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Gillian Salling: Fernheim German Shepherds


Gillian Salling: Fernheim German Shepherds

Gill often posts puppy pictures of available litters on the website--this little guy is 47-days-old.

Photo Credit: © Fernheim German Shepherds

Gillian Salling:


Gillian Salling's first German Shepherd Dog acquired in 1972 had temperament issues, but her love affair with the breed took off in 1976 when she got, "one of those dogs that was the delight of your life." She added a female a year later, got hooked on obedience and tracking, and decided to get into breeding. But her first efforts to find a quality girl puppy were disappointing. The first pup suffered elbow dysplasia, the second exhibited crippling fear, and the third also developed elbow dysplasia.

Gillian says, "I wasted a year, trained all three dogs in obedience and tracking, and I figured I could do better myself."

Gillian's Ideal Puppy

  1. The shy temperament of that very first dog in 1972 made me realize temperament is the most important. If you don't have that you don't have anything.
  2. Correct structure that allows the dog to do any kind of work that it's supposed to do. I'm not interested in producing a dog that just runs around the AKC ring for conformation.

What Age Are Puppies Adopted

Gillian performs the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test as close to seven weeks as possible, and any time after that, puppies can go home. People send deposits with details what they're looking for, and the test helps match each pup to the best home-whether for performance, for kids, as service dogs or pets.

Do You Place Companion Dogs

Yes. In any litter some puppies have more working drive and others are more laid back and make good companion dogs.

What Health Screens Are Done

She breeds only dogs of 100 percent European lines that are titled and have OFA certified normal hips and elbows. Does not require but encourages puppy owners to screen for hips and elbows especially if performance or breeding is planned.

Do You Take Back/Replace Puppies

Yes. If the first puppy develops dysplasia and can't perform or breed as intended, a replacement is provided and the first puppy re-homed. The owner can keep the first puppy if they provide proof of spay/neuter, and still get a replacement puppy.

How You Prepare Pups For New Homes

  1. Handle puppies from day one.
  2. Day 3-16, perform the Bio-Sensor exercises to strengthen immune system.
  3. Eyes usually open by day 14 and visitors are allowed from week 2-3.
  4. No visitors allowed during critical period, day 21-28.
  5. At four weeks old, puppies play outside, and run past the other big dogs that bark. They come in the house 2-3 at a time, and later come individually and play with different toys.
  6. At 4½ to 5 weeks when starting solid food, noisy pans are rattled so they associate noise with good things. Pups are fed two to a crate so they associate the crate with good things.
  7. After they eat or nap, they learn to "take a break" as a cue for their elimination.
  8. Different people are encouraged to visit and handle pups from four weeks until they leave.

How Do You Choose Owners

I've turned people down. Most of my puppy customers are repeat customers, some have their 5th puppy from me. I keep in touch with them. A lot of others are referrals from my puppy owners.

Your Ideal Puppy Home

  • Somebody home all the time, or can make arrangements for four daily feedings until 12 weeks old.
  • Understands the time commitment to work with, train and exercise. Fernheim German shepherds are not couch potato dogs.
  • Won't turn dog into a back yard orphan.
  • People who take basic health care seriously.
  • Interested (not required) in training/showing in obedience trials.
  • Owners must commit to continue socializing puppies.
  • Prefer but don't require they've had a German shepherd before.
  • Owners stay in touch with me so I can help correct problems.

Notable Dogs

FOUNDATION BITCH: Jamie v. Stolzenfels, SchH1, CD (from Fidelco Guide Dogs), won the German Shepherd Dog Club of America's 1989, 1990, and 1992 Annual Training Achievement Award for Dams and has had progeny listed in the program either for dams or for sires ever since then.

Fernheim puppies have attained titles in obedience, tracking, Schutzund, herding and agility. They are police dogs, search and rescue (SAR) dogs, service dogs for autistic children, psychiatric service dogs, service dog for a wheelchair-bound partner, and (currently in training) service dog for hearing impaired partner. Fernheim descendants are guide dogs for the blind all over the U.S. and in three foreign countries. Check out the Fernheim Gallery for more gorgeous and accomplished dogs.

Gillian says, "A descendant of one of my dogs was a search dog at ground zero in NY after the collapse of the twin towers, and another search dog at the Pentagon after the plane crash there on 911. I get a huge amount of satisfaction knowing that I have produced dogs who have been able to help people and make a big difference in people's lives."

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