How to Choose a German Shepherd Puppy

Recently I was asked – how to choose a german shepherd puppy from a litter.

As you probably know from Facebook I’ve recently got a German Shepherd puppy. We thought it would be good for our son to have a dog and I thought it would be nice. Well the surprise was how much I got attached. I used to make jokes about my sister who would always have her yellow lab with her, now I have become her… I do not do anything without the dog…

I have done A LOT of reading and learning about shepherds and dog training in general. I have been with the county sheriff’s officer k9 training officer and other k9 officers in the area. I used to think I knew something since my parents raised shepherd when I was a kid. After that, we owned the boarding kennels so I thought I learned something from that experience, maybe not so much… I did have a shepherd in the early 80’s. She was good with people but dog aggressive. I never dealt with that issue. The dog I have now is nothing like her, and I know SO much more about German Shepherd training than I did then…

First, know what you want. If you want someone to protect you and your house, it will take a different type of German Shepherd. For example, the shepherds that most police departments use do not come from the USA. They are NOT AKC show dogs with papers. In the last 20 years the AKC has promoted dogs that look a certain way, but do not have the drive and character to do protection work. You can sometime recognize a show dog because they typically have the slanted backs and squatty rear legs.

I will not bother going into much about a good protection dog since I do not think that is what you want.

If you are looking for a good pet and a nice dog with good social skills, I think you would be fine with an AKC show dog. They will be loving and loyal and are very smart. The combination of loyal and smart is what sets them apart from many other breeds. There are a couple dogs smarter (border collies) but the combination of smart and loyal means that they will use their brains to please you, not figure out how to get out of your fenced in yard.

Coco Before We Got Her
Coco Before We Got Her

Let me tell you a little about my dog Coco, in many respects a perfect dog. We got her from the Pompano Beach German Shepherd rescue. They said she came from Miami. They had two puppies at the time for us to look at, Coco and a shepherd lab mix. We visited the mix at a volunteer’s house. There were about 4 dogs in the house. We spent about 15 minutes in the house with this cute little shepherd lab mix, during this time the dog never stopped… I mean it was running and jumping all over. We took the dog for a walk thinking that would calm her down. Even after the walk, the pup was still very full of energy. We left with scratches and not a great impression. That pup needs a house full of kids and other dogs to keep it busy. That same weekend another volunteer brought Coco to our house. She was about the same size as the mix (a few months/20 pounds) and had the perfect shepherd ears and look. She walked around our house and sat down at our feet and stayed there. What a night and day difference… It turns out she was a little sick so that accounted for her calm demeanor in part. However, the calmness and the ears made the choice easy.

Fast forward to present day, she has more energy (too much for our cat) but is very controllable (other than the first two minutes someone comes into our house). She LOVES people and dogs. Everyone in our neighborhood and his or her dogs love her. She is, and always has been very submissive to other dogs. She is very friendly to dogs and people at the dog parks (we go often and to different ones). She is the best-behaved Shepherd at the park so far (I have had others tell me this). She is also the best under control of the Shepherds I have seen so far. (There was this adult Dobie at the park one day that was incredible but that is another story). I can have her start to chase a ball and stop, and then continue on command and bring it to me. She will to all the basics, sit, stay, down, paw, spin, sit. Before we go through a door I can have her site or just not go through an open door until I say ok. She will stay in my car with the door open without getting out until I say so. She will ring a bell to be let back in the house from the backyard. Keep in mind a distraction will make her do poorly at some of this… We are still working on it all…. We taught her to carry a toy in her mouth when we are in the pool so she cannot bark… (Maybe she is not that smart) We also have her carry the toy when she runs up and down the fence with our neighbor’s dog. During the day, she only barks when she hears the neighbor dog out, because she wants to go run with them. She does occasionally bark if she hears kids or dogs barking during the day. At night, she will bark once in a while. I think it is the paperboy she hears. We play with bite toys, tug toys and she like to go after bite sleeves for fun. She bites like a girl…

Coco 2012
Coco 2012

The downside – She can tear a toy up in about 15 minutes. You probably know about the tougher dog toys so I will not go into them. There is one toy she has, I got from one of my clients that she LOVES and has not destroyed, drowned or eaten. It still makes the same LOUD annoying squeaky noise it always has.

This all sounds great so far right, if that is what you are looking for. One the other hand, I have had her tested for protection and drive a couple time and at this point, she is hardly a protection dog. I can go into the protection testing anther time if you like. It is something you should do (have the pup tested when they get older), so that you KNOW how your dog will react.

If you are looking for a good obedient loyal pet what I would do is go look at all the pups at the same time and look for one of the least dominant ones… Not the runt, but one that is less of a trouble maker, and less of a leader.. More submissive… and I would pick that one…