How to Buy a German Shepherd: Step-By-Step Guide

Owning a German Shepherd is a dream many dog lovers pursue to make real. However, buying a German Shepherd from a good bloodline with good health and temperament can be a tough task that requires expert guidance. So, how do you go about buying a German Shepherd?

To buy a German Shepherd, firstly conduct research on how to identify an ethical breeder. Secondly, find a reputable breeder by consulting credible and specialized dog groups like national kennel clubs and dog club websites. Finally, make your choice of dog based on sex, color, traits, and cost.

This article is my complete guide on buying a German Shepherd. I’ll tell you the type of breeders you should purchase your dog from, what information you should seek from them, how to find the best breeders, plus some other options you have when buying a German Shepherd.

Four German Shepherd Pups. How to Buy a German Shepherd

I’ll also tell you about the kind of breeders you should shun and every other detail that will help you make a choice you will never regret. So, let’s get started on how to buy a German Shepherd.

Finding an Ethical German Shepherd Breeder: Everything You Need to Know

The German Shepherd is a popular dog breed, and the growing demand for this breed has registered a corresponding growth in the number of breeders. But the increase in the number of breeders has also raised eyebrows about the way some dog breeders meet their purpose.

When researching how to buy a German Shepherd the first thing to know is that there are different types of breeders. While some people breed dogs with the good intention of providing healthy pets to those seeking to own a dog, others breed them with the primary purpose of profit-making and, in some cases, in deplorable conditions. 

There’s a universally accepted standard for gauging a good animal breeder. Any good German Shepherd or animal breeder will always have in mind the Five Freedoms for Animals. Here’s a quick overview of these freedoms applied to the context of breeding dogs:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst: the dog can access healthy food and fresh clean water for proper nutrition and health. This should be in accordance with the dog’s specific needs as dictated by breed, age, and health conditions. 
  • Freedom from discomfort: the dog has a favorable environment for shelter that includes appropriate bedding, favorable temperatures, and protection from extreme light and noise.
  • Freedom from pain, injury, and disease: the dog has the required vet visits for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, including recommended vaccinations and tests. 
  • Freedom to express normal behavior: the dog has enough space and facilities and can express him through stretching, jumping, running, and playing, and can interact with other dogs as desired.
  • Freedom from fear and distress: the dog is treated in a manner that does not cause psychological stress. This could be by avoiding overcrowding and providing overall safety. 

Dogs that are bred following these five freedoms will have a more enjoyable and successful life once placed in the care of an owner or family. Following these freedoms also distinguishes ethical breeders from unethical ones.

As a prospective dog owner, you must acquire all the information that confirms your future pet has been bred following these five freedoms and, thus, by an ethical breeder. You should evaluate the breeder on various breeding issues when looking to buy a German Shepherd.

The Key Areas for Evaluating the Ethical Breeder 

To make out if a breeder is ethical, observe their environment and question them about the following breeding aspects:

  • Experience in breeding German Shepherds: Enquire if the breeder has been in the breeding career for long or if they are just starting. Those who have been in the breeding practice for a long time will explain their experience with instances of success and give you verifiable examples of people they have sold German Shepherds to.  
  • Breeder credibility: It is expected that a credible breeder will be registered with the national kennel club and be a member of local or national breed clubs. In the US, for example, ask if they are registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and if they are a member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA).
  • Bloodline and dog health: Health conditions and genetic defects are easily passed on through the bloodline. Ask about your prospective GSD’s lineage and if the sire and dam have been screened for breed-prone diseases such as Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), or hip dysplasia which are considered common among German Shepherds.

Enquire whether the parents are registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and if the litter has had their first round of vaccinations (seek specific details about the vaccinations). Also, check to see if they have been dewormed.

Here is a really informative video from “K9 Force Working Dog Club” on how to buy a German Shepherd from an ethical. It goes into great detail on exactly where and how to check the health of the sire and dam and to check their pedigree.

The video also contains helpful advice if you are particularly looking to buy a German Shepherd for working, showing, or for competition such as Schutzhund:

How to Choose a GSD Ethical Breeder
  • Breed temperament: Enquire about the typical traits of the breed to find out if the breed will be good for your family context; whether your newly acquired GSD will be good with children or if the breed gets along with other dogs, and if it will do well in an apartment environment among other specifications. If you have done your homework, you will already know the answers to these questions – and so should the breeder!
  • Dog appearance: Ask to see the entire litter and the parents. The general appearance of the German Shepherds should indicate that they are healthy and well nurtured. The dogs should also be sociable and outgoing and shouldn’t show signs of fear at the sight of the breeder.
  • Dog environment: When visiting the breeder’s premises, observe the environment for cleanliness, appropriate shelter, and space. The breeding space should not be smelly and unkempt, and the German Shepherds should not be crowded in small kennels. These negatives could be the first indications of a puppy mill.
  • Refund/return policy: Ask if the breeder has a return and refund policy should the German Shepherd show genetically-linked diseases or fall sick and die in a short period after bringing him home. Also, enquire about the possibility of returning the German Shepherd should you be unable to keep him for any reason.

While these aspects will give you the necessary information to weigh up the reliability of a breeder, it is expected that an ethical breeder wants the best for the dog they are selling you.

As such, they should ask questions to ensure that the dog is in good hands. These questions will single them out as ethical breeders together with several other characteristics that show they care about their breed. 

Characteristics of Ethical German Shepherd Breeders

When buying a German Shepherd, an ethical breeder will stand out in the following aspects:

  • They will be knowledgeable about the German Shepherd breed. This will be manifested in their comprehensive knowledge of the breed standard, nutrition, exercise, temperament, and grooming. The ethical breeder will answer questions on any of these aspects with precision and without getting impatient with you.
  • They will not sell you the German Shepherd puppy before they are eight weeks old. Puppies younger than that are still heavily dependent on their mother, and it would be too soon to separate them. Note, however, that the recommended time to bring home a puppy is in the 8-12 weeks.
  • They will give you references for reliable vets and other people who have bought German Shepherds from them. They will also be ok referring you to other breeders for a comparative experience.
  • They will ask you about your lifestyle and family in a bid to ensure that the German Shepherd puppy is going to a loving and caring home.
  • They will be willing to provide you with all the information about the GSD’s health situation, the vaccines, and tests that have been done, and will give you specific details on training, nutrition, and vet care.
  • They will be keen to guarantee the safety of the German Shepherd Dog by asking you to sign a contract, giving you tips on good care for the dog, promising to call to find out how the puppy is doing, and soliciting you to ask any questions you might have, even after you have taken the puppy home.
  • They will give you information for registering the German Shepherd with the national kennel club and with other national and local breed clubs.

While ethical breeders will stand out in these aspects, unethical breeders will show shortcomings in their care for the breed. 

The Shortcomings of Unethical German Shepherd Breeders

The most common representation of unethical dog breeders are those found in what is dubbed as puppy mills in the US or puppy farming in the UK and Australia. But backyard breeders are also considered to be part of this category of breeders.

Caged Puppies from a Puppy Mill. Unethical Breeders
Sad caged puppies from a puppy mill

While we can’t generalize, commercial dog breeders are very often driven by the desire to make profits and easily compromise the welfare of the canines.

Here are some of the features that will define unethical breeders:

  • The breeder shows a lack of knowledge about the German Shepherd breed standard and all issues related to the breed’s nutrition, exercise, grooming, and health.
  • The breeder will be reluctant to show you their kennels and breeding facilities except for the puppy you are interested in.
  • If breeders show you their kennels, you will notice that the dogs are enclosed in neglected and overcrowded kennels without enough space to sit, sleep, stand, or stretch.
  • The breeder will not ask about you, your lifestyle, your family, or the reason you are interested in a German Shepherd Dog.
  • The litter and their parents will appear malnourished, an indication they have scanty access to healthy food and fresh water.
  • There might be animals who look sickly and don’t seem to have received any veterinary attention. 
  • The dams may be continuously bred at the expense of their health.
  • The puppies will be taken away from their mothers at a very early age, often before they are six weeks old.
  • The breeder may not have the patience to answer your questions about their breeding standards and the lineage of their dogs.
  • Both puppies and adult dogs may show signs of disordered behavior such as fear of the breeder, a sign they may be maltreated. 
  • The breeder will not give any documentation on the dog’s health testing and will not offer any guarantee on the possibility of returning the pet under any condition.

With the comprehensive knowledge about who’s an ethical German Shepherd breeder and who isn’t, you are now ready to find that reliable breeder, buy your new GSD, and bring him home.

But how exactly do you find that breeder? Find your complete buyers guide in this next section.

How to Buy a German Shepherd: Finding a Dog or Breeder 

There are many ways you can find German Shepherd breeders and prospective GSD pets when researching how to buy. I discuss some of the most reliable ways and others that will need you to do a more thorough search and breeder evaluation.  

Seek Information From National Kennel Clubs

National kennel clubs are a reliable source of information for buying German Shepherds. In the US, the American Kennel Club has a MARKETPLACE where German Shepherd puppies for sale are listed. You can access information on each listed dog regarding their age, sex, weight and height, personality, AKC DNA test number, energy level, shedding, and trainability, among other features and traits.

On the AKC’s breeder referral search website, the German Shepherd is listed among all other breeds. Here, you can access the breed parent club website (in this case, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America) and a breeder referral name where you can get help and information. 

Kennel clubs are resourceful when looking for a German Shepherd Dog in other countries as well. In the UK, for example, the Kennel Club operates an Assured Breeder Scheme in which you can find a comprehensive and current list of Kennel Club Assured Breeders and other breeders with pedigree puppies. 

From the Find a Puppy service on the UK Kennel Club website, you can search for a puppy according to your preferred breed. Only KC registered puppies are advertised on the platform. 

Find Breeders and Puppies on National and Regional German Shepherd Dog Clubs Websites

National German Shepherd dog clubs are a specialized resource because they usually have an exclusive focus on the breed. So, you will find all the information you need about the particular breed you are interested in.

German Shepherd with her Puppies. How to find a German Shepherd Dog to Buy

In the US, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America has a Classified Ads section on their website where you can search through breeder and puppy ads to find what you are looking for. Also, the club advises that one of the best ways to find quality German Shepherd Puppies to buy is by contacting the German Shepherd regional breed clubs. 

These regional clubs are members of the breed’s national clubs. The clubs have plenty of training, sporting, and dog show initiatives during the year.

Apart from seeking direct information from the regional club’s office on finding a GSD breeder or puppy, these events can be perfect opportunities to share information on well-bred German Shepherd puppies. You can find the US regional GSD club map here.

Some regional or state clubs provide services for GSD rescue and referral. For example, on the Treasure Coast German Shepherd Dog Club website, you will find information on breeder referral and rescue, and you can contact them by email to send details of your inquiry. 

Search or Visit Charitable Organizations

Charitable organizations that deal with dogs carry out rescue, care, and rehoming services. They are optimal options for finding a German Shepherd when you want to rescue or adopt. You can read more about adopting a German Shepherd in my comprehensive article, How to Adopt a German Shepherd: Step-by-Step Guide.

There are plenty of German Shepherd charitable organizations that can provide reliable information on how to buy or adopt a German Shepherd Dog.

In the US, one such organization is the German Shepherd Rescue of Northern California (GSRNC). On the Meet Our Dogs section of their website, you can search through available GSDs to find out if you would be interested in adopting. 

According to the organization, their adoption fees are extremely low and will not even cover half of the costs that they incur on the rescued GSDs.

The organization has high ethical standards and has a policy against the adoption of German Shepherds for military/police work, Schutzhund training, scientific experimentations, or working as a special needs dog without professional training. 

You can also follow the GSRNC’s adoption events calendar and make direct contact with prospective pets during such occasions.

Other Ways

Other ways of finding German Shepherd Dogs to buy include:

You can search Google for terms such as “German Shepherd dogs for sale” or “German Shepherd breeders.” Be cautious, however, with this method and follow the ethical breeder guidelines given earlier to assess the breeder or seller before making a purchase. 

Outbound links that direct you to GSD breeders or puppies for sale on blogs and websites are also an option. As with the Google search, here too, you need to evaluate the reliability of the linked breeder and the quality of the German Shepherd puppy using the ethical breeder guidelines. 

Consult Veterinarians, Groomers, Trainers, and Persons Who Already Own a GSD

Veterinarians, groomers, and trainers are experts in their own right – considering that they interact with German Shepherds on a day to day basis. They may also work for breeders and will, therefore, know which ones have high breeding standards. 

German Shepherd owners who have a positive experience of buying their pet from a reliable breeder would also be dependable sources of information on where to buy a GSD. 

In all cases, ensure that there is no conflict of interest with people advocating for breeders on other factors rather than quality.

Buying a German Shepherd: The Cost

When you think of buying a German Shepherd, the cost is among one of the key aspects you should consider. Even if you found the best puppy from the best breeder, you’ll need to have the purchasing capacity to buy, or your search for the pet will end up futile.

So, how deep will you need to dig into your pocket to bring your GSD puppy home? 

My in-depth article, How Much Does a German Shepherd Cost? 23 Examples! will give you information and examples of how much you’ll have to spend to buy a German Shepherd.

Here, I’ll give you a quick overview of the costs to buy a German Shepherd from some breeders and referral sources discussed earlier.  

If you buy a German Shepherd using the earlier referred AKC’s “MARKETPLACE,” you will pay $1,600 for a 12-week-old GSD puppy from DenWolf German Shepherds in Denver, CO. and $2,000 for a puppy from Diamond Peak German Shepherds in La Pine, OR.

If instead, you go by breeder websites from a Google search, you will find a wide range of price differences. For example, on the Good Dog breeders website, I found that you will pay $2000 for a German Shepherd puppy from Austerlitz German Shepherds and between $2500 – $4500 for a puppy from Select Shepherds.

Another breeder website, PuppyFind, indicates that listed German Shepherd puppies may sell for as low as $900 or as high as $1350.

Alternatively, if you decide to go for adoption from rescue centers, you will certainly pay a lot less. For example, a 10-year-old GSD listed for adoption on the German Shepherd Rescue of Sacramento Valley can be adopted for as low as $25. 

Going by these examples, you can pay as low as $25 and as high as $4,500 for a German Shepherd depending on the dog’s age, breeder rates, and whether you decide to adopt a rescue. 

In comparison, German Shepherds in the UK will cost you between £750 ($940) and £3500 ($4400) as estimated from listings on two German Shepherd breeder sites, UK Pets and Pets4Homes. 

Note: All the above information is subject to change as breeders sell puppies and update web spaces with new pups. 

Buying a German Shepherd Dog: How to Choose Your Pet

With all the above information, you now know how to buy your German Shepherd but for a few choice details. These are extremely important because they take care of the specific characteristics that you want to find in the GSD that you are buying. Let’s discuss 3 of these characteristics.

The Sex of Your German Shepherd

While Male and female German Shepherd Dogs are similar in many traits, they are also different in a number of them, and that might affect your choice when buying. Consider the following:

Two German Shepherds Sat Down
  • Male GSDs are larger in both weight and height (W: 65-90lb/29.5-40.8kg; H: 24-26ʺ/61-66cm) while females are smaller (W: 50-70lb/22.6-31.8kg; H: 22-24ʺ/56-61cm). Please note, these are approximations as individual dogs will vary. To give you an example of this my female KC registered GSD weighs 88lb (40kg) and she is very tall standing 27″/68cm.
  • Males will portray a masculine build as opposed to the delicate features of the female.
  • Females will be in heat twice annually. If you do not intend to breed your pet, you should consider spaying her.
  • Female GSDs live longer (11.1 years on average) when compared to males’ 9.7 years.

These traits may not be vividly pronounced in young puppies, but it is important to bear them in mind. Whether you choose to buy a male or female pup will depend on your circumstances such as experience, lifestyle, and purpose for the dog. You can check out this article to find out which one will be best for you.

The Coat Color of Your German Shepherd

Even though it won’t change the quality of your dog in other areas, you might want to go for a particular coat color. There are 11 AKC-registered GSD coat colors: Bi-Color, Black, Black & Cream, Black & Red, Black & Silver, Black & Tan, Blue, Gray, Liver, Sable, and White.

You may not be able to choose from the entire range of colors, but you know the extent of the variety that you can have. White German Shepherds are a stunning looking dog and if you are interested in this unique color head over to my article all about the White German Shepherd.

This is particularly important if you were looking for a show dog as a white dog is disqualified from showing in many countries and you will need to check the breed standard for your area.

The Purpose of Your German Shepherd Dog

Being clear about the reason why you want to own a German Shepherd is key in making the buying decision. This is also important so you can inform your breeder whether you are looking for a family dog, a competition, a show, or a guard dog. 

Even though an entire litter will have the same bloodline, knowing the purpose of acquiring a dog will inform your choice to go for ethical breeders who are keen on issues related to health, temperament, and other traits that would be good to keep in mind when making a purchase.

Final Thoughts

Buying a German Shepherd is a dream that many dog lovers have, but that may be hindered by a lack of information about important buying knowledge. To learn how to buy a German Shepherd, here is a summary of the key points:

  • Consult national kennel clubs and national and regional breeder clubs to identify reliable breeders who are ethical, knowledgeable, and care about their dogs.
  • GSD charitable organizations are also a good source of information.
  • You can extend your search to breeder websites if you consider it useful.
  • Consider adopting a rescue dog where you can go to meet the dog and find out about his traits beforehand. You can also consider adopting a miniature German Shepherd.
  • Be prepared to spend up to $4,500 (and more in some cases) on buying your German Shepherd.
  • Before purchasing, weigh up your buying choice on factors such as the sex of your German Shepherd, the coat color, traits, and the reason why you are opting for the breed.

I hope you have found my buyer’s guide helpful. Good luck with getting your quality German Shepherd who I know you will treasure for many years to come!

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Sharon Waddington

I am the owner of World of Dogz. I have a 6-year-old female German Shepherd named "Willow," and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with my dog, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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