Should we keep this puppy?
February 21, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

New puppy-filter. More specifically: is this new puppy for us-filter.

I'm staying at my father's house for a semester and last night the neighbor knocked on the door holding a 6 week old german shepherd puppy. He says he bought it from his father and is offering it to us because my father has mentioned to him he is thinking of getting the family a dog. Our household right now is: my dad, his wife, their two children ages 10 and 5, and me. I just got done sharing the duty of raising a labrador from 8 weeks with my girlfriend and I think we produced a well adjusted dog with no food or toy aggression whatsoever, so I do feel qualified to help but do not want the responsibility entirely for myself if I'm not taking this dog with me when I leave.

I am on the fence as to whether this household is right for a puppy at the moment because my father and his wife both work from roughly 9am to 7pm and I am home for a break only once a day. This problem compounded with the puppy being only 6 weeks old is worrying me a bit. I am questionable about my stepmothers commitment, however she works closest to the house and would be the one checking in on the puppy the most. She is looking forward to having a yard dog that will be more of a security measure than a member of the family.

I'm worried the cuteness is clouding my judgement on this one. I really want to keep the dog and try to help them raise it but they may decide to give it away if it is too difficult and I couldn't handle that. Also, first question. woot!
Thanks in advance for reading this, and sorry if it sounds incoherent, this is being decided this evening.

Obligatory pic:
posted by murkywaters to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
Man, I would really say no. Does that dog deserve to be sitting alone in a yard all day, every day for the rest of her life? Your stepmother should get a burglar alarm system, not a living animal, if what she wants is a burglar alarm system.
posted by cairdeas at 3:10 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

This isn't based on any evidence, but the last two times I or my family has gotten a new dog, we've taken a "dog vacation" and stayed with her constantly for a week while she gets acclimated. I feel like leaving a puppy alone for that large a chunk of the day as he's getting acclimated to his new environment is asking for trouble, especially with a really smart, high-energy breed.

Considering your stepmother's ambivalence*, is your dad prepared to take primary responsibility for the dog after you leave? 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. is crazy long to leave a dog of any age alone on a regular basis. Are they prepared to get a dog walker to come once or twice every day, or start taking at least one midday break?

* "yard dog" and "security measure" both raise red flags to me as well.
posted by supercres at 3:12 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

No, especially for 2 reasons:

1. as cairdeas mentioned: Does that dog deserve to be sitting alone in a yard all day, every day for the rest of her life?

2. 6 weeks old - too young and as I've heard, being taken from its litter before 8 weeks of age is almost a guarantee for behavioral problems later on.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, I should point out that a smart, high-energy, under-exercised dog left outside all day will escape and run away from anything less secure than a medium-security prison. (For dog's sake, don't put him on a chain or something cruel like that.)

I'd say no. Cuteness, intense as it is, is clouding your judgement.
posted by supercres at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aside from all the normal issues surrounding puppy raising, one problem with a puppy so young is that they haven't had enough time to develop good social skills with their littermates. This means they may be more nippy, and I personally would not be thrilled with overly nippy puppy plus 5-yr old. That's in addition to the very real problem of leaving a very young puppy on its own for most of the day, most days. But the worst is the fact your stepmother is talking about a "yard dog", instead of a member of the family. I'd say no, emphatically.
posted by Glinn at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think your stepmom should have any kind of dog. "Yard dog???" Dogs are not yard ornaments or mechanical alarm systems.

If you were the primary caretaker, and would be for the foreseeable future, AND if this dog could look forward to spending its life mostly inside with you, I'd say yes. (What a cutie.) As none of those things seems to be true, I'm nthing the no vote.
posted by bearwife at 3:22 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Wow - a blessing and a curse!

A cute puppy! Puppies are cute! And this one is free! But...but...

Six weeks old is VERY young to have been separated from his litter, and he will have missed some important socializing from his mom and siblings.

Free dogs can get awfully expensive. Shots. Neutering. Good food. Vet bills for random accidents. They can be prone to hip dysplasia (especially those from backyard breeders) and bloat. Does your family have a few thousand dollars laying around, in case of, say, a car accident or ingestion of something requiring surgery?

German Shepherds are lovely all that thick lovely fur...that they shed. A lot. Are y'all ready for the shedding?

And well, a 5 and a 10 year old are a great age for enjoying a puppy - but not for being responsible for one. Can they be trusted not to roughhouse? Will they help at all?

Is your dog tolerant of puppies? Do you want the aggravation of dealing with the two of them at any time?

And German Shepherds are so intelligent and loyal - will he be well-trained and treated kindly always there?

Better that you asked if you're the right family for him - not if he's for you. It sounds like even if he is, this isn't the time, for you or him. Please send him to a breed-specific rescue, not back to the neighbour, if you can get away with that. Otherwise he may end up no better off.
posted by peagood at 3:24 PM on February 21, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you for the quick replies. I'm not really familiar with how profound of an effect the 6 weeks thing has on dogs behavior and wish I had more time to look into it. But if they turn around and say they're willing to try the dog vacation and do give her the attention she needs, I'm thinking there's a chance I won't end up having to raise the pup by myself.

The yard dog comment seems like it will be a compromise, but she is expecting it to be an inside/outside dog with emphasis on the outside. I want to show this thread to them but I don't think I've portrayed them too flatteringly in the question.

It's a bummer but it doesn't look like this is the dog for them. I hope I can persuade them to decline the offer.
posted by murkywaters at 3:29 PM on February 21, 2012

my father and his wife both work from roughly 9am to 7pm and I am home for a break only once a day.

That puppy (who is too young anyway) is going to be all on it's own for ten hours a day at least? This is not going to turn out well. Behavior Training, house-training, teething- all these things are in the future for that puppy- and they are an incredible time-sucks.

Don't do this.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:32 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

German Shepherds are often on the lists of dogs that bite most often. A herding dog with young children in the family needs a lot of training. I think they'd be better off with an older, mellower dog, who will be more content to hang out during the day.
posted by theora55 at 3:47 PM on February 21, 2012

Please make sure this puppy goes to someone who will appreciate it and take care of it and not throw it out the minute they have kids or move house/appartments.

And no, German Shepherds are no more likely to bite than other dogs. They are highly intelligent dogs with great personalities and make great guard dogs.
posted by pakora1 at 4:42 PM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: "He says he bought it from his father and is offering it to us because my father has mentioned to him he is thinking of getting the family a dog. "

What does this mean? Is he gifting you a dog he paid for? Or is he selling the puppy.

- Is he offering or outright giving you the dog because he's already aware it has behavioral issues?

I have A LOT to say about Shepherds, as I grew up with one and have known quite a few pure and mixed. More later. But first...

- The comment about too being too young to be away from its litter is spot-on. One of my cats has this problem, and our new vet pegged this fact of her history within the first 3 minutes of observing her in his office, despite the fact that we never mentioned it. In a little itty bitty feline with expert help, we were easily able to mitigate the results on her behavior (thanks, new vet!) but in a breed like a German Shepherd, you'll have a much more difficult time of it.

- Dogs (and cats, honestly) are a full-time job. I've had pets all of my life. I now have a ten month old son. My son at his current wee stage only takes about 1/4 more effort to care for than the Basenji puppy I rescued (a puppy likely also too young to be adopted at the time of initial ownership, very high-energy breed.) The only time I never owned a pet was between the years of 2001 to 2004. I love my pets. But man, I remember those 3 years as FUN! It felt weird because I'd never been pet-less before, but I traveled a lot for work and pleasure, moved overseas and back, and generally had adventures that have not been possible as effortlessly since I acquired pets again. So there's that.

Now. About Shepherds.

I've known some that are lovely, and some that had true behavioral problems (but were still lovely towards their owners.) They all had the same basic nature.

Labradors are NOT Shepherds. Shepherds are true "pack dogs." When you get one, it will fixate on one family member and make that person their "pack leader." Everyone else is just another member of the hierarchy, some above the dog, some below. To teach the dog to be safe around most humans takes some effort - the dog WILL want to "protect" its entire pack (human family) from strangers. Another pair of dogs I knew in this realm (besides the numerous Rottweiler and Shepherd-Rotti mixes, plus one particular Boxer that had no problem asserting himself with me physically everytime his owner left the room, etc) were Wolf hybrids. One was well trained, and his brother who had a less than stellar upbringing (loose in the yard all day, no training) eventually came to live with his brother in the "better" dog family. I don't remember which one, but one of them sent a friend to the hospital after a bite to the face during some friendly rough-housing. Plastic surgery was required, thank god it was not worse.

I mention this because the Shepherd I grew up with was VERY well trained, and around a lot of children all his life. Also, he jumped through the screen door on at least two occasions and bit the mail carrier, he bit the vet when was sick and receiving treatment, and he bit a neighborhood teenager in the presence of his adult owners. If this happened today, he would have likely been put down after the first or second incident.

I want to point out that BOTH of the dogs I just highlighted had exceptional and experienced owners.


Let's say this puppy gets exceptional care from you in the beginning, and then you move out of your parent's home. You'll be his "pack leader." But you'll be gone. Then what?


All dogs have varying degrees of "pack mentality," but the ones bred for security, like Shepherds, really require a lot of care OR lucky genes to ensure they'll be safe to be around. Except for this pair of Rotties I once knew that were totally docile (BUT HUGE!) dogs like this require heaps of rules for the humans in their environment to observe. So when visitors are over or strangers (mail carriers, delivery people) turn up, the dog owner must ALWAYS be on their guard.


I LOVE Shepherds, especially Shepherd puppies! I feel comfortable around them, and other dogs like them, thanks to my childhood experiences.

Knowing what I know about the ginormous responsibility involved with their care, however, that is a breed that would not fit my lifestyle or your family's at this time.

YMMV, of course.

PS - Your mom might really like a Rottweiler. IMHE, they have a "protect thing" going on, but are less aggressive with folks they are unfamiliar with. I'm sure other posters might disagree! But looking back over the years, they seem a lot more emotionally stable, collectively, than many of the Shephards, Wolf hybrids, Boxers, Pit Bulls, and other "aggressive-type" breeds I've known.

The BEST dog or cat is always the one you "vibe" with and has a great personality. The bigger the dog (except for Pit bulls, which can be tiny but ferocious:) the more important this becomes.
posted by jbenben at 5:16 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

PPS - Thank you for observing proper etiquette and posting a pic of the little guy!
posted by jbenben at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2012


1. Right now, the only good home for this baby is with her mother. She is too young to be separated yet from her mother and her litter-mates.

2. I don't think dogs should be left alone for such a long time. And puppies definitely shouldn't. They really are babies and need lots of attention and discipline for the first several months of their lives.

3. The concept of a "yard dog" is just wrong. Dogs are very social animals and are dependent on their owners for their well-being. They should be fully a part of their human family and not left out in the yard, especially, again, when just puppies.
posted by primate moon at 6:08 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Having an "outdoor dog" or a "yard dog" is not an option, especially for a family with children.

1. Dogs kept outdoors face a lot more dangers then do dogs who are allowed to live indoors with their people. These include, but are certainly not limited to escape, traffic, poisoning, other animals, hypothermia, hyperthermia, and malicious people.

2. Outdoors dogs have behavior problems. Being outside for them 24/7 is very stressfull for them. Dogs kept outdoors are more apt bark, dig, whine, and develop other annoying/destructive behavior that can be disturbing to you and your neighbors.

3. Keeping you dog on a chain to prevent escape or confine it to a certain area is inhumane.

4. Dogs kept outdoors are less likely to see the veterinarian. (Not to mention there is no discussion about how the vet bills for this puppy are going to get paid).
Please, please, please do not bring a puppy or an adult dog into this household.

I work at an animal shelter and deal on daily basis with people who couldn't resist the cute puppy. Many of the outdoor dogs that are relinquished to us are humanely euthanized because they are a) unadoptable or b) in terrible physical and mental health and are suffering.

I am sure you will be a great dog owner one day. Just not right now and not with this dog.
posted by OsoMeaty at 6:42 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

OMG - the point that dogs are social animals - YES.

They LOVE other dogs*. Do you know why dogs often seem to be barking for no reason? If you listen closely, there is usually a dog in the next house/yard/block barking back to them.

There's a reason there are "dog run" areas in parks, but not "cat run" areas. Cats are social, too, but not like dogs are. They need to meet and hang out regularly. It's not just about exercise. Really.

*The only breed this doesn't really hold for are pure breed Dalmations, who do not socialize like other dogs, but love love love other Dalmatians.
posted by jbenben at 6:49 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

No. This dog is not for your family.

I am the proud parent of a German Shepherd Dog and I can tell you that you're asking for a world of trouble. The situation you describe is not right for such a high energy and above all smart dog. He will find ways to keep himself busy if you don't. He will also become a very large dog. People seem to forget how huge a GSD can really get. Big, strong, smart, and possibly stubborn. Without proper training, socialization, and some kind of job to do he will be destructive and loud. It's an ongoing thing too. You won't just be able to get him through puppyhood and then walk away. He will need near constant stimulation and training.

German Shepherds are beautiful, amazing dogs but they aren't for everyone.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for the perspective and advice. I convinced my family not to take the dog. And to clarify, the neighbor's father wanted money for the dog. So the neighbor paid his father for it, and then offered it to us for free because he remembered my father mentioned wanting a dog.

I hope I didn't bum anyone out by marking someone else with similar a similar post as a favorite. I'm still getting the hang of things around here!
posted by murkywaters at 4:55 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

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