When I first started researching European-bred German shepherds, I was amazed at how many breeders there are in the area - Minnesota as well as Wisconsin - so I had my work cut out for me to start looking into them.
Dani was also looking at the time, and we BOTH discounted Jeralyn Kennels in Wisconsin because the guy wouldn't even acknowledge that we wanted to do research before buying...he wouldn't even let us see any of his dogs! He said, "come back when you're serious about purchasing a puppy". It would seem he also runs a puppy mill - it's full of European-line GSDs, but it's a mill nonetheless. I'm not even sure that's the name of his outfit, since I can't even find the guy online so obviously he has no search marketing aptitude - that and the fact that his site is built with a flash entry page. But I digress.
I finally opted to purchase my pup - at 3 months of age - from Kozie's Shepherds in Mankato, MN. Although I wasn't crazy about the guy - Mark Kozitza - himself, the dogs were stellar (or so I thought at first) and the pup sounded perfect for what I wanted. He said that he exposes his pups to all sorts of stimuli at a young age, as well as people of all ages.
What bothered me was that she was in a separate kennel all by herself - away from all the other dogs - and she'd started to get scared when strange dogs would come up to the fence (i.e., when he got other juveniles in for training). I'm fairly positive he has no clue how to introduce new dogs into the "family", so in essence she learned to go berserk and bark uncontrollably whenever a new dog came around. And he did nothing to correct the situation.
I worked on that for a couple months after I got her, and she seemed to get over it. However, at the dog park she'll advance on another dog and if they run, she'll give chase. Then when she catches up, she barks intimidatingly and bites at the other dog's neck/back. If they retaliate, she quits; if not, she torments them until I can get her away.
Now, this might seem intuitively that it's my fault for letting her do this - but in the beginning, when she was 30-40 pounds, she mostly got nipped at and reprimanded by other dogs...which is what I wanted. Nowadays, she doesn't do it often - but if a dog starts running, she still will take off after them if I'm not right there to stop her. Again, the majority of the time, she's a great dog-park dog, and I have no problems, but sometimes she...almost "snaps".
Even more lately, she's started stalking other dogs - lying in wait and running at them - and then pouncing on them, while barking and biting. I've been trying to circumvent this...either by taking her the other way or just breaking her attention. I find if I can do that, she loses interest and merely runs up to the dog, but not in "stalk" mode.
Keep in mind that this dog gets a LOT of exercise. She's out for at least an hour and a half every day - which doesn't seem like much, but she's not hyper and actually is very calm. Most of the time :) Also, when we're at the dog park, we're there an average of 2 hours - so she gets plenty of running/walking time.
This is all leading up to this past weekend out at the Anderson Wisconsin Farm, where we had 8 dogs, 8 horses & 16 people...but 400 acres to run around in. Well, Zada was behaving pretty well, considering it was an entirely new situation, but she was stalking/pouncing on Tesa (which is normal, and Tesa can handle herself) but she was also doing it to an Aussie she'd never met until this weekend. They were playing somewhat rough, and when I was present I'd break it off because I don't want her doing that.
Well, needless to say, there were also 3 kids there - Sophia and 2 girls, aged 8 and 4. The 8-year-old was constantly running around, and whenever we were all in one area, Zada would be trotting behind her, normally with a stick in her mouth. At times I'd see the girl throwing a stick for the dogs - normally Zada & Tesa - but there was no fighting over the stick, and I'd watched them closely to be sure everyone was behaving. I didn't worry, since Zada loves kids and I trusted her implicitly with them.
That all changed on Saturday afternoon when she decided to stalk and then pounce on - while biting - the 8-year-old girl. I didn't see it, but I have eye witnesses who say that's what happened...plus Mom said she saw Zada stalking the girl earlier, but it broke off and she thought it was because of a fake goose by the girl. What broke her attention that time was Zada saw me walking a ways off, and came running to me (but didn't see it). The girl is fine - thank GOD! - Zada didn't break skin, in fact, I'm not sure she "bit", per se, but it was the same sort of "attack" she launches on other dogs.
SO. Now I have a dog that I cannot trust around kids - as well as some situations with dogs - so I called the breeder to talk about how to kill her prey drive around other dogs (I want to get rid of it in that situation, since I'm sure that's what led up to her jumping on the girl). Thing is, he didn't even sound very surprised when I told him what happened - when I asked if he'd ever heard of one of his dogs doing this before, he said, "well, not really". NOT REALLY??? He promotes his dogs as being kid-friendly and kid-safe, but the fact that he can't tell me "No, I've NEVER had a dog do that before" is VERY unnerving.
Also, on a side note, he says that he has a dog in each of the main police departments up here in the cities - St. Paul & Minneapolis - but I met a K-9 officer from the St. Paul PD, and he'd not only never heard of Kozie's, but he said they never get their dogs anywhere but directly from Europe. As in, they buy adult dogs and have them shipped. He does have a dog in the Minneapolis K-9 department, BUT, I'd be damn sure about information before I spout off about it to a prospective buyer.
The point is, I'm working with Z on the issues - had my dog instructor come out for a lengthy consultation...turns out there are things I can do better, such as mentally stimulate her more, that'll help with this. But, the fact remains - she's been bred for a high prey drive AND she's extremely dominant.
All in all, I'm very disappointed that I got bad vibes from this Kozie's guy from the get-go but didn't let that stop me. When purchasing a dog - especially one that's a working line, intelligent creature - you need to be ABSOLUTELY sure that you're comfortable with everything. He rubbed me the wrong way from Day 1, but again, I was so impressed (at first) with the dogs that I thought, "once I buy her, I'll never have to deal with him again".
Well, now I never will. I will never, EVER recommend Mark Kozitza to anyone - in fact, I'll steer people AWAY from him if they're in the market for a German shepherd. I'm keeping Zada, and will continue to work with her on this kid issue because, overall, she's a good dog and I do love her. BUT, if she ever shows a tendency towards children like she showed this past weekend, she's gone. PERIOD. No ifs, ands, or buts. The only reason I'm giving her "one chance" is because I want to believe she did it out of a false sense of "play". If she does it again, I'd thought about simply dropping her off with this Kozie's guy and leaving her so he can deal with her issues. But, I simply dislike him so much I don't ever want to see him again.
Long story short - if you're in the market for a European-line German shepherd, DO NOT BUY A DOG FROM KOZIE'S SHEPHERDS IN MANKATO.