How To Buy A German Shepherd: 5 Easy Steps


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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, and what should you look for?

When buying a German Shepherd, 1) know what to look for in a good reputable breeder, 2) evaluate the breeder, 3) find a reputable breeder and look for a healthy puppy with a good temperament, 4) consider the price and your budget, 5) choose your pup based on sex, type, color, traits, and coat type.

This article is my German Shepherd puppy buyers guide. 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.

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. 

Four German Shepherd Pups. How to Buy a German Shepherd

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So, let’s get started on how to buy a German Shepherd.

1. Know What To Look For in a Good Reputable Breeder

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 how some dog breeders meet their purpose. So, what should you look for when buying a German Shepherd?

When buying a German Shepherd, look for a breeder with experience and credibility. Check the sire and dam’s health, ensure they have been health screened, and inquire about their temperament. Finally, check the appearance of the parents and litter and their living conditions.

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 follow 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 extreme light and noise protection.
  • 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.

2. Evaluate The 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 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 its first round of vaccinations (seek specific details about the vaccinations). Also, check to see if they have been dewormed.

Learn More on How To Choose a German Shepherd 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 and 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 precisely 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 example, reliable vets and other people who have bought puppies 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. They want to ensure that the German Shepherd puppy is going to a loving and caring home.
  • They will be willing to provide you puppies’ health situation. For example, the vaccines and tests that have been done. They will also give you specific details on training, nutrition, and vet care.
  • They will be keen to guarantee the safety of the German Shepherd. 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 taking the puppy home.
  • They will give you information to register 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. 

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, indicating 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 early, 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 guarantee 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? Let’s move on to step three…

3. Find a Reputable German Shepherd 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.  

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. 

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

National and Regional German Shepherd Dog Club Websites

National German Shepherd dog clubs are a specialized resource because they usually 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. 

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 buying or adopting 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 determine if you would be interested in adopting. 

According to the organization, their adoption fees are extremely low and will not cover half of the costs incurred 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 to Find a Puppy

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 options. 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 Vets, Groomers, Trainers, and Owners

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 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.

4. Consider The Price and Your Budget

When you think of buying a German Shepherd, the buying price is 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? What is the price of a German Shepherd?

A German Shepherd puppy costs an average price of $2000. Puppies range in price from $800 to $6,000. Prices are determined by lineage, litter size, color, breeder qualifications, breeding costs, and location. Puppies with the highest prices are from a top pedigree or are show quality.

My in-depth article, German Shepherd Price: How Much Do They Cost? 21 Examples!, will give you more information and examples of how much you’ll have to spend to buy a German Shepherd.

For example, if you buy a German Shepherd puppy using the earlier referred AKC’s “MARKETPLACE,” you will pay $2,000 for a puppy from DenWolf German Shepherds in Denver, CO.

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, you will pay $2000 for a German Shepherd puppy from Austerlitz German Shepherds and between $3600 – $6000 a puppy from Select Shepherds.

Alternatively, if you decide to adopt from rescue centers, you will certainly pay a lot less.

5. Choose the Sex, Type, Color, Traits, and Coat of the GSD

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

Show, Working, or Companion German Shepherd?

Being clear about 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.

Should You Get a Male or Female German Shepherd?

While Male and female German Shepherds are similar in many traits, they are also different in a number of them, which might affect your choice when buying.

Consider what you want the dog for and your experience when determining whether to purchase a male or female German Shepherd. If you’ve never had a dog before, a female is preferable because she’s easier to train. If you want a guard dog, go for a male because they are more dominant and aggressive.

Consider the following when making your choice:

  • 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.
Two German Shepherds Sat Down

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, Male vs. Female German Shepherd: Which Should You Get? It has loads of info to help you decide which one will be best for you.

The Coat Color and Length

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 stunning-looking dogs, 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.

You will also need to decide if you want a standard coat length or the less common long-haired variety. Whatever you choose, German Shepherds have two coats and are heavy shedders.

Read More: How To Reduce German Shepherd Shedding: 7 Top Tips

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.
  • Be prepared to spend an average of $2,000 on buying your German Shepherd puppy.
  • Before purchasing, weigh up your buying choice on factors such as the sex of your German Shepherd, the coat color, traits, and the reason you are opting for the breed.
  • Consider adopting a rescue dog where you can go to meet the dog and find out about his traits beforehand.

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 female German Shepherd named Willow, and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with her, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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