Buying a GSD
Most of us buy German Shepherds when they are puppies and many of us have no idea what the puppy will look like as a grown dog, except that it will definitely be a German Shepherd. Yet there are GSDs that look more like GSDs than others, as we saw on the "Companion" page. Some people don't care what the dog looks like so long as it will bark and protect their property. Others want a show dog. Still others are buying a member of the family. What are you looking for when buying a German Shepherd?
Don't buy the first puppy you see
All puppies are appealing. If you are buying a puppy because of its pretty face, it will not look like that grown up. If you are buying it because it seems gentle and quiet, it simply may be well fed and sleepy. If you are buying the one that comes to you and bites your hand, it may do that the rest of its life. Be a discriminating buyer. You will be living with this dog for as long as 12 years.
Insist upon a CKC or AKC registration certificate for your puppy
Some Breeders will sell you a puppy without registration papers "to save you money." Others have no idea how to register their dogs. Still others have unregistered dogs and are unable to provide you with papers.
A national kennel club registration provides you with information about your puppy and it's parents; guarantees that this is a "purebred" GSD; serves as an ownership document; includes the breeder's tattoo number and/or the microchip number for the puppy; and, gives you the registered names and registration numbers of the parents as well as the puppy.
Ask to see the health certificates on the parents
Some breeders will tell you that they have never had a problem with "hips" in their line but will not give you any x-ray information to support their statement. There is only one way to verify whether or not a dog has hip or elbow dysplasia and that is through x-ray screening. There is only one data base available to find out if your breeder has x-rayed their breeding stock and that is through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or OFA. The OFA lists only dogs that have been cleared for hip and elbow dysplasia. This information is available for search on their web site. Neither the Penn-Hip (University of Pennsylvania Hip evaluation) nor the OVC (Ontario Veterinary College) have an open listing for you to verify the breeder's claims. (More information is given on the page called Titles.htm )
A responsible breeder will have on hand the OFA certificates for both parents of the puppy. These certify that the dog has been x-rayed and has been found to be free of hip and elbow problems. (If the dog is over two years of age, ask to see the "final" certificate. Do not accept the "prelims" or underage certificates.) If the breeder does not have the certificates, ask for the OFA numbers and the registered names of the parents so that you can check to see if they have been x-rayed.
Ask about litter evaluations for structure and temperament
One of the reasons for seeing the parents, if possible, is to get an idea of what the puppy will look like when it is an adult dog. Another is to evaluate the parent's temperament as suitable for your home environment. Ask to see siblings or other relatives, if possible. These will give you a general idea about the temperament and structure of your puppy but are not guarantees. There are methods of testing litters and ranking them on an objective form. Two are most commonly used: Puppy Puzzle and the litter evaluation as described by the Monks of New Skete. (see Education.htm ) Ask the breeder for the results on your puppy. The temperament of the puppy you choose may not be suitable for your home environment.
When people are looking for a puppy as a show prospect, they look for things such as structure, "attitude" and movement. People who wish to use their puppy in Schutzhund, look for a strong play drive. Still others look for a temperament suitable for a home with children in a neighborhood of small children. There are tests for each of these traits. Ask the breeder if the tests were performed on all members of the litter and what the test scores were. If you don't know what the test scores mean, ask for a print-out of the test.
Some breeders are trying to breed puppies that conform to the standards set by the Canadian Kennel Club or the American Kennel Club as to what a German Shepherd Dog is supposed to look like. To do that, they try to breed away from serious faults in structure, movement and temperament in order to maximize what is good in their dogs. The German Shepherd Club of America has an Illustrated Standard posted on its web site available to all serious breeders and buyers. (http://www.gsdca.org/ ) If both parents are not available to view, ask to see pictures.
The following are the faults listed in the CKC Book of Dogs for the GSD that must be considered in any breeding program as they are all inherited:
Disqualifications (Faults that should not be present in any GSD or any of their relatives. Should not be used for breeding.):
Very Serious Faults (when seen in a dog at a dog show will prevent them from winning. These dogs are not to be used for breeding.):
Serious faults (should be eliminated from any breeding program through selection. If this is all you have as breeding stock, make sure the stock to which you breed does not carry these genes):
Faults (present in dogs to a varying degree. Try to breed away from these faults to dogs without these faults.)