Thursday, August 5, 2010


Nothing is more upsetting than seeing a beautiful representative of the breed display poor temperament. It’s disappointing to the breeder that produces a gorgeous looking puppy, only to have the puppy be poor in temperament. Nothing is worse than sitting ring side admiring a handsome looking animal only to see him pull back from the judge. What causes poor temperament? Genetics, poor socialization or a combination of both and what role do we play in the breed’s temperament?

It all begins on a piece of paper known as a pedigree. Too often people don’t know the first thing about studying a dog’s pedigree. They just look at the two dogs they want to breed and do the breeding totally blind to the parent’s background. Unbeknownst to him, the pedigree may be laden with bad temperament from one generation to the next and he doesn’t know about it until his puppies are born. There’s nothing worse than seeing a breed as noble as the German Shepherd Dog who shakes, quivers and shies away from most everyone that he meets. It’s awful to see it in puppies but even worse to view as an adult dog.

So who is to blame for faulty temperament in our breed? Who should take responsibility for the temperament in the German Shepherd Dog? Is it the breeder, the handler or the judge? Which one has the most control of the temperament in the breed for generations to come? Well all three actually. How’s that?

You would think that the breeder has the most responsibility when it comes to promoting the temperament of this breed. After all they are the ones that are the “brainchild” behind the actual dog that they produce. A good breeder will know his dog’s pedigree and he’ll know the pedigree of the dog that he wants to breed to his animal. As we all know it might look great on paper but may end up being a total disaster once the puppies are actually born. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw when it comes to breeding. But what about those breeders that know about the bad temperament that they are incorporating into the gene pool and they still continue to breed to these dogs anyway?

I find it very upsetting that some breeders are breeding to dogs that do not have good temperament because they are owned by “the forces to be” and think that breeding to their dogs will help them get their own dogs into show homes. They don’t care about the temperament; they want their dogs shown. They know that they can send their dogs to a trainer that can teach them to stand. It just blows my mind when breeders think like this.

That leads us to the next person that is responsible for the temperament in the breed and that’s the handler. Now a good handler knows the good, the bad and the ugly of the dog that he is handling. He can make structural faults appear not as noticeable through his grooming expertise. He knows if he’s got to hold the dog’s front up so he doesn’t run downhill. He knows how to showcase his animal’s best attributes. He’s a professional and it’s his job to make your dog look good. But what about those handlers that are also trainers? You know the ones that I’m talking about. You send your dog out to be ring trained and conditioned. Years ago, very few of us ever did this. We trained and conditioned them ourselves and I daresay that we did a pretty good job of it too. But for those that can not or do not want to do it themselves, they have the option of having their dog professionally trained. Now the handler is not responsible for the quality or lack of the dog that is sent to him. However, in my opinion, no dog with bad temperament should be trained to go into the show ring. Again in my opinion, it is false representation of the character of the dog. I believe that the handler is just as guilty of promoting bad temperament as the breeder is for showing these types of dogs. I believe they are fooling some of the public. Eventually thought, word gets out about the dog. No breeder should ask a handler to show a dog with a bad temperament. I know the handler’s got to make a living but misrepresenting the dog’s character isn’t the way to do it, and a breeder shouldn’t put a handler in this type of position to begin with.

Lastly the other person that is responsible for the temperament of the breed is the judge. The judge has the final say about the character of any given dog shown under him. Most judges do a good and honest job in their ring. They truly are looking for the best representative according the dog’s breed standard. Most of them won’t tolerate bad temperament. I’ve seen dog’s that have been excused because of it. If the dog tries to bite the judge, he gets excused. If a dog shies from the judge, most of the times he gets put to the end of the line. Then there are those few who ignore bad temperament and put the dog up anyway because they “want to do the right thing” by the big shot standing ring side who is throwing dirty looks in his direction just daring him not to put his dog up. Although this isn’t common, it still does happen. He’s saying to ringside that “The dog is such a great one; I had to overlook the fact that I couldn’t get my hands on him!” And some foolish or “don’t give a damn” breeders will still breed to him.

So as we can see, it’s not just one group of people that are responsible for the temperament in the breed. It’s all of the groups of people mentioned that are responsible. Should anyone take more responsibility than the other? Obviously they are all responsible, but in my opinion none more so than the breeder. It all starts and ends with her. She choices the stock that she breeds to and then sells these poorly tempered puppies to an unsuspecting public.

Besides the genetics of this breed, socialization from an early age is highly recommended. These puppies need to see and be around people. They need to be taken places. They need to be there when company comes to visit instead of being locked away. Going to training classes is an excellent way for your puppy to be around people and other dogs. Take him for walks and let him explore the world around him. In order to bring out the best in his personality, you must help develop it. If the breeder did a good job breeding to the best tempered dog she could find, it’s up to the owner to make sure that he stays that way.

From the book: "PERSONALITY: WHAT MAKES YOU THE WAY YOU ARE"......It is one of the great mysteries of human nature. Why are some people worriers, and others wanderers? Why are some people so easy-going and laid-back, while others are always looking for a fight? Written by Daniel Nettle--author of the popular book Happiness--this brief volume takes the reader on an exhilarating tour of what modern science can tell us about human personality. Revealing that our personalities stem from our biological makeup, Nettle looks at the latest findings from genetics and brain science, and considers the evolutionary origins and consequences of different personalities. The heart of the book sheds light on the "big five": Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientious, Agreeableness, and Openness. Using a stimulating blend of true-life stories and scientific research, Nettle explains why we have something deep and consistent within us that determines the choices we make and situations we bring about. He addresses such questions as why members of the same family differ so markedly in their natures? What is the best personality to have--a bold one or a shy one, an aggressive one or a meek one? And are you stuck with your personality, or can you change it? Life, Nettle concludes, is partly the business of finding a niche where your personality works for you. "It is a question of choosing the right pond," he notes, "and being mindful of the dangers." Full of wisdom as well as scientific insight, this book illuminates the pluses and minuses of personality, offering practical advice about living with the nature you were born with.

My rating: Temperament as called for by the German Shepherd Dog standard: (4), those that chose to use and breed to bad temperament: (1)


  1. I may be totally off base here because I have never shown a dog or raised a show dog. I do know people like Nettles though who write well and can overpower others with their superior "knowledge".
    It just seems to me dogs don't come with inferior personalities or temperaments. They come with extremely superior intelligence and they watch every move an owner makes and respond accordingly. Owners more than anything determine a dogs temperament I think. To say they come pre-disposed with a certain temperament just doesn't make sense to me.
    We have a rescue GSD that came to us at 4 yrs old with a fear of just about everything and zero self confidence. When we first saw her she ran and hid under the rescue person's deck. Most people would have written her off right there. In two years of building her confidence, trust and loving her beyond spoiled she is just now becoming a quality GSD and acting like a GSD should..
    If the fault lies anywhere it is not in the breeding it is in the owner not realizing just how intelligent these GSD's actually are mistakingly taking their best traits for granted. Of course when your eye's are focused on dollar sighs or designations you miss little things like that or simply overlook them.
    Personally I think people like Nettles needs to have a cat who will show him who is really superior. To contend that GSD's can't adjust or overcome traits that they pick up from human handlers severely limits the breed in my opinion. I think the blame is being misplaced.

  2. Not totally related to barking but the TV news just reported that a little girl who was selling a glass of lemonade for 50 cents a glass was shut down by the city for not having a $120.00 vendor permit. After local outcry they finally waived the fee.
    They walk among us and complain about any thing including a dog that might happen to bark. They need more restrictions for breeding among idiots than dogs. Just my opinion.