Finding the Right Dog for Your Family

Frequently Asked Questions: On Choosing the Right Dog for Your Family

How do I get started choosing which dog I want to adopt?

The first thing to do is visit our website, and click to see the “Available Dogs.” We do our best to keep this list current, and you’ll find pictures and short descriptions of each amazing dog we have available for adoption. It’s normal to be attracted to a dog based on his or her appearance-but we encourage you to carefully read their bios, to find a dog whose temperament and energy level match your lifestyle. Housebreaking and socializing young puppies is lots of work! Some of our dogs will make ideal condo-dogs, while others need more focused work and activities. Some dogs are good with cats, kids, strangers, and other dogs.  Some are not.  We do our best to get to know our dogs, through fostering and training, so we may recommend specific dogs to you based on your application.

Submitting an online application is the next step in the process. Be sure to indicate which dogs you’re especially interested in, and what qualities are most important to you in your future family member. Are you looking for an active dog, to run or hike with? Does your dog need to be good with cats? small dogs? children? Are you looking for a mellow, hang-around-the-house dog? (There are SOME German Shepherds who are couch potatoes!) Do you want a dog that’s already housebroken, or that has some obedience training? Do you want to play dog sports, like agility or flyball? Do tracking, search-and-rescue, or obedience? All of these factors can help us determine which dogs will fit in to your lifestyle. Once you’ve submitted your application, an adoption counselor will be in touch, and will help arrange meetings with potential dogs. Also, please join us at our adoption events! It’s a great way to meet lots of our adoptable dogs, and see whose temperament is a good fit for you.

What does SCGSR know about the personality of the dogs?

Many of our dogs live in foster homes with volunteers, who are able to observe them and interact with them on a daily basis. What the volunteers learn about the dogs-house habits, responses to children, small animals, other dogs, obedience commands, energy level, favorite toys, etc-we include in the dog’s description on our website. Foster homes also help socialize the dogs, teach them basic commands, and consider what kind of homes will be the best fit for their dogs. Although we often don’t know much about the dog’s history, through fostering and interacting with each dog, we can gain a good sense of their current personality. It’s impossible to guarantee a dog’s response in every imaginable situation, but we do our best to get a general sense of who each dog is, and how they are likely to behave.

How can I tell if a dog will get along with my children? Also, what are some tips to keep my child safe around dogs?

This is a great question! It’s up to us to make sure that interactions between dogs and children are safe and positive.

It’s important for us to teach our children safe and respectful ways to interact with all dogs, especially unfamiliar dogs. Children should never approach a dog that they aren’t familiar with, and they should always ask permission before reaching out to pet a dog. Dogs can be possessive over food and treats, so a child should never try to pet an unfamiliar dog when it’s eating or chewing a bone. And we all know that it’s never ok to hit or kick a dog, or pull on its ears or tail-so we have to be sure our kids know that too!

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Pumpkin at an adoption event.

What are some good things for kids to do around dogs? First, they should ask the owner before approaching the dog. Reach out a hand or fist for the dog to sniff before petting it. Pet dogs softly, avoiding sensitive areas like the eyes or ears. Look at the dog’s chest or back instead of staring directly into its eyes. If a dog runs up to you, pretend you’re a tree-hold still and look at the ground, instead of making noises or running. These suggestions are all good for adults, too!

In regards to SCGSR available dogs, we do our best to get to know the dogs, and to test their interactions with children. Many German Shepherds are fantastic with kids! The dog’s history, past experiences with children, and personality all help determine how good a dog is with children. Of course, German Shepherds are large dogs, so they can accidentally knock down small children when they’re excited, and some individuals with a high herding instinct will nip at the heels of running kids-adults too-as if they’re sheep. Many of these behaviors can be eliminated with training-of both the dog and child! Depending on the age of your children, SCGSR volunteers will help match you with a dog that can live happily with your family.

At adoption events, please keep your children with you, and ask the dog’s handler before approaching or petting a dog.


How can I tell if a dog will get along with my other pets?

While there are some German Shepherds who are great with cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and other small and furry creatures, the reality of our breed is that they often are NOT good with these types of pets! We do our best to “cat test” adoptable dogs; if an adult dog comes to us from a home where it was raised with cats, or if it is fostered in a home with cats, we try to note that in their bios. Also, most young puppies will be good with cats if they’re raised alongside them. For adult dogs that come to us without a family history, or for dogs with a strong prey drive, we assume they will not live calmly with a cat, and note that in their bios. Even if the dog you adopt has lived with cats in the past, there are some good guidelines to follow as you introduce the new family member. Make sure that your cat has a safe place to go-either up high, or into a room that the dog can’t enter. Never leave your cat unattended with your newly adopted dog until they’ve been supervised together for several weeks. Patience and determination can help you teach some dogs to ignore or accept cats, and there are many resources available to help you. If you are adopting a second or third dog, we will arrange a meeting on neutral ground for the dog you’re interested in, and your current dogs. Please do NOT bring your current dogs to adoption events-it’s difficult to have a calm, successful meeting around so many strange dogs. It will take time for your new dog to acclimate to his new pack, and it’s perfectly normal for dogs to have a few loud, brief squabbles, as they adjust their social dynamics. Patience and supervised, structured activities, such as long walks as a pack, will help your new family member settle in.

Are all the dogs spayed or neutered?

Yes, all of our adoptable dogs have been spayed or neutered. The only exception is our young puppies, and they will either be “fixed” before they go to their new home, or by a specific age, which will be part of their adoption contract. One of SCGSR’s main expenses is altering adult dogs we save from shelters-and there wouldn’t be so many unwanted dogs in need of rescue if people would be more responsible about spaying and neutering! There are many low-cost options, such as the Neuter Scooter, and too many dogs die in shelters daily for there to be any excuse. If you are not showing your dogs in breed competitions, working to improve the breed, then your dog should be sterilized. ANY mixed-breed dog should be sterilized as well. Pet overpopulation is a problem that we can solve. A last word before we get off this soapbox: sterilizing your dogs increases their long-term health and longevity, makes male dogs less territorial and aggressive, prevents females from attracting unwanted attention at dog parks, and leads to a calmer, more balanced pet.

Are all the dogs up to date on shots?

Yes, all of our adoptable dogs are current on rabies and DHLPP, except for our young puppies, who may require booster shots after going to their new homes. Dogs require annual vaccination boosters, so after adopting any dog, please talk to your veterinarian about getting them on a vaccination schedule. Prevent disease, and prevent the heartache and financial burden of a sick pet!

What does SCGSR know about the health history of these rescued dogs?

If the dog was turned in to rescue by an owner, sometimes we have their medical records, which we will pass along to their adoptive family. Dogs that come to us from animal shelters often don’t have any medical history. SCGSR treats any medical condition that our dogs arrive with-often to the cost of thousands of dollars, in the instances of puppy parvo, adult pneumonia, or skin problems. Vet expenses are SCGSR’s number one expense, and each dog often costs much more to save than the adoption donation. We do our best to give each dog a chance to start over healthy and happy! Once the dog is adopted, its care becomes the responsiblity of the new owner.

Does SCGSR know if the dogs have hip dysplasia?

If a dog with a previous diagnosis of hip dysplasia is turned in to the rescue, we will pass that information along to its adopter. Barring a medical history, x-rays are the only reliable way to diagnose dysplasia, and SCGSR can’t afford to x-ray every dog.

If you adopt one of our dogs, you are welcome to have it x-rayed by your vet, at your expense. We can also arrange for x-rays to be done by our vet at a reduced price. If you’re concerned by the results, we’re happy to take the dog back into rescue. Although in the past, hip dysplasia was incredibly common in German Shepherds, responsible breeding has lessened its occurrence-although all large breed dogs can face this condition.

Depending on its severity, treatments options range from hip surgery ($1000-$3000 per hip) to non-surgical options like joint supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin. If you face this condition with a future dog, your vet can help determine what treatments are right for your dog. We highly recommend insuring your dog, so that you can provide the medical care necessary to improve its health and quality of life.

What can I do if the dog has a behavior problem?

First off, no dog is perfect! At some point in your dog’s life, you’ll want to change some aspect of their behavior. Whether it’s keeping them off the counters, or improving their behavior on a leash, it’s up to us to teach our dogs how we want them to act. Almost all behavior “problems” can be solved, given the tools, resources, and love and patience required.

If you feel your dog’s behavior is a danger to himself or others, take immediate steps to make everyone safe in the short-term, while you work on a long-term solution. Dog is breaking out of your yard when you’re away? Buy a crate, and crate your dog when you’re gone-for a reasonable amount of time, of course! Dog is terrorizing your cat? Never leave them unattended-confine your cat to a specific area of the house that your dog can’t access.

For a longer-term solution, arm yourself with knowledge. Dog behavior and dog training books abound! See if you can find resources for your specific problem. Try to think about your dog’s perspective, and why he’s engaging in this unwanted behavior. Remember that we often inadvertently create the behavior we don’t like; if we pet our dog when she jumps on us, she’ll think that all people love to be jumped on!

Don’t hesitate to consult a professional trainer as well! We’re happy to recommend trainers we’ve worked with, and often your vet or local dog wash has a trainer to recommend.

Start working to change the unwanted behavior right away, but remember that changing a behavior or habit takes time. Consistency and patience, and reasonable expectations for progress, will help both you AND your dog. And remember, no dog is going to be perfect all the time: we can teach them all we want, but we have to love them even when they make mistakes.

Before you adopt a dog, please consider how much time, energy and resources you’re willing to invest in helping make your dog a good citizen. These dogs have already had someone give up on them at least once, often for no fault of their own, and they deserve a home that is willing to work hard to give them a good life.

Why would I want to do obedience training with my dog?

Because it’s fun! Any type of training or structured activity, like obedience or agility, helps you bond with your dog, develop a relationship of trust and respect, and makes your dog a better companion. There are many resources and training methods out there; we encourage you to seek out professionals who use “positive training” techniques. German Shepherds love to learn, and they love being rewarded for their work! Often, minor behavior problems disappear when a German Shepherd begins an obedience course; the mental stimulation and positive time with the owner works wonders on dogs as smart as these. “Puppy Kindergarten” classes are great tools for socialization for young dogs, and regular obedience courses help dogs learn to focus on you and your commands even when there are lots of distractions around. You can even do obedience training at home, and involve the whole family! We love The Idiot’s Guide to Positive Dog Training!

Thank you for visiting us, and for being part of our rescue community!

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