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How much does a German Shepherd cost?

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How much does a German Shepherd cost?

Are you looking at adding a German Shepherd to your family and wonder how much you should budget for a puppy? This breed is not cheap – the quick answer is that you should plan to spend between $1,500-$3,000 for a German Shepherd from health-tested parents. While it is possible to find puppies without papers for much less (as little as $200 in some cases), these usually come from lines without health and temperament testing. It is much better to spend a bit more on the initial purchase price and get a well-mannered puppy with great genes!

Let’s look in detail why German Shepherds are expensive dogs, and what factors influence the price.

Table of Contents

How much is a German Shepherd puppy?

German Shepherd Dogs are an extremely popular breed in the US – the American Kennel Club lists these dogs as the #3 breed in 2020 (only surpassed by the Labrador Retriever and the French Bulldog). They are one of the dog breeds that every child can recognize and name – their beauty, loyalty and intelligence makes them wonderful companions and watchdogs. 

However, a well-bred German Shepherd is not cheap. The average price for a puppy without papers is $800. While it might be tempting to jump on a “bargain” like this, don’t do it: German Shepherds have a variety of breed-specific health issues. Only responsible breeders who test and select the healthiest dogs for breeding will produce the best puppies. These health-tested and papered puppies will be quite a lot more than $800: Most AKC breeders’ prices for German Shepherd puppies start at $1,500 and can go up as high as $3,000.

male german shepherd

Why are German Shepherds so expensive?

Breeding dogs is a lot more than simply pairing two adults of the same breed, raising the puppies and selling them. Responsible breeders take their dogs to dog shows, have them cleared for any breed-specific health issues, put a lot of time and effort into finding the perfect mate and raise the puppies with a lot of sensory stimulation and early socialization.

Most of the health issues that German Shepherds can exhibit cannot simply be diagnosed in a quick exam at the vet. Instead, the require more involved diagnostics such as x rays (to check for hip dysplasia) or genetic testing. This is not cheap – and will be reflected in the purchase price of the puppies!

In particular, a responsible breeder will perform:

  • Hip x rays
  • Elbow x rays
  • Thyroid tests
  • Cardiac tests
  • Canine opthomolagist exam

These tests are required by the AKC for all German Shepherd Dog breedings

If a breeder tries to tell you that his puppies are healthy because their parents never had any issues – do not believe him! It is impossible to diagnose e.g. mild hip dysplasia without radiographs.

Where can you find cheap German Shepherd Dogs?

You will be able to find GSD puppies who cost much less than $1,500. The question is – do you want to purchase a dog with questionable health and temperament? 

On Craigslist or similar classified ads, many dog owners sell puppies from “oops litters” (unplanned litters) or puppies that they bred on purpose without any health testing. These dogs often are not purebred German Shepherd puppies, but are mixed with e.g. Labradors, Pitbulls or Golden Retrievers. They might be as cheap as $200. If you end up with a dog with genetically based health conditions however, be prepared to spend a multiple of the original purchase price on vet costs!

 

Temperament and behavior

While a lot of good manners can be taught through consistent training, temperament is genetic to a certain level. The disposition to be anxious, stressed, reactive or “over the top” can be passed on by parents to their offspring. Responsible breeders will take the parents’ character into account and only pair two dogs who make a good match not only in their body type, but also temperament.

Unfortunately, many irresponsible breeders do not take the parents’ behavior into account when deciding which pairing to make. When you buy an extra cheap German Shepherd puppy, you not only get a dog with questionable health, but also with unpredictable temperament! Even aggression can be genetic and can be passed on from the mom and dad to the offspring. You can save yourself a lot of time, nerves and money spent on future behavioral training by getting a well-bred (and more expensive) dog.

What is the most expensive type of German Shepherd?

Like in many dog breeds, certain rare German Shepherd colors are much more expensive than the most common colors and patterns. Special colorings such as the Panda Shepherd, Isabella German Shepherd, black German Shepherddogs with one or two blue eyes or the extremely rare Albino German Shepherd can be as expensive as $5,000.

 While it is tempting to get a color that nobody else has – don’t let looks alone guide your decision on your future puppy. It is much more important that your puppy has a sound temperament and fits in well with your family and lifestyle than that he has a certain rare look.

In recent years, a few breeders have produced so-called “Miniature German Shepherds”. Breeders of Miniature German Shepherds charge extremely high prices for their puppies, starting at $2,000 and ranging up to $4,500 for the smallest dogs. It is important to note that there is no such breed as a Miniature German Shepherd registered with the AKC. These dogs are mutts (German Shepherds mixed with Miniature Poodles, Shelties or other smaller breeds). Once more, be certain to not decide on your future dog based on looks alone. A stable temperament and good health is much more integral than a certain size or weight.

Working lines vs show lines

The German Shepherd was originally bred as a working dog. Since his original use as a shepherd dog however, he has filled many different roles – from guarding properties over being used in the show ring to participating in Schutzhund and IPO trails.

Depending on which lines your German Shepherd Dog comes from, the prices can vary a lot!

Show line German Shepherds are the dogs that are bred for conformation shows. These are the type of dogs you should decide on if you would like a shepherd puppy as a pet and companion animal.

If you are interested in using your German Shepherd as a protection dog and to participate in IPO trials, you should pick one from working lines. There are a lot of highly successful working line breeders both in North America and Europe. Some of them sell so-called “started dogs”, which means dogs that have already received some obedience, protection and tracking training. Started dogs can be as pricey as $5,000-$7,000. 

Working German Shepherds that have been fully trained can be extremely expensive, up to $20,000. For this price, you get an absolutely flawless dog with extensive skills and perfect obedience. 

Some US dog owners interested in Schutzhund choose to import a puppy from old European working lines. Flying a 2-3 month old puppy across the Atlantic costs up to $2,000 – and that is on top of the purchase price of a puppy. A pup from high-achieving parents might already be $2,000 – which puts you at $4,000 by the time the dog arrives in the US. While this might sound insanely high for a pet dog owner, for Schutzhund enthusiasts it is a typical price for a pedigreed German Shepherd pup.

puppy and mom german shepherd

How much does it cost a month to own a German Shepherd?

You should budget at least $90-110 every month for your dog. This will cover the basics: high-quality food and regular vet checks. Some German Shepherd owners spend considerably more money. Professional grooming is necessary for many German Shepherd owners, as these dogs shed heavily. Depending on your location and the type of groomer you choose, a single visit can be as much as $120. 

This breeds tends to exhibit several behavioral issues that can be difficult to fix for first-time dog owners, including:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Reactivity
  • High prey drive
  • Incessant barking
  • Leash pulling

Many German Shepherd owners end up taking weekly training lessons, either in a group class or in one-on-one private sessions with a trainer. You can plan to spend anywhere from $80 (for group classes) up to $500 (for private lessons) per month for the ongoing training.

Some German Shepherds are quite destructive and require a lot of chew items and bones in order to not chew up their owners’ furniture. These new chews and toys can quickly become expensive – you might spend $30-100 per month on them.

german shepherd black and tan

How much does it cost to get everything for my German Shepherd puppy?

If you are just getting your puppy, plan to make several other purchases, including a crate, dog bed, car crate, bowls etc.

The vet costs in the first year of a dog’s life are usually much higher than later on, because the dog needs regular vaccinations and puppy wellness checks as well as a spay/neuter surgery. Because the German Shepherd is a large dog which frequently suffers from bloat (a potentially fatal stomach rotation), many owners elect to have the stomach tacked during the spay/neuter surgery. This will prevent future bloat episodes, but quickly hikes up the cost of this routine procedure to $1,000.

How can I save when purchasing a puppy?

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to purchase a healthy puppy for little money. Registered breeders invest a lot of time and effort into producing well-rounded puppies, and this will be reflected in the price.

You should absolutely avoid getting a “cheap puppy”. The biggest issues with unregulated breeding of German Shepherd Dogs is pronounced hip dysplasia. If the breeding pair is not scanned for this condition, it can pass it on to their offspring.

Unfortunately, hip dysplasia can be so severe that it already affects very young dogs under the age of 4. The looser the hips sit in the sockets, the more profound the impact will be. A backyard-bred German Shepherd might already show a limp at the tender age of 2 years old.

Do not skip out on spending a few hundred dollars more when getting your puppy. You need to find a responsible breeder and make sure to pay for a healthy puppy. This is the best (and only way) to guarantee that your German Shepherd will be a lifelong friend and beloved companion.

 

Buying retired adults

Responsible breeders quite frequently sell retired breeding and show dogs. These dogs can be anywhere from 2 to 8 years old. They are sold for a number of reasons, such as being done with their show career or being spayed after having a few litters. Many breeders like to keep the number of breeding dogs low so that they can give each dog individual attention and optimal care.

There are a number of advantages in buying retired adults. These dogs:

  • Have a great pedigree and come from parents that have passed all health testing requirements
  • Are in great shape – raised on high-quality food and are up-to-date on all shots and vet care
  • Typically have received great socialization by being taken along to dog shows, living with other dogs and getting a great training foundation through their experienced breeder
  • Are a lot cheaper than purebred young puppies.

Retired adults rarely cost more than $400, with some prices as low as $200. It can be a bit harder to find these dogs – you will have to inquire with several breeders to find the right match for you. They usually only have adult German Shepherds available every few years and take great care in placing them in the perfect forever home.

 

The bottom line

German Shepherds are no cheap dogs. If you buy a dog from a responsible breeder (whether from a show or a working line), expect to pay around $1,500 for a puppy. This price can become considerably higher if your pup has a rare color or comes from champion bloodlines.

While it is tempting to search for the cheapest puppy around and get a GSD through classified ads for as little as a few hundred dollars, that is not a good idea. These dogs lack health and temperament testing and will not become the amazing companion you are looking for. 

Health issues like hip dysplasia and behavioral challenges such as reactivity and aggression are in part genetic. They often get passed on through irresponsible breeding. 
(This is not only an issue in GSD, but in many different herding and working breeds, such as also the 
less common English Shepherd).

It is better to spend some more time searching for the right breeder and ideal puppy for you and your family. If you are open to adopting an adult dog, getting a retired show dog is a great option. These German Shepherds are already trained and socialized and come from healthy lines with great temperaments – while also being comparatively cheap at about $400. 

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