Thursday, December 2, 2010


There has been unrest in the German Shepherd Dog community for quite some time now. I suppose it’s not unlike the unrest in the rest of the country. But I feel it deep down in my bones. It’s like there is something in the air that we breathe. A general state of unhappiness perforates that air. You can’t touch it. You can’t smell it. But nevertheless it’s there.

Like most of you I have access to communicating with the rest of the German Shepherd Dog community through e-mail lists, Facebook, and the good old fashioned way of on the telephone or in person. People are not as enthusiastic or excited about a new litter or a show coming up like they once were. Negativity has replaced hopefulness and the anticipation of a “new star” that is born. Some breeders are closing shop or at least cutting way back. The days of the big show dog kennels are becoming a thing of the past. More and more breeders are devoting their time and effort into helping with the rescue efforts. Some people just enjoy their dogs by training them for obedience work and then others still are just enjoying them as their devoted and loving pets.

When Specialty clubs close their doors and it becomes harder and harder to find a major pointed show, many people have become discouraged and don’t want to put in the extra work looking for a major. It’s almost like the German Shepherd community has taken a nap. Will they wake up and prosper and shine again? Or will they find other things to take up their time? Oh their love for the breed will never waver, but perhaps they have discovered that there are other ways to enjoy their dogs that they never did before.

Well known kennels tell me that they don’t want to show anymore and I laugh looking at their success record questioning their decision. But the last laugh is on me. They’re serious. When they tell me that they can’t even sell their top show puppies because there isn’t any show homes, then I realize that they are very much serious. What’s the sense in putting thousands of dollars into a breeding and you don’t have the show homes to sell them to? For some of these people they are now using local stud dogs or the ones that they have in their own kennels. It’s become a thing of economics and it’s forced some breeders to rethink their breeding programs.

Baby Boomers are now hitting their senior years and in some cases it has forced some to look at their priorities a little bit more. Let’s face it, housing and feeding a kennel full of dogs is expensive. And let’s not forget the wear and tear on our aging bodies. Even if we do age well, we’re still not like when we were in our twenties. And if you are not breeding these dogs like you used to, then you are spending lots of money to keep them comfortable for the rest of their lives. Many wisely decide to find loving, forever homes for their dogs rather than have them waste away in a kennel all day long. It has brought some people to their knees making the decision to let some of these wonderful animals go, but economics helps make that decision a little easier for them.

I have a few personal friends that have changed their view on breeding and showing dogs. All have been successful in their own ways……some in very big ways and others in smaller ways, but successful nevertheless. When I hear the words like, “It’s no longer any fun” or “Nothing excites me anymore” I immediately think that this is just a phase that they are going through. They’ll lay low for awhile and come the spring, “show dog fever” will hit them once again. Hey maybe that’s it. It’s the winter time and some people do tend to become a little more melancholy during the long, cold winter days. But I’m assured by them that no it’s not a seasonal blue period in their lives. It’s almost as if they are looking for greener pastures to explore. Some of them are all “showed out!”

The other thing I hear an awful lot of is the lack of support from the established breeders and exhibitors towards the “younger version” of themselves. Without a welcoming community for new people to come into, I’m afraid a hostile environment will only leave them cold and leave them never walking back into a show ring again. The days of noses up in the air, “I’m better than you,” has died a slow death and right along with it the very community of the future of the show dog. It can’t exist without the people needed to support it.

Will my friends and those others that are leaving the breeding and showing of the German Shepherd Dog behind “come to their senses” again or will their common sense prevail? Will they buy that little red sports car and vacation on Paradise Island spending their senior years sipping on Pina Coladas and partaking of tropical delicacies? Probably not. Will we still have things to talk about now that dogs are no longer a major focus of their lives? I hope so.

Our love for the German Shepherd Dog brought us together and a friendship was formed because of our shared interest and love for the breed. Hopefully that friendship will endure because we truly care about one another. They’ll probably still be German Shepherds in our lives even if it’s one of the “oldsters’ lying by our rocking chair, or just the memories that reach out to us from the pages of our photo albums. The dust might collect on the show win pictures hanging on our wall, but it will still be a reminder. We will remember because it was a good time to be in dogs and although the applause has come to a halt, the memories of it still linger in our mind and we remember it was the best time!

From the book "MY SO-CALLED FREELANCE LIFE"...."Since we’re all sh**ing our pants over the current economic situation, this book couldn’t come at a better time. My So-Called Freelance Life saunters its way through the ins and outs of becoming a successful solo professional, whether you’re a newly graduated 20-something trapped in a monotonous cubicle job or a new mom looking for flexible hours. Having accumulated a great deal of experience on the topic, Michelle Goodman (author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide) leaves no paperweight unturned, explaining how to get started, maintain a budget and schedule, gather/weed out clientele, and legally cover your a**. Goodman includes a bevy of relevant links, contacts, organizations, and advice on everything from negotiating your hourly rate to when to quit working for the Man. While her book thoroughly covers every fundamental career intricacy you can imagine, wit and hilarity are also seated firmly within. (She even quotes Peter Gallagher on The OC, thus actualizing the poetry of my heart.) Not only is this book an incredible guide on how to get started, but it’s also inspiring and oddly comforting. “You can’t hitch your entire creative career on one big break—or one fat failure,” Goodman writes, “you have to keep moving forward, reaching for bigger and better.” It’s a book you will feel compelled to keep in your personal library (probably between your college dictionary and your religious tome of choice), or you can be like me and sleep with it in your arms."

My rating: Retiring from dogs: (1 - 4), Developing other interests: (4)


  1. Most of the best puppy owners want to do something WITH their dogs instead of paying someone else to do it. The specialty ring is perceived as being a place where you can only be seriously competitive if you have a good handler and those are few and far between and generally taken. It is no fun just to write checks.
    I like being with my dogs. I like the bond I build by working them. I used to spend a lot of time training and conditioning them for the conformation ring, but it is not as rewarding as training them and handling them yourself in some performance event I can do.
    I do evaluate the dogs per the standard and I value opinions from people I respect in the breed. I still breed - do so for dogs I want - trainable, sound, and correct. Many are finishable but the people who have them also want to do stuff WITH their dogs so the conformation ring is barely an afterthought.
    Too bad for the sport. Maybe if it once again becomes owner/handler friendly by changing back to a reasonable way of showing the dogs we will again have conformation exhibitors. Until then I will keep finding owners who want to work with their dogs.

  2. Barbara you do a great job with difficult topics. Maybe the German Shepherd show dog has gone the way of other good things that have seen their time and now wain and fade away. Unfortunately this has happened in so many other area's as people develop different interests. Perhaps it is as you say and it will revive again, but perhaps it will just be a fond memory of things past for many folks.
    When I was a child our activity was getting the neighborhood kids together to play kick the can or capture the flag. If you could get two kids together today for this activity it would be rare. Instead they have more sophisticated games. They have endless organized sports to participate in. Will those old activities be revived. Probably not, but for some they will always be fond memories.
    I can tell you there is a huge interest in the German Shepherd breed. For all those qualities that the breed possesses. People want them for all their great traits but not so much for show. We are being flooded with applications to adopt but not all adopters are adopting for the right reasons. The breed stands out above other breeds and hopefully will continue to do so. This is during a time of designer dogs and a multitude of mixed breeds. I just hope the German Shepherd survives as an intact breed.

  3. Cost certainly is a factor. We've spent a good deal of money exhibiting our puppy this year, and while she came away with some excellent wins, we have no points. And we actually saved money because we do not use a handler. I owner handle.

    My husband and I buy our dogs for US, not anybody else. We also raise our dogs a specific way and want the integrity of that training maintained. We also do not fancy being yelled at by a handler because we're not standing in the correct corner to call our dog. We teach our dogs to move out and go on their own, and it works just fine.

    I also feel the lack of support is a huge factor. "You MUST get a handler, at least for majors, or your dog will never finish!"

    It's not always about winning.

    Or when people go to shows, and the ignore the people that just want to ask about their GSDs. If they're not interested in buying a puppy (particularly a show prospect), they're not worth the time, and that's not true.

    We try very very hard to welcome new people not only into the breed, but into the sport of conformation. I talked with a lovely couple at the dog show in Philly who are getting their first show puppy from a well known American kennel. They were asking about handlers and everything, and I encouraged them to at least TRY owner handling first. If they end up hiring a handler, fine, but at least try, and know that it takes time, money, and some embarrassments along the way.

    Never, ever, have I regretted owner handling. Never, ever have I had the desire to hire one. People tell me I'll have to hire a handler for my puppy's majors, and I refuse. My husband and I bought this puppy for US, not for anybody else.

    Our breeder wants us to hire a handler for her Futurity, and we politely said no, and told her why.

    And I can admit that owner handling isn't JUST about having our dog with us. It is about money. Handlers are not cheap. They charge a lot of money, plus bonuses for certain things. We're not willing to drop $60 on entry fees and then pay the handler their fee PLUS lodging and food and gas.

  4. Barb
    For me I am just tired of doing 30 to 40 shows a year. Its not fun any more. I do like my dogs though but as for German Shepherd people most of them I could never call a friend. People in this breed are not very nice any more. We have lost the class act breeders that we had years ago. But who knows maybe things will change in the future for our Great breed.

  5. They say they can not sell show puppies from top producing animals, that's funny! I have been in this for a while now and I have tried to get a puppy from some top people and since they do not know me they do not give me the time of day. So there are many reasons they can not sell/place a show puppy ie: they never contact you back, they want and arm and a leg for the puppy, you have to use this handler, they want to call all the shots. Who wants to own with all those stipulations. I know I do not and won't. If show homes are so hard to find then maybe they should try placing some show puppies in show homes instead of asking a outragous amount. Esp. with the economy the way it is. Most can not afford to pay tons for a puppy and then be at a zillion shows and pay for everything else. I owner finish all my dogs. I have a few people that I do and would co-own with and that is it. If I am supporting the dog and doing everything for it then I will be the once calling the shots.

    Yes, the morale is down at the shows and sometimes there is no fun left. You always see people congratulate the winner then they talk *&*&&& behind their back. Where is the fun in that? You see animals get put up that clearly have faults and some serious, but who is on the end of the lead? Yes, it is very fusturating and as long as this stuff keeps happening then we are still going to keep decling.