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Discussion Starter #1
I can't thank everyone enough for the great advice in my previous post (Bring on the Advice!)! I'm doing my homework the best I can and my head is definitely spinning from all of the abbreviations - once I got past all of the basics (OFA, SchH, "a"1, "a"2) it seems to be helpful knowing the meaning behind Kkl 1, Kkl2, Lbz, AD, BH, etc as I'm looking at breeders...

SO. My big question at the moment is: Puppy, or Young Adult? After I searched the forums and read through a past thread (same question but different situation) I figured I'd throw up my post!

When my husband and I originally discussed getting a GSD years ago, we had the intention of finding a fully trained adult dog - a "deterrent" dog - so I'd feel safer when he travels for work and/or when I run alone on heavily wooded trails. Now, with two boys (ages 5 & 7), I find I'm flip-flopping on a daily basis regarding puppy versus young adult. There are certainly pros and cons both ways, and I'd love some input from more experienced folks.

My Puppy Pros:
-- Opportunity for bonding with my family from a young age
-- Opportunity to shape the puppy's behavior
-- Pack Order - I would be Alpha from Day 1, versus previous breeder/trainer from whom we'd get the dog

Puppy Cons:
-- Land Sharking!
-- Crate and Potty Training
-- Personality not yet obvious - puppy might not be interested in being my running partner or pursuing therapy work when he/she is older.

Adult Pros:
-- Crate Trained/Housebroken
-- Known temperament/personality
-- Can start training for therapy work and/or running immediately

Adult Cons:
-- Set behaviors/potential difficulty modifying certain behaviors
-- My boys are good with dogs, but bringing a fully grown adult dog into our house *could* be a little intimidating for them, and I don't want a dog to pick up on that from the beginning...
-- Will the dog accept me as Alpha?
-- Primary concern - bonding. Especially with my boys.

I realize that an older dog with training will have a higher price tag. While I'm taking that into account, it won't be the deciding factor. Everything above is far more important to me in finding the right dog.

Set me straight if I'm off-base with any thoughts above... and thanks in advance!


1,574 Posts
Most of my experience is in rescue, and I will say that when it comes to rescue dogs, I ABSOLUTELY prefer adolescents and young adults (5 months to 3 years), either as fosters or permanent additions to the home. It's not even close. It would require some truly extraordinary circumstances to get me to foster a puppy again.

I have never had problems getting older dogs to bond (if anything, I have to discourage the fosters from bonding too closely, and after the first couple of weeks it often makes them depressed and confused that I don't appear to reciprocate their love) or to accept me as ultimate iron-fisted dictator over their world. Also, they train faster (which is important to me, as I enjoy dog training) and have longer attention spans. Most rescue dogs, in my experience, are desperate for love and leadership and a safe place in the world. Once they get it, they'll never leave your side.

Now, one important caveat is that I specifically select foster dogs for high sociability and people-oriented personalities, and I have been doing this long enough to have gotten reasonably good at identifying that type of dog. I've done a couple of behavioral rehab cases but I have learned that I don't enjoy them, and given the choice I would rather save sweet, soft-hearted, loving dogs who just need a little time and polish to be completely suitable for novice homes. So I am specifically looking for a particular type of dog, and that has heavily shaped my experiences with them. If all my rescue dogs had been like Pongu, well, I'd have a very different opinion of rescues!

So that's my view on rescue dogs. I would definitely recommend an adolescent or adult there, not only because potty training and landsharking are such hassles, but because genetics and early socialization are a bigger question mark and it's safer to see the dog's final temperament. If you work with a good and trustworthy foster home or a very strong shelter program, you can often adopt a dog who's had some basic foundational training. I've adopted out a couple who were CGC-ready. They're not that common, but they're out there, and they don't cost any extra.

With breeder dogs it's a little different. When I'm ready to buy a performance puppy, it'll be a puppy.

Basic training is not difficult to do and IMO it's not worth the price to pay someone else to do it. Setting aside temperament problems (which can make this a LOT harder), you can get a sane, stable dog from absolute zero to CGC level in about four to eight weeks, depending on the dog.

Additionally, if you don't have a ton of dog experience (or, really, even if you DO), training the dog through those basic steps is valuable for you as much as for the dog. Learning to communicate with your dog is a two-way street. The dog learns to respond to you, but you also learn to read and respect your dog.

I can give you a dog who knows the word "Stay" but I can't give you the full panoply of knowledge that goes with having taught the dog that command -- that she'll hold a Stay if a squirrel runs by at 25 feet but not if a garbage truck rumbles by at 40 feet, that she always wags her tail in a particular way right before she breaks the Stay, that she'll throw her ears forward if she's really distracted but not quiiiite on the verge of breaking, that she won't hold a Stay for longer than 30 seconds if the ground is wet and cold.

Those are things you have to learn by teaching and practicing with the dog yourself. And they're valuable to know, because those are the things you really need to know in the real world.

Additionally, the dog will come with a limited repertoire that you will probably want to add to and will certainly need to practice. You're going to have to begin somewhere, and it might as well be with "Sit" rather than backflips off your thigh. Basic training, particularly for a beginning handler, is as much about teaching YOU the skills to read and effectively communicate with the dog as anything else.

As far as deterrent value goes, IME any big dog with a deep bark will get the job done. Dog Mob is a couple of pushovers whose greatest victory in battle was a one-time conquest of a spectacularly incompetent mouse. But they've still managed to scare off actual muggers on three separate occasions and have deterred numerous other sketchy characters and crazies on the streets of Philadelphia, because they are big dogs and they can bark loudly and they look scary at night.

Criminals, by and large, aren't good at reading dogs and tend to over-estimate the ferocity and determination of any dog they encounter. You don't actually need a dog who will bite to function as an effective deterrent. You just need a big one.

637 Posts
ive had 8 week old pups and adults 1.2 years , i personally find the adult dogs are easier to retrain (bad habits) and train good habits. i found adult dogs actually bond stronger ( i still cant figure this out, but my 11 year old pit that i got at 8 weeks could care less if he wanders off, yet my 3 year old gsd that i adopted at 1.2 years old is the most obedient dog i have owned lol)

i prefer adults because their temperment is set, but thats just me. the puppy land shark stage can scare some adults lol let alone kids, if the pup is super mouthy you will be working triple time to keeep the pup tired and not landsharking everyone.. kids will get tired of needle sharp teeth doing damage all the time..

you could go visit a few breeders wth your children, let everyone be with the pups to see how they are (landshark, running, peeing playing etc) then have everyone be with older dogs, say 6 months and up- notice how dogs and people interact.

since whatever dog you get will live with 2 children you have to be careful as you dont want a landshark puppy to ruin the puppy stage that the children might think is rainbows and unicorns.. while the puppy stage is fun to a degree, its also ALOT of work, housebreakkng, crate training, landshark teething stage, puppy getting into everything,pee and poop accidents, etc,, yes the pup will bond with everyone..

honestly throw out the alpha crap..its highly overrated..

while i love love love puppies, after rescueing 2 adults and having numerous (too many ) 8 week old pups here i prefer the older ones... but thats just me.

as far as a deterrent, any large dog with a big bark will work lol...
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