The King Shepherd is a giant-breed dog from the United States with pointed ears, a long snout, and thick fur on its strong, sturdy body. While not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), these dogs retain many personality traits from their mixed origins. As the name implies, King Shepherds are giant hybrid dogs that come from the cross-breeding of German Shepherds and Shiloh Shepherds. However, the King Shepherd's massive size makes it stand out among its close relatives.
Despite their large stature and somewhat imposing appearance, King Shepherds are usually very friendly. These dogs are usually very calm and sweet with their owners. King Shepherds are also loyal and protective of their family members—but not aggressive—making them the perfect pet for the right owners.
Group: Not recognized
Height: 27 to 31 inches (males); 25 to 27 inches (females)
Weight: 90 to 150 pounds (males); 75 to 110 pounds (females)
Coat: Long, course, and either straight or wavy
Coat Color: Black, white, tan, brown, gray, or silver
Life Span: 10 to 11 years
Temperament: Intelligent, calm, friendly, loyal, protective
Origin: United States
Characteristics of the King Shepherd
King Shepherds have very calm, adaptable personalities. They're best suited for single-family homes with fenced-in outdoor spaces due to their large size and high exercise needs. These dogs are a great choice for owners with kids, as they're typically very gentle with children and other pets. King Shepherds can serve as efficient working dogs or be content as companions, and their level of intelligence makes them easily trainable. However, this breed also bonds closely with its owners, and it can become destructive in the house when left alone too often.
|Tendency to Bark||High|
|Amount of Shedding||High|
History of the King Shepherd
The term "designer breed" may include dogs like Labradoodles and Yorkipoos, but it also refers to the giant, rugged-looking King Shepherd. Originating in the United States in the 1990s, these dogs were originally bred to create a German Shepherd mix that had fewer health issues than a purebred German Shepherd.
American breeders David Turkheimer and Shelley Watts-Cross first bred a German Shepherd with a Shiloh Shepherd (a hybrid of German Shepherds and Alaskan Malamutes) to elevate the best qualities of the German Shepherd. In order to achieve the long-haired look they wanted, the breeders also incorporated long-haired German Shepherds from European lineages. These European lines didn't just give King Shepherds their distinctive coats, but they also boosted genetic variation. This was essential to reduce the risk of genetic issues that have become common in longstanding lineages because of inbreeding.
Because King Shepherds are a relatively new breed—and still fairly rare among American families—they are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club. They are, however, recognized by the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), World Wide Kennel Club (WWKC), and Eastern Rare Breed Dog Club (ERBDC), among additional smaller organizations.
King Shepherd Care
If you're looking for a low-maintenance dog, the King Shepherd may not be the right pet for you. Between their grooming and exercise requirements, King Shepherds need lots of time, energy, and attention in order to thrive.
King Shepherds are a high-energy breed that needs extensive exercise. Strenuous activity for at least one hour per day is a must. These dogs thrive in active, single-family homes with lots of space to run, walk, explore, and play.
Because they're also very intelligent, King Shepherds benefit from exercise routines that incorporate mental stimulation. Playing games like fetch, tug-of-war, or hide and seek are great ways for owners to keep this breed entertained. These dogs also excel in canine sports like agility training. King Shepherds can become bored very easily, so it's vital to keep them engaged—and exercised—to prevent them from becoming destructive.
King Shepherds have thick, double coats that shed heavily. Brushing your dog several times per week (or even daily) can help reduce shedding and keep their coat healthy, clean, and tangle-free.
When it comes to baths, the King Shepherd only requires standard bathing every three to four months. Check your dog's ears and clean its teeth regularly to prevent infections. If your King Shepherd is especially active, running and walking can help keep their nails worn down, but trimmings should be performed as necessary.
King Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs, making training relatively simple for owners that are consistent and engaging. Basic obedience lessons can start in puppyhood between eight and 16 weeks of age, while more involved training should continue through the dog's life. Because King Shepherds are so eager to please their family members, they can learn simple commands fairly quickly. Begin socializing your dog when you first bring it home to ensure it stays friendly and well-mannered with strangers and other animals.
Common Health Problems
While King Shepherds are generally healthy dogs, they're still prone to certain health issues like most breeds. Responsible breeders will test parent dogs for inherited diseases to prevent passing problems on to puppies; however, this breed's genetic variation does offer additional protection against genetic disorders.
The following are common conditions that King Shepherds may experience:
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: This condition causes a malformation in your dog's joints as they grow, which can lead to pain, instability, or weakness. Dysplasia is especially common in large-breed dogs.
- Von Willebrand Disease: This genetic disorder affects the blood's ability to clot after injury.
- Hypothyroidism: Affecting the thyroid, this endocrine disease reduces your dog's metabolic rate, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems in the future.
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat): Common in large and giant breeds, Bloat consists of gases expanding in the stomach that cause it to twist. Your veterinarian may recommend preventative surgery to tack the stomach down.
Diet and Nutrition
Feed your King Shepherd a high-quality diet with plenty of protein. This breed typically eats between three and four cups of dry food per day, and it's important to split these portions into several smaller meals to help prevent Bloat.
Since King Shepherds are also prone to joint problems, owners should be especially mindful of their dog's weight. Canine obesity or excessive weight gain can put added stress on your dog's joints. To create a meal plan with the proper nutrients and portions, talk to your veterinarian about the best diet based on your specific dog's age, weight, and activity level.
Where to Adopt or Buy a King Shepherd
Before adding a King Shepherd to your family, ensure that your home, schedule, and lifestyle can accommodate this large, energetic breed. These dogs require considerable grooming and daily strenuous exercise.
Since King Shepherds are still a new dog breed, they're not as likely to be found in shelters as their German Shepherd cousins. Visit your local shelter to meet similar dogs in need of forever homes.
If you plan to purchase a King Shepherd puppy, it's essential to research responsible breeders that readily provide the litter's family medical history. Your breeder should also allow you to meet the litter's parents and see the conditions in which their dogs are kept. These puppies typically cost between $1,500 and $2,500, but prices may vary based on pedigree and availability.
To start your search, check out these breeding clubs dedicated to King Shepherds:
- American King Shepherd Club International (recognized by the ARBA)
- King Shepherd Club of America
King Shepherd Overview
Sweet, gentle, and good-natured with children and other pets
Loyal to its family, but not aggressive
Intelligent and easy to train
Requires daily grooming to prevent excessive shedding
Very high exercise needs; may become destructive when bored
Not suitable for apartments or homes without outdoor space
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
If you love the King Shepherd, you may also like these similar breeds:
There's a whole world of dog breeds out there that can join your family. With a little research, you can find the perfect match for your home!
What Qualifies as a King Shepherd?
King Shepherds are still a relatively new dog breed, but these dogs always consist of a German Shepherd mixed with another large or giant breed. The original King Shepherds included one Shiloh Shepherd parent (a German Shepherd and Alaskan Malamute hybrid).
What's the Difference Between a King Shepherd and a German Shepherd?
King Shepherds are directly related to the German Shepherd (GSD), but these dogs are much larger, have longer fur, and were bred with other similar dogs to filter out some of the GSD's genetic health problems. King Shepherds typically have Alaskan Malamutes or Shiloh Shepherd hybrids in their family tree.
Are King Shepherds Rare?
King Shepherds are becoming more popular in the United States, but these dogs are still rare compared to their German Shepherd cousins. Those interested in adopting a King Shepherd should research responsible breeders who provide the litter's medical history.