The Full Story
It's standard practice for a conscientious breeder to send new owners home with a "Puppy Packet" which may contain health info, training ideas, breed-specific information all in an attempt to make the new owners' experience easier and more fulfilling. What follows is not a substitute for veterinary care nor is it an invitation to debate dog food, puppy weaning, early training, etc; I am sharing what works for me and will update occasionally.
Over the years I have had requests to share my packet. The answer
is YES, you may absolutely cross-post and reprint but please cite
Pine Hill German Shepherd Dogs as the source of the info.
Dear "new puppy owners",
As you read this, you are probably contemplating the bundle of fur you have just brought into your family. Know that every effort was made to provide you with a mentally sound, healthy puppy who has been home-raised, well socialized, and cherished from the start. My wish for you is that your puppy lives up to MY expectations by providing you with many wonderful years of companionship.
The following thoughts and shared experiences are offered to ease the first few weeks and to provide answers and suggestions to common questions. I have also included a list of my favorite reading materials, AKC and GSDCA information, websites, and dog books you might find useful. Like most things we enjoy in life, you will appreciate your dog better the more you understand a GSD's purpose, heritage, and origin. I strongly encourage you to learn all that you can about the breed and observe them at shows and performance events at every opportunity so that your knowledge and appreciation for the form and function of a GSD are enhanced.
Enjoy the new addition to your family! May your relationship with your puppy bring you the same rewards I have experienced from my association with this magnificent breed.
Pine Hill German Shepherd Dogs
THE FIRST FEW DAYS
Before bringing your new puppy home, you have probably determined where your puppy will sleep and where you'll choose to feed your puppy. You'll also want to determine which area of your property you'll want the puppy to use for a potty (away from the barbecue pit and children's play area!). It isn't a bad idea to "puppy proof” your home, putting valuables away or out of reach of inquisitive puppy noses. It isn't fair to expect a young puppy to be able to distinguish a Boyd's Bear from a stuffed puppy toy. Make sure cabinets containing medications, cleaning supplies and foodstuffs can be closed securely. Ditto for kitchen and bathroom trash cans. You will want to provide your puppy with several toys and "chewy things" that it CAN play with. Caution; watch a dog with toys that contain "noisemakers". The dog can and probably will pull the toy apart, and noisemakers can prove to be trouble if ingested!
Avoid "Kong" type toys or hard rubber toys that have holes for treats. Canine teeth and tongues can get caught in the holes of such toys damaging teeth or worse. A dog should never be left alone in a crate with a toy or bone that they could choke on. For the same reason, you do NOT want a crate bed for your new puppy. It is best to wait until the puppy is a young adult and has finished teething before adding a mat or bed to a crate.
Bones? Be very careful. Never offer cooked or smoked bones, they splinter. Know your dog. An aggressive chewer shouldn’t have frozen marrow bones, rawhide, or dental chews (which they will break and swallow in chunks instead of chewing). If you do choose to use them, never leave a dog with any of these unattended.
Cow hooves and deer antlers cause dental slab fractures. Please avoid them.
Some thoughts on fun and games; Balls and Frisbees are fun, however NEVER throw them UP, making the dog twist and turn. This is very nice to watch on TV when amazing animal feats are shown, but encouraging your dog to jump and twist can cause a torn ACL or disc damage. Toys should be thrown away from you, and for those with a multiple dog household, NEVER between dogs. To do so can cause an unintentional crash. It's fine to play tug with your dog IF you realize that accidentally when the dog tries to get a better grip, you may feel the occasional nip. If this isn't acceptable to your situation (very small children), avoid tug games.
The first few days in the puppy's new home need not be traumatic. Your puppy has been well socialized and is used to a variety of people and noises. He or she has been to the vet, has been on a grooming table several times a week starting at five weeks, and has had nails trimmed from the time it was only days old (so as not to scratch mom or scar siblings with SHARP puppy toenails). The puppy is used to having its mouth opened and boys are used to having their testicles gently touched. All of this would be necessary for a show dog and makes grooming your dog and behaving for vet visits quite easy later. There is a behavioral element to all of this early handling as well; it is much easier to accustom a puppy to calmly and quietly first tolerate and later enjoy handling and grooming than a young adult who has never been asked to stand still. It is a subtle, kind way to establish leadership early on. I simply can't stand a grown dog who won't "mind" for grooming or veterinary attention. They are too big to wrestle with.
Avoid public areas frequented by other dogs and training classes until your vet tells you that your puppy has completed its immunization schedule (usually around 16 weeks). Likewise. discourage visits from well-meaning visitors who have pets of their own. Adult dogs/cats with mature immune systems may appear asymptomatic but could transmit things to your puppy that it hasn't been exposed to. Kindly but firmly suggest that visits be postponed until your puppy has finished their immunizations. Keep things calm and quiet, much the same as you would for a newborn baby.
AVOIDING A COMMON PROBLEM
The most common problem new owners face during the puppy's first days in their new home is loose stools that can occur from the change in the puppy's water, from overfeeding or from adding (too much) canned food to a puppy's meals. This, right at the time you are starting to housebreak a puppy, is never pleasant!
I have several suggestions: You may want to purchase a few gallons of spring water. Gradually mix your household water into the spring water. A few tablespoons of instant, dried, unflavored (no cheese or chives please) potato flakes sprinkled on the puppy's food at the first sign of loose stools may do the trick, as will a spoonful of canned pumpkin (plain not pie mix).
There are several commercial preparations available from your vet if the loose stools persist for more than 48 hours. DO NOT accept a prescription from your vet for metronidazole (generic Flagyl). It is not safe for puppies and can cause neurological problems. I will refer you to the insert that comes with the medication and peer-reviewed/published research has been provided to you with your puppy's health information. I keep DiaGel for dogs or Bene-bac Gel or powder (Amazon or any dog catalog), on hand at all times. Dogs have indiscretions, it’s quite normal for them to put things in their mouth. Some things won’t agree with them.
While some anti-diarrhea medications for people can be safe for adult dogs, they are NOT recommended for puppies. NEVER restrict a puppy's water if they have diarrhea. You may choose to skip one meal, but removing water, while it may appear to be an easy solution can cause dangerous dehydration. Of course, you do not want to change a puppy's food when you bring it home, which leads me directly to the next subject...
WHAT AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD I FEED MY NEW PUPPY?
Your puppy has been weaned on Royal Canin Maxi Starter then started on Costco (Kirkland) or Diamond Naturals puppy food. The Kirkland brand is the same food as the "Chicken Soup" or Diamond Naturals brand sold at pet food stores. Please don't be in a hurry to change foods. To the dry kibble, a scant tablespoon of canned dog food may be added.
A puppy under three months should be fed three times a day. After that, two feedings are sufficient for the life of your dog. Please avoid supplements and vitamins. Not only are they unnecessary, but they can also damage a puppy's bone and joint development during their critical growth period by upsetting delicate vitamin and mineral balances. If you prefer another brand of premium dog food...fine! Perhaps nothing causes more disagreements in the doggy world than who manufactures the best food. The simple answer is that one size doesn't fit all. If you find a brand you like though, please stick with it. Constant changes lead to sick little bellies and fussy eaters.
Avoid “grain-free” foods. These have been linked to DCM in dogs.
I take my puppies off puppy food and gradually change to adult food at four months. All medium to large breed dogs are subject to "pano” (bones hurt when they grow too fast). Reducing the percentage of protein seems to slow growth and prevent or lessen the severity of achy joints. This won't have ANY effect on the eventual size of your puppy, only a malnourished puppy will not reach its full potential. If despite your best efforts, your puppy does suffer a bout of pano, there are some things you can do to lessen the length and severity of an attack. Now is the time to go out and buy an inexpensive brand of supermarket adult dog food that lists grain as its first ingredient. Pano is self-limiting, that is, a puppy who is hurting won't play as hard and will feel better soon. You may use buffered liver flavored doggy aspirin in the evening (NOT before playtime), but be careful because aspirin may cause loose stools. I won't give stronger veterinary pain medication like Rimadyl to puppies. there are simply too many potential side effects. In my opinion, Rimadyl has its place in alleviating the chronic pain and suffering of an older arthritic dog, but why risk liver damage to a puppy over growing pains?
Please keep your puppy on the "thin" side. Your puppy packet is filled with feeding suggestions, but I cannot emphasize strongly enough that excess weight puts too much stress on growing, developing joints.
THE FIRST TRIP TO THE VET
I have been accused of being overly cautious, but I take my dogs to the vet first thing in the morning to avoid sick animals. I do NOT let a puppy socialize with other animals in the waiting room, in fact, the puppy waits in my lap, or if that isn't feasible, safely tucked away in a crate in the car until it is our turn.
Your puppy has been started on his/her immunization and worming schedule (details included with the puppy's health information). Please give a copy of this schedule to your vet and keep a copy for your records. You will want to take a fresh fecal sample to the vet and worm ONLY if the test finds worms, and ONLY for those worms the puppy may have.
Roundworms in puppies are not unusual. The puppies absorb the larva from the mother in utero if she has ever been exposed to roundworms, and although the mother was free of worms before and during gestation, she has been exposed to roundworms at various events. One negative test for roundworms is not enough! (Their life cycle is +/- ten days.) Even if your puppy is negative for the first test, bring a sample on your next visit. Coccidia and Giardia are also very common finds especially if there are other pets in the household (cats!) and/or the weather has been particularly wet. Additional information has been provided with your puppy's health records.
Your vet will probably suggest visits at 12 and 16 weeks for puppy boosters and rabies vaccination. Your puppy has NOT been immunized for Canine Influenza, lyme disease, or lepto. (These vaccines are usually not given until after 10 weeks.) Please discuss them with your vet and reach a mutual decision if these vaccines are warranted based on your lifestyle and location. You should also discuss which heartworm preventative you will use, and I urge you. in the strongest possible terms to keep your dog on heartworm preventative year-round! A heartworm preventative should be started at 4 months.
* A word of caution: There are several heartworm and flea and tick preventative products on the market including Pro Guard 6 and Bravecto that have received a lot of attention. Although they may seem convenient since they need to be administered less frequently, be warmed; these products have numerous adverse incident reports (including seizures).
AVOID any 2x a year heartworm product or multiple-month flea and tick oral product for now.
In recent years, the AMVA has recognized that overuse of vaccinations can lead to immune problems in aging dogs. Most would agree that after the first year a dog need NOT receive annual boosters for parvo and distemper. I prefer to do a blood titer at that time to check that a dog is adequately protected. We also know that lepto and kennel cough protection from a vaccine rarely lasts a year.
Please discuss your dog's specific needs based on lifestyle with your veterinarian. You will want to discuss permanent ID (microchip), flea and tick preventative (Frontline), and spaying or neutering with your vet. Avoid early spay and neuter. We know today that the timing of spaying and neutering impacts a dog's chance of being prone to certain types of cancer and orthopedic problems later in life. (Detailed link on this website.)
Some final thoughts on your relationship with your veterinarian; choose a vet that likes GSDs (some are actually afraid of large dogs!) and who will allow you to be a partner in determining the course of health care for your companion. Especially as our animals age, veterinary care can become extremely expensive since most of the tests, treatments, and medical advances available to people are readily available to our furry companions. You should always feel comfortable asking the reasonable prognosis and costs of any treatment, and a vet should never object to a second opinion. It is common today for veterinary hospitals to refer after-hours patients to an emergency clinic. The time to learn the location of such a clinic in your area is NOT when you have a sick pet at midnight! Keep vet records, phone numbers, and directions on hand and available to anyone who may care for your pet.
EARLY TRAINING AND CONTINUED SOCIALIZATION
The well-bred, well-trained GSD is truly a magnificent animal and a wonderful family companion. A poorly socialized brat is a nuisance or worse. It is CRITICAL that you continue your puppy's socialization and mold that marvelous GSD mind into a dog that is a welcome addition to a family. A dog who is well-mannered in the home is welcome there. His ill-behaved cousin is often relegated to a yard or crate. A dog who learns to ride quietly in a car is invited to more family outings than one who was never taught.
It is not unusual for a puppy to drool and become car sick on the first few outings. Here are some ideas: Obviously don't feed the puppy before a car ride. Your puppy MUST be crated while in a vehicle for everyone's safety and the puppy's security. Place newspapers in the bottom of the crate and bring along an extra towel, extra newspaper, and a plastic trash bag for cleanup. (I usually also bring a spray bottle with Listerine and water.) In any drug store, you can find the OTC product Bonine for motion sickness. Give the puppy one pill at least an hour and a half before travel. One dose will last all day. After a half dozen car rides, you'll no longer need the motion sickness pill.
The first lesson you will teach your puppy is housebreaking. Volumes have been written on this subject and if that isn't enough the Internet provides thousands of helpful articles. It is not my intent to "rewrite the book", but I will share what has worked for me.
An eight week old baby can't hold their water for more than a few hours (two if they are up and about, four to five if they are sleeping). Puppies need to go out and relieve themselves upon waking, after playing, and after eating. If you can't watch your puppy. the puppy should be in a crate or an x-pen. “Watching” is not defined as answering e-mail, watching TV, checking FB, or talking on the phone. If you are watching your puppy and it begins to wander away from the living area you most frequently occupy it is looking for a place to potty. Scoop the puppy up and take it out! You should always observe the puppy when it is outside to be sure it relieves itself and praise it when it does. It is not unusual for a puppy to be placed outside and become busy investigating a new location and "forget" to potty, so again, WATCH to make sure! Some people have found that putting a word to the act ("hurry up", "go potty"), works well and comes in handy later in life for the times the dog doesn't really have to go, but you know a long wait may be ahead.
If you find that your puppy has made a housebreaking mistake, or has gotten into something not meant for a puppy and has made a heck of a mess, take a large section of newspaper and roll it into a tight cylinder.
Beat YOURSELF about the head and shoulders while vowing never to repeat YOUR error!
Note to new puppy owners who have steps that have to be negotiated on the way out to take the puppy to potty; pick the puppy up! A puppy should not be allowed to negotiate steps until 3-4 months, (bones in elbows haven't united yet), but if you try to get a puppy to negotiate steps when they have to potty...well, you are going to be spending a LOT of time on your hands and knees cleaning steps! If, despite your best efforts, a housebreaking accident does occur, clean the area well with a product like Natures Miracle or Fresh and Clean (both found in pet stores and doggy catalogs). Avoid cleaning products containing ammonia since these products will often cause a puppy to return to the same spot.
GSD puppies are generally NOT chewers. Still, it is advisable to watch your puppy, and if it picks up an inappropriate object, gently trade it for a more appropriate one. (It's funny how my own perspective has changed over the years. A baby who chewed a shoe at one point would have been considered destructive now it is a "bright" puppy getting a head start on scent discrimination for tracking and utility articles!)
Puppies will be attracted to things that most smell like their owners and that includes eyeglasses, remotes, phones, and all hand-held electronics. Put these items away.
You should distinguish a puppy who nibbles your fingers and toes because its mouth hurts from one who nips. Nipping is NOT acceptable Remember; these are herding dogs. They are "hardwired" to move sheep, ducks, cows and oooopppppsssss!! the family!
While herding is a wonderful sport to participate in, herding activities are usually not appreciated around the house. If your puppy tries to "move you" do what its mother would have done. From BEHIND the puppy place your hand on the skull bone directly behind and between its ears and push the puppy GENTLY but firmly and quite quickly to the ground while at the same time leaning over the puppy and in a firm, growling voice (don't yell!) say "NO bite"! Then walk away. When play is inappropriate, play stops. This is a very quick correction, not to be confused with "putting a dog on the ground" to establish dominance which I would never advocate.
It is important when making the correction to avoid corrections from the front of the dog. NEVER swing at or grab a dog's muzzle. You will succeed in making the dog head shy, ducking away from yours and everyone else’s hand. Discourage children from running from a puppy and teasing it since this will only reinforce herding behavior and you will not be pleased or find it quite so amusing when a full frown GSD herds the neighborhood children into a huddle, barking like a fool and won't let them escape!
WHAT ABOUT PUPPY KINDERGARTEN?
Absolutely! I will offer several suggestions, though: Call your local All-breed kennel club or a local dog show to find trainers near you. Find one that actually LIKES dogs in general and GSDs in particular. You should arrange to attend one of their training sessions without your dog as an observer. You will want to be sure that their training methods are comfortable for you. Personally, I hate the "snatch and jerk" method of dog training and prefer a more positive, balanced approach. GSDs are SMART. You don't have to beat them into submission, trick them with constant training treats or buy the latest gadgets and gizmos to get them to do your bidding. Treat them kindly, consistently, and fairly and you will have a dog who will never let you down; in fact, they will exceed your every expectation. Rely on training crutches and you will get spotty results.
The purpose of Obedience Trials is to demonstrate the usefulness of the purebred dog as a companion to man, not merely the dog's ability to follow specific routines in the obedience ring. <source, AKC Obedience Regulations >
Go...watch...learn and be ready for goosebumps!
Be aware that there are MANY kinds of training classes. A class for the family companion to learn simple manners is very different than a competition obedience class. (In the first, for example, a dog is allowed to flop down with a treat between its paws to lean "down", while in the second, an "accordion down" is taught from the start to discourage "creeping" on later advanced exercises.) Find an instructor with a class that is in line with your goals.
Two situations can arise at class that I will discourage you from, no matter your goals. DO NOT allow your puppy to run free with other puppies at the beginning or end of class. From an instructor's point of view, this is a good thing to do because it wears the puppies out. An owner should realize though, that all this does is reinforce inappropriate behavior. Think of it; the "bully" in the class gets to bully while the shy, scared puppy (often smaller and younger), now has its worst fears realized, and all the well-adjusted dogs in between get to observe bad behavior and believe me, they will choose one or the other to copy. Neither behavior is one you want your dog to take away from training class. I can't stress this enough; DO NOT EVER put your puppy in a situation where you can't control the outcome. If you think either you or the instructor can control a class full of loose puppies, all different breeds, different ages, and levels of development with their owners all having varying degrees of skill levels THINK AGAIN! Either go to class late, let the puppy wait in the car, (not watch and get excited at the bedlam!) or leave early.
The second situation to avoid in class is allowing the instructor to demonstrate an exercise with your dog; DON'T! If the dog does the exercise poorly, this invites a correction, and who is the only person allowed to correct your dog? That's right...YOU! In fact, one of the proofing exercises I use is to give my dog a command then allow another person to give a command which the dog is NOT allowed to obey. What good is it if my dog is competing and on a long down-stay in one ring and another person calls its dog to front in another ring and my dog breaks their down? So, I NEVER let someone else correct my dog or command it to do something from the very start. And that includes so-called "trainers" that can be hired to come to your home. After a TV show that seems to "fix" a problem dog in a twenty-minute segment, with commercials no less, became popular an entire industry of so-called "dog trainers" sprung up. Go into any vet's office and you'll be amazed at the number of their business cards. Please don't delegate the training of your dog and miss out on the bond that forms between you as a result of the time spent together training. Someone coming to your home can't ever replace the benefits of going to classes where your dog is subject to distractions and the socialization that takes place there. We all know about backyard superstars. Yes, you want to train at home but skipping proofing with distractions and socialization will do you little good if you expect your dog to behave consistently.
Be fair when correcting your GSD. It is never "OK" to hit a dog. Don't raise your voice unless calling them from quite a distance. The most effective correction I use is withholding attention. When a dog has displeased me, I simply won't make eye contact. If I want to stop a particular behavior, I will GO TO the dog (never call a dog to come for something unpleasant), and take it by the scruff of the neck so I can look the dog directly in the eye while saying "NO'. Then I ignore the dog. If your dog does something so horrendous that you feel that you will lose your temper, put the dog away in a crate.
At a minimum, a house dog and family companion should be able to receive its CD (Companion Dog) certificate from the AKC. You may choose not to compete, but the exercises required for this title (heal, sit down, come, stay) are the bare essentials for a happy relationship. If you decide that some sort of structured competition is right for you, the difficult task is deciding where to start.
The versatile GSD, the most widely used dog in service to man, excels in many venues!
A few thoughts on teaching "come"...
This is one command that MUST be taught early and reinforced often. A baby puppy will have a natural desire to want to be with you and is usually "underfoot". Take advantage of this desire NOW, it will end soon enough +/- four months when your puppy will begin to bravely explore its surroundings.
Do NOT call a dog unless you are in a position to enforce a command. (Throw a robe over your choice of sleepwear before your puppy's midnight potty session or you will be the talk of the neighborhood!) Only say a command ONCE, then GO GET your puppy. (It helps to run gaily in the opposite direction.)
Repeating any command simply teaches your puppy to tune you out, and that you aren’t serious unless and until you raise your voice.
NEVER call a puppy for something unpleasant, i.e., a bath, nail trimming, or even the end of playtime.
Everyone in the household should call the puppy to themselves at least ten times a day. Grab a pocketful of treats, wait for the puppy to look at you, call your puppy. Go get it if it doesn't stop what it is doing and respond IMMEDIATELY. REWARD the puppy if it came on its own OR if you had to go get it and bring it gently to where you called it from. (It's all the same to the dog, it ended up where you wanted it to be, so make a big fuss either way.)
Later, advance to calling the puppy when it isn't looking at you or is busy exploring something interesting. You should expect, enforce and reward the same response. If you forget the "ten times rule" today, do twenty tomorrow! When training the come command outdoors, leave a light, long line on your puppy. You don't want to get involved in a game of keep-away. Fun for the puppy, but you'll set your training back!
You should NEVER leave a puppy loose in an environment where you can't safely catch it. It takes months, sometimes years for a dog to be reliable in every situation, and it's simply not worth risking their safety allowing them to run free.
As your puppy progresses, begin to treat randomly. You don’t want to be in a position where your dog will only come if you have a handful of string cheese. Nor do you want to turn into a human Pez dispenser.
Puppy training should only last ten to fifteen minutes once or twice a day, and this includes puppy class. An hour-long class is too long for a baby and you will sour your puppy. Even though you may have paid for an hour's class, excuse yourself and take a frequent play or potty break. Be sure to end your training on a happy note! Use the gentlest and mildest equipment. (This means a flat buckle collar, NEVER a nylon or metal choke chain on a puppy, and later in life, if you choose to use such a collar, NEVER, EVER leave it on in the house, yard, crate, car or anywhere your dog is unattended. They can get caught on things and your dog can hang itself.)
Harnesses are NOT appropriate for a GSD
(and actually not useful for the majority of dogs.)
Please don’t purchase a retractable flexi-type lead; dogs
and their owners have been injured when getting tangled.
Be fair with your puppy. A common mistake is to push a
talented puppy with exercises that are not age-appropriate.
A growing puppy cannot heel with precision.
They can't even sit squarely for any length of time without
rolling from one hip to the other so go slowly. NEVER, EVER
punish a puppy who doesn't understand what you are asking it to do.
That would be just as foolish as you being punished in a foreign country
when you didn't know the language and couldn’t comprehend directions.
GSDs will die trying to please you. Make sure that you reward this type of devotion with appropriate behavior on your part.
Exercise? Must be age-appropriate. Do not ask your puppy to go jogging or biking with you or take a puppy on overly long walks. Excessive forced exercise and/or exercise on hard surfaces is detrimental to growing bones. Please limit stairs, jumping up on or off something (grooming table or deck), into or out of an SUV. (LIFT the puppy down), minimize slipping and sliding on tile and hardwood floors (use nonskid carpet runners), or ice, avoid your puppy crashing into playmates until the bones in your puppy's elbows unite, generally accepted to be 4 months but larger males may take a bit longer.
Most growth for a puppy takes place between 3 and 9 months however growth plates, which allow the formation of bone to occur until the dog is mature, may not close until after 1 5 months. Injury, damage, trauma to growth plates will have serious repercussions later in life. It would not be unusual for someone interested in agility, flyball, dock diving, etc. to take x-rays to verify growth plates had closed before all but the most modest training. Think low impact and be careful with immature joints!
Speaking of collars….In a multi-pet household, no dog should be wearing (even a flat buckle) collar. Dogs frequently play by grabbing each other by the scruff of the neck, jaws get caught and disasters can ensue.
Never allow a dog to wear a collar in the house with tags hanging. Tags get caught (a/c vents, decks) and can lead to a similar disaster.
Your dog can’t read their name tag, they should be chipped.
Remember to register your dog’s chip with the appropriate entity.
It is beyond frustrating when a dog is found and they have an
unregistered chip. Your dog doesn’t need to wear its county license
or rabies tag, you’ll have those certificates in a safe place.
My habit is to use a collar only for training and then when a session
is over, the collar comes off with the leash is using and is hung by the door.
WHAT IS A FEAR PERIOD?
"Experts" disagree about the exact timing of a fear period, but it generally occurs at about 12-14 weeks and then again at about 7 months. Quite simply, it is a period occurring when a wolf puppy would have been old enough physically to leave its den and explore, but not old enough to protect itself from predators. Mother nature makes the young animals cautious during this period, or, as you might imagine there would be an end to the species. Having said that, it is fine to understand it, but it is NOT fine to accept shy behavior from your GSD. (And actually, I see this blamed far too often, and it becomes an excuse for bad behavior, poor socialization, or just bad breeding. Many dogs never go through this at all.) If you notice your dog has a weird reaction to something (say a fire hydrant) that it has seen a hundred times before, do NOT console the dog, calling it to you and reassuring it that it all is 0K. It is NOT OK. Calmly make the dog walk up and touch whatever it is afraid of then go right about what you were doing. If you reward bad behavior at this time by either consoling the dog and allowing it to lean on you or stand behind you OR allowing it to charge in front of you aggressively barking, you are simply telling the dog that it is "right" to be afraid, so there MUST be something to be worried about. WRONG! Don't continue to repeat the exercise and reinforce the bad behavior, but certainly don't accept or excuse fearful behavior if it happens.
SOME THOUGHT ON HOUSEHOLDS WITH MULTIPLE PETS
GSDs generally fit in very well with households with multiple pets. (Be sure if you have a cat that it has an escape route and be ready to grab the lamps when the cat decides that it's time to tease the dog!) Remember that rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, etc., are not natural companions to dogs, and while I have known some GSDs to "adopt" them, don't count on it. They will herd ducks and unless you are set up for that, I don't encourage it.
It is of the utmost importance that you spend quality one-on-one time with your puppy for a minimum of twenty minutes, 2x a day WITHOUT the other pets in attendance. Puppies under sixteen weeks will bond very quickly to another living thing and you want to be sure that they bond with YOU, not another pet.
Puppies will usually adapt to another dog in the house quite well, be sure to give the older dog lots of attention and avoid correcting the older dog for "putting manners" on a youngster who wants to chew its ears with sharp puppy teeth. Although the correction may sound awful, there is rarely a mark on the puppy although you may find the ears of the older dog quite sore! If you DO see a mark on the puppy, it was more than a reprimand, and you may have to introduce the dogs more slowly.
NEVER leave a puppy alone with an older dog until you are certain they get along. (l usually wait nine months to a year.)
Be sure that they are fed separately (for a LOT of reasons; your old dog will gain too much weight on puppy food and a puppy should not be worried while eating and become territorial about food). Have plenty of toys for them to play with. A puppy will readily adopt the behavior of an older dog. This can be good and bad though while a puppy in a house with older dogs is often housebroken easily, they will also pick up bad habits from housemates as well, including fear of thunder, jumping on guests, fence running, and terrorizing the UPS man. Avoid these learned behaviors!
If you are going to have multiple dogs, lean all you can about pack behavior. (Behavior is multiplied in a pack; a territorial dog becomes more so.) Expect that there will be changes to the "pack order" as the puppy grows.
It is easier to blend a pack that is not sexually intact than one that is. As much as possible, stay out of skirmishes unless you fear for the safety of your dogs or you see that one is being picked on. Stay out of an honest to God dog fight. (You may throw a blanket over them if you have help. They will release if they can't see.) Finally, realize that some doggy relationships simply won't be peaceful, and some dogs should never be together.
GROOMING YOUR NEW PUPPY
GSDs are naturally clean dogs without odor who require minimal grooming to look their best. Once a week, check teeth, ears, and nails. Teeth should be kept free of tartar and there are a variety of products for dogs to help you keep them that way. You should always be able to stick your nose into your dog’s ears without being offended. Purchase a commercial ear preparation to clean your dog's ears; never use plain water since it will not dry thoroughly in the ear canal and you will be just asking for a yeast infection. As for toenails...if you hear clicking as the dog walks across tile they are too long. Have your vet or groomer show you how to clip or grind your puppy's nails and be religious about it! Many a beautifully formed foot has become "splayed' because an owner has neglected nail trimming.
You will need a metal comb and a soft bristle brush to groom your dog. I prefer a "greyhound style” comb.
Indiscriminate use of a rake, pin brush, or shedding blade can damage the skin,
break guard hairs and ruin the coat. "FURminator" or similar items are NOT to be used.
they will cut the coat and ruin it for up to a year. If you choose to use these items,
be sure to have a groomer show you how to use them, but at a minimum,
you will want to spritz the coat with water or a grooming spray to avoid breakage.
An occasional bath with doggy shampoo (NEVER people shampoo) is nice.
There are too many shampoos on the market to mention favorites, just be careful to
follow dilution directions and rinse, rinse, rinse! (You'll know you didn’t rinse well
enough if your dog is itchy after a bath. Go and wet the dog down and rinse some more.)
Keep your dog out of drafts until completely dry.
Flea, tick, and "bug" control are important parts of grooming. A dog who is bothered by crawly things is prone to chew and scratch itself inviting infection. I use a combination of things; topical flea and tick preventative, citronella spray if I am working a dog outdoors and the gnats are bad and a gel on tender ears and bellies.
Be careful with any topical flea and tick preventative and use the mildest one that works for you. All topicals can bum skin. If you notice severe itching after application rinse the solution off using blue "Dawn" dish detergent within the first 24 hours.
IMPORTANT: Some dog topicals can be toxic to cats so be sure to read the packet/insert. Following application, keep the dog away from the cat until the liquid is dry and completely absorbed into the dog's skin.
SOME VERY PRIVATE MATTERS...
Occasionally little girls take a while to learn to clean themselves after they urinate, after all, mom has done it up until now. If you notice your gal is not cleaning herself, help her with a wet, warm cloth or baby wipes. If you notice and neglect this you could be setting your gal up for juvenile vaginitis, not usually serious, but a nuisance, especially because it will be right at the time you are working on house training. In a week or two, if you show her how, she will remember to keep herself tidy.
When male puppies are first born, both testicles are tucked safely in their abdomen. Right about the time you take your new puppy home the testicles ”drop”, (some lines drop sooner, some later). For several weeks to several months, a male puppy can retract one or both testicles back into its abdomen. Be very careful when handling/checking your boy's testicles to avoid this becoming a habit. At some point, the size of the testicle will exceed that of the ring of flesh that allows him to retract his testicles and you don’t want one or both in his abdominal cavity when it does so. If it does happen that only one testicle is descended, that puppy must be neutered for health reasons, however, there is no rush. We still want the puppy to mature before neutering.
WHEN TO SPAY or NEUTER
We now know early spay and neuter contributes to a variety of health problems from bone development to certain types of cancer. (A quick google search will bring up documented studies). I do not suggest spaying a bitch before her first cycle and you would not spay a bitch immediately before or during her cycle. Increased blood flow to the uterus during those time can cause complications. I would not neuter a male before 18-24 months. Spaying and neutering have absolutely no effect on disposition, either positive or negative; all it does is render a dog sterile.
When you prepare to have your puppy spayed or neutered, discuss the option of stomach tacking with your veterinarian. As a breed, GSDs have a 15% chance of developing GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), commonly referred to as bloat.
Bloat is a true medical emergency. In addition to environmental causes, some of us believe there is a genetic component when a young dog experiences GDV, however since you are spaying and neutering a particular puppy you would not be harming the gene pool by having this potentially lifesaving procedure done at the time you spay or neuter.
Some middle age and senior dogs of many breeds become prone to bloat due to loose musculature or other age-related conditions. It is far easier to tack when young than it is to be faced with a difficult prognosis at the ER years later.
Confining your GSD
There are times when you will have to confine your GSD and I'll share what has worked for me. I prefer a puppy in an "x-pen" (looks like a crate but without a top or bottom), rather than a crate for a puppy under seven months old. (Puppy ears need to come up so that we enjoy the "look of eagles" the breed is known for. I avoid several things during this period to ensure a good ear set including not allowing a puppy's ears to touch the top of a crate and display submissive behavior towards older dogs.) If you choose to use an x-pen, buy one that is at least 48 inches tall and close the pen up a bit for a baby with the use of snaps.
Room dividers (think expanded baby gates) are popular to confine a young puppy to a tiled area or to keep it away from stairs. Make friends with anybody who recently had a toddler, these aren’t a permanent solution, they work for at most a month but DO come in handy for housebreaking in an open concept home. Don’t leave the puppy unattended.
You will eventually need two crates; one for the house, one for the car or SUV. I prefer a wire crate for the house and a Vari kennel (safer and airline approved) for the car. A dog must be confined in the car, both for your safety and its own. Riding in the back seat or behind a barrier is not enough protection for either of you in an accident.
A full-grown GSD will need a (size) 500 crate.
Limit the time your GSD puppy is confined to a crate or x-pen.
I prefer that a dog has ample opportunity to run and play in a securely fenced yard, but I do not leave them out when I am not at home. Some dogs are escape artists and may grow bored if left on their own all day, or worse, your dog could be stolen.
I am not a fan of invisible fences for any dog, let alone a GSD. Dogs often lean that for the price of a shock, they obtain their freedom and don't expect them to return the way they got out. In addition, an electric fence does nothing to protect your dog from other dogs coming into its yard.
NEVER tie your dog or use a pulley system between two objects. To do so is to invite disaster! (You will also have a problem with barking GSDs who are tied up, bark.)
In closing...enjoy your new puppy.
Don't rush things let your puppy be a puppy.
Quite simply, the more you know about the breed, what it was meant to do and the wonderful intelligence it possesses, the more you will enjoy your relationship, the experience, and privilege of having one of these magnificent animals share your life.
Below is a list of resources you may find useful:
Suggested Reading & Helpful Information
The American Kennel Club, www.akc.orq
Monthly online magazines, The Gazette w/events calendar
The German Shepherd Dog Club of America, www.qsdca.ora
(Annual membership includes a monthly magazine, The GSD Review)
The German Shepherd Today, Strickland & Moses (the bible!!!)
The Complete Idiot's Guide to German Shepherd Dogs, Coile, (bad name, good book!)
German Shepherd Dog, A Genetic History, Willis (pricey, but worth it)
This is the German Shepherd, Goldbecker & Hart (collector's item if you can find it)
The New Complete German Shepherd Dog, Bennett (not new, hard to find, invaluable)
Expert Obedience Training for Dogs, Strickland
Joll & Me, Strickland (out of print, but available from online booksellers)
Successful Obedience Handling, Handler
Playtraining Your Dog, Bumham
Purely Positive Training, Booth
Schutzhund Obedience, Training in Drive, Booth & Dildei
Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act, Byron & Yunk
Search and Rescue
So That Others May Live, Whittemore & Hebard
Search and Rescue, Glen & Pesaresi
Training Tracking Dogs, Koehler
Go Find!, Davis
The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Dogs & Cats, Prevention Magazine
The Good Shepherd, Coudert
Dog Tales of Courage, Bumam (IF you can get through it)
Favorite Catalogs and Web addresses
Nature's Farmacy, naturesfarmacy.com
Pet Edge, 800-637-3786, www.petedqe.com
Revival Animal Health, www.revivalanimal.com
KV Vet, 800-423-8211, www.kvvet.com
Direct Pet Superstore 800-360-4838
Pets Megastore (AU), best prices on heartworm, frontline, etc., without a vet's RX, www.pets-meqastore.com.au
Favorite Treat Supplier
White Dog Bone Company, www.whitedoabone.com 800-682-9671
Having a well-socialized, healthy companion doesn't need to be complicated. Make sure you have the right team (breeder, veterinarian, instructor) that works well together, use a bit of common sense and enjoy your dog to the fullest.