I first met Riley, my girlfriend’s midnight-black German Shepherd, two years ago. We’d been dating a few weeks and I was telling her all about how good I was with dogs, how I could walk into any pub or park and walk away with a pack of new four-pawed pals. “Well,” she warned me, “you just have to remember that Riley was a Police dog. He’s not a cuddly family pet. You have to approach him calmly and carefully, or else that working instinct might rear up.”
So I walked into the kitchen slowly, approaching the lupine, slumbering mass of black fur quietly and carefully, my hands out so he could see I wasn’t a threat. He got up slowly and padded over to me, claws clattering on tiles. He looked me in the eye, and I was a little nervous, but then he gave me a great big kiss. Riley’s been my best pal ever since. In fact, it’s probably because of him that I’ve kept the girlfriend around…
This first meeting with Riley sums up so much of what’s brilliant about the German Shepherd breed. It’s little wonder that, according to a petbacker.com poll, they’re America’s second favourite kind of dog. There’s something primal about their wolf-like appearance. They’ve got the size to be intimidating, but the intelligence and the good nature to know when to turn it off, making them ideal working dogs and family pets. I’ve said for years that big dogs have better tempers because, unlike a nippy little terrier, they have nothing to prove except their utter adoration for you.
So, now that I’ve sold you on getting a Riley of your own, we have to answer that all important question: how much does a German Shepherd puppy actually cost? In this blog, I’ll break down how to find the right breeder, insurance, and what toys and extras they’ll need. Then, using the magic of calculators, I’ll give you a back-of-the-envelope cost for your new best friend.
How to Find the Right Breeder
A Google search for ‘German Shepherd puppies’ will reveal a cornucopia of heart-meltingly gorgeous pictures. It may well be tempting to click on the first picture and say, “Oh yes, we’ll have him”, without putting much thought into where he’s coming from. Sites like Gumtree will offer pups for a fraction of what a proper breeder will charge. But, after a dear friend’s experience of a Gumtree puppy developing chronic, painful, and incredibly expensive hip dysplasia a matter of weeks after coming home, I would always recommend going to a registered breeder.
While nobody can guarantee that a dog won’t develop hereditary conditions, especially if they’re from increasingly limited gene-pools like pure-bred Shepherds are, a registered breeder will have a better understanding of an individual dog’s pedigree. This will help to reduce instances of these issues. In fact, in the UK and US, a good breeder will give you a Kennel-Club-approved copy of the pedigree document, which is like your pup’s family tree. Speaking of family, at a decent breeder’s you should get to meet your new pup’s mum too. Further, licensed breeders also have records of things like mum and dad’s hip and elbow scores, which are used to indicate the likelihood of the pups developing nasty congenital conditions.
In England and Wales, earning a dog breeding license also depends on the breeders adhering to best-practice standards, like ensuring mum and pups get enough food, water, and exercise, and that they have suitably comfortable and clean digs.
But of course, like everything in this world, ensuring your pup has had the best possible start will come at a cost. Tellingly, most breeders don’t advertise their prices online. According to allshepherd.com, a responsible breeder of purebred Shepherds will likely ask for $500 to $2,000 (£385 – £1,542) for the pick of the litter. With my experience of pedigree working dogs, I’d say it’s more likely to be at the higher end of that. But it’s all worth it for your new best friend’s wellbeing.
Of course, there’s a lot more to consider than the showroom price tag in costing a German Shepherd puppy.
Buying from the best breeder in your state or home nation will go a long way to ensuring that your German Shepherd pup doesn’t develop congenital medical issues, but, like all pedigrees, even the finest Shepherd could still be susceptible to these. Shepherds are prone to a long list of conditions, including haemophilia, pancreatic issues, and problems with their oesophagus, as well as the aforementioned joint problems. And their rough-and-tumble nature could also land them in the vet, as could their penchant for eating anything. So, while it might not be cost-effective for a little lap dog, I heartily recommend taking out pet insurance for your boisterous Shepherd puppy.
The best quote I could find on gocompare.com for comprehensive pet insurance for a male Shepherd puppy born this summer was £19.15 ($24.90) per month. Bear in mind that this doesn’t necessarily include the essential vaccinations and microchip that every new puppy should have. This covers treatment up to £1,000 per condition, with an excess of £85. But after seven years, insurance spikes for all pedigree dogs. Even if, for the sake of easy maths, it’ll stay at £19.15 for the average eleven years you’ll have your Shepherd, that adds up to £2528,35 ($3287.61) over his lifetime. A significant value to factor into the question of how much a German Shepherd puppy costs.
Toys and Extras
German Shepherds are fantastically energetic and playful dogs. It’s part of the joy of them. And while he may well be happy playing with a stick or a ball he ‘finds’ outside the tennis court, he’ll need some good, sturdy toys. I like the robust Kong brand for big dogs. He’ll also need bedding, and, considering the size your lap-sized bundle will soon reach, a lot of food. I filled an Amazon basket with a couple of toys, a pet bed, and one big bag of food (which cost about £20 ($26) and should last about three months), and it came to the thick end of £70 ($91). On top of that, you’ll also have little things like poo bags and edible treats for training.
Unless you’re continuing to work from home after the lockdown, you might also want to consider hiring a dog walker to take your pal for some exercise while you’re at the office. Here in London, the prices for these services vary wildly, but £15 ($19.50) per hour is pretty typical. Considering a big dog like a Shepherd should be getting about three hours of exercise a day, that could represent a significant cost. You should also consider finding a good boarding kennel for whenever you’re going away. My family’s favourite Muiravonside Kennels on the outskirts of Edinburgh charge £16.95 ($22) per day to look after a Shepherd.
How Much does a German Shepherd Puppy Cost?
I don’t know about you, but that feels like a lot of numbers floating around. Let’s bring them together and calculate the cost for a German Shepherd puppy’s first year:
Buying from a responsible breeder: £1157
Insurance: £19.15 x 12 = £229.80
Toys and extras: £70
Food (after first purchase): 3x £20 = £60
Working day dog walker: £15 x 22 x 12 = £3960
+ Kennels (for two weeks’ annual vacation): £16.95 x 14 =£237.30
So there you have it, the total cost of a German Shepherd puppy is edging towards six grand. A hefty sum, but can you put a price on a friendship like that?
Ryan Callander is a freelance writer currently seeking opportunities to write blogs like this for your business.
Cover image: Wannes De Moi on Unsplash