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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone,

Our family lost our Black Lab after 13 years in May. My wife and I decided that we wanted to get another dog, and knowing my love for shepherds we decided to move forward with choosing our next puppy. I grew up with German Shepherds my entire life, and I owned one as an adult before meeting my wife. I would never choose anything else. She bought our lab a few weeks before we met and he was a great dog and ended up being great with our son after he was born as well. He definitely was not the surfer dude lab everyone would think of, however. He loved and bonded to my wife and was clearly her dog, similar to how a Shepherd would behave with an owner.

We've visited a few breeders (all WGSL) and everything has gone great. All of the dogs have been friendly and well tempered around my wife and son and I am at the point where I feel comfortable committing to a breeder. However, I still feel this trepidation with my wife. I finally got it out of her that she is somewhat scared of shepherds and worries about them around the rest of the family and if she could handle one. My son is still young(6 years old), so when I ask him what he wants he tells me he wants a lab and a Shepherd. I can't get both. It's upsetting, because I thought I took care of all of this and got it out of the way by visiting various breeders and allowing her to see many adult dogs. I'm hoping that once we got a puppy of our own she would love it and overcome any doubts, but I'd hate to put ourselves or a wonderful dog into a stressful situation. Has anyone dealt with something similar with their family? Should I just give up and start looking into a new lab pup to make her and my son happy?
 

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It's very hard to comment on what you SHOULD do. If you tell us more about what you and your family want in a dog you can get comments on what breed. For example; how much exercise and time you can give the dog, the level of training you expect, the traits you want in a dog etc.

My two cents. If after seeing some breeders dogs your wife does not feel 100% comfortable going with a shepherd, respect what she is telling you. She is giving you her honest and valid opinion. You really need to be on the same page on this; your getting a large active breed to be part of your family for hopefully over a decade. There seems to be a lot of threads here at the minute where a household is not on the same page regarding the dogs.

Keep us posted on your dog search.
 

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deep down in her mind, your wife may want to try and recapture what she lost with her lab. If she admits that a GSD is a good choice, she looses that opportunity to reclaim something she loved. She may not even know this is going on in her (and I could also be 100 % wrong).

I suggest you guys spend some time with good adult GSDs if you can. She may decide, after a bit, that it is a good choice.
 

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Find the root cause of your wife’s fear. Is it from a bad personal experience or just a bad impression from TV and movies?

If your wife cannot get over her fear by being around and seeing good GSDs then the pup you get will sense that fear. it will be very hard for them to develop a trusting bond with that fear in the way.
 

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And…the quality of the breeder might almost be more important than the breed. I have an English lab that literally anybody could succeed with and love.

I have a lab in my kennel right now who is legit a German shepherd in a lab costume as far as his drive to tug, bite, chase a ball, push thru any obstacle to achieve the goal. He has the correct temperament as far as he is friendly to all ppl and dogs, but he is a LOT of dog and his parents are so mis matched with him. I joked to my husband we should just trade dogs, they would be perfect with my lab.

The one in my kennel that is a lot of dog… he bites them at home (7 mo), steals their stuff and runs merrily around with it for ages and won’t give it back. He needs a ton of exercise and he needs a working outlet. His parents want him to walk at heel and nothing else and that’s never gonna cut it for this guy. He demand barks loudly and persistently any time ppl aren’t doing what he wants them to do.

I think he would be a dream in a working or competition home but as a pet with fairly inactive ppl he is almost a nightmare. Really great dog, nothing wrong with him, just a total mismatch to his people.

So, my advice…make sure your breeder knows how to evaluate puppies and place them in the right home AND will take them back if it turns out to be a bad match like I am describing. For either breed.
 

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+1 cowboysgirl
 
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I think that if you find an excellent breeder and are honest about your needs and fears, you can get a wonderful German Shepherd your son can grow up with....and he will never want anything else 😁

At 6, he is old enough to understand the landshark phase, and the importance of being calm around the dog.
Find a really good breeder, do NOT a get a backyard dog, find a really good trainer familiar with the breed, to work with your wife and son and set up your family for success.
The first 2 years with a Shepherd are difficult, in all honesty. I’m sure you already know that, since you have owned them before.

Take her to see puppies 😁
If you get a really well bred dog as a pup and raise him the right way, I can’t see her remaining fearful.

Best of luck to you, and please come back and let us know what you decided.
 

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And…the quality of the breeder might almost be more important than the breed. I have an English lab that literally anybody could succeed with and love.

I have a lab in my kennel right now who is legit a German shepherd in a lab costume as far as his drive to tug, bite, chase a ball, push thru any obstacle to achieve the goal. He has the correct temperament as far as he is friendly to all ppl and dogs, but he is a LOT of dog and his parents are so mis matched with him. I joked to my husband we should just trade dogs, they would be perfect with my lab.

The one in my kennel that is a lot of dog… he bites them at home (7 mo), steals their stuff and runs merrily around with it for ages and won’t give it back. He needs a ton of exercise and he needs a working outlet. His parents want him to walk at heel and nothing else and that’s never gonna cut it for this guy. He demand barks loudly and persistently any time ppl aren’t doing what he wants them to do.

I think he would be a dream in a working or competition home but as a pet with fairly inactive ppl he is almost a nightmare. Really great dog, nothing wrong with him, just a total mismatch to his people.

So, my advice…make sure your breeder knows how to evaluate puppies and place them in the right home AND will take them back if it turns out to be a bad match like I am describing. For either breed.
Great post.

You know the old saying "if you have to ask, you can't afford it"?

My first thought is if you have to ask between a GSD and a lab, the GSD is not for you .... for me they're almost a nothing-else-would-ever-do breed. But then I read about your past and the family dynamic and I feel for ya. You did all I can suggest and took her to see beautiful stable adult dogs.

Has she seen puppies? If GSD puppies don't melt her heart and change her trepidation, don't do it.
*Don't get a working line dog, ask for low drive if you're not going to compete with/work the dog.
 

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i usually tell couples to stick with what the wife wants anyway, but since there is a fear component, i feel this way even more. she will always see things, even normal things, through that lense.

- the “land shark” phase… people post here often, referring to their very young puppies as aggressive - the biting causes bleeding, or that there is barking and growling associated with it.

- reactivity… it’s not a given, but it’s also not an uncommon problem in the breed. sometimes it’s triggered by a negative event, sometimes it comes seemingly out of no where. why was my previously well mannered puppy now lunging and barking at people and dogs when we’re on walks.

- protectiveness… natural aggression, appropriate aggression, suspicion, etc. not all gsd are extended family / lots of visitors type dogs. if your dog defensively barks at your brother in law who stopped by unexpectedly to drop off a package, is your wife going to be able to confidently take on a leadership role and manage/direct the dog appropriately?

is there a certain color or gender that will put her at ease? do you think having her participate in the training help? is she going to be turned off with any of the points i bring up? pop into the puppy behavior section or the aggression section. you know your wife… think about how those scenarios would play out in your house.

best of luck.
 

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I think you should get a lab for the heck of savings your relationship because if something goes wrong and the pup will not be what your wife has expected it might turn into many years of resentment especially with a kid involved.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
All really great posts and replies, I appreciate the input from everyone so far. When I initially posted this last evening I feared getting laughed off the forum. I fear I am not gaining any ground, but I don't think I'll give up quite yet. I can still see some breeders, and my wife hasn't seen any puppies yet. One breeder in particular that had some great dogs that we hit it off with had a stunning all black show line male that was just so friendly, my wife absolutely loved him. He came up to me and turned his hips into me as a sign to pet him and he was so large he knocked me over and started licking my face. My wife and son thought it was hysterical. I really wish she could have met my own GSD male....he was like an extension of me, it's so hard to explain something like that until you have it. My father in law isn't helping either; he's only had labs and keeps telling a story about a GSD from when he was in Vietnam that turned on it's handler and bit his face. So he keeps over generalizing and thinks that all shepherds have some kind of bad gene that is like a ticking time bomb (his words). I know that's in my wife's head. Whenever my father in law tells this story about Tou-che (dogs name), which is often, I know the conversation isn't going to go well. I feel this heavy weight on me that if something ever did go wrong, it would be all my fault for choosing the dog, and I do worry about that. I still find my wife cooing over lab photos on Facebook, so maybe she just isn't ready. I guess I'll give it more time. I'm happy my son is growing a healthy love for dogs, however so that's one silver lining. Thanks again for all the positive responses. I'll keep everyone posted.
 

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What about a compromise: getting a lab now and a GSD a few years down the road? Or vise versa?
i don’t think your father in laws story about Touché is ridiculous.… but you are not getting a working military dog so the story doesn’t apply at all.
 

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If the father in law is against shepherds too-- I just really would lean towards getting a lab. That's wife and her dad who both have bad experiences and/or bad expectations of a shepherd. That's a lot of prejudice straight out of the gate.

OR perhaps consider seeing if any of these breeders you like have an adult dog they want to retire from their breeding program that is really grown up, friendly and bomb proof.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
What about a compromise: getting a lab now and a GSD a few years down the road? Or vise versa?
i don’t think your father in laws story about Touché is ridiculous.… but you are not getting a working military dog so the story doesn’t apply at all.
We've actually discussed the two dog situation. I shouldn't have been harsh about my father in laws story, but he definitely isn't helping me out. Thanks for your reply. As far as getting one dog before the other, would you recommend one to choose first or second?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
As I posted my last reply I saw more pop up pro lab. A proven adult shepherd is also a great idea so thanks for that. I think it might be best if I just cool off a bit and give it more time. With the popularity of labs these days, I'm hoping it isn't even more difficult to sort out the good from the bad breeders.
 

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We've actually discussed the two dog situation. I shouldn't have been harsh about my father in laws story, but he definitely isn't helping me out. Thanks for your reply. As far as getting one dog before the other, would you recommend one to choose first or second?
lab first.
they’re typically more tolerant and welcoming of a new dog or puppy joining the household.
 

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I have a lab and a shepherd. They get along well. Start with a lab. When it is an adult, and it acts the way you want it to, and it is spayed/neutered, then consider an opposite sex shepherd.

then your family has some currentdog experience. If you are really happy w just the lab maybe you don’t need the shepherd.

When I wanted to get a lab, I called a lady I know who is very involved in the local breed clubs for New England region. I asked her what breeder she would recommend for the type of dog I wanted (temperament). She made a very good recommendation and I am super happy with my dog. Every single house guest we’ve had (and this summer has been an offensive amt of house guess) wants to take him home.

he is an English lab (show type) and I second the recommendation to get an English vs a field type or American lab. Although some English labs are pretty pushy and obnoxious. Many are very mellow, great family dogs. They get fat really easily so you have to watch that.
 

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Great thread. Lots of good comments.

I was in a similar position where I was choosing between Lab and Shepherd. We went Shepherd.
The first two years with a Shepherd are hard. If your wife feels fear, I would be concerned about their relationship making it through these first years. For fear issues and selecting a known temperament, you might want to try and find an older dog. Maybe an older puppy that has a good foundation with a breeder but has not been selected for breeding.

Who will spend the majority of time with the dog? I was in a position where I would primarily raise my Shepherd being an at home mom. My husband spends mornings, evenings and weekends with him. If he felt fear towards a Shepherd, I don’t think it could have worked.
GSDs can have a reaction to an event that the handler knows is just silliness but scares the heck out of other people. If your wife would be scared of that, it’s a recipe for disaster.

That said, my Shepherd is my kids’ best friend. That loyalty is never in doubt. He’s laying with them right now while they watch a show. He’ll explore the woods with them and alert if there’s a stranger. He’ll do absolutely anything asked of him. He’s my husband’s best bud. They’ve found their own way to bond and it’s the sappiest thing ever. He’s practically a third hand for me.
So, there are huge advantages to Shepherds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This has been a very helpful and informative thread. I'm thankful for all of the input. I'm fortunate that I work from home (not pandemic related) so I would be the one to do the training and most likely develop the initial bond with either dog. English labs do seem very nice; my family doctor has two and they just hang out at the office all day and greet patients and follow people around from room to room. I could see the appeal of not having to worry about their behavior. On weekends I know they do a lot of hiking and biking with them. My close friend recently got one as a puppy and she's a nice dog as well. For me personally with my own background with Shepherds I would love to have one, and I'd love for my son to have one, but I think I need to circle back and have a long talk with my wife again. I know that she feels bad and wants me to be happy, but I want everyone to be successful in this situation, especially the living animal we make the decision to care for. If that fear factor is there, then perhaps it's best to wait and get a lab first and see where life goes. Even if my father in law isn't on board I'll need to work on him as well. If my shepherd wasn't welcome at my in laws or if they were scared of him or her I'd really dislike that situation. The young adult shepherd is also a good recommendation so I'll keep my eye open for one. Thanks again for the advice. Any other comments or input would be welcome. Hopefully at some point I'll get to post a picture of something for you guys to see....just not too many pics if it's a lab 😄
 
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