Frequently Asked Questions!

The following comments are the opinions of the writer only; with credit given in full to author's where applicable. I do not claim to be a geneticist, veterinarian or behaviour specialist. I can only give advice that is based on my own observations/ experiences and knowledge of the breed and the dogs I have bred/owned and trained over the past 20 years.

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Where can I find a reputable/responsible breeder?

Usually word of mouth is the best endorsement a breeder can have, and is still a very powerful tool, so talk to many people and ask lots of questions: Unfortunately, the breeds popularity has opened the door to unknowing backyard breeders and puppy mills that have produced many dogs of poor quality, genetic abnormalities and many unsound/poor temperaments.

Below is a list of Some things you can look for/ask of breeders before you purchase a puppy.

  • Is the breeder registered with their Canine control council? Are they registered with a breed club?
  • Responsible breeders can usually be found through referrals from Veterinarians, dog sport clubs, established kennels, training clubs. or alternatively you can contact your Canine Association for advice on where to locate your nearest breed club.- in Victoria it would be . Dog shows etc are also  good places to talk to breeders if you are a prospective puppy buyer.
  • Once you have located a breed club, go for a visit and talk to members, instructors etc. Try to avoid the person that can find no fault with his/her dogs.
  • Responsible breeders usually have a broad knowledge of the breed and the ancestors of the dogs within the pedigree. It is good if you can view both mum and dad if at all possible, but just having the breeding pair on the premises does not constitute a reputable/responsible breeder!
  • A responsible breeder knows about hereditary problems within their breed and should have a basic knowledge of genetics. The responsible breeder will try to minimize the chances of any health or temperament problems in their litters.
  • Visit shows or training grounds to decide if you are interested in competition training so you know what you might want to do with your dog. A breeder can help you choose a puppy that shows the most promise for your purposes.
  • If you plan to go into competition with your dog, find a kennel with titles in the field you are interested in e.g. agility, herding, tracking showing etc, although some dogs can be very versatile and be suited to many tasks. Even if you don't intend to compete, your German Shepherd Dog puppy will still need basic obedience training.
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Some questions you can ask & things you can look for.

  • How many times has the mother been bred? Once a year is adequate.
  • How many litters do they produce each year?  One, maybe two a year - or non stop?
  • If at all possible, ask to see their dogs, the dog's parents etc. Are their dogs firm and friendly in temperament or out of control, nasty or shy?
  • Again, if possible, ask to visit their kennel, meet their dogs and play with their puppies.
  • Look around their premises. Are the kennels & yards clean, spacious, hygienic and well maintained or small, dirty and in need of repair?
  • Look at the dogs - are they groomed, clean and well kept? Are they athletic, fat or thin?
  • What titles do the dogs have? Backyard breeders/Puppy mills rarely put the time nor effort into gaining titles etc for their dogs.
  • Backyard breeders/Puppy mills have limited understanding of what their breeding goals are-  usually not for breed improvement!
  • Beware of people that claim to love their dogs; claim that their dogs are part of their family, a joy to live with & own etc.... but don't hesitate to sell when the price is right!
  • Have the parents been hip & elbow x-rayed, and do they possess an official 'A' & 'Z' stamp?
  • Is one or both parents breed surveyed?
  • Are they breeding within the limits of the 'Standard' (a blueprint for GSD's) to reduce the incidence of breed faults such as longevity, temperament, skeletal problems etc?
  • How many years have they been breeding & How many generations of their own breeding stock do they own?
  • Always ask to see proof of documents and take someone knowledgeable with you BEFORE you purchase your puppy.
  • Prices- generally, Backyard breeders/puppy mills tend to sell their stock off at a slightly reduced price compared to the rest of the market, this is for a quick turnover. They cannot afford to get stuck with older stock, as they become more difficult to sell.
  • If buying through a paper, be sure to screen why they are selling this way rather than through a breed club. This is not necessarily a bad thing as I sometimes do this myself, but be sure to do your homework and ask some of the above questions.

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Who can I contact for more breed advice?

The best place for more information on the breed is through a breed club. In Australia it is the German Shepherd Dog Club of Australia which also has branches across Australia e.g. GSD Club of Victoria, GSD Club of South Australia, GSD Club of Western Australia etc.

Your veterinarian can help you with some breed advice, particularly on certain health problems you may encounter with the breed.

Alternatively, you can contact the Victorian Canine Association for contacts or training clubs.

Links to these sites are available on the home page.

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Males versus Females

This is primarily a matter of preference, since a dog of either sex can make a good companion. Remember that a female dog, when mature, usually comes into heat twice a year, attracting male dogs. Unless spayed, litters of unwanted puppies may be born, adding to an already surplus population of unwanted dogs. A male dog can cause damage to shrubs and low growing bushes by frequently urinating on them.

If you have no intention of using the dog for breeding, you should discuss with your veterinarian the best time to neuter or spay your dog. This will prevent more unwanted puppies and generally the dog becomes a more contented companion.

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What age should I start training my GSD puppy?

As soon as your puppy arrives home you are training him/her.

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When is a new puppy ready to leave the breeder?

At around 8-10 weeks is a good time, as they are fit to travel and ready for their new lives.

Sometimes due to demand puppies are disposed of at 5 or 6 weeks of age, 'An intelligent breeder will not do this, for he only damages his own reputation by disposing of such 'unfinished' animals, who through change of keeping, surroundings and nourishment, are considerably debilitated, and are overwhelmed by the new influences which a stronger dog can bear without hurt to himself.' (Von Stephanitz).

This view is substantiated by Scott & Fuller (Genetics & the social behaviour of the dog). whose studies confirmed the critical stages of development to be between 3-7 weeks of age (give or take a week), and again by M. Willis (The German Shepherd Dog-A genetic history of the breed) -Socialization Period- This occurs from 3-12 weeks of age. The dog will develop emotional attachments to other dogs and to humans during this stage even if contact with the latter is relatively limited. Peak capacity is around 6-8 weeks when weaning is being  undertaken and it must be accomplished by 12 weeks. Failure to socialize by 12 weeks will usually lead to difficulties later with such dogs. They will frequently have character defects, including timidity.

In their book (1965) (Genetics & the social behaviour of the dog) Scott & Fuller considered there were 4 stages in behavioural periods, being the Neonatal, Transitional, Socialization and Juvenile. These important stages of development are considered able to be applicable to most canine breeds.

Puppies usually wean between 4-6 weeks of age, but the weeks following this are critical for the puppy to learn some basic 'pack' behaviours. After 12 weeks of age, make sure the breeder has taken extra care to socialize the puppy/ puppies with a multitude of environmental situations, various people and animals. If this has been neglected, the puppy will never reach it's full potential in life.

In my kennel, puppies are left with their mother until SHE decides the time is right. I try not to interfere with the upbringing of her children too much, and introduce the puppies to a sound male dog influence a week or two before they leave our kennel allowing the male to run with the puppies under supervision. Instinctively, the male takes over from the female and a whole new 'invaluable' lesson in life is taught to the pups. This is an integral part of raising the well adjusted, sound companions we are known to consistently produce.

I must stress that our males are Extremely sound and we do not recommend you let baby puppies run with adults without supervision as injuries can and do result from allowing this. Injuries such as broken bones, muscle damage etc are not uncommon when adults and pups are let run together unsupervised.

Note: Always supervise dogs with children and children with dogs.

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But I only want a pet, does it really matter where it comes from?

Purchasing a dog from a responsible breeder will cost little more than buying a poor quality dog from a pet store or an unknowledgeable person. Good breeders care about the puppies they bring into the world and where they are placed. A good breeder will ask as many questions of you as you will of them! Don't be surprised if your asked about your home, your plans for the puppy, and in some instances; referrals, so they can decide if they want to place a puppy with you/your family.

Does it matter where your puppy comes from?

When you purchase your puppy, it should be after very careful consideration. Your decision should be based on the information you collect about the breed and your financial status. Buying a German Shepherd Dog should be considered as a carefully planned addition to your family and not an impulsive acquisition that you will come to regret. If you want a sound, disease free puppy with parents that have been screened for debilitating hereditary faults etc, and the breeder has spent countless hours raising well adjusted animals that will make suitable companions for the public, then the answer is definitely YES it does matter where your puppy comes from!

A reputable breeder wants your companion to be a successful addition to your family and your lifestyle, and will usually supply you with some sort of guarantee (most guarantees are up to 12 months of age) in the event that any unforeseen problems arise. A reputable breeder will also be available for after sales service.

When you purchase a product from a store you usually intend to buy the best you can afford for your money and most people wouldn't consider paying good money for potentially faulty goods - so why risk such an important addition to your family?

Remember the old adage, "You get what you pay for?"

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Should I join an obedience club if I don't want to compete?

Joining an obedience club is an excellent idea. It is an ideal place for you both to learn alot and you will get more satisfaction from dog ownership. You will learn how to teach and your dog will benefit as your pupil. The word 'Obedience' does not mean you will brow-beat your dog into subservience, on the contrary, it will help establish a healthy rapport between you and your dog which will help build a trusting relationship between you both.

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I'm worried if I de-sex my dog it will gain weight.

Well don't be worried. Whether or not your pet gains weight is entirely up to you The answer is simply DO NOT overfeed your dog. Females do have a reduction of hormones called oestrogens -so it is important not to overfeed her and there may be a reduction in the males activity, so once again, try not to overfeed.

If your dog is not intending for breeding then neutering your companion is the most responsible thing you can do, preferably around 6 months of age is recommended. Females that are not de-sexed require a fully enclosed pen including roof and are in 'season' for around 3 weeks usually twice a year.

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Copyright 2003  [Camnusch]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/16/04.