Congratulations, you’ve decided to get a GSD puppy! Now what? How do you tell the ethical, responsible breeders from the back yard breeders? Just as all dogs are not created equal, neither are breeders, but by asking a few simple questions, you can usually weed out the ones to stay away from…

1. What certified health testing do you do?

All German Shepherds should have their hips and elbows x-rayed and certified by either the OFA or the SV. Ask the breeder for proof of these results (OFA certificate, SV stamp on registration papers) or look them up on the OFA website. Avoid breeders who claim things like “parents are healthy, so the puppies will be too”, “I’ve been breeding for X years and never had a problem”, “my vet said they look fine”, “prelims are good” or my new favorite “my dogs lines are HD clear by parentage”

Many dogs do not show signs of dysplasia (or other health issues) until they are older, after you’ve spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on training. Testing doesn’t always prevent health issues from occurring, but it drastically decreases the risk.

Breeders are now also testing for degenerative myelopathy (DM), as well as DNA panels for various genetic anomalies.

2. What do you do with the parents?

German Shepherds are first and foremost, working dogs and their temperament and ability to work should be proven in some manner. In Germany, as per SV rules and in addition to testing hips & elbows, all German Shepherds must pass the BH and attain at least Schutzhund 1, to prove breed worthiness. Passing the BH is a requirement to prove temperament and trainability. Schutzhund involves 3 phases; tracking, obedience, and protection work.

3. Are the parents registered? What are their bloodlines/pedigrees?

AKC doesn’t necessarily mean quality, just as ‘imported’ doesn’t mean better, and registration is simply proof of pedigree and history. A pedigree can tell you a lot about a puppies potential genetic predispositions, abilities, temperament and even health. Good breeders will be able to tell you about the parents’ strengths & weakness’s and why this dam/sire was a good combination. Each litter should contribute to or improve on the breed.

4. Can I meet the parents?

Often, this is not possible because a breeder may use a quality male owned by someone else across the country or even outside the country, but often they can provide you with videos, pictures and accolades of the male. Be wary of any breeder avoiding you meeting their dogs, as most of us are more than happy to show off our dogs!

5. Tell me about your experience in the breed?

Are they involved in their local breed club? Do they train and handle the dogs themselves? Breeders should be able to serve as a mentor, a source of information and support for the lifetime of your dog. Too often BYB’s will block you, change their phone numbers and quit answering their emails after a sale.

6. What are you looking for in a puppy buyer?

Good breeders know exactly what types of puppies they hope to produce and what homes will be the best fit. That’s not to say that every puppy, in every litter will be high drive schutzhund dogs, there’s usually a variety of drives to fit different lifestyles and competitive venues. Breeders spend 24/7 with their puppies, getting to know their personalities, drives and temperaments, and will match the right puppy to the right home.

7. How are the puppies raised?

Puppies go through critical developmental stages before they reach 8 weeks old, and you want a puppy that’s been exposed to a wide range of social and environmental situations; different surfaces to walk on, lots of sounds and distractions, a variety of people to play with, various sites, sounds, and smells, etc. This is crucial to a dog’s confidence and biddability later in life.

Puppies raised in busy family households are confident and outgoing, where many times a puppy that’s raised in a kennel, never quite recovers from being fearful and shy.

8. What vet care has the puppy received?

All pups should have their first vaccinations, multiple rounds of worming, and a vet check before going to a new home. Many breeders opt to microchip puppies before going to their new homes also.

9. What’s included in your contract and do you offer a health guarantee or warrantee?

Ask to see their contract and read it carefully; ask questions to clarify anything. Contracts should protect both you and the breeder, but are you willing to give the dog back if it should develop any issues? Are there any special precautions that you will be required to adhere to? Are there things that will void the warrantee?

10. What are your breed affiliations? Can you provide references?

Ask to watch training days at their club or be a spectator at an upcoming event they’ve entered. Can’t travel to watch? Talk to club members who have seen their dogs work. Talk to other puppy owners to see how their experience was.

Good luck in your search for a new puppy. You get what you pay for, so you just need to decide if you’re going to pay and ethical breeders, or a vet… a little research goes a long way and you can always join our FACEBOOK GROUP for more info or questions.