Help me a doggie from a foreign country
October 28, 2007 10:20 PM   Subscribe

How should I shop for a German Shepherd from a breeder in Germany?

I *really* want a German Shepherd and have heard that the ones bred in Germany are less susceptible to hip dysplasia and other health problems. Can anyone recommend a breeder and share their experience of buying a puppy or dog from a foreign breeder?
posted by KimikoPi to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, you should not shop for or buy a dog from a breeder.

Before you buy a "purebred" dog, you should be aware the health issues you're trying to avoid are created and exacerbated by "purebred" dog breeding--that is, most of them are genetic health issues that are found in purebred dogs primarily because of inbreeding. I could go into a lengthy explanation of genetics and Darwinian theory, but suffice it to say there's absolutely no reason to own a "purebred" dog because there really is no such thing as a "purebred" dog, only dogs that have been inbred for several generations.

If you really want a German Shepherd, try looking at your local animal shelter or contact German Shepherd rescue groups.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:19 AM on October 29, 2007

There are lots of German Shepherd rescues in California, if that's still where you are. Many of these dogs probably originally came from foreign breeders, so it's just like you went to Germany and bought the dog...except you're part of the solution instead of the problem! Being part of the solution is a nice thing to be.
posted by lemuria at 1:02 AM on October 29, 2007

One of the defining racial traits of the GSD is the sloping back. It's a deliberately fucked up design and yeah, duh, the dogs will have issues.

The north American race-standards call for a more marked backslope than the European ones which might cause extra problems.

My family has a pure/in-bred GSD rescued from the animal shelter and while being a wonderful and crazy smart dog she is from a quality perspective the wort piece of crap you'll ever find.

Get in touch with your local shelter or rescue group. They will let you spend time with the dog before you commit fully to it. They will also probably not let you have the dog if they don't think you'll be able to handle it.
posted by uandt at 3:16 AM on October 29, 2007

There are many reasons to go with a breeder for a dog, including known temperament background and health background. There is no reason to bash someone asking questions about finding an ethical breeder 1 2 3. There is a huge difference between a backyard breeder, a puppy mill and an ethical breeder.

That said, KimikoPi, you most likely do not want to import a dog from a breeder that you cannot meet, will have very limited conversation with, and whose kennel you have not seen and know nothing about. It is true that the European standard for GSD do not have the same dramatic sloped hindquarters, but these dogs do exist in the US. I take training classes with a woman with 2 dogs from the German bloodline that compete in Schutzhund competitions. They look and act very differently from American GSDs. You should know that they will require a knowledgeable and capable handler.

A good place to start looking is with your local Schutzhund club but once again, these dogs are a totally different animal than most GSDs you've met. Talk to a lot of people and ask a lot of questions.

Where do you live? If you contact me I can put you in touch with my classmate.
posted by hindmost at 6:01 AM on October 29, 2007

I *really* want a German Shepherd and have heard that the ones bred in Germany are less susceptible to hip dysplasia and other health problems.

Then your first step should be to do further research into this. You might have heard it, but you've heard all kinds of dumb shit in your life, and gems of wisdom. How do you know which this is? Go to lots of dog shows. Talk to the GSD people there. Talk to people in related breeds (the various Belgians, maybe Shilohs if there's an ARBA show near you).

FWIW, the mostly-European dogs I see at Crufts on tv seem to be a lot more extreme and trouble-prone than the ones I see at American shows. But neither look good; right now the fad among show dogs (=breeding dogs, mostly) is for extreme angulation at the apparent expense of soundness.

In any case, where you're bred won't have any magical influence over your dog's health. Its genes will. And if "European-bred" turns out to be important to you after you've done more research, you'll almost certainly be able to find several litters in the US and Canada that are crosses of one European-imported dog and another, or crosses where all of the grandparents were imported.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:07 AM on October 29, 2007

No, you should not shop for or buy a dog from a breeder.

Unless you want to know who the parents are. Or unless you want to know what probability of displasia you can expect because you know the distribution of displasia in the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and dogs related to those dogs. Or unless you want a health guarantee. Or unless you want a long-lasting contact you can speak with about your dog and issues arising therein.

Before you buy a "purebred" dog, you should be aware the health issues you're trying to avoid are created and exacerbated by "purebred" dog breeding--that is, most of them are genetic health issues that are found in purebred dogs primarily because of inbreeding.

No, genetic health issues are found in dogs that have genes that code for the health issues. Yes, these can be more common in purebred dogs since the gene pool is smaller. They can also be less common in purebred dogs because the gene pool is smaller. Inbreeding isn't this huge automatically-harming thing. It's just a way of reducing the gene pool to what you want it to be.

The problem with GSDs now, from an external point of view, is that the traits they seem to be breeding for now can come at the expense of soundness. This isn't hard to deal with as a potential puppy buyer -- just ask pointed questions about the incidence of displasia in their lines, and what sort of guarantees they offer against it.

I could go into a lengthy explanation of genetics and Darwinian theory, but suffice it to say there's absolutely no reason to own a "purebred" dog because there really is no such thing as a "purebred" dog

That's asinine. Of course there are purebred dogs. A purebred dog is a dog such that, if you breed it with another dog of the same breed, the distribution of characteristics in the resulting litter is well-known and narrow.

If you really want a German Shepherd, try looking at your local animal shelter or contact German Shepherd rescue groups.

But if you do this, the best you can hope for is a well-bred dog in a shelter or rescue (which is among the less likely places to find one). It will still be just as bred as a dog from a breeder, so this advice makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:18 AM on October 29, 2007

What ROU_Xenophobe said. And also: you REALLY need to do your homework, I can tell from the manner in which you asked this question that you haven't done anywhere near enough research to be even considering going to the expense of importing a dog (and an ethical breeder will have problems sending you a dog under these conditions as well). This is a breed with serious temperament and health problems pretty well everywhere, over here this exacerbated by the ridiculous trends in breed conformation in North America, but foreign dogs have these problems too, and it is much more difficult to do your homework with foreign breeders, because of language barriers, and because the best you can do is find what's posted on the internet, which is unlikely to be the whole story. Also, buying from overseas robs you of the single most valuable asset you get from an ethical breeder: ongoing assistance and contact, and a home for your dog for life - ethical breeders will insist that you return the dog to them at any point in its life if you cannot keep it.

This is also not a breed for a casual, inexperienced dog owner. This is a highly intelligent working dog, and they require a lot of regular work (plan to be in weekly classes for the vast majority of the dog's life, at least the first 6 years, coupled with daily work at home). A well-bred GSD is a lovely dog, but they are very far from suitable for everyone, and the problems with owning them go well beyond the hassle of finding a healthy, well-bred one from a good breeder. A truly ethical breeder will be very reluctant to place a puppy with an inexperienced owner, both because this is not an easy breed to own well, and because this is a breed with a serious image problem thanks to bad owners and bad breeders, and that image problem is a result of bite statistics which are used for breed-specific legislation (ethical breeders who are at real risk of losing the right to own their breed of choice are pretty damn careful about where they place their puppies). An ethical breeder will not place a puppy in a home which does not have a serious plan for ongoing, lifelong training for the dog, and a plan for some sort of "work" for the dog (agility, competition obedience, search & rescue), and an ethical breeder will have problems placing a dog with someone who hasn't done their homework thoroughly.

Go to some shows, meet some breeders, learn what questions to ask, learn how to spot bullshit. You are MUCH more likely to be successful by educating yourself and meeting as many breeders and dogs as you can, and choosing one whose dogs are sound (mentally and physically), than you are just randomly trying to buy one from overseas (not least because I would be deeply suspicious of the ethics and knowledge of a foreign breeder who was willing to just ship you a puppy - I am relatively experienced in my breed of choice, I sit on the national club's board of directors, I write breed articles, I show and title my dogs, etc. and even so, I have spent months emailing and talking on the phone with breeders overseas before they would even consider sending me a puppy, and I would be reconsidering wanting a puppy from someone who DIDN'T want that level of contact before making their decision).

I suggest that you might want to consider some other breeds which are both less challenging to own, and less treacherous in terms of health and temperament problems. Shiloh Shepherds were developed as a breed specifically for health and temperament, and they have a much softer, easygoing temperament than the GSD.
posted by biscotti at 7:02 AM on October 29, 2007

We got our real german shepherd here in the states due to a german "loophole." It was something along the lines of the breeder paying by litter and not individual dog. The mother only had three puppies so it was not worth registering them. They brought them here and sold them, very carefully picking people who would treat them well and sign papers saying they would have them spayed and neutered so one could not breed them. Maybe you could try to find something like this. We got him for $300.

This was the best thing to happen to us, our dogs brothers and sisters sold for $1k-3k untrained. And if fully shutzhund (sp) & police trained they were $10k. Its impossible to explain how much smarter my shepherd is compared to my purebred yellow lab.

We also have our dogs on the BARF diet, i highly recommend it. They have been doing really well on it for the last three years. I also suggest training your shepherd. They are extremely receptive to it and ours truly enjoys learning. Basic training for sure, maybe get some ducks and teach him to herd, things like that.

And as mentioned above it is true "real" germen shepherds (not "american" germen shepherds) are less likely to get hip displaysia among other problems.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 7:49 AM on October 29, 2007

oh yea, and meet the parents of the puppy!!! This is extremely important! not only will your GSD look like them once his black coat goes away, but also will act like them. Test their temperament, discipline, etc. thoroughly. This is Very important to do.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 7:53 AM on October 29, 2007

This is kind of an offbeat suggestion, but it might work. I'm not sure where you live, but are there guide-dog foundations that use German shepherds nearby?

The one that I have experience with used lines from Germany -- basically the same dogs as if they were in Germany, but they just happen to live here. Because they're bred as real working dogs, they select based on temperament, intellect, long working lives, and small size, without as much focus on the phenotypical breed standards (sloping back, etc.); the possibility of hip dysplasia is much lower as a result.

You can volunteer to raise one, to see if a German shepherd is right for you and could fit into your life. It takes a lot of work, but is really worthwhile and fun -- not to mention incredibly educational. Don't do this if you can't commit serious time to it, but don't get a dog if you can't commit serious time to it.

If the puppy-raising goes well, the foundation will be familiar with you. In the future, if a dog doesn't come up to the guide-dog standards -- if it isn't friendly with other dogs or if it's a little too nervous in traffic or if it likes to chase cats a little too much -- it can't be used as a guide dog. It will be offered first to the family who raised it, but if they decline, you could be next on the waiting list.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:21 AM on October 29, 2007

i just wanted to recommend my dog's breed, which is half-husky half-german shepherd . He's a great person. Huskies are all upbeat and silly but independent, gsds are serious and highly trainable. They're both smart, but in different ways.

Anyway, I have to echo others that you may feel better about yourself if you rescue a dog from a shelter. And, you'll save yourself about 3k (cost of a puppy from a good breeder). I found my guy as a puppy online at a shelter out of state and went and got him. He's been checked and his hips look good.

We thought a bit about getting a gsd from a breeder and found these guys . Check the vids, these dogs are amazing. But like I said, 3k.
If you get a mixed dog, your chances of weird genetic stuff is lessened. Of course, there's still a risk.
posted by alkupe at 10:42 AM on October 29, 2007

also, the kraftwerkk9 people, linked to above, appear to offer puppies from german gsds. This (getting the dog from a us-based company) is probably the easiest way to get what you're asking for, rather than trying to import a dog yourself.
posted by alkupe at 11:09 AM on October 29, 2007

Well, once again kind of a round about way of answering your question, but here in the states, you can get german stock and american stock GSDs, they do indeed have physical differences.

For what its work I got my girl from a breeder and my two
guys from rescue groups and they are all wonderful doggies. The big guy even had papers that accompanied him, but the resuce group destroyed them after we adopted him as some kind of policy.
posted by stormygrey at 1:11 PM on October 29, 2007

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