How to Select a German Shepherd

By Kent Page McGroarty


The German shepherd is the "world's leading police, guard and military dog," according to the American Kennel Club, but the breed can also be a loyal and loving family pet, show dog and herder. Originating in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1899, the German shepherd is often considered the king of dogs by its fanciers and is consistently one of the most popular breeds registered with the AKC. Selecting the right German shepherd puppy is important if you want a happy and healthy dog and depends a great deal on your preparations and ability to recognize a trustworthy breeder.

Step 1

Research the breed. Be certain you understand the German shepherd dog's physical characteristics and temperament, exercise and training needs, and any health issues that may be a problem in the breed. Once you've gathered all the information, assess whether the breed will be a good match for you, your home and lifestyle.

Step 2

Study what to look for in a trustworthy breeder before you make an appointment with any. Contact her and determine exactly what she provides with the purchase of one of her puppies. A responsible breeder will typically give you a signed pedigree, a current health record that includes vaccination and de-worming dates, a sales contract, an American Kennel Club application or registration papers, and a copy of certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for both parents if possible. This certification is frequently referred to as an OFA certification and indicates the dog has been tested for hip dysplasia, a common problem in the breed. A good breeder will usually supply you with a feeding schedule for your new puppy too, along with a list of suggested foods. You should also question the breeder about her qualifications. She should be an expert on German shepherds, including their genetic defects, and be involved in some form of dog sport -- conformation, obedience, agility, herding or tracking.

Step 3

Meet the breeder and talk with her about what you're looking for -- a show dog, a companion animal or a competitive performance dog -- before observing the puppies. She should not only be willing to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your puppy now, but also at any time during the dog's life. Be prepared to answer questions from the breeder as well. A responsible breeder will be concerned about where one of her puppies is going and how it will be cared for, often interviewing you as stringently as you interview her. She'll likely ask about your lifestyle, family, home and yard, as well as your training and activity plans. She might also want to know about any previous pets you've owned and may ask to see vet records.

Step 4

Observe the litter. Watch how the puppies interact with each other to get an idea of each one's character, noting which ones are assertive, submissive, boisterous, calm, shy or friendly. You should already know about the size and weight differences between a male and female adult German shepherd dog and have an idea of which would work best for you, though you may want to discuss this further with the breeder.

Step 5

Examine the puppies' coats, which ought to be thick and shiny, not dull, thin or patchy. Also look at the puppies' eyes, ears, noses and anuses, making sure they are clean and free of excess mucus or discharge. The puppies should not have a pungent or unpleasant odor.

Step 6

Select a puppy that appears even-tempered and best suited, in both structure and temperament, to your intentions, whether competition or companion. German shepherds are renowned for their fearless, inquisitive, outgoing, self-confident natures, so avoid a shy, introverted puppy. Also steer clear of those that display any aggression or that bark incessantly, as well as any that seem to recoil from human contact. A good breeder will be able to advise you on your choice, but look for a curious, playful and friendly puppy.
Comments (12)
Jun 15, 2012 CarolineW60
My sweet Shogun is six now and I still remember the day I picked him out of the litter. He was just so docile and sweet, and remains so to this day! He turned out to be the second dog I adopted with allergies, and then I found out chicken allergies are common with German Shepherds. But he’s on a limited ingredient diet food with duck & potato and as long as he stays on the Natural Balance he never has an issue. He is my first German Shepherd and I will adopt more – they are great dogs!
Jul 11, 2012 josied
11 July 2012 I own Tyson, a male German Shepherd born 19 January,2005.He is a magnificent companion, beautiful nature with all people and extremely intelligent.I am so happy with the
Jul 11, 2012 josied
breed. The advice is correct in that seeking a reputable breeder is very important with a dog like this. Having a well balanced, sound personality is important. I also find that the more the dog is included in family life and treated with love and warmth, the happier and gentler your dog will be. Consistent with rules but gentle disipline. I love him to pieces!!!!
Jul 16, 2012 jayelle
While not necessarily pure bred (what dog is really purebred, anyway, as all dogs are wonderful mutts we've created over time), a lot of GSDs can be found at local shelters. I think people do a lot more good when they adopt.
Jul 31, 2012 KodaBear312
My boyfriend and I bought a German Shepherd puppy named Koda. He is 4 months old and quite the handful. He has a big back yard, plenty of toys and is fed and watered twice a day. Every other day we go on 30 minute walks. I would like to bring him in the house but he gets excited and piddles on the floor and rampages through the house.
Jan 27, 2013 saqi shah
can u tell me the points by pic show to select a good gsd..
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Jul 23, 2013 bluedog6
wow now i know what to do my dad is thinking about getting a German Shepherd puppy now i know how to choose one
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Aug 8, 2014 MajesticManor
We are really thinking about getting a German Shepherd. We are just curious about how they are going to do with kids.
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