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I thought for a change of pace we might just have a exchange of ideas on a topic very much in keeping with this site and in particular this area.

Question I'm tossing out there --

Why do you think German Shepherds are not used as much now as they were in the past by guide/service dog training facilities?
 

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The people at leader dogs have flat out said to me that they don't use them as much any more because they feel they are to intimidating to people and they don't want the public to be afraid of the leader dog.

Personally, I think, in this case they have also screwed up their own breeding pool ( they run their own program) to the point where health problems are endemic.
 

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i think its ranges anywhere from people being intimidated by the dog to unstable temperments. There was a training facility not too long ago that got shut down because they were getting dogs from breeders who had known health problems, reactive dogs, epiletic dogs. You name it. They were doing it to cut costs but a blind gentleman went through 4 or 5 dogs with this company and his dogs had any number of problems. I think it had more to do with bad breeding over intimidation though. But i also know that generally when i see a seeing eye dog/service dog for another task, i know those dogs have to pass temperment testing (if they're not fakers), public access testing, all kinds of vigorous training to be there so chances are they have a softer temperment more suitable for being surrounded by people all the time.
 

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I was previously a puppy raiser for leader dogs and have a career changed puppy from their breeding program that I raised.

She has demodex mange (hasn't shown symptoms since she came back from leader dogs at 1 yr old after being there 3 or 4 weeks), hip dysplasia, EPI, and allergies (environmental). I love her dearly but wow, you would've thought such a superior facility would produce a little better stock health wise. You couldn't ask for a smarter dog, or a dog better behaved with society (likely due to so much socialization, but her temperament with people and her nerves are just fantastic).

They stopped breeding GSD's several years ago, and the reason we were given was too much wash outs (aka career changes) due to medical problems. Didn't hear anything about them being too intimidating.
 

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Health is the #1 reason I've heard of. They started running their own program, didn't know what they were doing, and ended up with a mess.

I find it sad they don't even accept donation dogs anymore (it sure could help).
 

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I think it's public perception combined with not being knowledgable about the lines. Granted, breeds like labs and goldens have a split in the breed as well, but I think the temperment range you get in the split of GSD's is much more dramatic (coming from a person who grew up with "hunting" labs). Badly bred goldens and labs don't seem to have as drastic of temperment issues as GSD's do.

Being a great SD trainer does not make you an expert in dog bloodlines. So if they are only exposed to a certain type of GSD (ie the poorly socialized ones with weak nerves), they probably don't know that the breed hasn't completely deteriorated to this.
 

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A few years ago, the program director from an assistance dog organization came to evaluate one of my pups for guide work. She loves to use GSDs in her program, but I remember one of her concerns is excessive prey drive. A dog with too much prey can be a real liability, especially for a visually impaired person.
 

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I offered to donate a pup to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. They hesitated because the dam had a herding title and they don't like dogs with herding titles. I guess too much prey drive. They waited too long and didn't get one. Oh, well.

A pup from the same litter was donated to 4 Paws 4 Ability and she did great and was paired with a little boy with breathing problems. He was on a ventilator at night and she was responsible for alerting an adult if the machine quit working. She was also with him all day as he was in a wheelchair.
 

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The prey drive is definitely an issue, though I don't remember leader dogs ever mentioning any problems with it and Akira has prey drive. However, her training controls it. I think they assume dogs with high prey drive will go after ever rogue squirrel or loose cat, smaller dogs, etc..

However, I did pull what appeared to be a PB flat coated retriever (could've been a lab/golden or anything else though) from a high kill shelter a little ways outside the city several years back. She was a great dog and was being considered by a service dog agency I was training with. The hesitated with her prey and tug drive, which I thought was interesting. Her prey drive was what I would consider low drive, and her tug drive was that of any pet. She took the tug and shook it "the kill" shake and that gave them great cause for concern. That, paired with questionable conformation (she toed out badly on the front) washed her before she'd really even started. Super nice dog and I ended up placing her in a pet home.
 

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Nikon's breeder has donated several dogs to Leader Dog. At least one I know of was out of her female that is the BSZS herding class Siegerin (Germany), 12x HGH titled, a working herding dog, and with Schutzhund training. I have seen photos of him with his blind owner, once they were paired together they actually completed the program faster than the other pairs.

I think as with any "job" a GSD can do, it's not the presence or even the level of drive that's the issue but the correct temperament overall, the clear-headedness, and on/off switch that are important.

I don't have personal experience with SDs but I can definitely see where public perception of the breed would come into play. If a GSD and a Golden are both capable of the job, I guess it only makes sense to choose the breed that is more well received.
 

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Right now we are puppy raising a female GSD and before we puppy raised a Yellow Lab for a service dog agency. I would say the lab got more reception in the cuteness factor and more people came up to ask to pet him and a lot of people didn't ask.

I have not received any negative response with the GSD (she is almost as tall as my 85lb male GSD) but lighter more petite in her structure. I always get the response on how gorgeous, well behaved and have been asked if she could be petted many times and you don't see people or kids just running up to her like the lab.

We received her at 7 month and she will be turning 10 months this month and we will be returning her when she is 12 months.

I don't know why service dog agencies don't use them maybe it is a liablity factor? One rumor I heard is that they have trouble rebonding especially if they have been raised for 12 - 18 months by one person and I can see that happening. Our girl has been with us for 3 months and she is very bonded to me but she goes everywhere with me more then my own GSD because she is allowed.

On the flip she is doing awesome and I believe will make a wonderful service dog. She is very friendly but knows how to block out the people around us to work in a social setting, she is very patient, alert, and willing to please and learn.

Since this agency has worked with GSD before I have no doubt that she will be in good hands when she is returned for her advanced training because they have the GSD knowledge as trainers & they have had their own small breeding program. I say that because the head trainer has her Uncle as a demo SD dog and they have GSD that are SD already that have been trained succesfully.
 

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I attended a seminar reg. SDs. This group did not provide seeing eye dogs, but trained dogs to suit people with other disabilities. They only used labs, goldens, or a mix of the two. Their reasoning was that the dog should never make its' own decisions and a GSD would make independent decisions. I would think it would be important for a GSD to decide not to take a blind person into traffic, even if his human said to proceed. I guess in some cases a dumber dog is preferred?

On a bright note, I saw a blind man today, with a gorgeous long haired shepherd. I know you can never, never, never bother a working dog. But do you have any idea how badly I wanted to get my hands on that dog?

I was good. No touch.
 

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I attended a seminar reg. SDs. This group did not provide seeing eye dogs, but trained dogs to suit people with other disabilities. They only used labs, goldens, or a mix of the two. Their reasoning was that the dog should never make its' own decisions and a GSD would make independent decisions. I would think it would be important for a GSD to decide not to take a blind person into traffic, even if his human said to proceed. I guess in some cases a dumber dog is preferred?

On a bright note, I saw a blind man today, with a gorgeous long haired shepherd. I know you can never, never, never bother a working dog. But do you have any idea how badly I wanted to get my hands on that dog?

I was good. No touch.

That is called intellegence disobedience and it is trained. I don't see how a Lab is any different then a GSD in that aspect and fostering both of them they are both very intellegent breeds. I don't think one is smarter then the other they bring different aspects to the table.

I do believe that GSD are more alert and don't settle into a laid back type of state like a lab. The lab I had would be a sleep withing 5 mins and resting easy but if I said his name was up and ready to work while the GSD is on alert using her eyes, her ears and is more sensitive to her surrounds. She is comfortable where she was but just more watchful while the lab took the opportunity to take a snooze.

This difference is the breed itself not the intellegence. The lab I fostered was a little prodigy and amazing and so is the GSD we have now but they have different motivators and are driven by different things.

I find that the lab had different strengths and the GSD has different ones too along with different things they both had to work on. One thing that they both needed to work on was focusing on the handler which is not really anything different then any dog you are working on. The one thing they both are amazing at is blocking out people and doing the task and at such as young age people are were so amazed by both of them.

I hope that makes sense.
 

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elly1210, that was not my opinion. It was the opinion of the organization training the SDs. This was the reasoning "THEY" gave for not using GSDs and only using labs, goldens, and lab golden mixes. BTW, they only use dogs they have bred.
 

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I own both a lab and a shepherd and see the difference in temperaments. GSD's IMO while just as intelligent are more of a crap shoot temperament wise. Not that mean, flighty, aggressive, or fearful labs don't exist because of course they do, but I have come across more sensitive shepherds than labs. I know in my area the army bases ONLY use labs for scent work though our police departments only use shepherds- two different jobs though. I do think public perception of GSD's, their increasing health problems, and sometimes weak nerves are the reason fewer shepherd SD's are being seen:)
 

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elly1210, that was not my opinion. It was the opinion of the organization training the SDs. This was the reasoning "THEY" gave for not using GSDs and only using labs, goldens, and lab golden mixes. BTW, they only use dogs they have bred.
I understand, I didn't mean anything in what I was saying against you and knew it was not coming from you but the person that gave the seminar.

There are many organizations that only use their own dogs. Having your own breeding program and knowing the parents could give them higher % of success. I do believe that there are many dogs out there not just purebred that are suited for service and upon educating myself many seizure & hearing and pyschatric dogs are found in the shelters. Diamonds in the Ruff so to speak :)

As for Disobedience Intellegence I don't know the specifics but I would assume it is similar to anything else you are training the dog recognizes the cues (a car coming forward, a drop in the ground) and is rewarded for stopping. It is something that needs to be practiced too such like tracking with tracking dogs they can loss this if it is not used.

You know they use minature ponies for guide people too and they have said they are more reliable then dogs
they even have a video of showing training Disobedience Intellegence, I was trying to find it but didn't have success but I have seen it.

Zoey's Mom, I agree there I think they are more senitive to their surrounds and can be more anxious if not bred right or socialized properly. We know that socialization is so important in this breed as in all breeds but even more so in a GSD then a lab.

You have to think what they have been bred to do over the centuries. I believe natural ability to protect their person could be a problem if the dog was not serviced with the right person and labs (most of them) are all friendly and would tell people to come in and have a cup of coffee invited or not. Not so much with a GSD (but I am sure there are some out there)

The dog breeds are very different and they handle situations differently but both super intellegent and that is why they are used for so many different aspects in our lives not just SD but tracking, police, SAR and more.
 

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One rumor I heard is that they have trouble rebonding especially if they have been raised for 12 - 18 months by one person and I can see that happening.
I think that's absolutely not true. Just look at how many GSD's go through rescue and they all bond fabulously with their new owners. If anything, I don't think labs bond nearly as heavily with "their people" as GSD's. I don't think I've ever seen a lab as "into" their family as Elsa is with us...and we got her as an adult from rescue. And it's certainly not an exception to the rule as we've seen this with virutally all GSD's we've seen adopted out.

There are always the dogs that don't re-bond well. But I just don't think that happens often.
 

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You know they use minature ponies for guide people too and they have said they are more reliable then dogs YouTube - Panda: A Clicker Trained Assistance Horse, of Course
I love the mini horses being used as assistance animals! I read an article about this back when I was like 14 in one of my horse magazines and I've been obsessed with the idea of training a mini-assistance horse since then. I'm bound and determined that before I die, I WILL do it! I thought it was such an amazing thing and I always feel like horses are seen as "dumber" than dogs.
 
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