Friday, October 28, 2011

Video: German Shepherd Dog Puppies - 4 weeks old

Preparing for the Whelp

During the time from breeding to whelp, we took care to feed Kora appropriately and to create a comfortable and safe whelping area.  She typically slept at the foot of our bed in the evenings, so predictably that was where she was expecting to den.  This is the worst area, and continued evidence that human support of domesticated dog breeding is best.

Drawing from long ago experience of my parents’ efforts breeding my childhood German shepherd, Lacy, I knew a bit of what not to do. 

My wife provided other vital pieces of the breeding puzzled by discovering the website 

What we needed was a whelping room. 

We felt that the best room in every respect was a basement room with access to the backyard.  Unfortunately all the dogs access the backyard through this room.

I divided the room into a 10-foot by 6-foot secured whelping kennel inside the main room.  The entire room was scrubbed, painted and a floor drain was installed.

The whelping box was 5-foot by 5-foot, bottomless and about 6 inches tall.  I had 12-inch box wall additions ready to install when the pups got bigger.  I strategically installed closet dowels at the edges so that a puppy would not be accidently squashed by Mom.  My parents lost one puppy out of three litters by that exact happenstance. 

For the puppies’ warmth, we opted for heating pads and a heat-lamp.  Because the room was not heated by the home heating system, I added a portable electric hot water radiator in the kennel, and a forced-air heater outside the kennel.

To combat humidity, a constant battle in Ketchikan, Alaska, I fabricated and installed a temporary exhaust fan.

With the floor painted in epoxy and the floor drain installed, maintaining cleanliness has proven to be easily manageable.

On her 52nd day of gestation, we introduced her full-time to the kennel.  I spent hours at a time with her every day, so that she remain comfortable with my presence during the whelping.

Kora made it quite clear as time for the whelp neared, that she was not happy with any dog passing through the room, even though she was safely in the partitioned kennel.   We obliged her and the other two dogs go outside through other doors.

Since Kora is a proven watchdog, and her maternal aggression was in full steam, we were concerned about her mothering.  As it turned out, she has been an excellent mother.

An impressive series of storms we received the litter’s first couple of weeks has proven to be the greatest complication.

Kora was very comfortable at a range of temperatures in the kennel for the eight days prior to the whelping.  When the little guys arrived, the storm born drafts made regulating the temperatures absolutely stressful.

The pups must have warmth to digest food properly for their first several weeks.  Thankfully all survived.  I believe the pups are better for it.  They all have excellent food drive as a result of the litter size; food was not always available at the slightest whim.  They also have experienced a range of temperatures, the extremes of which were certainly uncomfortable at times.

Based upon the puppies scaling the 12-inch whelping box walls after only being in place for a week, and Kora’s preference to spend time out of their reach, we removed the whelping box and allowed Kora more time away from the puppies.  This was just after the litter’s third week.

Now that their “world” was doubled in size, we encouraged paper training by establishing a separate sleeping area and elimination area.  Most of the puppies caught on to this quickly. 

At 4 weeks, we encouraged the puppies to venture beyond the kennel.  They were all exploring the adjacent laundry room within several days.

Presently at 5 weeks, Kora suffers through teeth and claws to nurse the pups from time to time.  Additionally, over the last week or so, she has been quickly correcting the puppies’ persistent biting and clawing.  It is remarkable to watch her firm yet exact mouthing of their little muzzles.  The puppies are not only testing each other, they are testing everything, moving or not.

A few hours ago, Pink and then Vader climbed the entire flight of stairs from the basement to the main level.  Their achievement was rewarded with a quarter cup of dry kibble all to themselves.  Both consumed it with no problem, which is also an achievement because no pup has been offered dry kibble up until then.

Next:  Temperament

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Puppy update

We have removed the whelping box from the whelping room, so the pups “den” has more than doubled in size for them.  Kora stays with us through the day except for periodic inspections and feedings of the puppies.

As a group, they have increased in weight about 500% from the day of whelp.  We are feeding a puppy brew to them 3 times a day in ever increasing proportion it seems.

Emerald continues to be a little lady.  Calm but bold, ready for any attention that may come her way. 

Pink remains feisty, but imparts hostility with jurisprudence.  She is definitely a sweetheart to humans, as they all are.

Halo and Emerald are so similar in appearance and temperament, if not for Halo’s white rear paw hairs, they would be twins.  Both are calm puppies.

Plum is vying for pack leader, but no puppy seems in a hurry to claim it.

Gold always stays calm.  He is totally content resting against me while watching the activity of his siblings.  Today he walked over to a quarrelling Pink and Halo, when only moments later the trio laid down for a nap.

Steel and Plum behave similarly, with high confidence and energy.

Aqua currently ranks as the feistiest.  After a bowl of water spilled and drenched her good, she abridged her growls and barks for a bit.  Now she’s back to her usually ways.  It is ironic that her German name, Wasser, in English is Water.

Rusty is very brave.  He has no qualms about leaving the whelping room in search of his mother.

His brother Vader, is so brave, he will keep tracking his mother until he finds her.  He has a good nose.  Rusty is usually not far behind, but Vader is the greatest traveler so far.

Most of them had a moment to meet their father Kohl for the first time.  After the first half of the litter or so, he lost interest and went to bed.

Next:  Preparing for the whelp

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Video: German Shepherd Dog Puppies-3 weeks old

Here are the puppies at 3 weeks old.  You can also view this on youtube by clicking the title link above.  The puppies have changed so much already, I hope to have another video after this weekend.

The GSD Standard

For every recognized breed of dog, there is at least one standard by which to compare the individual dog.  The goal of the breeder is to kennel dogs that best represent their interpretation of the standard.

If there are no standards, there are no breeds. 

The German shepherd dog breed has dozens of standards that organizations, clubs, and breeders have assigned.  This is not surprising considering the GSD is one of the most popular breeds of dog.  Opinions differ as to which is correct, and opinions differ in the interpretation of each individual standard.

In Germany, there are currently over a quarter million GSDs that have been vetted as having the temperament and physical characteristics of the S.V.’s (The German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany) standard.  Dogs that fall short are not GSDs.

Through history, the S.V.’s written standard has evolved by revision, which helps create even wider interpretation.

The “Old German Shepherd,” or the GSD “as it was originally intended,” is defined differently amongst scores of breeders.  Some promote a GSD similar to the Belgian Malinois in size.  These breeders reference the GSDs from the early 20th century.  However, the father of the breed, Max von Stephanitz, awarded championships to larger dogs as the breed evolved. 

The Shiloh Shepherd is promoted as an “Old German Shepherd.”  This is a huge dog with a softer temperament. 

Two different opinions.  Two different dogs.   

It seems most of the opinions are based on the central belief that the German shepherd of present is not what it was originally.  In all cases, they believe their dog accurately represents the original intent of the breed. I believe some of the dogs today are certainly better than the best dogs of yesteryear.

There are several lines of very strong performing dogs that have been bred since World War II by government owned kennels to standards of their own.

Presently there are several major standards, such as the S.V., AKC, the Kennel Club (UK), the UKC and the Canadian Kennel Club.  The international breeding club (FCI) recognizes the S.V. as the standard.  Dogs bred to these standards for breed-show purposes, are primarily concerned with physical appearances. A soft temperament certainly makes showing the dog easier. 

German breed-show dogs must at least show some level of workability as I mentioned earlier.  Unlike some well-bred utility dogs that have evolved with increased performance through the decades, breed show dogs evolution is less predictable.  The potential for dysfunction in structure evidently increases when breed-show judge proclamations and show breeder efforts merge.

Roached backs where in fashion in too recent of times.  A roached back certainly satisfies a standard calling for a slopped top-line, unfortunately such a back is geometrically cumbersome for a dog.  Logic should prevail, but clearly has not.

A correct working dog back should not be so fundamentally perverted that no comparison can be drawn between it and those of equivalent species in the Carnivora order.

Highly angulated hip and rear leg structure also slopes the back, but is similarly ridiculous. 

Strong working dogs should have huge hamstrings.  It powers them forward, the general direction of a working dog.  In order to handle the enormous loads of the leg muscles, the spine, pelvis and femur must be geometrically efficient and structurally strong.

A sloping top-line is achieved when the rear legs are scissorred fore and back out from under the hips, shortening the distance from the top of the hip to the ground.  I am confident that the standard was designed to be interpreted no other way.  It seems reasonable that the intent of the standard was to eliminate GSDs that have too long of rear legs or other issues and the back sits level (in show pose) or higher. 

The GSD should be physically athletic and not handicapped.  He should be a medium sized dog, not so big that he is short on endurance and agility, and not so small that he has no power.  The ears, nose, mouth, teeth, feet, coat and tail should all be as functional for utility as possible.  With the German shepherd, a male should look like a male and a female like a female.

The GSD must be intelligent.  The breed has earned a reputation for its keen mind.  This does not mean chimpanzee smart.  I’d say more like dog genius smart.  Disobedience should not be confused for low intelligence.  Smart dogs find clever ways to work the system.

The GSD’s temperament should be fearless, loyal, relaxed and good-natured yet he is aloof with strangers.  In his task he should be sharp in his energy, and if under pressure, hard enough not to be deterred.  It would be a disservice to a dog with aberrated training to be prejudicial about temperament.  Proper training in obedience and work is highly recommended for these dogs.

As a whole, the GSD projects nobility, strength and determination.  He has a wolf-like appearance, strong of nerve and hard under pressure.  He is healthy and free of hereditary disease.  He is alert and intellectually calculating.  He is even-tempered, therefore predictable.  He makes a superb companion and is very willing to serve in any canine duty with unflinching persistence. 

Next:  Puppy update.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dog Work

When I was away from home for Kohl’s first summer with us, my wife was relegated to his raising from puppy hood to adolescent.  She described him as a rebel teenager.

He ate my foam bed, a few reference books, and refinished an antique wooden rocking chair.  Not the sort of work I look for in a dog.  Daily walks made no dent in his rascally ways.

I received urgent word from her when he had been jailed the second time.  I hoped to solve that family tragedy and purchased a wireless fence with expedited shipping to retain him.  

The fence has never been installed.  

When my wife came home one evening to a 8 foot by 10 foot rug upside down and holed in the living room, she was at her wits end.  Short of a complete disaster, she eventually discovered some dog work for Kohl to expend energy.

The middle daughter invited my wife and Kohl to the beach with her Labrador retriever Bella, a super high energy retrieving dog.  

The ball was the key.  I wouldn’t call Kohl a retriever in a traditional sense; more like a rugby player.  His goal is to get the ball before anything on the planet does.  Two balls keep him constantly active on land.  He drops the ball on the fly-by so that it typically rolls into the vicinity of the thrower for the next round of sprints.

In the summer, swimming in the ocean is excellent exercise for him too.  He prefers swimming.  This is a more challenging job for the thrower because he usually drops the ball two feet short of the beach.  

One day while camping at a remote forest cabin, the pink salmon were jumping in the bay. Kohl swam from one splash to another, tacking port and starboard, trying to find the ball.  He swam for over an hour.  We felt bad for him swimming so much and got him out of the water with a ball thrown on the beach.  

On land, Chuck-it brand ball chuckers are the only way this work would be worthy.  It gets nice distance and speed without destroying your shoulder.  The stick also allows you to reach out and grab the ball without getting your boots too wet when in the water.

On-leash walking is also work for him if the handler has proper control.  Kohl walks well with me.  I use just enough slack so that the choke chain is loose on him.  Typically getting him refocused requires a short zip of the chain links and no real pressure on him.  He responds to the sound of a tightening chain.  There are definitely times when sharp and quick corrections are used.  He is very responsive to them and has never been handler aggressive.  A fast walking pace is better than a slow one.  He is typically a good running companion but he is at times dog aggressive.  The dogs with high tails are especially irresistible.  In these encounters on leash he is manageable, but at times obnoxious.  

Kohl has not always been that way.  When he was a puppy, a neighbor’s standard poodle worked him over pretty good a couple of times.  Later, when he matched her size, he was eager to write a new chapter to that story.  I would never purposely free Kohl upon the streets without a ball to occupy him, but he is crafty.

Thankfully he is not an attack dog and didn’t damage the poodle.  

They have mostly been able to coexist on the street when they are together.  He barks at her from the windows almost every time.  The few other times he has snuck out, he asserts himself dominate right away, claims the ball and is on his merry way.  The poodle tries to stay out of the way.  

This is not ideal behavior.  We continue working to correct this, but a male German shepherd with his hormones intact would easily be dog aggressive without intensive training.  Cesar Millan’s methods are very good and people may have better ideas of dog psychology and pack structure as a result.  GSDs are a powerful and persistent breed.  Dogs that are not reproductively altered can act with high intensity aggression if not handled correctly.  Add the two together and there is a potential for high intensity aggression from a powerful, persistent dog.  

You must establish trust and respect with any dog.   

You must have the correct pack structure.  The earlier you create a stable pack, the better.  

You must have a job for the working dog to do.  The job must expend energy.  

You must control dominance correctly.

You must reward good behavior and correct bad behavior appropriately and decisively.

There are many trainers who have used these same techniques for decades.  If you have access to a good trainer, I’d advise you to invest in that.  All the obedience training your dog can get will pay dividends.  If there is no access to good trainers, the web is loaded with information.  Be sure to use logic when committing to advice.

Specialty training should also be researched and then started at appropriate ages.  Ideally your GSD would work as an advanced herder, or tracker.  Schutzhund and other ring-sports are options.  Service training like Search and Rescue and guide dog are good choices; those are excellent jobs for dogs.

GSDs are super personal protection dogs.  It is important to pursue bite training through reputable trainers.  This training is particularly invaluable for a dog that is naturally sharp and/or hard.

Be creative for your working dog and give him some worthy work to do.  Obedience can always be practiced and most certainly a dog’s job.  Anything constructive is better than the alternative:  Creating his own work to do.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Puppies

The first puppy, Emerald, arrived at 3:51 pm the 22nd of September.   She weighed 412 grams.  Kora took great care to clean her up and get her moving.  Within minutes Emerald was trying to nurse colostrum from her mother.  I spent some time helping Kora clean up. 

Emerald is solid black like her dad.  Of all the characteristics in a dog, color is one of the least important to me.  If you breed dogs for structure and temperament, the color sorts itself out.  In the case of German shepherds, the standard for color is broad.  Obvious undesirable qualities, such as a pale coat, blue or liver tones, and varying amounts of white, can usually be avoided when breeding GSDs. 

The coat hair itself is important.  A dog bred with the original intent to assists sheep herdsmen to herd and protect the flocks must have a coat durable to the elements and without hindrance to the dog.  German shepherd dogs have a thick grey undercoat that prevents water from reaching the skin.  Certainly handy in Ketchikan, Alaska.  The outer coat is dense and coarse.  It provides a good protective shield.  The length varies over the body - short on the lower legs, face and ears, bushy on the upper-legs, neck and tail.

The S.V. (The German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany) standard accepts a longhaired version of the coat as well.  The dog’s working ability is reduced with long collie-like hair especially in colder climates were snow and ice accumulate on the coats.

Emerald and her littermates all have the standard GSD coat. 

Emerald also lost weight through the first two days of her life.  On the third day, we started supplemental feeding to give her a boost.  She has become the most accustomed to human handling as a result.

She and her other littermates like, Pink and Halo, all have good food drive.  Feeding nine puppies to their satisfaction is a tough task for mom.  So the pups stay a little hungry as a whole.

Pink was whelped at 4:43 pm, and right behind her was Halo at 4:49.  Kora was getting busy now.  There was a lot more to do with three girl pups.

Lots of cleaning:  Licking a sopping wet puppy dry take time.  I was proud of her mothering.

Pink weighed 394 grams.  Unlike her sister, she was born bi-color.  A bi-color coat in a GSD is similar to a Doberman Pincher, or Rottweiler.

Pink will most likely not stay that way.  I suspect the black will saddle and she may sable like her mom.   Either way, she has some feisty in her like mom too.  But she is a sweetheart, and she set litter records for single day weight gain a few times so far.

Halo’s whelp weight was 411 grams.  Her weight was the median for the litter.  She is also solid-black.  She was named for the appearance of a piece of ivory colored yarn used to identify her.  A week before the puppies were whelped, the youngest daughter suggested Halo in place of Ivory for a name, because it looked like a halo resting on the couch. 

I disagreed, but was out voted.

So Halo she is, and no longer needs to wear her halo because her right rear paw hairs are white.

She is definitely one of a kind, and grows like one of the boys.  Now that the pups are standing on all fours, seeing with blurry eyes, and hearing, she is always at the front of the line.

At 5:25 pm, came Plum.  A welcome male after 3 females.  He was born bi-color.  His whelp weight was 447 grams. 

Plum may sable and saddle in age, as well.  One-upping his sister, he has set the single day greatest growth record to date for the litter.  Presently the feeding is taking on a new dimension.  Even though I have clipped the pups nails every week, mother is feeding them periodically rather than regularly.  So it’s time to prepare for weaning.

Plum was one of the first to get a go of lapping up whole goats milk from a tray.  It should be comical, but the mess tempers the humor a bit.

Under his lead, the others were feeding in a whole new way.  It is certainly a relief to know that they can now feed in this manner.  It gives mom a huge break and is easier than a baby bottle.

Nearly two hours later, at 7:17 came Gold.  The smallest male who I think will be Kohl’s size as an adult.  Gold and the remainder of the litter where born solid black. 

He was the last to take to bottle-feeding.  But he and I have a special bond.  I could see the epiphany in him when he finally took to it. 

I almost renamed him Cold, because he seemed the coldest to the touch of the group.
He stays strong though and keeps pace with his brothers when compared to whelped weight.

Over 100 grams heavier, and only five minutes after Gold, Steel was whelped the biggest at 480 grams.

He was born hungry and fed from mom in minutes.  He is also the first to complain when hungry. 

Kora continued to clean up and I continued to help.   The puppies where doing well so far, and a 6-puppy litter is about right. 

The wind started picking up and drafts where cooling the whelping room down.  I worked to battle that while mom tended to her task at hand. 

My childhood German shepherd whelped 3 litters.  The first litter was eight and whelped on my birthday.  Her second litter 12 and her last 10.  With this in mind, I wasn’t going to leave Kora for long just yet. 

And it was a long three hours later when Aqua arrived.  Whelped at 10:28, she was the litter’s smallest at 347 grams.  Aqua also has had the steadiest gain. 

She is nothing close to shy though.  She smartly slides in the gaps at feeding and rolls her bigger brothers away. 

 At 10:58 pm, Rusty was whelped.  He weighed 386 grams.  He is also a steady gainer.  From the time mom’s milk came in to the present, he has always gained more than a half-ounce in a 24-hour period.  He has a bold demeanor.  He doesn’t complain he just makes things happen.  He is also the first, and only, to scale a 12-inch barrier between the whelping box and the rest of the whelping room.

The last pup whelped at 11:03 pm.  All I had was a red piece of yarn left to identify him.  I couldn’t call him “Red”.

He went nameless for a day.  Stormy seemed appropriate for the less than perfect timing of nature.  Vader he became after his father, Vader Kohl von Ruhl.  His whelp weight was 463 grams and two weeks latter he was nearly 300% bigger.

Vader doesn’t care about anything unless it has to do with food.  Once he discovers food is not involved, he’ll simply go back to sleep.  But he is one of the busiest when food is near.

Later, when giving the pups German names, vader translates from the Dutch to German as vater, and to English as father.  The German names for the others are:  Smaragd, Rosa, Halo, Pflaume, Gold, Stahl, Wasser, and Rostig.

In describing individual personalities at their age I find it hard to discern differences.  They all are walking well and now that they can hear, they quietly look, smell and listen before snapping to judgment.

They exercise their voice boxes with the usual crying and whining from time to time, but the barks and growls are being practiced too.

They have learned to use a designated area of the whelping box to relieve themselves. It is certainly great news for the maintenance crew.

Today they will be 3 weeks old and they already play amongst themselves.  Whereas in week 1, I could only describe them as worms.

Next:  Dog work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There is a female GSD in town!

On Memorial Day weekend 2010, we were on our way to our boat for a day of king salmon fishing.  Stopped at a traffic light, Kohl was peacefully watching the world from the bed of our truck.  A pickup truck rolled up in the next lane and stopped.  A moment later there was an explosion of barking.  Craning my neck to discern what the fuss was all about, I discovered a feisty GSD barking at Kohl, who in turn was barking back.

The driver rolled down his window and laughed about the intensity coming from the back of our trucks.

The light changed and we were off.  We pulled into McDonalds to feed the two grandsons we had in the back seat a nutritious breakfast.  After a bit, the other truck with the feisty GSD parked near.  We got out of our prospective trucks and introduced ourselves.  I met his dog, Kora, and then he met Kohl.  We exchanged telephone numbers and were on our way.

That night I took a call from Kora’s owner and was apprised of some details about her.  We agreed that we should introduce the dogs in the future to see how they take to one another.    

A few weeks later, I received a telephone message from Kora’s breeder in Haines, Alaska.  I called him back and learned a whole lot more about Kora, her parents and her littermate Jetta that they retained for breeding.  We discussed the notion of studding Kohl to Jetta then tabled that for a day when the dogs were of breeding age.

That evening I researched Jetta’s pedigree and quickly became intrigued at the idea of a litter.

Fast forward to February 2011 when we received a call from Kora’s owner who suggested we introduce the dogs.  So that evening, we did. 

Kora’s home was an industrial yard where she was trained to be a watch dog.  Introducing a male GSD into a watch dog’s territory is impossible.  With both dogs leashed up, Kora exploded with barking, charged Kohl and yanked her owner to the ground.  Kohl was no friendlier but I maintained control of him. 

I suggesting that we take a walk together away from the yard.  We were slowly able to get the dogs together.  Guardedly accepting one another, we all strolled back to the yard.  In short time there attentions were no longer on each other.  Kohl then became interested in the sights and smells of the yard, and Kora became interested in whatever Kohl was investigating.

So far so good. 

We switch dogs and I walked Kora around the yard.  I was amazed by the feeling of the leash.  It felt as though we never exchanged leashes.  The dogs behaved identically. 

We spent several hours there then decided to move the operation to our house in town. 

Over the evening I became more impressed with Kora’s intelligence, structure, and obedience to her owner.

The next day my wife and I discussed breeding the dogs.  I called Kora’s owner and proposed a future breeding of the two on the condition that we keep Kora for the breeding and whelping.  He was not entirely agreeable to this, so no commitment was made. 

One month later, Kora’s owner called and asked if we would like to make Kora ours.  His living arraignments were uncertain and he had no solution for his dog’s care.  We were certainly agreeable to this, but in the end, he backed out and left us wanting. 

I quickly began searching for a quality breedable female adult to purchase.  I found no dogs available that satisfied my qualifications.  I then searched for puppies. 

I decided not to be hasty.  We were in no hurry to breed Kohl so we went back to business as usual, until we received a call from Kora’s owner about two months later.  He told my wife if we wanted Kora, we needed to get her now.

So we did.

Deprogramming a watch dog for family life is a test in patience.  Slowly Kora’s aggression became milder.  The sudden conflicts between Kohl and Kora were nearly non-existent and the seemingly arbitrary attacks on our old lab mix waned.

From the beginning she was excellent with the grandchildren.  On nice days Kohl, Kora, a 6 year old grandson, a 5 year old grandson, and a 2 year old granddaughter would play in the backyard together for hours.

Aggression toward unfamiliar dogs remained as well as sharpness toward unfamiliar people.  And then there’s the cat.

She is absolutely fixated on our 10 year old cat.  I believe it has something to do with pack hierarchy because all she wants to do when the cat is present is breath on her face and lick her head, constantly.

The cat tries to ignore her but Kora never relents.  She pleads for the cat to move, or bat at her, or anything.

Then in July, she came into heat.

Next:  The puppies.   

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why a GSD?

In the spring of 2009, my wife's future was becoming the present rapidly.  Motherhood for her was soon to take a drastic change.  A change that through the years seemed would be an eternity to manifest.

The youngest of five children was about to graduate high school.  The nest would soon be empty.  To add to the change in the home dynamic, I was scheduled to leave for work at a remote camp for the summer construction season.

Over the years, we spoke of adding another dog to our family.  We already had one dog we raised from puppy-hood.  She is a lab mix adopted from the animal shelter February 2002.   A Valentines gift from my wife.

Adding another dog to the mix seemed a perfect diversion for my wife to head-off the potential for empty nest syndrome.

So, committed to this plan, I was in search for a perfect canine companion for my wife.

In my search, I reflected on my childhood.  The first dog I recall was a St. Bernard.  I remember this dog well - as a puppy, and then as a 6 month old behemoth.  Thankfully my parents' wisdom had a chance to present itself and they found a new home for her in the mountains.  The Phoenix climate was just too extreme.

I also remember a Sheltie, but she (and the cat) decided to pick up and go one day, never to be seen again.

In the end, it was a German shepherd that became my official boyhood companion.  Additionally, my aunt had a whole slew of GSDs on her horse ranch on the foothills of South Mountain.  As a result, I had no ill stigma about the breed.  Quite the contrary, I came to know GSDs as the king of all dogs.

Armed with this prejudice,  all that was left to do was to decide what GSD to purchase.

Being partial to GSDs, I recall as a youth a police K9 at a city park event one day.  The dog was much bigger than mine and had a beautiful black and tan coat.  What I remember the most about that dog was his rear legs.  They didn't look right.  In fact they looked crippled.

Soon I learned that opinions about a GSDs physical characteristics varied widely.  Armed with that knowledge as an adult, it became my opinion that a dog should be useful in a utility sense.  Pomeranians and Lhasa apsos just don't cut it.  Neither does a "working-dog" that walks funny for the sake of a "physical standard."

In the end, our dog must not only look like and act like a German shepherd, but perform like one too.

As it turns out, there is a set of breeders that insist on the same regardless of the ways into which "the standards" are interpreted.

The problem, however, is that there is no means to vet a puppy with these goals in mind to a 100% certainty.

What you do have are the puppies parents, strength of pedigree, the puppy himself and a bit of luck.  Armed with that we settled on Kohl, a 4 month old male.  Over two years later, luck has been ours.  Our choice was correct.

Needless to say, Kohl certainly kept my wife busy that summer.

The two of them bonded so well in fact, that when we went on a vacation to Hawaii for two weeks that fall, it only took a few days for my wife to express that she wanted to go home to be with her dog.  She wasn't making an idle comment either.  She was seriously considering doing just that.

Now that Kohl positioned himself nicely as the number one "son," all he needed to do was continue to grow and not mess up.

Of course, he did grow, and he continued to impress us with his intelligence, athleticism and unflinching devotion.

Next:  There is a female GSD in town!