Because of the popularity of German shepherd dogs, you can find German shepherd breeders almost everywhere in the United States. Sadly, not many can be trusted, as there are more unscrupulous breeders than good ones. These poor breeders don’t care about their puppies’ well-being; they only care about lining their pockets.
Anyone with two dogs, male and female adult dogs, can consider themselves a breeder, but whether they have any experience with the breed or not still needs to be questioned. Asking the right questions is your first step to weed out these poor breeders.
And it’s not only about asking questions; it’s about being asked a lot of the right questions too. So don’t be put off if your breeder asks more questions than you ask. That’s a good sign you’re dealing with a good breeder who is serious about their puppies’ placement.
Almost every week, I hear from dog owners who have a dog problem because they get their puppy from the wrong place. The issues range from behavior issues, like submissive wetting, aggression, dominance, to health issues, like crippling congenital hip problems. That’s what you’re going to pay if you buy from a less than reputable breeder.
Questions to Ask a German Shepherd Breeder
Following are some questions that you want to ask a potential German shepherd breeder before buying their puppy.
1. How long have you bred German Shepherds, and what others have you bred?
You’re looking for someone who has exclusive experience in breeding German shepherds or one other breed, at most. Breeding is not an easy business. It takes years to get good at understanding breed-specific traits and diseases, matching the parents, training, and socializing the puppies. Someone who has jumped from one dog breed to another won’t have sufficient expertise and capability to breed German shepherds successfully.
2. Were both parents tested for genetic diseases known to the German shepherd dog breed before mating?
Don’t trust breeders who say their dogs have never needed to go to the vet. Ensure that the parents have indeed been tested and screened. Furthermore, insist on health certificates for both parents. Specifically, for German shepherds, you want to look for PennHIP or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Certification. No matter who the breeder is if they fail to show any proof, leave them right away.
3. Can I meet the parent dogs?
Be suspicious with breeders who have just a pair of dogs and keep breeding them over and over. Reputable breeders usually try to find the best mating partner for their dog from another breeder. Therefore, it’s actually quite common if you can’t see the father on the premise, but you should be able to see the mother without excuse.
When meeting the mother, you should observe how she behaves around you. What you want to see is a mother dog who is calm, well socialized and well mannered, gentle, and affectionate. If you don’t like the temperaments of the mother dog, what makes you think you will like the puppies’ temperaments?
4. Has the puppy been vaccinated? If so, how far along are they with inoculations?
Dog vaccinations play a critical role in protecting a puppy from many highly contagious bacteria and viruses. A reputable breeder should start their puppies on core vaccinations at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The vaccinations are then continuously given every two to three weeks, which at this point becomes your responsibility, continuing until your puppy is 14 to 16 weeks old.
When asked, they should be able to provide you with a health record on the puppies to date, notably vaccinations and wormings.
5. What are the good and bad points of the parents, and what titles do they have?
Every breeder should be able to explain the good and the bad points of each of their dogs, for example, too short a tail or an imperfect gait. Cut them off if they can’t explain these clearly to you.
6. What Titles do The Parents Have?
Even if all you want is just a pet-quality German shepherd and never intend to compete with your shepherd, the title is something that you should put a lot of weight to. This is because titles are a good sign that a breeder cares and makes a good-faith effort to maintain the quality of their breeding stock.
Here is a list of some popular titles that suggest top-quality German shepherd dogs.
- Titles in showing conformation, such as Ch. for conformation championships, BOB for Best of Breed, BIG for Best in Group, or BIS for Best in Show.
- Titles for working dogs that include obedience titles (Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Utility Dog (UD)), agility titles (Novice Agility (NA), Agility Excellent (AX)), tracking (Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)).
- Schutzhund titles, such as ScH1, ScH2, and ScH3.
- VPG titles, such as VPG1, VPG2, VPG3,
- Titles in herding, such as Herding Started (HS), Herding Intermediate (HI), and Herding Excellent (HX).
Be careful with breeders who can only show a couple of champions two or three generations back, especially if they’re only on one side of the parents. This is a typical tactic that unscrupulous breeders use to mislead potential buyers into believing that their puppies are “champion bred.” Don’t settle for less than recent titles on both sides of a pedigree.
Also read: How to read a German shepherd’s pedigree
7. Have you evaluated these puppies?
A good breeder should have temperament tested every puppy before pairing each one with an ideal owner. They know which ones are shy, who is the boldest, and which ones are in-betweens. This knowledge makes the breeder’s help indispensable in choosing a pup that works well with or flatters your personality.
8. Where were these puppies raised?
You want to hear words “underfoot” or “in the house” and not “in the kennel,” “in the basement,” or “in the garage.” A breeder, who says they have raised their puppies in the house, is one who shows the ethos of a good breeder. They don’t fret about doing the hard work of raising and socializing the pups.
Puppies that have been exposed at an early age to our world will adapt easily when you bring them home. You want a puppy who won’t be afraid of the sound of kitchen appliances, whom you don’t have to separate all the time whenever they see another puppy, and who won’t tuck their tails and cower under the bed at the sight of new people or animals.
9. How have you socialized these puppies?
As touched earlier, socialization is crucial if you want your puppy to grow up into a well-rounded, gentle-mannered German shepherd. During the first few weeks of the puppies’ lives, the best breeders expose their puppies to all kinds of simulations: adults of both genders, children, all kinds of noise, and all kinds of objects.
10. If the puppy turns out not to be a good fit for me, would you take them back?
Another hallmark of a reputable breeder is their readiness to take back an unwanted puppy they have bred and give you an ironclad contract stating either replacement with a new puppy or refunding of your money should the puppy develop a congenital ailment.
10. When can I take my German shepherd puppy home?
Reputable breeders won’t let their puppies go until they are seven weeks or older, no matter how much money you give them. The reason is that they know their puppies still have a lot to learn from their mother and littermates. Puppies removed before seven weeks often miss important life lessons and thus are more prone to misbehavior and are difficult to deal with. You need to spend more time and effort than usual to socialize and train them.
How to Pick a Puppy from a Breeder?
There are two ways that puppies are picked from a breeder: 1. The breeder picks the puppy for you based on what they know about you. 2. You’re allowed to pick your puppy with the breeder’s guidance.
Regardless of which method is used, all the questions that I post here still should be asked.