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Old 09-16-2012, 12:57 PM
Aleron's Avatar
Aleron Aleron is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2011
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Default GSDs for SillySally - LONG

Thought I would make this a new thread to answer Christina's post about GSDs and what she needs/wants in a dog. It's long!

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
What I would Want:

-driven to DO something, but won't go insane if we skip a couple days without training
A good GSD should have no issue with that.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-up for anything and can go all day, but can chill too-has an off switch
This is a good GSD too, although it can be hard to imagine when you see a driven GSD out somewhere doing stuff that they could be good house dogs. IME The breed as a whole tends to be good house dogs once they are past the puppy stuff. They are the kind of dogs who want to do what you want to do and want nothing more than to be with you. If that means hanging around the house for days while you recover from the flu, then they're fine with that. If it means going on hours long hikes, swimming and tent camping that suits them too.

Obviously they are a breed who needs exercise and training, so I'm not saying you can or should except them to go weeks and weeks without any sort of stimulation but they can be pretty reasonable dogs.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-is good with children
Good GSDs tend to be extremely tolerant of kids. In a way that you know they understand they are just kids and don't mean to do stupid things. My very driven, serious and guardy GSD went to work at doggy daycare with me every day, where my boss's young son and her would play and play. One time I was in the office talking to my boss and her son who was 3 or 4 at the time said "Look I made Jora like Sadie (the Dal that came to daycare)". I looked back and there was my serious, driven guardy dog covered in blank price dot stickers laying there looking at me like "why?" while he continued to put stickers on her. My boss ended up having three kids total and there was never, ever a concern about her and those kids or really, any kid we met. I took her and my other girl GSD Lexi (who was sound but did not have a proper GSD temperament in terms of drive/trainablity) to Dog Safety days at summer day camps, 4H and the such.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-can do agility
I think happen to think GSDs with proper temperament and structure are kind of a "best kept secret" in agility. Admittedly, the majority of GSDs I see in agility are...not great. But they tend to be either show bred, pet bred or really huge (oversized and/or heavy boned and/or fat :/ ). Jora was never a very competitive dog in agility but it was because my skills and knowledge in training a very fast, driven dog in the sport were not up to par. Speed was, she very competitive times and was the sort of dog people watching were always commenting on because she was so fast.

This is a video of her running in CPE at 9 years old. She had slowed down a bit by this age and still ran a course with SCT of 49 seconds in under 28 seconds:

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-can go anywhere in public safely, is very tolerant of strangers. Doesn't have to love everyone, but does have to be able to deal with what strangers can dish out in public (unsolicited touching, etc)
Yes on this too. I had 3 GSDs, 2 of them could be taken anywhere without any concern about their behavior towards people out and about. The third Doogie was a bit unpredictable about his reactions with strangers as he got older but he ended up having severe seizures, so I suspect his weirdness had a lot to do with that.

I got Jora was I was still in high school and took her everywhere with me from the time I brought her home. She visited friend's houses, went to festivals, training classes, staying at people's houses, going to shows and staying in hotels and once she was a yearish old or so she went to work with me almost every day, pet expos, demos, etc. One of the things my work did every year was have a booth at the town's street fair. This street fair is insanely packed at night, so much that it is hard to walk. Jora and Lexi both were there all night for three nights, with non-stop crowds walking by, petting them, watching them work, kids rushing up to them and hugging them, just about anything you can imagine. They were both great dogs for those things, tolerant but not overly interested in the people. As Jora matured she developed into a very aloof dog, which is proper for the breed. Anyone could pet her, talk to her, etc and she was always polite and disinterested. Lexi remained a bit more friendly. Jora went to pet expos with me for work too, also extremely crowded and long days of having to hang around the booth while people came and went. Often people would be in the booth for awhile, then notice her laying in the corner off leash and say "wow I didn't even notice there was a dog in here!".

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-can tolerate other dogs. Doesn't have to be a dog park dog, but does have to be able to dog tolerant enough to go on hikes, walks, and events where other dogs will be
All three of my GSDs were fine to go to dog events without being an issue with other dogs. Lexi became leash reactive as she matured but it wasn't all that difficult to get under control and it wasn't a life long issue or anything. Jora generally treated strange dogs like strange people - with indifference. Doogie could be reactive if strange males challenged him, he was Lexi's half sibling on mom's side and his dad was fairly SSA with all other males. They were both from American showlines, Jora was from German show/herding lines.

Jora went to daycare with me for years and never had any issues there, she could have gone to dog parks too as long as I was there. Her main interest at daycare was following me around with a ball. Lexi was too likely to have "predatory drift" issues with small dogs running, so she couldn't go. Doogie went until he was about 2 and started having issues with some of the other males there. He didn't live to turn three

The issue with GSDs can be SSA towards household, which can be found in all types of the breed. Not all are SSA but it is something you have to be aware of is a potential issue and plan accordingly. The best bet is to have the GSD as an only male or only female of the house. Or consider you're other dogs and who would be most/least likely to be a problem. Ideally you'd want 4+ years between the GSD and the other same sex dog. And you wouldn't want to have a GSD with a same sex dog who is really pushy, prone to DA, etc. Males seem to be a better bet than females, although some males will fight just as seriously as the girls do.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-don't want a reactive dog
GSDs should be pretty level headed, this is where it pays to do your homework for sure.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-don't want a dog that will eat my birds
I think GSDs raised with household critters tend to be very tolerant towards them, especially when you start training them early that chasing those animals or pouncing on them is never ok. Getting one as an older puppy or adult who has never lived with critters is much harder IME. I had to pull my cat out of Doogie's mouth a few times when he first moved in at 8 months. He was able to live peacefully with the cat but it took more work. Same with Lexi who moved in at 14 months. I never allowed either of them with the ferrets because I didn't have to and it was easier. Jora was great with all of the household pets. She had more than enough prey drive though, she and Lexi killed wild birds, rabbits, squirrels when the opprunity came up. But she was able to understand the difference between them and the creatures she caught in the yard.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-will tolerate kids friends coming in to the house
I don't think this would have been a problem with my girl GSDs at all.

Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
-is not so guardy that the dog would go crazy living in down town area
My GSDs were more guardy than most of my Belgians in general but my Belgians are more vocal about it. The GSDs only really went into guarding mode when people came to the door or up to the fence and they learned pretty quick what was "normal" and what wasn't. Like there's no point to bark at the neighbors every time they come home. The ability to understand this concept escapes most of the Belgians :/ Two of the three (Jora and Doogie) were very protective of the car when people approached it. Lexi was a bad recreational barker and came to me that way at 14 months. Her barking had nothing to do with being guardy, it was more excitement, boredom or whatever.

So on paper, it seems a good GSD could fit you. That doesn't mean they will though. You would have to decide if you want a guardy dog that needs a lot of early and ongoing socialization and training. They also shed like crazy and have a bit of a doggy odor, even when clean. I think there is no dog quite like a good GSD in terms of how extremely devoted they are to you and how they seem to almost be able to read your intentions when working with you but I don't have them any more because of the SSA. I definitely miss having a GSD, they are a life long favorite breed of mine but in my current household there would be too much risk of SSA being triggered.
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