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Discussion Starter #1
What level of knowledge about the GSD do you expect a pet owner to have?

I believe I am above average pet owner in the fact that I researched a little bit about the breed. I know the major illnesses that my dog can get, I know the amount of activity my dog needs and I know that there are show lines and working lines. I have other breeds and I know a little bit about them too.

So what else should people know to make them a better pet owner. Now remember this is a pet and people have family and jobs and lots of other stuff in their lives. Many have multiple breeds and mixes of breeds. So realistically how much information and research do you think that an average pet owner needs?
 

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I don't think it's as much about research as it is about being honest with yourself. I think a LOT of working breed pet owners wannabes think "oh, we'll become more active." Or they camp twice a year, but don't really go for walks, or hikes, etc But somehow classify themselves as active people...Don't get me wrong, I think there are a lot of working breed homes that are really active...but I think most of the time pet owners shrug off the part on EVERY website EVERYWHERE that says "this is a working breed and need lots of exercise and mental stimulation." And just see a fluffy puppy or a "cool" looking adult...I think it's more about selfish wants than anything. Just my .02.
 

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As much as possible, and always seeking more. :)

That's not a flippant answer. I do expect that to be true of good owners -- the ones I would be happy to give my fosters to.

As for "average owners," I couldn't say. I tend to interact only with the best and the worst owners, so I really don't have much insight into what "average" might be, beyond that it seems to vary dramatically by region, cultural norms, and so forth.
 

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Well... i'm probably a little different, but I learn absolutely as much about everything I choose to engage in... dogs, career choice, how to replace my boat seat cushions, how to make my yard look better etc..
 

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Knowledge is a very good tool to have, but it is no replacement for experience.

Both go hand in hand.

The only way to get the experience is to own and train the dog(s).

The knowledge can guide you, as can help from more experienced owners/handlers/trainers.
 

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I work in the vet field. I can tell you that the 'average' pet owner does not even come NEAR this forum. They truly, truly believe that Beneful is an exceptional dog food, that flea and HW medication is a luxury, and that a rabies shot and maybe a DHLPP every year is all they'll ever need. They don't clip toenails, they don't even worry about bathing their dogs, and they only seek medical attention for them when whatever is ailing them is already so bad that there's no easy way to control it.

People take a LOT for granted when they're in like-minded communities. We all have a level of aptitude that is well beyond 'average'.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Well... i'm probably a little different, but I learn absolutely as much about everything I choose to engage in... dogs, career choice, how to replace my boat seat cushions, how to make my yard look better etc..

You are a little different and that's not a bad thing! :) I'm talking average Joe/Jane off the street. Realistically how much can we expect them to know about their pets? I like knowledge myself. I read a lot and know a little about a lot of different things. But I'm no expert. Nor do I feel it necessary for a pet owner to know that the breed was first exhibited in Germany in 1882 or that Max von Stephanitz was the guy who created them.

I just get the feeling at times that a lot is expected of the average pet owner around here so I really want to know where is the line? What are the important things to know about this dog before buying or rescuing one?

The easy things: How much exercise does this dog need?
How much should I feed it?
What health problems should I be aware of and look for?
How big will it get as an adult? (This one can be problematic for the GSD? Cause talking to different people will get you many different answers)


But then what else? Well with the German Shepherd people will need to know that there are different lines. Show and working. and within each of those lines we have American and German. In working it gets even more complicated because there is Czech, DDR, and others heck I don't even know them all. Then we add in the other Shepherds Shilo, King, Dutch, Berger Blanc Suissie and is it any wonder pet people are confused? Then there are Alsatian which are German Shepherds and Malinois which are a different breed entirely.

So where is that line? How much do I need to know before I go buy or rescue a shepherd and where is one place that I can learn all that info before I buy? Well other than here! :D I have been reading here for about 2 years and I know I've only scratched the surface.
 

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Knowledge is a very good tool to have, but it is no replacement for experience.

Both go hand in hand.

The only way to get the experience is to own and train the dog(s).

The knowledge can guide you, as can help from more experienced owners/handlers/trainers.
knowledge is largely the reward for experience.
 

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I think an average or even below average level of knowledge about the breed is acceptable so long as people don't keep spouting off about things they know *nothing* about as if they are gospel. You can research issues as they arise. Everyone needs to know basic things about owning a large dog like requisite vet care, how to feed it well, grooming, socialization, and proper shelter, but I don't think breed specific knowledge is that important for the average owner beyond just recognizing that it's a large, active, intelligent breed.


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Discussion Starter #10
I work in the vet field. I can tell you that the 'average' pet owner does not even come NEAR this forum. They truly, truly believe that Beneful is an exceptional dog food, that flea and HW medication is a luxury, and that a rabies shot and maybe a DHLPP every year is all they'll ever need. They don't clip toenails, they don't even worry about bathing their dogs, and they only seek medical attention for them when whatever is ailing them is already so bad that there's no easy way to control it.

People take a LOT for granted when they're in like-minded communities. We all have a level of aptitude that is well beyond 'average'.
The girl who answers the phones behind the counter at my vets office feeds her dogs pedigree. So even between vets knowledge varies greatly.

We have different communities, cultures, income levels. We have urban, suburb, and rural.

With so many differences how can a pet owner find the important things to know before getting a GSD and what are those important things?

Cause I'm really at a loss here. We expect people to pick good breeders, good rescues to not go to BYB or Puppy Mills. So where can they get the correct info. But even more importantly what is the correct info? How much do we need to know?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Everyone needs to know basic things about owning a large dog like requisite vet care, how to feed it well, grooming, socialization, and proper shelter, but I don't think breed specific knowledge is that important for the average owner beyond just recognizing that it's a large, active, intelligent breed.

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So if breed specific knowledge is not that important. How do I pick a dog? Or a breeder?
 

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Cause I'm really at a loss here. We expect people to pick good breeders, good rescues to not go to BYB or Puppy Mills. So where can they get the correct info. But even more importantly what is the correct info? How much do we need to know?
I asked something similar once and never got a good answer. People are told the things you mentioned and then to research, go to clubs, visit the dogs.
It is not realistic. People who frequent this forum and post regularly are not the average pet owner.

Education is key but often on this forum the average pet owner is given way more than they want or will ever need.

Most will buy or adopt close to home from any kind of breeder or rescue and then come here with questions or problems.
 

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I have a two-sided view on this.

I work for a GSD breeder, and it is our job to communicate to our customers everything that they could possibly need to know about our dogs, everything from training to feeding to elderly lifestyle and medications/preventatives, etc, whether they ask us for that information or not. I have come across some ridiculously bad owners, who even after all of that information is relayed still somehow raise their dog to be aggressive/never house trained/etc. We find that some owners just don't care to listen to us.

Then, I have the view that would be my parent's side. They don't know squat about dogs, but they love them. They know that their nails should be clipped, their fur should be brushed... but they are the average pet owner, and don't know anything about quality food or anything of that nature. To be honest, when we find customers that are paranoid about what food they get and put this that and the other in their food bowls to keep them healthy, it's seriously a red flag to us because we know that they are gullible and will put any chemical or toxin in their dog based on a rumor and know nothing about it. A simple "Your dog can develop testicular cancer" will run them to get them neutered at 9 weeks old, then whoop, therein your dog will not have the hormones to grow properly and oops, you've just caused him to never have full control of his bladder/bowels. But the average owner doesn't /know/ that.

so in general, I think the average pet owner knows absolutely nothing, and a simple look on the internet cannot always change that. We who have experience know what to avoid and know what is good information and what is bad, but they do not. The average pet owner believes anything you tell them, but how often do they come across people like us who actually know a thing or two about dogs? Rarely. It makes me sad, but I see this through and through. I not only work for a breeder, I also work at Camp Bow Wow, and let me tell you that I have never in my life realized that there could be such negligent, unknowing people in the world.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Education is key but often on this forum the average pet owner is given way more than they want or will ever need.

Most will buy or adopt close to home from any kind of breeder or rescue and then come here with questions or problems.
Education is the key! But if we can't even agree on what it is necessary to know then how can people get educated and if people can't get educated how will anything ever change for the better? I have been one to always advocate getting involved. Visiting a SAR team, visiting a rescue but even then how do you know you are getting involved with the right people?
 

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Ultimately, though, most dogs do just fine in the 'average' house. Look at the movie Marley & Me; if that owner had been on this forum we would have been picking apart that dog's psyche and suggesting crates, training, behavioral specialists... and he was just fine.

When it comes to people who want a working breed, that's where the trouble comes in. Folks who are used to a couch-potato labrador are probably ill-equipped to handle any dog that requires anything more than being let out in the yard to potty twice a day. In that aspect, breeder education is exceptionally important as well as their judgement at sale.
But I don't think we have any responsibility or even *ability* to do anything about the average populace.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I not only work for a breeder, I also work at Camp Bow Wow, and let me tell you that I have never in my life realized that there could be such negligent, unknowing people in the world.
I had a stranger one day tell me that he had a pit bull/akita mix and that the akita would attack and afterword the pit bull side would sit there shaking. I know I just looked at him blankly but what do you say to something like that. He then proceeded to tell me how he had shot the dog because it attacked someone...but it was best dog he ever had. What?!!
 

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A lot of people will say that a GSD is not for a first time dog owner. I disagree, but knowledge is picked up by both reading/learning AND experience. You can learn about training dogs in books or on the forums, but you cannot learn to train dogs without a victim. And this is why a lot of us do a WHOLE lot better with our second GSD, yes maybe the first was from a BYB and this one is from a good breeder, but 9-14 years of experience managing that drop-eared dominant stubborn fear-aggressive disaster does go totally to waste.

People talk about red flags a LOT when they talk about finding a breeder. I think breeders have red flags when they talk about potential puppy buyers. A red flag is where your gut says, "don't sell this yayhoo a dog." Some breeders only want to deal with people who have experience with the breed. I think it is more likely that inexperienced buyers land with the inexperienced breeders for other reasons though.

Your more experienced breeders may not be advertising at all. They have people from training classes, dog clubs, and trials contact them and wait for a puppy to be born. Your inexperienced buyer generally wants a puppy that is already ready to go, or is at least on the ground already. They may say, oh yes I want this six-week-old puppy. And you explain that the dog needs to stay with the litter until eight weeks, so come and pick him up in two weeks. Two weeks later you find that he has already purchased a 4 week old dog from someone else.

Inexperienced buyers often choke on the going rate, and want discounts because they just want a dog for a pet. These people are not going to land on the more experienced of breeders. They will be seen through, and most likely they will decide for themselves to go elsewhere.

And it is not like breeders do not yack on the phone with these people and explain about things like why it is still important for people who want pets to get a puppy whose parents were tested in temperament and health, etc. We explain why the dogs should stay with the litter. But in the end, a first-time buyer knows it all, and goes to someone who has a litter he is willing to sell to anyone, right now.

There are first-time buyers who have spent a lot of time on forums who know a lot of the questions to ask. It certainly does not mean the dog is going into the best of hands. If it is your first dog, you might have a step up on someone who hasn't a clue, but even spending months on the forum or in other venues learning about the breed, you cannot look at the pup in front of you and assess that pup for its training style and management style, so you will make plenty of mistakes, and it is a testament to the dogs if they manage to survive a newbie owner.

Not having a shepherd before is a yellow flag. Not having a working/herding group dog is a yellow flag. Not having a dog before is a yellow flag. Never raising a puppy before is a yellow flag. A yellow flag means you have to ask a lot more questions. I think breeders should sell to newbies, but they should get a feel for some level of commitment on the part of the newbie to understand if this individual is going to be totally out of their depth or not.

If you have a dog already, you should know about things like shots, going to the vet, taking the dog to classes/training the dog, exercise and play, how much it costs to feed a dog, whether where you live you have any restrictions on owning a dog, and many other things. You really can't take anything for granted with a newbie owner. And so you start asking some really intrusive questions that don't seem to be related about whether they rent or own, do they have a homeowner's association, do they have a job, and how is the puppy going to be able to be house trained while they are working, etc.

When someone comes to buy a pup, I don't really want to hear the common questions that people tell people to ask. It sounds learned by heart, and most of the time, the people are just looking at the puppies.

I want to hear that the people have a plan. They have a plan for getting the puppy checked out at the vet and vaccinated. They have a plan for training, they know of a trainer who has training classes, and they maybe want to do some obedience or something with the puppy. They have a plan for house-training the puppy, and who will be there to let the puppy out while they are at work. Being aware of some of the common ailments in the breed is good. Having a plan of what they intend to feed the dog. Already having a crate and toys and bowls/supplies is also a positive. Not freaking out if the puppy mouthes them or goes for their shoe laces is another positive.

Your typical pet owner needs to be willing to learn about dogs and problems within the breed. I press training classes because they will meet up with other people over the course of 6 weeks and will learn tons from a decent trainer. And, hopefully, they will sign up again for more classes.

And a puppy owner needs to know when to call the vet or breeder with problems and questions.

People learn as they go with kids. And they will learn as the go with dogs too. You learn more from the tougher dogs or the sicker dogs than the ones that never give you a moment's worry.
 

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The thing is, there is a lot or conflicting information out there with many many things. So I think it would be hard to really make a list of what is average/good/bad/exceptional/etc.

IMO

There are tons of vets who recommend crap dog food. Are we really going to argue about what a dog is being fed? If he is doing find on it, leave them be, would you rather the dog starve?

I've seen threads on here about how much a dog should get bathed. Some have said they only bath the dog once or twice a year, but will wipe them off if they have a muddy day or something. Are we really going to argue about a dog that isn't matted with its coat in bad shape?

Crate training. Some people don't see a need for it. Some people put up gates, put them in rooms, etc etc. Are we really going to argue about what would be better? Many dogs and owners make it through puppy hood just fine without crates.

The fact is, there is no one way to raise/have a dog. People will have their opinions on things and do what they feel is best. I wouldn't expect someone to raise their kids how I see fit, I don't expect them to raise their dogs how I see fit. I may talk with them, give them ideas, tell them what has worked for me, and try to help them. However I'm not going to go around calling them a "bad" or less than average dog owner because its not being done MY way.

Unless someone is starving, beating, or just honestly abusing the dog in some way (I don't mean something I don't like), I live and let live.

I don't think that there is really a standard for people to research, at least not beyond the general "is that dog/breed right for me". Many people will research as they go and typically one thing will lead to another and another and another and eventually you have someone who knows more than they did a month ago. People are different like that. Some do it as they go, some dive in the deep end first and some find out as much as they can before hand.
 

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I have a two-sided view on this.

I work for a GSD breeder, and it is our job to communicate to our customers everything that they could possibly need to know about our dogs, everything from training to feeding to elderly lifestyle and medications/preventatives, etc, whether they ask us for that information or not. I have come across some ridiculously bad owners, who even after all of that information is relayed still somehow raise their dog to be aggressive/never house trained/etc. We find that some owners just don't care to listen to us.

Then, I have the view that would be my parent's side. They don't know squat about dogs, but they love them. They know that their nails should be clipped, their fur should be brushed... but they are the average pet owner, and don't know anything about quality food or anything of that nature. To be honest, when we find customers that are paranoid about what food they get and put this that and the other in their food bowls to keep them healthy, it's seriously a red flag to us because we know that they are gullible and will put any chemical or toxin in their dog based on a rumor and know nothing about it. A simple "Your dog can develop testicular cancer" will run them to get them neutered at 9 weeks old, then whoop, therein your dog will not have the hormones to grow properly and oops, you've just caused him to never have full control of his bladder/bowels. But the average owner doesn't /know/ that.

so in general, I think the average pet owner knows absolutely nothing, and a simple look on the internet cannot always change that. We who have experience know what to avoid and know what is good information and what is bad, but they do not. The average pet owner believes anything you tell them, but how often do they come across people like us who actually know a thing or two about dogs? Rarely. It makes me sad, but I see this through and through. I not only work for a breeder, I also work at Camp Bow Wow, and let me tell you that I have never in my life realized that there could be such negligent, unknowing people in the world.
When a person goes in to the doctor for consultation after some tests, once the doctor says, "cancer" everything else is a big blur. I think that it can be very much the same when you go to bring home your knew puppy. If the breeder pounds it into you NOT to take the puppy to a pet store yet, then maybe you will remember that. But there is no way they are going to take away everything that is needed for the life of the dog. I hope I give mine everything that is needed for the next few days -- what to feed, how to feed, how to start house training, don't take it where other dogs are yet, get it to the vet and take its shot record with you, and so on.

I have a little binder with the papers, and the other paperwork in it, and in it, I have a couple of pages about the new dog, odds and ends, training, etc. And then I have some propaganda from the AKC, like what stuff is poisonous, what venues there are to train the dog. I used to give a leadership booklet by a person I respect in dog training, or a small book on the breed. But I try not to overwhelm the new owners. What is important for them to remember is that they can call me.
 
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