You have thought it over and came to the conclusion: YES, we do want to have a dog. And it has to be a White Shepherd. The first idea might be to take the car and to drive to pick out a puppy. The next time will be exciting, the whole family will be looking forward to the new family member and everybody has his own ideas about the future. However, the way you should go about it will not be the easiest.
First of all, you should think of whether you want a puppy or an adult dog. Perhaps you want to give a second (or third...) chance to a dog living in an animal shelter?! This will be depending on your personal situation and attitude about dogs.
Most of the dog lovers will decide to get a puppy. A little polar bear you can see growing up. You will show him the important facts of life and you can teach from the beginning. White Shepherd puppies do not live on every corner, but unfortunately, there are more and more breeders who offer cheap puppies in almost every newspaper. However, there are a few serious White Shepherd breeders and depending on your hometown, you might be forced to drive quite a ways away. In any case, your new family member should be worth a good long look at and make sure to choose the breeder carefully.
You will have various possibilities of finding addresses of breeders. Perhaps you have already seen White Shepherds in your area and you have asked their owners. Really good and reputable breeders have often sold their entire litter just because of the good impression a former puppy purchaser had about the kennel. These breeders seldom put ads in the papers, they often already have purchasers for the complete next litter.
All clubs have lists with addresses and information about breeders. If you are lucky, they can already tell you on the phone where you can go to find a breeder with puppies. If so, you will save a lot of time and money for useless telephone calls. Some clubs also have Internet pages that are updated regularly.
There are many dog magazines on the market. These magazines are also a perfect medium for breeders to win new people over for their puppies. It is amazing that most of the parent dogs are well-decorated winners. See the ad as what it is: just advertising. The idea is that you (the person who wants to choose a puppy) choose just HIM and none else advertising in this paper. A breeder, offering puppies every month with the same text makes the impression that, a) he cannot sell his puppies for one or another reason or b) he has lots of litters. There will certainly be a reason for this and many litters may lead to the conclusion that the financial gain is more important than the dogs. Call various breeders and you certainly will find out the difference. You can also find breeder addresses on the boards of supermarkets but in this case, you should be cautious. It is often an opportunity for non serious breeders to get purchasers for their puppies.
Of course, there are also shows for White Shepherds. They are a good opportunity to get in touch with owners (who just tell their experiences without the intention of selling a dog), to see many dogs of different types and to talk to various breeders on the same day. You will also get an idea about the character of a particular line of dogs. It is important that you personally judge what you are about to see and hear.
Many breeders say that it is their "hobby" to breed dogs. You get the impression that the puppies will grow up with all the love possible and without looking for the financial win or loss the litter may bring. This is the reason why many breeders use the word "hobby." The reality often shows a different face.
Like in other breeds, the breeding of White Shepherds means for many people, power, money and influence. No breeder wants to have a big financial loss on his account after he sold a litter of puppies. Those people who visit shows can tell stories about breeder reactions when "their" puppies got only 3rd or 4th place finishes. They might ask themselves "Is it still just a hobby"?
The word hobby SHOULD say that this breeder works outside the home, where he/she earns enough money to support their daily life. Sometimes he/she will raise a litter, but will choose the owners of the dogs very carefully. He even refuses to sell a puppy when the people seem to be incapable of properly keeping and taking care of a dog. This is what a "true" breeder should look for.
In any case, you should look at where you buy your dog. You can find a place where your puppy will get perfect socialization, you can count on ANY help possible WHENEVER there are troubles with your dog and the breeder will always be interested in the development of "his" dog. You should also ask for references from prior clients of the breeder, and ask if it is possible to contact them. This should be done to ask of their personal experiences with the breeder and the development of their dog. Hopefully, you will find out these facts before you have purchased your puppy.
On the other hand, if a breeder needs the money of the puppy sale for his personal life, this means big pressure. He HAS to sell a certain amount of puppies to survive. Such breeders cannot stand the high tests of breeding clubs. A dog who has a bad x-ray result can destroy the breeders existence. So, these breeders prefer to decide themselves which dogs they send into the breeding program. Of course, they have to reduce the risk not to get their dogs into the breed. Of course, you cannot ask the breeder how he is earning his living, but you can get the answer by looking carefully around the kennel.
First of all, the expectations for the perfect kennel are quite different. This makes it difficult to recommend a breeder. If you look at the ads, you can see that it must be very easy to find a puppy from Show Champions. Perfect character, perfect looks (snow white with solid black pigmentation) and perfect socialization included. We have a saying in Germany: "Paper is patient." You should take your time and do as much research as you can. Then, take a piece of paper and write down what YOU are expecting from the breeder, the kennel and last but not least, from your future family member. This will make it easier to compare different kennels.
You should think about your future dog. What are you expecting? How will he live, which "partners" will he have (cats, other dogs, children). A good breeder already starts with the socialization and shows different things and people to the puppies. When you have small children, you can make sure that the puppy already has similar contacts. It is not necessary, but when he comes to your home and everything is new for him, a "well-known" person or animal will make it easier for him.
A breeder decides to breed because he thinks that just these dogs are a great deal the "perfect dog" to him. Only with this background, the breeding (will say: keeping the breed alive and to improve it) makes sense. The breeder has an immense knowledge. He does not need many litters to get it. Knowledge and experience can also come from reading and discussions with other experienced people. Such a breeder usually has only one breed, perhaps two (White shepherds and a related one).
In some clubs, the number of litters allowed is already limited. The BVWS allows only three litters per kennel per year, the number of breeding females is unimportant. The caring for the puppies is very time consuming. When the breeder has a job, he usually has to take his annual vacation to care for the puppies. The socialization of the puppies requires a lot of time and means stress so that many breeders only have one litter per year. More litters do not have to be negative, but you should check whether there came a certain routine to the growing up. Of course, a breeder who rears up to 4-5 litters per year can do this with the same intensity and "quality" as a breeder who has only 1 litter. It all depends on the personal situation and the situation in the kennel.
However, the chance of a good individual and personal relationship with the breeder goes down the more puppies the breeder sells. A breeder, rearing more than one litter per year, can keep a more regular contact with his dog owners than a breeder with 5 or more litters per year (and this continuous over several years). Many dog owners do not require or pursue communication with the breeder after purchasing a puppy, but I think that this is sad and also a negative thing for the breeding. An open relationship with the owners means a positive opinion of the kennel, satisfied owners and probably new purchasers. Furthermore, such owners can be persuaded to take part in shows, representing the kennel. Of course, they also give information about the development of the puppies that can become important for a future breeding program.
Back to your choice: under no circumstances should a puppy be raised in an outdoor kennel. Explanation: that they become used to "wind and weather" and you will get a healthier dog, may sound logical. To us, a white shepherd is a family member who has to be near his family and not in the limited space of a kennel somewhere outside in the yard. White Shepherds who shall become family members, should be used to the usual noises of a household like hair dryer, vacuum cleaner and so on. When the puppies are allowed to live in the house with the breeder, they are used to many things they otherwise have to learn additionally. Of course, they also grow up in a kennel, but many important details are missing. Most breeders have an "alternative solution." They keep the puppies in the house until they are 4-5 weeks old. When they are about 5 weeks of age, they get moved to the kennel, mainly to save the furniture. Just at this age, the socialization becomes the most important. It depends on the breeders attitude, and this is a thing only you can see and judge when you are visiting the kennel. The perfect situation will be puppies who are at the breeders side for the whole time, which of course means a lot more work for the breeder.
The perfect kennel has a separate room for the puppies. This room should be practical, i.e., tiles on the floor (easy to clean) and covered with towels. The box for the puppies with a warm lamp is in this room, furthermore toys making different noises. There should be no point of danger: the puppies cannot reach cables or other dangerous things. Perhaps the room has a door to the yard. During the first few weeks, the puppies only need a little bit of space, but from the 4th week on, they can discover the world outside. When they can go in and out whenever they want, this means a plus for the breeder. However, this is not possible in every house.
It is not necessary to have a "tidy" yard. Mostly, the contrary will be the case. A litter of puppies can destroy like a hurricane. The yard should be an adventure for puppies. They should find there, different underground terrain, (sand, stones, grass) lots of toys, places to dig, to climb (old trees) and so on. The kennel (house and yard) can look a bit like a chaotic place. A breeder who has a litter of lively puppies in his home, has other things to do than to clean the windows and the cupboards. When you can walk through the house with the so-called "white gloves on" and you do not find any dirt, ask yourself how much time might be left for the puppies. A mountain of dirty towels and a puppy looking through these towels, well, this is a priceless picture in a kennel. A tidied, clean home will certainly make the best first impression to most purchasers. However, when you visit a really bad kennel, you will soon realize the difference with a kennel where the breeder just does not have the time to clean everything because of some exciting weeks with the puppies.
When you enter the house and yard, the dogs have to bark, of course. It is their territory and you are a stranger. Nevertheless, they should be friendly as soon as the breeder appears. The shyness of the breed can seldom be found in a whole pack. They are in their own environment and enjoy the safety of the pack. When the reactions of the whole pack show shyness and they run away instead of welcoming you in a friendly way, you should be sceptic. You should also turn away when the dogs are aggressive.
When the breeder has only one female, she might react reserved. As soon as you are in and near the dog, she should be open and friendly. A shivering female under the table is a very negative point and you can be sure that she will show this behaviour to the puppies. It is not okay to breed such a dog and it will be a tough piece of work to make a lively, self-confident dog out of this puppy.
All dogs in the pack should be friendly and natural. Of course, they must be in good shape, make a satisfying and good first impression, the coat looks healthy and the eyes are shining. It is not necessary that the coat is completely clean, perhaps it is bad weather and the dogs were outside. There is a visible difference between a dirty dog coming back from his playing time and a poor and ill animal. You must see that the house is well-known by the dogs. This means that they always are allowed to be at this place and are not just kept in because the breeder wants to impress his visitors. Take a look at the relationship between breeder and dogs: it shows a lot about the breeders attitude towards the dogs. The dogs should look for the contact with the breeder, trying to be touched by him/her.
Even if there are no puppies during your first visit, the breeder will be able to tell you which female will be the future Mom. He will be able to tell you a lot about the character of this special dog (and also the other dogs). Perhaps he will tell one or more stories so that this visit can be very interesting and exciting. Often enough, you cannot see the father. Only a few breeders have their own stud and even if this breeder has a male dog, he is not always the best partner for this female. There are many things to think about when a breeder plans a litter, it is a perfect coincidence when his own male fits. The pedigree and some photos should be available. In the pedigree, take a look at the ancestors. The disadvantages of inbreeding is a genetic fact, so a close relationship between the male and female should be avoided. Meanwhile, the close inbreeding, done during the first generations is no longer visible in the pedigrees but it is still in the background and there is nearly no dog free of this fact. Three generations without any particular dog mentioned once, is the minimum. Unfortunately, many breeders still use inbreeding with hopes of achieving the perfect dog. The disadvantages will be seen in future generations. In my opinion, the inbreeding done nowadays is like playing with fire, the white shepherds will lose more than they win.
The number of dogs in a kennel can vary a lot. It depends on your impression of the whole situation in the kennel. Do you think that the breeder can take care of all these dogs, give them everything they need? A breeding female can be used for breeding until she is 7 or 8 years old. The age of living is much higher, up to 14, 15 years. It is a nice gesture when the breeder keeps a breeding female in his kennel and pack even after the dog is retired. He will also benefit from it. His experienced female will help the younger females raise their puppies. A breeder often keeps a puppy to improve his breeding program. Nobody can foresee the development of a puppy. A missing tooth, a bad hip, being oversized or other diseases, can make breeding impossible with this dog. Often enough, the breeder finds out when the dog is 1-2 years old and he is already so emotionally attached, that he can no longer part with the dog. There might be dogs in the pack who have never been used for breeding.
Trophies, medals, ribbons and so on, mean that the breeder is interested in showing and comparing his best dogs. He is interested in the breed and does not fear any concurrence. The purpose of showing dogs is to demonstrate the results achieved by breeders and in return, they receive compensation and direction for future breeding programs. To go about judging the success of the kennel, you should see past the ribbons and trophies. There are shows with only a few participants, so that a particular dog is alone in his class and gets the trophy without any effort. We visited a show where they sold the trophies. When your dog was not placed, you had the opportunity to buy a trophy. If you really want to know the show reputation, ask the breeder about number of participants and the name of the shows. On the other hand, you should also know that a well decorated show dog is not necessarily a perfect stud. The titles just say that this dog comes up to the standard, he has nearly the perfect conformation.
In any case, calculate some time for your first visit. Even if you do not want to buy a puppy at first, it can and should take a while. Many breeders also ask the purchasers about family situations. They want to know the people they send their puppies to. They want to know the life the young puppy has to look forward to and what he can expect for the dog.
It is quite important that the breeder himself is sympathetic to you. If you do not get along with this person, the contact will end with the puppies 8th week. When you like the breeder and vice versa, you will not hesitate to call him as soon as a problem occurs or you have any questions concerning the dog.
I do not know whether there is a kennel existing that comes up to all points of my descriptions. I mixed up a few points that I think are important for a perfect kennel. Look at some different kennels to have a comparison. Each breeder should understand that you cannot make a decision after your first visit. In any case, you should call the breeder in advance to make an appointment. Otherwise, you risk to stand in front of a closed door. And also, a breeder should have a right to have some personal time without being disturbed by possible puppy purchasers.
The club your breeder belongs to should not be the most important fact for your choice. In Germany, as well as in America, there are several clubs with different intentions. However, all of them want to do the best for the breed and improve the breeding. Of course, there is a certain jealousy between some kennels. No breeder should talk bad about another, when there is something to worry about in a kennel, a buyer will certainly find it out when checking it carefully enough.
The breeding level varies between the clubs. There are often differences in breeding rules. You get a pedigree for your puppy when (in Germany) the breeder belongs to a club or (in the US) when the parents are AKC / CKC registered. In Germany, a registration of the parents in a club does not mean automatically that your puppy gets a pedigree. In any case the breeder can and will inform you.
There is no doubt that each breeder can socialize the puppies perfectly. Receiving a pedigree is not important for this fact. You have the chance to get a cheap, healthy and well-socialized puppy from a "non-pedigree" breeder BUT you will know it one day in the future. Of course, everybody will ensure you that the parents are healthy, x-rayed and so on. When you are lucky, you even get to know the ancestors of the parents and the breeder tells you that there is no inbreeding in the lines. In a few cases, the parents have pedigrees and the breeder just does not want to pay the club and registration fees for the one and only litter.
However, most of these litters are done by private people who have a beautiful female (in their own opinion) and think that this female should have one litter in her lifetime. This is a fairy-tale. A litter has no influence on the health or the character of a female. Many owners do not want to miss the experience of breeding and this is their true reason. The background is certainly a secondary concern and I am sure that even these people invest much time and love in the puppies. A club fee, registration for the kennel name and a breeders' test is a lot of work and money so that they prefer to make this litter without pedigrees. They do not see that they are causing a problem for the whole breed. A membership in a club is not only investing money, it also means information and help as soon as a problem occurs.
In any case, a puppy without a pedigree is not allowed to be shown, and, it has no real chance of entering the "correct" breeding program. You can continue in the same way, have a litter without papers, this is just multiplying, no breeding. Unfortunately, no one can stop this from happening.
Most clubs make all the efforts to improve the White Shepherd breed and to collect information concerning ancestors, diseases, etc. They usually have contacts with scientists, vets and so on and this whole structure helps to keep a breed healthy and alive. The clubs have books with information concerning genetic diseases in particular litters, they can give recommendations when you want to choose a male. They can think about controls as soon as a disease is made known. A breeder who just puts a male and a female together and just looks that both have four legs, two ears and are white, can make very bad mistakes. The victims are the puppies and at least their owners who, in the worst case, have to invest a fortune with the vet. The clubs can help with advice and information, but all this costs a certain amount of time and money. Even if many members are spending a lot of their spare time for club work, it's not an easy task. Most clubs will be truly dedicated to the cause.
"Breeders" who are selling their puppies at a low price usually are seeking a profit too. They often save money by leaving out the worm cures, the necessary injections. The result sometimes (of course not always) is an ill puppy and if you have seen a puppy dying because of parvo virus, you know what I mean.
As I said before, there is a chance of getting a healthy, wonderful puppy at a low price but there is also a big risk of getting a difficult or even ill dog. A breeder, belonging to a White Shepherd club and wanting to improve the breed, is willing to accept strict rules. In either of both cases, are you truly guaranteed of getting a healthy, well-socialized puppy? There can be no real guaranty of that. But, you are the person who looks at the kennels, so look carefully.
They are not worth a written word, but unfortunately, many people are willing to adopt such a puppy just because it looks that sad and poor. This is the breeders' calculation and often enough, it works.
The target of these breeders is that you decide spontaneously to take a puppy. First of all, they make a profit AND take advantage of your emotions and thoughts of wanting a puppy in your home. Of course, a "24-hour-delivery-guaranteed" from certain places sounds interesting, but when it comes to the purchase of a living animal, this is the wrong way! However, some breeders actually offer all breeds and guarantee that you can pick your puppy at the railway station or the airport the next day. You can just imagine what situation those pups come from !!!
These "breeders" work in the psychological way. They have a good bunch of arguments and all want to convince you that you have to buy here and now. Otherwise something bad might happen to the puppy. ("I have to move today, when the puppy is not sold this evening I have to kill it") It is hard to turn away when you have once looked into the brown eyes of a dirty, sad-looking puppy. Anyway: these dogs are often ill, worm-cures and injections are not done but the worst fact is, that the breeder will produce the next litter as soon as this is sold. The only chance to stop this awful and sad business is not to buy a puppy from such a place. Honestly, I can understand everybody who cannot turn away. You should do so and inform your vet, the animal-shelter or the responsible authority in that area.
You must know, these breeders are perfect salesmen. They look at your face and know your attitude. They contemplate the situation and offer a price reduction or they say that the puppy will be killed this evening. (They will NOT kill him, a dead dog does not mean money and money is the only thing they want.) Don't be impressed, immediately inform the animal welfare authority.
It is a great idea to give a new home to a White Shepherd who could not stay in his home any longer and now lives in the small kennel of an animal shelter. White Shepherds particularly, will suffer in these places and should find a new home as soon as possible.
You should check the advantages and disadvantages carefully. There are only very few puppies in the animal shelters, usually you find elderly animals there. Young dogs are rare, but from 4-5 years of age, you have a good chance of finding a dog. The poorest creatures are older dogs because many people are afraid of possible high vet costs and of getting emotionally attached to a dog who might not live much longer.
In any case, you should think about the dogs life before he came to the shelter. Often enough, it wasn't good and he lived through horrible experiences. Not all dogs have faults in character, but it is a risk anyway. So you should have a certain knowledge of dog behaviour in general. Perhaps the former owner had other ideas on education than you have and you have to correct a lot of things until it leads to a real partnership. It is possible to realize, the White Shepherds are an intelligent breed and they soon will adjust to a new environment especially when it is much better than the old one.
A few dogs have real temperament problems. Before you take over such a dog, you should think whether you have the necessary experience, time and patience to help such a dog. When you give him back after four or five weeks of frustration, and sometimes sooner, it would have been of no help to you or the dog itself. For the latter, it is another bad experience and the outlook for the next opportunity or possibility will be that much harder and difficult.
Most animal shelters will allow a several contacts with the dog and potential new owner. You can take the dog for a walk (and look at his behavior when meeting other people/dogs). Some animal shelters even allow the dog to pay you a visit for the whole weekend so that you can carefully find out whether this is "your" dog.
There is so much to be considered when the decision has been made to bring a puppy into your life, and if you take into consideration what you have just read, it will make your experience a wonderful and fulfilling one !!!
Copyright: Gaby von Döllen, Worpswede, March 2003Copying and publishing needs a written permission by the author.