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Something to think about with kids and these types of dogs Misty, think in terms of respect, not love. I think the single biggest issue, maybe not for everyone, but a huge amount of the time is chasing. It can start off looking like excited running with kids, so even supervised you can miss it. I think that tends to be the first issue that escalates to other problems because chasing is generally going to become biting when they catch them and reestablishing respect can be pretty tough.

Chasing also doesn't have to only mean running after. It can be as subtle as a quick reaction to kids moving their hands. Calm kids, gentle and firm petting, training calm with the puppy, and a little bit goes a long way. It may sound like common sense, and maybe condescending, but when they've got some drive, these things sneak up on you because its always a little easier to wind them up then wind them down.
 

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I would second the recommendation to look at the german showlines. The kennel I board at the owner has showlines and they are extremely nice and overall pretty laidback compared to my WL dogs. I believe they are Haus Juris lines. If you are set on a WL for whatever reason please consider a female. I have trained in a number of schutzhund clubs and most of the males do need more experienced handlers. I have seen the gamut from czech dogs w more moderate drive but greater suspicion to West German lines with frequently higher drive who can (not always) be more social. Keep in mind that a lower drive puppy is no guarantee that it will stay that way also.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
Something to think about with kids and these types of dogs Misty, think in terms of respect, not love. I think the single biggest issue, maybe not for everyone, but a huge amount of the time is chasing. It can start off looking like excited running with kids, so even supervised you can miss it. I think that tends to be the first issue that escalates to other problems because chasing is generally going to become biting when they catch them and reestablishing respect can be pretty tough.

Chasing also doesn't have to only mean running after. It can be as subtle as a quick reaction to kids moving their hands. Calm kids, gentle and firm petting, training calm with the puppy, and a little bit goes a long way. It may sound like common sense, and maybe condescending, but when they've got some drive, these things sneak up on you because its always a little easier to wind them up then wind them down.
Even common sense things are worth repeating as a reminder, Steve. Repetition is not only needed for the puppy during training, it is also needed for the trainer as a reminder, unless it is something they do day-in, day-out (which is obviously not my case at the moment). I have made note of many things researched and read to ensure they become part of our day-to-day interaction with the puppy.

Chasing games is being added to the “Don’t(s)” list. We didn't do it with our prior dog and it is common sense, but worth reinforcing since younger members of the family have not lived with a dog before. It is easy to see how that one can turn out badly. A game of chase ends when one party pins the other down to stop the chase. Calm and gentle had already been discussed with everyone, except the 1 1/2 year old; she remains the wild card we must all keep an eye on and supervise like a hawk and predict her every move before they take place. During supervised interaction she will be trained to go easy on the puppy and be gentle. My son got her a stuffed puppy and is showing her how to be “gentle”. We hope this repetition pays off, but take nothing for granted.

Respect and love, more often than not, go hand in hand. You tend to end up liking, admiring and even loving those you respect and believe to do the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons.

I’m human and have made my share of mistakes, but after reading and researching on the breed I believe to possess the right temperament to raise the puppy, so long as I continue to educate myself, learn from the training classes and adequately transfer that knowledge to the family members that will have continuous exposure to the GSD. They have agreed to attend some training classes with me as well; this will help them learn (first hand) what the puppy needs and how to handle him. Had they not agreed to follow my instructions I would not be looking to get a puppy.

Most of us with children and grandchildren deal with discipline issues daily. I adore my children and my grandchildren, there is little to nothing I wouldn’t do for them (within reason). While growing up, I was not the fun or permissive parent, not always the fun role, but I did view it as necessary for their development. The older they got, the closer we got. My daughter, the eldest and most rebellious of the three, often mentions how she hears my words coming out of her mouth with her own kids; not something she ever expected as a teen. Her husband, much like her dad, are wonderful, loving and carrying people who can’t stand making another person sad or deny their children what they want; which is necessary at times. I know my children loved me and respected me growing up, even if at times they didn’t like me very much because I made them do (or not do) things as they wanted. My grown up children all have their own lives today, voluntarily they and their families spend more time with me than with others. They insist on me joining them on vacation, I concede to some every so often but also remind them they need time alone away from their daily routine. I also need a little time for myself, which would be impossible if I spent every woken non-working minute with them.

My children and grandchildren are a part of my life; we are not a distant family (quite the contrary). It will take learning and training for the entire family to deal with the puppy as he grows up. It will also take time and training for the puppy to understand he is part of a large and growing family. It will be up to me to ensure that it is a natural and painless adjustment for all involved.
 

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Discussion Starter #44
I would second the recommendation to look at the german showlines. The kennel I board at the owner has showlines and they are extremely nice and overall pretty laidback compared to my WL dogs. I believe they are Haus Juris lines. If you are set on a WL for whatever reason please consider a female. I have trained in a number of schutzhund clubs and most of the males do need more experienced handlers. I have seen the gamut from czech dogs w more moderate drive but greater suspicion to West German lines with frequently higher drive who can (not always) be more social. Keep in mind that a lower drive puppy is no guarantee that it will stay that way also.
Thank you, Rotdocpa1. My research shows that female GSD start their heat cycle between age 5 to 14 months. Research has also shown many joint and health issues (particularly cancer) associated with spaying/neutering GSDs before 12 months. I have already decided that if I do spay or neuter our dog, it will be well after 12 months. Since it is likely not all GSDs develop at the same rate, timing is a discussion to be had with the vet, but it will never be before 12 months. In an 8 year study, spayed females had greater issues with urinary incontinence than intact females, although lower for females spayed after a year of age.

In general, it appears females do seem more susceptible to health issues than males.
 

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You'll be fine. You are way more prepared than most people and have obviously thought this decision out very carefully.

Cava will be 2 tomorrow and I'm hoping to have her spayed shortly thereafter in order to catch her between the 2nd and 3rd heats. Her first was a week or two after her first birthday, the second was about 7 months later. Her heats were not a big deal, but there are a couple of tournaments coming up in March and April, and I'd have to miss them if she's in heat. I wanted to wait until she was 2 so she could get an OFA rating.

I don't know of any research that points to more health issues in females. It's possible, I just haven't seen it mentioned before. I do like the smaller size of females, Halo was about 54/55 pounds, and it looks like Cava will remain under 60 pounds.
 

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Discussion Starter #46
You'll be fine. You are way more prepared than most people and have obviously thought this decision out very carefully.

Cava will be 2 tomorrow and I'm hoping to have her spayed shortly thereafter in order to catch her between the 2nd and 3rd heats. Her first was a week or two after her first birthday, the second was about 7 months later. Her heats were not a big deal, but there are a couple of tournaments coming up in March and April, and I'd have to miss them if she's in heat. I wanted to wait until she was 2 so she could get an OFA rating.

I don't know of any research that points to more health issues in females. It's possible, I just haven't seen it mentioned before. I do like the smaller size of females, Halo was about 54/55 pounds, and it looks like Cava will remain under 60 pounds.
Thank you, Cassidy’s Mom. From my research, if I were to change my mind and opt for a female (it has not been completely discounted as the main preference is a healthy well-adjusted puppy, other factors being secondary), it would definitely be spayed when age appropriate, it seems it substantially reduces their health risks considerably, other than incontinence in later years of course.

It appears a female would be better with the family as a whole, but it seems the bond of the male with the owner would be stronger. Of course, no research I have done indicates that the female will not be as protective of its owner. All research also indicates that while some traits may generally appear more in one gender than another, each puppy is an individual and the traits can be reversed.

Needless to say, I am still in my learning stage, which is among the reasons I don’t necessarily want the puppy right now. I am not a spontaneous person, I enjoy everything a lot more after doing research; it even applies with relaxing events such as vacations. Not necessarily always a good trait, but it is part of who I am.

Knowing myself, I would say at least a month or more of research and learning will yield a more comfortable place from where to finalize decisions. The only thing that may break that cycle would be a breeder I have learned to trust tells me they have “right now” the perfect puppy for us. Even then, I may resist the temptation.

Newly acquired knowledge has also led me to push the age to maybe up to 16 weeks, the temperament and drive of the puppy will be more defined by then (it makes sense). Mind you, I still do believe that 8 to 16 week period would be highly beneficial bonding time between me and the puppy; however, if it is best for all those involved, I am willing to move the age the puppy comes home.
 

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@Misty02 I have been offline a lot for the last few weeks with family, so I missed your thread until now, I have a different opinion about a first GSD for a family than some of the others, although I skimmed and did not read every post in this thread. We had GSDs and mixes when I was younger, but my first purebred GSD as an adult was purchased when we had young children. We went to a breeder asking for a strong 8 week old male with good temperament. We ended up with a 12 weeks old female from a different breeding. She was from Vom Kirschental lines, which if you research here, you will see were very strong herding lines. They don’t breed anymore. She was high energy and had medium high to high drive, depending on the trigger, but also had a good off switch. She was unusually social. German Shepherd are supposed to have some human aggression but she didn’t have much. She did have some small dog reactivity, which isn’t great but we didn’t know any better and it was manageable.

I can’t stress enough the value of having a pet dog that is social if you have a lot of children and their friends in and out of your house. It is not breed standard, though, so if you want to go that route and want to go with traditional lines, you need an excellent breeder who can pull one out for you. Having had puppies ranging in age from 8-16 weeks, all GSDS, she was by far the easiest. The 16 week old was a rescue and came to us with some terrible behaviors. The 12 week had been partially trained as the breeder planned to show and title her, but changed her mind and sold her to us. She already had 4 weeks of excellent socialization. The 8 week old puppies needed a lot more attention, were heavy biters and a lot more challenging. My 12 and 16 week old dogs were potty trained when we got them. All were WGSL except the most recent who is a WL.
 

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In general, it appears females do seem more susceptible to health issues than males.
I don't agree with this at all. I think it's genetics and luck. Plain and simply. We've had many female dogs and overall they were healthy until the end of their lives. The boxers were 12 and 13, and my shepherd was just 10. Early spay/neuter affects both sexes.
 

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Discussion Starter #49 (Edited)
@Misty02 I have been offline a lot for the last few weeks with family, so I missed your thread until now, I have a different opinion about a first GSD for a family than some of the others, although I skimmed and did not read every post in this thread. We had GSDs and mixes when I was younger, but my first purebred GSD as an adult was purchased when we had young children. We went to a breeder asking for a strong 8 week old male with good temperament. We ended up with a 12 weeks old female from a different breeding. She was from Vom Kirschental lines, which if you research here, you will see were very strong herding lines. They don’t breed anymore. She was high energy and had medium high to high drive, depending on the trigger, but also had a good off switch. She was unusually social. German Shepherd are supposed to have some human aggression but she didn’t have much. She did have some small dog reactivity, which isn’t great but we didn’t know any better and it was manageable.

I can’t stress enough the value of having a pet dog that is social if you have a lot of children and their friends in and out of your house. It is not breed standard, though, so if you want to go that route and want to go with traditional lines, you need an excellent breeder who can pull one out for you. Having had puppies ranging in age from 8-16 weeks, all GSDS, she was by far the easiest. The 16 week old was a rescue and came to us with some terrible behaviors. The 12 week had been partially trained as the breeder planned to show and title her, but changed her mind and sold her to us. She already had 4 weeks of excellent socialization. The 8 week old puppies needed a lot more attention, were heavy biters and a lot more challenging. My 12 and 16 week old dogs were potty trained when we got them. All were WGSL except the most recent who is a WL.
Thank you for the insight, LuvShepherds.

Fun fact: Between my research and this forum I have been led to develop a puppy/dog dictionary so I can learn to develop questions/comments to breeders and also understand the comments they make. Not long ago I would have assumed drive and energy were synonymous, imagine my surprise when I found they were not. I seem to be googling for definitions more often than in any other research I had done in other subjects.
 

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Discussion Starter #50
I don't agree with this at all. I think it's genetics and luck. Plain and simply. We've had many female dogs and overall they were healthy until the end of their lives. The boxers were 12 and 13, and my shepherd was just 10. Early spay/neuter affects both sexes.
It is something said over and over again, Jax08; genetics, conditions growing up, luck, etc all play a part. Studies on joint issues, as well as other health risks, don’t mention lineage and if parents had similar problems. They also don’t address, if as puppies, these dogs played Frisbee or did continuous exercises/activities known to harm the joints of a growing puppy.

Were all your females spayed after the age of 12 months? It seems intact females have higher risks for tumors and cancers.

How do all of you handle females in heat during the cycle(s) before they are spayed? For those weeks, they are taken nowhere? In all the years we have lived here, we have only seen a couple of stray dogs, one of which was adopted by a neighbor, so it might not be a problem (I don't know for sure).

I have not done as much research on female GSD as I have done on males. The dog we did own was male and fixed, thus I have no firsthand knowledge in dealing with neither intact males nor females. Here, if you get a puppy from the pound they are spayed/neutered before they are sent home with their new owners. Neighbors and friends who own dogs have bought them from pet stores, the pound or gotten them from friends whose dogs had puppies. No one seemed to know that spaying/neutering puppies too early could affect their future health.

The amount of information and studies on GSD out there is enormous, but all seem incomplete and none seem to take in consideration all known possible causes, from breeding/genetics to individual dog’s environment growing up.

One comforting piece of the puzzle is good reputable breeders; they seem to care about their dogs long after they have left their care. Many seem to stay in frequent contact with people that get their puppies and thus would become aware of health issues with their puppies which need to be addressed in future breeding. I guess issues with recessive genes in parents would be better predicted when there have been previous successful litters where all puppies have been healthy? I know it is still luck as it could affect a single puppy, even there are many healthy puppies from previous breeding?

From everything read to date, the critical starting point is the breeder, followed closely by the care we provide the puppy we bring home and obviously luck. Whichever puppy comes into my home will be a member of the family from the start. It is on me to assure I bring the right puppy home, which I know my family will immediately fall in love with. If I do make a mistake, it can’t be because I didn’t do my homework.

Perhaps I am overthinking and over-complicating my life with too much information? Sadly, it is part of who I am and I’ve yet to find the on/off switch for it. In spite all inconveniences it causes, it has served in the past to minimize possible mistakes.

With that in mind, I would appreciate if you all provided additional leads to reputable breeders that carefully screen their dogs for health and temperament so I can continue my search.
 

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Discussion Starter #51
I think if you find a reputable working line breeder (or several), and explain exactly what you're looking for you will not have any trouble getting a suitable puppy for your situation. When I've contacted breeders I always provide a detailed description of what traits I'm looking for and which I want to avoid, I explain my prior experience with GSDs (we've had them since 1986 and are on #6), what my plans are for the puppy and what our lifestyle is like. The more information you provide, the better. As others have mentioned, there is variety in a litter - just like all of your children are unique individuals, so will the puppies be. People's requirements are different and the perfect puppy for someone else may be completely wrong for you. The puppy that's exactly what you want may be the opposite of what someone else is looking for.

Higher thresholds, medium drive, an excellent off switch, a dog you can take anywhere, happy, confident, and outgoing, all of those are traits that would make an excellent family dog. I got my most recent puppy from Colorado; I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had never met the breeder, I heard about the litter from a friend of a friend who co-owns the sire. At the time, I had had to retire my girl from flyball due to DM and we lost her about a month after bringing Cava home. I wanted a puppy with the drive to compete in a sport, but it was also very important to me to have a "take anywhere" dog. Training and competing are a relatively small part of our lives and I wanted a dog that would also be a great pet. Halo, my prior flyball dog, was described by her breeder as being suitable for a working or active pet home and she turned out to be exactly that. We hiked, she raced in flyball for 5 years, we did some dock diving for fun, we went to the park and chucked balls for her to chase and to swim. She would have been perfectly fine just being an active pet but it was clear early on that she would enjoy a sport so I found a class, joined a flyball club, and started racing.

I relied a lot on Cava's breeder's description of her dam, who was everything she wanted and the reason for the breeding - she was looking for her next working prospect. Elka is super athletic, the fastest GSD she's ever seen, and social off the field. A lot of people prefer a more aloof dog, but all of our GSDs have been very social and that's what I prefer. Cava was described as spunky, happy, and bubbly, and she totally is. She is sweet and cheerful, a bright presence in our house, with plenty of drive for flyball. I wanted a dog that's easily engaged, with a strong willingness to work for me. She's that too. And we do indeed take her everywhere. She's been to several restaurants with outdoor seating dozens of times, she's been to breweries, wineries, and she's been to a major music festival in Golden Gate Park in SF twice. This year, the attendance was estimated at 750,000+ over three days. The day we went we were at the busiest of the 6 stages to see Robert Plant and it was jammed. Cava couldn't have been better, our seat neighbors all wanted to meet her as did a lot of those passing by. She loved all the attention, got many compliments on how calm she was, how well trained, how pretty, sweet, and friendly, and I love that I didn't have to compromise on working ability to get everything else I was looking for.
Oops, my apologies Cassidy’s Mom, it seems I had missed this post.

We are in complete agreement. I have provided more information to breeders and in the forum about me and my family than ever before in my life! Heck, people that I have worked with for years likely don’t know this much about my personal life. Nonetheless, I understand it is crucial, if I am requesting references to breeders you all know and trust, so you can recommend the right breeder. It is also critical when talking with breeders so they can determine which traits in a puppy would fit our home and lifestyle.

The right breeder, above all, needs to be honest and knowledgeable of their dogs and prior litters. I need a breeder that will be frank; I have no issues with them telling me their dogs produce puppies with drives that would be unfit for my household. I need them to care about which home/family they place their puppies in.

What I am trying to avoid is a breeder that doesn't care and will place the wrong puppy with my family, just to make a sale. That would make both the puppy and us miserable, this is the outcome I am trying to prevent by doing proper research.

Puppies are cute and adorable, it will be quite easy for me to make a mistake (I lack knowledge in this area). I will be 100% dependent on the selected breeder to select the "right" cute and adorable puppy for us.
 

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Discussion Starter #52
In general, participation in this thread has led me to:
  • Don’t insist in WL, other lines may also yield the right puppy for our home
  • Don’t dismiss females, they may be the right puppy for our home
Which means, more research on other lines and on females. :) I can handle that! (better now than lamenting later, that is for sure)
 

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Were all your females spayed after the age of 12 months? It seems intact females have higher risks for tumors and cancers.
Again, I just go back to luck and genetics. We had one boxer, backyard bred and fed Dad's dog food, live to be 13. Died of a seizure most likely due to a brain tumor. Spayed prior to 6 months.
Another Boxer, spayed at 3, fed Purina. Lived to be 12. We had to let her go due to arthritis and she developed an infection that was super hard to treat. Even if we could cure it, the arthritis in her back was still an issue.
Note: It's not common for Boxers to live past 10 years.
I lost my first German Shepherd to hemangio at just 10 years old. Minimal vaccination, raw fed. Spayed at 4 months because I adopted her from a shelter.

There is literally no rhyme or reason to who lived longer. You can only do your research and find a breeder that has longevity in their lines to stack the deck in your favor.
 

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I don't have much to add regarding the WL / WGSL issue since I have never owned a WL, I own two WGSL one female and one male. With SL GSD's in general and I have seen the full spectrum from extremely hyper, territorial etc., to very calm, laid back and friendly. I think this could be the case in whichever lines you choose, depending on the kind of breeder and the type of dog that you ask for, so it's definitely good that you are doing your research!

Also in regards to the male / female question. My female is much more intense, energetic and unsociable with strangers and my male more open, calm and friendly, which is the opposite of what I think the usual conception is! I don't think this is always the case, but I think it points out how individual personality will be far more important than gender.

My female is 2 years old and has not been spayed, she has only had 3 heat cycles in that time, she didn't have her first heat until she was over 11 months old and has them roughly every 6 months. For me it's not a problem, hardly takes any management at all. I have never seen any stray dog try and come to our property whilst she is in heat, I have taken her on walks whilst she has been in heat, and never been bothered or seen any dog hanging around. What I read before I purchased her made me believe that I would be fighting off dogs left right and center, but that has not been the case at all! I have a pair of dog pants for the mess and / or I just keep her mostly in the kitchen (where there is tile floor). I don't leave her outside unsupervised whilst she is in heat, but she can run around our yard, I just keep an eye on her. She gets a bit clingy in her heat and wants to stay inside more anyway, so it's not such an issue.

I think the risk for mammary cancers is extremely small and over-inflated by vets and others who are more interested in getting every animal spayed / neutered at 6 months purely because of routine population control (not for the health of the animal). However, as a responsible pet owner that is not an issue, so I agree that waiting until they are over 1 year (preferably 2) has been shown in the research to provide optimal health benefits for large breed dogs (male or female).
 

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I would not consider show lines because of the odds you will get a dog with a weak temperament. I would start educating yourself about training and purchase the book "Purely Positive Training" by Sheila Boothe and start to teach yourself the fundamentals of operant learning and how to apply them to foundation training for a pup. You can find a pup in a working line litter that is not over the top. If you go that route, you need to research different working lines and try to find out the type of dogs they produce. I would also look locally because there are a ton of breeders in FLA. Go to the United Schutzhund Clubs of America website, click on clubs and events, then click on the region FLA is in and look for clubs in FLA and there will be a few e-mail addresses so you can contact people in FLA who can lead you to a good working line breeder.
 

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I think a WGSL would be the right lines for you. Not all of them have weak temperaments. I only know of one breeder I would recommend. She is in Illinois. Excellent breeder knows her lines titles her own dog’s. Does not breed often. If your interested in knowing more you can pm me.
 

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Opining that the show lines have weak temperament is relative and subjective. On a more objective basis, why aren't there and show line dogs dogs doing apprehension work in police or military operations?
 

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Opining that the show lines have weak temperament is relative and subjective. On a more objective basis, why aren't there and show line dogs dogs doing apprehension work in police or military operations?
That's irrelevant to what she's looking for and not every dog from any line will apprehend bad guys.
 

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In general, participation in this thread has led me to:
  • Don’t insist in WL, other lines may also yield the right puppy for our home
  • Don’t dismiss females, they may be the right puppy for our home
Which means, more research on other lines and on females. :) I can handle that! (better now than lamenting later, that is for sure)
There's nothing I've done for a couple of years now with my dog, that you can't do with a good dog from any lines, male or female. Research is fine Misty, but at some point it needs to be hands on, in person. There's so much that comes down to likes and preferences with any breed that you need that perspective of seeing the actual dogs while you talk to owners or breeders.
 
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