How to choose responsible ethical breeder

 In Useful tips

by Cassandra St-Pierre

Lately we have been getting a lot of messages of people looking for recommendations on German shepherd breeders, or how to spot who is responsible and who is not. They see ads in Facebook groups, or on Kijiji, and want to know if the breeder is ethical. I have put together this video covering the basics of how to choose a breeder for those who are new and still learning, or even those who just want a little more insight. As mentioned in the video, this is not the end all be all – if we were to go into every detail of breeding, the video would be a week long.
Enjoy and please feel free to send us any questions you have.
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Today I wanted to make a video touching the basics on how to choose responsible ethical breeders. Although this video is going to pertain more to the German shepherd breed, there are some things that may apply to other breeds as well. Keep in mind that everything I go over is not the end all be all, in fact, there is still a whole lot more that goes into choosing a breeder. I am simply going to list the over-all general basics that you should be looking for when choosing a breeder.

First order of business, Health Testing. In the German shepherd breed, hips and elbows are the bare minimum that need to be certified. Any breeder that claims “Well, my vet said my dog is healthy” or “my dog shows no visible signs” is a breeder you want to stay clear from. Dogs in Canada or the US should be certified through OFA (the orthopedic foundation of animals), they can also be certified through the “a” Stamp program in Germany. When looking at dogs used for breeding, you should always look them up and see their pedigree’s online. I use and You can use these websites to see the dogs pedigree both horizontally, and vertically. Although horizontally is the most common way of looking at a pedigree, vertically is beneficial if you want to see how a dog’s offspring, or siblings are doing in terms of health and working ability. If a dog is scored OFA good for hips, but many of the siblings or previous offspring of said dog have failing scores, this may be a dog you want to re-consider, as a dog is more likely to produce it’s pedigree than itself. On, not only can you see the dogs hip/elbow health scores, but you can also see their ZW number, which is also known as the “Breed Value Assessment Number”. The HD ZW number is an estimation of the probability that a dog will produce progeny with canine hip dysplasia. The ZW value factors in many variables but it is based mostly on the hip status of a dogs offspring. A ZW score of 100 has been set as the breeds average, so scores less than 100 are the most desirable. This means dogs with a lower score than 100 produce fewer offspring with hip dysplasia than the breed average. A number greater than 100 means the dog produces more offspring with hip dysplasia than the breed average. If we look here, we can see that Crash’s ZW score is 78. This is a super hip value. Whether you are looking at an ad, or a breeders website, and they claim the dog has a hip/below rating, you should ALWAYS verify. You’d be surprised at how dishonest some people are. On the OFA website, they give us the privilege of being able to search their database for results. You can search by registration number, litter number, OFA number, the dogs name, or kennel name. If there are no results showing, the dog either did not have passing scores, or they simply weren’t ever evaluated. German Shepherds should also be DM tested. Although DM itself cannot be diagnosed until after the dog has passed away, the genes associated with DM can be found through a simple saliva sample. Dogs will come back either Clear, Carrier, or affected. Those that have the scores Clear, and carrier are acceptable for breeding, however two carriers should never be bred together, as this will produce dogs who are affected. DM results will also show on the OFA database. Unfortunately if a dog has been certified through the SV, there is no online database to prove it. You can however, ask to see the dog’s pedigree because it will have a stamp to verify. If a breeder does not show you proof, this is a huge red flag. Keep in mind that there are plenty of other tests as well, these however are the most common and most crucial. If you have a paid membership, you can verify “a” stamp program scores on

Moving on to Titles. The most common title you will see today in the German shepherd breed, is IPO, also known previously as “schutzhund”. Schutzhund was originally created as a breed suitability test, and although it has drifted away from how it use to be, many still use this as a way to prove a dogs breeding worthiness. Some argue that IPO does not test the TRUE hardness of a dog, but most people who are purchasing a dog don’t “need” a dog that is hard to the core. They simply need a dog that has overall, all around stability. Keep in mind there are other sports and titles as well, and IPO is not the end all be all, however IPO being the most common for German shepherds is the only one I will touch base on in this video. IPO has 3 levels. IPO1, IPO2, and IPO3. Each level consists of a tracking, obedience, and protection phase. The SV system also offers a Breed survey for the German shepherd breed. The breed survey is a detailed analysis of an individual dog which is performed by a judge, also known as a Koermeister which means, Breed Survey Master. A koermeister critiques the dog as a whole which consists of height of the dog, width, weight, circumference and depth of the chest, eye color, length and position of the croup, pasterns, front and rear movement, and they will also look at the dogs teeth. The koermeister will also comment on special qualities of the dog and make specific breeding recommendations and what to look for in a mate for said dog. The koermeister will either place the dog in Breed Survey Class 1 (recommended for breeding), or Breed Survey Class 2 (suitable for breeding). Breed survey is not classed by kkl1 and kkl2 anymore, however dogs previously breed surveyed before the change was implemented will still hold kkl1 or kkl2. The koermeister can also place a dog in the category of not suitable for breeding. All this information is given on a breed survey report which the owner keeps. Not any German shepherd can enter for a breed survey. There are specific requirements that include BUT NOT LIMITED TO, Have a minimum IPO1 title or a HGH herding title, have passed an AD which is an endurance test, have hips/elbows certified and be clear of dysplasia, and have a minimum good show rating under SV rules. The dogs must also pass a gun-test, (show no shyness), as well as a bitework test. After the bitework test, the dog is given a rating of either “pronounced” “present” or “insufficient”. In Germany, only offspring that are born to parents who are breed surveyed will receive “pink” registration papers.

At the end of the day, the breeding dogs AND dogs in the pedigree need to have some form of working title to prove their working ability as well as temperament. The owners account should not be sufficient. If you are specifically looking for a dog for sport or for work, I highly recommend you find a mentor or somebody knowledgeable to help you find a suitable breeder, as there is many more factors that come into play. On, you have the ability to see which events the dog has participated in, as well as the dogs scores. It is easy for a breeder to email you boasting about how high the dogs scores were, some are honest, some however are dishonest, back yard breeders who simply want to market their dogs for more than they are. If you are in Canada, you can go on the German Shepherd Schutzhund club of canada’s website ( and see all official scores of every trial back to 2008. Another way of verifying scores and titles, is asking to see the dogs scorebook, which every dog competing in IPO has.

I hope I was able to provide you with a little bit of knowledge and insight on the basics of choosing a reputable breeder, while keeping this video relatively short without completely boring you to death. Even if you are only wanting to purchase a German shepherd as a pet, those who breed for sporting or show will almost always have pet quality puppies in their litters. If you are purchasing from somebody who does not title their dogs in some shape or form, you have no way to ensure the temperament of the dog. I really encourage you to do your research when looking for a German shepherd breeder, do not take the breeders word for health testing and titles alone, do some digging to ensure that they are honest and breeding responsibly.

Thank you for watching!

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