Pretty puppy | Eden at 10 months

Eden is 10 months old now, and it seems strange that we’ve had her for half of her life!

Pretty, crazy baby

She’s certainly learned our household routines, and she and Guion have really developed a special bond. It warms my heart, because one of the top qualifications for Dog No. 2 was that he or she would love Guion (as Pyrrha may never truly bond with him as she has with me). Eden has certainly met that requirement. The two of them play Frisbee together almost every day, and Guion certainly is showered with more excitable affection than I am. (Which I am really OK with, because she really goes for you in the morning.)

Pretty, crazy baby

Now that we’ve survived her back-to-back litany of health issues (suspected victim of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency that turned out to be a bad case of giardia → first heat → presumed UTI → gaining weight → cut quick of her nail), she’s doing quite well. She’s also finally packing on the pounds, and I daresay she is turning out to be quite a beautiful girl.

Pretty, crazy baby

But good grief, German shepherd adolescence is exhausting. I know this is true of many (if not all) active, working breeds, but I feel envious of people who have Basset hounds. Or whatever breed just flops around on the couch all day. Eden NEVER STOPS. We had a house guest recently who was watching her and commented, “Wow, does she ever stop moving??” The answer is no, never. Think twice before you get a GSD, folks!

All that said, we love her, and we’re thankful she’s in our lives. Even if she is a wild thing.

Purebred puppy daydreams

Disclaimer: We have NO plans to get another dog any time soon. And if we did get another dog, we’d opt for a mixed breed from a shelter.

But sometimes I daydream about purebred puppies anyway. It’s only natural, right? If we were going to get a purebred puppy from a conscientious breeder, these are the breeds I’d be interested in:

Australian shepherd with a tail

Australian shepherd with a tail. Creative Commons license.

If I ever got an Aussie, the “with a tail” part would be important to me. I don’t know how people find Aussies with tails, since the AKC breed standard is for the dogs to be tailless, but I know that tailed Aussies exists. There’s no point for most Aussies to be tailless, since the majority of show/companion dogs are not going to be trampled by a cow in their lifetimes. And I believe that tails are an important part of canine communication. I grew up with an Aussie, and I have a deep-seated fondness for the breed.

Belgian shepherds (groendael or tervuren)



The malinois variety is definitely too much for me, but I hear tell that the groenendael (all-black) and tervuren (“charcoaled” tan) are the more laid-back varieties of the Belgian shepherd. They’re like slightly more unusual-looking and better bred German shepherds. My dad also grew up with a groenendael father/daughter pair named Satan and Satin. Yep. Interestingly enough, Satin was the foul-tempered one.

Berger picard


Ever since I saw a Picardy shepherd in real life, I’ve been intrigued by them. I really don’t know anything much about their temperaments, but I love their scruffy, earnest look. They also look like this mysterious mixed-breed, but they are actually one of the oldest French herding breeds. The breed was almost wiped out in WWII, apparently, and they are still very rare, even in France.

English shepherd


I have a friend in town who has an English shepherd, and the breed really appeals to me. They are not recognized by the AKC, which is how they have been able to survive in such a healthy and working breeding pool. English shepherds have been described to me as a more low-key Aussie, and they all come with tails! You can see that the breeds look very similar, though, especially if you can find a tailed Aussie.



I am a quarter Dutch, and so I love that the kooikerhondje has been used since the 17th century in the Netherlands as a duck hunting companion. Kooikers are also a very rare breed in the United States, and there are only a handful of breeders. They are also not recognized by the AKC, so they have that in their favor. I think they are just too cute, and I love those wispy little earlocks that all of them have. Pronunciation guide: COY-ker-HOND-ja.

Silken windhound


A silken windhound is essentially a miniature borzoi. The breed was invented by an American woman who disliked what was happening to purebred borzoi and decided to make her own breed. (It also probably goes without saying that they are not recognized by the AKC, but they were recently recognized by the UKC.) Silken windhounds have been praised by canine geneticists for their health and extraordinary longevity; some silkens have been reported to live to 17 or 18 years. I also have a weakness for sighthounds. If we did go the sighthound route, though, we’d most likely adopt a retired racing greyhound.

Clearly, I have a thing for herding dogs and unusual breeds. Which is kind of funny, seeing as I have one of the most common breeds in the United States (GSDs are no. 3 in AKC registrations, I think). And I guess they’re in the herding group, although it is rare to find a herding German shepherd (unless you have a pup from Blackthorn!).

What about you? Do you ever daydream about purebred puppies, those expensive, magical little beings? What breeds would you go for, if not your current breed?

All photos sourced from and used under the Creative Commons license.

Comparing our German shepherds’ builds

German shepherds are famous for having pretty wrecked structures, thanks to the sacred “breed standard” and dog shows, so it’s always something that I pay attention to — especially with our own dogs.

Our dogs are both rescues, so from the start, we already lack the guarantee of a responsible breeder (and you can pretty much bet that a purebred GSD in rescue did not come from a terribly responsible breeder, since most reputable breeders would be willing to take back a puppy).

Here’s a picture of the girls, side by side:

Pyrrha and Eden body comparison | Doggerel

Here’s what we know about them.

Pyrrha came from an unscrupulous backyard breeder in rural North Carolina. Based on her fairly level topline and lack of exaggerated hocks, however, my guess is that he wasn’t trying to win dog shows but rather churn out a bunch of puppies to make a buck or two. We are lucky in that Pyrrha is healthy and has a very strong, solid gait.

Eden is from a breeder who imports dogs from Germany and competes with them in schutzhund trials and in dog shows. She’s only 6 months old, so she’s not full-grown yet, but as you can see from the photos, her topline is not as straight as Pyrrha’s. Her hocks are slightly more exaggerated, but not by much.

Looking at the girls' lines | Doggerel

When we brought Eden home, I was particularly interested in her movement. She is still very much a floppy, uncoordinated puppy, but she’s also not nearly as fast as Pyrrha, and I wonder if that has to do with her more “show-line” build. (It could also be just, again, that she’s still growing.)

Studying Eden's movement
Eden, prowling. December 2013.
Prancing around the yard
Eden, prancing. January 2014.

Pyrrha, as you can see, doesn’t have that downward sloping back.

Post-deer chase
Pyrrha, post-deer chase. August 2012.
Stick patrol
Pyrrha. April 2013.

Even though we know more about Eden (and know that her parents’ hips and elbows passed as normal), I worry about her more, simply because she comes from a show line. The fact that her parents are both titled in schutzhund makes me feel somewhat better. And at least she’s not an American-line show dog, which are the worst in terms of exaggerated structure. So she has some things in her favor.

For now, though, we are lucky to have two bright, healthy shepherds. We hope and pray that they will continue to be so!

Do you ever obsess over unchangeable qualities of your dog (i.e., her structure, her heritage)? If you have a purebred, are you like me and you worry about your dog conforming too much to the “breed standard”?

Should you get a German shepherd puppy? 11 things to know

I’ve been thinking lately about what I’d tell someone who said they wanted a German shepherd puppy.


Obviously, I’ve become a fan of the breed, even though I never intended to become one. German shepherds just kind of happened to me. But in my time raising Pyrrha, fostering German shepherds, and now rearing our new GSD puppy, I feel like I’m beginning to learn about the many nuances of the breed.

So, here are 11 things that I’d tell someone who wanted a GSD:

  1. A GSD is not a golden retriever. Sometimes I feel like many people assume that a lab/golden retriever is just the default “dog personality” (e.g., gregarious, every person is their best friend). Obviously, this is not true for every GSD, but shepherds tend to be “one person” (or “one family”) dogs. Your shepherd doesn’t think that every person she meets is her best friend, and that’s part of her heritage. Shepherds are a bit suspicious of strangers. Also be prepared for your shepherd to pick someone to be her person in your family. (In my family, Pyrrha unequivocally picked me. Guion almost doesn’t exist in her universe.) This can be saddening, but it’s also a trait of the breed.
  2. Beware the land sharks! GSD puppies have earned the moniker “land shark” for their mouthiness. It comes from somewhere deep in their herding heritage, I suppose, but these are very bitey puppies! For this reason, a GSD can be a trying breed with young children, who often become unwitting targets for playful biting. Start teaching your puppy right away that biting humans is inappropriate behavior and channel that mouthiness into heavy-duty chew toys and games that don’t involve tasty human hands.
  3. Be watchful for signs of shyness. Many GSDs, especially American-line dogs bred for show/companionship, tend toward shyness and anxiety. If not addressed, this shyness can transform into fear-based aggression. For this reason, socialize that puppy from the minute he comes home with you, and don’t stop throughout his lifetime.
  4. Expect a dog who wants to know your business all the time. If you don’t like having a dog follow you everywhere, even into the bathroom, perhaps reconsider getting a German shepherd. These dogs are busybodies, and they want to know where you are and what you are doing at ALL times — in the event that your actions could compromise the security of the house and the family. They’re just doing their jobs, you know. 🙂
  5. Hope you love dog hair… everywhere. There’s a reason people call them “German shedders.” Enough said! GSDs have a double coat, which equals twice as much fur all of your floor, your sofa, your clothes, etc. You also can’t win with your wardrobe; if you end up with a classic black-and-tan German shepherd, they have black, brown, tan, and sometimes white hair on them, so no color of clothing is immune!
  6. GSDs like to play rough. Shepherds have a tendency to rough-house with both people and other dogs. They’re intense animals! They don’t have the “soft mouths” of retrievers or the delicate playfulness of smaller breeds. Dog owners with other breeds have told me that it took them a while to realize that our shepherds were playing with their dogs — and not trying to kill them. In my experience, even in play, shepherds like to go for the throat and get into some heavy-duty wrestling. Supervise their interactions with other dogs, and help your shepherd take lots of breaks and time-outs so that the play doesn’t get too overwhelming.
  7. Get ready for negative public perceptions. Thanks to the media, history, popular culture, and surely many mishandled dogs, German shepherds don’t exactly have the best public image. If it hurts your feelings that some people are automatically scared of your dog, a GSD may not be right for you. If you have a GSD, let this motivate you to make your dog a great breed ambassador and help change negative stereotypes.
  8. Be prepared for a potentially vocal dog. GSDs also have a tendency to be vocal. We’ve had some dogs who were just whiners; they whined for a variety of reasons (excitement, unbridled joy, stress, to get attention, to get food). Other dogs were more bark-y, especially at strangers walking past our fence or at other dogs. Pyrrha is an uncharacteristically quiet GSD; but our little Eden loves barking, barking just for the fun of it! Barking can be a very difficult behavior to curb, especially if it’s woven into a dog’s lineage, as it has been with shepherds for a while now. Be aware of this issue, and be prepared to start training your dog when and how to be quiet.
  9. Consider the large number of health issues. German shepherds are famous for their litany of health issues. On a range from more benign (allergies) to life-threatening (osteosarcoma, hemangioma), shepherds seem to have them all. The breed even has predispositions to diseases that seem to occur exclusively within the purebred line (e.g., degenerative myelopathy, which was once called “German shepherd neuropathy.”) It’s heartbreaking, but it’s a reality if you want a shepherd. Find a good vet (preferably one with shepherd experience), and start taking measures to keep your shepherd trim and healthy.
  10. Start brainstorming now about how to keep your puppy’s brain engaged. Otherwise, you are going to have a little terror on your hands. German shepherds are large, active, athletic, and highly intelligent dogs. What this means is that if they get bored, you are going to seriously regret bringing this fuzzy monster into your house. A smart dog with no job to do = a mischief-making tornado. Try obedience classes, agility, flyball, schutzhund, herding, nose work, etc. Shepherds can excel at many canine sports and activities!
  11. If you want a purebred puppy, do your research about the difference between working-line and show-line GSDs. You may be surprised to learn that there’s a large difference within the GSD breed between dogs who are bred to work and dogs who are bred to win show ribbons. This can be a touchy subject for some, but in general, I feel that the bottom line is this: Working-line dogs are sounder and healthier, because they are bred to do a job. Show-line dogs are just bred to look pretty and meet the sacred “breed standard,” which has morphed into requiring these horribly exaggerated hocks and back lines, which puts strain on the hips and wreck the dog’s gait. This post is a great introduction to the topic of working-line vs. show-line German shepherds, and it’s an excellent place to start. There’s also working-line breeder Christine of Blackthorn Kennels, whose shepherds even compete in herding. The downside of a working-line dog is that they are INTENSE, and they can be unsuited for a quiet urban or suburban lifestyle. Start researching now to determine what kind of GSD suits you and your family.
On squirrel patrol. #fosterpuppy #trina #gsd
Our foster puppy Trina.

Breeders aside, I’m a huge advocate for RESCUE. Obviously. Both of our (purebred) girls are from a rescue, and we’d encourage anyone who wanted a new dog (or a puppy) to look at a rescue first. We adopted from Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, which covers North and South Carolina, Virginia, DC, and parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Maryland. The only downside of rescuing a purebred is that you have no health guarantees and no knowledge of their parents (or often of their backgrounds).

Pyrrha, for example, appears to be an American-line shepherd bred for companionship by a backyard breeder. The fact that she has surprisingly straight hocks and a level topline makes me think she wasn’t bred to win show ribbons, which I am thankful for. Eden, on the other hand, is a German-line shepherd whose parents were imports titled in schutzhund. They were also show dogs, so she has a more sloped topline than Pyrrha and slightly more exaggerated hocks.

Here’s a listing of German shepherd rescues by state. German shepherds still rank no. 3 in popularity in AKC registrations, so there are lots of German shepherds all over the country, and thus lots of beautiful, great dogs who need forever homes. Consider it!

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Truthfully, a German shepherd puppy isn’t going to be that different from any other puppy. ALL puppies require hard work, devotion, and lots and lots of patience. But the joy they bring? That’s hard to reduce to an 11-point list.

Some special shepherds up for adoption

The rescue that we foster for, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue (SGSR), has a ton of beautiful, special dogs up for adoption right now. As we are in a brief foster-less interim period, I just felt like highlighting some of these lovely pups!

First up, this gorgeous special-needs girl:



Malaika is a 6-month-old puppy who was born with an S-shaped spine, which means that her back legs are paralyzed. But this disability doesn’t dampen this pretty girl’s spirit!

She is being fostered by a truly amazing and generous family in Virginia Beach, who is giving her everything she needs to succeed, including a wheelchair, physical therapy, training, and lots and lots of love!mal2

Look at her go! Here’s Malaika trying out her wheelchair recently. Such a happy girl! mal16

And here she is learning how to walk on her own! There are lots of heartwarming videos of Mali’s progress on her foster family’s YouTube page too, which I highly recommend.mal18

It’s been really touching to follow her progress. If you’re interested in Malaika’s story, check out the SGSR Phoenix Dog Program (an offshoot of the rescue that highlights special-need dogs). Here’s to hoping that Mali finds her very own home soon. She is such a brave and determined girl!

Malaika’s adoption profile on SGSR



Audrey is a gorgeous 2-year-old who has been waiting way too long for her forever home. She has been with the rescue for a year now, and is being patiently and lovingly fostered in Virginia.

Audrey is a sweet and intelligent girl, and she is very tolerant of children. I got to meet her at an SGSR adoption event with Laszlo, while we were still fostering him. These little kids kept running right up to her, and she was very gentle and sweet with them and not startled at all. I was very impressed.

Her only flaw is that she has trouble with other dogs. The presence of other dogs seems to really agitate her (she had a hard time calming down at the adoption event because of the dogs nearby), and so she needs to go to a home where she could be the solo canine. I have hope that the perfect home is still out there!20130601Audrey-70Isn’t it hard to believe that this beautiful girl STILL hasn’t been adopted? Hold out hope, pretty one.

Audrey’s adoption profile on SGSR



I had to feature this 10-month-old stud because I think he looks SO much like Pyrrha! Can you see the resemblance too?

Loki is a high-energy young male who is being fostered in Virginia. He is very affectionate and gregarious lad, and he would benefit from a lot of obedience training, just to teach him some basic manners!Loki2I have a feeling it won’t take much time at all before Loki gets snatched up by a family.

Loki’s adoption profile on SGSR



Eva is a petite 4-year-old girl who was sadly returned to the rescue, through no fault of her own.

She is a gentle and shy soul who needs a comfortable home where she can be at ease. Eva is great with other dogs and enjoys playing with them. Children seem to make her a bit nervous, however, so she may be best in a no-child home. Eva2Eva just needs someone who will understand her. I hope that person will find her soon!

Eva’s adoption profile on SGSR

All of these dogs are available for adoption, so share with your networks, if you feel willing! SGSR adopts to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and parts of Georgia and Tennessee.

For more information, please visit:

Southeast German Shepherd Rescue
SGSR on Facebook
SGSR Phoenix Dog Program

Rare Dog Breed Quiz, No. 3

Test your dog breed knowledge: How many of these rare dog breeds can you correctly identify?

(Versions one and two of the quiz, if you are hankering for more dog nerdery!)

What dog breed is identified in the photos below?

File:G Basset Griffon Vendeen 600.jpg

(For image sources, click on the photo.)


(1: Cesky terrier; 2: Dandie Dinmont terrier; 3: silken windhound; 4: Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen; 5: Plott hound; 6: Norwegian buhund; 7: bergamasco; 8: pumi; 9: catahoula leopard dog; 10: Tibetan spaniel; 11: English shepherd; 12: Clumber spaniels; 13: Dogue de Bordeaux, aka French mastiff)

Thoughts: In creating this quiz, I was reminded of the fact that “rare” is, of course, a relative term. Dog #5, the Plott hound, is the state dog of my home state (North Carolina), and I have seen plenty of Plotts and Plott mixes at our local SPCA here in Virginia. Are there dogs in your area that some would consider “rare,” but you see them all the time?

How did you do on the quiz?

Rare Dog Breed Quiz, No. 2

Back by request: Another rare dog breed quiz! (First iteration is here.)

Can you identify the rare dog breed by the photos? Answers below.


(For photo sources, click on the image.)


(1: löwchen; 2: dogo Argentino; 3: black Russian terrier; 4: Irish water spaniel; 5: berger picard; 6: mudi; 7: Dutch shepherd; 8: Lancashire heeler; 9: Karelian bear dog; 10: Ibizan hound; 11: sealyham terrier; 12: bedlington terrier)

Fun facts: My boss has a black Russian terrier (#3), and I have spotted a berger picard (#5) in our neighborhood. The picard’s owner was totally flabbergasted that I knew her dog’s breed; “No one has ever, ever been able to identify her before,” she said. The deep dog nerd in me was really gratified. Haha. I have also seen a bedlington terrier (#12) walking in our neighborhood. Pretty sure it wasn’t just a really miniature lamb…

How did you do on the quiz?

(Little update: Rainer will be boarded while we are out of town, and his potential adopter may come meet him and take him on trial the weekend we get back! Hope that happens, but this means this may be our last full day with the little buddy. We’ll see! Hopeful that he finds his forever home.)

And then: At the beach for a week! Will be back and blogging on 24 June. Have a great week, everyone.