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German Shepherds as Pets and Companions

Grace is an editor for San Francisco Food and was previously the breeder of Tauglichkeit German Shepherds.

Is he a worker, or a pet? Both!

Is he a worker, or a pet? Both!

A "Working" Dog Is a Pet, Too

So, very often, I come across a message or an e-mail asking if I think one of my puppies can "make it" as "just a pet." "But your dogs are all titled in Schutzhund!" they say, as if Schutzhund titles mean that my dogs are not for regular homes (my home is as regular as it gets)! The Schutzhund titles merely mean that my dogs can use their noses to track successfully, can learn and obey my commands to do an obedience routine as required by the rules of Schutzhund, can do protection work, and will bite when told, release when told, and again, do as they have been trained. It simply means that my dogs, in addition to being my companions, can also "work" when required, in various facets.

He's a pet too!

He's a pet too!

The willingness to learn, obey, and perform are all characteristics that are valuable in a family companion too. In addition to those e-mails, I also come across many posts on the internet insinuating that because they are only looking for a "pet"—they don't think they should get a working line German Shepherd but rather, a showline German Shepherd or an American Shepherd, or what have you. Even worse is when people, and oftentimes breeders, no less, ask potential German Shepherd homes, "Well, what would you like to do with your puppy? If you want to do Schutzhund, get a working line puppy, and if you want a pet, get a ________ line puppy."

That, in my opinion, is simply horrible advice. The only accurate advice is: "If you want to win conformation shows, get a showline dog"—and this applies solely because the show ring rewards a certain type of look with almost complete disregard for the temperament and character of the dog, or what is actually functional structure for the dog.

To me, that advice is no different than suggesting to a car buyer, "If you don't plan to race, then you definitely don't need a transmission!" Have you tried driving a car that doesn't have a working transmission? It's like telling someone who is considering a BMW, "Why buy a BMW when a Daewoo will also get you to work?" The truth is that anyone who has driven a BMW and driven a Daewoo too can explain to you in very clear terms and guttural sounds exactly why the two cannot be compared, can describe to you the importance of torque in a car, in spite of both being actual automobiles.

Pets at the ready!

Pets at the ready!

Qualities of a Good German Shepherd

A dog is a dog is a dog, sure. But a good German Shepherd is one of a kind. A good German Shepherd has various required components, and with those components securely in place—you can do it all with your dog, and that includes having an outstanding "pet." The German Shepherd is a working dog, this much is true—but you'll note that all of the work that a Shepherd is supposed to do is in the direction of a human being. The bond they develop with their master is what makes this breed so special, and makes them such powerful workers because they take direction and orders from their masters like a truly good worker should. In turn, this is also what makes them amazing family companions too, as they bond as heavily with their families—and form strong and meaningful canine-human relationships with their families. Work, to the dog, can be as silly as chasing the same ball at the same park for the 10th year in a row, to chasing down criminals to make their 100th arrest as a police K9. "We" see a difference in the two types of "work"—but the dog doesn't. All he knows is that he gets to spend the time with you, doing what you asked, and being praised and played with on account of his good behavior. We think of search dogs as doing something noble and heroic—the search dog himself only knows that if he finds this human being who is "hidden" out there somewhere, he will get his ball, or a treat, or a really great play session with his handler.

Frankly, the dog could care less about whose life he saved, so long as the reward is brought out quickly and he gets to spend time with you on account of whatever he found.

As this breed divides into various lines, and the differences become progressively more drastic—it seems to have become a popular misconception that showlines are better pets, and working lines should go to police departments and such. I disagree vehemently.

Facets a Good German Shepherd Temperament

While most working line breeders do not breed for the pet market—they breed the true German Shepherd the way this breed was meant to be (assuming you have found a breeder who is indeed a good breeder with excellent dogs), based on the original standard and purpose of this breed. In my mind, one of the most important facets of a truly good German Shepherd temperament is the ability to make an outstanding pet. If he cannot bond heavily with his owner and family to be first and foremost a great companion—then his working ability becomes near meaningless to me as half of what he is supposed to have been missing. A dog who falls apart if not worked 24 hours a day, paces endlessly in his kennel enough to wear out the pads on his feet until he is taken out to work, goes in circles all day chasing his tail, and is missing an "off" switch may happen to be an outstanding worker in certain fields, but is not a good German Shepherd in my mind—and consequently, that is not a dog that I would call a German Shepherd.

There is no component of what makes a good German Shepherd that the pet home does not need compared to the working home. Nerves? I will settle for nothing less than exemplary, top-notch nerves to trust any dog in a household with children, people coming and going, and a bustling family lifestyle. I would not leave anything less with my own children—why should anyone else?

He's a pet!

He's a pet!

What to Look for When Picking a German Shepherd Puppy

When picking a puppy for a family who is wanting a pet, I look for the best-nerved puppies in the litter first—and then try to assess their drive levels to see which puppy suits the lifestyle of the family the most. Drives? Sure, the working home might demand higher drives in their puppies, but the most popular misconception seems to be that "high drive" is synonymous with "hyper." That is simply not the case! To me, a high drive dog is not necessarily the most energetic one, but rather a dog who can go from 0 to 100 the quickest. When you want the dog in drive, whether it be to play or work or just leave the house, he/she is immediately in drive and ready to go, go, go, and right now, at that. When not in use, there should be no way to tell how high drive your dog is, but when needed, it shows instantly and is unmistakable. Hyper dogs are a different story altogether, and a type I cannot tolerate in my own home.

There are lines that will have better show ring conformation than the working line German Shepherds, and there are lines that will win more awards in the AKC show ring, and so forth. There are lines that will have more reddish coats than the working line Shepherds, and there are dogs who will have more slant to their topline than most slides in children's playgrounds do. But when it comes to temperament, strong nerves, and courage—when you take into consideration a dog's clear head, sound mind, and stable character—it is my belief (and in my mind—downright fact), that very few breeds out there can compare to the working line German Shepherd.

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Why I Truly Love German Shepherds

Once a person has experienced a truly good German Shepherd from a strong working lineage and good breeding, it is my opinion that you cannot go back to anything less.

I don't choose friends who are weak and show cowardice, crumble under a little pressure or stress or are completely unstable to keep me company. Most definitely, I do not want my dog to show those attributes either. When you play, you play hard. When you fight, you fight to conquer. When you eat, you eat like it's your last meal. When you run, you run fast. A powerful and loyal friend to the end who you know beyond all doubt is standing by your side is my idea of the ideal companion, or in other words, a true "pet dog." I don't feel a dog becomes a working dog if it cannot be a pet, but on the contrary—a dog must have the potential to be an outstanding companion first in order to even begin to qualify as a great working dog.

How lovable!

How lovable!


Horacio on September 03, 2020:

Everything you said describes my beutiffull gsd working line Stella.

The best thing a have ever done is getting her.

Great article!

Susan Ott on August 26, 2020:

The section on "Why i TRUELY LOVE GERMAN SHEPHERDS" is very beautifully written.

Tony on July 24, 2020:

Mu shepherd Zeus, is the family pet, he tracks and protects family and property . But is really playful with and protective of My grandkids. VERY SMART..House trained nefore he was 10 weeks.

He has great bloodlines, unfortunately both parents carried the recessive DM genes Degenerative Myelopathy .So he is now loosing use of his legs and arthritis istraveling down his spine...Anyone if you're getting a shepherd make sure you test for this gene it easy to miss on regular geno because it is recessive.

Nancy Thorson on July 17, 2020:

Looking for another female shepherd rescue to train for a Therapy Dog. My current female shepherd is 12 1/2 yrs old. Original rescue dog from Kentucky. People love that Marley is such a sweet dog. She’s very good with adults and children. Registered with TDI. She’s very calm with all dogs and has helped many small dogs become less afraid of large dogs. She goes to local hospital, nursing homes and special needs classes at a grade school.

Prasant on May 09, 2020:

So far, the best ever article I have read on the great gsd. I have two, and they have just given birth to six pups and I can totally relate with your amazing writing. Carry on with the great work

Victor Tepes on March 06, 2020:

Thanks for this. I was raised with german shepherd dogs but haven't had one for 25 years, since my best dog friend died. I'm nearing retirement age, live alone, and have no family. I have begun to feel the need for a companion and I think a GSD would be an ideal companion. I'm not sure how that at my age I can offer enough physical activity to keep one happy. Most of what I have read lately seem to discourage anyone really from getting a GSD or any other intelligent breed. Thanks again, Cheers, Victor

Teresa and Bandit on July 21, 2019:

I have a German shepherd puppy that has diarrhea and vomiting he is eating blue wilderness puppy food canned mixed with kibble and pumpkin but is still doing the same he is however still drinking water

June on May 25, 2018:

We have a german sheperd who we love but not to sure if she will be safe with children.she has been in contact with children since we got her .she is 5month old

Vic on March 06, 2017:

This is the best article I've ever read. I get so anxious about getting a working dog; will it never be able to calm down? will it distract me from my work? will it be afraid of everything unfamiliar? will it chew my house apart despite having hours of exercise?

After reading this article, I can spend more productive time researching and preparing for when I do get one, rather than worrying needlessly about it!

LA Guin on October 19, 2016:

The other day a girl I know gave up her FULL BLOODED REGISTERED AKC CZECH SHEPHERD under 2 years old. After contacting her well known dog trainers, I found that she stopped going to the dog trainers. He had do so well that one of the trainers asked her to give him up so he can train and donate him to the police k9 unit. They have also encouraged her to rehome the dog because she was not the right fit to be his handler. Basically what I found out was she wanted to sell the dog a few months ago. Trainers told her it would never happen. Most people who take in a dog like him aren't going to do it if he has started showing problems with aggression. She started to go to different trainers who most likely over worked him and started to show aggression. Recently she left the dog with a friend. He growled and the friend said pick up your dog. She came to pick him up and he attacked her. She left him there and the friend took the dog to the shelter. He has been there for a few days now and I'm shocked and don't know how else to help. I have tried contacting reputable dog trainers who deal with strong breeds and I'm terrified that he will be put down or shelter will give it to a clueless person and end up hurting others without proper training. I see that this article doesn't have recent comments but I'm hoping someone will read this and give me any advice. The dog trained with the best for over at least one year and even wanted to use him for a movie etc. That dog is still in there, I'm sure. I have a shepherd mix and have no idea how much it takes to train these type of working line dogs. It's not like I can go to any of my local rescues for help. These are specific dogs who require special handlers. Please help.

Von Quesada Gsd Kennels on August 23, 2015:

Hello, you have done a great job with this article, I absolutely love it!! GermanShepherds are such wonderful dogs unfortunately most breeders these days are breeding them with roached backs, horrible hocks and too oversized. The ideal German Shepherd was bred to be straight backed ,healthy, strong yet not too big and too muscled. I breed Working GermanShepherds of the West Working Line And the east German working line...Also Czech....I breed the GermanShepherd to be strong ,beautiful,right size, confident,smart, rich colored, good tempered and the people that buy them end up completely pleased with the quality of our dogs....I have been devoting all this time to making people remember what a true Gsd should be. I loved your article and I'm happy to know that you remember what a true Gsd is.

Randy on July 03, 2015:

This is the most atrocious article I have ever read about German Shepherds. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and are so misinformed. You have had no successat all in breeding, on the SchH field or the AKC obedeince ring to back up anything that you have said. Please leave the commentaries for the experts; the people who activiely breed and trial and can back up their statements with experience.

Deal With It on November 05, 2014:

Oh ... It's Tim Helser ... His opinions don't matter anyway ... being that he is the biggest disgrace to the dog world there is.

ljbutler1000 on August 03, 2014:

Thank you for this great article! It makes the very clear point that a well bred, well raised GSD makes a great companion, no matter what you ask it to do. I have a well bred, well raised GSD, who comes from a long line of combination work and show dogs - actual sheep herders, police dogs, obedience champions, and all of them also conformation champs. I was a little hesitant to get a GSD, having never owned one before, but my guy has proven to be exactly what you mentioned in your article - a steady companion, calm in the house, energetic outside, well behaved. His "job," since I didn't provide him with a formal one, is to fetch a ball. Any ball. Anywhere, anytime, and until he drops if I let him. Besides that, he is my constant companion, I can't go anywhere in the house or yard that he is not directly under foot. He's manned the GSD club booth at a local pet fair, where he met people with wheelchairs and walkers, babies who put their fingers up to his nose. He's rock solid in every situation.

Unfortunately, his one downfall is that he does not like other dogs. No idea why, as he was well socialized; I stopped taking him to places with other dogs because of his reaction, not the other way around. But because he is devoted to me and obedient, he is still controllable.

My life is so much better with this dog as my companion. When I first got him I worried so much about him not having a purpose, or a job. But his job is to be with me and he loves it!

And I'm so glad to read this article that confirms that he really is ok being "just" a companion.

Grace Keh (author) from San Francisco, CA on June 24, 2014:


The photo you're referring to is Belle v. Tauglichkeit, one of my pups, when she was probably around 7 weeks old. She's 100% purebred working line GSD.

Now to think of it, that litter is 8.5 years old already!

Sam Dean on June 24, 2014:

I just wanted to know about the pure black puppy in the second picture. Is that dog pure German Shepherd, because about 4 months ago we adopted a puppy from the animal shelter and they said she is a mixed dog. Well we have looked for dog breeds and mixed that look like her. We have almost completely narrowed it down that she is a type of shepherd for sure, but still are unsure if she is mixed or what.

bga on February 06, 2014:


Great article. Well-argued and well written. Don't bother with Timothy. He obviously missed the point completely.

Grace Keh (author) from San Francisco, CA on January 31, 2014:

Hmm. OK Timothy.

You just vomited all over the comments section. But given that the sole premise in my article is that a dog bred for strong nerves is crucial in being anyone's companion -- if you disagree, then so be it.

Why you're quoting me and then comprehending this article differently, I don't really understand. I never bred one litter for the purpose of creating "pets'. I placed the great majority (85%?) of the puppies from my program into working homes who do SchH or who are certified SAR folks -- and yes, the remainder are extremely well taken care of dogs who have families that even *I* want to be adopted by. I don't get your point.

At no point did I ever write that a German Shepherd is for everyone. I didn't reject my waiting list for 30+ people for one litter because I believed anyone should own a German Shepherd of any kind, any line.

At no point did I write that all working lines are fabulous; I did imply that showline breedings focused less on strong nerves -- and I'll stand by that even today. If you disagree, you need to get out more.

At no point did I write that a dog who has a title is better than any untitled dog. I've never said or thought that in my entire life. Some of the strongest dogs I've ever met were untitled German Shepherds who don't touch SchH or any working sport with a ten-foot pole.

At no point did I write that one should breed for pet dogs...or even club level dogs. Nor did I say that one should breed at all. I did state that if one is looking to have a good German Shepherd for a companion, then DO start with the working lines.

And obviously, I don't know who you are, but I have a really busy life outside of club sports or dogs.

My home IS "regular" in that at the time I was writing this, which, by the way, was content originally on the Tauglichkeit website that I had when I had my breeding program -- I had two 5 year old girls running around the house with no less than an additional 3-5 people, including help and friends, coming to and fro on a daily basis. Often, I even had 20+ guests over for dinner parties, and other times, I'd have get-togethers and sleepovers at my house. Sure, when the gardener was arriving, he'd have to call me to enter the backyard IF the dogs were out there, and if a salesperson was at the door -- there was no way he was getting into the house.

If a dog came into my home, I crated my dogs for safety. If unknown children came into my home, I crated my dogs -- for safety. This is common sense - not anything special. While I would never leave any full-sized dog with even my kids alone without me present -- this would apply even if I had a monkey for a pet. Animals and children should be monitored by an adult - period. In fact, with young kids, I'm more afraid of what the children will do.

Given the experience you say you have -- you should also know that having three working line (titled and surveyed, if that matters to you) females living in one house, loose, with only me as their owner is not "easy" either. And other than one close call when the third dog first arrived, never did I lose control over that situation. While none of them had been raised as indoor dogs, none of them were anything but my own family dogs first, and they absolutely lived WITH me, day in and day out. If I never set foot in a SchH Club -- I would still need every ounce of their drives, their nerves and their stability BECAUSE they were my family members FIRST. I knew them as well as I know my own kids. I never placed my puppies into homes that didn't understand at LEAST this much about German Shepherds.

As for the anecdotes in your post, I'll end with this, and I quote myself from the article:

"A dog who falls apart if not worked 24 hours a day, paces endlessly in his kennel enough to wear out the pads on his feet until he is taken out to work, goes in circles all day chasing his tail, and is missing an "off" switch may happen to be an outstanding worker in certain fields, but is not a good German Shepherd in my mind - and consequently, that is not a dog which I would breed as a German Shepherd Dog."

To be clear, I get the feeling you didn't even read the article, which, as mentioned, was only one of many on my website when I did breed. Naturally, it was also heavily emphasized that a GSD was not the right breed for most home. Your points make no sense and while I am always up for a good discussion about really need to organize your thoughts BEFORE you write the first sentence.

Timothy Helser on January 31, 2014:

to the puppy they bred and to the family they sold him to. This is not to say that every dog from working lines is going to make a horrible family pet. However, potential puppy owners should be aware that "working lines" does not equal "perfect pet". It simply means that the dogs in the puppy's lineage were bred for a specific job. It is up to you to decide if that job (run, retrieve, protect, herd, etc.) fits in with your lifestyle. So If you are hesitant, sit down and do a real evaluation of yourself: what do you want out of a dog, and what can you give the dog? There's nothing wrong with getting a smaller / mellower breed. There's something wrong with getting a working breed and not giving him what he craves in terms of exercise and training….. Take a look at the lifestyle of the average pet owner (USA). They want a dog that can be left alone all day in the backyard and house, and will not get into mischief or bark a lot and bother the neighbors. They want to have a dog that will be calm and content even though on most days, the people are so tired when they get home from work they just want to relax in front of the TV. They also want a dog that sort of trains itself, and is no trouble to the family, and is completely accepting of all their friends right from the get-go (but expect this same dog to kill any unauthorized intruders at the drop of a hat) and all of this with no effort on the owners part. Maybe on the weekends they will take the dog for a really nice walk, but during the week the dog will be lucky if they walk it around the block once or toss the ball in the backyard a couple times.

Now lets look at the qualities of a good schutzhund dogs and other working venues ( Working lines ) in words we use in the working dog world

Basic instincts and abilities ,Sharpness ,Courage ,Fighting spirit ,Protection instinct ,Prey drive, hunt drives,aggression ,Temperament ,Hardness ,Fuhrigkeit ,Self-confidence ,Nerve ,thresholds, fight drive, defense drives, strong nerves Social, outgoing, loves to bite, ideally tons of drive as well, not afraid of anything, pushy, confident, persistent in anything they do. Civil drives, and so on!

So where in there describes a good pet?

A lot of people think this kind of dog is OBNOXIOUS. The dogs with the highest drive levels, of course, will be BEST suited, and those drives (esp. in adolescence) tend to make the dog a "challenge" to live with. Working dogs run the spectrum in ability, and it is possible to have an easy to live with dog that is capable of schutzhund to some degree, but the "best" (and that term is subjective) working dogs are often a pain in the butt!

The variation in the degree that each animal has these traits will set the limits on its potential and the final results. That is why every trainer needs to make it his business to learn where each dog has its strengths and weaknesses. As every breeder must make it his business to learn also if he wants to improve on these qualities for future generations.

To me, the average pet owner is in love with the idea of a working GSD and other working breeds but doesn't actually want to deal with a real GSD. So I do not think this is an appropriate home for any GSD, let alone a working line GSD

If you are getting a dog because you want to do extensive training for herding, protection, agility, schutzhund, K-9 , SAR or other sports, then a dog from quality working lines may be just right for you. In these homes, dogs from working lines can be fantastic pets because they are getting the physical and mental stimulation that they need and the owner is learning and becoming educated on how to house and train and work such a dog. However, if you are getting a dog just to be a family pet, to raise with your children, walk around your neighborhood and join you in family outings, you may be in for more work than you anticipated if you purchase a dog from working lines.

Take your time in choosing a puppy. You are undertaking a 15+ year commitment. Make sure you choose a dog that you can live with for that long.

Now here are some key points : To me this article makes It sound as if all working lines can be good pets, that working lines can’t or don’t have thin nerves or weak temperament or lack good workable drives, courage, clear headedness , or who are not fear full and so on, we have all seen them, we call them bad breeding’s, or weaker dogs and make all kinds of excuses . But one has to stop and think…. Someone out there is breeding them, most of the dogs like this that come out with their owners for training don’t know the difference between a good dog and a bad dog, all they know is their dog is from working lines. Most of them are pet people looking to get into the sport world or working world with their dog. Most of the dogs like this are missing elements that one would need for working venues.

One also has to look at Schuzhund and other K-9 sports has become a sport of the handler and trainer, and many dogs flaws are hidden by good training and handling and does not mean they will make pets or produce good pets, Lets me be 100% honest take my National Champion and WUSV Team member dog for example , He hates kids, he is food aggressive , he is dominate, and antisocial with people, he is very handler hard, he is far from being clear in the head. Yes he can settle in the home, yet he is very restless and wants to work but can settle so one can say he has an off switch… Yet he is a multiple club, regional, national champion, But when he is on the trail and training field you would never see this from him. Why because his mind is focused on working I can hide the flaws in him and show you only what I want you to see yet do you truly see the dog for what he is? This same dog I can hold in my arm and love on and he is my best friend, He will also give other people that same cute look only for them to find out he does not want to be petted he wants to eat them, This same dogs aggression so crazy that the airport would not ship him when I bought him and I had to drive to the airport to pick him up rather than him being shipped to me. So as you can see just because a dog is titled does not make it a great pet!

I disagree with a lot more things with this article as well but I think this is long enough so I won’t bother you with all of the points I disagree.

So to end this by saying my thoughts on working lines being sold as pets has nothing to do with bloodlines, breeds or schutzhund or other working sports ! It has everything to do with GREED nothing more nothing less ! For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil in the dog world! When something gets popular then people find a way to make money off of it plain and simple! One only has to look at trends, the 70s and 80s it was the west lines, 90s 2000s the DRR and Czech lines, today the mix of west and Czech lines all are fads !! Sad what is happening to the breeds! I know of top breeders who don’t give a care about who buys their pups! They claim they do, but to be truthful all one has to do is look around in the paper, craigslist, facebook and see many people breeding working lines that have no business owing a dog let alone a working line and breeding ! Ever since Cesar Millan, 911 and the death of bin laden, reality TV, animal planet and others it has become a fad to have a protection dog or be a dog trainer or train dogs in working dog sports or for police and military. It has also become a fad to breed working dogs, the problem is there is not enough working homes that are capable of having a working dog! So with that said why not be breeding the best of the best? Why not stop breeding club level dogs to produce more club level and pet dogs? There is an old saying in Germany : you can breed your shit to gold but all you can expect is shit on your gold! Meaning that a club level dog breeding to a world level dog does not produce greatness , all one can expect is a club level dog at best out of that litter, sure sometimes you will produce something better but most of the time not! So with that said why not use the best of the best in your breeding’s why are people breeding t

Timothy Helser on January 30, 2014:

I find it funny and strange that the person who wrote this has been quoted in the past and is the Previously the breeder Of Tauglichkeit German Shepherds. Quote ( "To breed for GSD pets is exactly what [will] kill this breed and will eventually take it down to a breed worth nothing more than any other mutt coming out of the pound. I like to think that this breed, if no other, is more special than that, and has a function and purpose. Never should someone breed a dog who will fit into all lifestyles of the people looking. In all cases, the people looking must be able to conform their lifestyles to the breed that they have chosen. If they can't - - [they ought to] choose a different breed." -- Grace Keh)

So here is my thoughts on this…..

How is it that you do schutzhund but your home is as regular as it gets . My understanding regular homes don’t do IPO sport with their dogs!! So with that said I disagree with this article 100%, After my family’s long history with the working line German Shepherd world for 98 years and my vast experience breeding and working GSD and many other breeds from pets to the world team schutzhund dog to the police K-9 and many years doing rescue, I find this article very appalling and very miss leading in a lot of ways! I also find if you are breeding working lines as pets then you are diluting down the drives of dogs so that they can be sold to pet homes this is a bad thing - at least on terms of the breeds welfare and over all longevity of the working breeds. I tell people all the time, You can take a can of gas and mix water into it , its still gas its just watered down, at some point you will have more water than gas … and no longer have gas! In other words if you keep diluting the working lines and breeding for pets you will no longer have working dogs! I see to many club level dogs out there breeding when the owner of the club level dog has no clue what their dog is and will produce! I honestly think instead of attempting to breed dummed down versions of these breeds we should be educating people about what it takes to own one, because at the end of the day there are plenty of us that LOVE the high energy and the desire to work and would hate to see the breed dulled down. This starts with breeders and trainers becoming educated and also not being kennel blind to the dog that they have in front of them! Understanding what should be breeding and what should not be! Also learning how to tell the truth not just what your club members want to hear. Just because a dog has a sport title or is working does not mean it should be used for breeding. To me if your producing pet dogs out of working lines then maybe your dogs ability to be a producer of strong working dogs is not there and your genetics as strong as you think they are! There are many, many, many dogs out there who are not in a working home, and if they have that drives , it can't be much fun for them, or the owner, I see this every day! The pounds and craigslist, petfinder, and rescues. I have rescue 100s dogs over the years from the back yard newbie to the TOP working lines out of national to world level champions who’s breeder sold as a pet. Well to tell you the truth you cant change genetics .. many of the dogs I rescue end up showing so much workability that it makes me wonder how the pet owner dealt with the dog for as long as they did! When we take a look at working lines GSD that lets look at the Czech/Slovak, DRR , West lines, Belgium, and mixers of all the working lines and so on we can see a vast differences of type of GSD in the working lines we also have to understand what each line is best suited for, not to mention the vast differences in the club sport dog, regional dog , national and world level and street dog!

"The man who rears a dog must complete what the breeder began." – Captain Max von Stephanitz

“The breeding of Shepherd dogs must be the breeding of working dogs, this must always be the aim or we shall cease to produce working dogs.” Max von Stephanitz

Maintaining his devotion to the dogs he loved throughout his life while tirelessly working to achieve the goal of preserving the breed as a working dog, Von Stephanitz will always be admired for his achievement and dedication.

One of the most often quoted statements of Max von Stephanitz could surely have been used as his epitaph: “Take this trouble for me: Make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog, for I have struggled all my life long for that aim.” Captain Max von Stephanitz,

When I am called to a home to help a family with their problem dog, I don’t often see bad dogs, but I do see bad matches. Not every dog is right for every home…and not every home is right for every dog. By far, the worst matches I see are purebred dogs from “working lines” in pet homes. “Working lines” usually means that the dog’s parents and others in the pedigree worked or competed in an activity that the breed was created for. In German Shepherds, that could be K9 work for law enforcement or competition in a protection sport like Schutzhund ZVV, IPO, Ring and so on. In Labrador Retrievers, the dogs do bird hunting or compete in hunting trials. In Border Collies, the dogs are used to herd livestock on a ranch (in some cases, up to 40 miles a day) or in herding trials. Which of these activities indicates the dog’s quality as a family pet? None! These activities do not indicate how the dog is with small children, strangers, other family pets or how they handle new situations and environments in a pet lifestyle outside of the working trial or training field! I have seen many dogs in schutzhund, and other sports that should never be in a pet home. Just because its has a title does not mean its suitable for the average pet home!


The average pet owner looks for the following characteristics in a new dog:

1.Friendly toward dogs and people

2.Not too “hyper” (the dog has a low energy level most of the time and is not overly-reactive to new environments and situations)

3.Easy to train (low effort, minimal time commitment to get basic behaviors)

When a dog is bred for a specific activity, like hunting or herding or protection or schutzhund, the breeder chooses dogs they consider “high drive”, which means the dogs have a high level of energy and intensity and genetic drives for a specific activity. Dogs with these qualities typically do not match up with the ideas most people have of a family pet.

All one has to do to see how pets are treated is go out to your local pet store or dog park or family’s homes! I see dogs with little to no training, little or no manners, out of control, under stimulated, dogs who are spoiled and treated like kids, dogs who have major problems, over weight dogs, and so on.

If a dog from working lines is purchased as a pet and is not given an equivalent job to do, one that gives the dog an outlet for their physical energy and intelligence, that level of energy is going to be channeled somewhere else - perhaps retrieving the stuffing from inside the sofa or protecting your house and yard by barking frantically at mail carriers, dog walkers, squirrels and blowing leaves, showing unwanted aggression with people and other animals which always makes owners of these dogs very popular with the neighbors.

I recently worked with a family who purchased a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder whose dogs came from "working Police K9 and Schutzhund lines". One of the puppies in the litter was deemed too low in drivel to participate such activities and was sold to a family that had never owned the breed before and had small children. From the beginning, the puppy exhibited aggressive behaviors toward other dogs on walks. One day, the family's young son tried to stop the dog from barking and lunging at another dog, and was bitten very badly when the puppy redirected his aggression towards the boy. This family just spent five months bonding with their new dog, only to have to face the heartbreak of returning the dog to the breeder. The breeder in this instance failed miserably in their responsibility to the puppy they bred and t

chet brewer on January 29, 2014:

since I have a working line GSD primarily as a pet I agree with the bonding thesis and the probability that a working line dog is probably more stable. On the other hand when I find myself standing out in 5 degree weather throwing the ball for the 100th time I do has myself why it was I wanted another working gsd :-)

Grace Keh (author) from San Francisco, CA on January 28, 2014:


Schutzhund requires YEARS of commitment, and is most definitely not for everyone. There is significant time and expense involved and if you aren't passionate about it, it's torture.

There are hundreds of things to do with your dog other than SchH. A run in the park is JUST as exciting to the dog and raising him/her to be confident and strong is key, with good socialization and training.

Let your dog be a puppy and together, you guys will find what's fun to you both. :)

Katie on January 27, 2014:

Someone shared this on a FB page and it has really helped me. I have going back and forth whether to continue my puppy in this Schutzhund training once the 3 free months are up. The 3 free months come from the breeder with the purchase of the pup. He's 5 months old now and is doing great, it's cool to see him tracking and working his prey drive, but honestly it's not where my passion is. But as you mentioned in your article, I'm afraid I would be depriving him of something but not allowing him to continue....specifically because of his working lines. This article really helped me. thank you!!!!

Grace Keh (author) from San Francisco, CA on January 09, 2014:

Thanks, guys, for the comments. I didn't realize I had to log back into the site to approve all of them over the years. Good luck with your dogs!


rachelle on January 09, 2014:

Perfectly said. And very helpful explanation to my client.

Ben B on September 23, 2013:

Could not agree with you more. I will eventually get a working Line GSD as a pet. I plan to bring it up around my children (I live in a flat) but my dog will get 3 to 4 hours exercise a day. People get hung up on a dog having a garden, but forget to realise a dog of this size and intelligence needs exercise and stimulation more than anything else.

nicolas on August 21, 2012:

Excellent !!

kostas on May 08, 2012:

great dogs

joni albanese on April 15, 2012:

As an owner of both show and working line German Shepherds,

I find your article great.

Kayla on April 05, 2012:

Great block of text! Somes up what a REAL GSD is, none of these slides or habrour bridge roach backs. Straight back and with a purpose that must be accomplished is a REAL dog.

John on November 14, 2011:

Best explanation I have ever read about working GS as pets. It's really all about character. It does take an owner that's at least smart as the dog and there are many who are not.

lincolnGSD on October 07, 2010:

Great hub and excellent topic!

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