Buying a German Shepherd Puppy (5 Essential Basics)

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Imagine you could come home to a lovable, dedicated, companion for life!

If you knew what to look for when buying a German Shepherd puppy, you could find your next best friend.

But don’t get caught up in all the dreams of your fluffy puppy without reading this advice!

Before you buy your new best friend, read this information so you know what to look for in buying a healthy, quality German Shepherd puppy.

1. Pick the Type of Dog You Want: Companion, Show or Working Quality

Buy your dog based on what they need to do in their lifetime. I group them into major categories.

Before you purchase a dog, it’s important you decide what you intend to do with him. Will you show him in conformation? Do you want to work with him in Schutzhund or herding? Or do you want a confident and alert companion?

Don’t get a pup as a companion and then expect him to win at shows. And don’t think a show quality dog can compete in protection work.

Know exactly what you want from your puppy.

Companion or Pet Quality

choose what type of german shepherd you want
Companion or pet quality GSDs make wonderful additions to your family.

These dogs are the least costly since they have a trait that prevents them from winning in conformation competitions. This could either mean a fault in the standard -such as faded coloring or a missing tooth- or something more major and they won’t sell them at a show quality price.

These flaws rarely matter to most pet owners. And many minor faults like flat withers or slightly smaller offset ears will probably go unnoticed by most owners.

The vast majority of GSDs are family pets. If you’re looking for a well-rounded companion, seek a dog from this group. These dogs make great pets as long as they have sound temperaments!

They breed some dogs for certain traits that are highly desirable but considered a fault. For example, long-coat or plush-coat GSDs.

Show Quality

show quality german shepherd
Show quality GSDs generally cost more.

Show-quality dogs have good temperament and health.

You usually buy them for their breed standard qualities that make them able to compete in confirmation or show events.

You’ll find a GSD that is free of disqualifying faults and embodies the basic breed standard in this group. A show-quality dog may cost significantly more if they have the traits desirable to win at a show.

This group comes from Championship show lines with a long history of winning. If you plan on showing your Shepherd this is the quality you want.

Beware of any breeder who claims they only raise competition-quality dogs. Even the best breeders produce many pet-quality dogs and if a breeder says they only breed perfect dogs, this is a red flag to not buy from them.

Working Quality

working quality german shepherd
The working GSD is best for sporting events and competitions.

The GSD is a herding breed, and the working-quality dogs excel at working trials such as scent competitions and Schutzhund. Other work includes climbing and jumping competitions or searching and tracking.

They generally don’t make good family dogs unless you have a job for them and work them daily. They need mental stimulation to keep them occupied and take a lot of time to handle properly.

These dogs are better with experienced handlers since you use them for high drive working and competition. They require hours and years of training and preparation for you to have total control during competition.

2. Choose a Male or Female German Shepherd

male and female german shepherds sitting in grass
Male and females can vary in size and temperament.

Once you’ve determined what line of GSD you want, decide on the sex of the pup. Each sex has its own unique characteristics, which affects how they’ll live and grow with you.

We base this decision on preference. With the correct upbringing and training, both sexes are loyal companions and good with children.

Characteristics of Owning a Male GSD

  • Males are often bigger and stronger.
  • They may grow into more dominant dogs, so a confident handler is more desirable.
  • Males may hike their back legs to mark their territory. This can occur on any object – chairs, walls, couches or even your leg.
  • Sexual maturity influences males’ behavior. I suggest an extra bout of socialization during this stage, especially with other well-behaved dogs.

Characteristics of Owning a Female GSD

  • Females are typically smaller and less dominant.
  • So they may be better for the first-time owner.
  • Unspayed females come into season every 6 months, so they must receive monitoring and watch to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Their season time can vary from as little as every 4 months to every 9 months.
  • They can attract males to your property and on walks that will harass them if not spayed.

3. Determine the Coat Length and Color You Like

After you’ve decided on the quality and sex of your future companion, consider the coat length and color you want.

Certain breeders and organizations will deal only in a certain coat length and color. So, it’s good to know your preferences before looking for a quality breeder or rescue.

Coat Length

long hair gsd lying in grass
This is a long coat GSD.

The standard coat length is a short coat with double layers. Guard hairs on the top cover a softer underlayer of hair that provides warmth and protection. But there are many coat lengths available depending on your liking.

Major Coat Lengths

  • Medium/standard length
  • Plush (thicker and longer than standard)
  • Long hair German Shepherd with an undercoat (longer than plush coat; some think this isn’t a true long hair since the fur has an undercoat)
  • Long-haired German Shepherd without an undercoat (this coat won’t work well in colder weather because of the lacking undercoat)

All German Shepherds shed. While there are plenty of things you can do to help lessen a GSD’s shedding, expect to spend time on brushing, grooming and bathing them, along with cleaning their fur from your home.

Look online at the different GSD coat lengths to get an idea of what type of fur you want your dog to have. The longer the fur the more grooming involved.

Also, consider adopting a German Shepherd mix breed if you’re looking for GSD-cross mix.


white german shepherd looking over its shoulder
There’s a range of colors available to choose from, such as white.

The color you choose is a matter of individual taste. Keep in mind the color of many Shepherds alters from their puppyhood to around 2 years of age.

Your dog may become lighter or darker. Perhaps they will lose some of their markings as the color fades into the adult pattern.

The best way to know what color and patterns your dog grows into is to see the parents of the litter. If the father is unavailable, then ask for photos.

4. Find Quality Sources of Healthy Puppies

find quality sources of german shepherd dogs
Find quality sources of German Shepherd Dogs.

Where you get your GSD makes a significant difference in the dog’s quality.

While there are many people advertising pups for sale, they aren’t always honest and ethical.

Why should you care where your dog comes from if you only want him as a pet companion?

Because you want to make sure the GSD you get acts and looks like a GSD. You want to get a dog that will live a long and healthy life from a source that has quality puppies.

Don’t get caught accidentally buying a back-yard breeder’s sick dogs. These tips will help you make the best decision on what type of pup fits in your life.

Newspaper and Internet Classified Ads

Newspaper and internet ads are in abundance.

But with these sources, you never know what you’re getting. Many backyard breeders hide behind ads online or in local papers.

But some breeders who use newspapers and classified ads are reputable and knowledgeable. The problem is you need to visit them to find out, and this can take time to sift through them all.

Try the following more reputable suggestions to save yourself time.

Dog Care Professionals

Ask dog professionals for recommendations.

Check with your local veterinarian, groomer, and boarding kennel personnel if they know reputable breeders in town. These professionals are good sources of quality leads.

Don’t approach these leads as infallible. Use the same caution that you will for a classified ad. Verify their suggestions.

Shelters and Rescue Groups

Don’t overlook shelters and rescues for your puppy.

Many of these organizations regularly receive puppies they need to re-home.

While you might not know the full pedigree of the dog, purebred GSDs find themselves in shelters and rescues from no fault of their own. These organizations are a good resource for your first pup.

Before adopting, find out as much information as you can.

Was the puppy exposed to children? Did he live with other dogs or cats?

A well-organized shelter or rescue helps you choose a German Shepherd match for your lifestyle. Start with looking online for GSD rescues and local shelters.

Dog Clubs

Dog clubs are local and national.

These groups put you into contact with registered breeders through their own programs. They can give you the name of the GSD club contact closest to you for breed contacts.

Dog clubs also have dog shows open to the public. This is a good time to watch the breed in action and to ask around for quality breeders.

While using a dog club to connect you with a reputable breeder is not the only choice, it is one of the more reliable.

5. Know the Good from the Bad Breeders to Stay Safe

know the good from the bad german shepherd breeders
Know the good from the bad breeders.

If you are using a breeder to choose your German Shepherd puppy, this section will help you know the good from the bad.

It’s better to take your time when choosing a breeder rather than end up with a sick puppy that saddens your heart and costs a fortune in vet bills.

Use these tips to stay safe.

Beware of Bad Breeders

Bad breeders may do some or all of the following:

  • Don’t understand how their dogs compare to the GSD standard or are unaware of the standard.
  • Offer no photos or videos of both parents and relatives; seem vague of the dog’s lineage.
  • Are selling overpriced or under-priced dogs.
  • Use incorrect industry-standard terms, for example saying “full-blooded” instead of “pure-bred”.
  • Lie to you and say you can make money off your new puppy by breeding them, despite them having flaws.
  • Tells you that the GSD is a dog for everyone, with no disadvantages.
  • Breeds multiple types of dogs and claims to be an expert on them all.
  • Aren’t familiar with the breed’s health concerns or proclaims that their dogs don’t have any health issues (yet can’t show you vet paperwork for health testing).

Be especially wary when the breeder can’t produce a pedigree or other registration paperwork for their own dogs or the pups. If a breeder lets their mothers get pregnant more than once a year, this affects the quality of the puppies, so ask how many litters the mother has.

If the breeder avoids asking you questions about your own home, family life, and expectations of the breed know they don’t have their puppy’s best interest at heart.

These breeders selling unhealthy puppies also will refuse to take bag their dogs if you need to return them for any reason and have no contracts. Instead, they simply stated “take my word” as a verbal contract knowing you don’t have legal actions against them without a written contract.

Just because the breeder’s house is clean and looks nice doesn’t mean they aren’t a backyard breeder.

How to Look for Good Breeders

Good breeders want you to be happy with your dog and make sure you’re a good fit.

They have healthy puppies and will answer your questions and have you make multiple visits.

Here’s some idea of what a good breeder looks like:

  • Have a welcoming home where the family lives with the mother dog and puppies.
  • Openly show you where the mother and pups spend their time, including their garden or yard.
  • Tells you the up and downs of owning the breed.
  • Have all pedigree and vet paperwork on hand for your review.
  • Specializes in breeding only GSDs (source).

A good breeder can show you pictures and video of the pup’s relatives and are familiar with common breed issues. They openly share this information with you.

They have screened their dogs for health issues and can confirm this with documentation which they proudly give you a copy.

Healthy mothers are given rest from breeding, and a reputable breeder gives their mothers time off from reproduction.

Ask if your breeder if they are willing to take back their dogs if you cannot keep them, as this is standard for a quality breeder with a good reputation.

Make sure your breeder has a written contract with detailed information and health guarantees. These are expected for safe breeding practices.

How to Buy a German Shepherd Puppy

Following this guide gives you the best chance of buying a German Shepherd puppy that suits your lifestyle.

Know what you want from your GSD and where to find quality dogs. Watch out for unscrupulous breeders who don’t have the breed’s interest at heart.

Learn what to look for when buying a German Shepherd puppy to stay safe from a sick pup and a bad breeder.

German Shepherds have their own unique set of challenges. They are a large, active, and intelligent breed that requires an understanding owner who is willing to train their GSD using positive techniques.

Devote yourself to their overall health to see the best results and help give you and your dog a lifetime of happiness. Remember, your pup will need mental stimulation to keep their brain active, a gentle exercise program, and need daily love and affection.

Buying a German Shepherd puppy is a choice for your whole life that will bring you many years of joy and excitement!

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