THE WHITE SHEPHERD FAQ
IS THE WS PUREBRED?
Yes. The White Shepherd has not been mixed with any other breed of dog
from the time of its introduction to North America. Certainly, there has
been no other breed or breeds added in order to make them white. The gene
that controls the white color is a natural component in the total color
genetic makeup of the German Shepherd Dog breed. The White Shepherd is
registered independently with the American White Shepherd Association in
the United States of America. Effective May 1, 1999, the White Shepherd
was also fully recognized as a separate breed of dog with the UNITED KENNEL
CLUB (UKC). UKC is the second-oldest all-breed dog registry in the United
States and the second largest in the world. For more information, please
contact UKC: 100 E. Kilgore Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49002. The phone number
is: (616) 343-9020. The United Kennel
Club can also be accessed on the Internet.
ARE WHITE SHEPHERDS ALBINOS? WHAT ABOUT PIGMENT?
No. The White Shepherd should have dark (preferably black) skin pigment.
The nose, lips and eye rims must have color and be completely filled in.
The skin of the entire muzzle may be dark as well. This dark skin will
often show through the sparse coat on the top of the muzzle. It is commonly
believed that all albino animals will have milky or chalky white skin pigment,
light eyes with pink or red pupils and colorless, white hair such as you
might see in the common lab mouse. In many species, including humans, albinos
do exhibit these physical characteristics. However, today we recognize
cases where albinos will exhibit colored (non-white) coats and blue eyes.
(The so-called "white" Doberman Pinscher is such a case.) They are properly
known as "Tyrosinase-Positive" or partial albinos. For this reason, any
White Shepherd that may appear with blue (or pink) eyes or with a total
lack of skin pigment is disqualified by the Breed Standard and should never
be used in any breeding program.
OKAY… IF THEY’RE NOT ALBINOS, THEN WHY ARE THEY WHITE?
The coat color comes from a simple recessive gene. To put it plainly, in
order to produce a white puppy, both parents must carry the gene for the
white coat color.
The white gene is not associated with the genes that cause color-paling
in the German Shepherd Dog, since those genes are located at different
loci. It is probably possible that a solid white GSD could carry these
dilution genes. However, since the dog is white in color, the paling factor
would not express itself in the color of the coat.
All dogs have a total of 78 chromosomes which are inherited from both parents
at the moment of conception. Thus, each parent gives half the genetic makeup
to their offspring – 39 from the sire and 39 from the dam. In simple terms,
the chromosomes (which carry the genes) like to hang out in pairs. They
align themselves so that the genes they carry will always exist in pairs.
Each gene pair controls a given trait, either alone or in combination with
other gene pairs. If the genes that make up the pair are exactly alike,
the dog is said to be ‘homozygous’ for that gene pair. If the pair is mixed,
then that dog is ‘heterozygous’ for that pair. These gene pairs acting
in combination with each other determine what traits the dog will exhibit
– called its ‘genotype.’
All white German Shepherd Dogs are homozygous for the gene pair responsible
for producing the color white. If we call the white gene ‘w’, then all
White Shepherds must have the following genotype: ww. (A non-white dog
would have to be either WW or Ww.) If we breed our white dog, the only
gene it would be able to contribute to its offspring would be the recessive
w. You may have heard the term "phenotype" which describes the physical
appearance of an animal. Thus, the phenotype of a GSD that inherits the
ww gene pair will be that of a solid white dog. The problem with the phenotype
is that what you see isn’t always what you get. In many cases, you can’t
tell a given dog’s genotype just by looking at its phenotype. For example,
a black and tan dog could be homozygous for non-white (WW). Such a dog
would be unable to produce a white puppy, even if bred to a white dog because
it doesn’t carry the recessive white gene. However, a black and tan dog
could be carrying the gene for solid white (heterozygous for the white
gene pair) and you would never know it just by looking at him (his phenotype)
because the dominant W ‘covers up’ or takes precedence over the recessive
partner gene. A colored GSD that does not carry the recessive w (homozygous
for W) bred to another homozygous W partner will produce a litter of non-white,
non-carrier puppies. Likewise, two white GSDs (homozygous for w) bred together
can never produce a colored puppy. We can use a simple punnet square to
determine the probability of producing white offspring from a white parent
x non-white parent if we know the genotype of the non-white dog.
In the first punnet square, we see the potential result of breeding two
carriers together. (We’ll define a carrier as a non-white dog that carries
the white gene, also known as white ‘factored.’) With this mating, there
is a potential for 25% of the resultant litter to be white (ww), 25% to
be homozygous non-white (WW) and 50% to be heterozygous non-white (Ww –
carries the white factor). In example 2, we mate a carrier (white factored
or Ww) to a white partner (homozygous ww). The potential exists for half
the litter (approximately 50%) to be white while the other 50% will be
white factored (heterozygous) like their non-white parent. In the third
example, we breed a homozygous non-white dog to a white partner. None of
these puppies can be white but all of them have inherited the white factor
and can produce white when bred to another carrier or to a white partner.
In the fourth example, we breed a white factored dog to a homozygous non-carrier.
Again, none of these pups can be white but half of them (approximately
50%) could potentially carry the white gene. The other 50% would be homozygous
non-carriers. The only way to tell whether a given puppy has inherited
the white factor would be to do a test breeding to a white dog. If no white
pups result, then you would know that the parent is probably a non-carrier,
or homozygous for WW.
This is a very simplistic explanation and does not account for the actions
of other genes at other loci. But it should help explain how and why the
white color can be carried along for several generations without expressing
itself and then suddenly appear in a litter of GSD puppies.
WHAT DOES THE TERM ‘SNOW NOSE’ MEAN?
This is a common term describing a dog having pigment (usually on the nose,
hence the name) that lightens or fades out in the cold, winter months and
returns with the warm weather and lengthening days. This very common trait
does occur frequently in the White Shepherd as well as in many other breeds,
both white and non-white. It is generally considered to be of little consequence.
The snow nose factor is said to be tied to the enzyme Tyrosinase which
is necessary for the production of melanin – the color-producing chemical
in the skin. Tyrosinase is believed to be temperature-sensitive, thus,
its activity slows in cold environments. Although it is not faulted by
the Standard, it is something that breeders should be aware of within their
breeding programs. For this reason, breeders should try to breed any dog
that exhibits the snow nose factor to dogs from lines that hold their dark
pigment year round.
WHERE DID THE WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG COME FROM?
Actually, the white shepherd dog predates the GSD breed, which is a relatively
new breed of dog. (The GSD as a breed is less than 100 years old.)
To understand the beginnings of the White Shepherd, one must discuss its
parent breed – the German Shepherd Dog. There was no such thing as a GSD
before Captain Max Von Stephanitz and his friend Artur Meyer saw the dog
Hektor Linksrhein at the Karlesruhe Exhibition on April 3, 1899. Von Stephanitz
at once recognized this dog as the perfect prototype for the new breed
he had envisioned in his mind’s eye. He bought the dog and renamed him
on the spot. Thus, Hektor Linksrhein became Horand von Grafrath, SZ1 –
the very first registered "German Shepherd Dog" in history. Also born on
that day was the German SV or the Verein für Deutsche Schaferhunde
(Club for German Shepherd Dogs). For more information on the history of
the GSD breed, please refer to any of the fine books listed in the bibliography.
It is an accepted fact that Horand von Grafrath’s maternal grandfather
was a white German sheepdog named Greif who was born in 1879. In his book
The Alsatian Wolf Dog (1923), George Horowitz, a British judge, author
and historian writes that Greif was exhibited at a show in Hanover in 1882
and then again in 1887. In 1888 in Hamburg, another white sheepdog, Greifa,
was shown. A year later, at the Cassel Show (1889), Greif II was shown.
These three sheepdogs were all owned by one Baron von Knigge, the Master
of Hounds of Beyenrode.
Horand von Grafrath was bred to 35 different bitches, producing 53 litters
of which, 140 progeny were registered with the SV. He was also mated three
times to his own daughters, thus fixing his genetic code into the developing
breed. Of the many genetic traits that became firmly entrenched, the gene
for the white coat color would figure prominently. It would be handed down
to his progeny as well as through his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
It remains with us to this day.
WHEN DID THE FIRST WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERDS APPEAR IN THE UNITED STATES?
The first dog to be shown as a GSD in the United States was a bitch named
Mira v. Offingen (Beowulf x Hella v. Schwaben), in 1906. She was never
registered with AKC and eventually, was returned to Germany. The first
GSD registered with AKC was Queen of Switzerland (AKC # 115006). In 1913,
Luchs – a dog owned by Anne Tracy – made his championship along with Hera
von Ehrangrund. Miss Tracy’s breeding program produced white-coated GSDs
almost immediately. A litter whelped n March 27, 1917 contained four white
puppies: Stonihurst Edmund, Stonihurst Eric, Stonihurst Eadred and Stonihurst
Elf. These four white dogs are believed to be the first AKC registered
white GSDs bred and born in the USA. They were grandchildren of Am. Ch.
Luchs and were enthusiastically received. The first German white GSDs were
imported to the USA in 1920 by H.N. Hanchett of Minneapolis, MN. In 1921,
Etzel V. Oeringen (otherwise known as "Strongheart") was imported to the
USA and caused a sensation which is still felt today. This was a silver-gray
dog with very good bloodlines that produced many excellent, black-pigmented,
self-color whites. The white dog was bred and kept by such respected early
American GSD kennels as Longworth Kennels, Giralda Farms and Grafmar Kennels.
I HEARD THEY HAVE WOLF IN THEM. IS THIS TRUE?
Actually, since the domestic dog descended from the wolf, the technically
correct answer to this question is: yes. One of the most influential bitches
in the history of the GSD breed was Mores Plieningen, SZ159, born in 1894.
According to Dr. Malcolm B. Willis (The German Shepherd Dog: A Genetic
History), Mores Plieningen "is the ancestor (many times over) of every
GSD in the world today." Her greatest claim to fame was in giving birth
to Hektor v. Schwaben SZ13, son of Horand von Grafrath. Hektor was born
in 1898 and made the German Sieger title in 1900 and 1901. It is rumored
that Mores was the daughter of a working shepherd bitch and a captive male
wolf. The story has changed and evolved over the century and cannot be
fully substantiated. Even if Mores was indeed a wolfdog, the amount of
wolf blood in the modern GSD is probably minimal, having been diluted over
the almost 100 year history of the breed.
As far as the modern White Shepherd is concerned, we can emphatically state
that no wolf blood has been added to any registered White Shepherd. There
have been recent cases where wolfdog breeders have incorporated or used
AKC registered white GSDs in their breeding programs. But they have nothing
to do with our dogs, our breed or our Club. The White Shepherd Dog is *not*
a wolfdog or a wolfdog mix.
WHY WAS THE WHITE COLORED GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG DISQUALIFIED?
That is a question that only the German SV and the German Shepherd Dog
Club of America can truly answer. The SV was the first to attempt to eliminate
white dogs from the gene pool through the dissavowment of the color around
1960. It was not always that way. In its early days, the SV registered
white German Shepherd Dogs right along with all other colors. A dog named
Berno von Seewiese, born in 1913 was one of the first whites to be registered
with the SV. He represented a direct line down from Horand von Grafrath
through Horand’s equally famous, (and some would say, better) son Hektor
von Schwaben. For his part, Von Stephanitz had little interest in or use
for a "beautiful" dog. This view often put him at odds with fellow breeders
of his day. His focus was always geared toward agility, functionality,
intelligence and usefulness. In his book, he stated: "The coloring of the
dog has no significance whatsoever for service." Clearly, the founder of
the GSD breed had no preference for one particular color over any other.
What changed to cause the tide to turn against white colored GSDs?
By the mid-1930s, the Nazis were spreading everywhere and getting into
all different areas and interests in Germany. Animal breeders did not escape
their influence. Nazi Party members held memberships in the SV and increasingly
exerted more and more influence over all aspects of the Club. Eventually,
Von Stephanitz was forced out altogether. By the time of his death in 1936,
the takeover of the SV by the Nazis was fairly complete. As with other
animals, the SV and the GSD breed as put to the use for and by Hitler’s
Nazi Party. In the flawed medical and genetic "science" of the Party mentality,
all manner of ills were attributed to the gene for the white coat color.
Discrimination was rampant everywhere. Such problems as deafness, blindness,
albinism, mental instability, sterility and degeneration and loss of vigor
were associated with and blamed on the white dogs. Once these beliefs took
root, they flourished and grew, even after the end of World War II. With
the breeding population of quality GSDs at an all-time low in Germany after
the War, the impetus to remove these "degenerate throwbacks" from the remaining
gene pool as set. Even to this day, white dogs remain ineligible even for
registration as GSDs within Germany and throughout most European nations.
Following Germany’s lead, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America petitioned
AKC for the disqualification of the color white from the GSD Breed Standard.
The disqualification was approved by AKC and went into effect on April
9, 1968. It remains so to this day.
WHY WOULD I WANT TO OWN A DOG WITH A DISQUALIFYING BREED FAULT?
The only reason why one should not buy a white GSD would be if one wishes
to become competitive in showing or breeding German Shepherd Dogs in the
United States. One other sport that most White Shepherds would not be competitive
in would be Schutzhund. Over the years, the White Shepherd has been bred
to have a more mellow, soft and sensitive character and most dogs will
lack the serious drives necessary to be really competitive on the Schutzhund
field. So anyone wanting to compete in the various protection sports would
probably do better with a different breed of dog.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG AND THE WHITE
At this point in time, there is no difference except that the White Shepherd
is only registered as a breed apart with AWSA and with UKC in the United
States. In time and with the deepening rift in the separation process,
it is expected that the WS will continue to evolve and changes will be
more readily seen.
CAN I SHOW MY WHITE SHEPHERD IN CONFORMATION? WHERE?
As long as the WS remains registered with AKC and the Canadian Kennel Club
as the German Shepherd Dog, individual members of the breed will be able
to participate and title in all facets of AKC and CKC sport and competition
EXCEPT conformation. It should also be well noted here that white GSDs
have not been disqualified from the show ring in *all* kennel clubs or
organizations within the various countries of the world. For example, they
are not disqualified from showing in Great Britain, where the official
Kennel Club Breed Standard still states the following:
Granted, one might find it extremely difficult to finish a dog sporting
a coat color deemed "highly undesirable." However, if one were particularly
stubborn, one *could* show one's dog in any Championship event in Great
Britain and be fairly assured of not being thrown out of the ring. Even
this is one step above what we have in the United States. It wasn't always
like this! Before the color white was made a disqualifying fault in Canada,
White Shepherds were shown frequently in the breed ring there and did very
well. In fact, in 1996, two white GSD bitches received Canadian Kennel
Club Championship points -- the first white GSDs ever in history to accomplish
this feat. It's too bad they didn't get to finish their Championships before
the disqualification went into effect.
If there is a bright side to the matter of campaigning a dog with a disqualifying
breed fault, it is this: the white GSD is *not* disqualified from showing
in the breed ring with several reputable kennel clubs or registries in
North America. Even though the United Kennel Club has recognized the WS
as a separate breed, it continues to allow white-coated German Shepherds
to compete and title in UKC pointed or specialty shows right along side
other German Shepherd Dogs of all other colors. In addition to this, all
AKC or Canadian Kennel Club registered white German Shepherd Dogs are fully
eligible for showing and titling through the American White Shepherd Association
(AWSA) in the USA and through the White Shepherd Club of Canada (WSCC)
in that country.
In the United States, AWSA sponsors champion-pointed specialty matches
that any AKC or CKC-registered white GSD can enter. And although AWSA does
maintain an accurate and independent registry for its members and their
dogs, exhibitors need not be members of AWSA in order to compete and title
their dogs at shows. In Canada, such point matches are held by WSCC. Very
often, the two clubs will hold combined specialty weekends offering exhibitors
the chance to put American and Canadian WS Specialty Champion points on
their dogs in the same show weekend.
Opportunities also exist for showing in the breed ring within other North
American breed clubs and registries. Such clubs as Canadian Rarieties and
the Federation of Rare Breeds (FORB) have welcomed the participation of
our dogs at their events. White GSDs are also eligible for showing with
organizations such as the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), States
Kennel Club (SKC) and Worldwide Kennel Club (WWKC).
Black or black saddle with tan, or gold to light grey markings. All
black, all grey, with lighter or brown markings referred to as Sables.
Nose black. Light markings on chest or very pale colour on inside of legs
permissible but undesirable, as are whitish nails, red-tipped tails or
wishy-washy faded colours defined as lacking in pigmentation. Blues, livers,
albinos, whites (i.e. almost pure white dogs with black noses) and near
whites highly undesirable. Undercoat, except in all black dogs, usually
grey or fawn. Colour in itself is of secondary importance having no effect
on character or fitness for work. Final colour of a young dog only ascertained
when outer coat has developed.
HOW DO I REGISTER MY WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD WITH AWSA?
You can register your AKC or CKC-registered white German Shepherd Dog with
the American White Shepherd Association by becoming a member of the Association
and by signing and agreeing to abide by the Club Code of Ethics. AWSA’s
registry is only open to members of the Club in good standing. However,
you do not have to join the Club in order to show and title your dog in
Conformation for an AWSA Champion of Record title. If you would like to
show for points at any AWSA event, simply download and fill out an application
for an AWSA "Event
Registration Number." The application should be mailed to the current
Club Conformation Chair together with the required fee and a copy of your
dog's AKC or CKC registration certificate. For more information on joining
the Club, please contact AWSA’s
CAN I REGISTER MY WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD WITH ANY OTHER KENNEL CLUBS OR
At the present time in North America, you can register your white GSD as
a "White Shepherd" only with AWSA and/or with United Kennel Club. The breed
is also recognized by States Kennel Club, the American Rare Breed Association
and Worldwide Kennel Club as a "White German Shepherd." The American Kennel
Club, Canadian Kennel Club and United Kennel Club still register the breed
as the German Shepherd Dog, color: white.
WHAT KINDS OF SPORTS CAN I DO WITH A WHITE SHEPHERD?
The sky is pretty much the limit! The WS can be trained to do almost anything,
from police K9 work to circus tricks to baby-sitting. It all depends on
your individual dog and his temperament, personality and likes or dislikes.
Whatever you care to try, whether it be backpacking in the mountains of
swimming in the ocean, your WS will be game to give it a go. A working
dog is a happy dog, so let your imagination go and get out there with your
HOW BIG DO THEY GET?
The WS is a medium-large breed. The AWSA Breed Standard calls for an ideal
height for a male of 25 inches (63.5 cm) at the top of the highest point
of the shoulder blade, with an inch (about 3 cm) variation up or down acceptable.
Bitches should ideally be 23 inches (58.4 cm) at the same point and again,
an inch variation in either direction of the ideal is fine. Oversized or
undersized dogs, (i.e.: dogs outside of the acceptable range of height),
are highly objectionable and should be faulted! In fact, the Standard states:
"Extremes of anything distort type and are to be strongly discouraged."
Ideal weight for a 25 inch tall male would be roughly around 75-85 pounds
(34-39 kgms), and about 60-70 pounds (27-32 kgms) for a 23 inch tall bitch.
DO THEY SHED?
Oh my heavens, YES! Like other double-coated working breeds, the White
Shepherd will shed its undercoat twice yearly, in late summer/early fall
and then again in late winter/early spring. The dogs also shed their outer
coat hairs (called "guard" hairs) on a continual basis. Unspayed bitches
will shed more copiously just before they come into season. During periods
of "the big shed," daily brushing down to the skin really helps to cut
down on the amount of hair around the house and stimulates the dog’s skin,
helping to loosen the remaining coat so that it can fall. At the same time,
the hair follicles will be stimulated to grow a new coat. Plus, it feels
good! At shedding time, your dog will be itchy and getting the dead hair
out will make him feel better.
HOW LONG DO THEY LIVE?
With good care, your White Shepherd should be with you for a long time.
The average lifespan for the White Shepherd is around 12 years. Dogs will
often live longer and most will enter into old age in fairly decent health.
WHAT IS IT LIKE LIVING WITH A WHITE SHEPHERD?
It’s an adventure every day! They are usually smart dogs whose brains,
sense of humor and fun-loving nature sometimes gets them into trouble.
White Shepherds are wonderful dogs that can live very well with families,
couples or single people. They bond very closely to the members of their
family, but may be particularly fond of one special member. White Shepherds
love to be near their people, often following them from one room to the
next. They are in tune with people’s feelings and emotions, giving them
an almost human-like quality.
These good qualities are tempered by the special needs of this breed. As
every breed is not right for every person, we feel that it is vitally important
to point out these needs. White Shepherds need a fair but firm hand and
obedience training to help them fit into the family’s lifestyle. They have
very active minds and they love to work! Your dog will be happiest when
it has some kind of job to do. That job is, of course, up to you and your
dog. However, a WS left alone in the yard day after day will soon become
bored and a bored WS can be an *extremely* destructive animal. This is
a large, strong dog that can reduce furniture to splinters or a well-planted
garden to a mine field in a matter of minutes! These dogs MUST have structure
and consistency in handling to help them learn their limits. Again, a firm
but gentle touch will yield the best results with this breed.
Another very important part of owning a WS that cannot be ignored is exercise!
This is a very busy breed; daily exercise is essential. Most shepherds
love to play ball and ten to fifteen minutes of sustained fetching will
tire your dog out quite nicely as well as give him a sense of purpose.
Whether it is ball chasing, Frisbee catching, obedience training, participation
in a canine play group or just taking long walks, you must be willing to
provide some form of daily, constructive exercise to provide an acceptable
outlet for this breed’s considerable energies and mental capacities.
WHAT ARE THE TEMPERAMENTS LIKE?
Basic temperament is usually that of a very good-natured dog. The breed
is protective of its family in appropriate situations. They are loving
and open dogs with family members but can be stand-offish or even somewhat
leery of strangers, preferring the company of their own pack members. The
White Shepherd should never be aggressive! The breed, on the average, is
easily trained, inquisitive, generally quite good with children and definitely
eager to please. The basic temperament is softer than that of the typical
colored German Shepherd Dog. White Shepherds can be sensitive almost to
the point of timidity. They are usually quite tractable and harsh training
methods should not be necessary, nor should they be used with this breed.
In this regard, they are very different from many lines of GSD, especially
ISN’T IT HARD TO KEEP THEM CLEAN AND WHITE?
No, it isn’t. A White Shepherd with the proper, harsh-textured double-coat
is a very easy care dog. The proper coat is weather resisting and self-cleaning.
It does not absorb or hold dirt and the dogs seldom need a bath. Even a
thoroughly muddy dog can be simply placed in a crate in a warm place to
dry and after a brisk brushing, the coat will be clean and white once again.
The White Shepherd is truly, a "wash and wear" breed.
ARE THEY GOOD FAMILY DOGS? CAN I HAVE THEM AROUND MY SMALL CHILDREN?
White Shepherds make excellent family companions for all ages of people.
They are usually very good with children as long as both the children and
the dog are taught to love and respect one another. White Shepherds also
get along very well with other pets. Again, respect and tolerance may need
to be taught with certain types of pets. Common sense should always prevail.
Especially with very young children or other, more delicate pet animal
species, supervision is absolutely essential! The dog should have a safe
place to go to just get away from it all. A crate is ideal for this purpose.
Children should be taught to respect the dog’s private place and to leave
him alone when he goes there to rest.
WHAT PARTICULAR BREED TRAITS SHOULD I BE AWARE OF?
The White Shepherd is a direct descendent of the German Shepherd Dog which
was originally bred to be a utilitarian working, herding and guardian breed.
Early and continued socialization is a must to have a companion that is
confident and calm with strange people and new situations. As stated previously,
the breed is extremely high energy (think: "go-go-go"), and the dogs seem
to always be thinking or planning their next moves. They can be fairly
hard-headed. As a breed, the WS is definitely vocal! If noise bothers you,
then this might not be the right breed for you. White Shepherds will often
hold entire "conversations" with their owners, with other pets, with the
dog next door or with each other. These dogs have a wide range of vocalizations
that they do not hesitate to employ, (daily if possible), depending upon
their general mood.
An often heard comment from WS owners is: "I swear that she understands
*everything* I say!" Be aware that along with this intuitiveness comes
a deep responsibility on the part of the owner to provide for such a demanding
and intelligent creature. Here are some basic necessities that a WS owner
should be willing to provide: leadership, obedience training, structure,
time and attention, consistent handling, exercise, supervision, patience
and understanding, grooming (remember — the breed SHEDS!!!), a nutritious
diet and proper medical care including spaying or neutering for all pets.
It should go without saying, but we feel it is vitally important to also
point out that pet ownership is a privilege and a responsibility and not
a right. When you take on dog ownership, you should be prepared to care
for and to provide for that dog for its entire lifetime! A dog is NOT a
disposable commodity, to be used and then abandoned when it becomes inconvenient!!!
Care for your dog and meet his basic needs and you will have a wonderful
friend, companion and confidant who will love you unconditionally and who
would lay down his life for yours. Such is the legacy that was given to
the White Shepherd by its parent breed: the great German Shepherd Dog.
SHOULD I BUY A MALE OR A FEMALE? CAN YOU PLEASE DISCUSS THE DIFFERENCES?
Secondary sex characteristics should be easily seen in the White Shepherd.
Males tend to be slightly larger, more masculine and perhaps more assertive
in temperament and personality. As in other breeds and animal species,
the females tend to be slightly smaller with more feminine features. Both
sexes should have very good temperaments and should be equally good at
any kind of work or play with few differences. Spaying or neutering tends
to remove the typical problems associated with both males and females such
as the desire to roam, marking of territory and estrus in the bitch.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON HEALTH OR GENETIC PROBLEMS IN THE WHITE SHEPHERD
Since the White Shepherd comes directly from the German Shepherd Dog breed,
it is subject to many of the same genetic and congenital diseases or health
problems as the GSD. WS club members have kept problems to a minimum through
sometimes brutally honest, open breeding policies. It is not at all uncommon
for top breeders to openly admit any medical or genetic problems they may
have encountered to other breeders and to buyers.
In the year 2000, AWSA sponsored a survey of genetic diseases in White
Shepherds. More than 1000 dogs from all over the US and Canada were represented.
Fifty seven genetic diseases were identified in our White Shepherds. At
first blush, that sounds tragic, but the number is actually very low when
you consider that 138 genetic diseases have been identified in the German
Shepherd Dog. The White Shepherd breed has avoided many of the diseases
that affect the German Shepherd Dog. Our genetic survey is available for
reading and/or downloading at the "Health
and Genetics" pages at the official AWSA web site. There is also
an email list open to everyone who is interested in WS
Genetics and breeding better, healthier dogs -- regardless of club
affiliation or lack thereof -- where our members and breeders "lay it on
the line" on behalf of the continuing good health of our breed.
As with other large (and some smaller) breeds, the White Shepherd faces
problems with hip and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia is the most common problem
in the breed. No reputable breeder would ever consider breeding a dog without
first radiographing that animal for dysplasia. As a Club, we pride ourselves
on our outstanding concern for good health in our breed. Most reputable
breeders religiously test their dogs for Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD),
which is a bleeding disorder. Many also routinely test for cardiac problems,
as there have been incidences of some heart disease within certain WS lines.
Some other diseases or conditions that have been reported in the breed
from time to time (and thus, bear watching) include: malabsorbtion syndrome;
degenerative joint disease (including osteochondritis); megaesophagus;
pannus and other forms of eye disease (not commonly seen); bloat; allergies
(food, fleas or airborne); other skin or coat problems and missing teeth.
In addition to the above conditions, we have heard of some lines of Whites
having had problems with some immune-mediated illnesses (such as Lupus)
and/or, other forms of autoimmune disease. At this point in time, autoimmune
problems are fairly rare in the breed. However, we will continue to test
and monitor for these problems to ensure that they do not become more commonplace.
WHAT IS "SOCIALIZATION" AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Socialization is the process of introducing your puppy to new experiences
and friendly people, dogs and other animals. By the age of 49 days, puppies’
brains are fully functional and they are ready to learn. It is vitally
important to get them out into the world and let them experience all kinds
of new things including small children, city traffic, people in wheelchairs
or on bikes, skates or skateboards, climbing up and down stairs or elevators,
for people who live in city flats or apartments. Anything that your expect
to be a usual part of you and your dog’s world should ideally, be introduced
to your puppy in a fun, non-threatening manner at an early age. This will
help strengthen the bond between you and your puppy and will encourage
an outgoing, confident attitude in your grown dog. Proper socialization
also lessens the chances of a pup becoming a shy or fearful dog. Letting
a young puppy meet as many friendly human strangers of different ages,
sexes, sizes shapes and races as possible is necessary in order for the
dog to learn the difference between a friendly or neutral person and a
non-friendly or threatening person. Take your puppy with you and show him
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR WHEN CHOOSING A BREEDER?
A puppy soon grows into a dog — sometimes, a very *large* dog. With good
care, your White Shepherd should be a member of your family for twelve
years or more. Throughout his lifetime, you should be able to contact your
breeder to discuss any matter or concern you might have. Your breeder should
be a family friend, a resource for guidance and information and a mentor,
should you decide to show your dog or begin a breeding program of your
own someday. Here are some tips to help you select a reputable breeder.
The breeder should answer all of your questions, honestly and completely.
They should ask you just as many, if not more. Do not buy from a breeder
who is all too anxious to sell you a puppy or one who actually tries to
pressure you into buying one.
Talk to or visit more than one breeder. Be considerate and call ahead for
an appointment and then make sure that you are on time. We all have lives
outside of dogs that should be respected. Also, try not to visit more than
one litter per day. Diseases such as parvo can be spread on clothing and
shoes and going from kennel to kennel is an excellent way to spread potentially
deadly viruses around. Don’t be upset if the breeder asks you to take off
your shoes before entering the puppy area. If you are visiting a very young
litter (under 4 weeks of age), expect to bring a fresh change of clothing
and do not attempt to touch the puppies without permission.
The puppy should grow up to resemble its parents. You should be able to
see both the sire and the dam of the litter you are considering. However,
do not be too concerned if the sire is not available for viewing "in person."
(Actually, this may be a *bad* sign.) Since the object of breeding dogs
is to improve the breed, it is rare that a given breeder will have the
correct stud dog for every bitch readily at hand in his or her kennel.
Bitches are routinely sent out for breeding to studs that best complement
them and have the most potential for contributing to a better White Shepherd.
Therefore, you should be able to view and interact with the mother of the
litter, but most times, you might not get to do the same with the father.
If the sire of the litter is not present, the breeder should have pictures
available to show you. The breeder should be able to discuss why he or
she chose this particular male, how he complemented the female and what
particular qualities the breeder hoped the male would add to his or her
line. If the main reason the breeder used a particular male is that he
was local and thus, convenient; or if his fee was the cheapest available;
or if the breeder can’t name a reason for using him at all — RUN DON’T
WALK away from this person!!! It is an unfortunate fact that there are
too many disreputable people out there wanting to cash in on "rare and
exotic" white German Shepherd Dogs. The White Shepherd is not rare and
should not cost outrageous amounts of money. The average going price for
a pet quality puppy is around $300 US funds. Show prospects start at around
$500 and up, depending on the quality.
As above, the breeder should be able to discuss the litter’s pedigree in
depth with you. The breeder should be able to tell you why this mating
was done and what he or she hoped to gain from it. He or she should also
be able to point out the good qualities and structural flaws (all dogs
have them) of his bitch and the sire. He or she should be able to tell
you whether the resulting litter was everything they expected and if it
wasn’t, what they might try next time. Many breeders keep a brag book with
pictures of all the dogs they have ever owned or bred. This is a valuable
tool for the breeder and is an excellent resource for the potential new
The environment the puppy has been raised in should be carefully scrutinized.
Is it realitively clean and neat? How does it smell? Have the puppies had
adequate opportunities to socialize with their human family? Have they
been introduced to potentially frightening household objects such as vacuum
cleaners, noisy stereos and dishwashers?
Are you allowed to view the entire litter together or just the one you
are considering? If you can see the entire litter, watch them interact
together. Note which puppy is the boisterous one, which is the shy one
and which one insists on untying your shoelaces. Which one seems to be
"the boss" or the pushy, dominant one? Which one likes to cuddle? The cute
one who is always into something might catch your eye, but he could very
well grow into a handful later. Evaluate your own lifestyle and try to
match the puppy’s basic personality to your own. Many breeders will ultimately
want to make your pick for you depending on your interview. Do not be put
off by this. The breeder knows his or her line and has been living with
these little souls for at least six weeks. Based on what you tell the breeder,
he or she should be able to place the right puppy with the right owner.
Trust the breeder’s intuition!
Will you receive a written guarantee? Compare between breeders. Read the
fine print!!! Know and understand exactly what you are buying and what
will be asked of you. For example, if you are buying a pet, you will most
likely be asked to sign a contract stating that the dog is to be spayed
or neutered. If you are looking at a top show or obedience prospect, you
might be required by contract to show the dog to the completion of its
Will you receive registration papers? What registry does the breeder use?
Beware of some bogus registries that now exist as little more than organizations
for puppy mills, irresponsible breeders or people who have lost their AKC,
CKC or UKC privileges.
Is the breeder a member of any kennel club(s), or more specifically, any
White Shepherd (or white German Shepherd) club or organization? Most reputable
breeders will be members in good standing of at least the Parent Club for
their given breed.
Ask if the breeder shows their dogs in conformation and if they do, ask
to see their championship certificates. Most breeders will proudly display
them in frames on the wall or in their brag books. If they don’t show in
conformation, perhaps they compete in obedience, herding, flyball or agility.
Titles by themselves don’t necessarily make a good dog, but they do prove
that the dogs can still work. Title certificates also prove that the breeder
is serious about dogs and is interested in something other than money.
Be very wary of the breeder that cranks out litter after litter but has
no titles of any kind on their dogs to prove their genetic worth!
Be upfront with the breeder. Don’t expect to buy a pet puppy for a cheaper
price and then breed or show it in conformation. The more honest you are
with respect to your personal needs and desires in a dog, the closer you
will be to buying the dog of your dreams.
Demand a quality puppy and don’t settle for second best! If the breeder
tells you that the sire and dam are free of hip and elbow dysplasia, then
you should expect to see the original OFA, PennHIP or OVC certificate.
(Some breeders will actually whip out a copy of the x-rays to show you.)
Likewise, if the parents have had been cardiac cleared or had their eyes
checked by CERF, you should be able to see the certificates as proof. Ask
the breeder what other testing has been done on the parents (vWB testing,
for example) and ask to see those certificates as well. Ask for references
from other people who have bought dogs from this breeder and CHECK them!
Remember — it is your responsibility, as a buyer, to do your homework.
If the breeder can’t supply you with the necessary paperwork or if you
feel uncomfortable in any way, then DON’T BUY THE DOG!!!
Beware of any breeder that says their line has NO faults!!! All dogs have
some faults; some are more serious than others. A good breeder will be
able to tell you what, if any, health problems may lurk in the line. He
or she should be able to tell you which problems they have personally encountered
and what they have done about it. At some point in the interview, the breeder
should take the available puppies — one by one — and put them up on a table.
Especially with potential show pups, the breeder should be able to point
out the good points and the flaws in each pup’s physical structure. The
breeder should be able to tell you exactly what qualities make each given
puppy a show or obedience prospect or a pet quality puppy. Beware of the
breeder who claims that ALL their dogs are "show" quality!!!
Get *everything* in writing! A good breeder will provide a written contract
together with a 3 - 5 generation pedigree (3 generations is considered
the minimum) and the individual registration papers for the puppy. Don’t
overlook puppies’ medical records! Proof of proper vaccinations and at
least one visit to the veterinarian for a basic health check and worming
should be provided. All AWSA member/breeders are required by the Code of
Ethics to provide you with a guarantee that all dogs will be free of any
and all communicable diseases for a period of at least 3 days after leaving
the seller’s premises. You will be encouraged to take your new friend to
your own veterinarian within 48 hours after purchase for a complete examination
and health check. Per the AWSA Club Code of Ethics, for each puppy or dog
transferred, all AWSA members must provide the following:
Full identification of the dog including the registered name and number
of the sire and dam, the litter registration number or the individual registered
name and number of the dog if available, a written pedigree documenting
at least three (3) generations, a complete written medical history including
a health certificate signed by a veterinarian, information on any vaccinations
and wormings still due and their approximate due dates, written feeding
instructions, a copy of the official application form for The American
White Shepherd Association and a copy of the Club Code of Ethics, and any
other instructional materials deemed necessary by the seller.
A written assessment of the probable quality of the dog, whether for show,
breeding or pet/companion. If the dog is sold for show or breeding, the
seller will furnish a written guarantee against disqualifying faults as
per the breed standard.
Referrals for veterinarians, groomers or trainers if the new owner desires
A basic written health guarantee (that may be provided by the Club) that
all dogs will be free of any and all communicable diseases for a period
of at least 3 days after leaving the seller’s premises as well as the seller’s
own guarantee against any hereditary disease(s) as deemed necessary by
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN CHOOSING A PUPPY?
When choosing any puppy, the first thing to notice is their physical condition.
One does not have to be a veterinarian to do a basic health check on a
puppy. Do the puppies look clean? Please note that by "clean" I don’t necessarily
mean "white." Puppies born in winter will have most likely been raised
indoors on newspapers. Thus, their coats may be slightly stained by the
newsprint. What I mean by "clean" is the actual condition of the litter.
They shouldn’t be covered in their own feces. They should smell good.
Before you even look at the pups, try to spend a bit of time interacting
with the breeder’s other adult dogs, in particular — the litter’s mother.
What is her temperament and personality like? Is she calm? Suspicious?
Playful and outgoing? Shy or aggressive? Temperament, both good and bad,
is inherited at the moment of conception. Good temperament is dominant
to poor temperament. The pups have inherited half their genes from their
dam and half from their sire, it is true. But they have spent the majority
of their time with their dam and her basic temperament will have had a
great affect on them. Puppies learn much from their mothers in the time
that they are with them, so it is important that the litter’s mother be
a pleasant dog.
Pick up the pup you are considering. The puppy should feel substantial
— neither fat nor rail thin. His coat should not be matted down. Check
his ears — they should be clean and sweet-smelling. Dirty ears could be
a sign of earmites or an infection. Ruffle the puppy’s coat. It should
feel soft and thick. There should be no sign of fleas. The skin should
not look irritated or have weeping patches. Look at his eyes — they should
be clear and bright and filled with mischief! The eyes should never be
crusted over or filled with mucus. The whites of the eyes should be white
and not yellow or red. There should be no tear stains down the face. Check
the pup’s nails — they should be short. Overgrown nails are a sign of poor
care. Look under the puppy’s tail to make sure that it is clean and that
there is no irritation around the anus. This could be a sign that the puppy
has recently had a bout of diarrhea. Of course, if any of the puppies defecate,
take the opportunity to check it out. Their stools should be small and
firm and you shouldn’t see any worm segments in the stool. If you can see
the entire litter, so much the better. Check them all! If you happen to
see one really sick-looking puppy, then you should suspect that the others
are also ill. If you see or suspect that the puppies are not healthy, DO
NOT BUY A PUPPY!!!
Now set the puppy you are interested in on the ground and watch him for
awhile. He should be able to move and play normally and without limping,
staggering or dragging a foot. How does he interact with you, the breeder
and his littermates and/or mother? Is he outgoing, confident and playful?
Puppies at this age should be curious and always ready for a game. They
should not be hiding from strangers or cowering in the corner. A puppy
that hangs back a bit could be perfectly normal. Spend a bit of time talking
to him in a soft or high-pitched, squeaky voice; he should respond. If
he continues to hide or run away from you, take that as a possible warning
that something is not quite right. Do not make the mistake of buying a
puppy "to save it" or because you feel sorry for it. Remember that this
is a lifetime agreement between you and that little pup who will, soon
enough, grow into an adult. Take the time to be sure that this is what
you want, and that this is the right litter, the right puppy and the right
time in your life to take on this tremendous responsibility.
WHAT IS THE BEST AGE TO TAKE MY NEW PUPPY HOME?
Most experts agree that the optimum time to take a puppy home is around
7 to 8 weeks of age. Depending on the individual breeder, the potential
new owner and the particular line of dogs they are working with, puppies
may go to their new homes as early as six weeks of age (but never any earlier).
White Shepherd pups need to be in their new homes sooner than many other
breeds because they tend to bond at an earlier age. One top breeder states
that she will not ship a pup by air over the age of 10 weeks. She has found
through experience that shipping an older puppy is very hard on the puppy
mentally. Some may do well, but to this particular breeder, it just isn’t
worth the risk.
WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY WHITE SHEPHERD?
Your White Shepherd should do well on most types of quality food. You should
try to stay away from the cheap, grocery store brands and definitely stay
away from any type of generic feed product. Some White Shepherds have the
tendency toward food-related allergies, especially to wheat, corn or soybean
meals. Try to use a quality meat-based product with meat or meat meal as
the first listed ingredient on the label. Reading the feed labels is as
important to your dog’s health as it is to you and your family. The expression
"garbage in -- garbage out" takes on new meaning when feeding your dog.
A good quality feed product will produce less gas or other digestive troubles
and yield firmer stools because the dog is utilizing the majority of what
he is being fed. A poorer quality food will produce a larger volume of
stool because the ingredients are not as available to the dog and thus,
they will go in one end and come right out the other. Many people no longer
feed their dogs on commercial feeds -- even the very expensive ones. As
homeopathy gains a new acceptance among the medical and veterinary community,
these folks prefer, instead, to cook an all-natural diet especially for
their animals. But a high quality, commercial dry food that is appropriate
for all life stages of your dog should really be all that is necessary
to keep your pet healthy and in good physical condition.