What to Look for When Buying a German Shepherd Puppy? + Questions to Ask a Breeder

what to know when buying a German shepherd

One of the more common questions I’ve seen on social media in recent years is from people wanting to know what to look for when buying a German Shepherd puppy. This request is typically accompanied by also wanting a list of questions to ask the German Shepherd breeder.

Based on this feedback I wanted to give you the ultimate list of questions to ask, plus any warning signs that should make you walk away without buying. Not just warning sings about the German Shepherd puppy, but also her mother and the breeder too.

Things to know before buying a German Shepherd puppy

The moment you see that adorable German Shepherd puppy for the first time, the feeling will last with you forever. It certainly did with me when we first met our own dog. You’re bound to find it hard not to completely fall head over heels for them.

But…. Just take a step back for a second.

Yes, you might see one puppy in the litter that you have a particular affinity for, but how do you know it’s the right one for you to take home?

It’s easy to simply say yes, pay your money, and take a German Shepherd puppy home, but in hindsight there’s always thing you should look into.

We didn’t do this when we bought our first ever puppy many years ago. I wish we had, but luckily, our dog ended up being ok, but it could have been very different: German Shepherds and any puppies can have health problems be sold by unscrupulous breeders.

With their long noses, furry bodies, and sparkling eyes, they will tug at your heart strings. You will be tempted to just take that German Shepherd puppy and go. But please, please, please… before you do that, here are some important things you should check before you pay your money.

what to look for when buying a German shepherd
Your German Shepherd will become a huge part of your life, but make sure you know what to look for before you buy a puppy. (Image via https://unsplash.com/photos/zWUUEP0krtU)

Questions to ask a German Shepherd breeder / what to know when buying a puppy

Here’s my list of questions to ask a German Shepherd breeder when buying a German Shepherd puppy. Read these before you spend the money. By doing this due diligence you should hopefully get a puppy that not only fits your family and lifestyle, but also lives a long and happy life.

  • Research your breeder’s credentials: Before you even visit, do a bit of Google research on the breeder. You want to choose one that has a track record, online reviews, and a good reputation in the German Shepherd world… not some first timer nobody has heard of.
  • Be suspicious of low prices: If the German Shepherd puppies are advertised as a lower than average price, be wary. The old adage about if it looks too good to be true is almost always the case with puppies. Low prices can be a sign of an unhealthy litter.
  • Find out how many litters the mother has had already: German Shepherd mothers should not have anything more than one litter each year. The best scenario would be a litter every couple of years. More pregnancies than this mean she has been over-bred and both her and the puppies could have health problems.
  • Ask if both parents have up to date health checks and history:Knowing the health history of the German Shepherd puppy’s parents will give you an idea of what you might have in store. Look out for serious conditions and hereditary issues including hip and spine issues, soft palate issues, eye problems, and hearing problems.
  • Ask how old the German Shepherd’s parents are: German Shepherds that give birth when still aged under 3 years old might not yet have developed genetic health issues that can be passed on. I would recommend getting a puppy from a German Shepherd older than this just to be sure.
  • Ask to see the parents of the puppy: Whilst it’s unusual to see the German Shepherd’s father, at the very least you should be viewing the puppy with the mother. Before 8 weeks of age, they should still be with her, and it can also help you understand what type of dog your puppy will grow up to be. If the breeder refuses access to the mother, walk away.
  • Ask where the puppies have been living: If the German Shepherds have been in a dark garage away from human interaction it will mean they will be harder to socialize and harder to train.
  • Ask how often the German Shepherds have been handled: When puppies are regularly handled by humans, they will be much easier when taken home. They probably won’t be as anxious and might take the separation from the litter easier.
  • Ask whether a vet has checked the puppies: Puppies should have been checked by a vet and had their first set of vaccinations before going to their new home.
  • Do your own checks on the puppy’s appearance: You can do your own cursory health checks including looking at the eyes and ears to make sure they appear healthy.
  • Ask for a canine hearing test: This is more of a nice to have and won’t always be possible. Puppies can develop hearing loss at birth due to congenital defects, and it’s only something you can spot as they get older without a vet examination.
  • Ask to speak to a previous buyer:A reputable breeder will let you talk to people who have bought a German Shepherd puppy from them before. If they are unable to supply references and contacts, they could be hiding something.
  • Choose either male or female: Whilst there isn’t any scientific proof, German Shepherd owners will say that the males have more energy, and females tend to be more chilled out. Whilst there’s no guarantee, you might notice a subtle difference between the genders.

I hope you find these questions to ask a German Shepherd breeder helpful. Please do print them off before you visit the litter and decide to buy.

The personality of the German Shepherd breeder

This is so often over-looked, but I wanted to add it on as something to look for when buying a German Shepherd puppy. It’s so important to get a good feeling about the breeder; if they treat you badly and are rude, it could mean they treat those pups badly too!

Only buy a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder who is prepared to take the time to answer any questions and concerns you might have. They should also be happy to give you as much detail as possible about the parent’s history.

Breeders that treat buyers with respect will most likely extend that kindness to the German Shepherd mother and her puppies.

How to buy a healthy German Shepherd puppy

Earlier I explained how you should ask the breeder to show you the parent’s history. This gives you an indication of what health problems could in store.

It’s an unfortunate fact that all dogs can be prone to health problems and some will come with unique health issues that can be passed down genetically. Puppies can sometimes have the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Canine hip dysplasia (CHD)
  • Demodicosis
  • Distichiasis
  • Elongated palate
  • Entropion
  • Hemivertebra
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)
  • Legg-Perthes disease
  • Nerve degeneration
  • Obesity
  • Patellar luxation
  • Seizures
  • Skin infections

As you can see, it’s a very large list, and in truth, I’ve missed some health issues out that puppies can be born with.

But I hope this at least gives you even more reason than before to make health history one of the most essential questions you ask the breeder when buying a German Shepherd puppy.

German Shepherd puppy health issues you can check yourself

This is one of the most critical sections of what to look for and know before you buy a German Shepherd puppy. Health problems are common, but there are some things you can check, often in the company of the breeder whilst seeing the litter.

Whilst not all health issues will be obvious, there are some which have visible signs. Here’s what you can check for easily:

  1. Eye health: Eyes are very easy to check. Things to look for include cataracts which can be hereditary; look for cloudiness. Red eyes and visible gunk or discharge is also a sign of ill health. Also look at the health of the mother’s eyes.
  2. Ear and nose health: Similarly, the ears and nose should be free of gunk, be free of nasty odors, and not have any discoloring such as redness or sores.
  3. Coat health: German Shepherd puppies should have shiny and clean coats.

Is a German Shepherd puppy right for you and your family?

If you have decided to buy a German Shepherd, please make sure that it will fit into your lifestyle, work commitments and family life.

German Shepherds need a lot of exercise, they can even be very clingy and do demand a lot of attention.

If you are active yourself and enjoy long walks, then a German Shepherd could be the right dog for you.

However, if you like a couple of short walks each day, perhaps live in an apartment, and like to have cuddle up on the couch, a German Shepherd’s might not be a great choice.

Handy Hint: I published a list of 21 signs that show your German Shepherd loves you and is happy in their life. You can check the list of happiness signals here.

What age should I buy a German Shepherd puppy?

This is another factor that comes into play when looking to buy a German Shepherd puppy and should never be overlooked: Puppies should not leave their mother before the age of 8 weeks old. If they leave the mother before this, it can affect their health and behavior in the long term.

questions to ask a German shepherd breeder
German Shepherds should not leave the mother until 8 weeks. (Image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-died-german-shepherd-sleep-2817560/)

Never buy a German Shepherd younger than 8 weeks as it won’t have received the nutrition it needs form the mother and will be much harder to train and socialize.

Don’t fall for a German Shepherd puppy scam!

There are so many scams going around with popular pedigree dog breeds that I’ve lost count on the number of ways people come up with take your money.

There are scammers out there who know how easy it is to pull a fast one on a person who has fallen in love with a puppy.

Here’s a list of the most common scams you might come across when buying a German Shepherd puppy:

  • Adverts that promise a free puppy, only to sell at a discounted price.
  • Sellers who give sob stories about a family bereavement, moving away, not being able to care for the puppy.
  • Asking for more money to complete paperwork.
  • Promising to transfer a puppy across a long geographical distance.
  • Prices and offers that look too good to be true.

Conclusion

German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the country right now, and it’s easy to see why. They suit the lifestyle of owners who have a outdoors lifestyle and want an active dog.

However, with this explosion in popularity has also come a downside: unscrupulous breeders looking to make a quick buck.

For first time dog owners, it’s easy to quickly fall into the trap of buying the first German Shepherd you see. I implore not to do that, but instead ask the questions of a German Shepherd breeder I’ve laid out and know what to look for when buying your puppy.

If you do your due diligence, not only can you reduce the risks of buying an unhealthy German Shepherd, but you will also do you bit to get rid of the bad breeders.

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Once you have your German Shepherd, please keep coming back for more German Shepherd love; here’s some of the latest:

Image in header via https://unsplash.com/photos/Cduc0oslTxQ

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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