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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all!
I just scoured the forum, but could not find anything about being a first time dog owner.

We will be getting a dog, probably in Sept-Oct of this year. We moved into our first house a while back. DS1 has wanted a dog his whole life, really badly, but we could not get one before because we were renting a house and the landlord forbid it. I even borrowed SIL's dog one summer and sent DS to a canine training summer camp for 2 weeks 2 years ago, to help with his wanting a dog companion. DS is now 13.

DS would really like a husky or Shepard or a mix. He feels really connected and drawn to the breeds and has been his whole life.

We need to begin to do some serious reading as a family now on how to be good owners. I know we would like to create train; some of our friends have had good success with that. I would also like info on diet management, as well as proper behavior training. I keep reading that our dog needs to know where his place in the family is so he knows how to behave, like setting up boundaries for a toddler (THAT I know a lot about!
)

Are there books, websites you can recommend?

We have been doing some online reading about the breeds.

I have been looking for places/breeders near me as well.

We all have been around dogs our whole life, most family members have had them. We just have not had our own.

Thanks in advance!
 

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If you're going to be getting a puppy (rather than adopting an older dog) then I would recommend you sign up for puppy kindergarten with the dog. Socialization is key in certain breeds, and shepherds fall into that category.

Also, afterwards, go for a basic obedience training class. There are lots of schools around ... just shop around for the right one, i.e. see which type of training you are most comfortable with, which type will work best for your dog, etc. With puppy kindergarten and a basic obedience class ... you will be set in terms of the tools you need to have a wonderful canine companion.

You CAN train the dog by yourself without that obedience class. But, for a first time owner, it's good to have a setting where you can ask questions, get feedback, etc. The training classes aren't really for your dog anyway. They're more for teaching you how to train the dog.

In terms of getting a dog, Avoid pet stores and any breeders that sell mixes. Good breeders don't mix their breeds. If you're set on a mix, then go to a shelter. Then, at least, you'll be rescuing one rather than contributing money to the problem (overpopulation, bad breeding practices, etc.).

Lastly, GSD's (and I may be very biased
) are amazing dogs. But, just really decide whether a GSD would match your lifestyle. It's a high energy, high drive working dog. It's happiest and most content when it's doing what it has been bred to do - work. Of course, they make great companions too. Just make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.
 

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If you are considering a Shepherd or Shepherd mix or Husky- MAKE SURE your lifestyle will fit the needs of these breeds. They do take a lot of work, a dedicated owner, and lots of exercise (both mentally and physically). You can find an absolute wealth about of information about German Shepherds at
http://www.germanshepherds.com/ubbth...ubbthreads.php a forum for GSD owners. I don't know too much about Huskys but they are also known as a very energetic breed. Both are very strong willed and must learn their place in your pack from the get go.

Really do your research on breeders - please do not support back yard breeders. There is a rescue section on the above mentioned forum or petfinder.com has many many pups who need a home. Rescue is the most selfless act you can do for an animal. For reading, I highly suggest Jan Fennell's, "The Dog Whisperer". IMO it is the best piece of literature on dog behavior and training. Go to local trainers (i.e NOT petsmart) and talk to them. Attend local agililty and obedience trials and talk to people there. Like children, people love talking about their dogs.

Crate training is a must, do your research on diet (go raw or high quality kibble) Think about how much dog hair bothers you - they don't call them German Shedders for nothing
.

If you have anything specific you'd like to discuss, feel free to PM me. I am a GSD nut. They are not lapdogs, they are not content to laze around 24/7. So many end up in shelters because people did not do their homework before owning one. Make sure your son understands pack dynamics and the whole Alpha heirarchy. Jan's book covers all of this. If this is the right breed for you - they are the BEST dogs in the world. I am amazed everyday how smart and intuitive they are.


Good luck with whatever pup ends up in your family
 

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Adding to Sailors comments. Socialization is very important with any breed but with GSDs is a must! Also, be very careful when going to a breeder. Just becuase they don't breed mixes does not mean they are a good breeder. A good breeder does not breed for color - they breed for health, temperment, drive, and working abilities - depending on the lines. For a good GSD you will be paying upwards of $1000. If you are not competing or showing your dog - I strongly recommend getting a rescue. There are many purebred rescues - sometimes papered, that need a home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
We do know that we will be getting our dog one of 2 ways, rescue or by a reputable breeder. If we do get a mix it will be because it is a rescue. We are actually pretty open to how this dog will come to the family. We will do the legwork, kinda open the door, and the dog will fall into our lap
so to speak, like destiny. I don't mean to sound like I have some strange romantic idea on how we will find a dog, it's just that is the way things happen to our family. We will all find each other, somehow. But it's gotta all feel right. We will wait if we need to.

We are a pretty high energy family. DS wants a dog he can hike with, camp with, maybe bike and X-country ski with. I'm looking for intelligence. DH would like a dog that can help us to keep the family safe, whether it's me home alone with the kids, or at night, a dog who is 'aware'

As we do our research, we still remain open as to what breed of dog we will get, but beginning with DS's preferences has been our starting point.

We will all read "The Dog Whisper" for sure
 

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The Monks of New Skete have good training books - and they raise GSD's. Also, I highly recommend "When Bones Would Rainl From the Sky: Deepening our Relationships with Dogs" by Suzanne Clothier. Not only is it informative, but a good/fun read in general. She also raises/breeds GSD's. But, is also a dog trainer and has been for decades. I happen to prefer her method of training ... but, again, you'll have to see what works best for you, your family, and your dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you for your replies.

I was just sitting here, looking through Petfinder just to see how it worked.

You know, we are doing a whole lot more to get ready and prepare for this dog than we did for any baby! Getting ready for a baby was easy. I'm feeling a bit nervous, anxious about getting ready for a dog. I am doing a lot more reading, research, planning than I did with a baby. Don't get me wrong, we are really looking forward to the arrival of a new family member, it feels like the family is not complete yet (and we are not having more babies!)
 

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Husky's can be very difficult dogs, I know everyone is saying GSD's are working dogs...and they are, especially mine, but husky's have been bred to do one thing and one thing only. PULL. They don't think about it, they pull. They need straight out excercise, gsd's can be occupied and tired out by playing with their mind, sled dogs need to just run until they can't run anymore. While I recomend GSD's to very few families...I recomend husky's to even fewer.

another thing to keep in mind, I know everyone is into rescue, gsd's do not rescue as well as many other breeds. They are difficult to rehome, they are difficult to rebond. If your son is thinking he may want to get into doing some specific things with his dog (and it sounds like he does) I'd lean towards buying a dog from a reputable breeder. Be aware that in GSD's there is basically 2 separate breeds now when you compare working lines to show lines. I love shepherds but wouldn't give you housespace for a good 90% of the show dogs I see. Their temperments are NOT correct and their bodies have been bred so far away from being capable of work that it's not funny. For instance, my dog has his championships under European standards and if I put him in a north american show ring, I bet you $100 at least someone would ask me what kind of dog he is. My last venture into "changing things from within" was when the judge put up lame dogs and a dog that came REAL close to biting him over my sound dog (who was already a german seiger) and looked at me with distain and said "He's awfully German isn't he???"

We've got some nice working pups hitting the ground in about a week...but we're probably too far for you
 

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Shannon--is that the unexpected litter? I've been meaning to ask.

Kristina, I would recommend GSDs and any sort of arctic dog ONLY to experienced dog people. First-time owners are likely to be completely overwhelmed.

What is it about these breeds that appeals to your son? Looks? Temperament? The romantic appeal? If you can suss that out, let us know--maybe we can redirect his attention to an easier breed with the same qualities or history.
 

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Yep, that's the litter...she's big as a house

See, I think by the way the op describes her son that he could handle a shepherd, I'm impressed that he went to a canine training camp...even though he didn't have a dog! Maybe I'm projecting myself here but I see a kid who has the potential to a future dog trainer, I can see him getting involved in tracking and perhaps deeper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by shannon0218
Maybe I'm projecting myself here but I see a kid who has the potential to a future dog trainer, I can see him getting involved in tracking and perhaps deeper.
It's funny you should say that. DS is going to a new school this year, a small home school co-op of 12 students that is located on an agricultural institute. Part of his curriculum is wilderness tracking and survival, and he is so psyched.
I just asked him if he thought search and rescue with dogs would be something he would be interested in someday, and I got a resounding YES!


DS likes huskies because of the look, the playfulness and the intensity. Also, when DS was 4 years old, he was saved by one. He was playing in the backyard; I was on the other side of the ½ acre lot. Two aggressive acting stray dogs came tearing into the yard, they see DS and begin to bolt towards him. I begin to run to him, but I can see I'm not gonna make it in time. Then, out of nowhere, appears this white husky! He runs circles around DS, then as the 2 strays get close, the husky makes a mad dash in the other direction, the strays running after him. He would come to visit DS all summer, but by fall we did not see him anymore
. This is a large part of his love of that breed.

DS is also a big boy for his age, 5'10" and about 165 lbs. He does a really good job walking our friends chocolate lab who is feisty, and caring for SIL's Rhodesian Ridgeback. That is who he took to camp when he was 11. I'm pretty confident in his physical abilities with a large dog, as well as his commitment. But, I have told him there is a possibility we may not end up with either breed (husky or GSD). Any dog we get though, DS needs to feel a bond to. He tells me it's like looking for his animal self. It might be a tall order to fill, but DS has pretty much loved all the dogs he has ever met.


We are certainly open to suggestions for other breeds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Also...

DS likes GSDs and huskies because they 'work' He really wants a dog who can do more than play. He would love love to have one of thoes single dog sleds and ski around in the woods. (we are sending him to sled dog camp that is an hour north of here in Dec 2007, he does not know yet, DS thrives in snowy weather)
He would like a dog who can carry some gear on a hike, or pull a small gear trailer.
He is facinated by police dogs and the work they do.
He understands the work involved to teach a dog any of these things.

Just some more info so you all can reccomend some other breeds!
 

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If he really wants to work a dog, and from what you say I think he's well on his way, do him a favor and get him a dog bred to work (like purposely from a responsible breeder--even if you get an adult that doesn't meet breeding quality or something)
Competing even at low levels in the working dog sports is difficult enough when you have that perfect genetic package that nobody else has screwed up yet!
If he worked a Ridgeback....he'll handle a GSD well, especially because he's so keen to ACTUALLY work the animal.
Some things to keep in mind...as far as versitility in a working dog, the GSD always comes out on top--they may not be the very best at any one thing but they do almost all things well. So while if what he wanted was to sled and that was all he wanted, the husky would be the hands down choice, if what he wants to do is dabble and learn more about many facets of working dogs, the shepherd will allow him to do that with success.
My first GSD Timber had his schutzhund titles, tracking titles, an honorary Water Rescue Dog title (the title was only available to Newfs....but since I also worked the newfs, they let Timber play), obedience titles and we went to 3 sled dog seminars and he was able to really hold his own. He was also a flyball dog and an active SAR dog for 5 yrs.

If you want to go that route, let me know and I can look at pedigrees for you before you commit to anything (and who knows...should you find the perfect litter, we're looking to buy a male soon too)
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by shannon0218

another thing to keep in mind, I know everyone is into rescue, gsd's do not rescue as well as many other breeds. They are difficult to rehome, they are difficult to rebond.
I have to strongly disagree with this statement. Any reputable rescue will have assessed a dog's temperament and also thoroughly assess a potential adoptive family, making sure that the dog-family is a good match. Please go to the rescue section and read rescue stories over at the GSD forum I sugggested, Post lots of questions or your concerns. I have heard 95% wonderful outcomes from rescue. Please do not be discouraged from rescue as there are so many great dogs waiting for a home. You just need to be patient and the right dog will come around.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by MidnightCommando
I have to strongly disagree with this statement. Any reputable rescue will have assessed a dog's temperament and also thoroughly assess a potential adoptive family, making sure that the dog-family is a good match. Please go to the rescue section and read rescue stories over at the GSD forum I sugggested, Post lots of questions or your concerns. I have heard 95% wonderful outcomes from rescue. Please do not be discouraged from rescue as there are so many great dogs waiting for a home. You just need to be patient and the right dog will come around.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they can't be rescued--I'm saying that the very nature of the breed makes them a much more difficult dog to rescue. I know of at least 3 trainers running GSD rescues that all say that same thing. Shepherds tend to bond extremely strong and it's devastating to them when that bond is broken, the next bonding tends to be coloured by that experience...either the dog tries NOT to bond or he over bonds and sets up problems like sep anxiety. What I'm getting at is that while rehoming the average lab is a pretty easy game, it's a whole different set of circumstances when you rehome a shepherd.
Add to that that the boy wants to work the animal and there's nothing like a dog with baggage to hamper that process--and while I think every experienced trainer should rehab a dog with baggage--it's not the best first step for someone getting their feet wet.
 

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I agree with Shannon that it sounds like your SON can probably handle one of these breeds--the problem is the rest of the family. He's gonna go to high school and college in the next few years, and even if you homeschool through high school (a choice I certainly applaud), his workload is going to get big. Then it's apartments, possibly marriage--and this dog will still exist. I am just not sure it's fair to expect him to continue to put the two hours a day, EVERY DAY, that these dogs need, through what are going to be the most demanding years of his life (13-25). I'm personally wary of it because Celie came back to us when her owner (who bought the dog from me at 15) went to college. I had tried to educate the family and get them ready for this dog, but the fact was that she really was HIS dog, very bonded, and he did all the work. When he left, her care fell apart--mom was overwhelmed, dad was uninvolved, other kids unwilling. By the time they called me to take her she was in bad shape--and this is a breed that's meant to be in the house and is actually quite easygoing. I think the kid was actually doing a great job with her, but his life changed.

If this were my son, I'd find a local sled dog club or very involved family. Have him offer his services as poop scraper, and my guess is that he can move up from there. He can spend as many hours a day as he can grab from his schooling *really* learning how to train, care for, heal, and race dogs, and the dogs can be in an appropriate environment. The other advantage to this is that it gets him involved in a sport and he's a boy among adults--fabulous for mentoring/apprenticeship stuff and it keeps him safe and cared for.

I really do think that the son here sounds like the sort of Jack London-ish sort who would do beautifully with an extremely demanding dog. But most of us do not live in the back woods of Canada. Bringing a sled dog into a house requires management, training, and dedication that most families simply can't provide.

Oh, happy day--Kristina, you're in MA! I can plug you in! My breeder (the wonderful lady that I bought my first Danes from and who is still my mentor and close friend) has a daughter who spent the last six years working with a sled dog club up in NH; I can get you names if you'd like.

If you want my personal advice, I'd get him a dog who can work and needs a job, but one that is also really good in the house. Ask him to look at Australian Shepherds--they're medium-sized, intensely intelligent and interesting, and suited to a huge variety of real working tasks. They can certainly pack their own food on hikes and they're fab outdoor dogs. If he's willing, we should get in touch, because right above the MA border is the BEST aussie breeder quite possibly in the entire US. I can personally vouch for the quality, temperament, and health of her dogs, and she's a very kind, involved lady who would do exactly what he needs (basically try to scare this kid away from dogs, and if he proved that he could do the right thing she'd be happy to help him get there).

If you're in Barrington or something I can't be quite as helpful personally, but if you're close-ish to me (I'm in NH right above Haverhill MA) I'd love to meet your son, give him a crash course in Danes, let him play with my big guys, and then hook you guys up with a good training center (I just found an excellent one and have referrals to several more, so I'm excited).
 

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Just to clarify, I think Shannon0218 and I are really on the same page here but she is speaking of older dogs with shady histories while I am speaking of a somewhat younger pup. Many rescues have pregnant bitches who birth while sheltered or many younger pups or litters are dropped off. Do whatever works for you and your family, I am just asking you keep this rescue option in mind.
 

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I don't know Joanna, I bought Timber when I was 16, I followed with Cagney at 18 and they both went to university with me--things were tough and certainly tight (it's why I had to drop out of vet school after 2 yrs) but I recognized and accepted that these dogs were MY responsibility. He sounds like that type too.
I think as parents you have to be ready to take over for sure, but if he puts in the time now, within 2 yrs you've got a very well trained house pet and obviously the family is willing to take on a high energy dog.
I don't think GSD's (especially working ones) are any tougher a dog than an Aussie--actually, Aussies tend to have extra hyperactivity on top of that herding and prey drive. Now, non working lines shepherds, yeah, they're often obnoxious, hyper, skittish, etc, etc. A good working line dog can be kept quite amused by playing with his brain and once he's been trained, anyone can do that.

Malia, I get what you're saying....if he wants to work a dog though....pedigrees are IMPORTANT, very important and ANY breeder/owner who would place a pregnant bitch in foster care probably didn't take pedigree into consideration.
 
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