Thursday, June 11, 2015

If You're on the Fence, Get a Lab

OR Why You Should Reconsider Getting a GSD

A few weeks back a woman on Google+ had posted pictures of a Labrador retriever puppy and a German shepherd puppy side-by-side stating "I can't decide, what do you think?" My stomach jumped into my throat. After several minutes of editing my response, I posted something like:
German shepherds and labs are two entirely different breeds. They think and train differently. I have GSDs. They're smart and funny and incredibly loyal, but they're not a breed for everybody. You have to keep them mentally stimulated. They don't do well left alone at home all day. If you don't have the time and energy to train and exercise them they can become destructive, aggressive and dangerous. If you're on the fence, get a lab. PM me if you'd like to discuss this further.
Sadly, I never heard from her. I shared this with my GSD friends and they all thought it made perfect sense. Even my ACO friends "got" what I was trying to say. However, my non-dog friends (yes, I have some of those!) were confused and thought I was dissing labs. That was not my intention! So let's try again, ok?

There's a reason the Labrador retriever has been the most popular dog in America for the past 24 years. They're athletic and playful, easygoing and trusting, and usually friendly with children, other pets and even strangers. Because of this, they make horrible guard dogs.

There's also a reason why German shepherds run a close second in popularity. Described as strong, intelligent, obedient and highly trainable, German shepherds are probably the most versatile breed of dog. Originally bred to herd sheep, they're also used by military, police and search-and-rescue groups. They're both fierce protection dogs and thoughtful service dogs.

Here are a few differences. (Yes, I know these are generalities and you will always find an exception.)
  • Labs are friendly and people oriented. They seem to love everybody. Strangers are just friends they haven't met yet. German shepherds are guarded and aloof. They love their people, but strangers are judged and must be deemed worthy before touching them. Warning: not everybody passes the test.
  • Labs were bred to have soft mouths so they wouldn't maim the ducks. German shepherds are used as protection, military and police dogs because they DON'T have a soft bite. In fact, tests have shown that German shepherds have a stronger bite than pit bulls. (Here's a video. The data is interesting, but I don't like the commentary/speculation of the narrator. We can discuss his "dumb-assery" in the comments if you'd like.)
  • A lab is a retriever. They will play fetch with you until your arm falls off. Shepherds get bored with this game if you don't switch it up. After a few throws my GSDs will walk away with the ball because you're obviously incapable of holding on to it.
And my personal observations:
Jedi, worth every frustration
  • I have seen many insurance companies, apartment complexes and homeowners associations refuse to insure/allow German shepherds. I have never seen one refuse a lab.
  • The USPS chose to use a GSD for their anti-dog bite campaign. (And it pissed me off too! See rant here.)
  • I've had dozens of people tell me that they were afraid of GSDs, often saying "I was bitten by a German shepherd as a child." I haven't heard similar comments about labs.
  • In my decade as an animal control officer I've had numerous complaints of aggressive GSDs, and have seen several legally declared "dangerous." I've only had a couple of complaints about labs, though often they are lab mixes. I've seen ONE lab declared dangerous.
So why do I love a breed that can be so difficult? That's a good question. Probably because they are difficult. It's almost like you have to earn a German shepherd's love and respect. But once you have it . . . ahhh. I have the most loyal companion, the most dedicated protector, the smartest, the most beautiful, most devoted friend I can imagine. For me, it's worth the work. I'm not dissing labs (or beagles, or Chihuahuas, or mixed breeds or any other dog out there). Dogs are awesome. I love dogs. But for me, my heart will always belong to a German shepherd. And if you're going to bring one into your life I want you to do so with your eyes wide open!

I have friends who are as fiercely loyal to their breeds of choice. How about you? Is there a breed that tugs at your heartstrings harder than all the others?

It's Thoughtless Thursday! I'm joining Ruckus the Eskie and co-hosts Love is being owned by a Husky and M.K Clinton as we
"Don't think, just link!" 

Click below to see what others are NOT thinking about today. -- K

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