Dog breeding is a practice that involves purposefully selecting dogs to mate so that their pups are born with certain desirable characteristics. German Shepherd dogs (GSDs) are clear examples of how well breeding can work to impart traits such as loyalty and a hardworking personality into future generations.

While dog breeding is a practice that has been around for thousands of years, the methods we use have evolved to incorporate scientific discoveries regarding genetics and the best practices for preserving a breed’s best traits while also preventing known potential health issues.

Breeding practices have also gotten more efficient with time, and breeders might need to use medical terms as they explain their process for helping German Shepherds to produce healthy pups.

As someone new to the dog breeding world, you might find yourself feeling like everyone seems to be speaking a foreign language. Learning these common terms that are used in dog breeding helps you to feel more confident as you explore how an experienced breeder can help you achieve your goal of owning one of the most sought-after breeds in the world.

Know How to Refer to the Dogs Themselves

Dog breeders often use terms that help to define the role that an animal plays in the breeding process. For the most part, you can expect to hear these basic terms in even the earliest conversations that you have with a breeder. Knowing them can also help you to narrow down your searches to the type of dog that you need for a specific purpose.


An easy way to remember this term is to connect it to the word, “sir.” A sire is the father of a given litter. Knowing who the sire is of a litter is important for helping people to know for sure that the pup they select has been bred for their desired characteristics.

Since a sire can father many litters and certain ones often become extremely popular for breeding, it is also essential to know the sire of a pup to prevent accidental inbreeding.


The term dam can also be connected to the word, “dame,” for memory purposes. A dam is simply the mother of a litter. Reputable breeders select dams for their lineage and ability to contribute positive traits to the bloodline.


A stud is a male dog that is sexually mature and has viable sperm. If you already have a female dog that is ready to breed, then choosing a stud that comes from a bloodline that is known for the dog’s excellent temperament and physical health is essential.

Mating Pair

The term mating pair refers to a stud and bitch that have been brought together for the purposes of breeding. A breeder might use this term when discussing which dogs they’ve chosen to produce a specific litter.

This term also applies to animals other than dogs, so you might hear it in reference to different species of animals in a zoo or other captive breeding program.


A litter is simply a group of puppies that are born to the same dam at approximately the same time. A breeder might tell you how many pups were in a given litter and if any were stillborn (didn’t survive birth). The size of a litter can vary based on the dam’s health, nutrition, and other factors.


Whelping is the act of giving birth. If a breeder says that a bitch is whelping, then they are in labor and delivery should be imminent.

Understand the Differences Between Breeding Practices

Knowing breeding practices is as important as knowing breeding terminology. When GSDs are bred for their best traits, they are amazing companions and protectors of their masters and members of their social circle. However, poor breeding practices have also led to issues within the German Shepherd bloodline that includes hip and elbow dysplasia and aggressive temperaments in certain dogs.

Knowing the common terms used for breeding practices helps you to screen potential breeders to ensure that your pup comes from someone who cares about producing healthy puppies that are free from genetic defects and personal characteristics that lead to a negative reputation for this majestic breed.

Line Breeding

Line breeding is the preferred type of practice for producing dogs with desirable traits that are consistent with each litter. Keep in mind that line breeding is very different from inbreeding, the latter of which can be a problem with disreputable breeders and puppy mills (more on that in a sec).

With line breeding, the Dam and Sire do have a familial tie. However, the practice of line breeding requires the two dogs never to be less than three generations apart and no more than 12 to 14 generations out.

Staying within the family line makes it possible to breed dogs with the desired temperament, which helps you to know that they will be trainable and capable of learning how to perform their role in your family or service companion program.

You can tell if a dog is line bred by asking to see the litter to make sure that every puppy looks the same. To be extra cautious, you should ask the breeder if you can see three generations of the line. Maintaining several generations of dogs is expensive and labor-intensive, and less reputable breeders won’t typically go through the trouble of doing so.

Out Line Breeding

Out line breeding involves mating two dogs without any familial relations. While you might be breeding two German Shepherds, you are still essentially receiving a mutt due to the inability to trace their genetic history.

The problem with out line breeding is that it often results in the development of the worst traits of the breed coming out in the litter. This fact is never more evident than with temperament. This characteristic is the only thing that can’t be trained, it must be bred.

And you are dealing with one of the top three most powerful breeds in existence when it comes to German. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got it right.

You can quickly tell if a litter was out line bred by the fact that the puppies will all have different markings, head shapes and body sizes.


Sadly, there are some irresponsible dog breeders who still engage in the practice of inbreeding. Inbreeding occurs when two dogs who are closely related are paired for mating. A sire and dam that are a parent and a child or a brother and sister are highly likely to produce litters with genetic defects. This is why it is important to ask the right questions when you are talking to a breeder.

Get Help with Your Questions About German Shepherd Breeding Practices

Expanding your vocabulary is a great first step toward learning more about how we breed top-of-the-line German Shepherds, but you might still feel like you are lost in the dark regarding where to go next. At Regis Regal, you never have to worry about barking up the wrong tree with your inquiries.

Regis Regal is a breeder of merit in the Chicago, IL area, and we are passionate about educating others about how we breed, train and care for German Shepherds. Reach out to us at (847) 721-1908 with your questions, and we’ll help you find the answers you need to meet your needs for responsible and rewarding German Shepard ownership.