So you have made the decision to get a German Shepherd puppy, but you have a million questions and might feel a bit overwhelmed about how to go about choosing a German Shepherd Dog puppy.
If you have ever taken a look at a litter of cute, fuzzy German Shepherd puppies, chances are you’ve had a burning desire to take them all home, but reality will set in, and you will probably take only one of them home.
Knowing what to look for, and making a well-informed decision on selecting a puppy is an important decision, and this article offers some advice on how to pick a German Shepherd puppy that is right for you and your household.
Where Do I Start?
Knowing where to start, and the steps involved in picking a GSD puppy is crucial, and there are a few things to consider before-hand.
Research the Breed
Make sure that you understand the German Shepherd dog breed in its entirety. There are certain physical characteristics, health issues, temperaments, exercise, and training needs that can pose a challenge to owners.
You can also talk with your veterinarian, or your local dog club to obtain information as well. Once you have done your research, and have gathered all the information, then you can make an informed decision about adding a German Shepherd puppy to your family.
What Should I Look for in a German Shepherd Puppy?
Given the facts and advice above, a few things to look for when selecting a German Shepherd puppy include the following:
Male or Female?
Males and females are similar in many respects but there are several differences that owners should be aware of.
Males are generally larger and heavier. They range 24-26 inches at the highest point of the shoulders and weigh anywhere from 65 to 100 lbs.
Females are typically smaller and weigh less. They are usually 22-24 inches in height at the top of the shoulders and range from 50-80 lbs.
Females will also go into heat twice a year, and if you choose a female and but don’t want to breed her, it is recommended that she be spayed between 12-18 months.
Color is another thing that can be considered. German Shepherds come in many colors, ranging from the classic black and tan, black and red, black, white, and sable.
Long or Short Hair?
German Shepherds come in two hair types, short and long. If you decide on a long-haired GSD, make sure that you are up for some extra grooming and brushing.
What Are Your Expectations?
When looking for a puppy, consider your expectations. If you are thinking of getting your German Shepherd puppy from a breeder, let the breeder know so that he/she can help you pick the appropriate puppy.
Let the breeder know if you are looking for a buddy, a working dog, a guard dog, a show dog, or an agility dog.
No matter what plans you have for your German Shepherd puppy, all puppies in a specific litter will share the same genes and lineage, and most puppies that come from breeders are bred for temperament, health, and trainability.
Observe the Puppy’s Temperament from a Distance
When searching for a German Shepherd puppy, whether you’re at a breeder or a shelter, try to observe the puppy and how he/she interacts with other puppies, dogs, and humans.
A German Shepherd puppy should possess a good temperament, meaning that the puppy should be curious, affectionate, friendly, and not afraid of noises, people, or other dogs. A puppy that approaches other puppies and people in a friendly and playful manner is what you are looking for.
Examine the Puppy
Another thing to do is take a close look at the puppy’s hair coat, eyes, ears, and nose. The coat should be thick, clean, and shiny, not dull or thin, and the eyes, ears, and nose should be free of any mucus or discharge.
Evaluate the Puppy’s Temperament by Interacting
Selecting a puppy that is even-tempered is critical. Like Rin Tin Tin, German Shepherds are famous for their curious, fearless, outgoing, and self-confident temperaments.
It’s recommended to avoid selecting a shy, introverted or fearful puppy, or a puppy that exhibits any kind of aggression towards you, your family, or other dogs.
You don’t necessarily want to select a puppy who is afraid of you, or runs away and hides. A puppy that responds to your voice, and runs up to you in an inquisitive and playful manner can be a good choice.
Should I Get my Puppy From a Breeder or a Shelter/Rescue?
This is a tough question for many dog owners. Do you contact a reputable breeder, or look for GSD puppies at your local shelter or rescue organization?
The answer depends on your needs and goals. For example, do you want to bring home a puppy that is AKC registered, that has champion bloodlines? Or do you want to give an unwanted puppy a new chance at life in a loving home?
Below are listed some pros and cons related to breeders, rescues, and shelters.
Pros of Dog Breeders
- If you visit a breeder, you can see your puppy’s parents and get a pretty good idea of what your puppy will look like as an adult, and you can also see the environment in which the puppy was born and raised.
- From day one, you will have the chance to train and mold your puppy’s behavior.
- Your puppy will already come socialized, and be comfortable with noisy households, and may even know some basic commands.
- A reputable breeder will be able to offer you information regarding genetic testing of the parents and be able to offer certification of hips, elbows, eyes, and knees.
- If you plan on showing and breeding yourself, AKC and registration papers are essential if you plan to show your German Shepherd.
- Breeders can provide proof of your puppy’s heritage.
- Most breeders not only breed for both temperament and conformation, and chances are that if mom and dad have solid temperaments, your puppy will too.
Cons of Dog Breeders
- Puppies are a lot of work, and this work entails potty-training, teaching basic commands, dealing with teething, and socializing your puppy.
- Breeders can be Depending on the location, breed, and lineage, most German Shepherd breeders can charge anything from $1000 to $5000 for a puppy.
- Puppies require multiple veterinary exams, vaccinations, and spay/neuter procedures, which means that you could pay higher veterinary costs for the first year or two.
- Finding a reputable breeder takes some time and research, and in some cases may require traveling out of state or out of the country.
A Note About Backyard Breeders
Anyone can get a litter of puppies when getting a male and female together, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the breeder is cognizant of appropriate breeding practices and canine care.
When dogs are bred without the proper knowledge of genetics or lineage, puppies with unhealthy genetic conditions become more common.
An example of this is a life-threatening condition called megaesophagus (the enlargement of the esophagus), which has a strong genetic component in German Shepherds. Adult dogs with this condition should not be bred.
Pros of Dog Shelter/Rescue
- Shelters and some rescues usually spay or neuter, microchip, and vaccinate all puppies before adopting them out, saving you those extra costs.
- Shelters are less expensive than Many shelters charge a minimal adoption fee and even take care of their medical evaluation and necessary medications beforehand.
- If you happen to run into a German Shepherd puppy that has been taken to the shelter, by adopting you are saving not just one life but two. You’ll give the puppy a loving home, and free up space for another dog that needs a space at the shelter.
Cons of Dog Shelter/Rescue
- Getting a purebred German Shepherd puppy from a shelter or rescue is very rare, but it does happen.
- You may not know if the puppy you are adopting is a purebred or a mixed German Shepherd. However, DNA kits are available for owners who want to know the genetic make-up of their puppy.
- If you plan of showing your German Shepherd, chances are if you get your puppy from a shelter or rescue, the puppy may not have registration papers.
If You Adopt a Dog from a Breeder
The first thing that you should do is to pick out a reputable breeder. You may already have a breeder in mind whom you trust and who has a good reputation, or you may have to do some research and go through online reviews.
It’s important to note that in some cases you may have to travel to get the puppy you want, but it can be worth it in the long run if you find an appropriate breeder.
Here are some important things to look for in a breeder once you find one:
Contact the Breeder
The first thing to do is contact the breeder. A reputable German Shepherd breeder will require this before moving forward. A breeder may ask you such questions as:
- Why do you want a German Shepherd puppy, and what will you be using the puppy for (i.e. show, protection, assistance dog, hiking buddy)?
- Do you have a fenced-in yard? GSDs need ample, and safe room to run as they grow and mature.
- Will your puppy be left alone for extended periods? GSDs do not do well alone, so the breeder will want to make sure that you have plenty of time to devote to your puppy.
- Are you financially ready to take on a German Shepherd puppy? This is an important question because German Shepherds can be expensive to care for depending on training and health needs.
- Do you have children in your household? Owners should understand the importance of puppy socialization and training to keep your family and children safe.
- Do you live in an apartment or a home? This is an important consideration because GSDs need lots of activity and exercise.
- Do you have other pets in your household? The breeder will want to ensure that you know how to properly introduce a new puppy to other animals, such as older dogs or cats.
Things You Can Ask the Dog Breeder
You can ask the breeder questions as well, such as:
- Can I meet the parents? The breeder should allow you to meet the parents, and on-site if possible.
- Do you have any references? Good references are always a plus.
- Can you guarantee the health of the puppy? All reputable breeders will offer a health guarantee in the written contract. This health guarantee often involves OFA certification of hips, eyes, elbows, and knees of the parents.
- Can you provide me with a pedigree of all of the puppies? A reputable breeder will have a detailed pedigree for every puppy they sell.
- How often do you breed your females? As a rule, female GSDs should not be bred more than once a year, because this allows for adequate recovery time after pregnancy and lactation.
- Can you provide a medical history of the puppy? Regular veterinary exams, vaccines, and deworming are essential for puppies before they go to their new homes.
The answer to what to look for in a German Shepherd puppy depends on so many factors; your expectations and your goals as an owner, as well as what would fit best with your lifestyle and household.
GSDs are wonderful, intelligent, and loyal dogs and they can be a great addition to any family or household, and there’s nothing better than cuddling up to an adorable German Shepherd puppy.