The King Shepherd is a giant dog bred to be a working guardian, watchdog, and loyal companion. This breed originated in the Shiloh and German Shepherd Dog, but with the King, a shepherd dog was created to be healthier, sturdier, and more even-tempered than its GSD ancestors.
Not to mention a whole lot bigger.
History of the King Shepherd: Where Do They Come From?
There are varying reports about the exact history of the King Shepherd. According to the International Shiloh Shepherd Alliance, the King Shepherd began as a Shiloh Shepherd and splintered away when a breeder had a different vision for her dogs.
The Alliance maintains that these Shilohs were bred to Great Pyrenees, Malamute, and Akitas to create the King Shepherd.
The American King Shepherd Club is less specific. They do not mention the Shiloh as part of their breeding program, nor do they specifically mention the Great Pyrenees or Akitas. They report that the King Shepherd was founded by mixing German Shepherds with flock guardians and then breeding them back to Old German Shepherds from Europe.
Either way, it seems evident that the origins of the King Shepherd are entwined with the Shiloh Shepherd.
The Shiloh Shepherd began as a breed by Tina Barber, who had grown frustrated with the health and temperament issues in some German Shepherd lines. She then crossed her dogs out with breeds such as the Šarplaninac, the Canadian White Shepherd, and the Malamute.
The King Shepherd split from the Shiloh Shepherd lines when David Turkheimer and Shelly Watts-Cross developed their own vision for the breed and wanted more of a working dog.
So today, both breeds have their own association and breed standard. Neither are recognized by the AKC, but they are acknowledged by the American Rare Breeds Association (ARBA).
What is the Difference Between King Shepherd and the German Shepherd?
The most noticeable difference between the two breeds is the size. The King Shepherd is significantly larger than the German Shepherd. It also only has two coat types, straight and rough, or long and silky. On the other hand, the German Shepherd can have plush, double, or long-haired.
There is also a difference in temperament. King Shepherds are bred to be stable and reliable dogs, but they may also be more independent and have a stubborn streak.
Meanwhile, the German Shepherd is generally a highly trainable dog, provided it comes from good lines.
What are the Physical Features of the King Shepherd?
|Physical Features of the King Shepherd|
|Height||Bitches minimum height: 25 inches (64 cm)
Dogs minimum height: 27 inches (29 cm)
|Weight||Females ideal weight is between 90 – 110 pounds ( 41 – 50 kg)
Males ideal weight is between 110 and 145 pounds (50 – 66 kg)
|Lifespan||10 – 11 years|
|Color||Most common colors are sable, bi-colored; most commonly a combination between black, red, tan or cream, or completely black.|
This is designed to be a regal and imposing sized dog, similar in appearance to a German Shepherd but significantly larger.
In fact, it is a giant dog, weighing anywhere between 75 and 150 pounds.
Unlike many modern German Shepherds, their proportions are more square. That means they do not have the extreme sloping back or over-angulated hindlegs seen in show German Shepherds today.
They have rough coats that are reasonably long, although a long plush or silky coated variety exists. In general, they have the same color range as German Shepherds, often being sable, black-and-tan, black-and-cream, or completely black. It is considered a fault if the dog is mostly or entirely white.
Overall, the King Shepherd is aimed at being a sound and powerful dog. He should move gracefully, with a noble and dignified expression.
General Care of the King Shepherd
|King Shepherd‘s General Care|
|Shedding||Sheds moderately to heavily.
Needs brushing twice a week.
|Exercise||A moderate to high energy dog. May do best with a job to do.|
|Housing||Suited as an indoor pet, but needs space to roam. Not for apartments.|
|Temperament||Dignified. Loves children, Self-confident. Effective watchdog.|
|Trainability||Moderately to highly trainable.|
While the King Shepherd is described as a moderately active breed, many of the dogs that seem to have gone into its lineage are high-energy working dogs.
This means that owners should be prepared for a dog that requires quite a bit of exercise and mental stimulation.
Giant dogs also take longer to mature and sometimes only reach mental and physical maturity at three years. Every effort should be made to keep them stimulated and disciplined during this time to avoid destructive behaviors.
The King Shepherd should do well as a house dog, provided it is properly socialized and trained from a young age. They also need a yard and some space to roam.
Food & Diet Requirements
The AKSC recommends 3 – 4 cups of dry premium dog food a day.
They advise against any food that is not meat-based or that contains artificial flavors, preservatives, or soybeans. It is also recommended to add wet food from a meat broth, stew, or quality can of premium wet food. Vitamins E and C can also be added.
As mentioned above, the King Shepherd has two types of coat; the long coat and the smooth coat. Both coats shed and might need a blow out when the seasons change.
For the rest of the time, it is recommended to brush their coats about twice a week. A good pet grooming glove or slicker brush will get the job done. There should be no need to trim, as this can damage their coats.
Ears should be kept clean and dry to prevent infections, and good dental hygiene can prevent health problems later in life.
It is recommended that the King Shepherd get at least two 50-minute walks a day. This is not designed to be a high energy breed. Still, there may be high energy individuals who will thrive on having a job to do, such as guarding livestock, hiking, or sports such as cani cross.
A no-pull harness will help you walk this giant without risking damage to its trachea or thyroid.
|Severe Health Problems||Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPIT)
|Mild to Moderate Health problems||Pituitary Dwarfism
|Rare Health Problems||Cancer
While the King Shepherd was bred to be healthier than the traditional German Shepherd, it is unclear whether it really is. For one thing, the AKSC claims that it has had one incidence of elbow dysplasia in fifteen years.
However, the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) recorded different statistics for the King Shepherd. Not many King Shepherds were recorded having been screened in 2016, and no new information is immediately available.
Nevertheless, of the 11 dogs tested for elbow dysplasia, 36.4 % had abnormal elbows. 33 Dogs were screened for hip dysplasia, and 48.5 % showed abnormal hips.
This is not an indictment of the breed. The dogs tested by the OFA are not a big enough sample to tell us anything about the overall structural health of the King Shepherd. And, we do not know if the dysplastic dogs were removed from the program.
The American King Shepherd Club clearly has the best interests of this rare dog at heart and is pushing for stringent health screening of all breeding dogs. The OFA results only serve to remind owners to ask for the parent’s HD and ED screening tests, as well as any available DNA screening.
Aside from HD and ED, the AKSC recommends that breeders screen for eye abnormalities such as cataracts, which may have been passed down from either the Malamute or German Shepherd lineages.
They also need to be alert for heart problems and EPI.
EPI stands for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. It is a condition where the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes, causing malnutrition and even starvation.
It should be noted that other breeds have also been bred to create a healthier German Shepherd, such as wolfdogs like the Saarloos and Czechoslovakian. However, they did not escape some of the hereditary diseases associated with the German Shepherd. These include:
Any large breed such as the King Shepherd may also be at risk of bloat. Be careful not to let your dog wolf his food down. A slow feeder bowl may be a good option for this. You can also try two smaller meals a day and not exercising immediately before or after a meal.
What is the King Shepherd’s Life Expectancy?
The King Shepherd is expected to live between 10 and 11 years.
The Trainability of a King Shepherd: Temperament and Intelligence
As a newish designer breed, it is hard to determine precisely how trainable the King Shepherd is.
While the German Shepherd is considered one of the most trainable breeds globally, it’s important to note that certain bloodlines are more trainable than others. It is not clear if working bloodlines went into the foundation stock of King Shepherd.
On the other hand, the breeds reported to have given the King Shepherd its bulk, such as the Alaskan Malamute, the Great Pyrenees, and the Akita, are all independent breeds. Although intelligent, they are often strong-willed and stubborn, and therefore not considered easy to train.
The King Shepherd likely is a trainable dog, as it is being bred as a working dog. But it may have an independent streak and be less inclined to do any sort of repetitive work. They may prefer to work on their own, caring and guarding their livestock and homestead, like their flock guardian ancestors.
Nevertheless, they are bred as utility dogs and should therefore be moderately to highly trainable.
Are King Shepherds Aggressive?
While the Shiloh Shepherd is bred to be a loveable giant, there is more of a guardian instinct present in the King Shepherd. The breed standard describes them as courageous in their role as protectors.
This does not make the King Shepherd an aggressive dog. They should be self-confident and even-tempered around new people, if aloof.
But potential owners should be aware of the guarding instinct and take precautions to prevent the dog from mistaking a visitor for an intruder. They should also be supervised with children because of their size, although the breed is typically described as loving children.
Sociability With Other Pets
The King Shepherd gets along well with other animals. However, like all dogs, they should be properly socialized to avoid potential problems from a young age.
Suitable Home: Are King Shepherds Good Pets?
Unlike the Shiloh Shepherd, the King Shepherd’s Breed Standard stipulates a working dog rather than a companion or pet.
King Shepherd breeders seem to be aiming toward a versatile working dog, adept at various jobs, but primarily a livestock guardian. This is consistent with the flock guardians in its heritage, specifically the Great Pyrenees.
In fact, German Shepherds themselves are considered a herding breed.
Nevertheless, the breed standard does stipulate that the dog be a confident companion and a watchdog, and livestock guardian.
In this case, a suitable home might be one where interactions with smaller children can be supervised. There should also be plenty of space, and preferably, the King Shepherd should have a job to do, such as herding or guarding sheep. They also do well as therapy dogs.
How Much Does a King Shepherd Cost?
The American King Shepherd Club reports King Shepherd prices ranging from $ 1 250 to $ 2000. However, there do seem to be puppies going for over $ 3000.
As this is a rare and new breed, there also appears to be “impostor breeders” or people claiming to be selling King Shepherds who are not recognized by the club. Always research the breeder and ask for all health checks and their affiliations before buying a puppy.
The King Shepherd is still a breed-in-progress, so much has yet to be learned about this dog’s development. While rare, the AKSC has developed a breed standard of a devoted and loyal companion that may make an excellent working dog and protector.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.