Thursday, August 6, 2015

So You Want a GSD . . .

I saw this meme on Facebook and it made me giggle, but there's something to it too. I've said many times that German shepherds aren't for everybody. Before adding one to your family you need to ask yourself these 10 questions:
 
How do you feel about vacuuming? 
German shepherds have been lovingly referred to as "German Shedders" because of all the hair that comes out when they're shedding their undercoats ("blowing coat") twice a year. It's enough to make another German shepherd! Truth is, they shed year round, even with regular grooming. You're going to want a good vacuum cleaner. I burned up my vacuum cleaners every other year until I finally broke down and bought a Dyson -- and boy does that thing suck!

Can you live your life with all the doors open?
German shepherds are herders -- it's in their name. Because of this, they want to have eyes on all of their people all of the time. Yes, this includes when you're sleeping and using the bathroom. Jedi hates it when I'm in the bedroom with the door closed while Hubby is in the living room watching TV. He'll whine and scratch and bark until I finally open the door. He's actually learned to open the bedroom door if it's not closed just right. Scary . . . and a tad bit annoying.

How attached are you to your personal possessions?
German shepherds have also been referred to as "German Shredders." They are very good at destroying things, especially during the frustrating adolescent phase. I've shared some of the Jedi's destructive stories, and even threatened to sell him to the next band of travelling Jawas. I've since learned that crate training, mental stimulation and exercise can help contain the mayhem.

Can you live with a dog who may be smarter than you?
Neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren did a study on canine intelligence. His book, The Intelligence of Dogs, ranks German shepherds as the third most intelligent dog breed, behind the Border Collie and the poodle. While I may disagree with his ranking, I strongly believe that my dog is smarter than most people. Sure, having a super smart dog sounds great, but always trying to stay one step ahead of your dog is exhausting.
 
Can you firmly say "No, you cannot pet my dog" without feeling guilty? 
Let's face it, German shepherds are gorgeous. It's not surprising that people want to touch them. Unlike many dogs, however, German shepherds are not automatically everybody's friend. They need time to check you out to determine whether you're worthy enough for physical contact. Truth is, some people don't make the cut. I am constantly telling people that my dog does not want to be petted today. Surprisingly, some people get down right nasty when you tell them no.
 
Can you listen to a hundred "I was bitten by a German shepherd" stories without rolling your eyes?
This one is tough. It seems that nearly everybody has a bad German shepherd experience somewhere in their past. And when these people see a German shepherd owner, they're compelled to share the story. I listen politely, though I suspect many of them are the afore mentioned people who can't respect a dog's boundaries. Or they could have been dogs with irresponsible owners who ruin it for everybody -- but that's a rant for another day.
  
How do you feel about exercise?
German shepherds are large, active dogs. They were designed to work. If you don't have a flock of sheep that needs herding, you'd better think of something. German shepherds need to run and play daily, otherwise they'll drive you crazy. Trust me! They also need mental exercise in the form of training, puzzles and games. A bored and restless German shepherd will find something to entertain himself -- and you probably won't like it.

Food for thought
Are you willing to accept and/or fight breed-specific rules?
German shepherds are on many "Bad Dog" lists. Some insurance companies won't cover homes with German shepherds. I've heard of homeowners associations that don't allow German shepherds either. I've even seen dog-related Meet-up groups that exclude German shepherds. Stupid bigots. The best way to break these stereotypes is to show the world obedient and well-mannered dogs. That takes a lot of time and effort on the owner's part. If you're not willing (or able) to do it, please don't get a GSD -- you'll only make it worse for those of us trying to make a difference. Please consider getting a philodendron instead.

I have this on a hot pink t-shirt. People still talk to me.
Are you strong enough to resist choking everyone who is suddenly an expert on hip dysplasia and the evils of purebred dogs because they saw a documentary on PBS?
In 2008 the BBC aired a documentary called Pedigree Dogs Exposed. It was controversial and wildly popular. It was also filled with half truths and over exaggerations. I can tell who watched it because they use the term "frog dog" when talking about German shepherds. PeTA has also taken a stand against purebred dogs and continually spouts misinformation. I can always spot PeTA proponents because they like to compare the AKC to Nazi Germany. Other people have been so indoctrinated by the HSUS's "Adopt, Don't Shop" mantra that they seriously believe all purebred dogs are riddled with disease and are inherently unhealthy, despite the fact that science says otherwise. Unfortunately, when you're walking around with a beautiful German shepherd, all these people feel the need to tell you how evil, wrong and/or stupid you are. They're worse than door-to-door evangelists. If it weren't for the point above, I'd let Jedi eat them.

Lastly -- and this is a big one -- are you prepared to have your heart broken in the next 12 years (give or take)?
German shepherds (ok, all dogs really) are great at worming their way into your heart. They're loving, loyal, goofy companions. It doesn't matter how bad the day is, dogs are always happy to see you. They make you laugh, comfort you when you're feeling bad and think that spending time with you is the best. thing. ever! They don't care how much you make or what kind of car you drive. They never hog the TV remote or criticize your cooking. And then one day -- all too soon -- you have to say goodbye. Regular readers know that I started blogging because I had trouble getting over the death of my last German shepherd, Logan. (It's been 3 years and I'm still tearing up just thinking about him.)
 
So there you go, 10 not so tongue-in-cheek things to ask yourself before bringing a German shepherd into your life. If you still say "Yes, I really want a GSD!" I suggest you:
  • Read everything you can about German shepherds. Every breed has it's own challenges and nuances, so it's best to be prepared.
  • Find/join a German shepherd dog club. These groups of GSD enthusiasts usually contain experienced owners, breeders, breed rescuers/foster parents and dog sport competitors (obedience, rally, herding, tracking, agility, nosework, etc). They are a wealth of information -- and some pretty fun people too.
  • If you want a puppy, find a reputable breeder. They're out there. Here's a list of questions to ask before buying puppy. There are some not-so-reputable breeders out there too, so do your research!
  • Consider getting an adolescent or adult dog from a GSD breed rescue. There are some great dogs available. Most were dumped by not-so-great people who didn't ask themselves the ten questions above. If you're in Florida, check out Daytona Beach German Shepherd Dog Rescue. Several of my GSD dog club members work with that rescue.
  • Email me if you have any questions. There's a "Contact Me" thing on the right side of this page.


Here it is Thoughtless Thursday, and I'm asking you to think. Again! Thank you Ruckus the Eskie, M.K. Clinton and the pups over at Love is Being Owned by a Husky for letting me link up nonetheless. Anyway, this is a hop. Click around below and see what others are thinking -- or not thinking -- about today. TTFN, -- K