best place to buy a German Shepherd puppy

You have many options when looking to buy a German Shepherd puppy. This post about where to buy a puppy applies to all dog breeds and not only German Shepherds.

Dog breeders, pet stores and dog shelters are just a few places you can buy a puppy from. This post will go over options for where to buy a puppy.

Some dog owners recommend puppies from pet stores, while others believe adopting dogs from a shelter, or going directly to a dog breeder is the best option. There are pros and cons to all places that sell puppies.

Pet Stores and Puppy Mills

We’ve all been to pet stores to look at puppies. We feel sorry for them behind the cages, so eager to come out and play. This is part of pet store marketing; they prey on your emotions.

I worked in a pet store as a teenager so I know how they work. Pet stores are a business first and foremost. Pet stores want your money and puppy prices are ridiculously high.

I hate to break the news to you, but most puppies bought from a pet store come from puppy mills. Puppy mills don’t just produce mutts (mixed breeds), they have pure bred dogs as well. People tend to believe puppy mills only produce mutts with issues. This is not true. Puppy mills also produce purebred dogs (in terrible conditions.)

Pet stores buy puppies from puppy mills for cheap, and raise prices on puppies by at least 8 times what they paid for the puppy.

Best place to buy a German Shepherd puppy. You can buy a German Shepherd from a pet store, adopt or visit a German Shepherd breeder

The pet store chain I worked for when I was a teenager, Petland (oops, I said it, oh well), instructed us to spray puppies down with puppy perfume prior to bringing said puppy to potential customers. This was to be done every time someone showed any interest in one of the puppies behind glass.

We got in trouble for not bringing puppies out to the family for a visit, whether the family wanted to see the puppy or not.

We were told to never mention the price of a puppy until after the potential buyer had the puppy in their hands and played with it for awhile. No one wants to buy older puppies, so puppies need to be sold “as fast as possible.”

Petland forced us to make puppy sales. Money was first and the puppy’s interests were last on the list. This is how most pet stores operate. I hated this mentality and would not comply. Sorry petland!

Where do pet stores get animals they sell? Puppy mills. No legitimate dog breeder will ever sell to a pet store.

Responsible dog breeders ask whatever questions they desire about who’s buying their carefully-bred animal. Pet stores only ask, “Will that be cash or charge?” A breeder would have no input, or even knowledge of who is purchasing their animals. No responsible breeder ever accepts that.

When buying a puppy from a pet store, you don’t know the puppy’s history or bloodline. This is important stuff to know. What if the puppy’s parents have a history of heart disease or hip dysplasia or cancer?

Pet stores will always say the puppy is AKC registered. This statement is ridiculous, as AKC registration just means the pet store registered paperwork saying they own the puppy. AKC registration has nothing to do with the puppy’s health, family or history.

AKC registered puppies are a scam. AKC kennel club is a scam.
AKC puppy registration form: What a scam

Contrary to popular belief, AKC registration means nothing with respect to the quality of breeding (and whether the breeder conducts appropriate genetic testing) or the conditions in which the puppy was bred.

The AKC has a long history of opposing legislation that would improve conditions for dogs living in puppy mills and supports the commercial dog breeding industry.

If someone says the dog is registered with the AKC, that means NOTHING and your response should be “SO WHAT.

What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill is a breeding operation, usually in backyards, that breeds dogs in terrible conditions, for profit, prioritizing financial gain over the health or well-being of dogs.

If a dog breeding operation breeds for profit and sells to pet stores or consumers over the Internet, it is more than likely not a responsible breeding facility.

While puppy mills may vary in size and conditions, any breeding operation that places profit over the health or well-being of the dogs can be accurately described as a puppy mill. Puppy mills are usually very dirty, housing dogs crammed in cages all day. Dogs rarely come out of cages, as they are seen as breeding machines only.

pet stores get puppies from puppy mills. puppy mills need to be shut down
Pet stores get their high-priced puppies from puppy mills

Puppy mills are in business only to make a profit. Veterinary care, staffing, and humane living conditions are expensive and cut into the profit margin, so they are ignored.

Puppy mills keep overhead costs as low as possible to maximize their profits. If a dog used for breeding gets sick, it is destroyed, as vet costs take money from puppy mill profits.

Responsible dog breeders do not sell to pet stores and are prohibited from doing so by their breed club guidelines

Dogs used for breeding in puppy mills are given no human interaction or love. “Breeding dogs” are not allowed to run, do not have toys, and are literally confined to cages their entire lives. These breeding dogs are covered in their waste, since their cages are rarely cleaned.

When adult dogs in puppy mills are no longer able to produce puppies, they are destroyed.

Although many puppy mills have been shut down due to the terrible living conditions dogs face everyday, there are still many in operation. Puppy mills are incredibly evil places. I will spare you the rest of the heart breaking details.

If you purchase a dog from a pet store, not only are you overpaying for a puppy, but you are indirectly supporting puppy mills.

Buy puppies online

Never buy a puppy online! You need to see if there is a bond with a puppy and how will that happen through a computer screen? Most online puppy sites are scams.

My brother put his Maltese dog to sleep after 15 years and was devastated. He was desperate to find another dog because the house felt so empty. He found a breeder online with a beautiful website and pictures of Maltese puppies, complete with names and “registration papers.”

The Maltese puppy website required a $500 deposit for the dog, with the remaining balance of $500 to be paid upon pickup at the airport.

The Maltese puppy was to be shipped and owned for a total of $1,000. My brother saw this deal and jumped on it, knowing it costs about $500 just to ship a puppy anywhere in the USA. He would get a beautiful Maltese puppy for roughly $500, instead of paying a pet store $1800!

The Maltese breeder kept in touch via text messages, supplying flight info and answering any questions my brother had.

Maltese puppy from the Maltese kingdom scam online
Maltese puppy photo from Maltese kingdom website scam. Website no longer online

A week later, my brother drove to the airport, waiting for a flight that contained no Maltese puppy. The “dog breeder” provided a fight number and landing time of a random flight, making an easy $500. The scammer never responded to any of my brother’s texts after that.

I told my brother something isn’t right but he wouldn’t listen. I checked to see how long the website was online for (visit

The website bio said they have been online for 10 years, however, according to, the domain name was only purchased 3 months before my brother found them online.

The scam site was called Maltese Kingdom. I found 2 other families who got ripped off by them as well. No matter how much you fall in love with a puppy online, it may just be a stock photo on a fake website. Why risk it.

Pet stores say they only buy from the best breeders

Pet stores buy from only one place only; puppy mills. Why would a pet store buy from a reputable dog breeder (expensive) when they can buy really cheap puppies from a puppy mill? Most pet stores don’t know where their animals come from and they don’t care.

Puppy mills need to be licensed to sell to pet stores through the USDA. This may sound like good news, but the USDA’s standards for care of companion animals are extremely minimal and not adequately enforced.

Pet stores will often say their “puppies only come from the best USDA-licensed facilities,” yet the conditions in USDA compliant facilities are often far below what most people would consider acceptable for companion animals.

How do you know puppies come from puppy mills?

You can trace the origin of a puppy sold in a pet store through federal and state records. Commercial breeding facilities (puppy mills) that sell to pet stores must be licensed by the USDA.

Pet stores in Illinois are required to provide the name of the breeder for each puppy. You can look up a registered breeder on the USDA website and see the number of adult animals, puppies and any violations the “breeder” has incurred.

If you would like to research a breeder on the USDA website, click here.

When a puppy is shipped from out-of-state, a veterinarian must file a health certificate with the state department of agriculture for every puppy shipped into the state that identifies the breeder or broker.

Remember that puppy mills, like pet stores, are in business to make money. Puppy mills have been known to pay veterinarians to sign papers saying they looked at all puppies, when in fact, they haven’t. This is much cheaper than actually examining each puppy.

By looking at the breeder or broker on the health certificates, or by going into the pet store and looking at the name of the breeder, you can see where pet stores are sourcing their puppies from.

Will there be a puppy shortage?

Absolutely not. There are millions of dogs in shelters and rescues needing homes at this very minute. Many shelters and rescues have puppies available, and there are thousands of puppies available on The idea that consumers will no longer be able to obtain a puppy if pet stores no longer carry puppies is a myth perpetuated by pet stores that sell puppies.

What dog breeds come from puppy mills?

Puppy mills produce all kinds of dogs. Puppy mill dogs can include purebreds, but also popular hybrids, aka designer dogs.

Puppy mills produce and sell labradoodles, yorkipoos, maltipoos, pomskies, schnoodles, cockapoos, cavapoos, teddy bear puppies, maltichons, puggles, goldendoodles, sheltidoodles, chorkies, maltese shih tzus, peekapoos, goldadors, cane corsos, shihpoos, mastiffs, bulldogs, basset hounds, collies, shelties, corgis, labs, poodles, cairn terriers, golden retrievers, German Shepherds and more.

Reputable dog breeders

A reputable dog breeder will not sell a puppy to anyone if they feel it’s not in the best interest of the dog or the family. These dog breeders usually have lots a land for their dogs to run on, and the facilities are clean.

A reputable dog breeder invests a lot of time and money into the care of their dogs and puppies They want their puppies to go to the best family possible.

Pricing on puppies will vary between reputable dog breeders and are generally higher than pet store prices.

Where to buy a German Shepherd puppy. pet store vs puppy mill vs dog breeder

Puppies from reputable dog breeders charge higher prices for puppies because of all the work, expense, vet care, staff, facility upkeep and time they put into their dogs. Puppy prices will go higher as the bloodline of the dog is more relevant, meaning, if you want a show dog.

Prices from pet stores are high because they want to make as much profit as they can. Pet stores don’t put anywhere near the amount of time and care into puppies like a reputable breeder does.

A good dog breeder wants you to visit their facility to see how they take care of puppies and see the mother and father of the puppies. The mother and father of the puppies should be on premises. This will give you an idea of what your dog may look like, act like, and if there are any health issues.

A good dog breeder may offer X-rays of the puppy’s hips for you, if you’re looking at a breed of puppy prone to hip dysplasia, such as a German Shepherd. All these options cost money, which is why reputable dog breeders charge more money. Does your local pet store off these options?

Really good German Shepherd dog breeders offer a hip guarantee with your purchase.

A reputable German Shepherd dog breeder will provide X-rays of puppy hind legs for signs of hip dysplasia
A reputable German Shepherd dog breeder will provide X-rays of the puppy’s hips

Some dog breeders are better than others. Do your research on the best dog breeders and weigh the difference in price of puppy. I have seen really pricey German Shepherd puppies from “reputable dog breeders” with temperament issues. You can find great puppies from a reputable breeder via word of mouth.

The next German Shepherd puppy I get will be from a breeder that has been breeding German Shepherds for 30 years. They breed German Shepherds for the love of the breed. I found out about them from a family at a dog park we go to. Their German Shepherd was beautiful and very well-behaved.

Dog shelters

Dog shelters are heart-breaking. There are many reasons dogs wind up in dog shelters, but to me, I can’t think of one that is justified, but I digress.

There is nothing wrong with adopting a dog from a dog shelter. These animals need love and a comforting home. For whatever reason, these dogs were abandoned by their “family”, and this is not the dog’s fault.

Some reasons dogs are brought to dog shelters

  • Family had to move and new place doesn’t allow pets
  • Family couldn’t deal with failed potty training issues
  • A dog was too expensive to take care of
  • Family lost interest (especially if buying around holidays)
  • A dog is “too much work”
  • Work schedules don’t include a dog
  • Dogs run away or escape and aren’t claimed
  • People just abandon them and move away
  • Dog behavioral issues
  • The dog gets old

I don’t agree with anything on this list. All the dogs I’ve had, have stayed with me until their last day on earth. I’ve been through hell and back at times with their medical expenses and health issues and would never abandon them, but that’s me. I love dogs more than most people.

Most shelter dogs are older and already house trained! This is a huge bonus! Some dogs may have been beaten or treated poorly in the previous home.

The staff at dog shelters knows each dog’s temperament, if they are good with kids, etc. They will be able to match you with a perfect fit for a dogand you will be saving a dog’s life. Shelter dogs are also inexpensive ($300 or less and most are spayed or neutered.)

We rescued Jake from a kill shelter in 2019. Jake is an 8 week old German Shepherd lab mix.
We rescued Jake from a Kill shelter at 8 weeks of age in 2019

I wanted a 2nd German Shepherd but heard of a dog shelter that rescued 30 puppies from an out-of-state kill shelter. We found Jake there and adopted him. He was 8 weeks old and set to be put to sleep the next day. Jake is a mix of German Shepherd and Lab. Hard to believe this little guy almost didn’t have a chance at life. Glad we found him. He’s very loving, extremely smart and close with our family.

Pros and Cons of Puppy buying options

As you’ve read, there are many different options when buying a puppy. Purchasing a puppy from a pet store is convenient and closer to home most of the time. If you go the pet store route, you will pay higher prices and indirectly be supporting puppy mills.

If you purchase a puppy from a reputable dog breeder, you will pay more money than if you bought from a pet store, but it’s worth it.

The average German Shepherd puppy price averages $1500 – $2500 from a reputable dog breeder.

I found this couple, who had 5 German Shepherd puppies available. We hit it off on the phone instantly, and she suggested we stop by to see the puppies and their parents.

Where to buy a German Shepherd puppy
Our German Shepherd, Leia, at 10 weeks old

The couple we bought Leia from does not breed German Shepherds. Their dogs had a litter of puppies unexpectedly and they needed to find good homes for them. They wanted to meet with all potential puppy buyers to make sure their puppies got great homes.

It wasn’t about the money for them, as their only concern was to get their puppies into good. 3 years later I send weekly photos of Leia to them. They only wanted $500 a puppy so it was a win win.

We brought our new girl Leia home the night we met her and she hasn’t left my side since.

Leia at 4 month old

You have to really love animals and dogs to live with them. You have to spend time with your dogs because you want to, not because you have to. Dogs are so smart, loving and always there for you. Be there for them, always!

When you bring a dog animal into your home, you do it with the knowledge that it’s FOREVER! If you question this for one second, DON’T GET A DOG.

Some people abandoned their dogs because their new apartment wouldn’t take dogs. I will never understand that. When I looked for an apartment years ago, the first question I asked was, do you take dogs? If they said no, ok thanks for your time.

I’m responsible for lives and health of my dogs until we are no longer together on this planet. My dogs didn’t ask to be bought by me, I chose their lives as my responsibility.

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By Steve

I love dogs, especially German Shepherds!

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