There are several factors that you must consider to choose the best German shepherd for your situation. First, you should understand that a German shepherd puppy is not the best dog to have if you live in an apartment with no regular access to an outdoor yard. If you have young children, an older German shepherd is not the best choice as children and German shepherds get along best when they have grown up together. Other factors that you should consider include breeding, temperament, injury history, and whether the German shepherd is from a rescue shelter, a professional breeder, or simply a person with a litter of puppies.
The most important factors to consider before choosing a German shepherd concern your own situation. A German shepherd is a herd dog that enjoys open spaces and wants to protect a clearly defined perimeter. This is especially true for a rambunctious puppy or young shepherd that needs a lot of room to run. A cramped apartment is not ideal for such an animal, especially if you have no regular access to an outdoor area that the dog can clearly define as its own turf. A dog older than five or six years of age should be able to adjust to an indoor life, though.
A shepherd puppy is a great fit for a family with young children. A puppy that grows up with the children will develop a protective bond with them and consider them part of the herd. An older shepherd is not likely to develop this bond, especially when the shepherd is at midlife at about five or six years of age.
Another important factor to consider is where you will get the dog. A professional breeder may be a good choice if the breeder has a history of competence and success. A good breeder will be able to show you the pedigree of each dog, provide clear documentation for that pedigree, provide certification, and possess a valid license to practice breeding. A breeder will also likely have a track record of success with competitive herd dogs at some level of the dog show circuit.
Individual characteristics of the German Shepherd are also important when choosing such a dog. German Shepherds can suffer from number of physiological problems that can shorten lifespan and diminish the quality of life for the dog. Parathyroid hyperplasia is common in shepherds that are not well bred. This condition results in lethargy and diminished bone density, both of which shorten the life of the dog. Poorly bred or mistreated shepherds may possess a poor temperament and be volatile or unstable dogs.