Before you buy a Puppy

Research your chosen breed and the various types and lines and ask yourself which type best fits your family and if you have the time and space to dedicate to training and exercising your dog. German Shepherds, for example, are an intelligent breed that love to work for their handlers and need lots of exercise.

Visit obedience, agility or Schutzhund trials to meet dogs and their handlers, these people can often recommend good breeders. People who spend time training and exhibiting their own dogs are usually the most passionate and caring about their dogs and their breeds.

If you have decided that you would like to do IPO, we cannot emphasize enough that it is important to spend time at a club and know what you are getting into before buying a puppy. You will also need to choose a puppy from a breeder who has trained AND titled a dog. This is extremely important, these breeders have the best idea of what traits are required and which puppy would be the best fit for an IPO career. In addition, they will be a valuable resource for training advice for the future.

Find out which health tests are recommended for your chosen breed, a list of these can be found at the Canine Health Information Center -

When choosing a breeder, ask lots of questions, if the parents have been health screened and titled. Ask if the breeder themselves titled the dogs. Ask the breeder what they do with their dogs and what their breeding goals are. Choosing the right breeder requires time and research, but is crucial to ensure your future dog is healthy, stable and a good fit for your family. Be prepared for the breeder to ask you lots of questions about your plans for the dog, as well as experience with previous dogs and living conditions. A breeder who does not ask these questions does not care about where their puppies end up.

In our opinion, the best breeders are those which have a maximum of 2 or 3 females at home though they may lease or have other females who are trained by others. Their females do not live full time in a kennel, and are not bred on every heat cycle. We choose breeders who spend time training and then proving their training by gaining titles in a performance arena. These breeders know their dogs' strengths and weaknesses and usually know enough about dogs to be able to recommend the right puppy to each buyer. The best breeders may recommend another breeder or even a different breed, or an adult dog which will fit your requirements better. They may suggest a rescue dog, there are some very nice dogs in shelters who are there through no fault of their own, be sure to take someone experienced with you who can help you choose so that you don't fall for the first set of cute brown eyes!

Breeders who import or buy titled dogs are probably trying to do the right thing, but cannot possibly know the dog unless they continue it's training further. Many adult "import" dogs are not superior to dogs already in the USA, in fact, they are usually sold out of Europe for a reason, and it is often because they are not good enough to stay. We are also wary of breeders who always use their own or one local male for stud on all their females, how can this one male possibly be a good match for all their females?

About Guarantees

A guarantee from a breeder does not mean your puppy will not be dysplastic or have other problems. It usually means that the breeder has some sort of replacement policy. Think about that for a moment, you raise a puppy until 2 years and now it has bad hips, are you willing to give that dog back to a breeder and get another puppy? The dog you just gave back could go to a pet home or could be put to sleep. The replacement puppy will probably be from similar lines and has a chance to have that same problem again, then what? Or do you keep the original dog and spay or neuter it, then pay less for another puppy, now you have 2 dogs, do you have the space, time and money for both of them?

Most breeders offer some form of hip and/or health guarantee even if they don't x-ray or health screen their breeding stock. Breeding is a cheap proposition for breeders who use their own females and males and don't x-ray or title their dogs, and replacing a puppy when they have 4 litters per year is not a big loss. A hip guarantee appears to be an industry standard rather than a guarantee of quality.

Guarantees have to include a lot of detail to protect both the breeder and purchaser, and are subject to abuse on both sides, most buyers cannot reasonably complete all the requirements to ensure the guarantee stays valid and many breeders don't honor their guarantees.

Having said all this, please remember that a dog is not a machine and even the very best breeders can only do so much to ensure their pups are healthy.

How much should I expect to pay for a good Schutzhund / IPO prospect?

Currently the going rate for a good prospect for sport is $1500 - $2000. This is likely to be a "working line" german shepherd. Working lines are typically higher energy and more driven and they will need obedience training and preferably a "job" to do to keep them engaged. A "show line" german shepherd is likely to be $2000 - $3000, maybe more for an excellent showing prospect. Show lines are typically black and red with medium energy and drive, they still need training and a "job" to do, but may be a little easier to live with. Obviously these are gross generalizations and individual dogs will vary as far as drive levels, an off-switch and ability to compete.

We recommend that you find a club BEFORE you look for a puppy, you can see which club members dog's appeal to you the most and they can recommend good breeders where you can buy a puppy to fit your needs and budget.

Breeders are often blamed for the high number of dogs in shelters and being put to sleep every day and it is true that too many dogs are being bred, but it is the buyers responsibility to make sure they are ready for a dog, to commit to doing the best for that dog for it's lifetime, to educate themselves about a breed and research breeders and to buy from breeders who truly care about their breed and try to produce the best puppies possible.

Further Reading - How Life Will Change With a German Shepherd - click here

Further Reading - What Characterizes a Good Breeder - click here

Further Reading - Wildhaus Kennels - More about choosing a breeder, different types of GSDs, temperament and raising puppies - click here

Further Reading - Von Tighe Haus - Even more about choosing a breeder and different types of GSDs - click here

Further Reading - Ian Dunbar's free E-Book - Before You Get Your Puppy - click here