The Paw Report, Episode 412, Owning a German Shepherd

[music plays]
[no dialogue]>>Kelly Runyon:
Not a surprise, this breed originated in Germany. The German Shepherd is known as the world’s
leading police, guard, and military dog. On this episode of the Paw Report, we’re joined
by Charleston resident and lifelong owner of German Shepherds Ann Spear, who knows a
few reasons why this breed is so popular in the United States.
Stay with us. [music plays]
Production for the Paw Report is made possible by:
Inyart Tire and Auto Center, in Charleston and Mattoon. Inyart offers complete auto repair.
Inyart Tire and Auto Center cares about our community and thanks you for being a responsible
pet owner. More information at And on this episode of the Paw Report, we’re
joined by Ann Spear, a lifelong German Shepherd owner.
And she brought with her today her two special companions.
We have Roxie and Truman. And she’s going to talk more about them, and
all about German Shepherds on this episode. So thank you, Ann, for joining us.
And thank you, Roxie. And they’re relaxed now.
I’m not going to pick up their balls or pet them, and make them all riled up.
So, you have been a lifelong German Shepherd owner.
And you know, we’re going to talk a lot about them and their temperament and their activities
that they like, but let’s go back in time. And where did the German Shepherd originate?
>>Ann Spear: Oh, well, from Germany.
Late in the 19th Century, I think, a fellow, let’s see if I can, Stephanitz I believe his
name was, liked a dog he saw at a show. He was a breed, a herder, sheep herder.
And bought this dog, and he was also somewhat of an entrepreneur, I understand.
And he liked the dog and started a breeding program to develop the breed.
He then, I think in the early 20th Century, started the first German Shepherd club or
association, and set the standard for the breed.
>>Kelly Runyon: Mmhmm.
And then, they came to the United States in the early 1900s?
Is that when they were really kind of brought over and recognized by the AKC?
>>Ann Spear: The, Stephanitz was a pretty good marketer.
And when World War I came about, he marketed a lot of dogs to the army, to the German army.
And the Allies really admired what the dogs could do for the Germans, I guess, so–
>>Kelly Runyon: Mining, they could scent and scout for mines?
>>Ann Spear: I don’t know what all they did, but being
war dogs, they were there, and they helped. So, a lot of the dogs got brought back to
Britain and America after World War I. And then, as I understand it, that’s when
the AKC admitted them as a breed.>>Kelly Runyon:
As a registered breed, yes. You have been a lifelong German Shepherd owner.
Why German Shepherds for you? What attracted you to this breed?
>>Ann Spear: Well, I grew up with them.
I grew up on a farm, my father always had German Shepherds to help with the stock.
Cattle, hogs, sheep; the dogs protected them and herded them for him.
I have a picture, actually, of myself at about this tall standing next to the German Shepherd,
the original Roxie. And so, I’d grown up with them.
Besides that, I just think they’re beautiful. And of course, they’re really intelligent,
so they make great companions.>>Kelly Runyon:
I was going to ask, they’re actually one of the most popular breeds, according to the
AKC. And maybe you can talk about why that is,
being a lifelong owner. And why they’re so popular.
>>Ann Spear: Well, I think a lot of people agree with me
that they’re beautiful, and they–>>Kelly Runyon:
They are beautiful.>>Ann Spear:
You appreciate an intelligent companion, you know.
So, oh, well–>>Kelly Runyon:
When you say intelligent, you know, talk about that.
Because, they are smart. I mean, as far as, maybe training is easy,
and they get it.>>Ann Spear:
Yeah, they are. I guess one of the reasons for the popularity,
too, was the movies that were made with German Shepherds.
>>Kelly Runyon: Rin Tin Tin.
>>Ann Spear: Rin Tin Tin, and Strongheart.
So, lots of people got exposed to the kind of dog that would respond and cooperate and
be a helpful companion, whatever they’re doing.>>Kelly Runyon:
Talk about these two. You said they have quite a story.
And they’re actually related. And they are beautiful, and they’re so friendly.
But you said that there’s a neat story behind Roxie and Truman.
>>Ann Spear: When I retired, I was ready to get a dog.
Moved back to my country home. We live in the country, so I wanted a pup.
And I found a good breeder, and ordered one up.
And this is who I got. I asked for a dog who was a puppy who kind
of acted like the mother already. I wanted a puppy who was not the rolie-polie,
or not the shy one; I wanted, some people call it the alpha.
I wanted a strong female. And that’s what I got here.
>>Kelly Runyon: In Roxie.
>>Ann Spear: In Roxie.
About a couple years later, I was ready for another pup.
And so, I went back to the same breeder, and chose from a litter who is actually her nieces
and nephews. Her litter mate sister is his mother.
So, she’s his aunt; he’s his nephew, I guess. Well, this time, instead of picking the pup
myself, I asked the breeder to choose for me.
He knew what kind of a dog Roxie is. And so, I needed a dog that, whose temperament
would complement hers. So, he picked Truman.
And when I went down to pick him up, I thought, oh my, I don’t know.
He wouldn’t look me in the eye. He was so shy.
He was not terribly lacking in confidence. He got along with her fine.
But it was three or four months before he would even look me in the face, which…
>>Kelly Runyon: Well, new environment.
>>Ann Spear: New environment.
I remember my father said, he liked to choose a dog who would look him in the eye.
And that’s kind of always what I’d gone by. So, here I’ve got this pup who was shy and
a little bit, quite different from her. But as he’s grown up, he’s developed confidence.
She’s trained him as much as I have. And he’s got different talents than her.
>>Kelly Runyon: Let’s talk about the talents of the German
Shepherd, because there’s a lot of them. You know, we think of police dogs.
I mean, that’s just the first thing that comes to mind for me.
But other talents of the German Shepherd?>>Ann Spear:
Well, okay. Cognitively, they’re pretty good.
They can figure out puzzles, they can figure out, they learn a lot of language.
They learn when you say, let’s go to the river, they start going to the river.
That’s all. They are very oriented to one person usually.
So, that’s why they became guide dogs for the blind.
Part of their character is to be territorial, which makes them good guardians for sheep
and cattle, and children, as a matter of fact. When she was only nine months old or so, she
was already kind of herding the grandchildren away from the road.
She’d never been trained to do that, but it was her instinct to do that.
Don’t let the little ones by the road. Talents.
Athletic, strong. So, some of the working dogs have to use their
bodies a lot. They have a lot of endurance.
Oh, there’s probably more that I could–>>Kelly Runyon:
A lot, and you’ve listed a lot. What about the, you know, both of their markings,
though different, are similar in a lot of ways.
What is the breed standard for a German Shepherd? I mean, obviously,the one that stands out
to me is their ears and their nose.>>Ann spear:
Right. Well, the breed standard is usually darker
colors. White is dis-preferred, although they are
beautiful dogs, can be. I think they use, they like the darker, the
better. But that’s not necessarily my preference.
I like to see contrast on their faces. The ears need to be erect and point forward.
Their nose is notably long, and mouth, wide mouth.
To be good, they’re supposed to be the same length between here and here.
This is a balance. This is one thing you learn in dog club.
You learn about some of those features. The balance between, and so that their head
is directly over their shoulders, and they’re not leaning or receded.
Most dogs have lighter shoulders and flanks, and what they call a saddle in this part of
their body, the darker part. Yes, yes.
Okay, you’re doing good.>>Kelly Runyon:
And their stance is also, you know, when you walk dog shows, when I watch dog shows, I
love this group. But they have that majestic stance, where
the one paw is kind of cocked back.>>Ann Spear:
Yeah, they train them to do that.>>Kelly Runyon:
Is that, is there a particular name for that? And if there’s not, but they also have a very
interesting walk. Talk about their walk.
>>Ann Spear: Their gait, they’re generally trot.
So, they can trot for miles and miles and miles.
And like the wolf, I think they’re probably closer to the wolf than any other breed that
we have, but like the wolf, they’ll trot for miles.
They’re very fluid usually, or they’re supposed to be.
That’s about all I can say about that. That’s all I know about that, I guess.
These are not show dogs. So, they’re farm dogs.
They… What’s the matter, baby?
>>Kelly Runyon: You mentioned, you know, they know commands
like ‘go to the river.’ You know, I think of water dogs, I think of
labs and retrievers. But actually, German Shepherds love the water,
as well.>>Ann Spear:
They swim, they love to swim. They love to swim.
>>Kelly Runyon: Just let them run; they’ll be fine.
>>Ann Spear: Okay.
>>Kelly Runyon: They’ll be fine.
They’ll come back to you because you’re the master.
>>Ann Spear: They will.
>>Kelly Runyon: But they do love to swim.
>>Ann Spear: And they’re good swimmers, yes.
I’ve, the previous shepherd that I had, I would take swimming, and I could just hang
onto her collar, and she’d just save me. She would do that.
I haven’t had that opportunity with these dogs, but we swim in the river in the summer
almost everyday when it’s low enough.>>Kelly Runyon:
Their coat is a little bit course. Is that something special with this particular
breed? And is it, do you have a lot of maintenance
with German Shepherds?>>Ann Spear:
Yeah, they have what’s called a double coat. So, what’s on the outside is kind of long,
course hair. But underneath is this woven, matted coat
that’s like boiled wool. It’s just dense.
So, they can swim in 35 degree water with no problem.
>>Kelly Runyon: No hesitation.
>>Ann Spear: No hesitation.
I don’t know how they do it. In the winter, in the snow and ice, she’s
laying out there in the snow. The cold does not bother them.
So, that’s another feature of the breed that makes them good for a lot of work.
Like search and rescue in the mountains, for example.
>>Kelly Runyon: You talked about maybe putting Roxie through
search and rescue training. I guess A, what would they be used for in
that situation, and is that a pretty labor intensive training process?
>>Ann Spear: It would be, yes.
The reason I liked that for her was because she’s a determined searcher.
When we throw balls into the tall grass, she doesn’t give up until she finds the ball.
So, we did some training like, you trail a hotdog behind you.
Have somebody keep the dog, and you trail a hotdog behind you.
And then, the dog finds you by the scent. Or things like that.
To do it officially, it’s a non-profit volunteer organization.
But you train every month, once a month, kind of like the reserves.
And you’re on call for any kind of emergency where somebody needs to be found.
An elderly person wandering away from home, a child wandering away from home.
Or, you know, usually kind of sad situations. But the dogs can help a lot.
>>Kelly Runyon: Would you, in your opinion, being someone
that has born and raised German Shepherds, are htey a family dog?
You know, somebody’s out there watching, and they’re majestic, and thinking, oh I would
really like to have a German Shepherd as part of my family.
There’s probably pros and cons, and that’s for every breed.
But in your opinion, what would you say to somebody out there who’s considering it?
Obviously, do your research first.>>Ann Spear:
Obviously, but if your family’s active, lots of outdoor activities, I think they’re a fine
family dog. Usually they will bond specially to one person.
They’ll choose one person in the family that’s their person.
But they will care for the whole family. The whole property, in fact, they will take
over as theirs, and guard it accordingly. So, they’ll let you know when somebody’s there.
They generally will hold people, they won’t let people walk in your door unwelcome.
So, you have a good guardian. You have a, I wouldn’t say they play with
the kids so much as they herd them and look after them.
Supervise them. So, you know, a lab would play with a kid,
just one on one. But the Shepherds are a little bit more aloof.
So, if your family’s active, you’d have a good dog.
I mean, he would be a good companion.>>Kelly Runyon:
But you told me before we went on the air here that also, German Shepherds need a lot
of space.>>Ann Spear:
Yes, they do.>>Kelly Runyon:
And that’s one thing that I think somebody out there needs to know, that their, talk
about their activity levels and the things that you have to do with them, and the space
that they need.>>Ann Spear:
Well, they need, we walk three to four miles a day, plus swimming in the summer.
And almost that much in the winter. The dogs need that much exercise.
So, that’s got to fit into your family routine, to have it.
They need a space to call their own, their own territory.
So, if you’re in town, a fenced in yard is a must.
Beyond that, though, they’re good dogs because they stay home.
We live in the country, that I have no fences, but they know their territory, and they stay
there, even when I’m gone. So, they don’t have to be tied up.
>>Kelly Runyon: Do they get along with other dogs?
>>Ann Spear: Yeah.
>>Kelly Runyon: Is that something that…
Some breeds don’t. They’re very to themselves and aloof.
>>Ann Spear: She’s not nearly as interested as he is.
He plays with almost anybody who will play with him.
But she’s, she doesn’t hurt other dogs or threaten them in anyway, but she just walks
away if she doesn’t want to play.>>Kelly Runyon:
What about caring for them, as far as, you know, maintenance, as far as bathing and brushing?
I’m assuming that’s pretty routine because they shed a lot.
>>Ann Spear: They shed a lot.
And so, if you are someone who needs your home spotlessly clean all the time, they would
not be for you. Because, they do need to be in the house with
you. To be a family dog, they’ve got to be with
the family. So, not shut out alone outside.
So, they have to come in the house, and you have to put up with some hair on the floor
sometimes. But dogs don’t sweat, so they don’t need to
bathe as much as we do. But they do need to be brushed everyday, because
there’s always hair coming off of them. And even now, your clean up person will probably
notice hair on this–>>Kelly Runyon:
A few little hairs.>>Ann Spear:
Yeah, there will be.>>Kelly Runyon:
Roxie and Truman. What about any health problems associated
with the German Shepherds? You know, as a lab owner, they have, sometimes
have hip problems. And I had a lab that tore an ACL being rambunctious.
Any specific problem with the Shepherd?>>Ann Spear:
Well, the American breeding line of Shepherds features the sloping hips.
These dogs are more from a German line; their backs are more straight.
They have a different profile. But those dogs are very susceptible to hip
dysplasia, which, I’m not a vet, so I don’t… But as I understand it, it’s a degenerative
bone disease. So, it’s kind of like, maybe osteoporosis.
The hips just deteriorate. And it’s non-curable.
>>Kelly Runyon: Get your ball, Roxie.
Get your ball. You know, we were talking, too, about the
life expectancy of German Shepherds. And you said, you know, over time that’s changed
a little bit. What is the life expectancy?
And in your opinion, why has it changed over the years?
>>Ann Spear: Well, the more dogs that get hip dysplasia,
their lives are shortened quite a bit. Because, they lose their rear ends.
I think that has contributed a lot. There are more cancers these days in everybody,
not just dogs, but people, you know. Fat does it.
But those are the two big ones. Once you’ve got your puppy up and past the
puppy disease stage, you’ve probably got a pretty good, healthy dog.
But that’s where your research needs to come in when you buy a puppy.
You need to get it from a breeder who will give you a guarantee.
These dogs have been X-rayed and shown to be free of dysplasia.
>>Kelly Runyon: And that’s what I was going to ask you, is
how do you, well first of all, it sounds like the German Shepherd is the dog for me.
How do I go about finding, you know, the right person that has the right breed, that has
the right genes? Do you go through something like the AKC or
the German Shepherd Club of America, or some of those organizations?
>>Ann Spear: Oh yeah.
>>Kelly Runyon: I mean, you said, you know, you probably searched
out…>>Ann Spear:
Start on the web. Yeah, you’ll, if you go and search German
Shepherds, you’ll find all kinds of breeders. So, but then you need to vet the breeders.
You need a breeder who will, like say, give you that guarantee, that two year at least
guarantee. I like a breeder who will demand that if you
don’t want the dog, he wants it back.>>Kelly Runyon:
Absolutely.>>Ann Spear:
And then, they have a line that they can show you that the lineage is also free of genetic
diseases. So, that’s research you can do through AKC
and…>>Kelly Runyon:
And talk to people like you.>>Ann Spear:
And talk, well yeah. So, but there are good breeders.
I wouldn’t buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, somebody who just is not professional about
it. There can be some good dogs come from that.
But you won’t necessarily know. So, you pay a little more money for these
health guarantees, and you save a lot of money later when you don’t have to have hips replaced
and things like that.>>Kelly Runyon:
Well Anne, we have about a minute left. And I want you to leave us with either a happy
story or something very special in your mind about German Shepherds that we could leave
the viewers with.>>Ann Spear:
Oh my goodness. I should have been prepared for that one,
because there’s so many. Well…
>>Kelly Runyon: Any special dog in your, besides your two
now, any special memories of maybe a friend that you’ve had in your life, all these years
raising Shepherds?>>Ann Spear:
Okay, well, previous Shepherd was named Ruby. She was a wonderful female dog, who not only
guarded me, but guarded people who came to my house.
One day, I came home, and there was a truck parked there.
And it was mushroom hunting season, which happens around my place.
Well, I happened to also have at that time a dog who was very, I shouldn’t have had.
I’d gotten, not a Shepherd, but who threatened people.
Well, this was a family. So, I came home, and here I see this family
coming back from mushroom hunting, two little kids.
Little kids, young. And Ruby was trotting right along with them.
The other dog was about 25 yards back. I went out to talk to them, and they said,
“What a nice dog you have! But she wouldn’t let the other dog near us!”
>>Kelly Runyon: [laughs]
Ruby the Protector.>>Ann Spear:
She didn’t know those people, but she knew those were kids, and she knew that dog was
not trustworthy around those kids. And she did not allow him to come near.
So, that is pretty typical, really, of a German Shepherd.
And so, if that’s the kind of dog you want, I can tell you where to get some good ones.
>>Kelly Runyon: They’re special friends.
Well, thank you, Ann, for joining us on this episode of the Paw Report.
>>Ann Spear: It’s really been fun.
Thank you.>>Kelly Runyon:
Oh, it’s been great. Roxie, Truman, come here.
Truman, come here. He’s waiting to fetch his ball is what he’s
doing. Well, you guys have been doing real well today.
We’re very proud of you. So, thank you both for joining us.
And again, Ann, thank you for your expertise.>>Ann Spear:
I’m very happy to be here. [music plays]
They say second place is the first loser. But the runner up in the Ugliest Dog Contest
has definitely won the hearts of her Florida owners.
Ashleigh Walters has the details.>>Ashleigh Walters:
At G&M Ranch in Loxahatchee Groves, you’ll find the many unusual animal rescues of veterinarian
Virginia Sayre and her husband Mike Carroll.>>Mike Carroll:
Here she comes.>>Ashley Walters:
Among them, one now known around the world. A dog named Quasimodo.
>>Virginia Sayre: If you’re animal people, you always pet Quasi.
But if you’re not an animal person, I’ve had grown men jump on top of their trucks to get
away from her. I had one kid that did a Hollywood scream.
[screams]>>Ashleigh Walters:
After years of nudging from friends, they flew Quasi to the World’s Ugliest
Dog Contest in California.>>Mike Carroll:
Some people relate to her. And this pose right here is Winston Churchill.
A big barrel chested type of person.>>Ashleigh Walters:
So, Quasi’s loving family calls her a half dog.
That’s because she’s missing some of her vertebrae, and the rest are fused together.
Getting a good scratch there? [laughs]
>>Virginia Sayre: She draws a crowd everywhere she goes.
[dog barks]>>Ashleigh Walters:
They’re not sure of her breed. They say knowing might take away some of the
fun.>>Mike Carroll:
And Quasi is Latin for ‘incomplete.’ So, you know, it really fits her well.
>>Ashleigh Walters: But like so many of life’s best things…
>>Virginia Sayre: And maybe that’s why we got second instead
of first, because she’s so ugly she’s cute.>>Ashleigh Walters:
With Quasi…>>Mike Carroll:
I love the dog. She’s not that ugly.
>>Ashleigh Walters: Beauty is beyond fur deep.
>>Virginia Sayre: She’s a very gentle soul.
She loves everybody and everything. There’s nothing in the world that she would
hurt. And people, people are her best friends.
>>Kelly Runyon: Production for the Paw Report is made possible
by: Inyart Tire and Auto Center, in Charleston
and Mattoon. Inyart offers complete auto repair. Inyart Tire and Auto Center cares about our
community and thanks you for being a responsible pet owner. More information at
[music plays]

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5 Responses

  1. Dan Awadh says:

    I'm getting a German shepherd

  2. Camila Cortez says:

    Know any good breeders

  3. Debra Renk says:

    mixture of facts/inaccuracies/antidotes

  4. Zen Speedmaster says:

    This is not really about German Shepherds as much it is about what this lady thinks of her own dogs.

  5. John Mac says:

    What a good effort, this woman loves her dogs and it comes through. She doesn’t claim to be an expert in the breed but an expert in her dogs, how she choose them and cares for them. I’ll take that every day.

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