So you want to bring a German Shepherd dog (GSD) into your life.  Perhaps it’s the memory of watching Rin Tin Tin as a kid or a police dog spring to action.  They are certainly a picture of strength, intelligence, trainability, and obedience with appeal around the world often as the preferred breed for many types of work including disability assistance, search-and-rescue, police and military roles, and even acting.

What might it take to bring one of these medium to large-sized dogs home?  Well, first you need to find one and consider the various costs.  There are a number of different paths to take in finding a German Shepherd to share your home.  They include the following:

  • Animal Shelters –  Shelters are the caretakers of homeless animals that are brought to them or found somewhere in your community.  The breeds of animals they are caring for may vary from one day to the next.  This may include pure bred German Shepherds or mixed breeds containing at least some German Shepherd within.  Adoption fees may vary.
  • Rescue Groups – Like shelters, rescue groups are also caretakers of homeless animals that come into their possession from the streets or the shelters themselves.  Unlike shelters, many rescue groups are breed specific.  Adoption fees vary from rescue to rescue, but for larger dogs like German Shepherds you can probably expect somewhere between $300 and $400.
  • Breeders – Unlike animal shelters and rescue groups, breeders raise animals as a business.  If you’re going to utilize a breeder you should do some research in advance and make sure they’re reputable.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) believes responsible breeders will “. . . make sure to health test their dogs and can be a good source of information about the breed.”  According to German Shepherd 101, a “. . . puppy bought from a respected breeder will usually cost between $300 and $900 (or more), depending on whether she is a normal German Shepherd, show-dog or a working dog.  Adult German Shepherds who are proven show dogs or work dogs cost $6,000 to $7,000 or more.”  

Once you get your German Shepherd home you’re going to need to feed him, provide for the veterinary care, grooming, play toys, possibly a pet sitter, maybe pet insurance and other miscellaneous costs that may arise.  Any costs that are provided in this visual are estimates only as said costs can vary due to a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Size
  • Health & Medical Care
  • Quality of Food
  • Toys, Bedding, and Accessories (Leash, Collar, etc.)
  • Location (some areas are more expensive to live in than others for goods and services)

For a German Shepherd puppy, the anticipated costs are:

  • Veterinary Care (regular care not an emergency), including general care and laboratory tests: $100 – $200
  • Immunizations: $50 – $100
  • Spay or neuter: $50 – $200
  • Internal and external parasite treatment and control: $100 – $150
  • Food: $150 – $250
  • Miscellaneous expenses, including collar, leash, bowls, toys, grooming supplies and obedience training: $200 – $225

Food costs may be especially variable depending on the type of foods used.  Foods bought at a grocery store or box store environment probably cost less, and although higher quality foods will cost more, you will feed less because there is greater nutrition in the food.

Annual costs to consider for an adult German Shepherd:

  • Veterinary Care (regular care not an emergency), including general care and laboratory tests: $60 – $140;
  • Immunizations: $35 – $80;
  • Internal and external parasite treatment and control: $125 – $200;
  • Food: $225 – $500; and
  • Miscellaneous expenses: $75 – $200.

If you consider pet insurance, the rate may vary from company to company and is dependent on what plan you choose.  Buying pet insurance is no longer just a novelty expense, but instead, has moved to the mainstream for many pet parents who want to ensure their four-legged child will receive the best of care throughout their lifetime.

According to an article in About Home, there are four distinct types of pet insurance, including:

  1. Traditional – Standard pet insurance plans with predetermined plan design options that cover pet illness, accidents and often preventive care. Your insurance company will pay all or part of your vet bills up to a certain amount based on the plan design you choose;
  2. Customizable – This is just like standard pet insurance except it offers more freedom in terms of “mixing and matching” plan design provisions such as deductibles, copays, coinsurance percentages and annual maximum coverage amounts;
  3. Accident Only – These plans only cover accidents. There is no coverage for illnesses or preventive care; and
  4. Discount – When you take your GSD to a veterinarian or hospital that is in the insurance company’s network, you will receive a discount on the services provided. These plans typically have few if any caveats (i.e. “fine print”) outside of needing to see a vet in the network.

Remember, different plans have different coverage items that may increase cost depending on the plan specifics.  The type of pet insurance that is appropriate for you is going to depend on a number of factors, like:

  • Your budget – Like other things in life, you get what you pay for with pet insurance. Pet parents are likely to pay a lower monthly premium with Accident Only and Discount plans, but a vet visit will probably cost more. Traditional and Customizable plans offer much more comprehensive coverage when your pet is injured, gets sick or is due for a preventive visit;
  • The age of your pet and whether there are any pre-existing conditions – Traditional and Customizable plans will not accept new pets after they have reached a certain age nor will they pay for treatment related to a pre-existing medical condition. This is usually not the case with Accident Only or Discount plans;
  • Your pet’s breed – Some plans exclude certain conditions which can be an issue for some predisposed breeds. This usually doesn’t apply to Accident Only or Discount plans, but it does apply to Traditional and Customizable plans. For some breeds, some Traditional and Customizable plans also deny coverage altogether; and
  • Your veterinarian – Discount plans are usually the only kind of plan that requires your vet to be a part of their network (in order for the discounts to apply). If you are interested in this plan type, find out if your vet currently belongs. If they don’t, it’s possible (and common) to get them to join as long as the insurance company’s required discounts fit within your vet’s pricing model.

Pet insurance companies will use different plans at different price points to describe their coverage.  For example, one company we obtained a sample quote from for a GSD age 0 to 11 months quoted $72.60 per month for Whole Pet with Wellness coverage and $29.58 per month for Major Medical.  Another company, for a GSD under 1 year of age, quoted $107.41 monthly premium for Premier, $58.03 monthly premium for Recommended, and $26.68 monthly premium for Basic coverage.

Read your coverage carefully and thoroughly before purchasing.  You want to make sure you understand what services you’re getting for your GSD based on the plan type and the cost.  Pet insurance is an added, but often necessary, cost to take into account when becoming a pet parent for obvious reasons and perhaps most importantly peace of mind.

Being a pet parent is probably going to be one of the great experiences of your life, but it does come with an astute financial responsibility for your German Shepherd Dog or any other dog.  Naturally, the first year will have unique costs that include the adoption or sale itself plus other considerations depending on the age and health of the dog.  After the first year, costs may stabilize unless there are health issues or other variances in the dog’s life and the life of their pet parent(s).

In reality, there is no definitive number on how much a German Shepherd Dog will cost per year or per his/her lifetime. There are too many variables to consider, including the transitions from puppy to adult to a senior dog and the changes that each life stage brings, to estimate costs as your individual situation dictates.  Try to keep an annual record of your dog related expenses from point of adoption/purchase forward and utilize that to budget for your four-legged child’s needs each year.

Regardless of cost, enjoy the relationship that is unique to those special moments between you and your German Shepherd Dog.