Male or Female: That is the Question
One of the first questions buyers consider when buying a top West German Shepherd is:
"Should I get a male or a female? What are the major differences between the two?"
If you buy from a quality breeder, either gender is going to make a fantastic family companion but there ARE notable characteristics which differentiate the two.
Although there are always exceptions to the rule, generally speaking, the rate of maturity is the first thing that comes to mind. Like girls and boys, females develop faster, both physically and mentally. Males come into their own at a slower rate and can act quite pup-like until the age of 2 or 3, whereas females have matured by a year and a half or so.
Having raised and trained hundreds of pups thus far, I feel that females have been easier to train, exhibiting a bit more focus early on. Males can be distracted as training begins, but do catch up and make exemplary obedience dogs with more repetition. Temperament wise, the males tend to be more affable and goofy, much to the surprise of many. A male wants to be in your lap most of the time, sticking close to your every move. Females are oftentimes more aloof, always watching their owners, but from the other room. This is usually not the case, however, when children are in the family pack as that brings out their motherly instincts and they remain close. As I write this piece, my male, Hector, is laying by my side near the couch and Taya, one of my females, is watching me from the dining area. Individual personalities also play a role in which gender would work best for you. By that, I mean the personalities of both human and dog!
Mike Pinksten, master trainer and owner of Olympia Kennels, concurs saying, “You have to be a good match for your personality type. As I am a very expressive and physical man, I can intimidate the females and they become shy around me.” He goes on to say that males accept his dominant, alpha-type character so he has been very successful with them, earning many competitive achievements through the decades.
As far as being home companions, Mike adds that he enjoys both very much but the females get more emotional and that can sometimes slow his basic training with them even as house pets. “As a trainer, I need to take a bit more time with females as they get reactive to my commands. For example, when training my males the work is 70% motivation and 30% compulsion.
For females, about 80% motivation and 20% compulsion, or corrective training, since they need a lighter touch from me." He notes, however, that many men are great handlers for females if they can maintain a softer feel for their temperaments.
Olympia’s training manager, Anes Dulas, is one of those men and has been highly successful with females both at home and competitively.
“I have successfully owned and competed with female German Shepherds for over a decade now, and that will always be my preference. I have also successfully trained many male dogs, but none that I have kept as my family or competition dogs. At the USCA Working Dog Championship in 2018, my personal female Biest and I were the only dog and handler team who received standing ovations after our IPO3 obedience routine. The judge proudly stated, "This is the first dog of the championship weekend that has shown me how much she loves her handler, and is willing to give him 110%." This was one of the most proud moments of my life as a dog trainer- I wanted my dog to show no pressure, but to show that she wanted to be out there sharing that field with me. I personally don't believe that I could ever achieve this type of a working relationship with a male dog.”
He goes on to express his views on temperament. “Most well bred females exhibit loving and nurturing temperaments towards their families, with fierce protective instincts when needed. I can fully trust Biest loose with toddlers as they pull on her ears and tail without having to worry about her becoming aggressive towards them. This is due to the maternal instinct that well bred female dogs always possess- they don't see children as a threat so they bond with them quickly and will tolerate things they normally may not. On the flip side, I firmly believe that a female German Shepherd will protect her family and her "kids" with more heart than a male dog will, should the need arise. Pictured is Biest and I at the 2018 working dog championship after receiving our obedience routine critique from the judge. This is one of my favorite pictures of me with my best friend, and I believe that it truly exemplifies the joyous relationship we share."
We like to say that the breeder creates the puppy but the owner develops the dog, whether for sport or a home companion. Both my males and females travel with me extensively and are always welcomed at inns and hotels due to their stellar behavior. With the right amount of love, discipline and training on your part, your canine friend will never disappoint you.
Because in the end, a good dog is a good dog, no matter the gender.