Note:  This article is one of many dealing with every aspect of the German Shepherd Dog - breeding, training, bloodlines, famous German show winners, and a great deal more, that appear on the author, Dennis Fisher's website. Visit to see these articles.





German Shepherd Dogs.

 How to choose the best G.S.D. pup in the litter.

 By Dennis Fisher.  


If you are interested in getting a dog that will turn out to be a show winner and  you have  the opportunity of choosing  the most promising animal from  the entire litter, here are important points to look for.

It is of course not easy to choose the best pup in the litter because pups do change – sometimes quite dramatically.  


There have been occasions where the runt of the litter has turned out to be far better than his more promising littermates.  But as a rule, when one has the opportunity of examining the entire litter at eight weeks, it is generally possible to choose the best – certainly the best pup at that stage of growth.  Eight weeks is a probably the best time to make the choice.

After taking your time to examine all the pups in the litter carefully, make sure that the forelegs of the pup that takes your  fancy are straight and sturdy.  See that the pup has good bone which is indicated by thick “knuckle”. 

 If it is a male you are looking for, size and masculinity is important.  Although one must be aware that in recent years over-size in  males is a problem that has become more common  in the breed.  It is a fault and is something to be guarded against.

The pup should have a good strong  and clearly masculine head.  This is also of importance because there is a   tendency in recent years  for heads in males to be finer and less noble than  one would like.

The movement of the pup can be reasonably well  assessed even at this tender age of eight weeks. The well-balanced pup will appear to move with more harmony and more easily than the others in the litter.


Look for a pup with a high wither.  This is fairly easy to access,  but try and make sure that the high wither is not at the expense of a good shoulder formation.  This is rather difficult because excellent shoulder formation is not as common as one would wish.


 The high wither that is such an attractive feature of the modern Shepherd is one of the reasons for this.    The shoulder should be well laid back with good length of upper arm.  Even at this early it is possible to see whether or not the pup has a good shoulder.


  Of course a good shoulder is not merely an aesthetic requirement, it is essential for good forward reach and sound movement when the pup grows into a mature dog.

If you have to choose between a  pup that is slightly long in body length and one that is somewhat shorter in body length, if other factors are equal, give preference to the slightly shorter pup.  Sometimes body length is accompanied by weakness in back and will affect movement severely when the pup matures.


It goes without saying  that you should have seen both parents before having to make a decision and have been aware of any deficiencies present in addition to virtues. Examine, if possible, other animals they have produced.

It will also be of great benefit if you have background knowledge of the bloodlines.

The pup should have strong hindquarters with broad thighs, long stifles and good hocks. The length of stifle is also easily recognizable at the age of eight weeks. But this will change.


When you select a pup with a well angulated, long stifle, make a point of examining the away movement to see if the hocks are fairly firm.  Once cannot expect hocks to be too firm at this early age, but you don't want a pup that has wobbly hocks.

The coat should be full but definitely not long.  A long coat is a serious fault in the show ring.  It is quite easy to detect a long coat in a pup because the pup show signs of a collie type coat and there will be tufts of fur coming from the ears.

Unless there are definite signs of color paling, which is a definite fault, color is not supposed to be of primary importance in the show ring.  However, there is no doubt that a well-pigmented animal is always  far more glamorous in the show ring and attracts more attention.

With  regard to ears, this is usually a matter about which you need not concern yourself if both parents have good ear carriage.  The ears do not become fully erect until the dogs finishes teething and six months, although many pups do get their  ears up much earlier. But if the ears are very long and inclined to be thick there might be a danger of soft ears.

 Here again it is important to know the bloodlines of the parents.

If the pup has a good head, with a deep muzzle, not a long collie type head, the chances are good  that the bite will be good and the pup will have the correct scissors  bite when he matures.


Many pups are over-shot when they are young, which means that the upper teeth protrude far over the lower teeth.   A scissor bite is very important and if there is a definite gap of more than 2mm. between the upper and lower teeth the dog will be heavily penalized in the show ring.

What cannot  be predicted with any degree of accuracy at this early stage,  is whether the pup will grow up to have full dentition – a full complement of teeth.


Quite often, when the pup matures and the teething process is over, the owner is very upset to find that an otherwise promising animal has a missing tooth. 

This may seem a very minor fault – and in a family pet it is certainly of no real consequence – but in the show ring it is viewed in a serious light as it is regarded as a genetic fault.

Even though the breeder is as anxious as you are to have your pup do well in the show ring, there is of course  no guarantee that your pup  is going to do well, as careful as you have been in your selection. 


Bear in mind that the showing of dogs, particularly German Shepherds, in the highly competitive environment that exists today, is very demanding and often very frustrating.   Your dog may be a good specimen, but whether he becomes a show winner is entirely dependent on the quality of the competition!