Things I look for in a kennel:
-Look at the breeding females. How are they titled? Are they titled? Were they sent away to Germany or to someone else for their show/work titles? Were they handler owned and trained? Are they breeder/handler owned and trained? Do they have titles or are females excused because the breeder relies on the stud to do the bragging. How are breeding females treated and housed? What is the typical breeding career for a female? How many litters? How are they spaced? What happens when she stops producing?
-Look at where each dog in the kennel originates. There is something seriously wrong when a breeder that has been breeding for 5 years or more does not have pups out of their OWN breedings that they are training, showing, titling and breeding. It stays a lot to me when I see a kennel full of dogs out of other people's breedings with titles and accolades done by others. That person is cutting corners. That makes you a middle man - not a breeder. A breeder breeds and keeps back progeny to build their OWN lines and breeding program. A breeder that imports titled dogs, buys from other kennels, keeps and trains NOTHING out of their own breedings is taking shortcuts. If you do not keep, train, and observe how your progeny develops and matures, you do not know what you are breeding. There is no vision and no consistency.
-What the breeder's goal and vision? What does the BREEDER do to maintain that goal and vision? That means, what work does the breeder do to further his lines? Not what the trainers or kennel staff do on behalf of the breeder. What does the breeder do to further his breeding program and vision? What are the breeder's credentials? Do they show? Train? Title? Beware of those that depend on the work of others to further their own breeding program.
-What is the goal of each breeding? Why was that particular male paired with that female? What makes this pedigree match a positive - what does this breeding bring to the table? If it is a breeding of convenience so that the breeder can make a quick buck out of a male/female pair in his kennel, that is different than a carefully researched breeding with the intention of keeping progeny back. Be careful when breeding pairs are out of the same kennel and be careful when the SAME breedings are repeated ad nauseum. Seldom will you *always* find the perfect breeding partner for your female within your kennel - watch out for breeders that keep it in the family because more often than not, it is because they can forgo a hefty stud fee and cut costs.
-How many litters are they producing a year? What type of homes are the puppies going to? What is the vetting process for a new puppy buyer? What contract do they offer? What are the stipulations (replacement, 50% off, time limits for hip/elbows, warranty, etc) of their contract? What do they do with returned pups? What happens if you have to surrender your pup? Will they take it back? Do they have rules about breeding their dogs? Are there any spay/neuter contracts? Limited/full registration?
-What kind of health and temperament tests do they carry out on breeding stock? Hips/elbows? DM? Titles? Work? Any particular health risks run in their lines (ex. eyes, allergies, handler aggression, reactivity etc)? How long do their breeding dogs live? How is their general overall health and well-being?
-What is YOUR purpose and goal for the dog? Why do you want a GSD? What do you hope to do with your dog? How will you train and raise it? What does this breeder offer to YOU and YOUR goals? Why this breeder over all the rest (proximity and price should be lower down on your list)? What special thing does this breeder offer you?
Just some things I ask myself when considering a breeding program and one of their pups. Support breeders that do it right - they deserve your patronage. Less than optimal breeders or glorified middlemen do not need to be encouraged with your business. I am probably more picky than most, but these are some questions to get you started. Visit the kennel if you are interested, ask the pertinent questions, and research extensively. If at the end of all that, you still feel this is a good way to go, then that's your prerogative.