Home Puppies How to Choose a German Shepherd Puppy

How to Choose a German Shepherd Puppy

by David W.
German Shepherd Puppy

No field day compares to that wonderful time when you go to buy a dog! Of course, you have already read a lot of books with advice on how to choose the right puppy of a German Shepherd, east European, as well as a Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Spaniel, or Spitz puppy. 

You understand what is the fundamental difference between these breeds and why a Retriever puppy will never become a VIP bodyguard, and a black terrier will hardly ever pass for a draft husky.

Why Opting For a German Shepherd Puppy Is a Good Choice

The German Shepherd is prone to learning from a very young to deep old age, while many other breeds cannot boast of this, even if their appearance is more perfect than that of a German Shepherd.

The most well-known characteristics that a German Shepherd owns are:

  • pronounced protective and guarding instinct;
  • the ability to make independent decisions, and active actions, and at the same time be completely submissive to the owner;
  • sociability, playfulness, and curiosity;
  • lack of aggression signs towards others and deep affection for the owner;
  • a willingness to happily take on tasks, learn, and remain completely fearless when faced with unfamiliar surroundings or unforeseen difficulties;

In addition, the Shepherd dog is calmly confident and features strong nerves, combativeness, and assertiveness which are the main qualities of a good service dog.

Perhaps, due to this set of breed characteristics, few larger and more ferocious breeds can compete with a GS, both for guarding the house and as a personal protector.

Are Other Types of Shepherds Worse?

No way! They are no worse and no better, but they are different, although one can often trace both related lines and common temperaments among them.

A large group of Shepherd dogs with or without meaning to accompany herds and flocks was formed. Over time, it has become pretty extensive, and many of them still belong to aboriginal breeds, implying that people did not apply breeding methods to them, and they were formed due to harsh natural selection within their species. Hence, we can observe fantastic endurance, malice, and distrust (bonding with ferocity) towards strangers.

Shepherds Without German Breeding Lines

However, when purchasing a Belgian Shepherd, one must take into account that there is no German Shepherd blood in this breed – it’s formed from several types of mastiffs and a Scottish Deerhound. Their compliance with human needs is weak, and the character is as solid and stiff as the Morion stone. For a beginner, such a choice is too tough! It’s actually the dog that does not know what fear is.

Today, these dogs are very popular. They are light, high-legged, with a powerful and simultaneously aristocratic build. The Belgian Shepherd subspecies (Grunendael, Malinois, Tervueren, and Laekenois) won the hearts of breeders and owners with their patient disposition and good trainability. Practically, there is not a single service left where these dogs with a balanced character and a highly mobile body are not used for searching, rescuing, guarding, etc.

The loyal and highly intelligent Caucasian and Asian Shepherds of all varieties are not very suitable for conventional training methods – these methods just do not work for them. A beginner who is just joining the club of dog keepers should not take a dog with such an independent temper who possesses extremely heroic strength. Keeping these breeds in an apartment, without the conditions for free movement is cruel to the animals and dangerous for humans.

Danish (Dutch or Herder) Shepherds are also classified as working dogs that do not have German lines in their ancestors but can boast the same strong character as the Belgian ones. Herding and guarding qualities are fantastic here, but… This peculiarly beautiful dog requires long-term socialization since it is difficult for it to get used to the owner and it is behindhand in sociability from its birth. It is not suitable for a family with young children because it is extremely touchy, and it takes a lot of time for this dog to forgive the offense. When ill-humored, it easily uses its teeth.

Shepherds with German Breeding Lines

German Shepherd Puppies

The working lines, which are based on GSs, with excellent service qualities and easy contact with the owner, include:

German Shepherd Old Type

The exterior rating is average. It is not suitable for the role of a pet because of the active temperament and aggressive defensive reactions.

German Shepherd Slovak-Czech Breeding Line

The principle of obtaining this breed variety is similar to others – a German Shepherd + local native breeds. The appearance is virtually indistinguishable from the original German old type. The same can be noticed about the character.

English German Shepherds

It is an excellent working dog for an experienced cynologist! Outwardly, according to the constitution, it is very similar to our Easterners but smaller in size and more elegant. The minus is an unstable, ‘explosive’ temperament.

East German Shepherd (Not to Be Confused with an East European!)

It is a complete set of excellent working qualities! However, increased aggressiveness interferes with becoming a family dog.

Chinese GS or Cuming

The base is a German Shepherd. The dog is characterized by a resistant psyche and an extraordinary ability to train. The Chinese GS is not inclined to unquestioning obedience because it is very cocky.

American German Shepherd

This dog is very obedient and completely devoid of aggression since it was bred to serve as a guide dog. Hence, it has somewhat strange proportions and manners – it runs badly and jumps even worse. The animal is characterized by its habitual gait-step.

It gets along excellently in the family but it is completely lacking the usual working qualities of Shepherd dogs.

In fact, there are many more varieties of the German Shepherd, but they all lack the complete set of characteristics that a German Shepherd has, and that makes it retain all its working functions even as a favorite pet ‘for the home, for the family’.

An Important Question: A Girl or a Boy?

Male vs Female German Shepherd Puppy

When choosing a puppy, you should always focus not only on external characteristics and price but also know which gender of the dog is preferable for you. Let’s consider male vs. female German Shepherd and what gender would be preferable to choose.

Girl German Shepherd

For a novice dog-keeper, it is better to have a girl – a she-dog is much more docile than a male, softer, and ‘more pliable’ in training.

The she-dog’s passion for the opposite sex is limited only by the periods of estrus – 2 times a year when the dog begins to behave playfully and naughtily. During these periods (21 days each) in spring or autumn, you will have to make efforts so that your girl does not manage to escape and ‘marry’ the first male she comes across. Puppies after such an escape will have neither breed nor monetary value.

You still have to ‘hold the defense’ from those males who would like to ‘marry’ her during walks. Your girl will not help you do that during this period – she has the opposite opinion about the ‘pest-on-you’ guys curling around her, and she may not respond to your commands at all.

High fences in this case are bad deterrents – during estrus, your girl becomes very cunning and inventive. The male on the other side of the fence has the same mood.

There are also advantages – a she-dog can produce her own kind. With the right selection of a male and admission to pedigreed breeding, the puppies from your girl will cost enough to cover the expenses of mating and maintenance of the mother dog and her kids.

If the girl you have chosen has not justified herself as a thoroughbred one, do a sterilization operation. This will save you and your pet from many unpleasant moments, while the she-dog will remain obedient and faithful throughout her life.

There are times when sterilizing a dog is the only way to save her life and health. Spayed females (SFs) are fully eligible to compete in the rings and receive further rewards. There are no restrictions, and they are set in the general classification. Therefore, an SF is a dog not lost for shows, sports competitions, or as a pet.

Boy German Shepherd

Boys tend to be stubborn and domineering by nature. The owner may have some problems during the male’s maturation if there are gaps in early education. However, in GS boys, all pedigree characteristics are better visible because sexual dimorphism in German Shepherds is pronounced, and you can distinguish a male from a female at a glance.

The male experiences sexual desire throughout his life, at any time of the year, without any breaks. If a she-dog or two is kept next to you, it is better to get a girl, since your boy will constantly experience stress from the ‘pangs of unrequited love’.

A grown-up male, smelling an estrus beauty, can refuse to eat, yearn much, behave aggressively, and ‘whistle’ all day long. He will obey badly because he will not have any other thoughts in his head than to meet and communicate closely with his chosen one.

The male dog’s habit of leaving scent marks by raising its hind leg can move from the outside inside the house, and it is unlikely to please your family.

It is possible to correct such behavior for the better if good contact is established with the dog. However, it won’t be possible to completely subordinate the instinct of procreation in a healthy male.

Many owners who have already dealt with a male prefer his company, arguing that boys have a more active attitude to life, they are more comfortable for long journeys, more enduring, more hostile to strangers, and have a more formidable appearance.

Does It Matter at What Age to Get a German Shepherd Puppy?

GSD Puppy with a bowl

It is not recommended to take puppies under 4 weeks old from their mother. This applies not only to GSs but other breeds.

At the age of one month, the baby has already been given all the necessary vaccinations. It can eat on its own, and is in the so-called ‘stage of formation’, which allows it to easily adapt to new living conditions.

However, only a person who can devote a lot of time to raising a puppy can afford to take a Shepherd at such a young age. In addition to 6 meals a day, and socialization, the new owner will need to complete 1,000 different tasks, which require, above all, a lot of time.

If there is no time, it is worth finding a puppy aged 4 to 6 months. And it is advisable to take such a teenager from a nursery that focuses on breeding German Shepherds and not all the breeds at once.

It’s a fact that German Shepherd puppy breeders often ‘retain’ puppies with good characteristics until it is finally clear who will grow out of a ‘round cub’. It happens that a puppy stays in the nursery because the money deposit was given for it but, for some reason, people could not pick up the reserved puppy.

If the grown-up German Shepherd puppy constantly lived in an aviary and was deprived of close contact with people and the outside world, owners who have not previously dealt with this breed should not choose such a youngster. These young dogs are for experienced cinologysts. Lack of socialization can be corrected but it cannot be fully eliminated.

A conscientious breeder will point out to you the advantages or disadvantages of all puppies from the litter, help you choose the desired type of character, and give advice on feeding and raising your ‘precious acquisition’. And there is one more thing – a conscientious breeder is ‘always in touch’ with the new owner of the puppy.

Testing for the Puppy and Its Future Owner

GSD Puppy with a ball

You may already know how to choose a purebred German Shepherd by external signs under the age of 3 months.

Simple tests will help you choose a puppy with the desired character.

Visit the breeder at a predetermined time when the puppies do not sleep or, conversely, are not hungry.

Do not get excited at the sight of a bunch of fat-footed ‘cubs’ looking at you with gray-blue eyes! You are taking a future friend for life, and enthusiastic emotions with such a choice are inappropriate. When buying a new friend, inspect the litter meticulously.

Pay attention to the following:

  • eyes do not water;
  • traces of diarrhea under the tails are not observed;
  • wet noses are without purulent crusts;
  • legs are straight and strong;
  • fur is clean, reminding of the plush;
  • on the skin under the coat, there are no signs of peeling and scabs;
  • all puppies are active and well-fed;
  • the body is elastic and strong to the touch;
  • the puppy has a pleasant dog smell;
  • the mother is not exhausted;
  • bowls and bedding are clean;
  • there is enough heat and light.

Clap your hands to get the puppies’ attention. (Of course, the owner of the dog mother has already taken her to the next room). Those who paid attention to the unusual sound are yours.

Throw (carefully, of course) a tennis ball at the puppies. Those who were not afraid and did not try to escape are yours.

Select ‘your’ puppies and take them 1.5-2 meters from the nest. Those who, having scouted the situation, did not begin to whine, pressing themselves onto the floor, but hurried towards the bedding are yours.

Throw ‘your’ puppy a squeaky rubber toy from above. Pay attention to those who have shown interest in a new object. The best are those who took and dragged it.

Don’t throw a bunch of keys to puppies! Keys and money are the dirtiest household items. This testing method was used 20 years ago. Today, it is dangerous for the health of puppies!

Invite those who dragged the rubber duck to pull a piece of fabric. If the baby dog willingly starts the fight, not letting the cloth go when you pull it towards you, they are good boys or girls.

Turn the puppy you like on its back and hold it with an open palm for a few seconds. A clear alpha leader is easy to identify by its non-calming behavior for 15-20 seconds, and even trying to bite you in this position. It may not be your choice! You will get too many problems associated with the puppy, or it will never be possible to completely subdue it.

Extend the puppy’s paw and lightly pinch it between fingers. The puppy that squealed, pulled back its paw, and did not lose its interest in you is yours.

With permission from the mommy’s owner, offer puppies left after the tests food from the same bowl. The one who barks trying to drive brothers and sisters away from the bowl is not for you. The one who gives up its place at the feeder is also not yours. Yours is the one who, regardless of the obstacles, has taken its place and calmly devours food, without moving from its point, snapping, and running around the bowl.

Now, you have (at best) 2 or 3 puppies left in front of you. Put them in a bag and close the zipper, leaving only a small ‘window’. You need to select the fat-footed one who will try to get out through the opening without panic and squealing.

The tests are simple, but they will allow you to select a good puppy and raise a real working German Shepherd from it without unnecessary costs and nerves.

Don’t be tempted with titles in the pedigree! Talk to the breeder. The ‘blockhead’ you have chosen may have some remarks on the exterior after being certified by the head of the breed club. Such puppies are sold at a more reasonable price, but the puppy card for them is mandatory to be filled out as well.

If you are given puppies for free, in the absence of their mother, there is a reason to seriously consider whether it is a Shepherd dog at all, even if their mother has pedigree documents.

Can I Adopt an Adult German Shepherd? – It is a Serious Question

The answer is ‘you can’! Current myths about the poor survival/adaptation of an adult German Shepherd dog in a new family are propagated by bad owners of a poorly managed dog. They didn’t bother to find out everything about the reputation of that Shepherd dog and its previous owner before acquiring it.

The German Shepherd wouldn’t earn the status of an excellent working police dog if it was only one-person oriented. This is not a dog of one owner!

The versatility and flexibility of this breed are proven by the fact that GSs accept a new family and a new environment without any problems. The main thing for it is to have its own business – to serve a human!

Of course, parting with the former owner seriously affects the condition of the dog, but it will not have a destructive effect on its psyche. And the sooner you engage the German Shepherd in work, the more chances you will have to become a new God for it.

If the German Shepherd was properly brought up and grew up surrounded by people, it has working characteristics in good conditions, and the reputation of its previous owner is beyond all questions, such a dog will be quite useful to your family.

Finding out the previous story and background of an adult GS (why it is refused, what the complaints about its behavior are, and other prompting questions) is a must! The reason may be the saddest and most trivial – the previous owner died, and relatives are not able to either support or care for the dog.

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