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What should a buyer know before purchasing a puppy?

Posted by gsdslovakia on November 26, 2010 at 7:06 PM

What should a buyer know before purchasing a puppy? There is so much to know about the German shepherd breed that one could get overwhelmed. A novice buyer usually looks in close vicinity for breeders, maybe looks into the local paper and picks a puppy because the price is right, the driving distance is appealing, or the web site looks good. These are not good reasons to purchase a particular puppy! One can get fortunate but to rely on a lucky “picking hand” can be very costly and disappointing in the long run.

The very minimum in every breeding pair is health check requirement and pedigree. Yes a pedigree! If there is no pedigree, there is no pure bread label for the dog. How can somebody claim that a dog is pure bread if there is no proof? Maybe, the buyer is looking for just a pet, the papers are not important and I understand that, still I would want to make sure that I have a pure bread dog and the only way I can do that is to see the parent’s pedigree. I would like to make sure that I could look over the papers to see the health checks on the grandparents and great-grandparents, and compare the hip/elbow results to breeding requirement minimum. Some people might say: “I don’t care, the parents are five years old and they look healthy!” Well you will care when you beloved pooch is diagnosed with HD (hip dysplasia) and the only way it can be saved from excruciating pain is conducting complete hip replacement surgeries at the age of four. What a buyer saved on a purchase of the puppy is very quickly caught up with a $7000 surgery.

I don’t want to scare anybody off. All I want to do is educate people about the risks that a buyer can face by not knowing the most important things about German shepherd breed. I am not doing this to convince every person to buy one of my puppies; I am doing this to prevent people from disappointments and heartaches. Of course, even the best well bred dogs can come up with problems and health issues but by understanding the breed can make it easier to avoid issues.

Let’s talk about the German shepherd as a whole. An ideal dog has to be sound working dog in the first place. What I mean by working dog is an animal capable performing work based on his physical abilities and proper training. I will not go into the details; however I recommend reading on Max von Stephanitz’s vision of the breed he created. German shepherd has to be a versatile working dog, not just a show dog, not just a working machine that looks like a hyena, but a versatile animal whose first desired trait is willingness to work for his owner. The job doesn’t have to be a World Champion herding dog, his job could be a family companion and protector. These descriptions of an ideal German shepherd are very general; there is more to it and we will discuss the “options” we have in the shepherd world.

I put GSDs in two groups: show and working line. Then we can take the show line and divide it even further: AKC American and West German. Working line can be divided further to East/West German, Czech, Belgium, French and few others but these are the most talked about. We can take the lines apart to bloodlines and we could write novels about opinions and ideas. I will make it simple; I will take the three major groups and write a little about them based on my experience with all of them. Yes I met, handled, watched and studied them all. Based on your breeding program, you have an idea where my heart is (Czech working line) but I have experience with all of them and I like Czech lines because they are the perfect dogs for me.

The first category is the German Show Line group: these dogs are the money making group as I named them. Show line puppy is usually twice as much expensive as a working line puppy of similar quality. But because some of the show rating (structural perfection), they are sold for more and bought for more. These dogs are bred on emphasis in this order: looks (conformation), temperament, and workability. Looks is in the first place and working ability in the last place. I have seen some nice show line dogs that could do an ok job. But you take the best Show dog and the best Working dog and you would see a HUGE difference in the work ethics. These dogs are usually the typical color: black and tan with beautiful coats and beautiful gate. Some of them are very hyper as puppies but lack drive for work (drive to work is inherited, not trained). They make good companion dogs, great family dogs and if you decide to try out some sports designed for working dogs, you can title most of them and of course show them in ring as well. They are usually medium, to low drive, but they do have plenty of prey drive to succeed in the sports. German show line dogs don’t excel in competition as they are not bred for strong working drives. Puppies from good show line run around $1500 and up for pet contract which means that you can’t breed the dog without the breeder’s agreement. If puppy is less than $1500 find out why! Import puppies can go $2000 and up depends on the parents. This is usually without shipping. Shipping is about additional $500-700 from Germany depending on the shipping company.

The second group is the AKC, American show line shepherd. Please note I did not include the word “German”. The reason for this is that these dogs resemble German shepherd but everything that has anything to do with German shepherd has been bred out by years of breeding dog selection. These dogs look sort of like GSDs but have so little work ethics that they fell out of the group of basic requirements for the breed. There are some that do herding and maybe obedience but there is not much drive to take them any further (remember, drives have to be inherited, not trained). These dogs are bred in this order: movement, looks. Very few breeders talk about the temperament; one of the breeders I approached told me all about the trotting ability of her dog and how she flies through the air but when I met her, she had tail between her legs and was scared of her own shadow (really that dog moved and her shadow scared her). There are some ok dogs out there but I would not purchase them for companion as they can be fearful and unpredictable. Proper socialization is crucial and even then they can end up fear biters. They are alright for people who have tons of patience and don’t require much from a dog when it comes to obedience or any type of training ability. They can’t run very fast as the “selective” breeding created somewhat crippled structure. They are narrow in chest, small heads (mostly, not all) and they come in all colors. Their bodies look long, ungraceful, banana shaped and when they run, the hocks flop on the ground. When I went to an AKC show few years ago, they had to widen the show running circle and make wider turns as the dogs could not turn; they literately fell on the rear as they turned a corner. The prices run anywhere from $200 and up. I have seen a puppy priced for $1700. Mother and father of this puppy won some shows and the litter was priced according to the results. These dogs need tons of socialization and positive experience with almost anything. If they are introduced to many different elements early, they can be a good companion for patient people. Since I am not aware of people importing these dogs to the USA there are no import prices.

The last group is Working Line German shepherds. These guys come in all “standard” colors: sable, bi-color, black and tan and black. Every good breeder focuses on: temperament, working ability, standard. It is this order a good working line breeder picks dogs for breeding. This group is bred for the work ethics and stable temperament. They should be easy to handle but hard and determined in the work they are chosen for. These guys excel in personal protection and police work, yet they can live in a house with a cat and a baby if introduced properly. They usually have show rating but they don’t place before show line dogs as the emphasis is not focused on conformation. I like the fact that well bred dog is not overly hyper, they have drives but the energy is manageable with good walks and a job such as finding a toy. They need proper socialization and obedience and they are usually good companion for almost anybody who likes to have a dog for hikes or camping buddy. These dogs are big and smart and because of that they need owners with basic understanding how to raise a puppy. I always recommend new owners to seek an advice from the breeder, of where to go for training lessons in the area. These guys are great for any dog sport, or for an active companion. The prices for a puppy start from $800 and up with the median in the $1000-1300 ball park for a well bred puppy out of worked and titled parents. You can expect to pay $1500 for a puppy from a world competitor parent and a titled female out of very good bloodlines. Import puppies are around $1500 and up since shipping is expensive.

I could go into much more detail about the types but I believe the information provided in the article is enough to make a potential buyer do a little research before purchasing a puppy. I mentioned the word TITLES, it means the dog obtained a title in an area of training. There are many titles and many levels of titles and they can in many abbreviations. According to the SV rules (there rules were originally written by Max von Stephanitz) which are guidelines for the breeders to be followed. Breeding dog is not just a dog that became of age to breed. A breeding dog, male or female has to meet specific requirements in order to be a good quality breeding stock. SV rules are not followed in the USA by many breeders. I know how hard it is to meet the requirements. But not meet any of these requirements is just plain laziness from the breeder’s side. This is the list of all requirements:

The breeding dog must be pedigreed male and female both

Must have hips and elbows x-rayed and certified (24 months old)

Must obtain a working title (SchH, IPO, ZVV/SVV) these are the most common

Must have a show rating/ breed survey

Must have DNA filed

Every breeder is going to justify lack of requirements on their dogs with excuses. I learned that Show rating and breed survey is the hardest and very expensive thing to get done. You have to hire somebody to work with your dog, and then you have to pay the travel to the show and pay them to show your dog. This is sometimes hard to accomplish when there is lack of handlers for shows. I can overlook the lack of breed survey on a dog because my own experience but excusing lack of the rest is unacceptable.

I believe every dog should be health checked (x-rays), should have at least one title (proof of workability) and have DNA and of course registration and pedigree. Some breeders have untitled females bred to titled males and it is the breeder’s (female owner) responsibility to price and sell the puppies accordingly. Some of these puppies are actually a steal since one of the parents is not titled the puppies can be fantastic quality for a lower price. I believe that there is such a big number of fantastic stud dogs that are proven producers of fabulous dogs, there is no reason to get a puppy from untitled sire. Mother can be overlooked (not recommended) but the father has to show something for himself.

This is the touchy part where a lot of people (breeders) will probably be angry with me. I don’t care. It is not my problem that they breed anything and everything and they do the hips and elbows but that is where it ends! I do have to give them credit for that, at least they do the bare minimum but the pricing needs to be also adjusted. I mentioned prices of well bred dogs with most of the requirements met above. Now let’s talk about the prices of the “breeders” who barely meet health needs of the breeding stock.

Mix of dogs, German show, American show and Working lines are always touchy. Anything mixed with American line would be a RED FLAG and buyer must be very careful and must ask for reasoning for such a cross of bloodlines. These dogs (since I highly doubt the American show line will have any titles besides a show rating) should not be priced for more that maybe $200-$300 and $500 if the father was titled in work. There are some German show and Working line crosses and if both of the parents are good/titled and the breeder has reasoning for this cross price can be $800 and up. If the breeder is breeding dogs that have maybe only x-rays done but nothing else, I can see the pricing in the $200-$300 area. If somebody has no x-rays no pedigree $50 dollar price is in place.

Do you think my deductions are shocking? Well let’s see. Breeders who find the time and finances to meet the requirements, keep puppies back, and title those are the once you want to talk to. These people know their dogs. People who have stock that is not titled, working dogs are crossed with show, pedigrees don’t match their males are bred to almost every female in the kennel, and the breeding is done just to produce more puppies are a good example of people you don’t want to purchase a puppy from unless they are priced in the $200 area. If the prices are as high as $600 and up, the buyer ends up overpaying by few hundred.

Now that I provided enough general information to make a potential buyer go out there and start a research. German shepherd is such a great dog. I believe every person deserves a good dog and an asset to the buyer in all aspects.

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