Why do some puppies cost $500, and other puppies cost $1500, $1,800, $2,500 or even more? I think the issue most people have is how hard it is to get good information, especially as a new dog owner.
When you buy a new car, all the stats are there, all the reviews are there. Brand value, reliability, performance etc. You make a pretty informed decision. With dogs this is not really the case. You can be hustled too easily. Good quality dogs come in very reasonable prices, as do ‘lesser bred’ dogs. Then high quality dogs may also come at a premium, but so do ‘lesser quality’ dogs. I guess you can’t fight a country’s market price. And to be honest there is a lot more work going into G.S.D’s from breeders than most other breeds. Yet you get those terrible designer dogs riddled with health issues, and just needs to ‘look a certain way’, and people get to charge exorbitant amounts.
They always pull out the it’s a companion not a car card. But I think that is a bit unfair. They are selling and we are buying. So both have to be happy with the transaction. At the end of the day what makes a Good German Shepherd? Well, for one thing, you can’t just breed brother to sister, and with floppy ears and register it with the A.K.C as purebred and call it a day. It takes money to get hip X-Ray with the O.F.A (Orthopedic Foundation of Animals). It takes money to do Degenerative Myelopathy (DM for short) a progressive spinal disease of the rear legs in older dogs. So if for example, you are spending $1,500-$1,800 for a dog that will live at least 10 years (and usually 12 to 14 in many cases), think of it as only spending only $150 per year to buy the dog, or less! However, a poorly bred dog, that is not health tested, can cost you a lot of money in Vet bills, many times the price of the dog! So you’re not paying up front, but you’re paying in veterinary costs to an animal you’ve already bonded with and are attached to.
Some breeds, for example, with large heads, have trouble passing through the birth canal, and example is the French Bulldog, require a C-Section to deliver a pup and only 3 pups might be born in a litter. At the time this article is written, a C-Section on a bitch costs $3,000 to perform. Those veterinary bills, for this breed for example, are therefore passed along to you, the consumer. Even in large breed dogs, it takes money to properly immunize 9 to 12 pups, provide pre-pregnancy care and post-delivery care to pups and their mother.
In addition, what qualities are you looking for in a dog? Are you looking for the “flying trot” that gorgeous elongated stride of the American Showlines? Well, that breed, the ASL is not really a German Shepherd anymore, with its crippled frog like legs and over-angulated rear end. Are you looking for a dog that can be trained to protect you, if trained to do so? Can go jogging with you? Can do search and rescue work? Can be a really good obedience prospect?
If you are just looking for a dog, and any dog will do, than animal shelters offer many dogs and I’ve adopted at least 2 dogs in my life from animal shelters. You get a dog nearly for free, and you get a discount to spay or neuter them, in terms of veterinary bills. There’s nothing wrong with these dogs and you’d be saving a life. Some argue, adopt, don’t shop. I firmly believe it’s the person’s own decision of what they want in companion animal. Certainly they have their own children, although there are plenty of children waiting for adoption. Just kidding. The truth of the matter is that some dogs are in animal shelters for a reason. Some have a history of biting people, or children, while others may be fear biters. In some cases, you will need to rehabilitate a dog, that may have been mistreated or abused. You are not starting with a clean slate, where you can imprint your own training and household routine on a dog. The real issue of the day, is that nobody who is pro-dog is against breeding and breeders. The real issue is that we all, dog lovers and dog breeders alike, should be against puppy mills. These places keep dogs in small cages their entire lives, and females are bred at every heat. There is almost a factory of puppy production in place, where the dogs never see fresh air, and never experience much human kindness. It’s not dog breeders that we should be against, but against puppy mill puppies, which is how many dogs wind up in animal shelters in the first place: where a well-intentioned good hearted person really can’t afford a health tested, strong pedigree dog, and wants a dog of a certain breed as cheaply as possible. Along step in supplies of cheap puppies gotten from puppy mills, and when these pups wind up costing too much in vet bills, to a person that was barely able to afford the dog in the first place, or come with genetically programmed temperament problems, that’s when these people give up the puppy so readily, because they are not losing too much money in the first place. Beware of the “cheap puppy”. Think about what it took to get the puppy sold to you so cheaply.
So why do our pups cost the fees we charge? We know our dogs. It’s a hobby, not our main source of income. We are trying to better the breed by using only proven, European bloodline that have achieved working titles. When you see titles in our dogs pedigrees, such as Sch I, II, III or IPO I, II, III, or tracking titles like FH, or AKC titles like CD, CGC, Novice-A, and Rally. It took time to title these dogs and the dogs needed a certain proven temperament to be able to do the work.
What should you look for in a Good German Shepherd?
Something I learned in selecting a dog, learned long before I became a breeder, is that what separates a good German Shepherd from a mediocre German Shepherd? The answer is simple: documentation.
Documentation of the ancestor’s health and titles. What does that mean exactly?
Documentation of health by hip certification and documentation of temperament by real life work and working titles increase your odds of getting the type of dog you desire. Such documentation verifies the inherited traits of your pup. To assure that his temperament will match that of his parents, you must be certain that the breeder will assure the best environment for his early development, which includes puppy enrichment. Having been assured of health, temperament, and puppy enrichment, the rest is up to you in how you raise your pup to become the stable, healthy partner you desire.
DOCUMENTATION OF HEALTH: OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals http://www.offa.org/ ) is a certification wherein hip x-rays are taken of the dog at age two, at which time growth is more or less complete. The x-rays are sent out to a panel of veterinarians and rated on a scale: excellent, good, and fair, all being breeding ratings. I’ve known some breeders who get upset as the verdicts at times appear arbitrary and there are stories where a dog with a ” fair” rating received an “excellent” when the same x-rays were sent in another time.
However, I have never heard anyone complain that a dog with hip dysplasia received an OFA certification or a dog with good hips did not. In other words, it’s not to say with 100% certainty that a dog that has O.F.A certified parents will never get a bad hip, though the difference between OFA good and OFA excellent and fair may be marginal, the difference between getting the certification or not is clear. A dog without an OFA certification or equivalent should not be bred. That’s why we do hip X-rays of our dogs.
The Europeans have a system similar to our OFA certification which is called the “A” stamp. Unlike the OFA which is done at age two, with the A Stamp, hips are checked when the dog is one year old. When looking at pedigrees, be aware that the European dogs must receive an “A” stamp prior to being bred. You can safely assume that any dog bred in Germany, E. Germany, or Czechoslovakia listed on a German Shepherd’s pedigree has the “A” stamp certification. There is yet a third hip certification called the Penn Hip. The veterinarians skilled at taking Penn Hip x-rays must complete advanced training. Penn Hip evaluates the dog’s hips based on several x-rays. They claim that the analysis is a measurement and therefore is not in any way subjective or arbitrary. The other advantage of the Penn Hip evaluation is that the rating is expected to be valid through the life of the dog.
Another health evaluation available the DM DNA test. DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) is a debilitating neurological condition which results in crippling of some affected animals as they enter their elder years. Recent scientific research has discovered that many dogs with two affected genes may develop the condition whereas dog with only one affected gene or with two normal genes will not. The DM DNA test is a huge asset to breeders, allowing us to make sure by careful matching of breeding pairs that no offspring will be affected by the disease.
But if you are looking for a working animal, with the right drives to do sport work, or possibly police work (with right training of course) or agility than you have to understand titling a dog is the only true way to test a dog’s nerves, nose and strength of character. Only dogs from titled parents have been shown to exhibit enough biddable character, courage, and strength of character, that can be genetically passed along. I believe in dogs, genetics is 70% and good training is 30% of what makes the animal. In the old nature versus nurture argument, genetic ability to do certain kinds of work is very important. It costs as much as $2,500 just to ship a dog from Europe, plus the cost of the dog. It costs money to title the dog, and train it. Traveling to events to title your breeding animals costs hotel money and entrance fees. So you can get a less expensive dog…but not from European born parents and who are titled., A real good GSD has as “kid gene”. It will not bite a child knowing it is a child. A good GSD has good nerves, and not a fear biter. He can be a great sport dog, and yet a great family dog at the same time. Not a dog that is so high in drive that he constantly needs to do bite work or can’t live in a house but must only be kenneled. It takes time to find the right combination of dogs that can be both great house dogs and safe with kids, yet still do respectable club level sport work. What does titles have to do with health? It’s very hard for a sick dog to get these titles, because they can’t do the jumps or run in the bind search, or do the escape bite, or any of the other exercises required if their physical structure doesn’t permit the to do it. So dogs with titles is in a sense an indication of both working ability and health. To do the work, the dog has to be in good health and have the right temperament.
Now , in terms of temperament, please keep in mind that dogs from IPO lines have to be balanced dogs to achieve these high working titles. However, to do the work, they need a degree of what is called “fight drive” to perform at the highest possible level. They might have an “aggression on demand” switch wired into them that the average pet owner may not be comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with that if you’re looking for a personal protection dog, or a high level competition dog. However, most people are simply not buying a police level dog that they can do patrol with or a border patrol dog suitable for military duty. They are buying the family pet. We chose our dogs from ancestor’s that have indeed accomplished national level titles, but we mix West German Showline and working line to produce dogs with enough drive to do club level work, if that’s what you desire, or an A.K.C level obedience dog, but we’re are not strictly developing dogs for Schutzhund titles. In other words, our dogs come from Schutzhund lines, and we primarily focus on the working line as a our main genetic gene pool, but because we believe they are the best test of temperament, nerve and stabiility out there, but we are not exclusively focused on top competition dogs in this sport as our only criteria.>
In sum: documentation. We do Hip-Xrays. We do DM testing. We breed dogs that have titles, or have many titles on their ancestors, so that temperament was proven under a judge and in a trial. Our dogs have the “kid gene”. We don’t claim to have great dogs: we have great dogs. We work our dogs, and thus we know our dogs.
Overall well bred dogs, probably come at very good prices. Then you have the fringe guys, littering the market, and diluting it, and charging the same high prices. For the very informed. This is not an issue. It serves them well. For your average dog owner, this is a huge frustration. We aim to give you the best lines, at reasonable prices.