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When Less is More
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The AKC Pure Bred
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The AKC Registered Dog or Purebred

By definition, a purebred is the result of selective breeding.  Dogs possessing the same physical and temperament traits have been bred together for enough generations that the physical and temperament traits are now "fixed."  It's those fixed, predictable genes that make a German Shepherd puppy look remarkably similar to other German Shepherd puppies.

These fixed, predictable genes means those German Shepherd puppies are going to grow up to be intelligent, protective, reserved dogs standing from 22"-26" tall and weighing between 65-100 pounds. Their eyes will be dark, their ears will prick up and their noses will be black.  Their coats will be harsh with a dense undercoat in the following colors: black and tan, bicolor, golden sable, gray sable or solid black.  (Notice white is not listed. This is not an omission. A white coat is a disqualification in the show ring because it is forbidden by the breed standard.)

You may be wondering, "If those genes are fixed and predictable, then all German Shepherds are the same and I can buy from any breeder."   Yes and no.  Like humans, dogs have dominant and recessive genes. Like humans, some dogs carry genes for disease.  This is one of the many reasons why a reputable breeder will keep in touch with you throughout the life of your dog.  He/she will want to know if your dog develops any genetic diseases so he/she may evaluate his/her breeding program.   


A basic genetics lesson is in order. Let's pick an easy one like the gene for prick ears (as opposed to a harder one, like the genes that control coat color). The prick ear gene is dominant, let's call that "P". The gene for ears that flop over is recessive, let's call that "f".  Let's say in our imaginary breeding scenario of GSDs that both parents have prick ears, but each carries the recessive gene for flop ears.  (The prick ear gene will "win" and show up, but the flop eared gene is still present and waiting to be passed on.)

Let's say the dam's genes are the blue Pf (P=prick f=flop) and the sire's gene's are red Pf.   Since each puppy will take one gene from each parent, the litter will look like this statistically:

  P f


f Pf ff
  • 25% of the litter will have prick ears and will not carry the flop eared gene at all (PP)
  • 25% of the litter will have flop ears and not carry the prick eared gene at all (ff)
  • 50% of the litter will have prick ears but carry the gene for flop ears, just like their sire and dam (Pf).

Throughout this site and many others, you're going to be hearing about buying your puppy from a good or reputable breeder.  This is whyWhen the breeder of the above GSDs (German Shepherd Dogs) sees one of his puppies ears will not prick up as they should, a warning goes off.  He now knows that his champion bitch is carrying a defective (according to the breed standard) gene.  He also notifies the sire's owner, because his dog is carrying this defective gene too.  

The two dog owners now have a dilemma, assuming that they're both of the "ethical" variety. (This scenario presents no problems to the unethical breeder.) Do they retire their champion breeding stock or do they carefully screen future breeding partners?  

Careful breeding means breeding the female (Pf) with a male not carrying the flop eared gene (PP).  This will result in:

  P P
f Pf Pf
  • 50% of the litter will have prick ears but carry the gene for flop ears, just like their sire and dam (Pf)
  • 50% of the litter will have prick ears and will not carry the flop eared gene at all (PP)

    The problem is, there is NO WAY to know which puppies are PP and which are Pf.  They all look the same.

So all the puppies will have the correct ear type but half will carry the defective gene.  

The ethical breeder doesn't want to breed GSDs who deviate from the breed standard, so he removes this bitch (or dog) from the gene pool for the sake of the future of the breed.  Even though a GSD whose ears don't stand erect can make an INCREDIBLE family pet, the ethical breeder is breeding with the breed standard in mind.  He's shooting for the perfect GSD and that means one who isn't carrying a defective gene time bomb, be it ears or some other genetic defect.

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Right about now you may be saying, "All I want is a pet puppy.  I don't want to breed or show.  My German Shepherd's ears don't have to prick up." 

You may only want a pet, but you want a quality pet. The last thing you want is a pet that has skin problems, structural problems or digestive problems.  A breeder that is unconcerned about the physical appearance of his breed (and produces GSDs with flop ears), can not be trusted in regards to important issues that don't readily show such as health and temperament.  

Every breed, without exception, has a handful of breeders who will breed an animal with excellent structure but a major known fault (i.e. bad temperament, genetic disease, etc).  It's your job to avoid these breeders at any cost.  The only way to know who falls into this category is to research, research research.  Talk to several breeders.  Talk to owners of previous litters.  If a breeder's bitch has produced puppies who are timid and fear bite before, it may happen again.  Make sure it doesn't happen to you. 

The advantage of buying a purebred puppy is fixed, predictable genes.  Make sure you're dealing with an ethical breeder to take full advantage of the predictability of fixed purebred genes.  There's a world of difference between a poorly bred purebred puppy and a well bred purebred.  In the end, both cost the same to feed and maintain while the poorly bred on may be more expensive in the long run.