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German Shepherd Puppy Guide
Table of Contents
So, you just got (or are about to get) a German Shepherd 2
Literature: The Good Books 2
Finding a Breeder 3
Where to look 3
Non-Standard Colors 3
Where NOT to look: 3
Signs you’ve found a good breeder 4
Trust but Verify: 4
How much you should expect to pay: 4
What if it’s too late? 5
You already have the puppy at home or have paid the full price 5
You’ve just put down the deposit 5
What to look for 5
Nationwide Pet store trainers 6
Western Washington: 6
A Savvy Dog Training 6
Got Sit 6
K9 U 6
Kerri @ PetSMART in Lynnwood 7
Nitro K9 7
One Command K9 7
PacWest K9 7
Puppy Perfectors 7
Riverdog Canine Coach 7
Take the Lead 7
Western Oregon 7
Pet Village Ltd 7
Online Video courses 7
Dog Food 8
Exercise for Puppies/Young Dogs 9
Finding a Vet 9
Common German Shepherd Health Issues 9
When to Spay or Neuter 10
So, you just got (or are about to get) a German Shepherd
Congratulations and welcome to the best, most frustrating 8-15 years of your life! The average life span of a German Shepherd is usually quoted at somewhere from 10-12 years, so this is a long-term commitment. German Shepherds, especially puppies, are all about the upfront investment. If you train and treat them well in the beginning you will build a lifelong relationship of loyalty, respect and trust.
The web is full of articles and the library is full of books on how to own a dog. Some of them are fantastic! Some of them are fantastic! Others of them, not so much. The purpose of this guide is not so much to tell you how to raise your dog, but rather to point you at the most accurate, authoritative and trustworthy resources available. There are literally thousands and thousands of pages linked from here, so pace yourself and prioritize! The best order to figure things out is:
Start Reading now!
Finding the right dog: Picking a Breeder or Rescue
Picking a Trainer/Training your dog
Figuring out Dog Food
How much Exercise is too much?
Finding a Vet
Understanding Common GSD health problems
Deciding when to Spay/Neuter
Literature: The Good Books
How Dogs Learn, by Mary Burch and Jon Bailey:
My Smart Puppy, by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson:
Leader of the Pack, by Nancy Baer and Steve Duno:
Finding a Breeder
Why is it important to buy from reputable breeder when every puppy needs a home? Simply put, the answer is economics. The reason puppy mills and “backyard breeders” exist is because there are people willing to pay them for puppies. By sticking to reputable breeders, you are voting with your money against breeding dogs too young, perpetuating genetic problems like
http://www.caninegeneticdiseases.net/DM/basicDM.htmDegenerative Myelopathy and overcrowding shelters by breeding as many puppies as fast as possible.
Where to look
German Shepherd Breeders/Owners PNW:
Ask for word of mouth recommendations, trust the admins (see group description)
AKC Breeders of Merit:
SV Breeders (Germany):
It can be VERY hard to locate a reputable breeder that breeds non-standard colors. Generally, these breeders are focused on color rather than temperament and health. Please make sure to ask all the questions in the article under Signs you’ve found a good breeder.
White German Shepherds:
Liver/Blue German Shepherds
Liver and Blue are dilutions of the usual black pigment on German Shepherds. They are considered faults in both the AKC and SV and as such, can be very difficult to find from reputable breeders that don’t just focus on color. Please make sure to ask all the questions in the article under Signs you’ve found a good breeder. Unlike White Shepherds, there are no clubs currently working to get these allowed into the AKC, so there is no central authority.
Panda German Shepherds
True Panda German Shepherds are all descended from
http://gsdpandakennels.wixsite.com/phenomshepherds/frankieLewcinka's Franka von Phenom. Panda is a Dominant trait, meaning one of the parents MUST be a Panda descended from her. If the Panda parent is not descended from Franka, then they are not actually a Panda and are almost certainly not a purebred German Shepherd. For more information on Pandas, see this article on Von Phenom’s website:
Where NOT to look:
Craigslist – For so many reasons, don’t. Many of the puppies on CL are from puppy mills, even the ones listed as “rehoming”.
The Facebook Group “Puppies and dog for sale northwest” – This group is run by backyard breeders who breed several breeds, without health testing as fast as possible purely to turn a profit. If you do spot a litter from there, make sure to follow the steps under Signs you’ve found a good breeder.
Commercial websites that will ship you a cheap puppy – Google puppies and you’ll find many websites that will ship you a dog. These dogs are from puppy mills. As painful as it is, you do not want to pay these people. This doesn’t mean it’s bad to ship a puppy from a reputable breeder! With any distant breeder, however, follow the advice in “signs you’ve found a good breeder”.
Signs you’ve found a good breeder
Megan Riddle, a breeder who is also a member of the PNW GSD Pack group, wrote up a great list of questions to ask any breeder you’re considering getting a puppy from. Read through this list and be willing to walk away from a breeder, even if they have puppies available, if they don’t meet the criteria
Trust but Verify:
Just because a breeder says or posts to their website that their dogs are titled or have had their “hips checked” doesn’t mean that they are telling the truth. Even if they link to PedigreeDatabase.com, that site allows any owner to enter whatever information about a dog that they want without any verification. When it comes to hips and elbows, you want them to have been checked out by one of 3 internationally recognized organizations. You want both parents to have been certified by OFA, SV or PennHip. All 3 of these organizations make all certifications available online for free for you to verify, see the links below. Note that to locate the records, you will need to the dog’s AKC or SV name which is different from the dog’s call name.
Search the OFA site to verify hip and elbow certification claims:
For Titles, verification is a bit more complicated because there are so many organizations that can issue them. AKC titles are straight forward and are worth validating, particularly if the breeder is making any claims about conformation titles (e.g. “Champion blood lines”).
How to verify AKC titles:
How much you should expect to pay:
This chart is fairly accurate for the Pacific Northwest, however you should expect shipping to add $200-400 to any breeder’s price.
What if it’s too late?
You already have the puppy at home or have paid the full price
If you already have a puppy in your household from a breeder with some red flags called out here, then love it and take the best care of it you know how! Many of the potential problems are simply risk factors and you could very well end up with a perfectly normal, healthy and happy GSD from even the worst of situations.
You’ve just put down the deposit
This case is tricky. If the deposit is non-refundable, then consider your options carefully. Depending on the situation, it may be that the best way to save you and your family from long term emotional and financial trauma from an unhealthy dog is to walk away.
What to look for
Trainers have many styles, techniques and pricing structures. The most important things to keep in mind are:
There is no such thing as too young to start!
You can start training at home immediately:
I highly recommend the book My Smart Puppy
Find a puppy class and start as soon as they’ll let you! Usually you can start these by 10-12 weeks old.
Training is 30% about the dog, 70% about the owner/handler
The most obnoxious training question I get asked is “did you train her yourself?”. A trainer teaches you how to train your dog. They do not wave a magic wand and your dog is now well behaved. It is NOT like sending your kid to school!
Find a trainer who you can connect with and understand
Since the trainer’s main job is training YOU, it’s important that you can understand them and trust what they’re telling you.
Training is all about repetition.
They say a dog needs to repeat a command 30 times with a cue before they’ve learned it. This sounds like a lot; however, it does not mean you need to set aside 2 hours a day. Especially while young, your puppy can’t concentrate for more than 5-10 minutes at a time so train in short bursts throughout the day! A great way to time training sessions is every commercial break while watching TV.
Expect to spend as much on training as you spent on the dog, maybe more!
The reality is that you’re going to spend pretty much the first year and a half training your dog. If this is your first dog, expect to be working with a trainer on and off over that time. And we haven’t even talked about Dog Sports yet!
Nationwide Pet store trainers
Both PetCo and PetSMART typically have in-store training classes. They’re on the cheaper end of the spectrum and provide a great environment with lots of strange smells, sounds and people around the class. The downside is that the quality of the class you will get is entirely based on the trainer who is teaching it. The Lynnwood, WA PetSMART’s lead trainer is Kerri McClelland, a member of the PNW GSD Pack group, and she’s awesome! She’s a great resource to find out who the good trainers are at other King County PetSMART locations. For any other PetCo or PetSMART locations, post in the group looking for reviews and references to figure out who the good trainers are.
Trainers on this list are in alphabetical order.
A Savvy Dog Training
http://asavvydogtraining.comhttp://asavvydogtraining.com) - Lynnwood, Mill Creek and Woodinville - Great all around trainers, classes for obedience, Agility and reactive dogs.
http://gotsitdogtraining.comhttp://gotsitdogtraining.com) - Tacoma to Everett - They do 6 or 12 month packages with 3-5 home lessons followed by unlimited group classes. Specializes in reactive dogs and general obedience.
http://www.k-9u.biz/http://www.k-9u.biz/) - Northern King County, Everett, Mukilteo - Demaree is freaking awesome but she's also hard to get! You can think of her a bit like the dog special forces.
Kerri @ PetSMART in Lynnwood
General obedience and tricks (great for puppies!)
http://nitrocanine.comhttp://nitrocanine.com) - Edmonds and most of King County - Lots of packages and classes, check our their site for more information. Lots of options with them.
One Command K9
http://onecommandk9.comhttp://onecommandk9.com) - Lacey, WA (not sure if he travels). Specializes in general obedience
http://pacwestk9.comhttp://pacwestk9.com) - Tacoma, WA – Gina comes highly recommended with several other members of the group who use her. She does obedience and several dog sports.
http://www.puppyperfectors.com/http://www.puppyperfectors.com/) – Seattle, WA – Comes highly recommended for puppy obedience and beginning agility classes.
Riverdog Canine Coach
https://www.facebook.com/riverdogcaninecoaching/https://www.facebook.com/riverdogcaninecoaching/) Issaquah, WA – Great for general obedience as well as dog sports. They are one of the better options out there for puppy classes as well.
Take the Lead
http://taketheleaddogtraining.comhttp://taketheleaddogtraining.com) - King County - Specializes in Reactive dogs, great for general obedience as well.
We don’t have as many Oregon members as we do Washington so there are fewer entries. Feel free to post in the group when you have a recommendation! (No advertising if you work for or are related to the company please)
Pet Village Ltd
http://www.petvillageltd.com/traininghttp://www.petvillageltd.com/training) – Salem, OR. Salem, Oregon - Jennifer is a great trainer and is very active in schutzhund/IPO sports. She has a Schutzhund club and she earned her international judges license to judge working dogs in 2007. She is known to be the youngest to achieve that honor in U.S.
Online Video courses
If you’ve trained a dog in obedience before or are on a tight budget, online video courses can be a great option. While you can learn the basic skills of dog training, what’s missing compared to working with a trainer in person is the feedback on how YOU are doing. Does your body language match your commands? Are you getting frustrated and raising your voice? For this reason, online videos are best as supplemental resources. If you haven’t worked with a trainer for an extended period before, it’s better to start in person first.
http://leerburg.comhttp://leerburg.com) Leerburg is a collection of training material from a large number of trainers. Not all of them are created equal, unfortunately. Stick to material from Ed Frawley and Michael Ellis.
A good starting point:
http://MikeRitland.comhttp://MikeRitland.com) Mike Ritland, the author of Team Dog, SEAL Dogs and a few other books, has started a new training site like Leerburg. It’s relatively new, launched October of 2016, however based on Mike’s other materials we can assume it is a good starting point.
Dog food is a surprisingly controversial subject. There is a TON of contradictory literature, memes, articles and little of it quotes anything in the way of scientific studies or papers. Separating fact from rumor from hysteria is genuinely hard. The short version is:
There is good commercial food out there but you can’t buy it in a supermarket (Costco brand is great though! Read on for more information).
The right food matters for the health, happiness, look and longevity of your dog
If you feed commercial,
http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-recall-alerts/sign up for recall alerts.
Raw food is manageable and safe, but there is no research behind it. Be careful what sources you follow for meal planning.
Trust advice when it can quote research sources
This section is going to heavily reference the website DogFoodAdvisor.com. Why trust Dog Food Advisor?
The owner, while a dentist, has a degree in chemistry and is otherwise unrelated to the dog food industry
Ingredients based analysis of brands, not based on sponsorship or marketing.
All articles quote and reference scientific research, not marketing materials
Anything with 4 or 5 stars on Dog Food Advisor:
Dog Food Advisor sells a commercial service that gives specific brand recommendations however most of their data is available right on the free portions of the website. This article is the best breakdown of requirements for a good puppy food that you can find.
Dog Food Advisor also rates commercial raw options:
For puppies, follow the advice laid out in this article:
Exercise for Puppies/Young Dogs
Too much exercise at an early age is one of the leading causes of Hip Dysplasia, so understanding the limits for your puppy is critical to their long-term health and happiness. This article is a great resource on the subject:
The best way to find a vet is to ask in the group! There are, however, a few things worth noting:
Not all vets are created equal. If you don’t like something about your current vet, switch!
VCA Animal Hospitals, while they share a name and products, are completely independent from one another.
Quality of care will depend entirely on the individual vet
Patient records are not shared in any way between locations
VCA, Banfield and other chains in general vary in quality from location to location. It’s the individual vet that matters.
Many people misunderstand what socialization means. The 1 sentence definition is: Socialization means giving your dog positive experiences and having them focus on you in any environment or situation. Here is a great article on socialization that applies to both puppies and adult dogs, even rescues:
Here is a 5min video that goes along with this article:
Socialization is a long-term investment in your puppy. EVERYONE loves your puppy, but it's up to you to protect them. As much as all of us want to run right up to them and have our 30min of cuddling or play, we'll go home afterwards and you'll be with the puppy for the next 10-15 years. Your dog's experience and safety need to be your #1 priority. Bad experiences, particularly between 8 and 12 weeks of age, can shape their behavior for the rest of their life.
Here is a pretty exhaustive list of environments, surfaces and things to ensure your puppy encounters and does OK with. There are a few variations on this out there, but the idea should be clear. Ensure they encounter as a puppy and IGNORE everything you expect them to handle gracefully as an adult:
Common German Shepherd Health Issues
A comprehensive list of these, with links to studies and further information, is available here:
While there are many issues listed in the above article, these are the most important to be aware of:
As noted under selecting a breeder, there is a
http://www.ofa.org/dnatesting/dm.html$45 DNA test to determine if your dog is at risk for DM later in life. If 1 parent was tested Normal/Normal (sometimes written as Clear/Clear) then your puppy will not have both required mutations.
When to Spay or Neuter
This is an incredibly controversial subject. Different vets you talk to will give you different recommendations and posts on this frequently devolve into massive arguments. The latest research shows that waiting until at least 1 year of age, preferably 2 years will reduce the risks of several health issues associated with Spay or Neutering. There are, however, many reasons a dog may get spayed or neutered before this age, from behavioral issues to the difficulties around preventing accidental puppies.
If you can confidently say that your dog will never cause an unwanted litter of puppies, then you do not need to spay or neuter at all.
Dr. Karen Becker has a thorough and informative video on the subject:
With a corresponding article:
http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/09/30/neutering-health-risks.aspxhttp://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/09/30/neutering-health-risks.aspx . If you don’t like something about your current vet, switch!
Here is a pretty exhaustive list of environments, surfaces and things to ensure your puppy encounters and does OK with. There are a few variations on this out there,