At Shepherds Without Borders, we recognize the importance of supporting responsible, ethical breeding. In the event that you choose to purchase a puppy from a breeder rather than adopt from a rescue, it is extremely important that you do the due diligence and support responsible breeders.

Why is it important to buy from reputable breeder when every puppy needs a home? Simply put, the answer is economics. The reason puppy mills and “backyard breeders” exist is because there are people willing to pay them for puppies. By sticking to reputable breeders, you are voting with your money against breeding dogs too young, perpetuating genetic problems like Degenerative Myelopathy and overcrowding shelters by breeding as many puppies as fast as possible.

Where to look

Non-Standard Colors

It can be VERY hard to locate a reputable breeder that breeds non-standard colors. Generally, these breeders are focused on color rather than temperament and health. Please make sure to ask all the questions listed in the article under Signs you’ve found a good breeder.

Where NOT to look:

  • Craigslist – For so many reasons, don’t. Many of the puppies on CL are from puppy mills, even the ones listed as “rehoming”.
  • The Facebook Group “Puppies and dog for sale northwest” – This group is run by backyard breeders who breed several breeds, without health testing as fast as possible purely to turn a profit. If you do spot a litter from there, make sure to follow the steps under Signs you’ve found a good breeder.
  • Commercial websites that will ship you a cheap puppy – Google puppies and you’ll find many websites that will ship you a dog. These dogs are from puppy mills. As painful as it is, you do not want to pay these people. This doesn’t mean it’s bad to ship a puppy from a reputable breeder! With any distant breeder, however, follow the advice in “signs you’ve found a good breeder”.
  • Pet stores.

Signs you’ve found a good breeder

Megan Riddle, a breeder who is also a member of the PNW GSD Pack group, wrote up a great list of questions to ask any breeder you’re considering getting a puppy from. Read through this list and be willing to walk away from a breeder, even if they have puppies available, if they don’t meet the criteria

Trust but Verify:

Just because a breeder says or posts to their website that their dogs are titled or have had their “hips checked” doesn’t mean that they are telling the truth. Even if they link to, that site allows any owner to enter whatever information about a dog that they want without any verification. When it comes to hips and elbows, you want them to have been checked out by one of 3 internationally recognized organizations. You want both parents to have been certified by OFA, SV or PennHip. All 3 of these organizations make all certifications available online for free for you to verify, see the links below. Note that to locate the records, you will need to the dog’s AKC or SV name which is different from the dog’s call name.

For Titles, verification is a bit more complicated because there are so many organizations that can issue them. AKC titles are straight forward and are worth validating, particularly if the breeder is making any claims about conformation titles (e.g. “Champion blood lines”).

How much you should expect to pay:

This chart is fairly accurate for the Pacific Northwest, however you should expect shipping to add $200-400 to any breeder’s price.

What if it’s too late?

You already have the puppy at home or have paid the full price

If you already have a puppy in your household from a breeder with some red flags called out here, then love it and take the best care of it you know how! Many of the potential problems are simply risk factors and you could very well end up with a perfectly normal, healthy and happy GSD from even the worst of situations.

You’ve just put down the deposit

This case is tricky. If the deposit is non-refundable, then consider your options carefully. Depending on the situation, it may be that the best way to save you and your family from long term emotional and financial trauma from an unhealthy dog is to walk away.