How much should a German Shepherd Cost?
While looking for a new puppy, and surfing the web, a buyer can find ads for puppies for sale at age around 8-12 weeks priced anywhere form $1200 to $5,000 and up. One would wonder - why is there such a huge range in price? What is the difference? For someone that is not experienced with the breed all the fancy abbreviations are not making much sense and often a pedigree is just a list of names. How to tell if the pedigree is breed-worthy?
We often think that the higher the price, the higher the quality - but is it always true? Nobody wants to pay more if the same quality is available for less, but how to tell the difference?
We will try our best to answer these and many other questions on this page and hopefully, will explain the GSD pricing and what impacts it, what to look for and if you do get what you pay for.
How much should a German Shepherd cost?
Let us be honest - when it comes to quality German Shepherd Dogs, there is no "cheap". We have great connections with breeders in USA, we stay in touch and monitor the market. We know what is offered for sale and what pricing policy different kennels are following. To this day we have yet to see a well-bred quality German Shepherd Dog puppy for sale at less than two thousand US dollars. We will repeat this over: if there is a German Shepherd Dog priced for less than two thousand US Dollars, it is most likely overpriced and you can find the same quality of dogs/puppies at your local shelter at a cost of dog adoption fee! Most reputable kennels in USA sell puppies at age of eight weeks at an average price of FOUR THOUSAND US Dollars. There is a lot of time and funds invested into quality breeding stock dogs, training, health testing, food and care of the dogs. Responsible Breeders and enthusiasts are barely breaking even after selling their pups. Opposed to them are many "back-yard breeders" or pet owners that have no knowledge of the breed and the breeding requirements. They see an opportunity to make quick money and decide to breed their pet dogs (in most times not even mature to a healthy breeding age and far off the breed conformation) to produce "pet quality" puppies. When a buyer comes to a reputable breeder and gets set off by a high price, they seek someone with cheaper version. They may quickly find a local BYB with a pricing around $1,200 and to them this seems like a great deal - because why pay more to a professional breeder if you can get the same puppy for less? Who needs those fancy show titles and lengthy pedigree if all I want is just a pet? We firmly believe that back-yard-breeders are the biggest scam of the GSD breeding. The real fair value of puppies from BYB is not more than $300-$500 - just to cover the whelping expenses and puppy food. Puppies from BYB have nothing in common with a true German Shepherd Dog. In most cases, these dogs even come with an AKC registration, but this does not add quality to the puppy. Registration is just that - a registration and not a sign of quality. Every registration will come with a pedigree and quality pedigree does add quality, but nor a registration itself. We have seen pedigrees where none of the dogs on the entire pedigree hold any working or show titles. We have seen pedigrees where zero dogs in five generations have passed genetic health testing. In reality, these dogs most likely do not even have a DNA of a German Shepherd Dog! So, when a person is trying to look for a low-cost German Shepherd Dog and goes to a BYB, they are most likely purchasing a mixed breed dog with a poor conformation and faulty temperament. In lines where dogs were not tested for generations is a high possibility of genetic health problems. This buyer takes home this puppy with a fair value of $300 while overpaying to a BYB an average of a thousand dollars! Meanwhile, this "pet breeder" does not even see or understand the difference: we sometimes see advertisement of puppies for sale and can not believe our eyes. Everything on the ad screams: "Not a German Shepherd", but most people don't see it... Does this seems like a great deal to you? No to us!
Most quality breeders in USA sell puppies to pet homes at age of 8 weeks between $2500 and $4000. Not every program is the same and our kennel pricing reflects that accordingly. Show and Working homes that seek puppies with full AKC Registration need to contact a breeder for pricing. In most cases only the best puppies are sold with full AKC and a buyer is expected to pay a different price for that. We accept Venmo and Zelle transfers, Cash or Checks and may offer flexible payment plan options to help families that desire to have a dog, but can not afford to pay the full price up front. If dogs are sold in Wisconsin, we also charge sales tax in the amount 5.5 %. Just for the record, when we purchased our dogs, we paid at least double of what we are asking for the puppies now. Our very first dog we purchased in 2011 was $4,000 and I still have that receipt. Cost to Import to USA is around $1600 just for transportation, plus additional AKC transfer fees and required DNA testing fees.
what impacts GSD pricinG?
1. P E D I G R E E
If a person wants “purebred”, “pure-blood line”, “German heritage” or any other term to satisfy their desire to own a well-bred GSD – it is important that the pedigree is a real pedigree with careful selection of each breeding pair for many generations and not just a bunch of names. A dog with a lousy pedigree becomes “full blooded shepard”, a joke spoken between breeders.
Many puppy buyers want to have a proof that their dog is a purebred. A pedigree of a dog is a first important point to consider when choosing a new puppy. But pedigree means very little when a person does not know how to read it or does not understand what to look for in a pedigree. It is essential that the buyer learns how to read a pedigree OR that a breeder explains a pedigree to a buyer. Not every pedigree is the same and some pedigrees mean very little, if nothing and are just bunch of names. Literally – just a bunch of names with absolutely no value. We’ve seen it. Don’t be fooled by fancy names, such as “Our Champion Sire Maximus” or “Princess Sofia Police Dog”. The names are just that – what the owner have named their dog and are not a real title. "Princess Sofia Police Dog" does not mean this dog was a K9 or that this dog has some "royal" bloodlines. (We have also made up this name for this article, but you get the idea, right?)
A puppy with a quality pedigree will have several generations of health tested, shown and titled dogs. A buyer should be able to look up the dogs' names on search engine – any real titled dogs will have images/videos and numerous mentions. If you cannot find any results about first six dogs on a pedigree (parents and grandparents) while using online search engine, such as Google, – that’s a big red flag. Yes, not every breeder posts images of their dogs online, but there would be show mentions, trial mentions or pages created by other users on specialized dog-related websites, such as pedigreedatabase (user created), workingdog or similar.
A “Champion” dog is a dog receiving VA1 on BSZS, so when you hear “Champion” lines – ask what do they mean? How many VA dogs are on a pedigree and how far on a pedigree are they? Remember, all titles and health testing can be looked up.
Also, pedigree allows to see inbreeding – breeding from closely related animals, especially over many generations. A good breeder understands the consequences of inbreeding and it is not uncommon to see inline breeding starting at 3:3 (sharing the same dog on a third line - puppy is "0", parents are 1, grandparents are 2, great-grandparents are 3) this is the closest inbreeding allowed). But unfortunately, there are registered puppies that are produced by father & daughter (1:2) or half/full siblings (2:2). Not only this is unethical, but persistent inbreeding has produced an unusually high frequency of sufferers from genetic diseases and abnormalities. From the SV site: "Since 1/1/2015, according to the breeding rules, an inbreeding that is closer than 3-3 is not permitted …"
Why is pedigree important? If a person wants “purebred”, “pure-blood line”, “German heritage” or any other term to satisfy their desire to own a well-bred GSD – it is important that the pedigree is a real pedigree with careful selection of each breeding pair for many generations and not just a bunch of names. A dog with a lousy pedigree becomes “full blooded shepard”, a joke spoken between breeders.
Pedigree is important, as it provides information on lineage, whether or not every dog on the pedigree is health tested, shown, titled, meets breed conformation and temperament. Quality Pedigree is a must if a person is seeking puppy for future breeding, show/sport events or wants a pet that meets all breed requirements and is a fine representative of its breed. Quality pedigree (with V/VA Sire/Dam) also means breed standard temperament and conformation – remember, a puppy will look and behave like the parents - why not want the best?
2. L I N E A G E
We have a page on this website explaining different lines of German Shepherd Dogs. Each line has its own conformation standard, temperament traits and working abilities. While we know about the lines themselves, we are no experts in pricing of the puppies/dogs in each line. Therefore, for this article we are going to quote a fellow hobby-breeder, Len from Hektor Haus. He’ll explain the difference of GSD pricing depending on the types of GSD lines:
American/Canadian Line: This is typically what people are picturing when they hear the term “German Shepherd”.These shepherds should at a very minimum be AKC certified. They range from $200 – $800. With no paperwork, free might be acceptable if you just want to give a dog a new home. Hopefully the people responsible for their actions would also cover deworming, vaccinations and other fees.
VGH: The author puts such low price on these dogs, because there are LIMITED responsible breeders that work with American lines. We know of just one, and her pups are priced at $3500. Unfortunately, American lines are now in hands of back-yard breeders, this has caused bad reputation of the breed, high number of health issues and lots of shelter dogs. We do not breed American Lines, as they do not satisfy our standards of breeding.
German Working Line: These Shepherds range depending on the breeder, facilities, bloodline, etc. Typically puppies tend to be in the $1800 range. They can be more with additional training. We’ve seen trained working dogs go for $17,000 to the Police Dept down the street and there are breeders in NC who get around $85,000 for specialized dogs.
German Show Lines: These are dogs that adhere to the breed standard and are significantly different animals. While any dog can be an excellent companion, these are beautiful, extraordinary family members with a little less drive than the working line. 7 or 8 week old puppies start off around $2,500 and work their way up to $4,500 depending on the pedigree and titles and awards held. Adults with Schtuzhund training and hip certifications or other titles can easily run into the $10,000 range.
3. health testing
Buyers have probably heard of the importance of the genetic health screening in breeding stock dogs. In fact, there are various genetic health screenings recommended for 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚 𝒃𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒅. For a full list of genetic screening for each breed, please visit 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐎𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜 𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐀𝐧𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐬 (𝐎𝐅𝐀) page, https://www.ofa.org/browse-by-breed.
A “𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒄 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒕𝒉 𝒔𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈” does not mean that the dog is up to date on vaccines or that the dog is healthy. Vice versa a dog that is up to date on vaccines/dewormed is NOT a health tested dog. Genetically Health Tested, or sometimes just “Health Tested” means that this dog has been tested for genetic predisposition to the breed-specific health issues per breeding requirements. For a German Shepherd Dog, it is a screening for 𝑯𝒊𝒑 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑬𝒍𝒃𝒐𝒘 𝑫𝒚𝒔𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒔𝒊𝒂 (HD/ED) done by a series of X-rays (Radiography) at least once when dog was age appropriate (12 months under SV (Germany), 24 months under OFA(USA)). While a licensed veterinarian can do all the dog’s exams and X-rays, evaluation must be completed by an authorized institution (such as OFA, SV or equivalent in other countries). Dog’s X-rays are evaluated and a grade is given, results then are added to the database. Therefore, “𝑚𝑦 𝑣𝑒𝑡 𝑠𝑎𝑦𝑠/𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑠” is NOT a genetic health testing, as grade is given only upon evaluation by authorized institution.
All health testing of a dog can also be looked up. OFA.org website allows to see health results of all registered dogs tested in USA. Website user can simply enter the dog’s registered name and see for themselves. Also, a person may look up a dog’s siblings, parents, grandparents. It is important to understand what lines the dog comes from and how many dogs on the pedigree were tested and what grades were given to the dogs on the pedigree. Ideally, EVERY DOG on the pedigree must be tested.
A good breeder will have a record of all health testing for their breeding dogs and will be happy to show a proof of the grade. For OFA-evaluated dogs, a Certificate is issued and results can be found online. For any imported dog evaluated under SV or FCI – there is a stamp (often called “A-Stamp) on the dog’s pedigree or a Certificate issued onto the dog’s name with an appropriate score.
It is extremely important to evaluate the entire lineage. A dog rated “Excellent” while the rest of the siblings are failing and parents are not tested is not the same, as the dog rated “Good”, while the rest of the siblings are “Excellent” and both parents are tested.
Additionally, there are many 𝐃𝐍𝐀-𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐬. For German Shepherd, these are optional and are not a requirement for breeding. They simply are a tool to utilize while making breeding decisions.
Some of the DNA tests may include: Coat color (Agouti), Coat length, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). DM results are seen more now, while the test is not a guarantee to avoid a DM in puppies. Many times we see DM test being the only test done, as it is relatively low cost and can be done at home, without a visit to a vet. DM test is NOT a health screening required for breeding and can not be substitute for HD/ED screening. DM tested dog is NOT health tested dog. It is just that – a breeder’s tool to utilize while planning their breeding.
𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭?
So, the chances of genetic health issues in a puppy are minimized. We want to emphasize that there is never a 100% guarantee to produce a healthy puppy. Breeders can only do their very best to carefully choose breeding stock dogs and health test them prior to breeding to minimize the risks of any health issues in puppies and trust that Mother Nature will allow only the best genes to be passed on. Just like in humans, two healthy parents can unfortunately have a baby with a health issue. It is not uncommon that we would hear, “this is genetic”, or “this runs in our family...”. Of course, in our human world feelings take over the genetic imbalances. But being a breeder, we choose the dogs we are letting to mate to produce a litter and therefore, we can analyze the dogs prior to the breeding to see how they are comparable and healthy. Working with a healthy pool of genes and choosing the best – brings the chances of health issues to a minimum. We also find it ethical to health test any dog before deciding to breed to ensure that this dog is capable to have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. Parent dog, its’ health and well-being should come first and never sacrificed to produce a litter of puppies.
4. conformation of the paRENTS
For those families seeking a purebred dog, it is important to see the parents of the puppy and to understand the breed standard & breed conformation. In a world of Dog Shows, a dog's conformation is not what "I think looks good", it is a professional objective given by a judge based on the breed standard & breed requirements. While a dog show may look like a beauty pageant, it’s not. Dogs are not being compared to each other; they’re being measured by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed and given a grade. When it comes to it, when you look at parents, do they look like the dog you dream to own?
For a German Shepherd, we must see SG, V or VA - a title earned at a Conformation ring.
What do the titles mean?
🏆”VA" - Vorzuglich Auslese- Excellent Select. Given only to a group of outstanding German shepherds at a Sieger show.
🏆”V" - Vorzuglich- Excellent. Outstanding German shepherds with full dentition and good character.
🏆”SG"- Sehr Gut- Very Good, Highest grade possible for dogs under 24 months of age or dogs outstanding merit missing a premolar.
👉Other rating may include:
"G" - Gut- Good. Really about average, given to typical but not exceptional animals.
"A" - Ausreichend- Satisfactory. Given to below average dogs.
"M" - Mangelhaft- Poor. Poor quality dogs but of tolerable character.
"U" - Ungenugend- Unsatisfactory. Given to dogs with faulty character or serious faults, ungraded.
Why is this important? Because the closer a dog’s appearance is to the breed’s standard, the better that dog’s ability will be to produce puppies that meet the standard.
While a breed standard for a German Shepherd Dog is clearly written and can be found online, we must understand why some dogs rank higher, why some are disqualified and what to look for.
One way to do so - is to look at dog or images of the dog shows yourself. The more dogs you see, the better you understand the quality of the breed.
We believe that if a person can not see a difference, and to them "a dog is a dog", they most likely are better off adopting a dog from a shelter anyway. To us, the difference between well-bred and poorly-bred dog is tremendous, and just by looking at the images of parents or puppies, we can see where the breeding is going and what potential a puppy has.
Please note, that we are not for breeding "the best looking dogs" only - No! we believe that temperament, health, working abilities and conformation GO TOGETHER. They all are equally important.
A good responsible breeder will do anything possible to stay as close to the breed standard as possible and eliminate breed faults from their breeding. Therefore, off-colors, off-size and off-temperament dogs must not be used in breeding. It must be a big red flag for a buyer. 🚩🚩🚩
To see highest rated World Champion Dogs, please visit here:
5. Living conditions of the parents & puppies
Maintenance of the breeding dogs, adequate and immediate veterinary care, comfortable and safe housing, quality feed, vitamins, grooming, leashes and much more -means investments from a breeder. The more breeder invests into their breeding program and quality of life of the breeding stock dogs and puppy care - the more the puppies will cost. It is simple rule of economics. Quality of living conditions has direct impact on socialization, neurological and physical development of a puppy. This will shape the temper and IQ of a puppy. Sadly, when a family is seeking a "cheaper" puppy with same great pedigree and seek puppy mill products - they need to understand that the price will be cut by the expense of living conditions of the parents of your puppy. There are huge puppy mills that have a litter almost every day, and the paperwork looks great - although their kennels and puppy pens are not any different than those for farm animals, with many breeding stock dogs never being out of the facility. A responsible buyer needs to visit a breeder and make sure that the animals are being raised in appropriate, humane manner.
6. PAPERWORK, EXTRAS & ITS VALUE
While puppy may or may not be registered with any Kennel, we want to cover other "value-added" paperwork and extra's that are provided by a breeder. This may include Health Guarantees for genetic defects, Veterinary examination, vaccination records, dewormer records, Club Memberships, Support, a bag of dog food, toy, leash, etc. A buyer must understand what out of this "extra" package has real, long-term value.
If a poor-bred puppy with lousy pedigree is for sale for $1800 because it comes with a free gift of a leash, dog food, dog bandanna and bunch of other supplies from a pet store totaling together less than $200 - is that a good deal?
Does "Certificate of Ownership" printed in a pet store for your new $4500 puppy have any real value?
Does "Certificate of Veterinary Inspection" provided with a puppy actually has any information about YOUR puppy? How do you know?
In a recent discussion on a popular social media platform, German Shepherd owners were sharing images of their dogs and how much they paid for them. We have taken several screenshots and deleted comments and hid names for privacy reasons. We think this is a great addition to this article and provides clear illustration of the text above