A lot of people will say that a GSD is not for a first time dog owner. I disagree, but knowledge is picked up by both reading/learning AND experience. You can learn about training dogs in books or on the forums, but you cannot learn to train dogs without a victim. And this is why a lot of us do a WHOLE lot better with our second GSD, yes maybe the first was from a BYB and this one is from a good breeder, but 9-14 years of experience managing that drop-eared dominant stubborn fear-aggressive disaster does go totally to waste.
People talk about red flags a LOT when they talk about finding a breeder. I think breeders have red flags when they talk about potential puppy buyers. A red flag is where your gut says, "don't sell this yayhoo a dog." Some breeders only want to deal with people who have experience with the breed. I think it is more likely that inexperienced buyers land with the inexperienced breeders for other reasons though.
Your more experienced breeders may not be advertising at all. They have people from training classes, dog clubs, and trials contact them and wait for a puppy to be born. Your inexperienced buyer generally wants a puppy that is already ready to go, or is at least on the ground already. They may say, oh yes I want this six-week-old puppy. And you explain that the dog needs to stay with the litter until eight weeks, so come and pick him up in two weeks. Two weeks later you find that he has already purchased a 4 week old dog from someone else.
Inexperienced buyers often choke on the going rate, and want discounts because they just want a dog for a pet. These people are not going to land on the more experienced of breeders. They will be seen through, and most likely they will decide for themselves to go elsewhere.
And it is not like breeders do not yack on the phone with these people and explain about things like why it is still important for people who want pets to get a puppy whose parents were tested in temperament and health, etc. We explain why the dogs should stay with the litter. But in the end, a first-time buyer knows it all, and goes to someone who has a litter he is willing to sell to anyone, right now.
There are first-time buyers who have spent a lot of time on forums who know a lot of the questions to ask. It certainly does not mean the dog is going into the best of hands. If it is your first dog, you might have a step up on someone who hasn't a clue, but even spending months on the forum or in other venues learning about the breed, you cannot look at the pup in front of you and assess that pup for its training style and management style, so you will make plenty of mistakes, and it is a testament to the dogs if they manage to survive a newbie owner.
Not having a shepherd before is a yellow flag. Not having a working/herding group dog is a yellow flag. Not having a dog before is a yellow flag. Never raising a puppy before is a yellow flag. A yellow flag means you have to ask a lot more questions. I think breeders should sell to newbies, but they should get a feel for some level of commitment on the part of the newbie to understand if this individual is going to be totally out of their depth or not.
If you have a dog already, you should know about things like shots, going to the vet, taking the dog to classes/training the dog, exercise and play, how much it costs to feed a dog, whether where you live you have any restrictions on owning a dog, and many other things. You really can't take anything for granted with a newbie owner. And so you start asking some really intrusive questions that don't seem to be related about whether they rent or own, do they have a homeowner's association, do they have a job, and how is the puppy going to be able to be house trained while they are working, etc.
When someone comes to buy a pup, I don't really want to hear the common questions that people tell people to ask. It sounds learned by heart, and most of the time, the people are just looking at the puppies.
I want to hear that the people have a plan. They have a plan for getting the puppy checked out at the vet and vaccinated. They have a plan for training, they know of a trainer who has training classes, and they maybe want to do some obedience or something with the puppy. They have a plan for house-training the puppy, and who will be there to let the puppy out while they are at work. Being aware of some of the common ailments in the breed is good. Having a plan of what they intend to feed the dog. Already having a crate and toys and bowls/supplies is also a positive. Not freaking out if the puppy mouthes them or goes for their shoe laces is another positive.
Your typical pet owner needs to be willing to learn about dogs and problems within the breed. I press training classes because they will meet up with other people over the course of 6 weeks and will learn tons from a decent trainer. And, hopefully, they will sign up again for more classes.
And a puppy owner needs to know when to call the vet or breeder with problems and questions.
People learn as they go with kids. And they will learn as the go with dogs too. You learn more from the tougher dogs or the sicker dogs than the ones that never give you a moment's worry.
Heidi Ho, Odie
Joy-Joy, Bear Cub, Hepsi-Pepsi
Cujo2, Karma Chameleon
Quinn (The Werewolf), Ramona the Pest, Kojak -- who loves you baby?
Tiny Tinnie, Susie's Uzzi, Kaiah -- The Baby Monster.