“Wow, I didn’t know they could do that!”
The above statement is in reference to my dog Shelby participating in herding. I could probably end there and most of you would realize the idiocy of this statement, but I’ve heard it way too many times now to pass up the opportunity to rant.
Shelby is not a German Sheprotect. She’s not a German Schutzhund dog. She’s not a Black and Tan Cop Dog. She’s a German ShepHERD. Her breed was developed to herd sheep, lots of them.
Here are some other common falsities I hear with alarming regularity coming out of other GSD owners’ mouths. It’s like a herding mythbusters marathon, so buckle up.
My shepherd keeps biting my son’s ankles, but it’s okay, because that’s just her herding instinct.
False. German shepherds grip on the neck, not the ankles. They are tall and getting down low to bite would be a good way for them to get kicked in the face. You’re an idiot, your dog has a behavior problem and you need to call a trainer. Also, your highly intelligent HERDING dog knows the difference between your son and a sheep, and it is NEVER okay for a dog to bite a human. Don’t make me call child protective services.
German shepherds are great family dogs because they were bred to protect livestock.
False. Let me repeat myself – first of all, your highly intelligent dog knows the difference between you and the rest of your two legged kin and sheep. Sheep are the white fluffy things that bah, have four legs, hooves, flock together and aren’t very bright. Although your dog may not know the difference if you’re saying things like the above. He may also think you’re not very bright. But hopefully you’re not white and fluffy. Second, they were not bred to “protect” the livestock but in the most abstract sense. They were bred to, I don’t know – HERD which involves moving livestock or keeping them still in a graze. The only thing they’re protecting the livestock from is their stupid ass selves. The dog keeps them in one place so they don’t wander off and get eaten. If you want a dog that was bred to protect livestock, invest in a Great Pyrenees. But your Great Pyrenees will STILL know the difference between you and sheep.
I swear, my shepherd just loves to herd my kids into one room, sometimes it’s a little much though because he won’t stop barking at them when they leave.
Do I need to repeat the difference between people and sheep thing? Have you considered separation anxiety? Lack of exercise? You can’t just chalk everything up to your wonderful herding dog’s natural instinct to herd everything in sight. Also, shepherds don’t really “round” livestock up like Border Collies, they mainly work in straight lines at a slow trot to keep livestock in place. So if your dog is madly circling your kids and barking at them, you probably have some issues you should address. And also, this behavior is not okay either.
German shepherds are great police dogs because they were bred to be aggressive.
False false false. I’ve talked about this before in a more rational manner but let me just say here and now – German shepherds were bred to HERD – as in, sheep! Are you getting the theme here? How many farmers do you know who want their livestock shredded and disemboweled? I’ll let you think about it a minute. Are any coming to mind? Name for me one farmer who says, “Oh yes, I’d like my sheep in bloody pieces all over the field, I’m super worried about the wolves, coyotes and mountain lions not getting enough fresh meat, so I’m really glad my herding dog ripped apart a valuable piece of livestock.” If you can name to me this person, I will stop calling you a dumbass. But you can’t, so I’m going to carry on. Oh also, police dogs (German shepherds among them) are trained to bite people on command, and you know how it goes – dogs know the difference between people and sheep, but people aggression isn’t something we really want in our herding dogs either (or our police dogs for that matter, you know, the dogs who also spend time in say, Kindergarten classes)
I was actually going to keep going with this, but I see I’ve begun to repeat myself, and I’m already feeling better, so I’ll stop. Coming soon, serious posts on compassion fatigue in rescue and another rant…