If you are considering German Shepherd rescue or adoption, please first read
the helpful information below. You'll have a better understanding of the German Shepherd Dog breed and the
rescue and adoption process, and will be better informed to
select the best lifetime match for you. It goes without saying that the emphasis here is on dog rescue from a
shelter or breed rescue; however, all of these recommendations apply equally to making an informed decision about acquiring
a dog from any source, including purchasing one from a German Shepherd breeder.
The official name for this breed is "German Shepherd Dog." Note the correct spelling of "Shepherd" -- it is not
"sheperd," "shepard" or "shephard." The formal breed name "German Shepherd Dog" is commonly abbreviated to "GSD."
Is the German Shepherd Dog the Right Breed For You?
First determine if a German Shepherd Dog is the right
dog for you. There are many online informational resources and educational
books and videos that will assist you to learn
about the breed and determine if this is the breed for your level of dog owning and dog training experience, family
situation, living environment, and future goals.
- Create a
list of the characteristics you are seeking in your future lifetime German Shepherd companion (for example: spayed female, very active,
long coat, younger than two years).
- Equally important, create a list of the characteristics that you could not accommodate in a German Shepherd Dog
(doesn't get along with cats, rambunctious puppy, same gender as another dog currently in your household).
- If you have your mind set on adopting a German Shepherd Dog or German Shepherd puppy only of a particular color (for example, black and tan), you will limit your search and
may pass up an adoptable dog who might be the best match for you, just in a different color scheme. German Shepherd Dogs
come in a variety of types and colors, including breed standard
colors Black and Tan; Black and Red; Bicolor; Sable; and Black; and
colors not included in the breed standard such as White; Liver; and Blue.
Always prioritize temperament and character over color or other purely cosmetic characteristics when seeking
the lifetime companion that is the best match for you.
- Pursue German Shepherd rescue and adoption only after you are prepared with an adequately fenced exercise area with an outdoor
kennel for safety and protection from the elements; a sufficiently sized dog crate for indoor and vehicle use
(many rescue groups now require that adopters continue crate training and use a dog crate; we have several
helpful articles about puppy crate training in
the GSD Rescue Network library); and
basic equipment such as collar, leash, grooming tools, food and water bowls, etc.
- If you are seeking to adopt a dog to be kept primarily out of doors, then the German Shepherd Dog is definitely not
the breed for you. The GSD is a highly social, pack-oriented dog, and if relegated to living outside and isolated
from its people in the home, the German Shepherd puppy or dog will suffer greatly.
- If you are seeking to adopt a dog that doesn't shed its coat, then the German Shepherd Dog is definitely not the
breed for you. The German Shepherd sheds its undercoat all year round, and will often "blow its coat" in copious amounts
during seasonal changes. Regardless of coat length, the German Shepherd is a shedding breed, and if you are not up to regular grooming of the dog and
vacuming of your house and automobile, you should consider an alternate, non-shedding breed for your household.
- If you're seeking to replace a recently deceased dog for which you are still grieving, this is not the time for
you to adopt a new dog. People in mourning often remember their beloved companion recently deceased as being "perfect,"
which creates unrealistic expectations for finding another "perfect" dog to fill the void of loss and sadness.
Give yourself the time to grieve, and pursue dog or puppy adoption only when you're absolutely sure that your search is based not
on your own emotional needs, but on an objective assessment that you're ready to accept into your home and your
heart a new, unique German Shepherd Dog that won't be "just like" your departed dog.
- If you're seeking to adopt a dog to keep an existing dog "company", this is not the time for you to adopt a dog.
If your existing dog is "lonely" it is your responsibility to resolve that by providing the companionship, attention, and obedience training
that your dog requires. If you can't provide that for your existing dog, then you won't be able to provide it for
a second dog, either. The German Shepherd Dog requires close human companionship and interaction, and suffers
significantly if kept only as a companion for another dog.
- If you have children in your household under 10 years of age, consider adopting a dog only if the
dog has been raised since puppyhood with children of the same age as yours without incident and you
are committed to personally supervising 100% of the time that your children are with the dog.
- If you are seeking to adopt a German Shepherd Dog to "protect your children," give your head a shake.
Protecting your children is your job.
- If you have a cat in your household, then limit your adoption criteria only to dogs
that are known to have been raised with cats and are 100% cat friendly or neutral; this information
will be noted in their listing. If the dog's behavior around cats is unknown, then test the dog on leash around
cats before adopting the dog, and commit from the very first day to a training program of cat-proofing your
newly adopted dog. Managing dogs around cats is really no different than any other obedience training. With the rare exception of those very few
dogs hardwired for extreme cat aggression (which will be revealed if you test the dog around cats prior to adopting it),
when a dog harasses or chases cats in the home, this is due to a lack of
appropriate supervision and training by the owner. If yours is a cat-owning household and you're not
able to commit to appropriate supervision and obedience training of a dog, then this is not the time for you to
adopt a dog. If you don't want a dog that might chase
stray cats or other small animals running through the dog's own yard, then you should reconsider
adopting a German Shepherd Dog, a herding breed that is expected to possess prey drive.
- Review the items on your two lists, and determine which characteristics are negotiable (for example, coat color)
and which are not (for example, gender). Review and finalize your list with all
members of your household to ensure that everyone is in agreement about their potential new family member.
Create a final list of the "must haves" and the
"can't haves" -- and now you have your adoption profile to guide you in finding the German Shepherd Dog that is the best lifetime match for you and your family, including all of the pets already residing in your household.
- Use your dog rescue and adoption profile to guide your overall search and your specific inquiries to those offering purebred German Shepherd Dogs
for adoption. For example, if you already have a female dog in your household, limit your inquiries to dog-friendly, male
dogs; if you have cats in your household, then limit your inquiries to cat-friendly dogs; if you're not
a highly active person, then limit your search to mature candidates who are content to relax at your side
while you read or watch TV.
The more you know about the breed in general, and the better prepared you are with
your adoption profile listing the characteristics you are seeking in a German Shepherd puppy or dog, the easier it will be for those offering dogs for adoption
to assist you in determining the best match and the more successful your overall search will be.
Finding an Adoptable GSD
We recommend that potential adopters submit adoption requests only for dogs in their geographic area
so that they can meet the dog in person and work with the party offering the dog for adoption to
determine if the dog is the best lifetime match for you. We strongly recommend against the placement of
rescue dogs out of state unless the interested party is willing to travel to the dog's location to
personally meet the dog. Contact a
breed rescue group serving your geographic region so that you can personally meet and evaluate the purebred German Shepherd Dogs
locally available for adoption.
Now that you've done your research, have a good idea of what type of German Shepherd puppy or dog will best fit with you
and your living situation, have objectively evaluated the reasons you want to adopt a German Shepherd Dog,
and have found an adoptable German Shepherd Dog in your geographic area that matches your profile and that you
would like to personally meet, consider
asking the questions listed below to learn more about the dog and determine if it is the best candidate for you.
Recognize that shelters may not have answers to all of the questions listed below.
Many German Shepherd Dogs available from shelters originally came in as strays without any background information, or
as owner relinquishments with little information provided at the time of relinquishment to the shelter. Rescue groups
may have more information about a dog if the dog was directly relinquished to the rescue group by the original owner.
Private parties offering German Shepherd Dogs for adoption should be able to answer most, if not all of the recommended
pre-adoption questions listed below.
- Why is the dog being re-homed?
- Was this dog acquired by the current owner as a puppy? If not, how
many owners has the dog had, and what were the reasons it was given up previously?
- Did the dog come from a breeder, shelter, rescue, or other source?
- How is the dog with men and women, children, other dogs, cats, or other animals?
- Does the dog have any history of unprovoked aggression to people or animals?
- What is the dog's health status? Will you provide the dog's veterinary records?
- Is the dog current on rabies and all vaccinations? When was the dog last seen by a veterinarian, and why?
- Is the dog receiving any veterinary medication, over-the-counter medications, or supplements, and if so, why?
- Has the dog been relocated from a geographic area where heartworm is present, and if so, has the dog been tested for heartworm?
- Have hip or elbow radiographs been done to evaluate for hip or elbow dysplasia?
- If my veterinarian diagnoses a chronic illness or disease,
will you take the dog back?
- How does this dog behave when at the veterinarian's office?
- Is the dog afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks, or other loud noises?
- Is the dog purebred, and if so are its AKC papers available?
- Is the dog spayed/neutered? If so, at what age, and were there any complications?
- Has the dog had any type of formal training, and if so, what kind of training (food reward, praise-based, compulsory) and what commands does it know?
- Is the dog leash trained? Is it easy to take for walks? What kind of collar/harness/halter does the dog wear when on walks?
- Is the dog fully house-trained? Crate-trained? How does the dog travel in a vehicle?
- Does the dog primarily live in the house or out of doors?
- What is the dog's overall temperament -- quiet and shy, outgoing and athletic, etc.?
- What is the dog's overall drive picture (pack, play, prey, food, defense)?
- How is the dog when left alone in the house, fenced yard, and automobile?
- How does the dog respond to grooming, including bathing; brushing/combing; ear cleaning; toenail clipping; teeth cleaning?
- Understand that a party offering a completely untrained dog for adoption has not spent much if any "one-on-one"
time with the dog and they can not possibly know much about the dog's temperament,
drives, trainability, strengths/weaknesses, suitability for children/other dogs/cats, etc. Even many shelters
will conduct temperament evaluations and apply basic obedience to the dogs in their care before placing
them up for adoption. If the dog is untrained, ask why.
- If the dog is older than 12 weeks of age and does not have even basic obedience training (housetrained,
leash trained, crate trained, responds reliably to the "sit" and "off" command), consider that the dog may
have been (1) relegated to living outdoors only or (2) allowed to misbehave
in the home. Ask how the dog has managed to live indoors. Expect a learning curve as you will need to train and
condition the dog to live indoors and exhibit appropriate household manners. Crate training is a must!
- If the dog can not
be walked easily on a leash, consider that the dog may have some socialization deficiencies. Dogs with poor leash manners
are rarely taken on walks around new people, other animals, and environmental challenges, to the park where children play, on
day trips in the car, even to the vet for routine care. Ask how the dog was properly socialized in the absence of
acceptable leash behaviors in public.
- Request all veterinary records, including vaccination records, for the dog you are considering adopting.
If veterinary records are not available, ask why. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer, assume
that the dog has not been vet checked or brought current on
vaccinations. Ask why there was no regular veterinary care. Consider there may be a history of behavioral
problems during veterinary exam. In the absence of a record of veterinary care, exercise caution before adopting
this dog and especially before introducing it to other animals in your home.
- If the dog is older than 12 weeks, and the offering party indicates they do not know how the dog is around
children, consider that the dog may not have been outside of its current location. As children are
to be found in all places frequented by the general public, it may be assumed that the dog
has not been exposed to the general public out and about. Ask why.
- Will there be an Adoption Agreement in writing signed by both parties?
- Will the relinquishing party be available for follow-up assistance and advice during the post-adoption transition period?
- Will the relinquishing party take the dog back if the adoption doesn't work out? Will the adoption fee be refunded,
or applied to a future adoption? Is there a time limit?
- If you haven't yet personally met the dog, and recent photos of the dog aren't available, inquire about all
aspects of the dog's appearance including overall type, general condition, coat color and type, size, weight, eye
color, ear set, tail, etc.
Most German Shepherd Dogs are relinquished to rescue or shelter because their original owners did not understand
the importance of early training, and that cute little flop-eared puppy grew up into a rambunctious handful of
The German Shepherd Dog is by genetic nature a high energy, intelligent, resourceful, pushy and controlling
independent thinker. A large and strong dog at adulthood, this breed is typically territorial and
watchful of home and family. The average German Shepherd Dog is quite capable of quickly training its people
to accommodate its every desire. In the absence of formal obedience training, the typical German Shepherd Dog
will handily rise to the top of the pack/family dynamic, and will in no time be writing bad checks,
wearing (or chewing) your wardrobe, and hotwiring the SUV for a weekend jaunt to Vegas with the neighbor's comely Poodle.
Consider adopting a German Shepherd Dog of any age and any training status only
if you are personally committed to daily obedience training to ensure your dog's at-home manners and good citizenship
when out and about in public. While well-trained dogs occasionally become available for adoption, that is
certainly the exception and not the rule. Before embarking on a search for an adoptable
German Shepherd Dog, the informed, responsible adopter has already made the commitment to
participate in team training with their new dog immediately following the adoption.
Educate yourself about canine orthopedic diseases such as dysplasia
and other canine genetic (inherited) diseases.
If you are concerned about the health, hip or elbow status of a dog, ask the party offering the dog if you can take
the dog to your own veterinarian, at your expense, for a pre-adoption checkup including bloodwork, or for
radiographs, before you commit to the adoption. Unless a dog has been relinquished to rescue or shelter by a private
party and proof of birth is also provided, a dog's exact age is unknown; and when an age is given in the dog's listing,
it is an approximation. Your veterinarian can assist you in further approximating the age of the dog.
It is impossible to conclusively diagnose
dysplasia without veterinary radiography and professional evaluation of the films.
The German Shepherd Dog is among the many breeds demonstrating a higher rate of
hip and elbow dysplasia. However, only a small minority of dogs with hip
dysplasia are physically disabled to a noticeable degree by this polygenic joint disease. In the absence of
radiographs, most dog owners never even suspect that their effected dog has hip dysplasia. Most dogs
with hip dysplasia live full, active, and pain-free lives with proper diet and supplementation, weight control, and
appropriate exercise to mitigate the onset of arthritis in effected joints.
When communicating with the party offering the dog for adoption, please respect the adoption fee requested by the
offering party. Don't ask if the fee is "negotiable" or can be waived. If you can't afford a $150 or $200 adoption
fee for a purebred German Shepherd Dog, then you surely can't afford the ongoing care, maintenance, training, food, equipment,
and veterinary care that will be required over the lifetime of your dog. Understand that shelters and rescue groups
are customarily operating on a non-profit basis. It's not unusual for a dog coming into shelter or rescue to require
significant veterinary care including vaccination, spay/neuter, microchip, parasite treatment and prevention, and wound care; many
dogs also require professional grooming, remedial training, enhanced nutrition to regain lost weight, collar, crate, and
other equipment. Add to that the rescue volunteer's out-of-pocket expenses for long distance telephone calls,
gas and vehicle upkeep to transport dogs rescued from shelters around the state, the costs of constructing and
maintaining kennels and exercise areas, etc. These expenses can quickly add up to several hundred dollars and
in some cases, thousands of dollars, per dog. A minimal adoption fee helps to defray these costs and
ensure that there will be financial resources to provide for the next
purebred German Shepherd Dog in need of rescue, foster care, and re-homing.
Most rescue groups and shelters will not release a dog to private adopting parties unless the dog is
already spayed or neutered, or is contractually required to be sterilized immediately following adoption. Please respect
these efforts to control irresponsible breeding and reduce the millions of unwanted companion animals euthenized
every year, and don't ask a caretaking party to release an intact dog.
(Exceptions are sometimes made for placement of a dog as a service candidate with
bona fide Law Enforcement.)
When you submit your interest in an available dog, please extend the courtesy of
promptly replying to the email or telephone call from the party offering the dog for adoption. Do your research,
asking relevant questions to find out as much as you can about the dog before scheduling a personal evaluation.
If you're not interested in adopting the dog, please advise the offering party immediately. Rescue personnel are serving voluntarily
and have limited resources. If you believe the dog is a good candidate for your further evaluation, make an
appointment to meet the dog. If you are working with a breed rescue volunteer, understand that you are likely
phoning or visiting their private home, so extend the customary courtesies when calling or visiting. Be sure to keep
your appointment and to arrive promptly as scheduled. If you must
cancel your appointment, provide ample advance notice.
Understand that you may not be the only party interested in meeting and potentially adopting a particular dog, and the fostering
caretaker may have scheduled other meetings with potential adopters who are interested in that same dog.
The fostering caretaker will make every effort to notify you that a particular dog has been adopted prior to your scheduled
meeting. Be sure to provide the fostering caretaker with your contact information, regularly check your email
or voicemail, and revisit any associated web page prior to your pending appointment to check the status of the
dog's availability. If a dog that you were particularly interested in
has been adopted by another party, don't overlook the possibility that the fostering caretaker may well
have another dog in their care presently or in the near future that could be a good match for you and your family.
Ask the rescue or shelter contact if they will keep your Adoption Request on file and contact you when another
suitable match becomes available, and take the initiative to contact them on a regular basis to inquire
if a potential match for your family has become available.
Rescue volunteers commit a tremendous amount
of time and energy to managing adoption requests and related inquiries. It's especially frustrating if
potential adopters don't show for a scheduled meeting, or fail to respond to inquiries, or create unnecessary
delays and then cancel their prospective adoption which may mean a dog misses an opportunity to be adopted by someone
else. Please understand if a party offering a dog declines to "hold" the dog to accommodate your schedule.
The caretakers offering adoptable German Shepherd Dogs are committed to helping you find the
very best lifetime match, and they need your courteous responsiveness and attentive follow-up to efficiently manage their
efforts and continue to serve and support German Shepherd Dogs in rescue.
Ready to Adopt?
If you're ready to adopt a purebred German Shepherd Dog, please proceed to the Breed Rescue Directory
to locate adoptable German Shepherd Dogs in your area.
Browse other informative articles in the NWK9 Reading Room. . . .