General Question

mowens's avatar

Dog People: I have more questions about German Shepherd Breeders.

Asked by mowens (8302 points ) June 30th, 2011

Alright, so I know what to look for once I get there. I want to make sure the puppies have a clean place to live, I want to make sure that there aren’t 1000 puppies running around… basic stuff I understand how to pick one based on temperament.

What I don’t know, is all of the terminology German Shepherd breeders throw at you. I work in technology, and I know more than anyone how much some nerds try to take advantage of people by talking over their heads. This is true about mechanics, computer nerds, and anyone doing repairs on your house. Honest people can be really hard to come by. I have a pretty good bullshit detector, but this is a subject I have been reading on for the past 6 months, and I am still lost. A lot of abbreviations in the pedigrees I am pretty sure they just make up!

Anyway, I have narrowed it down to 3 breeders in the state of Ohio. I have not expanded my search outside of my state yet.

Can you look at these websites, and tell me if you see any red flags? I’d rather not drive to them if there are some pretty big warning signs right on the webpage!

http://www.gillsgermanshepherds.com/

Gills German Shepherds I believe is #1 on my list. Basically because it seems like they don’t try to overwhelm you with data, and the guy is a police officer. I figure it may be the best one in the state!

http://www.westwoodkennels.com/

This is second on my list, mainly because she also seems to have a love of the breed. Also, it happens to be only like a 20 minute drive from my office. I know closeness is not a good reason to choose a kennel. However, it is not a good reason to rule one out either.

http://www.fishershepherds.com/

The third I am a little weary of, but not enough to rule it out just yet. If you look at the pedigree of the dogs… there is a lot of letters there. I know what sch means… and the rest just throws me for a loop.

What do you think of these 3 breeders?

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28 Answers

syz's avatar

Talk to your veterinarian about the various hip certification levels (OFA, PennHIP), eye certifications, and heart certifications that are available and what the various levels mean (this is way too much technical information to cover in this forum). This breed has some very significant underlying genetic predispositions, and it’s of utmost importance that you do as much as possible to minimize the chances of having issues later in life.

Is this to be a pet or a working dog? I’m concerned about a breeder who’s catch phrase is “Run fast, bite hard”, regardless of the dog’s job. Many of the police dogs that I have personally worked with are basically psychotic, and unsafe even for their handlers. While a good GSD is an absolutely wonderful animal, they are far outnumbered by dogs with behavioral problems. (If you have any doubt, talk to the technicians at your local veterinary clinic – they will likely tell you that they approach all GSDs with caution and assume the worst until proven otherwise.)

JilltheTooth's avatar

CERF is the eye certification group. Talk to the GSD breedclub for Ohio, and a more local one if there is one and see what they say about the breeders. Talk to the GSD Rescue group in your area and see what they say. Like @syz says, talk to vets. Go to a dog show and evaluate how various dogs react to strangers, other dogs, being in the ring etc. Remember, the price of the dog and the flashiest advertising are very often not the best indicators of the quality and type of personality.

Blueroses's avatar

Most of the letters after the dogs names in the pedigree refer to various placements and championships in shows and competitions (best in breed, best in group, champion; level 2, etc). They won’t mean much to people not in the sport.

OFA and CERF are the two certifications that interest you. That would be the hip and eye certifications. The breeder should be able to provide the original certificates for each parent listing the registered name and AKC number.

I would tend to look at the Westwood Kennel because she breeds for genetics and confirmation. Confirmation generally includes appearance, obedience and temperment. I like that this breeder participates in the Schutzhund trials because this would indicate that she selects for obedience primarily. Dogs in these competitions have to be easily socialized to other dogs and humans, so she isn’t selecting for drive and aggression alone.

The most important thing is to meet the breeder and both parents on-site. Do not buy a pup if the stud or bitch is not available for you to interact with.

mowens's avatar

@syz It will be a pet, but I had hoped to train it to do search and rescue sort of as a hobby.

@Blueroses What if only one parent is available?

crisw's avatar

@mowens

First of all, as a side note, if you are at all interested in search and rescue, read this book to get an idea of what’s involved – it’s a lot more than “sort of a hobby” and you must pick a pup with SAR potential if that is what you want to do.

As to the breeders- I love scrutinizing breeder websites.

First of all, some important questions to ask besides the certification questions mentioned above:
– What happens if you cannot keep the puppy? Will the breeder take it back, without question, at any age? Responsible breeders will.
– Is there a health guarantee? For how long? Beware of guarantees that expire when the pup is 2— you cannot get OFA certs until after a dog is 2 years old.
– Does the breeder temperament-test the pups? As you want “just a pet” you need a much milder, less reactive, less energetic puppy than a typical working dog.
– What are the health histories of the line? What are the problems in the line? All lines have some problems and an honest breeder will be forthright about them.

Since these will be long, I’ll do one breeder per post.

crisw's avatar

Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds

“Since 1992 we have now bred 124 litters and raised over 712+ puppies”

That’s a LOT of litters. That sounds more like a business than a hobby where someone has time to take care of all the dogs.

From their puppy contract:

“We do NOT guarantee AKC registration of any dog.”
Why? I would want to know if they are on AKC suspension…a very bad sign.

“a German Shepherd puppy purchased for $1,350.00 will be free from Crippling hip dysplasia at the time of delivery.”
I would hope so! Even the worst cases of HD shouldn’t be symptomatic in a puppy!

”. If the puppy would fail to certify with OFA in one of the previously stated levels, the seller agrees to replace the puppy with one of the buyers and sellers agreed upon choice, and when it is available.”
BIG RED FLAG!
They won’t refund your money. The will only take away the dog that you’ve probably come to love after two years and give you another. That’s probably why they won’t accept Penn-HIP or OFA prelims- because they can be done much younger!

“The buyer agrees to feed a premium puppy for for at least the first 6–8 months of life (I.e. Hills, Eukanuba, Purina) and then a good adult dog food from one of the previously listed brands. Any failure to do so voids all guarantees on the puppy. ”
Many vets recommend feeding adult food from the start- so if you do this, you violate your contract! Not good.

“The buyer also acknowledges that they have 45 days after the puppies 2nd birthday to obtain the OFA X-RAYS and apply for certification. If the buyer fails to do so within the 45-day period, the seller is relieved of any and all obligations under this guarantee”

In many parts of the country, finding a vet to do OFA x-rays is difficult and takes a while. Giving you only 45 days to do so has no purpose other than decreasing their liability.

” A puppy purchased for $1100.00 has no guarantee beyond the general health guarantee at time of delivery. NO GUARANTEE OF HIPS AND ELBOWS is included for this price.”
Wow- not good at all. You pay extra for a healthy puppy?

“The buyer agrees to relieve the seller of any and all liability with the puppy. It is

Also agreed that the seller is relieved of any and all future liability of all kinds associated with the puppy/dog.”
Bad, bad, bad. They won’t take this puppy back if you have a problem.

A big NO to this breeder.

crisw's avatar

Westwood Kennels

They are an LLC. That means they are a business. Again- you want a hobby breeder who devotes plenty of time to the puppies, not just cranking them out as units of merchandise.

They really don’t provide enough info on their website to make a sound judgement. You need a copy of their puppy contract and you need to go over it with a fine-toothed comb as I did above.

They have a lot of dogs, which is always not a good sign if you are looking for a well-socialized pet.

I cannot rule them out based on lack of data. You need a lot more info.

Blueroses's avatar

Thanks @JilltheTooth for correcting me. I meant con_form_ation and not con_firm_ation. stupid autocorrect. Unless you want a Catholic dog… that’s Jill’s quip, not mine.

@mowens I would insist on meeting both. There can be perfectly valid reasons why one or the other is not on site, but sometimes breeders will invent a reason because they’re hiding a personality or appearance flaw. You really need to see both.

I had a client who bought a pedigreed Labrador without meeting the stud because the owner said he was in the field. The client assumed that meant doing field trials, but it turned out the stud was an escape artist that would not follow basic obedience commands and the breeder literally couldn’t find the dog. That doesn’t mean the pup can’t be great, but you have some potential temperment issues.

I was also going to recommend against the first kennel. @crisw did a great job explaining why.

crisw's avatar

Von Der Haus Fisher German Shepherds

“Pups are heavily socialized, and temperament tested at 7 weeks old, before entering into homes”
That’s good.

Their dogs- they have fewer than the other kennels, but they still have quite a few. And it looks like none of their dogs are titled. That’s not a good sign. In addition, if you look at the pedigrees they provide, most of the parents of their breeding dogs aren’t titled either. Nor am I impressed with the conformation of their dogs. Plus, they are breeding OFA Fair dogs. Breeders will argue about this, some thinking a Fair should not be bred, others thinking Fair can be bred to Excellent. What are they breeding those Fair dogs to?

Let’s go over their guarantee.

They seem to have a MUCH better hip guarantee than the first kennel. They accept prelims, and they don’t demand the puppy back if the dog fails.

However, we have this- “The breeder will only guarantee genetic hip dysplasia. Genetic hip dysplasia will show up in the pup before one year of age.” They then go on to state that if there is any evidence of obesity, jumping, etc. they do not guarantee the pup. This is poppycock. ALL HD is a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

crisw's avatar

Overall Impressions

I would not buy a puppy from any of these breeders. You need to find someone who has only one or two titled, heavily socialized, nice dogs and is breeding to better the breed and for a puppy for him or herself- not as a business.Slow down, don’t be in a hurry to get a puppy. Join a local GSD club, help out with events, get known as a good person- and then you’ll be able to meet a good breeder.

A side note on meeting stud dogs
I disagree that you must always meet both parents. In fact, having both parents on site is a really bad sign. It usually means that the person is breeding to the most convenient stud dog, not the best one. A responsible breeder wants the best sire for the pups, not the closest. In many cases, that sire is across the country. Sometimes, that sire is even dead (artificial insemination is a very common practice these days.) So, you need plenty of info about the stud, but you don’t need to meet him.

If you have any questions about these long missives, please ask!

crisw's avatar

I just noticed this in the original post:

“it seems like they don’t try to overwhelm you with data”

Please, please, please change this attitude.

You want data. Lots of data. This is a very important decision that you are making, and you don’t want to be stuck with a sharp-shy, dysplastic, nervous wreck of a puppy. Bad breeders make their living selling to impulse buyers and those who don’t do their research. Please don’t be one of them.

I hope that you haven’t just avoided my posts above because they are “too much data.”

syz's avatar

@crisw I liked the attitude expressed by Fisher re: temperament, too, but I agree, their dogs are kind of homely (for a pure bred).

crisw's avatar

@syz

Yeah. They sound like they really like dogs and care about them- but that doesn’t, in and of itself, make a good breeder.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Where do you local police get their dogs from? Here in my village, they had a vet choose the breeder. It may be worth phoning your vet’s office and your police station.

crisw's avatar

@SpatzieLover

One of the things to keep in mind is that @mowens is looking for a pet, not a high-powered working dog. As dog people often put it, you don’t give a first-time teenage driver a Lamborghini, they get something like a Corolla. Both are good cars, both do the job they are meant to do, but the kid doesn’t need a high-powered sportscar.

High-powered working dogs in non-working homes are a terrible mix. They will entertain themselves- and you won’t like what they do! In addition, dogs with high prey and fight drives, like working shepherds, can be downright dangerous in the wrong hands. @mowens needs a dog with low prey drive and low fight drive- not the same animal a police officer would want.

mowens's avatar

@crisw It sounds like I should go more for the American Lines then. I dont care if the dog saves my life… I just want a companion. I am pretty sure I will be dead either way.

mowens's avatar

@crisw Also, when I said search and rescue as a hobby, I just meant use it as something to keep my dogs brain entertained. :)

crisw's avatar

@mowens

I am going to ask a question here, and I’d really appreciate an honest answer. How much of what I wrote above did you read? As I said, I enjoy doing this, but I don’t want to write reams that will not be read, and your comments about “too much data” worried me.

mowens's avatar

@crisw I read all of it. When I said too much data… I meant it felt like people use confusing terms simply to confuse. You are clear and concise… and use english. I just meant it felt like talking to an auto mechanic when you know nothing about cars.

Blueroses's avatar

@mowens Along @crisw‘s line of thought: How committed are you to having a GSD and why? Do you know somebody with a great GSD? Are you attracted to the looks and loyalty of the breed? As a companion pet, there might be some other herding breed options that match your personality even better, if you’re open to options. Our local police have moved away from GSD to Belgian Malinois because of the breeding problems with GSD. The Malinois dogs I’ve seen in our Sheriff’s dept. are much less high-strung than the GSDs.

You may think you want this breed and well-done for doing your homework before committing to a life relationship with a companion dog, but there might be an even better option for you.

If you are really thinking a protective, loyal friend; the best advice I could give you is to talk to local dog trainers. You’ll want your pup in a socialization class anyway, so ask about breeds and breeders that match your temper and your time commitment to training.

mowens's avatar

@crisw I feel bad now. :) That is not what I meant at all. I want information, and I want lots of it. When I said like that, I just meant it felt like they were flooding me with false information to lead me to go one way or another.

@Blueroses There is a history. :) See the below link.
http://www.fluther.com/123101/greater-swiss-mountain-dog-vs-german-shepherd/

crisw's avatar

@mowens

Great! Just wanted to be sure I was being useful and not just prattling on :>)

mowens's avatar

hahaa I felt bad!

rooeytoo's avatar

I use my usual line, go to a dog show, when you see a dog you like, talk to the breeder. If you still want a GSD pup, make sure BOTH parents have all health checks done. Google the breed to see what is genetically probably. Hips are the biggest problem, most of the ones I see have rear ends that look like egg beaters, top lines like a ski slope, so down in pastern I don’t know how they move.

And for a pet, remember they are some of the worst shedders there is. You will be knee deep in hair most of the year. They never stop shedding!

All that said, a good one is a really nice dog to have, they are smart and loyal. But so are a lot of other breeds with less health problems.

mowens's avatar

@rooeytoo I’m going to ask a dumb question. Where do I find local dog shows? The local clubs?

Blueroses's avatar

@mowens There are a lot of pure breed dog shows in Ohio Click on any event in the list for location and information.

rooeytoo's avatar

Also I think this dog show schedule site is for the entire country. There are lots in Ohio I used to travel there from Pa. to show frequently.

Dog shows are good fun, watch the obedience while you are there too, see the dogs that work for a living.

Breeders are not in the game for a fast buck, they want to place a dog in their forever homes, so they make sure prospective parents are fully educated on their breed.

Then if you decide upon a specific breed, look for rescue organizations for that breed. That way you save a life and get what you want!

mowens's avatar

Thanks everyone!

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