You should never bring home a puppy too early, even if the puppy has been weaned off of his mother’s milk. A reputable breeder wouldn’t allow it either. There are various reasons why that is so. We will talk more about that later in the article, but for now, let’s answer this: What is the best age to get a German Shepherd puppy?
The best age to buy a German Shepherd puppy is around 7 to 10 weeks old. Most German Shepherd breeders release their puppies at about 7 or 8 weeks of age, while a few keep their puppies longer.
Although you can’t bring a puppy home until they’re at least 7 weeks old, you can visit him at about 3 weeks to spend time watching the puppies in action and get better acquainted with the breeder and the momma shepherd.
Why You Shouldn’t Remove Puppies Too Early From Their Littermates and Mom
There are at least three main reasons why it is risky to bring home a puppy that is too young.
1. Teaching Proper Socialization
One of the main reasons why it is not recommended to get a puppy under the age of 7 or 8 weeks is because puppies at this age still need a lot to learn from their mother and littermates.
The role of the mother dog is not only to give birth and nurse the puppies but also to teach her puppies their first few life-lessons that include self-discipline and social interaction. Let’s take a look at one example of life lessons that the puppies learn from their mother.
As her puppies begin to play with each other and tease their mother, the German Shepherd mother becomes an active teacher and role model. If the puppies bite her or their littermates too hard, she disciplines the offending puppy by swinging her tail and even growling at the mischievous puppy. The mother will keep delivering the correction, week after week until the pups fully understand to control the strength of their bite.
This lesson, called bite inhibition, is a very crucial lesson that carries through to the pups’ relationship with their future human families.
As a role model, the mother’s behavior also affects the puppies’ behavior. Timid mother dog may make her puppies cowardly, as can an overly aggressive mother. You can roughly guess the puppies’ overall behavior by observing the mother. Ideally, what you want to see is a German Shepherd mother dog who is calm, stable, and confident.
To show you just how important this is, let’s look at a study conducted by veterinarians L. Pierantoni, M. Albertini, and F. Pirrone (1). They compared two groups, consisting of 70 adult dogs each. One group had been separated from their litters at 30 to 40 days, while the second group had been separated from their litters at 8 weeks.
The veterinarians concluded that the chance of behavioral disorders occurring in the first group was significantly higher than in the second group. The behavioral disorders explained in the study include destructiveness, excessive barking, fearfulness on walks, noise reactivity, food or toy possessiveness, and attention-seeking behavior.
2. It Is Illegal in Some States
The second reason why you should avoid buying a puppy under 8 weeks old is that in 26 states, it is illegal to buy a puppy that is deemed too young (2). Of those, 22 states state that all puppies must be 8 weeks old. The remaining three states—Wisconsin, Virginia, and Maine—require that all puppies must be at least 7 weeks old before they can be sold.
This law is in effect to crack down on backyard breeders, puppy mills, and other irresponsible breeders that may be more concerned with profit than with the puppies’ welfare.
3. Encouraging Proper Weaning
Did you know that it’s illegal to sell a puppy who has been weaned too early in some states? For example, in the state of Kansas, in order to be legal to sell puppies, breeders need to make sure that the puppies must be 8 weeks old and weaned (3). Why?
A puppy that has been weaned too early can develop many behavioral problems that will follow him throughout his life. Some of the signs that your German shepherd puppy has been weaned too early include aggression, excessive biting, destruction, possession, and separation anxiety. In addition to behavioral issues, the puppy can also develop health issues such as malnutrition and a weakened immune system.
Going After an Older Dog
If a puppy that is too young is risky, then what about adopting an older puppy? Some people may be tempted to adopt an older puppy hoping to skip the tasks involved with the younger pup, from housetraining to car riding.
If you select the right pup, you may be able to avoid some of these situations. However, bear in mind that older pups are less accepting of new people and new situations. In most cases, it’s rare to see an older puppy that can glide into a new home and family without a few setbacks.
That said, older pups can make a terrific companion if you know where and how to select them.
Also read: Adopting an Older German Shepherd
Where to Get a German Shepherd Puppy?
Thanks to their popularity, German shepherd puppies are available in so many different places that deciding where to look can be stressful. Here are some of the most popular places to buy a German shepherd dog:
Buying a German shepherd puppy from a breeder is still your best bet for obtaining a healthy, lovable German shepherd. As is true in all professions, there are good breeders and bad breeders. So what are the differences between good breeders and the others?
The good ones, in my experience, don’t have to advertise at all. Their reputations are such that customers come to them. Top breeders conscientiously test the parent dogs before breeding them to make sure they’re free of any congenital defects. They also temperament test every puppy to ensure the best possible placement.
Breeders who are serious about their pups’ placement will ask you a whole list of questions to decide if you’re a good fit for the puppy. Even though you may feel scrutinized, don’t be put off by their questions because if everything goes well, you’ll have a faithful companion for more than a decade.
You should ask lots of questions too. Asking the right questions can help you to winnow the bad breeders from the good ones. Furthermore, there are lots that you can learn from established breeders. They can tell you more than you possibly imagined about the breed.
Shelters are notorious as a place filled with mixed-breed puppies and abandoned dogs. The common assumption is that these dogs are abandoned because they have problems. However, this is not always the case.
According to some statistics, German Shepherds are one of the most common breeds found in shelters. And most often, the reason they are abandoned is that the owners don’t know enough about the breed before buying them. In the right home, these dogs can make great companions. This is why you should not be dissuaded from considering shelter when choosing a puppy or dog.
Breed Rescue Groups
If you are willing to accept a grown dog instead of a puppy, breed rescue can be the right place for you. Breed rescues are organizations that work with a single breed or a couple of related breeds. They are run by volunteers, comprised of experienced breeders, trainers, and owners of that breed. Thus, you can be sure that these people know what they are doing.
If you are adopting an adult German shepherd through a breed rescue, you’ll likely get a dog that has been vaccinated, vet-checked, and spayed. As for the fee, it is a steal (often just the cost of the veterinary care). Even better, the transportation and foster care costs often come out of the volunteers’ pockets as well.
Also read: How Much is a German Shepherd Puppy?
The last and the worst option for getting a puppy is a pet store. The puppies sold in pet stores are “resale puppies,” meaning they are sold cheap enough to be marked up and resold for a profit. No reputable breeders in their right minds will send the cream of their litters to pet stores. If they do send their puppies here, the puppies are usually undersized or poor conformation.