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How to choose among German Shepherd breeders     By Yuliya Matvyeyeva
German Shepherd Breeders

With so many German Shepherd breeders out there, how is one to choose the right breeder?

First things first, decide what type of German Shepherd dog are you looking for. That’s right, there are several different German Shepherd dog types today. Please take a look at our German Shepherd types article for a brief overview of the most common types.

Besides these well-established and distinguished German Shepherd types, each with it’s own purpose and characteristics, there are also what we call “back-yard German Shepherds”– these
are pet quality dogs that belong to people with little or no knowledge about the breed and because of that, unfortunately they choose to breed their pets. These German Shepherd breeders don’t do health checks on their breeding dogs, do nothing to evaluate their character and structure, never have a plan or a breeding program – all they do is just breed their pets, often propagating issues that hurt the breed.

One argument that this type of German Shepherd breeders provide in an attempt to justify their breeding practices is that “Well, not everyone is looking for a show/working dog, some people just need a pet.” That is true of course, but doesn’t it make sense to get your pet dog from well known bloodlines, when you can be certain that not only the parents, but all of the ancestors of your dog were accomplished and health/temperament checked for many generations? Isn’t it nice to avoid “surprises” when it comes to your new family member? Isn’t great to know that the breeding was planned with specific goals of improvement in mind? Also, for some pet owners, appearance of their dog is of importance. If you want a gorgeous German Shepherd dog, you do need to get your puppy from gorgeous parents.

German Shepherd puppies: F-litter von Lotta newborn I strongly believe that people who do not care too much about their dog’s looks, ancestors, etc, and do not want to spend much, should look for their new addition in a shelter or a rescue organization. What a noble thing to do – to adopt a lost, abandoned or abused animal in desperate need of a loving home.

If this was what such people would do, 1) there would be many fewer homeless pets killed each year, 2) there would be much less demand for back-yard bred puppies, which in turn would also minimize the unwanted pet problem in the United States.

The reason I have this second point is that most back-yard breeders do not have enough knowledge or do not care enough about the breed to make an educated decision on what homes are good homes for their puppies, and which homes might be better off with a different breed. Or even how to match the right puppy with the right family. The German Shepherd dog is a large and strong dog, after all, and a type of dog who really wants and needs to be a part of the every-day family life – they do not do well confined to the back-yard, a kennel, or a crate. But most of these back-yard German Shepherd breeders will shamelessly sell cute, cheap Christmas puppies for kids, without ever asking – who will take care of the soon-to-be 50 lb adolescent German Shepherd bundle of joy, in need of training, after the holiday season is over? Way too often these dogs end up in shelters or destroyed.

How can you tell that the breeder you are working with is not a back-yard breeder? First things first, good German Shepherd breeders do things with their dogs. They do not just breed them, claming that their “breeding stock” comes from V and VA bloodlines, SchH titled grandfather, or that some of the dogs in the pedigree are OFA certified. All these are sales pitches used by back-yard breeders in hopes to make them look more reputable. They also often try to make themselves sound special by breeding “king, giant, silver, beige, panda”, or other non-standard shapes and colors of dogs. All this comes from a lack of knowledge what a German Shepherd really is. Most of them have never even read the German Shepherd breed standard. And unfortunately, these breeders are in the majority, so you have to do your homework.

There are a few simple questions you need to ask the German Shepherd breeder you are considering getting a puppy from.

First: What do you do with your dogs? What type of activities? Good German Shepherd breeders do the following things:

1. They take their dogs to shows. Why is this important? When you enter your dog in a show, the judge, a person whose entire life is devoted to this breed of dogs, who travels the world looking at German Shepherds, who has a successful kennel of his/her own, with years of experience behind his/her belt, will look at your dog, and will tell you what you might want to improve on when looking for a mate for your dog. I’m talking here about German SV judges, not all-breed AKC judges, sorry. Also, you can see what other German Shepherd breeders are accomplishing, discuss the latest news, who are the best stud dogs today, etc.

2. They train their dogs. The German Shepherd dog standard calls for a dog with working qualities. This is a fact that we have to respect and treasure in this breed. This is where the German Shepherd’s legendary intelligence and versatility comes from. There are several ways to test a dog’s working abilities. The most common and popular is Schutzhund and its modifications such as IPO. Schutzhund is a sport developed as a testing tool for German Shepherd dog temperament. Please read more about it in our article Schutzhund. Other ways to test a German Shepherd’s working abilities is herding. Again, I’m referring here to the SV type of herding – not the AKC “Herding instinct test” – there is an enormous difference.

3. Even if all the breeder does with his/her German shepherds is Agility – fine. As long as they are actively involved and competing in it. Just because the dog has seen a hurdle in the back yard, doesn’t mean that this is an Agility dog.

Second: Along with doing things with their breeding dogs, good German Shepherd breeders always x-ray their breeding dogs’ hips and elbows, and submit the x-rays to SV or OFA for evaluation. Hip and elbow dysplasia is still a problem in the breed, and only animals who have passed certification should be bred. Ask your breeder whether or not the parents of the litter that you are looking at have certified hips and elbows, and if so, ask to see the documentation. This is a question that any reputable German Shepherd breeder will be happy and proud to answer, so don’t feel that asking is not polite. What you are looking for, as proof, is either a stamp for hips and a stamp for elbows on the dog’s pedigree (if the certification was done by the SV in Germany and the dog has so-called “a-stamps”), or an OFA certificate. In both cases, the dog’s registered name should be clear on both documents or their copies.

Third: Good German Shepherd breeders always have their dogs well taken care of, clean, well fed, and happy. Visit your breeder’s facility if the distance allows.

If you see hyper-active dogs, this means they are not exercised enough, not mentally stimulated enough, and that not enough time is being spent with them. They do not have the quality of life that these intelligent dogs deserve. Of course, every dog will be happy and excited to see it’s owner and new visitors, but he/she should not start destroying the dog house because of such an event, or climb the walls of the kennel, or franticly circle it without ever settling down.

You should not see dog poop everywhere and the dogs and kennels should not reek of urine. If they do, then the owners either don’t have enough time or desire to take proper care of their dogs, or they just have too many, which is never a good thing. Sure, it’s possible a dog will make a pile shortly before your visit, that the kennel owner did not have a chance to pick up yet, but not three piles at a time in one kennel, right?

One more little piece of advise: before you call a German Shepherd breeder, try to determine what is it you are looking for in your future dog. Perhaps you are looking for a dog that is very active and will be happy to accompany you on your hiking trips and play ball all day with your kids? Or perhaps you are looking for a sweet and loving companion who will follow you everywhere you go? Or perhaps you are interested in trying to see if Schutzhund, or any other dog sport is a good activity for you to do with your German Shepherd dog? Or perhaps you have a specific color preference? If you have answered some of these questions for yourself before you call, you might have an easier time communicating your desires and preferences to your German Shepherd breeder – he or she should be more than happy to answer your questions and to tell you if they have the type of puppy or dog that you are looking for. Don’t forget, just like people, each German Shepherd has it’s own unique character, and some are more suitable for you than others.

We hope that this gives you an idea what good German Shepherd breeders are like. Wishing you the best of luck in your quest for the perfect German Shepherd dog for you!

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