We select only the best dogs for our breeding program. The dogs we reject are amazing dogs but we have a very strict criteria for our breeding dogs. We do not select dogs solely on their parents titles. Our dogs are from exceptional bloodlines but a breeding dog must prove itself. We will not breed an average dog from a great line. Looking at a rough average, maybe eighty percent of the puppies may have the character and temperament of one or both of the parents. Twenty percent of the puppies may reflect back to the grandparents or more distant relatives. The relatives are important but they are not primary.
Each of our breeding dogs is selected for their unique intelligence, problem solving abilities, and a healthy balance between a gregarious personality and natural protection. We choose dogs with strength of character, composure, love of work, and courage. Our dogs must bond strongly with their handlers. They must want to please their handlers and they must accept any animal or human accepted by their handler.
As an example, we took notice of one of our stud dogs, Anouk, because of his keen intelligence. He learns faster than any dog we have ever worked with.. But that fact alone was not enough to select Anouk as a stud dog. We lived with him for a year to see how his character and problem solving abilities would develop. He is a lower energy dog who loves people, so we started him in our therapy dog program. When he achieved therapy dog registration, we knew that we were headed in the right direction. Then one night he made a decision that solidified our choice.
When I had a teenager in the house kids were coming in and out of our house all of the time. Our dogs had to accept these friendly visitors without question. One night my daughter left the front door unlocked so one of her friends could come over early in the morning, around 3:00 am. Anouk was asleep in our room. When he heard the front door open in the middle of the night, he shot out of my room barking viciously. The girl screamed and ran upstairs into my daughters room with Anouk tight on her heels. I ran up the stairs to find Anouk doing a bark and hold at my daughter's bedroom door. I told Anouk to stay and I opened my daughters door to find her terrified friend in the room. I turned around and told Anouk, "OK, I've got it". He stopped barking, turned around and headed back to bed.
That night Anouk became one of our up and coming stud dogs. He could easily have attacked and bitten my daughter's friend. We did not welcome her into the house and it was in the middle of the night--not social hours. He made the decision to herd her into a room and hold her until I could arrive. He knew she was not a threat to the family, but she entered our house without one of us opening the door and allowing her inside.
If this person had meant us harm, I am sure Anouk would have physically attacked. He is intensely attentive to the safety of his home and his people. But, Anouk can also think through a situation--he doesn't act blindly. A trait that was the central focus of breeders in the original German Shepherd lines. The ability to make decisions in the moment when a handler is not with the dog is what we refer to as intuitive intelligence. Intuitive Intelligence is what my childhood dog possessed (see, Step Above, Young Trained Adults) and is the most important thing we look for in our breeding dogs. Our breeding dogs must have the ability to integrate into the human world. Anouk fits the bill.
Each of our breeding dogs has his or her unique story and special qualities that caught our attention during specific situations. It is now common knowledge that an excellent trainer can drag a sub-par dog through Schutzhund trials and title that dog. The dog can then be used for breeding--not based on the dog's character--but on its titles. We are also aware that flashy military-style obedience seldom translates to the street. We only breed dogs that have proven to be exceptional examples of the German Shepherd breed out on city streets and immersed in family life. Each of our breeding dogs must be a dedicated guardian and protector of their handlers and their homes...but they must also be 100% safe out in the world. We know what we want from a dog and we will only breed a dog that we want to live with. We do not breed the past potential of our dogs ancestors--we breed for the qualities found in the dog in front of us.
We do not breed a service dog until he or she has passed the airport/plane flight test. Air travel is the pinnacle of our service dog training program. Once a dog proves itself in an airport and on a plane it can enter the breeding program. The dogs pictured below are wearing K9 Topcoats. All of our dogs wear topcoats during travel and public access work to protect those with allergies. We try to keep the dander on the dog instead of floating around in the air.