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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am not new to German Shepherds, but finding a breeder is very overwhelming and scary at the same time. I am looking for another puppy, but had a bad experience with the last dog I had which had terrible allergies and don't want a repeat experience. I was at the vet's office almost every other month for skin infections, and it wasn't cheap when it was time to check out. The reason why I am overwhelmed is because I don't understand how to choose the right kennel simply by reading a pedigree. To me, there are just a bunch of names and titles on a piece of paper. Who are these other dogs and what genetic faults did they pass down? I don't know anything about inbreeding or line breeding. Do you go to the GS pedigree data base and look every one of them up? How do you learn more than what is in the breeder's favor? I have gone there a long time ago and nothing there says anything about any type of health problems that dog may have had as the dog matured or its progeny inherited. I have visited many GS kennel websites and most of it is all the same when it comes to health warranties.

This is what I have learned over the past 14 years. There are tons of puppies for sale all over the USA within various FB groups with names of the kennels posted, announcements of current or prospective litters. Of course they all say champion bloodlines and give names and titles of parentage. Basically from what I can see, the titles represent that they passed obedience testing at different levels or their conformation is good enough or excellent to breed. I am aware of bone issues that GS have and how the parents must be OFA certified and DM clear. I noticed that some kennels are now testing for Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Von Willebrand's Disease. One kennel is now doing DNA testing for potential issues. I have read years ago that kennels do some sort of DNA testing prior to breeding. Is this becoming more common?

I attended a SV show in 2017 and had the opportunity to speak with a big name kennel owner. I inquired about allergies within their kennel as I knew how bad the problem was with purebreds, I owned an allergic dog and at some point would be looking for another. He was very nonchalant about it and said they just changed the dog food. Let me tell you that allergies start with dog food and then progressively crosses over to other things over time and gets worse. I was very disappointed in the response because allergies are genetic and in time I knew this breeder would either sell or breed their allergic dog to unsuspecting customers in the future.

I also noticed that kennels keep their dogs for so long to show and breed, rehome them and then bring in new ones. In reality, a breeder turns over their dogs after 5-6 years with no idea how the progeny turns out unless a customer comes back to them a year or more after the sale. My last breeder called it "a crap shoot." I understand that you need to keep breeding dogs to improve what you have when it comes to conformation, but what about health? I have noticed that dogs are imported from Europe, and, again, I know nothing about those kennels or their bloodlines regarding health. I have read that breeding dogs is like having children in that no one has no control over how they will turn out. Well, I am willing to pay $3,000 for a healthy dog with no genetic issues. I feel that I am paying big money to stack the deck in my favor by going to a reputable breeder. Is this a poor way of thinking?

So now you understand why I am scared and overwhelmed. Do I express my fears and concerns with any kennel I am interested? Will I turn off any prospective breeder with my knowledge and experience? I love the breed, but every dog that I have had in the past has had some type of health issue. One had a mild case of hip dysplasia, another had an ongoing problem with the skin opening up after being spayed, and my last one had allergies. Do I give up on having a purebred or go with a mutt from the pound which is what my family thinks I should do. At least I am saving a life and not paying a fortune for it.
 
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You don't mention what your plans are for the dog.

In general, I suggest that people to meet dogs at club, training groups, shows, trials and such to get an idea of what they like and to make some connections with other owners and breeders.
 

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Breeders fall into many many many categories. The numbers of GSDs bred in the US is overwhelming. Over 140,000 per year (basing that number on the fact AKC used to publish numbers and that was the number of registrations when the breed was in 4th place.

HOW MANY of these over 50,000 litters are bred by people who really understand genetics, pedigrees and develop their own family of dogs???? Probably less than 10%......so yes, it is a daunting task to find a puppy. What I see in the segment of breeders who breed European working lines are people who bring over a titled bred female, breed to males who they either have or an import who has some competition credentials and viola' ~ instant "reputable breeder"...touted and pushed like crazy on forums. As you observed, puppies bred and sold, parents used, disposed of and new breeding stock replenished regularly - commercial breeders selling pups on the credentials of other people's accomplishments and knowledge....but they know the market and have an understanding of what people are asking for in a puppy....and they provide it....most are going to be OK - and if they aren't - oh well, these things happen.

I look at litter pedigrees for red flags. Red Flags, to me, are possibilities of issues that may or may not happen. Certain well known dogs are prepotent for certain attributes - great grips, handler aggression, super orthopedics, handler "hardness" ie - a screw you attitude, handler "softness" -ie handler biddability, and so on and on.....there are well known dogs who people think they have to have in their pup to do well, dogs that have high levels of competition accomplishment - dogs who have put their owners in the ER over and over - but are in a huge number of pedigrees I see......usually they are ok,but some are not - they carry that attitude and will end up biting the owner, being passed around or even put down...but mention a name and there is an uprising of support for the wonderful dogs that are owned people which carry this in their pedigree.....(I can think of 4 names right off the top of my head - so not just singling out one dog here!

You must ask breeders about their priorities in choosing a breeding pair. Ask about the qualities you desire and if these qualities are present in both or either parent. Ask about complimentary and compensatory factors in the pedigree and individual dogs. NOT just the trials, the scores, the ribbons!!!! Yes, if you are in the sport, some of that is a priority - but seriously - at this point in time, watching competition after competition - points are more a result of who and where the dog is trained and connections...and breedings are done because of connections more often than for a good balance of genetics.


Lee
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
David Winners, I have done what you have suggested with mixed results. With Covid, taking your advice will be hard to do. The last show I wanted to attend was closed to spectators which is understandable. The nearest SV club is 1.5 hours away and I have attended plenty of dog shows in my lifetime. The shows I attended were AKC and SV. The people at the shows are too occupied with their dogs, their handlers, or other owners than to talk to complete strangers. Once their dogs are finished competing, they get up and leave. In the past, I have purchased show programs hoping to get names, addresses and phone numbers of participants and this practice has been discontinued. At least that is what I noticed at the last one I attended in 2017. I did get lucky to meet two owners of dog kennels at a SV show, but they were more focused on the dogs competing than answering my questions.

My plans for the dog is basically be a companion dog, but I am flirting with the idea of doing agility. This would give us both something to do that is fun and keep our minds sharp.
 
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Lee, you are spot on with your post. I am really afraid to ask too many questions of a breeder because of the fear of being rejected as a potential buyer. Those who ask too many questions may be considered a troublesome client and I don't want to be judged that way. I learn something new with each dog I get because it's typically 10-13 years between getting another dog. I am in my early 60's now, so this will probably be my last purchase.

How do you find the red flags? It's not like you can find reviews online. I looked. lol If you ask a breeder about another kennel, one may not like what you hear. Who would have guessed there was so much drama in the GS world? lol I am on a waiting list for a West German long coated showline puppy because I love the shorter ears and muzzle, but I am scared that I will be in the same situation I was in before. Certain qualities that I am looking for have been given to the breeder. I don't think I am asking for too much like good nerves (confidence), inquisitiveness, no couch potato, and an outgoing personality.
 

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Finding a dog based on health of progeny is difficult because allergies may not show up right away and people don’t inform their breeders. Mine has food allergies and I didn’t tell the breeder because I assumed she knew. Then I had to contact her about another problem and found out she kept several dogs from a repeat breeding, same parents as mine, and none has allergies or the other health issues my dog had.

I fully believe my dog developed food allergies due to prolonged early antibiotic use due to persistent Giardia. Then he got pano, which is genetic, and had more meds. He was on a chicken based diet and his first allergy was to chicken, then expanded to other things. It is only anecdotal but when he was neutered due to an enlarged prostate with bleeding, the non food allergies all seem to have gone away.

David and Lee both mentioned work ability and temperament, which is something much more easily evaluated than allergies. Allergies can be hidden where behaviors and characteristics can’t as easily.
 

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It can definitely be overwhelming. Over many, many years I've developed a short list of breeders I would consider getting a puppy from. That list has changed a lot over time, a few newer breeders have been added and plenty have been crossed off for various reasons. Some breeders have Facebook groups, where people who own their dogs participate and even just fans can join. You can see what kind of homes those dogs are in, how they're doing, and what kind of activities as members post photos and updates. People post about health issues and training challenges along with successes.

Many of my GSD owning FB friends are people I know from here but I've also networked out from there. Most of them either aren't active posters anymore, or post rarely and are much more active on FB. Going to shows/trials and meeting dogs and breeders is great, but I also want to know how that dog is OFF the field. How are they to live with on a daily basis? And who is producing the kind of dog that will work best in my home, doing the kind of activities I want to do? Some have produced dogs that excel in many venues which is great. I'm never going to be an expert in reading pedigrees, and frankly I'm not that interested in trying! For me, I'd rather find a few breeders who programs I admire, based on real world information from the people who have their dogs and love their dogs, breeders that are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and ethical, who will honestly assess their puppies and find the best homes for them. Starting with a smaller group of recommended breeders and narrowing it down to fit your specific criteria is much less overwhelming a task than starting with everyone and attempting to whittle down from there.

My current girl came from Colorado. Her breeder has only had a few litters and this particular breeding was to produce her next IPO dog. Her current female was her ideal, and she found a male to complement her. The sire is co-owned by a friend of a friend, which is how I found out about the litter that Cava came from. I wasn't technically looking quite yet, but I got a message from my friend (who I met through the board nearly 15 years ago) that her friend Susan, who I had met a couple years before, had two upcoming litters that might produce a puppy that would be a good fit. I messaged Susan for more information, she put me in touch with the breeder, and we had many conversations on FB over a period of weeks. I told her my history with the breed, what my plans were, exactly what I was looking for (and what I absolutely did not want) and she told me all about the dam, who sounded perfect. There were just four puppies in the litter, one male and three females. At the time she wasn't sure if any of them were going to be available, she had a couple people on the list for females but two of the girls were longcoats and she wasn't sure if they would want a LC, which I did. I never met her or either of the parents of the litter, but I liked her description of the dam and the puppies, and I could see how she was raising them from the videos she posted online. Of course they were adorable, but they were also happy and confident as she exposed them to new things.

Because the timing was not good - Halo was slowly dying of DM, I came close to having to pass on the puppy. But the breeder totally understood our situation and offered to hold her for us until we were ready. Apparently, in our dealings she had decided that we would be a great home for one of her puppies and was willing to help us make it work. I was so grateful for her kindness and generosity, further cementing my decision that this was someone I wanted a puppy from. I have not regretted it for a second. We absolutely adore Cava. She is the best GSD we have ever had, going back to 1986, and it all happened due to connections with other GSD friends and acquaintances.
 

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A breeder that's turned off by too many questions isn't one I'd be interested in. I also expect them to have lots of question about me, and am very honest and forthcoming from first contact. This is hopefully a long term relationship, and they should want to get to know you and expect you to want to get to know them. Your list of requirements shouldn't be a deterrent for a reputable breeder. My list was similar but much longer, lol.
 

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It is well worth the time and trouble of researching in order to support a really good breeder.
We NEED these people.

Also, as far as skin issues are concerned, I thought they were genetic until I got a second GSD all the way from Germany, and within 6 months he began getting the horrible sores and skin issues that Hans had for 8 years.

Notice I said “ Hans HAD.” Realizing that a second dog form different lines and a different part of the world could not have the exact same problems, I began to do some research.
I changed the lawn company to one that didn’t use chemical fertilizers and weedkiller, stopped walking the dogs in the neighborhood (everyone nukes their yards here, and lots gets on the sidewalk) and guess what?

BOTH dogs stopped having skin rashes.

Something worth considering, IMO.
 

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I can't tell you how many emails and hour long conversations I had with Carmen about dogs over the 9 years between when we met online and I finally got a Carmspack dog.

I guess my advice is to not be in a hurry. The right dog is worth the wait.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
My dog was allergic to most of the major food proteins, most grains, every type of mold, the majority of trees in the neighborhood, and grass. My vet said my dog had the worst case of allergies he ever had to treat. I live in middle GA where it's warm and very humid during the summer. Whenever it rained for a couple of days during any season, she would get inflamed skin in the armpit area and get hotspots on her back due to the mold growing everywhere. When the birch trees had catkins and red maples bloomed in the spring, we had skin issues too. When we took walks, she was only on the street as I never allowed her to go in somebody's lawn. We rarely put any type of chemicals on our grass so I can rule that out.
 

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I was in a place you are right now not long time ago. Yes, it was truly overwhelming and very very difficult. I tried to do all the right things, talking to breeders, reputable, all boxes checked, had some knowledge of the lines blah blah, and I did not succeed, so I turned for advice to my personal friends still active in the SAR field. My current dog came from a breeder recommended by them.

The lines were unknown to me. I talked with the breeder, discussed what I needed, liked what I heard (many puppies from every litter consistently placed into working SAR and LE homes). The key was 'current' puppies, not dogs from a decade ago. The program is current, dynamic, with a purpose and with results. My requirements were not very unique but apparently not easy to achieve by a breeder next door: I needed an independent, confident, resilient, environmentally and socially stable dog that could handle pressure of an urban environment and being an only dog. I also wanted to do tracking and get into nosework/dentection sports.

So what I can say now: I got exactly what I asked for and more. I got a true working dog, not just working lines but a working dog that can go go go and get the job done no matter what. I was not fully prepared for this so had to learn fast and still learning every day and do a lot of training. He's very different from my previous dog who will always be my heart dog, but he's a force of nature, he fills the days with energy, he makes me laugh, and he's maturing into a very good dog. I love him. I would not find him if I just browsed the internet boards or FB pages. So my advice is to go and talk to people you can trust.
 

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I am sorry you are feeling overwhelmed. I would not know where to start either. Honestly, I considered finding a breeder after my GSD, Annie passed away in 2012. We were a family of 5 in different stages of grief, and our opinion on another family dog varied greatly. My son had his heart set on a hound mix puppy. We had Natty Boh transported from SC. He is mostly beagle. Two years later, I saw a litter of high content GSD mix puppies at a KY shelter. I inadvertently, completed the adoption application and hit send. No idea what I was thinking. Shelby arrived from KY. Both my dogs have quirks, like all dogs do. Shelby is beautiful. She is about 3/4 German Shepherd. (She's also coonhound and a tiny bit rottweiler.) She looks like a long haired German Shepherd. She is standoffish, when meeting people outside the home, but adores people when they visit. She is a very sweet dog.

Overall, both have been pretty healthy. Boh is 9 years old now and Shelby is 7. Shelby was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few years ago. She is on a low dose medication that is not very expensive. I am perfectly happy with my mixes. Not saying I don't miss having a PB GSD, but I wouldn't trade my two quirky mutts. And - you can definitely still do agility with a mix. Whatever you decide, I pray the right dog comes along and that he/she doesn't have any serious/life long health issues. Please keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you Steven for your support. My family said to save my money and just go to the pound for a dog as they will reward you much more in devotion and love because you saved it from death. They know what happens there. Anyway, even if I did that, I would still want another GS as they have been a passion for me all my life. If I could find a long haired rescue I would go that route. Just haven't seen anything. Maybe I am not looking in the right places. lol

I have been in your shoes with the hypothyroidism too. If you are getting your meds from the vet, I suggest your going with Petco's pharmacy instead. I saved a lot of money going that route. I got 2 months worth of pills compared to what I paid at the vet for 1 month.
 
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I did a lot of research and picked a few breeders. One pairing I asked about on here. I was told that great grand dad was known to pass on allergies.

I learned to ask why the breeder chose a particular pairing, what traits where looking to get from the parents.

We found a wonderful breeder, very active FB presence with owners of their dogs posting questions training success and challenges. Titles and working trails. The amount of previous owners who want to get another dog from her was staggering.

So quick answer, what area are you in, are willing to travel? You can get breeder recommendations from here. You can also post a planned breeding and some of the experts here are gracious enough to take a look and let you know if they see any red flags in the family tree.

Good luck on your search and welcome to the site.
 

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If a breeder you talk to is advertising, has pups on the ground for sale and is trying to sell you, I'd walk. The breeders I like have long waiting lists don't need to advertise, and will spend more time trying vet you and whether they will let you have one of their pups than trying to convince you to buy a puppy.
 

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The problem with FB pages is that they are really fan clubs owned by the breeder. You will not learn about problems there. I donèt know, I have mixed feelings about it. Puppies on the ground are not a red flag either. The breeder may have a waiting list but there are no suitable clients for the puppies in the current litter, one never knows. Some good breeders do not keep a waiting list and do not take deposits unless puppies are on the ground. I think a waiting list is a good way to lock in buyers and make money, just a way the business operates and has nothing to do with the quality of puppies. Just some food for thought.
 

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I am sorry you are feeling overwhelmed. I would not know where to start either. Honestly, I considered finding a breeder after my GSD, Annie passed away in 2012. We were a family of 5 in different stages of grief, and our opinion on another family dog varied greatly. My son had his heart set on a hound mix puppy. We had Natty Boh transported from SC. He is mostly beagle. Two years later, I saw a litter of high content GSD mix puppies at a KY shelter. I inadvertently, completed the adoption application and hit send. No idea what I was thinking. Shelby arrived from KY. Both my dogs have quirks, like all dogs do. Shelby is beautiful. She is about 3/4 German Shepherd. (She's also coonhound and a tiny bit rottweiler.) She looks like a long haired German Shepherd. She is standoffish, when meeting people outside the home, but adores people when they visit. She is a very sweet dog.

Overall, both have been pretty healthy. Boh is 9 years old now and Shelby is 7. Shelby was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few years ago. She is on a low dose medication that is not very expensive. I am perfectly happy with my mixes. Not saying I don't miss having a PB GSD, but I wouldn't trade my two quirky mutts. And - you can definitely still do agility with a mix. Whatever you decide, I pray the right dog comes along and that he/she doesn't have any serious/life long health issues. Please keep us posted.
How about a picture of those two.🙂🤔
 
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I have searched forever for my next pup. And I do mean forever. The really good breeders are few and far between but seem absolutely willing to discuss anything. Good breeders should be telling you if they don't think their dogs are a good fit or if they think a particular breeding is not suitable. I spoke to Carmen at length about everything BUT breeding. I have chatted with Lee about various pedigrees and what particular dogs bring to the table. I spoke to Jeremy about training and different breeds and cars. At no time did any of them ask me when I could send money for a pup. The breeder that I spoke to most recently refused my money until we were sure if things would work out. I have had breeders who know what I want offer pups that they had that might work and one offer me an older pup for free after two different buyers returned her for being a puppy.
My rather rambling point is that a good breeder is going to want to talk to you, to know what you are looking for and the ones I have dealt with will happily recommend something more suited if need be.
Be open, be patient, be honest.
 

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I’m sorry you are feeling overwhelmed.

I found my breeder by email contact, was told that there’s a long waitlist, then visited clubs and saw her during my tours. Introduced myself and was invited to visit. I came with a long list of questions and was answered very patiently. I can’t say enough about choosing a reputable breeder. For us, it’s like been joining a family of support. Not just the breeder support but also the many very experienced people that are repeat customers.

But it is true that some things like allergies and subpar hips happen. You just stack it in your favor to go with a reputable breeder.

I’ll also add that I scratched a breeder off my list if they sold retired breeding stock. Some might not care but I like the breeder to see the dog to the end.
I played with my dogs 11 year old grandmother at club last week and it was amazing. If only my boy is in that type of shape at her age.
 
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