A dear friend of mine had lunch with a collegue/friend who is engaged to another collegue/friend. I know her slightly. He's a lobbyist, she is the right hand person to one of the power brokers of a state political party. During election years, like this one, she might spend 18-20 hours a day at work and he is wining and dining clients and politicians at all hours.
So of course they need a dog. Because when she's home and he isn't, she's lonely. And she likes to walk at night on a bike path through an area we'll kindly say is in transistion. The dog she wants is...a German Shepherd. And he's fine with this because of her walking habit.
My friend is horrified and knows what a horrible idea this is on so many levels. But they are determined to do it, so she's asked me if I would be willing to advise them to make the least bad decision possible. And they are open to it. They want to do this "right". (But still get a dog, which makes doing this "right" impossible...)
So my first plan is to convince them that getting a dog at this time is not the best idea. That perhaps fostering during the times when their work schedules aren't insane would be a better option until after they have kids and the kids are older. That it's not fair to the dog to be alone for more than 9 hours at a time and when they are home, the dog is going to demand a lot of their time and energy. This plan is unlikely to work.
Next I will try to steer them away from a German Shepherd, or any herding or sporting breed. I will explain that these dogs a) are bred with people for hours at a time and b) are bred to endure physical activity for hours at a time. And even with the plethora of dog daycares in the area, it is rare for a shepherd to be truly happy in daycare, even if they don't get kicked out for either playing too roughly or being play police.
I will try to steer them away from a puppy, but based on their choice of career and stereotypes I have, I suspect they have the "I don't want to deal with someone else's mistake" mentality. Hopefully I am very, very wrong.
So, assuming they still want to get a dog, but I can steer them away from a German Shepherd, what breeds are lower energy, but would like longer walks and don't mind being on their own during a longer work day? I'm thinking a rottie would be lower energy and still "tough" and while I know they love their people, they seem to me to be a breed who is not overly clingy. I also thought about a greyhound as lower energy, but I'm not sure how much one would be miserable alone for a longer work day. A livestock guardian breed wouldn't necessarily be looking for a person all day, but if it's bored I am concerned that it would easily scale the fence and find its own fun. Plus they're not great for first time dog owners. I thought terriers are happy to have a life parallel to their humans, without necessarily needing lots of human guidance or input (as opposed to a border collie or German Shepherd), but terriers can also get bored easily and that's never a good thing. Any other ideas? (And I know what I said above is painting with a very broad brush.)
And if they're determined to get a German Shepherd puppy, does anyone live in an area where they aren't all train wrecks? Because to be honest, in 13 years of dog training, I can think of only 2-3 German Shepherds I've met that I would consider stable, healthy, family dogs. And this couple does want to have children some day. The shepherds around here tend to be either totally focused/needing a job, emotionally unstable (lots of fear issues), or have joint or hereditary health issues. I can think of 3-4 breeders within 50 miles and I wouldn't recommend one of them. I think for health and structure they'd want a European type dog, but most of those that I know of are from major working lines and would go nuts alone 9 hours a day. The more chill American show lines can barely walk on their back paws and generally have epilepsy, seizures, or autoimmune issues in their lines. But I also know that different areas of the country have can see different, I guess, styles, of dog.
The other major issue I see is that no rescue or reputable breeder should let these people have a dog if for 4 months every 2 years they are never home, so the kind of dog they can get, they won't really want.