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Vet Guides and Articles

This page has information written in conjunction with a vet and referring to current veterinary science based on the information below about dog care.


The German Shepherd or Alsatian is a German breed of working dog of medium to large size. The breed was developed by Max von Stephanitz using various traditional German herding dogs from 1899. It was originally bred as a herding dog, for herding sheep.

Since that time the breed has become incredibly popular worldwide. Coupled with the demand there were also changes of the breed standard requirements to win in the show ring. As such breeders trying to meet demand and people who want to start showing have to ensure you get a Shepherd from a breeder who is breeding to the showing breed standard. Leaving you with a high possibility of having a dog with issues. 

The breed has changed significantly over the past hundred years with the hind end becoming more and more deformed. The focus of breeders and the breed standard they have to breed to has made this situation worse as a deformed hind end is part of what the dog must have to go into the show ring to win. 

Here our main focus is breeding FLAT backed, well natured and well tested dogs. There are so many breeders out there breeding the very sloped hind end however we are very proud of our dogs and you can see it in the pictures and videos of them. Aside from the sloped hind end, many breeders are NOT testing their dogs fully and many don't realize a piece of paper stating a dog is pure does in no way give you a healthy dog that will live a long happy life with their family. Proper testing in this breed is incredibly importamt and testing with vet certification should be the most imporant thing someone looks for in a Shepherd.

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Ella is a wonderful example of what the breed should look like she is third generation of our breeding lines



We have put this article together in conjunction with our vets using the information that we give our clients to enable them to have the best success in raising a healthy dog, specifically in regards to hip and elbow issues in dogs focusing on German Shepherds in particular.

While there is no way of ruling out or stopping hip and elbow issues there is a lot that can be done to try to prevent and minimise it as it has a raft of causes that are not all genetic.

What is hip displasia?

Hip and elbow dysplasia is categorised as developmental disorders caused by dysmorphic and lax joint formation. This consequentially results in abnormal wearing of bone over time, inducing the secondary development of osteoarthritis (OA) or arthrosis, and degenerative joint disease.


Here at Sabella Farms, we work closely with our vets to ensure we are breeding healthy happy dogs by DNA testing, hip and elbow scoring and having our dogs certified by our vets to be used for breeding. We also work very closely with our vets to understand dogs health and the over all importance  of the dogs first two years of life.


After we do all the testing we do, and our dogs get certified, we only have the pups for the first 8 to 9 weeks of their life, so how our pups are grown once they leave us is a huge factor in preventing issues from occurring in the joints and their ability to live a long and health life.

As you know here at Sabella Farms we look very closely at lot of things in our dogs. One of the main ones is a flat back, which we feel is very important to the health and well being of the German Shepherd breed. Many breeders are breeding a very deformed hind end which has caused the breed to have many issues over the years. So we look very closely at a nice flat back. This is backed up well with our hip and elbow scoring our dogs are all tested under.


Once the dog leaves us at 8 of 9 weeks there are a huge range of factors that will come into play once the pup leaves us and continues on their journey to maturity. As a breeder it's critical that dogs be tested and approved by a vet, but once the pup is in the care of their family what they do the first 2 years of growth has a huge impact on the dog and its joints.

What causes hip displasia?

Hip dysplasia is generally seen in larger dogs, however any breed of dog can be prone to it.


If the dog has come from well tested parents then the usual cause(s) is excessive growth rate, types of exercise (too much or not enough), improper weight, injury and unbalanced nutrition.  It's so important that dogs be tested fully before being used for breeding as this can help eliminate awful genetic diseases and have very low odds of having a dog with joint issues, however this testing does not mean issues with joints will not occur. 

Dysplasia is a very generic, blanket term given for a raft of issues and causes in joint problems. A dog can have an injury and subsequently have issues growing correctly from the injury and that could be classed as hip dysplasia. Arthritis can also be classed as hip dysplasia and many more, so its a term that covers a very broad range of issues that can cause hip dysplasia diagnosis to be applied.

In most cases when a dog has issues in only one joint it's more likely an injury has occurred and been missed or ignored. A dog with genetic issues generally has issues in more then one joint. Other causes can be the dog growing incorrectly due to poor food/diet. over or not enough exercise, etc.  

Any and all breeders should be breeding responsibly and testing their dogs . This ensures that we are only breeding from healthy dogs and it significantly reduces the chances of a dog having issues however it does not mean they will not have issues at any point in their life.


There is never any guarantee in anything when it comes to animal health but we can use all of the testing we have at our disposal to make sure we are bringing in to this world beautiful pups go onto have a long and happy life with a family. So as a breeder I am very proud of our dogs and we are doing all we can to ensure our dogs have wonderful life with their families.


The first year of your dogs life and growth is so critical to having a healthy happy dog that will live a long life.

FOOD: Some of the most important things in the care of your dog is ensuring you feed correct food. All of our dogs are started on Royal Canin Medium puppy. Its critical that your puppy is kept on Royal Canin medium puppy for the first year. We do not recommend feeding large breed dog food or German Shepherd food. Upon the advice from our vets the large breed food can grow pups too fast. Royal Canin Medium Puppy food kibble is the absolute best food you can give your dog to grow it correctly and enable a long life free of issues.

Raw Food Diet: We do NOT recommend feeding your dog a raw food diet. To do this correctly is extremely difficult, requires monthly blood testing, is very expensive and can significantly impact the growth of your dog impacting the life expectancy. In order for a dog to grow correctly it needs a full and complete diet which can be achieved by feeding a good quality food like Royal Canin medium puppy kibble.


We can not stress enough the importance of feeding your dog properly in the first 2 years of growth and raw diets can hinder your dogs growth significantly.



ACTIVITY: The amount of exercise that you do with your dog plays a huge role in your dogs growth. Excessive running, jumping, stairs etc can all have a huge impact on the growth of your dog, however its critical that your dog get a good amount of exercise (not incline jumping like stairs or hills) but a good amount of running each day to grow the muscles so the joints close together properly. Restricted or not enough exercise can play a HUGE role in developing dogs as they grow which can use dysplaysia issues, therefore its very important the dog is well exercised but not causing strain like jumping etc to enable the joints to close properly over the first year of life. 


TRAINING:  Our pups are incredibly smart. They are very easy to train and fantastic at potty training right from the start. They love being a huge part of your life and will learn just about anything you teach them to do. Puppy classes are a great way to socialise your puppy and bond with you. Our pups thrive on doing anything you ask of them and love the challenges of training and learning new things. 

Our commitment goes beyond just doing all the testing we can, we also support our clients. We are always here them for any questions you may have through the life of our dog with you.


We value our clients and we know the huge impact the correct raising of our pups after they leave us has on the longevity of the life of your dog. Raising a dog correctly is just as important as the testing we do and is crucial in growing a healthy dog. So our clients play a huge role in the success of our dogs and are pivital to our dogs having a healthy long life.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out and ask us anything.




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Testimonials from puppy owners

Erin was amazing when I first spoke to her. I had spoken to a couple of breeders previously but knew immediately that Erin was the breeder for us. We felt so comfortable that we ended up getting two puppies from her instead of just one! You can tell straight away that Erin absolutely loves her dogs, is super knowledgeable, completely honest and just wants the best for her dogs. 

Fudge and Kev are now 4.5 months old and are just the most amazing dogs. They both toilet trained within the first week of having them and it is crazy how fast they pick up commands. They fitted into the family perfectly, love the kids and adore our older dog without overwhelming him. We often take them to the beach in Raglan and it's incredible that even off leash they are constantly checking in where the kids and I are and never roam far away.


We are always getting comments on how beautiful and well-behaved they both are. As much as I'd love to take the credit for their behaviour, this definitely shows the way they've been bred. 


I'm so glad they are park of our family! 

Di Brinkhurst

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