|Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M|
I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
|Barked: Mon Feb 7, '11 9:43pm PST |
|Hiya Jack...hopefully this will answer some of your questions. Because you have a couple of years yet, there are many different paths you can take to be confident in your decision.
Buy the breed, buy the pedigree, buy the breeder. Those are three things you can do, or a combination thereof. I am going to discuss those with you, but to start will say GSDs get more confusing with all the different types.
I want to start with the basics, though....buy the breed, the pedigree or the breeder.
BUY THE BREED means you have done your research, have a concept of what the breed is, and go about following the guidelines to track down a responsible breeder. It's very black-and-white, and generally is a way to go with breeds that don't have controversies, splits or exceptional problems. Like, let's say, a Great Pyrenees. The breed is not really extreme or drifted from its original type, generally speaking LGD breeders aren't looking over at show breeders and scoffing (indeed, they can be one in the same), it is a reasonably healthy breed and so on. Soooo.....as long as you understand what the breed is and follow the guidelines to track down a by-the-book breeder, you are apt to be happy.
To BUY THE BREEDER is the easiest of the two remaining tacts. There are a myriad of reasons why this can happen. Some people actually are impressed enough by a breeder to get on a breed for that breeder alone. I would probably get a Mini Poodle just because Toto breeds them. Why? Well, she's ethical as all get out, lives with and really knows her dogs. If let's say I wanted a highend OB prospect, I might say to heck with whatever breeds I like....I might just as soon get a Mini from Toto, because I am probably going to be really happy with that dog and do ultra well with him. I absolutely adore Giant Schnauzers....duh ....and did years before I got one. But I'll tell you something....I probably would not have one were it not for Sylvia Hammarstrom, and will have them for as long as she is breeding. Then, perhaps, I look for something else. Giants can definitely "go places" I do not like, which is not a problem with Sylvia. Not only is she the world's leading breeder, but she breeds a type that I like lots and also breeds a truly exceptional temperament and has the most optimum socialization I can think of. That's a dog only you can goof up on....the pedigree and imprinting is impeccable. So when she stops, maybe I do, too. I am very into competitive OB, and when I counsel people with similar objectives, my recommendation often is to put the breeder before the breed if they are not hooked on one breed entirely. Plenty of breeds can be great in advanced OB.....you are greatly upping your odds of success if you go with a breeder who devotes their life to coming up with dogs of exceptional scope in that venue.
Breeders are a dynamic component. All breeders are not the same, not by a longshot, and really what you have, in a dog of theirs you own, is a representative of their program and objectives, so "buying the breeder" is something some are keen to do. You cannot AVOID buying the breeder, so it is a good thing to scrutinize and pace yourself about. For those who quite discerningly buy the breeders, this will be most common with breeds that struggle with problems (such as health), or when the individual has something specific in mind. That specific thing may be a look, or it may be they have some definite objectives.
Some of the areas that can be answered by an individual breeder, one you are "buying," are:
.....how long they've been doing what they do. Very long term involvement implies a very comprehensive knowledge and commitment. If you are REALLY being careful, which lets face it Jack you need to be, you need to try to ascertain these things. Minimally, to define for yourself why they have involved themselves in the breed, and how deep that commitment and knowledge goes.
.....who are they affiliated with? Breeders very often run in cliques. Kennels can have close relationships, and these would be good to note. As you identify their associates, is this a positive recommendation, or a negative? With those who deal with import lines, this gets even MORE important, for it gets into the subject of import connections. Those who have an established rapport with German kennels of note are getting the good ones. Those who are splayed all over in terms of where they are getting their dogs from probably do NOT. Not only does this address the quality of dogs in their program....when it comes to imports, please never forget titles are easy to get.....but it implies a more intimate relationship with the import kennel, and thereby likely a greater perspective as to the strengths and weaknesses of the lines with which they are involved.
.....are their lines used? That is huge. HUGE. If you are to want to buy into a breeder's experience, commitment and breed knowledge, one of the best evidences is going to be if their lines are favored by others in the breed generally. Now of course this will vary somewhat if the breeder has a specific vision and is doing things differently than others might....the mavericks, as it were....but if the breeder has been around for a while and has done well, do not STOP there. The PROOF of how well they have done is if other kennels are riding on their coattails, using their lines. That is a seal of approval. Don't undersell it. On the flip side, with a newer breeder (such as that Am kennel I liked for you), you want to look to see who they are affiliated with. If they are joined with and use lines from a well regarded kennel, and better still in some degree of mentorship, that's all to the good. *THERE IS NOTHING WRONG* with asking potential breeders who their mentors are or who in the breed they admire. You can oft judge a person by the company they keep. Know those answers if you are buying the breeder.
.....do they know their females? This is a great general consideration, and a HUGE trigger for debate in this breed that seldom shows on the net forums. You want a person who knows their pedigrees. Seeing a breeder who has generations of their lines in use mean they have generations of knowledge. Or, alternatively, a use of pedigrees stemming from a close associate. A lot of these import line kennels are almost shooting blind. They retain none of their females for breeding, and if you add onto this they lack strong import connections, that's a recipe for potential disaster. Because straight import pedigrees sell, a lot of times that is all these breeders breed. If they do that, you want to see a lot of evidence that they know what they are doing. The number one evidence of which is -
.....Repeat customers!!!!! If you have a breeder who has been in the breed 40 years, whose lines are well used, AND who has a plethora of repeat customers, you very often have struck breeder gold. The proof is in the pudding. You are a successful breeder when you lines become well entrenched in the breed and when people who buy from you would consider going to no one else the next time around. Once again, I stress....*THERE IS NOTHING WRONG* with asking a breeder about repeat customers and asking for references if need be.
.....When you are talking about a darned awful mess like the German Shepherd, you may well like to see what EXTRA steps and signs of exceptional devotion there are towards improving the breed truly. Very few breeders are DM testing their dogs. Find one who is, and that is golden. Go past the testing and see whatever they may or may be doing. Some breeders hold onto lines of long lived dogs, dogs of exceptional character, dogs with lots of vigor. Try to define why they are using the dogs that they are.
"Buying the breeder" means you are hooking into someone who is well entrenched in their breed, has their hand on the pulse and comprehensive breed knowledge, knows their lines, is producing lines that are popular....THEIR lines, not the lines they use....has repeat customers, has a history of focusing their breeding programs on traits that are important to you. It is, profoundly, an extra assurance you will be getting a good example, and the dog that you expect.
BUYING THE PEDIGREE runs the gamut. Breeders may, of course, buy a pedigree needing something in their lines that the dog is throwing (producing/siring). Working people, of course, are very drawn to individuals who are producing successful competitors. Pet buyers, too, though, can find use in the process.....it is just a little harder to have the knowledge to do it. Certainly, though, even a pet buyer in the throes of their research can find themselves drawn to a certain line.
Generally speaking, dogs who are good sires/producers will "breed true," or, have certain things that define their offspring. When you have a really good sire, in example, an experienced breed person can often pick a dog of that breeding out from a crowd, just by their headpiece, etc. And of course, this can apply to temperaments or drives as well. This is true also of certain lines crossed together.
Buying a pedigree can be a part of a buyer's decision (or all of it) if they entrench themselves enough. I personally love it, for it really adds to the experience....getting very high on a dog and then buying into that line. For those who put their time into it, it is quite fun to become enamored of certain dogs and lines and then to experience that through your buying decisions, and of course is another thing you can do to get the dog of your desires.
It's a lot more appropriate to do this when you have a really specific need, which you basically don't. If you get really groovy about certain things though, then that can work. If you see a dog you really like, you could always study his pedigree, see if it suits what you are going after, and then pursue that as part of your buying decisions. Or, if there is something you really want, you can look for a dog who is really throwing that. But for what you are looking for, it may end up being a frustration, for some dogs you are drawn to in terms of look may have too high a drive, etc.
In a more breed specific way to answer the the question, you will find a lot of working breeders who breed targeted litters. Some are going to be anticipated to have lots of edge and intensity (which would be a k9 litter), or be for upper end Schutzhund (often very high drive, particularly in prey), and yet others may be more all purpose with some family companion/protector candidacy anticipated also. EVERY litter should have a goal, and of course with working breeders this will be even more apparent, as the market has several niches. This vs let's say a show litter, which may have a less targeted goal other than the pairing seems apt to produce dogs nicer than the parents who will do well in the ring.
I am going to give you an example. I know with Philo, hotter than a poker at the time was a dog named Quando von Arminius. He was a grandson topside of Lasso di Vale Sole, who was just a phenomenal dog, and his dam was Palme, who is one of the top producing GSD bitches over the past 50 years or so. Quando himself was a Seiger and a superlative sire. More to the point, his dogs were very social and "chill." A lot of people used him. I loved the pedigree. My heart dog, Pogo, was out of a Lasso bitch, which gave things even more value to me. As at the time West German Seiger lines were coming known for lesser characters, and the import GSDs generally were showing way too amped a prey drive, so the Quando factor hit it for me on all counts. I liked Quando as a sire, good kennels were importing some really awesome offspring of his, I liked their easygoing characters and reasonable drive levels, there was a common genetic link between him and my first GSD to a very awesome dog, and Quando's pedigree itself was truly elite.
I did a lot of research, and did find a litter the mighty Steffenhaus had imported en utero....which means still inside the momma. Six of the resultant offspring had returned to west Germany for titling. One of them, Axel, who was OFA Excellent and still is featured on the Steffenhaus site, was a gorgeous, Quando-esque dog (and a direct son of Quando), had compiled very high Schutzhund scores and as a sire was siring EVERYTHING. From AKC pointed to breed surveyed, k9, SAR, OB, herding. He was a highly desirable stud dog a lot of people wanted in on. He was getting on in age and his breeder wanted a replacement, so was expecting three litters. One of them had already been repeated twice. So that was very exciting to me....in terms of breed health and character questions, two litters of full grown siblings, out there working, sound and balanced. The breeder was pretty esteemed in terms of what she produced, did lots of titling on lots of dogs in everything from Schutzhund to conformation to herding and also was a Delta evaluator, she had been breeding Axel for six years and knew his offspring extremely well.
Now with all that said, I don't know yet if you will settle for an Am show line or a working line. If you do go working and the breeder even THINKS of letting you choose the breeding or puppy after you describe what you are looking for, please RUN the other way! The same applies to a west German line show breeder. The drives on these dogs is not at all what it is in American dogs, and trust me I say....you do not WANT higher drive at any level. There certainly are puppies born who will assess out as not having enough drive to suit the fancy of the ambitious person. That's ok....then they select that puppy for someone like you. Remember...lower drive doesn't mean the dog isn't going to be spectacular to train and a pleasure to work. It means the dog will be adaptable and easygoing. There is a HUGE divide between what you deem as drive and what a working breeder does. The k9 bred dogs and those for highend Schutzhund would put you in tears and won't bring the adaptability you want.
Here is somewhere, if you decide not to go Am (or CKC show line), where you could actually buy pedigree, in the context that one of the breeders you liked is rather focused towards SAR. That's a lot better than someone who only breeds for Schutzhund or protection, and if in their string they have dogs who have thrown offspring that have done well in pet placements, and if you can research those particular dogs and lines, get references, background, etc., then that is perhaps a dog or dogs you might like to focus on.
*WHEN* you find a breeder you would really like to buy into and *WHEN* they have a dog you can compile lots of info on (in terms of produce) who you are really drawn to, you are only upping the odds of being thrilled by what you end up with.
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