River Rock German Shepherd Girls

River Rock German Shepherd Boys

River Rock Shepherd German Shepherd Puppies

About River Rock German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies

River Rock German Shepherds Rainbow Bridge - Dogs from the Past

River Rock German Shepherds Recommends These Resources

Welcome to River Rock German Shepherd Dogs in St. Cloud Minnesota

About RiverRock German Shepherd in St Cloud Minnesota - German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies

Welcome to RiverRock German Shepherds

Danny Oster with RiverRock's Starlett O'Hara (Star) at 4 months

RiverRock German Shepherds is a small hobby kennel in St. Cloud, Minnesota dedicated to breeding beautiful German Shepherd Dogs that embody all of the finest qualities of this magnificent breed as described in the AKC Breed Standard.

My name is Dr. Zoa Rockenstein and I am the “pack leader” around here. I am a retired Professor Emeritus in the Psychology Department at St. Cloud State University where I taught a course in Canine Cognition and specialized in ways that dogs think, learn, and continue to co-evolve with their human partners.

I am a member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and have served on the Public Relations, Herding, Membership, and Redbook Committees for this organization.  I am also a member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Minneapolis/St. Paul.  I am a signatory of the Breeders’ Code of Ethics for both of these organizations and have been designated an “AKC Breeder of Merit”. 

My son River Rockenstein, his wife Honah, and their daughters Rowan and Haven are also major players at RiverRock.

The History of RiverRock


Zoa at 7 yrs. and Freda at 7 mos


I have been involved with German Shepherd Dogs for 60 years, having received my first gsd, Freda, from my father at age 7. She came from a puppy mill, and was probably the ugliest gsd to ever grace the planet, but she was everything to me.

The first non-fiction books I read were about obedience training, and I trained Freda through the CDX degree requirements while in elementary school. She was the unofficial mascot of my high school, came to class with me, attended club meetings, and marched with the band at football games. She accompanied my father when he had guard duty at the Orlando Naval Training Center at night and searched the grounds with him.

Through Freda, I learned about the potential of the German Shepherd Dog as a family companion and protector. Though I never had the opportunity to compete with Freda, it was my childhood dream to own and breed show-quality German Shepherd Dogs who were both excellent companions and working dogs. My parents tried to breed Freda to a local champion stud dog once. They were told that she was not good enough to breed.

While my parents were outaged, I was utterly intrigued. Did this mean that there were German Shepherds better than my beloved Freda? I wanted to know them. I wanted to own them. I wanted to be in the show ring with them. A dream was born!

I purchased my first show-quality bitch and attended my first show while in college in the 1970’s. Sitting ringside at this show, with the breeder of my new bitch, I correctly picked the winners in each class. The breeder was impressed with this and asked me if I would like to be trained as a handler and handle his dogs at shows throughout the Southeast. This was part of my dream-come-true, and I learned about the breed standard and about the correct structure, movement, and temperament of the dogs.

I was also fortunate to be in the ring every weekend with some of the great handlers like Jimmy Moses, Doug Crane, Kim Knoblach, and Lamar Kuhns who were generous with advice and were models of sportsmanship.

I also saw many of the great dogs of the era like Ch. Lance of Fran Jo and his progeny.

Since that time, I have bred, owned, trained, and shown many German Shepherd Dogs from both German and American lines.
  Zoa and Callie at 3 mo.

Breeding Program Philosophy

RiverRock is not a puppy mill, and I do not breed for profit. My goal is to contribute dogs excelling in soundness, performance, beauty, and style to the German Shepherd gene pool. It is my belief that only dogs that will enhance the gene pool should be bred.

While I prefer the American-bred dog in type, I believe that well-bred dogs from both American and German/European show lines have value in the gene pool. At the present time, both German and American show lines are being combined in my breeding program for the purpose of introducing genetic diversity while maintaining the elegance, floating gait, and gentle/protective temperament of the American-bred dog.

I usually plan 1-3 litters per year. Months of careful study go into the planning of these litters.  Visits to the kennel include a review of my Breeder’s Books along with an introduction to my pedigree analysis process.

Puppies are given the very best of care and receive extensive socialization from an early age. Puppies are given early neurological stimulation as well and are temperament tested in order to place them into situations that match their personalities.

Puppy buyers receive a health guarantee. 

Soundness in a German Shepherd Dog and Puppy

A beautiful dog is nothing unless both physically and mentally sound:

The breeding of sound dogs requires a thorough knowledge of all dogs in a pedigree for at least five generations. The gene pool is small, and even the best pedigree research cannot rule out health problems entirely. What it can do, however, is reduce the probability of problems related to health and soundness.

Reputable breeders take this responsibility seriously by researching the pedigrees of prospective breeding partners, breeding only dogs who are free of health and temperament problems at the time of the breeding, and guaranteeing puppies against maladies proven to be genetically transmitted.

River & Honah with Karla

River & Honah with Karla in the Puppy Garden

German Shepherds and Performance

Sound dogs will have both the physical and mental capacity to perform in sports like conformation, obedience, rally, agility, herding, and schutzhund. They will be useful as assistance or therapy dogs. They will be an asset to law enforcement and the military.

Personally, I enjoy herding competition with my dogs. Since this is the purpose for which the German Shepherd Dog was originally developed, the herding instinct is still present in many of our dogs today.

I select breeding partners with herding instinct and/or working titles in their backgrounds in order to breed for both beauty and working ability. I also participate in obedience and rally competition.


River & Sera in the Puppy Garden


Beauty in the German Shepherd

At RiverRock, beauty is evaluated by the degree to which the dog conforms to the official AKC Breed Standard for German Shepherd Dogs. There are other Breed Standards with slightly different variations.

The Standard defines the proper structure and appearnace of the dog from nose to tail, describes how the dog should move at a trot, and outlines correct temperament. The Breed Standard is a blueprint which should guide both breeding decisions (including the important decision not to breed a given dog) and the independent, objective evaluation of dogs by judges trained in the application of the Breed Standard in the show ring.

There is a link to the current AKC Illustrated Breed Standard on my Links page.

German Shepherd Style

Style is a matter of personal preference regarding appearance plus attitude.

I like a “classic” type American-bred dog with strong pigment, a beautiful coat, tight feet, a noble head, medium drive, and the unmistakable “look of eagles”.  You will see this type of dog on the Boys and Girls pages.

I prefer a well-balanced, medium-sized dog rather than an over-built dog with extreme angulation.  Bigger is not better in German Shepherds.  Excessive size puts too much stress on the joints.  Extreme angulation creates weakness in the rear.  I want a dog that walks on his feet, not his hocks.  She may be a show champion, but she should also be able to jump into a vehicle or herd a flock of sheep.  The German Shepherd is, first and foremost, a working dog.

I expect a strong work ethic, unwavering loyalty, and a desire to please. In attitude, I value an intelligent dog who exudes nobility yet exhibits playfulness and a sense of humor; a dog who is a loving and gentle companion, yet would give his life to protect his family.  That is the type of dog that I strive to produce at RiverRock.

RiverRock Puppies

Rowan Rockenstein with Tucker X Sera pups