Save Our Shepherds

Thinking About Breeding Your German Shepherd?
Things You Should Know 

Before You Breed:
Things to Consider

Over-population of dogs is a national problem. Every day across the country thousands of animals, both purebreds and mixed breeds are destroyed.  You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.

See How To Identify A Good Breeder

Too many good dogs and not enough adoptions

There Are Not Enough Good Homes For All Of The Dogs
In the past few years many dedicated GSD fanciers have started rescue operations, taking German Shepherd Dogs from pounds, shelters, other agencies and private individuals into foster homes for later adoption into good homes. There is a steady and growing number of GSDs rescued each month by rescues like Save Our Shepherds. Many are rescued in poor condition.

Anyone who has taken into their home a starving, lovable and grateful German Shepherd will never forget.  Anyone who has walked through a line of GSDs in cages at the pound when you know you only have the funds and the space to save one, will never forget.  

Even allowing for German Shepherd Dogs that are bred commercially (puppy mills) and purchased from pet stores, there are still too many GSDs that end up at risk in high kill shelters across the county. Even good dogs purchased from breeders (both well-intentioned backyard breeders and knowledgeable breeders who are breeding titled health certified dogs) are keeping the rescues scrambling to save as many as we can.  Sadly we can not possibly save them all.

We feel that making the public aware of the conditions within the "puppy mills" and discouraging the purchase of dogs from pet shops or from backyard breeders, no matter how well-intentioned, is part of our responsibility and your responsibility too, as an animal lover. Furthermore, we recommend that anyone planning to breed their GSD first visit an animal control agency in their area. A walk through the local pound or Humane Society might make them think twice about the wisdom of breeding.  Each dog had been bred with good intentions and ended up there, for whatever reason, facing euthanization.

***Ethically, you are responsible for all of the dogs you produce for their entire lifetime.***

Save Our Shepherds is not against breeding dogs.  We just feel that breeding should be left to those that are doing it right...not by commercial puppy mills, and not by well-intentioned people who just love their dog.  Breeding should only be undertaken with health certified, titled dogs of stable temperament and stellar pedigrees and with the final goal being improvement of the breed. 

Think Of The Cost - If you are doing it correctly as a reputable breeder it is NOT a money making venture.   In order to raise a litter (average litter size eight puppies thought 11 is not uncommon) to the age of three months, giving the dam and puppies the best of care, the minimum cost is approximately:

Estimated Costs Of Breeding A Litter

Examination of female before breeding, including x-rays for hip dysplasia, certification by OFA, worm check, brucellosis test, booster immunizations, VWD test, thyroid test, health certificate, etc.


Stud average fee


Shipping (average 500-mile radius)


Extra food and vitamins for female when 6 weeks in whelp


Postpartum check for female


Office visit - Examination of litter


Puppy immunizations at $67 per puppy (4 series each)


Food and vitamins for puppies before and after weaning


Worming at least twice at $33 per puppy


Possible Caesarean section


The average cost would be about $500 per puppy, not including the Caesarian section, if that should be necessary and not including many of the problems which can occur in the dam and puppies. Some costs can be deducted for puppies sold before three months of age, but some must be added for those kept longer. Additional costs are not represented here, such as long distance telephone calls and advertising.  And the utter devastation you would feel if you lost the whole litter to parvo or even had to watch a pup or two die with fading syndrome or any of the other problems that can arise.  How would you feel if you lost your beloved bitch because you wanted to breed her?

Before You Plan To Breed - Animals used for breeding should be free of hereditary defects, brucellosis, heartworms and other parasites. An x-ray should be performed to determine if there is hip dysplasia in either sire or dam, and certification furnished by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Heartworm, brucellosis, VWD and thyroid levels are easily checked with a blood sample, and other internal parasites can be seen in a stool sample. The animal should appear to be in good health, with healthy eyes, ears, coat. 

Animals used for breeding should have a stable temperament, neither overly shy nor overly aggressive. A German Shepherd Dog may be "sharp" (which means alert and protective) without being dangerous. Any GSD used for breeding should be a good representative of the breed as well and should have the proper number of teeth. You should be aware of the genetic defects which can occur in the sire and ask for information about the dog you are using. Ask about cardiomyopathy, Degenerative myelopathy, Von Willebrands disease [VWD], and hip or elbow dysplasia in the dog's background as well as any defects that may be present in the dog itself. Ask about the colors in the dog's background, and be sure that no white dogs are in the pedigree. As lovable as they are, white is a disqualification. (See The German Shepherd  Illustrated and the Breed Standard.)

The Stud Dog - Stud dog owners should refuse to breed to any female which is markedly inferior, physically or mentally, or one which shows evidence of the defects listed above or has evidence of any of the defects in her pedigree. She must be in very good physical condition as well.

The owner of the stud dog should determine before breeding whether the knowledge and facilities of the owner of the female are adequate to raise a litter. Will there be room to keep the litter until the puppies can be sold to good homes? What are the intentions of the breeder? Will he/she keep one or two puppies or is the breeder planning to sell to pet shops, dealers, or the first person who comes along wanting a GSD puppy? Will the breeder be able to socialize the puppies at the crucial times in their lives? Can he/she afford to raise the litter?

The Female - As the owner of a female, analyze your reasons for wanting to breed... when there is a population explosion. If you want a puppy from your beloved pet, it would be cheaper to buy one that is like her; she will not necessarily reproduce herself. If you want a puppy that is better than the female, it is generally better to buy one so you pretty much know what you are getting. Are you objective enough to decide whether your female is of such high quality that she could contribute to the improvement of the breed if properly bred? Is she healthy and of good temperament? Consider the cost in time, money and energy you will have to expend on a litter. Will you be around to care for this litter properly or do you work full time?

If you are determined to breed your female, wait until her third or fourth season (she should be at least two years of age or older), then get her certified at the very least for OFA Good hips, normal elbows, normal Thyroid, normal cardiac, and CERF.  Only then should you find a stud dog which is of high quality, with the best of physical and mental attributes. Be sure he is free of hereditary defects; check his teeth and his general health. Study his pedigree and, if possible, see the dog in person and go over him. Learn something about linebreeding, inbreeding and out crossing. ABOVE ALL, KEEP THE BREED STANDARD FIRMLY IN MIND.

Some Alternatives To Breeding - In light of the excessive population, spaying of females and neutering of males should be seriously considered. A mature female will be a better and happier pet after she is spayed. She will not come into season and chances are that she will live longer. Dogs are subject to many "female troubles" and often an older female is a high risk for an operation which she may have taken in stride a few years earlier.

There are two alternatives for males. They can have a vasectomy as young puppies or at any age, which will prevent them from siring puppies but not exclude the desire to mate. Or they can be castrated as mature dogs and live a long and happy life without wanting to leave home whenever a nearby female is in season. (TALK TO YOUR VETERINARIAN ABOUT THESE PROCEDURES.)

If You Have A Litter Now - We urge you to be careful about the buyers of all your puppies. Find out about their experience in dogs and particularly their knowledge about the GSD. Have they ever had a German Shepherd before? If so, what happened to it? Why do they want one now? Where will they keep their puppy and how will they train and feed it? Have some literature on hand about GSDs and about dogs in general (such as the AKC pamphlet "Are You a Responsible Dog Owner?") which you can give to them. Encourage them to come to you for advice and help. If they buy a puppy, call them in a week or two and find out how the puppy is getting along. If they aren't satisfied with the puppy, find out why. Perhaps you will have another they will like better. Take the first one back and find another owner. Above all, don't lose concern for the puppies once they have left your home. It is far better to rescue your own puppies at an early age then to allow them to go through the difficult and bewildering experience of one home after another or possible neglect and abandonment.

A prospective first-time German Shepherd owner should read and talk with many owners, handlers, and breeders in order to gain a clear understanding of the breed. The German Shepherd's beauty and intelligence may appeal to many people, but its size and temperament may deter some. Reputable breeders and owners must fully discuss all aspects of the breed with any prospective purchaser.

This website best viewed with a Shepherd at your feet.  God Bless America's Shepherds!


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