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Archive for the ‘German shepherd dog’ Category

dare platz

Dare is learning very quickly. She has learned the difference between “sit” and “platz” (I prefer the German for her for that command), and the difference between the markers “yes” (you did the right thing!) and “good” (keep doing what you’re doing, like remaining in a sit or down position). She also has a good enough puppy recall that I can call her off the cat, which is her favorite playmate.

She has tons of ball drive for a puppy. She is already fetching toys and bringing them back to hand, which is amazing considering how many golden retrievers I know that have no natural or play retrieve to speak of.

I really enjoy training this breed. I find them far easier than any gun dog.

She is also learning valuable lessons from other dogs. If she gets rowdy playing with the whippets and runs over sleeping Erika, Erika will correct the puppy for her rudeness.  She has acute awareness of other dogs’ body language.  She respects the elder dogs, but she also enjoys playing with them.

She has a genetically sound temperament, but she is getting the upbringing she truly deserves to become a super dog. I cannot be prouder of this little pup.

fetching dare

 

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gsd wolf

So in the early days of this blog, I was wrong about something.  I wish I had never written a word about German shepherd structure and hips,  because I was essentially parroting nonsense that I’d read somewhere without asking for documentation. The rear angulation of the dog is not related to hip dysplasia. There are plenty of dogs with “extra: rears that have OFA excellent hips.

Also, although one can get worked up about “hock walking,” no one is actually intentionally breeding a German shepherd to walk on his hocks. The goal is to produce flowing side movement, where the dog opens up in the rear and shoulder.  Some dogs may walk on their hocks, but if the dog is just going to be a pet, it’s not a major welfare issue. We have some studies on GSD longevity that show that skeletal and spinal issues are a major reason why they die, but those studies do not provide a break down about the dog’s actual conformation or if the dog died of a condition called degenerative myelopathy, which is a genetic condition that results in the dog’s spinal cord degenerating when it is an older dog.

I know there will be people who refuse to believe a single word I’ve written in these two paragraphs, and they will comment away about what an idiot I am for changing my mind. I honestly don’t care. I have looked at the same evidence you have, and I don’t find it convincing.

At the same time, though, people who have written and promoted the position that I once held about German shepherd structure have unintentionally set the breed up for failure in pet homes.

When we go on and on about how terrible the show dogs are, the pet buying public will naturally turn to breeders who have dogs that lack the rear angulation. The vast majority of German shepherds bred without this angulation are those bred for bite-work or for bite=work competitions. These are wonderful dogs.  It was one of these dogs that turned me into a lover of the breed.

But they are not for everyone. These dogs have lots and lots of drive. They are smart. Some have really high defense drive and little social openness. Some poorly-bred ones are sketchy, and yes, some poorly-bred show dogs are sketchy freaks too.

But when the best dogs of this type are very high drive dogs and the worst are potentially dangerous, you are setting the public up for a disaster. People are getting super working dogs that need constant work and training just to feel content in the home, and the owners work 40 or 50 hours a week.  People are also getting dogs that are neurotic and potentially dangerous.

This is not what most people want when they get a German shepherd, but because people like the me from a decade ago would go on and on about the “crippled” show lines, it has become received wisdom that the pet buying public should not buy a dog bred for conformation.

This is problematic, because most people would be better off with a conformation-bred dog. The reason is that dog shows themselves do place several unintentional selection pressures on breeding stock. A show dog is forced to deal with many, many dogs and lots of people walking around. All of these dogs are intact. Some may be in heat.  Further, every show dog must accept fairly extensive grooming (even whippets!, and they must be able to receive an examination from a judge.

A dog that has a poor temperament simply cannot go through these selection pressures, and although there are dogs that have weird temperaments that do succeed in the ring and do get bred, the general average is for a dog that is far more mentally stable than the typical pet dog.

Also, because no one is breeding show German shepherds to break through windshields to get bad guys, no one is breeding for crazy drive and pain tolerance. The show dogs do have a quite a bit more drive and a need for exercise than the typical pet dog, but their needs are much easier for the typical family to meet.

I say this as someone who loves working line GSD and who will happily own another. I say this as someone who deeply cares for this breed.

But I think we have done a poor job by our constant haranguing of the show dogs in this breed. It is not serving the breed, the dogs, or the public well.

And it is also creating divisions between breeders, the people who should be standing together to ensure that every puppy goes into a loving home and that our favorite disciplines and activities for our dogs remain legal.

So I do feel a lot of guilt for what I have written. The best I can do is correct the errors from here on out.

And if you want a pet German shepherd, check out a breeder who specializes in good conformation stock. You’re far more likely to get what you really want than if you deliberately go searching for “straight-backed” dogs on the internet. The really ethical working dog breeders will steer you away from their dogs anyway, but the working dogs aren’t the first place to look for a pet.  I’m sure there are working GSD breeders who are getting tired of the inquiries from people who are just seeking pets.

So all this rhetoric about crippled show dogs has done a very poor service to the breed. I am deeply sorry that I participated in it.

 

 

 

 

 

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quest fourth of july

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Dare and big quest

So Dare arrived Monday evening. Quest’s breeder dropped her off, along with the Brown Puppy himself, who had been up in New York State winning a few more points towards his AKC championship.

She is a fire-cracker of a pup. She doesn’t scream in her crate, and she eliminates as soon as her feet hit the ground.  She’s not going to be tough to house train at all.

She is also quite interactive. She already looking me in the eye when I talk to her, and she’s also talking back with her cute little German shepherd moans.

Dare and questy

She and Quest are getting along very well. He never really has any problem with little puppies, and he generally likes other dogs. So those two won’t be much of a problem.

Dare has that German shepherd look in her eyes. It’s hard to describe, but it’s one of their hallmarks. They have deep piercing eyes that fully portray their intelligence.

dare at home

I think she will be an awesome dog. She’s already a super puppy.

dare gaiting

And yes, I must fully admit that I am no longer a golden retriever person. They are good dogs, but they don’t do it for me the way a German shepherd can.

I am so fortunate to know so many good people in the breed in this country. I want to thank Frank De Bem of Kysarah Shepherds in New Hampshire for giving us this wonderful opportunity, and I want to thank Brianna Burkhart, Pamela Martin, and Anya Dobratz for transporting her across the Northeast to get her out here.

So I am happy with this little black and tan pup.  I know that I am in the right breed community, and these dogs are so awesome.

 

 

 

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dare being cute

As I mentioned in my post about letting Anka find a new home, new opportunities were on the way.

When Anka left, though, I was not expecting to get this great new co-own opportunity. Frank De Bem of Kysarah Shepherds in New Hampshire offered us a co-ownership deal with one of his hot show prospects.

So on Sunday, Kysarah’s Dare To Be Different will be part of our household. She is 1/4 West German show line. The rest American show line.

I’m told that she is a total hellion. She has lots of drive and good nerves, which is good because I do want to train her in obedience and herding. The sire has a PT, so we could have a herder on our hands.

So yes, it’s obvious I’ve moved onto a different breed, and when she gets here on Sunday, I’ll give you a full assessment.

But I am so excited about this pup.

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anka

Dogs come into our lives. Sometimes, they just live out their days as wonderful companions. Others wind up changing our lives for good.

Anka was the dog that change my perspective entirely. I never liked German shepherds, and I really didn’t like the working ones.

But after spending a week working with one of these dogs, I knew I would never want to be without one.

Her arrival coincided with the arrival of Quest, and Quest has wound up opening many doors for me. I came to know people with top of the line German shepherds of the three or four major types, but as time went on, new opportunities began to avail themselves.

Last November, I realized that I was about to come into to some opportunities, ones that meant I would have to spend less time working my unregistered sable dog. At the same time, she was developing some serious same sex aggression towards other female dogs, and she was losing her tolerance of Zoom, our male whippet.

We were able to manage her aggression through crate and rotate, but because I would be getting new German shepherds like her in the near future, I would be forced to spend less time with her.

And that’s no life for a truly exceptional dog.  So Anka now lives on a farm with two young boys to take care of. This dog has strong tending instincts, and she has a profound fondness for children. So I sent her to live in the perfect home– where she is the only dog.

I cried more over placing this dog than any other, but I know that my decision was a correct one. If I lived with only one dog and just wanted an active pet, I would have held onto her. She is a truly special animal, and I will always get a bit gooey whenever I see a sable working German shepherd.

As for those new opportunities, well, stay tuned to this space.

These new opportunities would never have happened without Anka. I wish I could thank her somehow, but I guess thanks is living on that nice acreage and having the perfect life.

And so the future comes. And it holds many beautiful adventures to come.

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I love reading old breed books. Getting into German shepherds now means that I have a whole new selection of books to read, and in older German shepherd books that are written in English, there is a strong desire to distance this breed from wolves.  At one time, the breed was banned in Australia because of its supposed wolf ancestry, and Australian sheep interests were quite concerned that the breed infuse wolf phenotype and behavior into dingoes if they got loose and crossbred. So there is a tendency to downplay any relationship between this breed and wolves, and this tendency sometimes gets quite ridiculous.

In the first few pages of Jane Bennett’s book on the breed, which had its last printed in 1982, I noticed this image of a wolf.

Jane Bennet Wolf German shepherd

If you cannot read the full caption, check it out here:

Tomarctus wolf Jane Bennett

So I don’t expect to see accurate zoology or paleontology in dog books, especially from old ones. And to be honest, I am skeptical that German shepherds are especially wolf-like dogs with close wolf-like ancestry.   It is possible that some of the Thuringian sheepdogs in the breed’s ancestry had some wolf crossed in, but I don’t think they are wolfdogs in the same way that a Czechoslovakian vlcak is.

But the idea that the most recent common ancestor between a wolf and German shepherd was Tomarctus is not at all accurate. In some of the old dog books I have, Tomarctus is sometimes mentioned as an ancestor of modern dog species.

However, current paleontology places Tomarctus in the Borophagine subfamily of Canidae. Not a single living descendant of the Borophagine dogs exists. These dogs lived only in North America and all were extinct by the end of Pliocene. Tomarctus went extinct about 16 million years ago, which would be in the Miocene.

So it was not even a late surviving Borophagine dog, and it certainly was not the most recent common ancestor of wolves and German shepherds.  If it were the most recent common ancestor, then Czechoslovakian vlcaks, Saarloos wolfhonden, and Volksoby would have been impossible to create. 15-16 million years is more than enough time for two mammalian lineages to lose chemical interfertility, and dogs and wolves simply are chemical interfertile right now.

The most recent common ancestor between a German shepherd and a wolf could have been a wolf kept at the Frankfurt zoo that some think is behind the Thuringian sheepdog Hektor Linksrhein/Horand von Grafrath, which is the foundation dog for the modern German shepherd breed. Or it could have been a wild wolf that mated with a sheepdog somewhere in Germany, and that sheepdog line got mixed into the breed. Further, dogs in Eurasia, some of which may have German shepherd in them, are interbreeding with wild wolves at a much higher frequency than we might have imagined. 

I honestly don’t know, if the GSD breed has close wolf ancestry, and reasonable people can disagree on this issue.  I have not seen definitely proof either way, so I do remain agnostic on this issue. The temperament of the breed, though, is of very trainable herding dog.

But whatever the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks the most recent common ancestor of the German shepherd and the wolf was a species that outside the lineage of both.

This claim isn’t as bad as the claim that chow chows are derived from extinct digitigrade  bears or from an extinct predatory species of red panda.

Jane Bennett’s book includes lots of good information in pedigrees and care of a German shepherd, but that page of the book indicates a strong desire to distance the dog from the wolf in a way that those of us living in the era of molecular biology and modern cladistics would find a bit bizarre.

The current thinking from full-genome comparisons is that all domestic dogs are derived from a now defunct lineage of Eurasian gray wolf. To keep Canis lupus monophyletic, we must keep the dog as part of that species.

So I have noticed a theme in many of these older books to keep German shepherds as distant from wolves as possible, even if it means making a claim that could easily disproved with a simple look at the Czechoslovakian vlcak or the Saarloos wolfhond, which both existed when this book was last printed.

Jane Bennett bool

 

 

 

 

 

 

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