Should You Get Your Dog from a Shelter, Rescue or Breeder?
The choice of where to get your dog depends on your circumstances and objectives. This article is intended to help you make the right choice.
Buying from a breeder can be expensive, but for some it is the only way to go. For others, adopting a rescued dog in need of special TLC could be the best way to go for both owner and dog. We’ll begin with a few questions to ask yourself:
Factors to Consider
Pet or Show Dog
What am I looking for in a GSD pup: A family pet or a show dog? Am I looking for a dog with a well-balanced happy nature, or could I be inspired by the challenge of rehabilitating one with a troubled past?
Do I intend to breed my GSD?
This would call for more emphasis on looking for the best physical qualities, and particularly so if your goal is to breed show dogs.
Trained or Train
Am I prepared to train my dog from scratch, or would I prefer one that already has the basics?
How much exercise am I willing to give my dog? All German Shepherds need plenty of exercise (see our article, Activities for Your GSD), but each comes with its own personality, and some need more activity than others. Think about the personality that would best suit your lifestyle.
What is my budget for purchasing a GSD? You can expect to pay from $750.00 to $1,500.00 for a pet-grade German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder. For a show dog you might pay anything from $1,000.00 and up. A dog from a shelter or a rescue center may be obtained for a fee of around $250.00 and sometimes less.
Shelters and German Shepherd Rescue Centers
Adopting a dog from an animal shelter or a German Shepherd rescue center are great options to consider if you are looking for a family pet. Rescued animals often display a special gratitude and affection for their new owners. But they also may need extra TLC to help them get over their earlier experiences.
Not only are you helping an animal that got a rough start in life, you may be saving a life, since many such dogs get euthanized if not adopted within an established time-frame.
Before adopting a rescued dog, you’ll want to find out as much as you can about their past, their character traits and how they relate to people and other animals. You’ll need to know if they have behavioral or health issues. For more on these topics see Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer Method, and Healthcare for Your German Shepherd.
Buying From a Breeder
Here are some things to look for when buying from a breeder:
A good breeder will be selective about a lot of things including the health and history of the father and mother that they use to breed your prospective puppy.
A quality breeder will have health screenings done on new litters to insure that no obvious hereditary issues or other health concerns are present. The associated reports should be included in the paperwork you get when buying from a breeder. See our article, Healthcare for Your German Shepherd for more on this.
The breeder’s facilities should be reasonably clean and organized. Your observations in this area will provide some insight into the level of care and professionalism the breeder puts into their job.
When the would-be owner meets with a breeder to discuss a possible purchase, there should be a healthy two-way dialogue as each party interviews the other. The owner will want to establish the level of expertise and integrity of the breeder, while the breeder seeks to assess the customer for their suitability as an owner of one of their German Shepherds.
A good breeder is selective about who they sell their pups to. On occasion they may pass up a sale if they deem the would-be buyer to be unsuited. Too many dogs are bought on impulse, with owners discovering too late that they lack either the ability or the commitment to properly care for them. Shelters and Rescue facilities are full of the unhappy products of such purchases.
Questions to Ask a Breeder
Here are some things you should consider asking the breeder: (number-list)
- Breed Focus. Do they specialize? The best breeders usually handle no more than one or two breeds. This allows them to have the knowledge and focus to do what they do really well. They will take pride in the quality of their breeding program and the resulting puppies.
- Length of Experience. How long have they been breeding German Shepherd Dogs?
- Depth of Knowledge. Are they familiar with the breed standards and temperaments? Expert GSD breeders will be knowledgeable in these things.
- After-Purchase Availability. Will the breeder be there for you after you make your purchase?
- Return Policy. The breeder should have a mandatory return policy stating that buyers must return the dog to them in the event they decide not to keep him. Such a policy demonstrates that a breeder’s concern for the wellbeing of their dogs extends beyond the profit-motive.
- Completeness of Paperwork. The breeder should have references available from owners who have purchased from them. They should require that you fill out an application. If you buy from them they should provide ample breeding and veterinary records.
Finding a Good Breeder
Here are some ideas for places you might check in your quest for a breeder:
- Breed-Specific Magazines. You can find a breeder through breed-specific dog magazines, such as German Shepherd Review (Circulated to members of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, www.gsdca.org).
- Online Search
- GSD Owners at Shows. You could attend German Shepherd show events where you can talk to owners about their experiences (but after the show, not before when they are prepping themselves and their dog for competition!).
- Your Vet. Your vet could also be a useful source of information on breeders or could put you in touch with knowledgeable GSD owners.
We would encourage you not to be in a hurry. Take your time; do the groundwork, and you will be rewarded with the right pup to suit your household and your purposes.