There lies a delicate balance between energy, intelligence, and calmness when you're deciding on a dog to bring into your home. Having been raised with German shepherds, I always knew my first dog would be this breed. As much as I don't like to tout the "sameness" of dogs within the same breed, there's something to be said about certain clichés holding true – shepherds are intelligent, high-energy dogs who need a "strong" owner. I.e., someone who'll take charge and be a leader.
Since I research everything before buying, I'm not sure how I let myself get suckered into buying a Kozies shepherd. As I've stated before, Mark Kozitza rubbed me the wrong way from day 1, but I persisted in gathering information about his dogs because they seemed – at a glance – to be just what I wanted. (Intelligent, energetic yet calm, and good-looking.)
However, a person who breeds "European working line German shepherds" and says he introduces every puppy to many things shouldn't also promote his dogs as "good with children" if he keeps it for you past 8 weeks. I didn't purchase my pup until she was 3 months old, and due to some circumstances I didn't bring her home from Kozies until she was 4 months of age. What I did NOT know was he had discontinued working with her to socialize her. Let's look at why it's important to continue that with puppies beyond 8 weeks of age:
"My breeding goal here at Kozies is to consistently produce dogs with the genetics and temperament to be a trustworthy family member (by that I mean living with children) and at the same time a strong working dog with solid nerves, good drives and is structurally sound with a rich dark pigment that is pleasing to the eye."
Genetics to be trustworthy? Possibly – although he's breeding "working line" sheperds...i.e., HIGH PREY DRIVE dogs.
Temperament to be trustworthy? Absolutely. Until one day that lovely temperament – with kids, no less – turns into a nasty debaucle between you and your family friends, because your dog with the good "genetics and temperament" just stalked, pounced upon, and bit the neighbor girl. With no warning. And in spite of being raised around different ages of children.
Strong working dogs? Absolutely. I knew that from the beginning – Zada can run ALL DAY LONG and actually NEEDS to in order to be content.
Solid nerves? Maybe. With some things, she's pretty solid. With most things, she's average. In brand-new situations, she's a coward, tucking her tail between her legs. (Yes, I realize this could be due to the way I handle things, but when there's a bag in the middle of the street and I don't even notice it; she's spooking at the end of the leash.)
Good drives? YES. In this category, Kozitza, I give you 5 stars. She definitely DOES have strong drives. Pronounced PREY DRIVES, that is, which started out "innocently" enough being focused on other dogs, and have evidently graduated to young children. The reason why she's intent on "dominating" other dogs? She's TERRIFIED of new dogs. This is most likely because this man kept her segregated in the whelping pen, away from all the other dogs, and when he'd let the adult dogs out of the barn, they'd all rush the fence and she became very afraid of approaching dogs. Mind you, I take this dog to obedience classes, and I have been working on this from Day 1. (5 years later, we're still working on introducing her to new dogs.)
Structurally sound? Not at all. Initially (when she was young), I thought she might have a stretched/mildly torn ACL, which COULD have just been from landing on it wrong, bending, twisting, etc. but it could also be a genetic defect in the knee. The vet said it wasn't enough of an issue to consider surgery (yet), but once something like that occurs, it normally doesn't return to its original state. She also started displaying signs early (around 2 years) of some problems in her elbows – although the X-rays came back clear, she was young yet AND I only did the front end; not her hips. She seems to favor a front leg after exercising; it also makes a clicking noise. This wouldn't normally concern me (as I have a hip tendon that "pops" occasionally) but since it's also the leg she favors, it makes me wonder why a dog bred for working goes lame after 20 minutes of running. Granted, it doesn't happen all the time, but it's been occurring with greater frequency lately. She was also diagnosed with (low grade) luxating patellas. That's right, BOTH of her "knees" are affected by this. She's been displaying progressive signs of this in the past year and I fear this genetic disease will create many problems for her in the future.
As of February 2012, she has also been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. That's right, my "structurally sound" German shepherd will now – at the age of 5 – have to be watched constantly for signs of pain in her right hip and will suffer arthritis as she gets older. Nice job, Kozitza.
And, lastly - rich, dark pigment which is pleasing to the eye? Again, yes. 5 stars on that. Thanks for delivering. She's wonderful to look at while she's either a) holding up her leg because it hurts, b) getting reprimanded for chasing after dogs (again), c) honing in to "stalk" a child/dog, or d) barking, terrified, at the neighbor dog across the road, whom she's seen since she's lived in this house...
The point with all this is, DO NOT BUY A KOZIES SHEPHERD after 8 weeks of age if you want a "family dog." And, if you do, always, ALWAYS watch the dog around kids and other dogs! Just yesterday, my sister and I were on a walk – with her dog, my dog and my niece – and at the end, we went to a small park to let Sophia out of the stroller to toddle around and let the dogs stretch their legs. I was throwing a "flippy-floppy" for the dogs and they were getting worn out.
After a while of being there, Sophia (my 2 1/2-year-old niece) started to trot off towards a different area of the park. Zada was near me (thank GOD), and when she saw that baby running, her ears perked, she got "the look" and started after her. She didn't get more than a few strides in before I recalled her (again, thank the Maker and obedience classes).
She'd NEVER done anything like that – which is why I trusted her with kids...but now neither I nor any member of my family will ever trust her again...and rightly so. She'll constantly need to be watched. To be honest, I think my sister breathed a sigh of relief when we left for the evening. I have an inkling she'll feel that way until the dog either dies of old age or I have to put her down due to failing health.
Let's hope I don't have to euthanize her because she attacks another child. If she does, that's the only course of action – she's already had her 1 "freebie".
Again, DON'T BUY A KOZIES SHEPHERD after 8 weeks old if you expect a kid-safe German shepherd! This is how he markets them, but if not socialized correctly they probably will NOT be safe around children! Zada was in a kennel by herself up until she was 4 months old, segregated from other dogs...which is why she has "fear aggession" issues with new dogs. You have to be ready and willing to have a dog that always needs to be watched around kids and you must devote a LOT of time to dog obedience/behavior classes, proper socialization, and numerous hours every day running/exercising, etc.
In fact, let's just cut right to the chase – with this new development of her hip dysplasia, don't buy a Kozies German shepherd AT ALL. He doesn't breed sound dogs, nor does he title his dogs...in short, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE for a well-bred German shepherd dog. You will not find it at Kozies shepherds.
Sigh. I'm writing this to inform; I've wasted enough time and energy defiling this man who sells these "strong drive" dogs as children-friendly (and structurally sound). I hope I can think on him no more. After all this, I'll always trust my gut feeling in the future when picking a dog breeder. And, of course, I'll NEVER recommend his dogs to anyone.