Here by popular demand, are the answers to the most often asked about subjects. We'll add to this as we have time. Since every picture tells a story, we'll put a thumbnail photo by the text so you can see for yourself. Just click on it to enlarge. This is just what we've learned from 30-plus years of breeding. We suggest you use it as a starting point for your own research. We're still studying and learning on a daily basis.
Q. What are the differences in coats?
A. We find that there are 4 kind of coats found in GSD. One is an extremely short coat, about half inch, which may not have an undercoat. We never have this type of dog and so have no photo, sorry.
2. The second type of coat is ashort coat. It has a thick undercoat. 2.
3. The third type is a plush coat. This ranges from about an inch to 2 1/2 inches long.
It is easy to manage and in fact, sucks in less stickers than a short coat due to a different type of
undercoat. (not so dense) Plush and long coats always look bigger. 3.
4. Fourth type is long coat, aka long hair.
This is a long coat which does requite some brushing but is gorgeous. 4.
NOTE: Puppies have "puppy coats" which can be long and fuzzy, but they will often shed them to become either short coats or plush coats. See Sasha, our black pup, who was VERY fuzzy and is now only slightly plush, and Rascal, same story.
Sasha and Rascal at 8 weeks and then 3 months
Q. What is the difference between males and females (other than the obvious?)
A. This is a big ole can of worms. You will find everyone gives you a different answer on this one and it usually depends on the experiences they have had with their own dogs. The obvious difference is that males tend to be larger. We do not find that either males or females are more faithful, guard better, are more intelligent, or easier to train. What we do find is that males pee on stuff (like my hay bales), and that girls who aren't spayed can have a tendency to be bitchy to other dogs. However, these are OUR experiences. Does it mean I don't like either one? No. We do recommend that you neuter males by age 2 just to help ensure that they don't get aggressive or excessively romantic. Most of all though, dogs of either gender need to be well socialized and trained, and then you will be fine with either sex most of the time. And for the intimidation factor, get a male or one of our big females, and the darker they are the scarier they look. Most of our dogs will protect their owner, hands down, so that is not a factor.
Q. How will such big GSD get along with my small dogs? Will they be safe?
A. In this case, pictures speak louder than words. We have MANY clients who have tiny dogs, and cats, and their pups and grown GSD are marvelous with them. Introduce your pup to them as early as you can, and train the puppy to be nice. We have play days where our friends bring their dogs over to play with our big dogs - it's lots of fun. We NEVER recommend dog parks - let them play at your home where they are safe and you can control the situation.
Q. How do puppy's coats change?
A. Other than length, (see above), the colors often change a LOT. Puppies get lighter, never darker. Our pups are often born totally black, and they lighten up for more than a year. Here are some photos of Bacchus, our stud dog, from puppyhood until a year old.
Q. Do your dogs like to play games? Do they swim?
A. Yes, although our dogs are bred to be low drive, they enjoy games. They do not have a lot of ball drive, so if you want them to play ball, start with your puppy early. They are highly intelligent and will learn fast.
Kona of course is our star basketball player - her owners say she is just incredibly athletic. Which leads us to the next question.
Q. We've heard that big dogs are not athletic, and that they have more incidence of hip dysplasia and bad elbows. Is this true?
A. False. Our dogs are extremely athletic. One of the benefits of our breeding program is that we have been breeding for 34 years now. That means that we have been able to monitor six generations of our dogs to see how they age and how their hips hold up. We have had exactly two clients in all these years tell us that their dogs had hip problems. No reports at all of bad elbows. We are VERY careful never to breed dogs unless we have a long history of good health in their background. This is something you will never get from a casual breeder. In fact, it is much more valuable information than getting a dog from OFA parents where you don't know their history - because two OFA excellent dogs can throw dysplastic pups. Since we monitor not just the parents, but also siblings and cousins, we are confident that we produce good hips.
Q. What is OFA ?
A. The OFA is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. You can submit Xrays to them and receive a rating on hips and elbows. We used to think that if a dog got a bad rating, like dysplastic, that it was the end of the world. We've learned a lot since then. We still xray all of our breeding dogs and never breed a dog with poor hips. What we learned though, was that the quality of the xrays you submit to the OFA to be read is absolutely critical. If you send them badly taken xrays (like the dog is crooked on the table), or if the dog is sedated too much (which creates too much laxity), they won't tell you the xrays are bad and to re-take them. Instead, they will just give you a bad rating and say the dog has bad hips. Bad xrays don't mean bad hips. So if you do submit xrays to OFA, go to a VERY good vet who is well educated in taking xrays specifically for OFA, and get digital xrays. Make sure a female has not just been in heat. There are many factors which will influence the rating you get, so do your homework and submit proper xrays.
Q. Why do Black Magic pups need to be kept on human grade dog food? (and what is that?)
A. Your dog's future health is dependent for the most part on two things - food and exercise. (also, do not over-vaccinate, the subject of another FAQ). The single greatest influence you can have on your dog's health is what you feed them. By feeding the best food possible, you can save money on vet bills, keep your dog healthy and happy, keep their bones and joints in good shape, and extend their lifetime.
Human grade dog food is food you could eat yourself. It's certified edible for humans. What this means is that you won't be getting a meat source that might be pound animals or sick animals full of drugs from a rendering plant (yes, dog food meat can come from there). You will get real chicken, not beaks and feathers. If you get your food from the makers we recommend, the ingredients will come from the US, not from China, where they might be contaminated with melamine. If you spend more money on good dog food, you'll spend less at the vet, so it all evens out in the end. Except that your dog gets to be healthy.
We set up all our puppy clients with the food we think is the best in the U.S. If you are reading this and are not a client and want to try it, email us and we'll mail you some. It's kind of a mission for us - we think our best friends deserve to eat healthy food and would like to spread the word where to find it.
Q. Should I let my dog have table scraps?
A. Well, we never EVER let our dogs eat anything while we are eating. That's a really bad idea. Dogs that beg while you are at the dinner table are sooo naughty, and it's your fault.
However, yes, we do give our dogs our scraps sometimes, mixed in with their dry kibble. Not on a regular basis, because they LOVE their dry kibble and we like it that way. However, if we have a bit of meat that would go to waste, or some vegetables, the dogs get it. We also feed them raw sweet potatoes and raw carrots as treats. Really, who doesn't like to give their dog a treat now and then? But letting them clean your plate every night or giving them scraps of bacon fat is not a good idea. (Use your head......)
Q. When should I spay or neuter my dog?
A. Dogs need hormones to mature properly. There are tons of studies that show that dogs, especially large breeds, need hormones for their bones and bodies to grow normally. For GSDs, this means keeping them intact until they are two years old. From what we've studied, it is a very bad idea to fix your GSD before it is, at minimum, 18 months old. Spaying a female before then often will lead to early incontinence. Males do not mature properly in many ways. We think you should give this serious consideration BEFORE buying a puppy, and be ready to commit to what it takes to keep your dog safe and not bred while they are growing up. This is a short answer to a very involved question, so please feel free to ask for more info on studies. Or better yet, research this yourself. A good place to start is the online magazine The Dog Press.
Q. Do puppies need to be crated?
A. This is an individual choice. However, it will make your life easier in many ways if you teach your puppy to crate. We crate every puppy several times before they go to new homes, so all you have to do with our pups is keep it up. A crate is a safe place to leave a puppy where it can take a nap, stay out of trouble, and just safely contained. It does help in housetraining. Some pups grow up to love their crates and prefer to sleep in them. We do not keep our grown dogs in crates, ever, but we do use them to help with housebreaking and at feeding times to keep the dogs apart. (So the piggy dogs don't eat up all the food from the slow eaters).
Q. How many times a day should a grown dog eat?
A. Our dogs eat twice a day, morning and night. GSDs can be prone to bloat (most large breeds are), so it's best if they eat two smaller meals instead of one big one.
Q. What method of training is best for GSDs?
A. Our dogs are fairly soft (meaning, they are low drive and non-aggressive), so the best way to train them is by positive reinforcement. Marker training is great. Treats are good. The Leerburg site has some very good videos for training this way. The best by far are the Michael Ellis DVDs. They are kind of our dog training bible. You can find them at www.leerburg.com or on Michael Ellis' site along with a bunch of free online videos. You will have to once in awhile make your pup uncomfortable if need be though - it's not all treats and kisses. This is best done with aversion, not punishment - Get the DVDs to learn how.
Do NOT use human techniques on your puppy like "time out". Seriously. This is meant to be a short FAQ so I won't go into training methods but trust me, that won't work on a puppy.
Q. What are the CKC and AKC registries, and why does Black Magic use both?
A. AKC is the American Kennel Club. CKC is the Continental Kennel Club. We use both - most of our dogs are registered AKC and CKC. However, Judah is only registered CKC so his pups are CKC.
What's the diffference? The AKC is an older registry and they used to be the preferred one. However, in the last decade, the AKC has changed the look of many breeds in an undesirable way (like the sloping hips and small size of most German Shepherds now). They support puppy mills and the selling of pups to pet stores. They are mostly just a money-making operation now, and we do not support this.
The Continental Kennel Club is a registry that is easy to work with and not expensive. We have never had a bad experience with them as they are very helpful. Since our pups are not sold as breeding animals nor are they show dogs (they are too big to show in conformation), it doesn't matter to most of our clients what registry they are. ALL of our dogs are 100 percent purebred German Shepherds and ALL of them can be traced back to AKC registry within one generation.
Q. Should I buy a puppy from a pet store?
A. Never, ever. Buying a puppy from a pet store is supporting puppy mills. We have seen with our own eyes dogs sold in cages full of 10-20 dogs that were going to labs and puppy mills. Sold by the pound. An interesting fact btw is that the Humane Society is a political operation that does not run pet shelters. If you want to help out homeless dogs give money directly to your local no-kill shelter. And never, ever, NEVER give money to PETA. They are a terrorist organization whose goal is that noone should ever be allowed to own a pet.
Q. Is it recommended to get two puppies at a time, or wait till one is grown?
A. We always, always keep two pups at a time. Highly recommended unless you have an older dog also.