When beginning the search for a new German Shepherd puppy, most people turn to one of the most readily available tools around: the Internet. But the Internet can be a double-sided coin. On one side, anyone can post whatever they want, without being held accountable for the truthfulness of the content. This certainly carries a dire warning: Buyer Beware! However, on the flip side, information that verifies various claims (such as titles, health certifications, etc) is readily searchable, allowing prospective buyers to verify the truth of a breeder’s website and claims.
Research Before You Buy
Researching a breeder is incredibly important. If you want a German Shepherd Dog that looks like, acts like, and works like a GSD, and that has good temperament and good health, then you want a breeder who actually tests and verifies all of these same aspects in their breeding stock. If not, then what are they *really* breeding? Good dogs do not just “happen”; they are carefully bred for by a breeder who actively selects the valuable traits that make this breed as wonderful as it is.
“Proper upbringing is necessary to develop a dog’s potential, but even the best environment cannot fully compensate for hereditary deficiencies.” – German Schutzhund Judge Dietmar Schellenberg, Top Working Dogs (emphasis added)
With the massive number of poor quality breeders out there, it is very important to know how to spot them and weed them out. This is becoming increasingly difficult for folks new to purchasing a purebred German Shepherd Dog from a reputable breeder; there are many “breeders” out there who build a good website, talk the talk, sound like they are doing everything right in their breeding program, but who are still just backyard breeders or large-scale commercial breeders looking to make some money while producing dogs of lesser quality. We see puppies from these breeders regularly, and have even helped pull some of their dogs from the local shelters after the owners dumped them there due to numerous behavioral and temperament problems. The original owners themselves received very little support from their “breeders”, “breeders” who had slick websites and knowledgeable-sounding talk, but who cut off contact with the puppy buyers once they started having problems with their puppies.
So What’s The Difference?
So how does one distinguish between a good hobby breeder and a backyard breeder or commercial breeder? We have linked an excellent chart that very clearly displays the difference between various types of breeders: puppy mills, backyard breeders, commercial breeders, the reputable hobby breeder, and the reputable experienced breeder. This resource is an excellent place to start:
This can provide the potential buyer with a better idea of what a good breeder does and what their breeding program and practices look like. However, in this technological era, it is important to know what to look for on a breeder’s website, and what to watch out for!
Evaluating Breeder Websites
Anyone can build a slick, professional-looking website, or hire a company to build one for them. While the website is a valuable tool for attracting and informing potential puppy buyers, the quality of the website has little bearing on the quality of the actual dogs and puppies. In fact, we have seen some very poor quality puppies from breeders who had phenomenal websites, and who used this as a marketing tool to draw in unsuspecting buyers.
Good breeders typically post the following information on their websites:
- Registered names of the dogs
- Working titles and/or show ratings
- Hip and elbow certifications and any other health certifications
- Links to pedigrees of their dogs, pedigrees of each breeding
- Photos and video of the dogs working (and not just being “lawn ornaments”)
In addition to the above, a quick perusal of a good breeder’s website should clearly show the following:
- Dogs are bred within the breed standard set for the GSD breed. The dogs should have the appropriate coloration, size, structure, and characteristic look of a GSD (even better if this is proven by a show rating and breed survey).
- The dogs are advertised on the individual accomplishments, merit, and breedworthiness of each dog, relying on what each dog itself has done, and not just the accomplishments of the ancestors in its pedigree.
- Litter postings of only a few litters per year, out of titled and health-certified parents
Putting A Sample “Stud Page” To the Test
Let us check out a test page: Hank’s page. While Hank was not imported as a breeding dog nor advertised as such, his short page displays some of the elements that should be found on the website of a good breeder. So let us pretend that this is the page a breeder has put together for one of their studs. We will critique the existing page, and decide: Does his webpage pass the test?
- Hank’s full registered name is listed (+), as are his various working titles and breed survey (+).
- Hip and elbow certifications are not listed (-), and his pedigree is not linked directly (-); however a search of his registered name on Working-Dog.eu brings up his pedigree (+): Hank von der Neundorfer Flur.
- Working titles, hip and elbow ratings, show ratings, and registration numbers for Hank and his ancestors are listed on the Working-Dog.eu site (+), but still should be verified with the owner/breeder, as information on both of the main online databases–Working-Dog.eu and Pedigree Database–is not always correct, and can be edited by anyone.
- Because Hank came from Germany, his hips and elbows were done through the SV rather than OFA; this information should be on his pedigree papers from Germany. Because he has obtained his breed survey, we know he must have passing hips and elbows (+), as well as a working title and a show rating (+). All are required for a breed survey. A copy of his breed survey should be available upon request, to verify that he has indeed obtained it; this information should also be included with his papers from Germany.
- Hank’s page contains both photos of him (+) and video of him working in obedience and protection (+). Video from a working trial would be even better.
- Hank has clearly been bred within the standard of the GSD, verified not only visibly through his photos and videos, but also through the fact that he has received a rating of KKL1 on his breed survey (+).
- Hank himself has been trained and titled, demonstrating individual accomplishment. He has been titled from BH through SchH1, SchH2, and SchH3, has also undergone his AD (12-mile endurance test) and his breed survey (which requires a working title, AD, passing hip and elbow x-rays, and a show rating as well). He has been tested and proven in health, working temperament, and structure (+).
If Hank’s page was a breeder’s “stud page” for one of their males, the very basic elements will have been met, which means his page would pass the test. This is a good indication that our “example breeder” is not a backyard breeder, and is using dogs of good quality in their breeding program. Regardless of the information found on a breeder’s website, it is up to the potential puppy buyer to verify the truthfulness of the information posted online by any prospective breeder. Good breeders are honest and truthful about their dogs, and the information they post will be backed up with proof and documentation. Bad breeders, on the other hand, will not have the appropriate evidence to support their claims!
Next blog we will discuss the major “Red Flags” that any potential puppy buyer should look for on a breeder’s website, in order to determine if they are backyard breeder, commercial breeder, or good reputable breeder.