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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm a new member, so I hope I'm doing this right.
I'm planning on getting a German Shepherd. I'm a one-dog-at-a-time kind of a person, and since my beloved pittie (pit bull) died last year I've been pretty lonesome. I'm thinking about getting a puppy for the first time. In the past I always got my dogs and cats from the shelter, which is a great thing, but this time I've decided to get a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder. (Please, no posts attempting to convince me to get a shelter dog again -- I completely understand, but I've made up my mind.)
So I'm new to the world of dog breeders. I have some experience training dogs from scratch, so I'm not too worried about that (my shepherd mix, who I had before my pit bull, had never even been inside a house when I adopted her). But I am worried that I'll make a bad decision about a breeder. I know the basics of how not to get a puppy mill dog, but I'm not entirely sure how to tell a backyard breeder apart from a really good one. Also, I'm not sure how to tell a good GSD apart from an excellent one.
So I'm posting on here in hopes of getting some advice from the German Shepherd people on here about which breeder is the best in my area. Here are the websites of the breeders I've narrowed it down to (in no particular order):
E-Z Brook: www.ezbrook.com
Lindel Shepherds: www.lindelshepherds.com/lindel/Welcome.html
Pine Hill: www.geocities.com/pinehillgsds (warning: be prepared for schmaltzy music)
von Wyndmoor: www.vonwyndmoor.com/index.html

The first place, E-Z Brook, just had a litter but I chose not to reserve a puppy because the father has that German roached back look, which I hate. (Actually, they don't have a picture of him stacked, which is odd because they do for all their other dogs, but when you look at his pedigree you can see that his parents etc. had roached backs.)
Any advice will be appreciated! Especially if you can tell me which breeder has the best dogs (I'm not so knowledgeable about conformation.) Or if you know of a really good breeder in Southeastern Pennsylvania, let me know.
One more thing: I rode and showed horses most of my life, so I may be interested in showing my dog in athletic events (not the contests of which dog is prettiest).

I was thinking about this some more, and I thought of another question. I really like the look of the von Wyndmoor dogs, which I think is more of the "working dog" look, less of an AKC look. But I'd be afraid that they'd be "too much dog" for me -- aka, too much drive, too much energy, possibly even too much aggression. Should I be worried about this? I mean, I want a relatively high energy dog, which German Shepherds are, and a very smart, thinking type of a dog. But I'm don't have a farm or anything, and I'm not planning on becoming a cop...
So basically, my question is whether "working-type" GSD's are a lot more to handle.
 

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Do you have any preferances as to which line? American, West German show, West German working, DDR/East German working, etc...? The breeders you asked about breed different lines. Are you willing to ship, or do you want to stick with local breeders?

I'll only be able to give you my newbie two cents. Our forum GSD expert, Xeph, will probably pop by and give you her opinion.

But for now, here is what I think -

E-Z brook:
- It bugs me that the are breeding two different breeds. However, seeing as they are both herding breeds, I won't make a big deal out if it.
- advertising their dogs as "big boned Old Styled" raises a flag for me. True old styled GSDs, to the best of my knowledge, are actually somewhat smaller than current German shepherds. Not big boned and huge as they are often advertised as. That phrase is used too ofte among bybs trying to sell their pups/dogs.
- It's great that she tests for vWD, on eyes, elbows, and hips, but why does she say she performs those tests on MOST of her breeding stock?
- Neither the dam nor sire, it seems, of the April 1st litter have titles. It's great that they're health tested, but I do prefer it if they were titled in SchH, agility, herding, the show ring, SAR (sire is only in training), etc...

Pine Hill: The dogs are titled, and have had their hips and elbows x-rayed, which is good.

von Wyndmoor: Giana is such a pretty bitch! If you are looking into Schutzhund, and have to choose between these breeders, I would go with Wyndmoor.

I do suggest personally e-mailing the breeder and asking questions you have in mind, and for references, too.

edit: huh, I didn't look at Lindel Shepherds :p For some reason, I think I spoke to someone (probably online) with a dog from them. Or I might just be imagining things.

E-Z Brooks is the only one I'm worried about.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the advice. You definitely caught some things about E-Z brook that I missed. I don't know what my preferences are as far as which line (you specified American, West German show vs. working, DDR/East German working). I've tried to learn more about the differences between lines, without much luck. Do you know of any good websites for learning about this? Most of the stuff out there just seems to talk about one specific thing rather than provide an overview.
About shipping, I decided against it because I want the breeder to be close enough that I can go and visit and see the parents and the kennel conditions before I commit to placing a deposit. But maybe with a really trusted breeder this wouldn't be necessary. What do you think?
Thanks!
 

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http://www.shawlein.com/The_Standard/13_Breed_Type/Breed_Types.html
A great way to get started on learning about the different lines. When I first started researching German shepherds in preparation, I was shocked - I had been convinced that German shepherds were all black and tan, and there were just the "German shepherds bred in American", "German shepherds bred in Germany", etc...

I meant to type DDR/Czech working line, which is equivalent to East German working line :D

Now, you mentioned competing your dog in athletic events. By that do you mean Schutzhund, agility, flyball, herding...? If you mean Schutzhund, I would steer you away from American show lines. The working lines may be a bit too much "dog" for some, but I personally think it depends on the breeder you go with and the kind of dog you ask for. Because I did not want to compete in Schutzhund with my dog, I asked my breeder to select a more low drived pup suitable as a family companion. If you find the right breeder and specify what plans you have for the dog, you most likely will do fine, as long as you do your research, and provide the exercise and stimulation your GSD needs (and trust me, they are a very energetic breed). A lower driven GSD from working lines can be the perfect family pet.

If you do plan to compete in Schutzhund, you will probably want a moderately driven to highly driven dog, depending on your experience. Now, in the wrong home, a drivey dog can really be a nightmare. If you want to particpate your dog in herding, then you'll be looking more for a dog with the herding instinct than with a high drive and confidance. It's important to select your breeder according to your plans and preference, and express your interests to your breeder.

As for shipping, I had the exact same thoughts as you did when I first started looking for my puppy. I think that's very good reasoning, actually. Looks can be deceptive, and an online website probably could hide a lot of things. And people on the internet aren't always very trustworthy.

On the other hand, I am now thinking my second dog (yes, I'm already planning that far ahead) will be from a breeder across the country who's facility I've never been to. However, this breeder is a highly respected moderator on another forum I visit, and I would trust this breeder all the way. I think sticking to local breeders can be tough, unless you're willing to drive a long ways, because you really have to weed the reputable breeders from the bybs, while buying online can be risky and more expensive, although if you do it carefully, as in very, very carefully, it works out great.

I think that's definitely a case of personal preference.

Finding a good breeder is tough, isn't it? :D
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Equinox - I was thinking Schutzhund. I don't know much about this, as you can tell. I mostly know what I've read online. I enjoy working outdoors with animals, so I think this might be something fun I could do. But I don't want to niavely get a dog entirely based on a hypothetical possibility that I might do a sport that I have no previous experience doing. So maybe I should ask the breeder to pick a dog with a lower drive, to be on the safe side.
Thank you for the website, also. I like the way the East German dogs look the most, with their big heads and their body structure. They aren't as flashy, but they seem more solid. But looks aren't the only thing that's important, of course. Do you know how temperaments vary from type to type? Also, is there a category for American working GSDs? I didn't see them on there. And I couldn't even tell the difference between the west german show and west german working dogs, which goes to show how little I know about this.

Xeph - That's funny, Eichenluft was actually on my list! I thought that maybe they had too many litters at once, though, which is why I chose not to list them. Do you know them personally or have experience with their dogs?

I just came across an article about VP Joe Biden buying a GSD puppy from a breeder in my area.
www.newser.com/story/45305/guess-who-else-is-bringing-a-puppy-to-dc.html
They mention that the puppy is only six months old, which is illegal in PA. I like Biden, but WTF?
Here's the breeder's website:
http://vonbraunhaus.tripod.com/index.html

EDIT: I wrote that Biden's dog was six months old. That was a typo. In the article it says the puppy is six weeks old.
 

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I know several of Molly's dogs, and several people who have them....I've only ever met one "unsatisfied" customer, and it was not a temperament or serious health issue. Overall the owner was happy with the dog, just didn't like the way an issue was handled.

She does a LOT of breeding, yes, but ALL of her puppies go to good homes, and she has several repeat buyers. Her own dogs and dogs she has bred and sold have been and are national competitors.

Don't get six months confused with 6 weeks....

von Braun Haus is NOT reputable.

I'm going to get the giant post that I have so you can read everything and not have to type it all out for the millionth time :p

Please ignore some general monetary figures...some things have changed, but not enough for me to edit everything.

GSDs come in many different lines, sizes, and colors. The GSD is BY FAR the most diversified (and divided) breed of dog between lines AND people.

There are East German working lines (I Plan on getting one from Eurosport K9), American Showlines, West German Showlines, West German Working lines, and Czech lines (also working).

The GSD is not a dog for the faint of heart, no matter what line you get. You will also find people are extremely divided on the correct temperament of the GSD (most often leaning towards the Am line dog as most incorrect).

These dogs require a lot of training, exercise, and dedication, and are not for the average dog owner who wants a Golden Retriever type animal.

These dogs are fiercely loyal, BUT they are still no Golden. If you want a happy go lucky dog that willingly leans on everybody and immediately says "Hi!" to strangers, the GSD is not for you. They are supposed to be aloof to strangers, which most people think means unfriendly. That's not true. Aloof means when a stranger asks if they can pet your dog, and you say ok, the dog isn't going to give a whit, because the stranger doesn't own them. If you can't deal with people asking you why your dog "isn't friendly" a GSD is not for you.

If you can't deal with a vocal dog, a GSD is NOT for you. I always tell people who are looking at shepherds for a pet "It is not a matter of whether or not a Shepherd talks, it's how much." Every GSD I have EVER known WILL talk in some capacity! My Old Man only talks when he feels something needed to be said. Strauss lets me know what's going on every single second of his life[8|]

The GSD as a whole is a serious dog. They do have a good sense of humor, within their own family unit, but overall the picture presented is a steadfast, noble animal. They like to play, but again, are not the happy tail wagging nutso Labrador, and they WILL give the look of "Why are you being such a tard?" if they feel you're doing something beneath them

Shepherds are also not for those who aren't willing to put a dent in their pocketbook (unless you're looking at rescue, which is considerably cheaper). Any GSD pup from a good reputable Amline breeder starts at about $1000 and goes up depending on show/pet quality. A German Showline costs about $2000-3000 (I've shopped around for German showlines...Mittelwest would be my kennel of choice).

My working line dog is going to cost me about $1800. Not cheap. But I'm also buying a working prospect. Things to think about

Do you want American lines, or German? Working lines or show? East German, DDR, or Czech? Do you want a dog for conformation, schutzhund, tracking, herding, obedience, agility? What do you know about their health issues?

Black and tan, saddle, blanket, b-color, sable, solid black, white? Longhair or standard coat?

The German Shepherd Dog is probably the most loyal breed of dog there is. He will breathe, live, and die for you as long as you respect him and treat him as an "equal". This of course does not mean you allow the dog to run your household, but if you do not respect the dog, he will have no trouble saying "Eff you, you jerk!" and leave you stone cold alone.

The physical exercise requirements actually aren't as demanding as one would think. What gets most GSD novices is the MENTAL requirements. This breed will generally misbehave because it's bored, not because it's underexercised (though that can be the case as well). A mile or two jog or bike/jog during the day combined with some good fetch is satisfactory physical exercise for them, but they absolutely thrive on puzzles and mental challenges.

This is a breed that loves to learn, and they are incredibly easy to shape and teach because of their willingness to please. Highly biddable and multifunctional, there is no better breed, in my opinion.

Great with children, especially if raised with them. Naturally wary of strangers, one does not need to panic when their Shepherd meets a new person, but be aware of their temperament, and explain to those who wish to pet that when the dog shows disinterest, he is not unfriendly, he just simply does not care. If the stranger is not their human and they are not a threat, the dog feels no reason to show interest. The GSD is supposed to be an aloof animal, and any dog that is too friendly (Strauss), too fearful (Zander), or too aggressive (A GSD at class I know), is faulted in temperament. However, I will take the dog that is too friendly over the last two.

Leadership is extremely important. You must be firm, but fair. Do not waiver when those brown eyes stare into yours and say "Puhleeeeeeze don't put me in the kennel!" Do not falter when your dog shrieks like a gutted banshee to be let OUT of said kennel. Do not second guess when your dog has a spazz attack and needs to be convinced that the kitchen broom will not consume him.

Socialization is also important, and because of the natural temperament of the breed is to be indifferent, there is no such thing as too much socialization. You should expose them to anything and everything (even though you will run into things you NEVER thought of....my Strauss is afraid of people in costumes if he can't see the face).

Understand that while beautiful, loyal, and true to their hearts, the German Shepherd Dog is not a healthy breed. I hate to admit it, but it's true. Some of the things the GSD is susceptible to are:

Hip Dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, megaesophagus, bloat, torsion, pannus, dengenerative myleopathy, spondylosis

Screening the first two is simple...you just go to a breeder that OFA's and whose lines have a strong OFA background. Bloat and Torsion is somewhat thought to be genetic, but, there are health issues in every line. This is a deepchested large breed, so they are naturally more prone to bloat/torsion, and is just part of the package. DM is something that should be read up on and studied, as well as spondylosis.

They can be highly prey driven, no matter what the line. While they can be taught not to eat cats that YOU own, if there are outdoor cats on your property, the "Kitty Courtesy" may not extend to them, and it is something to be aware of.

This is a wonderful breed, but not one for the faint of heart or feeble of mind.

West German Show Line (typical):
VA Adrjuscha von Noort


East German Working Line:


American Showline:
 

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DDR/Czech:
V Puck Grafental
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thanks for all the info.

The indifference of German Shepherds towards strangers is something I always liked about them. One of the barns I rode at for a few years when I was younger had a couple GSD's, and the fact that they didn't care if I petted them or not just made me admire them more because I felt like it reflected how smart they were, and how loyal to their person, whom they were always paying attention to. I don't want a dog that drools all over every stranger they meet, without discrimination.

I think I can meet the physical and mental exercise requirements of a shepherd. My last dog, a pit bull, was so hyper when I adopted him (even though he was four) that I took him on long daily bike rides so he could work it off. I'm also not one of those people who is gone twelve hours a day and expects the dog to just sleep or something. I'm home a lot, and a lot of the places I go are dog-friendly. And I'm very interested in training my dog. I like smart, thinking dogs.

I was thinking I would put a cap on how much I'd be willing to spend at 1200. I think that's reasonable for a first German Shepherd. And I'd be worried that if I spent more I would just get fleeced, since my ability to judge the quality of a GSD is pretty unreliable at this stage. I already know I want a male dog. For whatever reason I find it easier to establish a good rapport with male animals. As far as coloration goes, my only preference is for not black or bicolor. I like all the sables and I like black and red/tan.

What kind of dog do you prefer from those pictures? I know people seem to value the West German show line the highest, but they just look the most unbalanced to me. I have never been a fan of dog breeds that look "unnatural" or interfered with, and those dogs kind of look that way to my eye. Mostly their butts, and how sometimes it looks like their front legs are tucked under them in a weird way. On the other hand, the East German working line dog and the DDR dog look natural to me, and classic. What is your preference, and why?

The health issues with the German Shepherd are the thing that makes me the most nervous about getting one. From what I've read, the most common serious problem is hip dysplasia (+elbows). I've done a bit of reading on this topic so I could understand how to find a breeder that tests for this. One of the things I find curious is that dogs with the American OFA tests that are bred almost always have OFA excellent or good ratings, but some of the dogs that have the German test done and are bred have ratings of fast normal -- which, according to the OFA's website, is below OFA ratings of excellent, good, and fair. According to their website, fast normal is equivalent to a borderline rating, which is just above a mild dysplasia rating.
(This is where I'm getting this from: http://www.offa.org/hipgrade.html all the way at the bottom.)
What is your opinion of this? Do you think that "fast normal" is good enough?

The other health problems of the german shepherd are harder to control, it seems. I know they aren't a healthy breed, but well-bred GSDs seem to have good lifespans for large dogs.

One other question: do you know how heritable prey drive is? For instance, if I told a breeder I was looking for a dog with low prey drive, could they match me up with parents who would pass on this characteristic? Of course, I know how essential training and early socialization are, but I think this is one of those characteristics which has a strong genetic foundation; in other words, if my dog had an inborn extremely high natural prey drive, I could only lessen it somewhat with training. Would that be a reasonable thing to ask a breeder to match for?
 

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Is that www.eurosportk9.com?
Did you get a dog from them?
No, I haven't - but I will someday. They're VERY willing to answer lots and lots of questions, they're honest about the fact that they do NOT breed all the dogs that they sell, and I've really liked all the dogs I've met from them - including those in regular old obedience (not schutzhund) competitions. I like a very moderate dog at the low end of the pushy-crazy end of the range that Czech-bred GSDs (I like the high drive but dogs that are NOT terribly handler-hard) typically fall into and they were honest about the fact that while they do have that from time to time, they didn't have anything currently that would fit exactly what I wanted.
 

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The indifference of German Shepherds towards strangers is something I always liked about them.
Me too :)

I don't want a dog that drools all over every stranger they meet, without discrimination.
Nor do I, which is hard for a lot of people to understand.

I was thinking I would put a cap on how much I'd be willing to spend at 1200
Then likely you'll end up with a working line, because show lines...especially West German, go for much more. West German puppies tend to start out around $2000

American puppies depending on area start around $1000

What is your preference, and why?
I can't really answer that question, as I prefer each line for different things.

I prefer the American show line when I show in AKC, because a West German dog generally won't do a damn thing. They lack front reach and roach in motion. Nobody is going to bother showing a working line at all because they lack angle and are coarse in the head.

I like the West German dogs for strong heads, good ear sets, and ears that come up naturally. I also like the thicker coat. You can find some plush dogs in American lines, but not like the German show lines.

I enjoy the Czech/DDR/East German dogs for their functionality and general hardness, and while there are some ones that are appealing to the eye, I see a lot of uggos.

It really depends on what you want to do with the dog, and the type of drive you want.

There are American lines in performance, but not as often, and they tend to lack drive and be soft in temperament. West German and East German dogs are often seen in obedience competition and are a bit drivier (anybody that knows Strauss has seen how drivey a West German dog can be).

There are temperament, health, and structure issues in all lines.

According to their website, fast normal is equivalent to a borderline rating, which is just above a mild dysplasia rating.
That's only a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. "a" fast normal is an acceptable rating, and many of the fast normal dogs brought into this country end up being OFA'd and usually come out Good or Fair, not borderline. Now, an NZ rating is a different story....

One other question: do you know how heritable prey drive is?
EXTREMELY x.x

For instance, if I told a breeder I was looking for a dog with low prey drive, could they match me up with parents who would pass on this characteristic?
Yes and no...it's a gamble. Working line dogs tend to be "prey monsters" as that's what they've been bred for for the schutzhund work. Puppies are a crap shoot. The puppy that seems to have the least amount of prey drive could turn it on at age 2.

There is no "lessening" of prey drive, only controlling it.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for the help. You've been extremely informative. I don't have any other questions for now, but I think I'll continue to check out the other threads and see what else people are talking about.
Thanks again.

-Ellen
 

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All the more reason that I can not stress enough to people, that you should go meet the breeders in person and ask all your questions. You can only assume things from a web site. You will learn so much more in person. As the owner of E-Z Brook I am glad I came across this. It shows me how some people may interpret my site, and were I may need to clarify things. Several excellent breeders do breed 2 types of dogs. It is when you get into many breeds that you can not do them justice. "Old style dogs" I used to describe since many of my bloodlines come from Czech and east working dogs. They do have heavy bone, that is larger than most American showline dogs. Working line dogs are also a thick, solid bodied dog , not the lean and lanky type.
I do health test on "Most" of my breeding stock is worded that way because test are done as they reach age( a young dog can be picked as breeding stock, but not breeding) and not all test can be done at the same time. Also some test do not need to be done on dogs when they are "clear by parentage" but I still try to get them done. So I guess I should have worded it I do health tests on my "active" breeding stock. Just never thought anyone would pick apart my words so much. But it is good to know how it may be perceived. I also feel that I do more health test than most, not just hips, and they take time. Now we have the new DM DNA test available. So it will be some time till I get thru my dogs, so once again the word 'most' seems appropriate and not misleading that all dogs are done, but rather in the process of. As more test come out I like to continue health screening. Even if a dog is old and a new test comes out I will test just to know what may have been out of sight. Which just goes back to my original point, go meet breeders and their dogs in person. The best worded web site with the best pictures could be a real bad place. You just never know. I actually tell people to come here without money. Because I want them to compare in person at least 3 breeders. If you have money in your pocket then every puppy looks cute and you will want to buy the first one you see. Best to look them all over go home think about it all and then pick.
I just wanted to give my side. I am glad to learn were my "holes" may be.
 

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I am really not sure about this with the GSD but in my research for my breed, I have found PennHip to be much more reliable then OFA (just my opinion) for the hips.
 

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RRM - There's some definite advantages to Pennhip, regardless of the breed. However, there's also some drawbacks. I really dislike the lack of an open database, and while I like that you HAVE to submit the x-rays (you can't just NOT submit a bad result), it's also just plain not so accessible. It's also MUCH more expensive (with not enough better evaluation, IMO, to justify the additional expense, especially since I'd really rather NOT have my dogs anesthitized for any reason but a VERY good one.)

I don't think there's anything wrong with using OFA (or OVC even) instead of PennHip, though- as long as the breeder is checking and having those x-rays evaluated by experts.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Do either of you know if there have been any longitudinal studies done to see which (pennhip or OFA) had the better predictive value of future hip dysplasia when the test was done in young dogs? I'm having a little trouble figuring this out on my own because I'm so unfamiliar with the topic.
 
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