If you have decided you want to buy a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder, you’ll want to know how to choose a German Shepherd puppy from a litter.
What most people don’t know though is that picking a good puppy from a litter doesn’t just start as a decision when you arrive at the breeding premises to look at the puppies.
There are things you can do before looking at the litter to ensure you are getting the most compatible and healthy dog for you and your situation.
There are also things you can do after selecting your puppy that will benefit you in the long term.
You can also read this full guide of what to look for when buying a German Shepherd Puppy.
NOTE: these are informational guidelines only – you have the final decision on which puppy is best for you.
Let’s have a look how you might choose…
- 1 How To Choose A German Shepherd Puppy From A Litter
How To Choose A German Shepherd Puppy From A Litter
1. Decide what sort of German Shepherd you want
Firstly, before looking for breeders, decide what sort of German Shepherd you want.
German shepherds can be categorised in three main areas:
- The line of German Shepherd
- The color of the coat
- And whether it’s shorthair or long hair
Breed purists will tell you that a German Shepherd should be bred according to standard, have a certain intensity of drive, titles and come with no temperament or health concerns.
However, for the average person looking for pet or family dog, good temperament and health will be the main criteria.
2. Re-consider whether you’d prefer to adopt – here’s why
Once you’ve decided what sort of German Shepherd you want, reconsider whether you’d be willing to adopt from a shelter or rescue as opposed to buying from a breeder.
A few reasons you might do this are:
- Most dogs in shelters and rescues are not mentally damaged – they are very sociable and if anything, overly affectionate when they find someone who just wants to take care of them
- Shelter and rescue dogs tend to be in the 6-24 month old range. This is great for people who want a dog who has probably already done basic obedience, been socialised and is potty trained. You also probably won’t have to deal with the chewing that a GSD puppy does
- Thousands of dogs are euthanised in under-resourced care centres every day. Supporting shelters and rescues is taking a stand against irresponsible breeders and neglectful owners who put these dogs there.
- Shelter and rescue staff are very capable of helping you find and matching you to the type of GSD you are looking for – speak to them and find out
If you’re interested in adopting, check out this guide about 23 things you might consider when adopting from a dog shelter or rescue.
3. Pick the right breeder
Picking an ethical and knowledgeable German Shepherd breeder is critical.
Even if you want more of a family or pet type dog, you’ll want to make sure the breeder has the best interests of the puppies at heart, is knowledgeable about breeding, and has puppies with good health, temperament and good parents.
You definitely want to steer clear of pet shops, backyard type breeders & those who got into breeding just for the money.
We wrote one guide on identifying a good German Shepherd breeder, and unethical or bad breeders.
We also wrote a guide on how you can find a German Shepherd breeder near you.
4. Go see the breeder, and speak to them
Once you have shortlisted breeders, and spoken to them on the phone, you’ll want to go see them in person – check out questions you might ask breeders over the phone here.
If you are satisfied the breeder is ethical and a high quality breeder – you want to get them to help you.
The truth is they are going to have spent alot more time with both the parents and the puppies than you.
Tell the breeder about who you are, your living conditions, what you want out of a German Shepherd in the long term, and other relevant facts that might relate to the compatibility of you and your dog.
A good breeder will try to match you as closely with a puppy they think is most compatible with you as possible.
So, instead of thinking you have to do all the work yourself, utilise probably the greatest resource you have – the breeders themselves.
They love their dogs, so they want to see them go to a good owner as much they want to see you get a dog you fall in love with.
5. Look at the puppy litter, AND the parents
Once you have spoken to the breeder, you’ll want to look at both the puppies’ parents, and the puppies themselves.
Things that might signify a good puppy when picking a puppy from the litter are:
- Excited barking
- Tail wagging
- A sociable puppy – sociable and friendly around the other puppies and around you
- Welcoming body language i.e. relaxed muscles, and wanting to greet you as opposed to a tense puppy that hides, or charges at you and retreats
- Check that the puppy looks healthy – ribs aren’t exposed, eyes are clear, walks evenly, looks clean (it’s worth asking the breeder about the puppy’s feeding routine – good nutritious puppy food gets puppies off to a good developmental start in life)
Look at the parents…you want to ensure they:
- look healthy
- have a good temperament
- have had their x rays and checks on their hips and elbows, and received a pass grade
- have had their general health tests
- look at their family tree and establish lines and ancestry/genetics
- look at their titles if required
Also, check that the breeding premises in general is clean, and there is plenty of space for the puppies to run around.
6. Cover yourself
Once you’ve picked a puppy from the litter with the help of the breeder, you want to cover yourself in the long term from things like latent health defects or similar health problems.
Make sure your breeder has some type of puppy transfer of ownership offer/contract for you to sign.
As part of the offer, they should provide a guarantee or warranty on the health of the dog (so you aren’t left with a sick/defective dog and huge vet bills).
Also, countries like the US have laws protecting puppy buyers from certain health conditions in the animals they buy – so check the laws in your country and state.
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