Finding a reputable German shepherd breeder is essential when choosing to bring a German Shepherd into your home. The popularity of this breed has created a black market of “backyard breeders” who have little or no knowledge of the dogs and are only looking to make a quick buck. German Shepherds need a lot of attention from their mothers and humans at an early age. Puppies born into unsanitary or isolated conditions can suffer from health ailments and poor temperament, and they may not even be purebred.
German Shepherds, as their name implies, originated in Germany. Originally bred for specific traits conducive to sheep herding, their high intelligence and strength made them useful on the battlefield during the First World War. Today, police forces around the globe use German Shepherds to locate criminals, drugs, and missing persons. German Shepherds are also popular show dogs because they can be trained with relative ease. Most Americans became familiar with the breed through animal actor Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd who appeared in 27 films in the early days of cinema.
Search a German Shepherd Breeder that Meets Your Needs in a Puppy
Male German Shepherds can weigh up to 90 pounds, and females can reach 70 pounds. A healthy dog will live about 10 years. Though they have an extremely strong bite force, properly reared German Shepherds are usually mild-tempered. That said, they have a strong sense of loyalty, making them excellent guard dogs. Introducing a German Shepherd into your home is a huge commitment, so you should do research as you are now before choosing a German shepherd breeder.
Finding the Right German Shepherd Breeder
Once you have decided that you want a German Shepherd puppy, you need to find a respected German shepherd breeder. A reputable German shepherd breeder will have the following:
- A German shepherd breeder should have all health records: This should include a list of vaccinations and the dates received, date of worming and screenings for any diseases that German Shepherds are prone to, such as degenerative myelopathy and hip dysplasia. Dogs older than two years should be examined by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
- Veterinarian references: Records are not enough; your German shepherd breeder should be well-known by at least one local veterinarian, as the breeder should be a frequent customer.
- Customer references: A German shepherd breeder should not be afraid to let their customers communicate with one another.
- A strong knowledge of the breed: A German shepherd breeder should be an expert on German shepherd dogs. They should provide you with extensive information about dietary needs, training, grooming and the environmental needs of German Shepherds.
- Registration with the American, United, SV (German registration) or Canadian Kennel Club: Only these organizations have stringent standards and oversight for the dogs they register as purebred. Other registries exist, but their operating standards are often unverifiable. The breeder should also have proof of the puppy’s parents’ registration or pedigree.
- An application process: A good German shepherd breeder should care enough about their puppies not to sell them to just anyone who has the money. They will usually require a written application and an extensive interview. They will ask questions about your home, your family, your other pets and any other questions pertaining to the best interests of the dog. At the very least they will want to speak with you and get to know you to get a better idea of the puppy that would best fit your needs.
- A guaranteed return policy: A serious German shepherd breeder would not want their puppies to end up in animal shelters and will gladly take your dog back should you decide you can no longer care for it.
Questions to Ask Your German Shepherd Breeder
- How many litters do you breed per year?
A female German Shepherd should not give birth to more than one or two litters per year and not every year. Breeders who raise litters from several mothers throughout the year do not have enough time to give adequate attention to each puppy, so be weary of breeders who say they sell more than two litters each year unless of course they have a helper or two.
- May I see the mother? A reputable German shepherd breeder would encourage this.
Preferably, you should see the whole kennel to get an idea of the condition that dogs and puppies have been raised in. Puppies inherit much of their temperament from their mothers so inquire about the mother and her other offspring’s health. Particularly ask if any related dogs have developed any hip or elbow problems and be sure to review a pedigree to confirm the parentage. A reputable German shepherd breeder will welcome these inquiries.
- Have the dogs been bred for show or police work or companion?
Dogs bred for these purposes are usually more active and at times aggressive, which may not be a fit for some homes. Slender bodies are a common trait of show dogs, while police dogs are usually stocky in build. Discuss with your German shepherd breeder what you are expecting from your puppy and he will match with you with a German shepherd puppy that meets your families needs.
Red Flags in a German Shepherd Breeder
- Puppies being sold at malls, flea markets, or pet stores
Breeders who sell their puppies on the street to anyone with a credit card are not interested in the well-being of the animals. A legitimate breeder will want to meet with you more than once or speak with you if distance doesn’t permit a visit before parting ways with his German Shepherd.
- Puppies that are less than eight weeks old
The first weeks of a puppy’s life are critical to their development, and they need to spend that time with their mother and also have frequent contact with a human.
A Note About Rescues in Lieu of a German Shepherd Breeder
Rescuing a dog is a noble undertaking; however, rescues should only be taken in by people with extensive experience raising dogs as rescues are prone to health and psychological problems. First-time dog owners should buy from a German shepherd breeder.