Eden had her annual check-up at the vet on Friday, and I’m happy to report that she got the all-clear! After those exhausting and expensive months figuring out her health issues (which turned out to be a heavy-duty case of giardia, which somehow kept disguising itself in tests), it’s relieving to know that she’s finally healthy.
She’s up to 55 pounds now, which is also great. During the giardia struggle, she was down to a very skinny 43 pounds, which was just terrible. The vet said she could still probably gain a few more pounds and still be in a healthy range. She eats so much already and we’re never hesitant with the treats, because I think (a) she is burning calories all day long, as she is rarely ever still, and (b) she may just be one of those dogs with the high metabolism who will always be thin. Obviously, we will watch her weight conscientiously, but I’m happy with a trim, healthy pup.
Thanks to fish oil, her coat is also looking very shiny and healthy, and the vet commented on how much better her skin looked.
Behaviorally, I was dismayed by her nervousness at the vet. While we were waiting, we got to practice a lot of calm/settle behaviors, and she was happily focused on me and relaxed, but when the vet/technician came in, she was quite uncertain about their intentions (although she went up to greet them individually). She hadn’t displayed this kind of anxiety there before, and so it surprised me. She was very averse to being handled by the vet and the technician, but she was still taking treats from me throughout, and she was able to cool down once they stopped trying to check her out. I’m not sure what this means, except that we need to work more on her comfort level in being handled by strangers. The vet also mused on whether this burst of anxiety could be related to the recent conclusion of her second heat.
Regardless, we’re glad that our little psycho is finally in a good, healthy place!
How are your pups doing physically? Any good news to report?
Eden is 10 months old now, and it seems strange that we’ve had her for half of her life!
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.)
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.
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.
We enjoyed beautiful spring weather this weekend — and a visit from my in-laws and their pup, Georgia!
Isn’t she just too cute?
She is such a precious little “pocket golden,” and it’s always fun to see what a naturally different disposition she has than our shepherds. Georgia, for instance, is SO much more interested in human beings than the GSDs. Georgia wants to be touching a person at all times. Pyrrha and Eden would prefer that you kept your hands off them, for the most part, and they are usually too busy patrolling the house and yard to worry much about deep, emotional human interaction.
This was Eden’s first time meeting Georgia. Their initial meeting did not go so well. Georgia showed up at 9 pm, so meeting in the dark backyard + Eden finding it all very unexpected + barking and lunging = not a great introduction. To help Eden calm down, we took all three dogs on a walk and kept Eden a fair distance from Georgia until she could calm down. The walk helped, and within about 5 minutes of returning home, the little ones were playing like best friends.
All three dogs were great together over the weekend, and we were thankful for our secure backyard, where they could hang out and play together while the rest of us worked in the yard and prepared our garden beds. (And planted an extra tree to continue forming a hedge/barrier from the neighbor kids!)
I think Eden’s crazy barking freaked out my in-laws, but Georgia knew how to handle the psycho puppy, and they played nonstop all weekend. Eden’s play barking also reduced considerably over time, once she seemed to figure out that Georgia was not going to leave any time soon. Pyrrha tended to do her own thing, but all three dogs were just beat at the end of each day. Which was the best. We could have a peaceful dinner while all three fuzzy monsters slept soundly on the dining room floor.
I always really appreciate it when the adopters of our former foster dogs stay in touch. Their e-mails and photos are so heartwarming!
We recently got this e-mail from the family who adopted Kira (fka Trina):
I wanted to give you guys and update on Kira. She gets more accustomed to her new home with every passing day; she is so smart. She loves the snow and is getting big. Attached are pictures of her.
Can’t believe how big she’s getting! She almost looks like a full-grown lady. And he is right: She is SO smart. One of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. So happy that she has found her forever home. We were tempted to keep her ourselves, but I know she’s in just the right place. And that’s the best feeling of all!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
The paperwork is in, and the rescue has confirmed. We foster failed, and now we’re responsible for the life of this crazy baby. After a host of foster dogs, I confess that it still feels kind of weird to think that we’re her family forever. But we’re excited about it!
Other Eden updates:
Her relationship with Pyrrha continues to go smoothly, although it does resemble the relationship of an older sister to a pesky younger one. Eden is learning to respect Pyrrha’s warnings, and Pyrrha is really doing an admirable job of showing tolerance and even handicapping herself in play (rolling on the ground with her belly up, something she rarely does for younger dogs).
My big concern, as of this morning, is that Eden threw up her last two meals. I think she’s just eating them too quickly all of the sudden, because she hasn’t done this in the three weeks that we’ve had her. And she’s only thrown up when she gets kibble in a bowl (not in the food toys). So I’m guessing there’s some correlation. Will split up her meals and/or solely feed from toys going forward, to see if that’s the issue.
Eden is doing amazingly well at showing self-restraint with greetings. We’ve been teaching her to sit (instead of leaping and clawing at a human’s face with overeager joy), and she’s been listening! I’m kind of amazed. Even though she can drive us crazy sometimes, she has a surprising amount of self-control for an adolescent.
She’s walking very nicely on the leash, and thanks to her new harness, I can now walk both girls together by myself. Post about this to come!
I’d like to get her out and playing with other dogs. Our yard has been so horrible with all of the rain that I feel loath to invite anyone over right now, because the visiting dogs would leave wearing lovely full-body shade of red clay.