How to Pick The Best German Shepherd Puppy from a Litter

Categorized as Buying and Breeding
best german shepherd puppy from a litter

Choosing the right German shepherd puppy for you and your family is one of the most exciting and, at the same time, the hardest thing you have to make. This decision is so hard because when you look at that litter of cute little balls of fluff, how can you tell what kind of German shepherd they are going to grow up to be? Yet at the same time, it’s easy because they all look lovely.

How to pick the best German Shepherd puppy from a litter? Here are the short steps: 

First, look at temperament, choose one with a personality that will mesh with yours. Second, factor in your personal preference for coat color, coat type, and other physical traits. Third, communicate all the aspects that you want from your future shepherd to the breeder. And lastly, give your future puppy a health check before purchasing.

Obviously, these are just a condensed version as there are many more details involved in the decision-making process of choosing a new puppy. So be sure to read until the end before making your choice.

What to Consider Before Getting a German Shepherd Puppy?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of choosing the right German shepherd puppy for you, there are several things that you may want to consider.

Is this the right breed for me? 

It breaks my heart that more and more German shepherds are being abandoned or dumped by first-time owners who are unprepared or uneducated about the breed. When choosing a new canine companion, most people often ask what kind of puppy they want instead of what kind of dog they want. And here lies a big difference between the former and the latter. 

All puppies, no matter what the breed or cross, traverse their first year through the exact same phases, but when they reach adulthood, each dog can have different breed-specific characteristics. Here’re some questions that you should ask yourself:

  1. Will you like or dislike the adult version of my German shepherd puppy?
  2. Can you afford the cost of owning a German shepherd? How much money can you allocate to training, grooming, and maintaining your dog’s health? According to an article in Forbes, the lifetime costs of owning a medium-sized dog like a German shepherd are about $22,000 (with an average life expectancy of 12 years). 
  3. Where do you live? Is your apartment German shepherd friendly? Is your home big enough to house a full-sized German shepherd?
  4. Do you have enough time to care for a German shepherd dog? Are you willing to sacrifice weekends and evenings to train, socialize, and exercise your shepherd?
  5. Do your family support your decision to get a German shepherd? Is there someone in your family who is allergic to dogs? How will you share responsibilities?
  6. If you live alone, do you have someone to assist you? Is there a doggy daycare nearby?

Should You Get a Male or Female German Shepherds?

One question that often comes up when people are thinking about getting a new dog is: “should I get a male or female dog?” Unless you have your heart set on a male or female shepherd, it’s best to keep an open mind.

Sure, female shepherds may tend to be a little more protective of their owners and people, whereas male shepherds may tend to be more protective of their territories. Females may be a bit more affectionate but more prone to mood swings, while males may be more dominant and aggressive. 

Neutering can make male German shepherds less aggressive and less likely to roam looking for available females. Spaying, on the other hand, can eliminate mood swings that happen during a female’s cycle. Today both sexes can equally be equally loving and loyal to their owners and families, and both can be equally brave and protective. 

Also read: When is The Best Age to Neuter a German Shepherd?

In conformation, SV and other organizations recognize both male and female. Female shepherds are smaller and appear more refined or feminine than the male ones. Really, when faced with the question of which sex is best for you? It really all boils down to the individual puppy. If the puppy meets your expectations, then the gender shouldn’t matter very much.

Where Are You Going to Find Your New Puppy?

Most owners get their German shepherds from a breeder, a shelter, and a rescue group. Out of the three, a breeder is the most expensive but the best place to get your future shepherd. Due to the sheer popularity of German shepherds, it is easy to find German shepherd breeders everywhere in the United States, but it’s hard to know who to trust. 

To be sure you’re dealing with a reputable breeder, you must ask lots of questions. A reputable breeder won’t be hesitant to answer any questions you have about their dogs and ask you just as many questions to determine whether you’re the right candidate for one of their puppies. Be cautious with breeders who are reluctant to share information and stories about their dogs.

A good breeder should give you details about each puppy’s personality and health, such as vaccination records, whether the puppy has been tested for multiple hereditary diseases, and so forth.

Another sign of a reputable breeder is that they have a take-back policy on all their puppies. This means that if, at any time, for whatever reason, the puppy doesn’t work out for you, they will take back the puppy.

Where do you find a list of potential breeders? You can find potential German shepherd breeders through the internet, specifically through major kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club or local breed clubs or through advertising the local paper or magazines. 

Some people even go to the extent of attending dog shows and performance events to find the best breeders in their area, which I encourage you to do if you have time. By attending these events, you will meet breeders, handlers, trainers, and many experienced owners/handlers and learn from their recommendations first-hand.

Sometimes you can find wonderful German shepherd puppies at the local shelter or rescue group. Adopting a rescue shepherd is considerably less expensive than buying a puppy, and you can potentially save their lives. Just understand that they are a bit more of a gamble. You don’t know their parents, how they were bred, and how they were raised, thus making them at a higher risk for health and temperamental problems.

How to Choose The Best German Shepherd Puppy from a Litter?

After mulling over all the above, and you’re still sure that you want a German shepherd, the next step is to assess the puppy’s potential suitability as a pet from a litter you’re interested in.

1. Visit The Puppies More Than Once

When scouting for a potential puppy, you may be headed to a number of different breeders and shelters. Ideally, you want to visit when the puppies are awake, not when they are napping or sleeping. Ask to stay for a couple of hours so that you can observe how they are playing together. 

2. Assess The Puppy’s Temperament

Most German shepherds share many of the same breed characteristics: devoted, affectionate, one-person dog, aloof with strangers, and protective of their family and homes. But they are not all alike; they can range in temperament from very bold and outgoing to quiet and shy. 

When observing a group of German shepherd puppies playing together, you may notice that some pups are bossier than others. You may also notice some puppies that are more cowardly than others. If you don’t have any experiences or if it is your first time getting a German shepherd, it’s best to steer away from these two extremes.

The group of pups you should be looking at and working to decide is the puppies that fall somewhere in between the two extremes. These puppies are exuberant, curious, playful, but not too domineering or pompous in manner or behaving timidly. 

From this group, you can decide which one to pick. As a rule of thumb, choose a puppy with a temperament that will work well with yours. For example, if you’re a reserved person, you want to pick a puppy that is just a little more outgoing than you, but not too much. 

A good breeder should have done puppy testing when the pups are between 6 and 7 weeks of age. This means they should be able to tell you which puppy has a personality that will complement your own. 

3. Consider Your Ideal Dog’s Appearance

Even though your shepherd’s appearance shouldn’t be the primary factor in your puppy selection process, it’s still something you need to take into account. Male German shepherds tend to stand between 24 and 26 inches tall and weigh between 85 to 100 pounds. Female shepherds are about 20 to 22 inches in height and weigh from about 60 to 75 pounds.

German shepherds have a double coat, meaning they have two layers of fur: a medium to long outer coat and a thick, soft undercoat. The length of the outer coat can vary from short to long. The coat can have a range of colors. The most common is black and tan. Other colors include all black, sable, or white.

It’s great if you can find a puppy who has all the physical traits you desire but remember, the puppy’s temperament is much more important than coat color.

4. Let The Breeder Help

Clearly, your breeder is the best source available for determining which puppy fits the requirements you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your temperament and dream dog’s appearance, situation, condition, thought, and hopes. This will help him to point you in the right direction toward a particular pup.

Often if your breeder has not already picked a pup for you, you will find a puppy that is naturally drawn to you. 

Walk over to the puppies, play with them, and rub them gently, then walk away. There will usually at least be at least one puppy that will follow you as you walk away. Play with this puppy and walk back. Kneel and call the pup to you. If they come, you can’t go wrong with this puppy.

5. Research The Puppy’s Lineage

When getting your puppy from a breeder, it’s good practice to ask for the puppy’s lineage, mostly if you are set on a pure-bred German shepherd. The breeder should have pedigree information on hand for all of their puppies, they should also be able to tell you about the history of diseases in the puppy’s lineage and all the titles, awards, and certifications that the puppy’s parents and grandparents had won like OFA or AKC registered.

6.Examine The Puppy’s Health

At first, when observing a litter of puppies, try to pay close attention to the entire litter’s health. Are their coats healthy and shiny? Are their eyes clear and bright? Are their living areas kept clean with no visible signs of illness?

As touched on earlier, you should ask for a detailed medical history too, such as vaccination records, hereditary diseases, etc. A good breeder should provide you with a health guarantee in the form of writing it. This health guarantee guarantees that the puppy is healthy at the time of the sale. Depending on the contract, you will be given 48 to 72 hours to ensure that the puppy is indeed healthy.

7. Poll Your Family

Finally, if you live with a family at home, don’t forget to ask the opinion of all family members before deciding on one particular puppy. 

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful and useful as you raise and train your German Shepherd.

Here are some of my favorite reviews for German Shepherd supplies that I personally use and recommend. If you do decide to purchase them, please remember that I’ll earn a small commission which helps me maintain this website.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.