German Shepherd Shopper's Guide

Best wishes on your quest to locate that perfect German Shepherd Dog (GSD) to enjoy! The contributors to this brochure are each involved in one of a variety of activities with GSDs. All are committed companions to one or several GSDs and came together for this project through a computer electronic mail list devoted to education and enjoyment of the breed. We are delighted to help you in your search. We all remember our first Shepherd shopping adventures and hope yours will be informed, fun, and that we can help you find that special friend.

Is a German Shepherd Dog Right for Me?

Before getting a dog, it's best to evaluate your life and your family's life. Are your hours at home irregular due to work or your social life? Do you mind having to go home after work, or staying home a lot on weekends to care for and be with your dog, even if it means curtailing some social activities? Do you plan on traveling a lot in the near future? Is your time already precious to you because you have children to concentrate on and must constantly drive to lessons/practices/games? Is everybody in your family excited about getting a German Shepherd Dog, or would some rather have another breed?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please reconsider getting a German Shepherd Dog now. Wait until your circumstances change. You'll be glad you did, and so will any dog that you acquire.

The German Shepherd Dog is a large, active dog with a dense double coat. This double coat sheds year round, and produces even greater volumes of fur when the dogs "blow coat" in the spring and fall. Some shed more than others. For some owners, this is not a trivial point.

The breed was developed for service as a herding and general purpose working animal. The desire to "work" or do something is genetic and is stronger in some GSDs than in others. Most adult GSDs are loyal, loving, protective, and intelligent. Without proper training, GSDs can also be rambunctious, destructive of property, and exhausting to live with. It is up to you to guide your dog to suit your lifestyle and that of your family. Most, if not all, GSDs need training and a structured lifestyle to thrive in the home and become a canine good citizen.

You should consider the following recommendations as your basic commitment to your new GSD. Take at least an 8 week obedience course to assure that you are the dog's leader. Be prepared to socialize your dog by exposing it to as many people and situations as possible to develop its confidence. Vigorously exercise the adult GSD at least 20 minutes daily. Brush the coat daily. Trim nails every other week, clean ears, and brush teeth weekly. Vacuum often during shedding seasons. If a change of residence is required, make sure that your GSD is welcome at the new address. Realize that a GSD is a very social animal and should not be left alone for long periods of time. Before a problem gets out of hand be willing to call a trainer, a behaviorist, or a member of the local rescue group for help.

You Look Forward to a GSD, Now What?

Pet stores and pet owners who have litters of puppies-yes, even with "papers" --often don't commit the long term health screening, early and critical socializing time, initial immunizations, and good food resources that are necessary to get your puppy off to the best start and prevent later problems. Some of this lack of what many responsible breeders and GSD owners feel is vital is due to greed and profit considerations, but it is just as often due to ignorance. A responsible breeder follows a strict breeding program with the goal being the betterment of the breed rather than a quick profit from a litter of puppies. People who have been breeding and studying the GSD are aware of the importance of not breeding until the sire and dam are 2 years of age, of several generations in the pedigree (family tree) having certified (OFA) sound hips and elbows, testing for uncommon, but certainly not rare blood disorders and eye problems that have emerged in GSDs, and not breeding shy or overly protective dogs. All of these traits or health problems can be passed on to the puppies, causing huge vet bills and inestimable heartache. A responsible breeder or rescue group will be available to you for questions for the life of your dog, in most cases.

We recommend that you purchase your new friend from a reputable breeder or acquire it from a German Shepherd Dog rescue group.

Rescue Dogs

Rescue dogs can be the perfect choice. They can make some of the greatest companions and pets available, plus these are dogs that need a good home now. Many who do not find a home face an uncertain, and sometimes deadly, fate. Because most rescue dogs have lived in a home environment they are usually house broken and have had some training in basic commands. By adopting a rescue dog you circumvent the occasionally destructive puppy phases and gain an animal which is ready to fit into your life.

Rescue dogs come from many places. Most are given up by their owners who don't have time for them, who develop allergies to them, who get divorced and have nowhere to keep a dog, or develop financial hardships that preclude dog ownership. Others are strays or are rescued from shelter situations. The dogs are medically examined and treated for known problems. Vaccinations are updated. Temperament is evaluated and must meet strict guidelines for acceptance into a rescue program. Generally, most rescue dogs have a known history and rescue volunteers will try to evaluate each dog over some time to try to be certain whether the dog appears to be good with children, other dogs, cats, etc. During this time volunteers also try to get a handle on the dog's personality and needs for a successful placement in the right kind of home.

To get in contact with the GSD Rescue Group nearest you call:

  • German Shepherd Dog Cub of America Breed Rescue 408-247-1272.
  • Your local Humane Society for the GSD liaison in your area.

What Makes a Responsible Breeder

Don't hesitate to ask lots of questions when you call a breeder. Many breeders will ask you a great deal about your home and lifestyle, what you intend to do with your GSD beyond companionship, and, without seeming too much like a tax agent, will try to be sure you are prepared to make a financial commitment to the health of one of their "babies". The inquisitive breeder is probably one who has put much thought into this litter, not to mention time, emotional, and financial resources. They will also be there when you have questions and will be pleased that you called -- even during the dinner hour-with the most basic query.

When you are ready to call breeders, have your questions ready and note the answers so you can refer back to your homework when it's time to make a decision. Many questions can be answered by phone, but remember to verify the answers when you visit. Try not to look like an inspector with clipboard in hand, but do be sure you see proof of claims made verbally.

The following items are considered critical for consideration of a breeder for your GSD:

Parents are over 2 years of age. Breeding earlier is not in the best interests of the dogs or puppies. Usually both parents are not on the premises because the breeder is the owner of the dam, but photos and/or videos of the sire should be available as should be his pedigree and health information.

The parents' hips and elbows have been x-rayed and certified good to excellent by Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), PennHip, or the German Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV). The SV at present does not require elbows to be examined for breeding stock, but may in the future.

Parents must have current registrations with AKC, SV (through USA, United Schutzhund Clubs of America), CKC.

Parents must be approachable, neither shy nor aggressive. Excuses for poor temperament should not be accepted. Temperament can be genetic in nature and fixed in the pups by modeling by the parents.

Clean dog runs or kennel areas with adequate space for exercise and play.

Clear, communicable goals for breeding this litter.

Next are some things that are considered necessary by many and simply good by others:

Parents have been screened for von Willebrand's disease (blood clotting disorder) and had their eyes checked in a CERF screening.

Working titles on parents - Schutzhund, obedience, or other working titles.

Availability of some form of warranty or guarantee. Even with the best breeders some puppies will be born with hidden and fatal defects. No one can ease the pain when that happens with your pet, but many breeders offer a replacement pup.


Barwig, Susan, Ed.: The German Shepherd Book; Hoflin Publishing Ltd.

Lanting, Fred L.: The Total German Shepherd Dog; Alpine Productions, Inc.

Monks of New Skete: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend; Little, Brown and Company.

Monks of New Skete: The Art of Raising a Puppy; Little, Brown and Company.

Stephanitz, Captain Max von: The German Shepherd Dog; Verein Fur Deutsch Schaferhunde.

Strickland, Winifred G.: Expert Obedience Training for Dogs; MacMillan Publishing Company.

Strickland, Winifred Gibson and Moses, James A.: The German Shepherd Today, MacMillan Publishing Company.

Computer Mail Lists

GSD-L The German Shepherd Dog List

TGSD-L The Total German Shepherd Dog List

Other Resources

The American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, and the United Schutzhund Club of America have brochures, books, videos, and listings of local shows and clubs available by request.


This brochure was written and produced as a service to the public and the venerable German Shepherd Dog breed by an eclectic group of individual GSD owners, breeders, and trainers. It is available for reproduction and distribution free of charge by emailing TGSD-L-REQUEST@IS.DAL.CA. If you received an electronic copy we invite you to print it in your newsletters, add it to your Web pages, forward it to others, or cross-post as long as you leave these CREDITS attached.