10 Things To Look For When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy

When you want to buy a German Shepherd puppy, you want to make sure that you make the most informed decision that you can. If it’s your first time to do this, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed or worse – to find yourself dealing with a disreputable breeder who may sell you a sick animal and then completely disappear.

Don’t worry – today, we’ll help by telling you what to look for when buying a German Shepherd puppy. We’ll let you know what to check, what to do and what not to do, and we’ll also give some tips on finding a reputable breeder that you can trust.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know when purchasing your puppy!

What To Look For When You Are Buying A German Shepherd Puppy

It is of paramount importance that you select your puppy carefully. You’ll be spending the next 7 to 10 years with your German Shepherd, so it’s very important to know the type of Shepherd that you are looking for and exactly what to check. To that effect, we’ve created a checklist to help you make the best decision when choosing your pup.

Know the Gender That You Want

The gender that you choose is important. Male Shepherds are going to be larger, more possessive, and territorial. They are more dominant as well and tend to bond with one person more than the whole family.

Females are smaller and more likely to bond with the entire family. They are not as territorial either, which means they tend to stick close most of the time. Males tend to wander, as they feel that the areas around them are their own, and they have a need to ensure their dominance in their expanding territories.  

Be Sure to Pick a Healthy Pup

While a needy, sickly pup might capture your heart, you need to think carefully about taking them home. Health issues this early in life are a red flag, as it could mean that you will be watching your beloved dog suffering, and you will be paying medical costs frequently throughout the dog’s decade-long life.

 If you love this dog already and can do this, then that’s great; just be sure that you are ready for that kind of commitment.

Look for a Confident Puppy

A German Shepherd puppy should stand tall and should come to you, tail a waggin’. If a dog seems shy to the point of being frightened, then you should consider another pup. Shepherds can snap when they are frightened, and if the puppy shows signs of easily being frightened, then this could mean biting in the future when your dog is large enough to maim someone.

See How the Pup Interacts with Others

Socialization is extremely important with German Shepherds. The Shepherd puppy should play well with the other pups and with humans. Petting the puppy is an easy temperament test that you can do, and if the pup growls or tries to nip you, then this may not be a good choice.

A bad-tempered puppy is going to need socialization training to break this habit, and it will be much more practical to look for a more even-tempered pup.

See How the Puppy Reacts When Separated

Separate the puppy from the rest of the pack and spend a little time with it. The Shepherd pup should be friendly and energetic and, ideally, should behave the same as they did before. This will give you a better idea of what the puppy will be like at home.

Pay Attention to the Dog’s Personality

You want to make sure that the puppy is playful, energetic, and affectionate. If the puppy is destructive around the other pups or when alone, running everywhere and getting into trouble, then this is what you can expect when you get them home. This is going to mean extra training time and havoc around the house, so you need to consider this carefully.

Be Sure the Pup Is Old Enough to Be Weaned

The puppy needs to be at least 8 weeks old to be weaned because weaning is when your dog first learns important socialization skills. A pup taken before this time is more likely to bite, become codependent, and may have health issues as their mother’s milk helps them to build a strong immune system.

Further, a reputable breeder won’t let you take the pup before 8 weeks, and it’s even illegal – In all of the United States, only Virginia legally allows a pup to be separated from its mother before 8 weeks, and Virginia requires at least 7.

Test Its Dominance

You’ll want to assess the level of dominance of your pup so that you know that it will be compatible with life in your home. An easy way to test this is to gently take their paw and press lightly upon it.

A dominant dog will instantly pull away, while an even-tempered Shepherd might cock their head, look at you, and perhaps give you a curious sniff and a lick. A submissive dog will just let you hold their paw with very little reaction.

Meet the Parents

Meeting the puppy’s sire and dam can give you a good idea of your puppy’s future health and looks. It will also give you a preview of what your dog’s future behavior is likely to be.  

Don’t Forget About Rescues

Rescue dogs have a few advantages that you might not be aware of. For one thing, they are often well-socialized, as they have been around many dogs and people. Some rescues already know basic commands, and you can also save a bit of money while you are giving a loving dog a good home.  

German shepherd puppies

Things To Know Before Buying A German Shepherd Puppy

German Shepherds are wonderful dogs, but you need to make sure that you understand the commitment that you are making when you bring a puppy home. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture so that you can get a better idea of what you need to know about German Shepherds.

German Shepherd Pups Nip at Everything

You know that German Shepherds are aggressive dogs, but you might not know that this is apparent even at an early age. German Shepherd pups nip chew at everything! You will need to train them out of this behavior, but you will also need to be sure that your family knows what to expect from the puppy until it learns not to nip.

Shepherds Need a Lot of Exercise Time Daily

Adult German Shepherds need a minimum of 2 hours of exercise a day. When they are puppies, they will need at least 5 minutes of exercise per month of age per day. So, a 4-month-old Shepherd will need at least 20 minutes of exercise a day in the form of walking, playing in the backyard, or time in the dog park.

These Dogs Are Extremely Smart

German Shepherds are very, very smart, and you need to make sure that their minds are always occupied. This means plenty of toys and attention because you don’t want to have a bored German Shepherd who knows the schedule of everyone in the house and knows the right time window to wreak mischief!

You Need to Commit to Training Your Shepherd

German Shepherds are going to need a lot of training, and this serves some very useful purposes. For these intelligent dogs, it gives them much-needed mental stimulation so that they don’t get bored, and it also teaches them that you are strong and in charge.

 They will also need socialization training so that they will respond properly to family members rather than attempt to assert dominance when they don’t want to do something.

German Shepherds Shed… a Lot

German Shepherds shed fur year-round but especially twice a year when they will spend about 10 days shedding their undercoats. This means that you will want to make time for regular brushing. Otherwise, things are going to get rather furry in the house!  

Your Dog Is Going to Need a Lot of Space

Your puppy is adorable and small now, but it’s going to be a big Shepherd someday, and you need to think about that. If possible, your dog is going to need at least 4,000 square feet of yard space for play.

Also, if you are living in an apartment rather than a house, you’ll need to commit to a lot of outside trips to make sure that your Shepherd is getting the exercise that they need.

You Need to Consider Your Finances

On average, a pup costs around $2,000 from a reputable breeder, but there are other costs to consider, such as grooming, veterinary bills, and training if you opt to hire an expert.  Food costs with a larger dog also need to be anticipated; with the first-year food costs averaging around $800… you’ll want to be sure that you are prepared for the financial commitment.

What To Avoid When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy

There are a few red flags that you’ll want to notice and avoid when you are purchasing your German Shepherd puppy. Some of them are common sense, but there are a few that are easy to overlook if you aren’t prepared. Below you will find the most important things to look out for.  

Don’t Buy a Pup Directly from the Internet

While you can use websites like the American Kennel Club to locate a breeder, don’t ever buy a German Shepherd pup directly through the internet. Reputable breeders will have their own registered kennels and websites, and if you buy a pup through the Facebook marketplace, then you never really know who is on the other end.

It is not uncommon for disreputable breeders to sell online in this fashion, only to disappear and delete their accounts after the sale until they have another litter, at which point they make a new account and repeat the process.

Watch out for Easily Frightened Pups

If a pup is easily frightened, this is not a good thing. A frightened German Shepherd may well bite in defense, and this is a potential risk for your family. While time and training can help, it is much safer and more practical to look for a more confident puppy to minimize the chances of incidents in the home.

If the Pup Is Unhealthy, Choose Another

If a pup is showing signs that they are not happy and healthy, then it is quite possible that this is something that will extend until later in life. At the very least, consider a Vet check before taking that puppy home to make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up for years of heartbreak and heavy vet bills.  

Don’t Choose a Pup That Walks Funny

German Shepherds were bred to have an extra bit of angle in their back legs, with show standards being at about 90 degrees, and because of this, they are prone to conditions such as hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and osteoarthritis. If the puppy walks with a strange gait already, this is a definite red flag.

Watch out for ‘Puppy Mills’

Always go with a breeder and a reputable one at that. Your best bet is to go to the American Kennel Club website, as they can help you to find a good breeder. Finding your dog through classified ads is very risky, as some less-than-reputable breeders are definitely out there, and you could end up with a sickly or poorly treated pup.  

Avoid Troublemakers

If the puppy is acting up when you first meet them, to the point that it goes beyond ‘play’ and looks a little more like they are being malicious or destructive, then it’s important to notice this and to take it into consideration.

Imagine if the puppy behaves this way at your house because they probably will, and factor in the time you’ll be spending in training… is it really worth it?  

Don’t Choose Immediately… Visit a Few Times

Once you know the puppy that you want, we’d recommend that you don’t get them right away but that you visit a few more times. Talk with the breeder so that they don’t sell your pup or place a reserve if you must, but it’s important to see if their behavior is consistent from day to day.

What To Look For When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy From A Breeder

If you’ve never purchased a puppy from a breeder before, then you’ll want to have a good idea of what to expect before you go. Sadly, there are many disreputable breeders out there, and if you aren’t informed, then these people are more than willing to take advantage of you.

Let’s take a look at what you should know and expect when it comes to doing business with a reputable breeder.

Know the Type of Shepherd That You Want

You’ll want to let the breeder know what type of German Shepherd you are looking for. Let them know if you are looking for a pet or something more specialized, such as a show dog or a working dog. A good breeder can help to make sure that you get a Shepherd who has been bred in this capacity, but you need to let them know.

Health Info Sire and Pup – AKC Recommends

A reputable breeder is not going to be upset if you ask to see the pedigree or health papers of the sire, the dam, and the puppy. They should have paperwork proving that the elbows and hips have been x-rayed and certified to be within Orthopedic Foundation for Animals standards and that the animals have been tested for blood, eye, and other health conditions.

By checking the parents and the pup, you’ll have a much better assurance that you are purchasing a healthy animal that is likely to stay that way.

Check the Living Situation of the Puppies

Ask to see what the dogs are eating and where they are housed. The food quality can help you be assured that they have been developing healthily, and the quality of the housing also shows that they have been treated humanely and well.

 Don’t trust a breeder that just has a bunch of dogs in the backyard – they are likely just in it for the money, and you can’t know what kind of pup you will be bringing home.

Make Sure That Your Breeder Is Knowledgeable

A good German Shepherd breeder should be a veritable fountain of information, capable of answering just about any question that you have. If a breeder seems poorly informed, then you have a valid reason to wonder about the care that has been given to these dogs.

A good breeder not only cares well for their animals, but they will make an effort to know information specific to the breed so that they may provide the best of care.

A Reputable Breeder Won’t Mind a Vet Checkup Before Purchase

Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder for a recommendation for a good local vet and then also ask if you may bring the puppy in for a checkup with that vet, which you will pay for. If they have paperwork already, then you can likely skip this step.

If they don’t, then you can get a health check, including X-rays of the hips and elbows, and you can rest assured that you are bringing home a completely healthy German Shephard puppy.

Don’t Trust a Breeder That Doesn’t Give You a Contract

A good breeder will provide you with a transfer of ownership, and they will not be afraid to give you a contract that provides information about the parentage, pedigree, and warranty for the health of your puppy. This is another sign that you are working with a reputable breeder, and it is something that you should expect.

If they are hesitant to provide this information, then it is a big potential red flag, and you may want to consider another breeder who is willing to commit in writing.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for and to Check Their References

Your breeder should have a minimum of two references which you can check, along with their kennel registries and their breeding license if this is required in your state. Don’t be afraid to ask for this info so that you can check and try to do as much research on them as you can before you commit.

Sometimes even a quick Google can give you important information in a matter of minutes, so it’s well worth checking their bona files to make sure that there is nothing out there that you might want to know.

How To Know That You’re Buying A Healthy German Puppy

When you’ve found a puppy that you like, a quick ‘spot check’ is a good idea to see if any potential health issues are readily visible. While you will still want to do a vet check later, either before purchase or on the first day that you are taking them home, a quick check can tell you a lot if you know what to look for.

Below you’ll find a quick list of everything you should look for.


Holding up the pup, you’ll want to check around the belly to the navel. You want to make sure that there are no protrusions visible around the navel, as this might be an indication of an umbilical hernia. If you do see a protrusion there, then veterinary surgery may be required in order to correct this for your puppy.


Check to make sure that the puppy’s coat is shiny, clean, and healthy-looking. Run your fingers through the fur and also check the skin. You want to make sure that you do not see any evidence of a rash, pustules, flaking, or hair loss.


You’re also going to want to look into the ears of the puppy in order to see if there is any discharge and while you are at it, give them a sniff as well. There should not be any odors present, and if you do smell something, then this may be a sign of an ear infection or a similar condition.

Check the ear flaps as well to make sure they are covered with fur and that there are no patches to indicate recent, vigorous scratching.


Your puppy’s eyes should be clear, bright, and shining. You want to make sure that there is no drainage present or redness, and the fur around the eyes should have no sign of hair loss. The puppy also should not be squinting or rubbing at their eyes, and if they are, then this could be a sign that something is amiss.


If the pup is nippy, then you might want to get the breeder’s help in checking the mouth. You want to take a look at the puppy’s gums to make sure that they look moist and healthy and check to make sure that their teeth look undamaged and properly aligned in the puppy’s mouth.  


If the puppy has been exerting themselves in a bit of roughhousing, then you might see a little clear discharge from the nose. You want to check for any discolored discharge and make sure that your pup is breathing normally through its nose, rather than sounding congested.


The Shepherd puppy should be active, playful, and friendly. If the puppy is showing signs of lethargy, this could indicate that they are in poor health. If the puppy is aggressive and snappy, it could be a sign of ill temperament, or it could be another sign that their health is suspect.

Some Final Words on Selecting Your Shepherd

We hope that you will find this guide helpful in selecting your new German Shepherd puppy.  Once you’ve decided on the gender of your pup, be sure to make sure that they are healthy, affectionate, and full of energy.

Remember to see how they interact with the other pups and people, as this will help you to know that your puppy is well-socialized and ready to adjust to its new family. It’s also a good idea not to rush your purchase – visit 2 or 3 more times in order to be sure that your puppy is behaving the same way.

Use our health-checking tips to give the pup a cursory exam, but consider asking the breeder about a vet visit which you will pay for to ensure that your pup is in perfect health. If they already have paperwork to this effect, then at least make sure that they are willing to provide a contract showing the pedigree and health information of the parents and the pup.

With these tips and a little patience, you’ll soon be looking forward to many happy years with your new best friend!