Category Archives: Breeds

German Shepherds – Choosing a German Shepherd Dog

Breed Profile on German Shepherd Dogs

Since his rise to movie fame in the early 1920s, the German shepherd has become a favorite breed for families, law enforcement and the disabled. Also known as the Alsatian, the German shepherd has consistently been one of the top 10 companion dogs in the United States and is a member of the “herding” class. Despite the similarity in appearance to the wolf, the German shepherd is a loyal, faithful and devoted human companion and, with proper training, can perform nearly any task. The German Shepherd is commonly abbreviated as GSD by veterinary staff.

The German shepherd was one of the top 10 breeds for the year 2014. Click here for the complete story on Top Dog Breeds of 2014.

History and Origin of The German Shepherd Dog

Prior to the late 1800s, sheep herding dogs were randomly bred, and only those that worked well were selected. As the 20th century approached, a strict breeding program was undertaken in Germany to develop the current randomly bred shepherd dog into a more uniform herding dog with versatility and intelligence. The newly developed German shepherd breed progressed and gained in popularity until the early 1900s. When World War I broke out in 1914, all things German became taboo; even German language courses were dropped from school curriculums. The fate of the German shepherd dog was in doubt. In order to save the breed, the American Kennel Club, which had registered the breed in 1912, temporarily changed the name to the shepherd dog. After the war, however, the original name was reinstated. In Britain, the name was changed to the Alsatian, although the German shepherd dog name was finally reinstated in 1979.

In the 1950s and 60s, Americans became interested in the German shepherd dog, and large numbers were imported. A syndicated television show and a number of movies starring Rin Tin Tin, a descendent of the canine movie star from the 1920s helped spur the renewed interest.

Over the years, German shepherds have become useful as guide dogs for the blind, deaf and other handicapped individuals because of their intelligence, trainability, well-rounded temperament, as well as their ability to get along well with people. The military and police force employ the breed for scent-discrimination to track criminals, drugs, weapons, bombs, and to find people buried in debris of earthquakes or other disasters.

Appearance and Size of German Shepherds

The German shepherd dog is medium to large size with erect pointed ears, a long body, and a weather resistant coat. A thick stiff outer coat covered by a softer inner one makes the German shepherd readily able to withstand extreme climates. The most popular colors are black and tan or a mixture with a dark saddle. White shepherds are not acceptable colors for showing but are becoming popular pets.

The German shepherd dog is typically 22 to 26 inches from the ground to the top of the shoulder. The normal adult weight is 75 to 90 pounds.

Personality of German Shepherds

The German shepherd dog is very intelligent, easy to train, powerful and elegant. Though not overly affectionate, shepherds are loyal and faithful. The breed is renowned as a police dog and is often used in search and rescue missions. The German shepherd is also a popular companion dog, family member, assistance dog and guard dog.

Home and Family Relations

Due to their tolerant nature, German shepherds are excellent pets for children and are natural protectors. With proper training, the shepherd is an effective and imposing guard dog.

Training of German Shepherd Dogs

Training should begin early in life. Untrained shepherds have a tendency to be difficult to handle and control. Since shepherds are intelligent and eager to learn, they can be trained to do a variety of tasks. They perform well in sentry duty, police work, tracking, obedience, search and rescue as well as assistance dogs for the disabled. Originally trained as a herder, the breed is still used in this capacity in some areas.

Special Care

German shepherds do not require any special care. Daily grooming will help keep their coat clean and healthy.

Even though the German shepherd dog is a strong muscular breed, they may be prone to a variety of ailments.

  • Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Elbow dysplasia is the abnormal development of certain parts of the elbow joint during the growing phase.
  • Epilepsy is a seizure disorder, which develops between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
  • Panosteitis is an inflammation of the long bones during growth. It results in pain and lameness until the dog matures.
  • Pyoderma refers to deep skin infections.
  • Hot spots are areas of itchy moist skin irritation.
  • Pannus is a disease of the eye resulting in inflammation.
  • Corneal dystrophy is a primary, inherited, bilateral (both sides), symmetrical condition of the cornea that is not accompanied by corneal inflammation or systemic disease.
  • Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive degenerative disease of the spinal cord that slowly results in weakness and eventually inability to use the rear legs.
  • Intervertebral disk disease is a disorder that affects the spinal disks resulting in pain, difficulty walking and possibly paralysis.
  • Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas related to insufficient amounts of insulin production.
  • Pancreatic insufficiency is another pancreatic disease that results in inability to digest food properly.
  • Malassezia Dermatitis – is a yeast infection of the skin caused by Malassezia pachydermatitis.
  • Food Allergy can occur in some pets. Affected pets develop skin lesions secondary to some food ingredients
  • Perianal Fistula – is an infection and development of fistulas of the anal glands and tissues around the anal area.
  • Aortic Stenosis – this disease is caused by stenosis of the aorta and causing symptoms such as weakness, collapse and sudden death.
  • Pericardial Effusion – is an accumulation of fluid within the pericardial space. It can be caused by tumors of the heart or idiopathic (no known cause).
  • Congenital Idiopathic Megaesophagus – is a dilatation of the esophagus caused by decreased contraction of the muscles, causing food regurgitation.
  • Lymphocytic plasmacytic enteritis (LPE) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lick granuloma is a condition in which the dog licks an area excessively, usually on the front leg, until a raised, firm ulcerated lesion is formed.
  • Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma is an adenocarcinoma of the anal glands.
  • Testicular tumors are tumors that involve the testicles in intact male dogs.
  • Dwarfism is a deficiency of growth hormone (GH), which is normally secreted by the pituitary gland.
  • Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to loose transparency and can result in blindness.
  • Lens luxation is a dislocation or displacement of the lens within the eye.In addition, German shepherds have a higher incidence of allergies, ear infections and malignant cancer such as hemangiosarcoma and Lymphoma.

Life Span

The average life span for a German shepherd dog is 10 to 13 years.
We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

Dr. Dawn Ruben

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Choosing a Mixed Dog Breed

The mutt is the all-American dog. Call him a random-breed, a mixed-dog-breed or a mongrel, at his best he’s loyal, healthy, smart and friendly – a virtual melting pot of positive canine characteristics.

For many animal lovers, owning a mutt is a badge of honor. Many come into the world as “surprises,” born of a homeless stray or a roaming house pet, then sent off to an animal shelter. Others are simply abandoned in parks or at highway rest stops. Adopting one of these unwanted dogs means you are literally saving a life – and the odds are he will make a great companion.

What Makes a Mutt Dog?

The terms “random breed” and “mixed breed” usually refer to a dog of unknown gene pool. A “cross breed” or “hybrid dog” is a dog whose parents were purebreds. If two cross breeds mate, their offspring are also mixed breeds. By the time four different breeds combine in one dog, there’s little chance to predict what breed traits, if any, will dominate in the hybrid dog breeds.

The common belief that mutts are superior has some truth to it. Over generations, unscrupulous breeders have perpetuated and magnified genetic flaws in many of the most popular purebreds.

Today’s generic mutt most resembles the “prototype” or “pariah” dog, the robust original wild dog that was amiable enough to become man’s first canine companion more than 14,000 years ago. This “ideal” dog weighs in at 35 to 50 pounds, is medium brown to dark blonde in color, and measures under 2 feet tall. He has perky ears, strong legs, an alert expression, a back that isn’t overextended, and a long tail that curls slightly at the end.

Choosing Your Mutt Dog

There are some common cross breeds: cockapoos are a cocker spaniel/poodlemix; pek-a-poos mix Pekingese and poodles; labradoodles are bred of Labradors and poodles; Bichon-Yorkies are bichon-frises and Yorkies. The lurcher is another prolific dog type not recognized as a breed. He is a mix of greyhound, Afghan, Irish wolfhound or other sight hound, with a herding or sporting dog, such as a beagle, collie, retriever or bull terrier.

The mixes found in shelters differ from region to region, depending on what kinds of dogs are popular in a particular area. For example, you’ll find more chow chow, shepherd or collie mixes in rural areas, and more pit bull or rottweiler mixes in urban shelters. Although the apartment-sized Chihuahua is plentiful, you won’t find many Chihuahua mixes, because such tiny dogs have limited breeding choices. If they mate with any dog but another toy, they usually can’t carry a litter of large puppies to term.

Plusses and Minuses of a Mutt Dog

  • He’s inexpensive. Obviously, he doesn’t come with a purebred price tag. In fact, donations at some shelters can be as low as $60 for a full-grown mutt. Even though he’s a bargain, he’s not a self-sufficient Superdog. Once he’s home, he’ll need normal doggy upkeep – proper nutrition, training, toys, licensing and identification, medical care and inoculations and grooming.
  • He’s healthy. “If a stray is a Dalmatian-Lab mix, he’ll probably not inherit the deaf and lame genes that plagued his ancestors. He’ll be a healthy pet,” says Steve Zawistowski, the ASPCA’s science adviser, who holds a Ph.D. in animal behavior and genetics from the University of Illinois. But a varied gene pool and a sturdier constitution don’t guarantee perfect health. Mutts get sick by chance, like any other creature.
  • He might get big. If you’re dealing with a puppy mutt, it will be tough – if not impossible – to predict his adult size, expression or coat type. Even if both parents are known, if their breeds are dissimilar, there’s little telling which side of the family your puppy will take after. Looking at the size of a puppy’s feet is the best, if still an unscientific, way to guess how much he’ll grow.
  • The Temperament of Various Mixes.  Being able to predict a dog’s potential temperament is especially important for the elderly and families with children. Certain breeds are recommended for experienced dog owners only.Random breeding can cancel out negative breed-related personality traits. But there’s little predicting in puppyhood whether a toy dog mix will exhibit all the yappiness and nervousness of their badly bred cousins. A medium or large dog descended from several stubborn, independent and aggressive breeds may be genetically wired to exhibit dominant and downright scary behavior; neutering before adolescence can help moderate their personalities.With an adopted mutt, there’s another issue important in determining how he’ll behave within the family – how he was treated by his earlier owners. He may not have been trained or may have been mistreated. In the end, a sorry past can play a larger part in an individual dog’s personality than the jumble of breeds within him.All things considered, it’s best to consider the adult dog as an individual, rather than a collection of specific breeds, says Zawistowski. That’s why shelter workers test a dog to determine his energy level, his learning ability and how he relates to grown-ups, children and other animals.
  • Mutt Tendencies
  • Toy mixes tend to nip at children; youngsters may also pose a danger to a toy’s delicate size and nature.
  • At worst, a toy-small terrier mix is both nervous and stubborn; at best, he is endlessly cute, cheerful and fun.
  • A watchful, protective breed, such as a Doberman, can become dominant and hard to handle when mixed with an energetic sporting or herding dog, like a cocker spaniel or border collie.
  • Certain naturally aggressive or neurotic dogs who have bad temperaments because of over-breeding can pose problems when paired with each other or with gentler breeds. When Dalmatian, Rottweiler, Akita chow, German shepherd, or cocker spaniel genes unite with those of a golden or Labrador retriever or collie, the less desirable characteristics may dominate.
  • Pit bull mixes, abundant in urban areas, can turn out to be sweet family dogs. Just be sure your shelter behaviorist screens the dog for inherited fighting tendencies.
  • Boxer, Rottweiler or Great Dane blood in a mix can resemble the pit bull.                                           Written by: Joan Paylo

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Deconstructing the Designer Dog


What comes to mind when you hear the term “designer dog”? For some people, the term conjures images of little dogs traveling in their little designer totes, which are perched on the shoulders of their high-fashion, globe trotting “puppy-mammas.” For others — those who are better versed in the world of designer dogs — the image that comes to mind is simply that of a dog that is the best of two purebreds. Both images can be true, of course, and both images illustrate the social consciousness of the dog as status symbol, since designer dogs often carry a price tag that exceeds the cost of their purebred parents. In any case, a designer dog is never a mutt — it is a hybrid.

Just a Fad?

While the term “designer dog” is fairly new, there is nothing new about them. Although many people who were new to the dog world saw the pairings of different breeds as a 20th century fad that was worth noting, avid breeders had been crossing purebreds for centuries. The difference was that earlier hybrids were intended for work purposes – to make better hunting or shepherding dogs, in many cases. The Australian Shepherd is a wonderful example of this, but she’s not the only one. Some of our most recognized and entrenched breeds started out as designer dogs. The Bull Terrier (Old English Bulldog+Old English Terrier) became “official” in 1885.

One of the main sticking points may be that hybrid dogs are not recognized by breed clubs, leading some to wonder why anyone would pay the hefty prices, but that has not slowed the still growing movement. There are currently over 500 “designer” breeds recognized by the Designer Dogs Kennel Club, and some breeders take their programs very seriously.

Breed Qualities

Today’s designer dogs are more likely to be companions than work mates. They are bred for appearance, temperament, and often for their hypoallergenic (i.e., non-shedding) qualities. In fact, returning to Australia, we find that one of the most popular designer dogs, the Labradoodle, originated there in the 1970s, and even this breed began as a working dog. The Labrador, recognized for its excellent guiding abilities, and the Poodle, known for its intelligence, trainability and very low shedding, were paired to fill a need for disabled people who had allergies to dog dander. This initial endeavor turned into a movement that has become a serious world-wide breeding program. While the Labradoodle is not an officially recognized pure-breed yet, it is well on its way to becoming one.

The Poodle, in part because of its hypoallergenic quality, is one of the most popular breeds for crossbreeding. The Poodle has been the progenitor of the Cocka-Poo (Poodle+Cocker Spaniel), the Yorkie-Poo (Poodle+Yorkshire Terrier), the Pug-a-Poo (Poodle+Pug), and even the Saint Berdoodle (I’ll let you guess).

Choosing Responsibly

Just as consumers are willing to hand over their hard-earned dough for the latest gadgetry, they will also fork it over for the newest and cutest puppy breed. That can be both good and bad, since we want the ethical breeders to succeed, but there will always be opportunists in the ranks taking advantage of the supply and demand chain. To bring a hybrid to its full potential takes true dedication to the vision and an ethic that supersedes monetary rewards.

You want a breeder who gives serious thought to the compatibility of the pairs, provides proof of the parents’ health and well being, along with the results of genetic testing to screen out genetic problems such as hip dysplasia and eye disorders. In other words, just as with a purebred, you should expect papers with your hybrid puppy too, even if you don’t plan to breed on your own.

“Designer dogs” and hybrids (aka mutts) can also often be found at your local animal shelter. So, what better way to help save a life and get a wonderful companion than to adopt?!?

Of course, not all hybrids are created equal, but if you responsibly choose one that fits then you will more than likely have nothing to worry about. And should your hybrid join the ranks of the purebreds later on, you’ll be able to say, “I knew them when…”

by Victoria Heuer

The 3 Most Aggressive Dog Breeds Revealed! – Pit Bulls? Rottweilers?

Hey, it’s the small breeds, not the big bully breeds that are trouble makers.  Who knew?  -Diana Ruth Davidson, Westside Dog Nanny

With Breed Specific Legislation acts being brought forward in more and more areas across the country, dogs like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and other “scary” looking breeds are in danger of losing their homes and even their lives. These breeds are often touted as being extremely aggressive – however a new study released this week in the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science provides some statistical facts on what breeds actually ARE the most aggressive – and the answers may surprise you!

The study involved researchers from the University of Pennsylvania as well as 6,000 dog owners. The number one aggressive breed out of the 33 dogs surveyed? The Dachshund. Yes – the wiener dog. The study found that “one in five dachshunds have bitten or tried to bite strangers, and a similar number have attacked other dogs; one in 12 have snapped at their owners.”

Number two on the list is an even more diminutive breed – the Chihuahua, while Jack Russells came in third.

The researchers say that the bite statistics that have been released in recent years are skewed because most dog bites are not reported. Big dog bites are more likely to require medical attention, but this does not mean that those breeds are doing the majority of the biting.

One of the teams researchers, Dr. James Serpell, believes that smaller breeds may be more genetically predisposed to aggressive behavior than their larger counterparts. Serpell says, “Reported levels of aggression in some cases are concerning, with rates of bites or bite attempts rising as high as 20 per cent toward strangers and 30 per cent toward unfamiliar dogs.”

Pit Bulls and Rottweilers scored average or below average in the aggression study. Breeds that scored on the low end are Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Siberian Huskies and Greyhounds.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372