaller GSD. My dogs run the gamut from 65-95lbs and my smaller dogs (65 and 70lbs) can go longer in the FL heat, are more agile, and seem generally to be more athletically inclined than my bigger dogs (85 and 95lbs) who while themselves not lumps, are quicker to tire and need more space to maneuver.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for all the great advice!

We found some puppies that will be available in mid to late June and put a deposit on one. We made the decision a bit sooner than we expected, but the pick up date works perfectly for us, and the dog has a more or less fully researchable pedigree. :D I'll put up another thread with some pictures and information.

Tahoe is beautiful! The hiking and camping in the mountains around Tahoe is nothing short of spectacular! I love the central valley of CA because most everything I could ever want to do is within driving distance.
 
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