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The Shiloh Shepherd: The Gentle Giant of the Shepherd World

Although the Shiloh Shepherd Dog looks like a giant German Shepherd, much of their gene pool is, in fact, far removed from the Shepherd Dog line. Shilohs are indeed impressive and striking dogs in both size and looks. But, they are bred to have a heart of gold and make excellent family dogs and therapy dogs. 

But to truly understand the Shiloh Shepherd, we have to look at their origins, health, other factors that affect this rare breed. 

History of the Shiloh Shepherd: Where do they come from?

In 1974, German Shepherd Breeder, Tina Barber, says she grew tired of the temperament and hip issues she frequently ran into with her German Shepherds. So, she began outcrossing to create a new breed that more closely matched the dog remembered from her childhood. 

According to Paws For People Therapy Dogs, Tina envisioned a hyper-intelligent, family dog that was good with little children and a loyal guardian of the household. She imagined something of a hero canine that was almost human in its capabilities. 

She also based her ideal temperaments on fictional dogs like Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Strongheart.

To achieve her objective, Tina bred in various giant breeds, including Canadian White Shepherds, Sarplaninacs, Malamutes, Old German Shepherds (Aldeutscher Schäferhunde), and more. 

Although the breed seems to be predominantly of German Shepherd origin. 

It appears Tina worked for many decades to create a dog with superior hips and temperament. Still, as the breed's popularity grew, it became harder to maintain quality control over all the breeders.  

Unfortunately, Tina passed away in 2011, but her daughter continues the legacy with New Zion Shilohs as the fourth generation breeder.

Today the Shiloh may not have achieved the superior health Tina was hoping for, but it has undoubtedly reached the looks and gentle temperament. 

The breed is not yet recognized by the AKC. Although, it is recognized by other organizations such as the FCI and ARBA. 

There are also several clubs and registries for the Shiloh. Including the ISSR (International Shiloh Shepherd Registry), the NSBR (National Shiloh Breed Registry), the SSBA (Shiloh Shepherds Breeders Association), and the TSSR (The Shiloh Shepherd Registry).

What is the difference between a Shiloh Shepherd and the German Shepherd?

The Shiloh Shepherd has been bred to be much bigger than the German Shepherd. While the German Shepherd stands at 24 to 26 inches and weighs 65 to 70 pounds, The Shiloh should be 26 to 30 inches and weigh 80 to 130 pounds. 

The Shiloh is also a calmer, gentler dog who does better as a companion or therapy dog than the more intensive military or police work some German Shepherd lines are bred for. 

Although the Shiloh is bred to be trainable and to take on demanding tasks such as search and rescue, it is designed to be easier to handle than the German Shepherd.

The Shiloh is also more wolfish in looks and often has the long plush coat, which is not standard in the German Shepherd, although it does exist. 

Never fear, though, despite the wolfish appearance, the Shiloh Shepherd has no wolf in its lineage. 

What are the physical features of the Shiloh Shepherd?

Height

Weight

Lifespan

Color

Nose

Eyes

Bitches: 26 - 28 inches (66 – 71 cm)

Dogs: 28 -30 inches (66 – 71 cm)

Females ideal weight is between 80 – 100 pounds ( 36 - 54 kg)

Males should weigh 100 and 130 pounds (54 – 72 kg)

9 – 14 years

Black and tan. Tan, silver, cream, golden, dark brown, gray, black or white.  

Black

Dark to light Brown

 The Shiloh Shepherd is a giant, powerful dog that should move effortlessly despite its size. It should have medium-sized triangular ears with dark, almond-shaped eyes. 

Standing between 26 and 30 inches and weighing between 80 and 130 pounds, they overlap with some other giant breeds, such as the Malamute. Although, on average, they are a bit bigger. They are certainly much larger than standard large breeds like the Siberian Husky. 

They have two coat types; the longer, soft, plush coat and the more close-set smooth type. Both are given to shedding, so this is not a hypoallergenic dog. 

The Shiloh also has a wide range of acceptable colors, ranging from the ideal black and tan, silver, cream, golden or tan. They may also be dark gray or brown and are allowed to be solid black or white, provided the rims of their eyes and lips are black. 

They have dark to light brown eyes and a dark nose. The Shiloh should also be evenly proportioned, although it is usually a bit longer than tall. It should have a straight back that does not slope, and its hind legs should not be over-angulated as in some German Shepherd lines.

Overall, this is a powerful, muscular and dignified dog that should carry an aura of gentleness without any timidness or aggression.

General Care of the Shiloh Shepherd

Hypoallergenic

Shedding

Exercise

Housing

Temperament

Trainability

No

Sheds moderately to heavily.

Needs brushing twice a week.

Medium energy dog. Some individuals may have higher energy requirements.

Should be housed indoors with family. Does enjoy a garden to roam in.

Calm, easy-going and gentle. This is  a friendly dog that should love children and show no signs of aggression or fear.

Moderately to highly trainable.

 Energy

The Shiloh Shepherd is not bred to be a high energy dog and is described as being comfortable with one long walk a day. 

Nevertheless, some of the breeds in the Shiloh's background, such as the Malamute and the GSD, are high energy breeds. So, prospective owners should be prepared for a dog that may have high energy requirements.

This is especially true while the dog is young. To avoid any juvenile behavioral problems, early training and socialization is a must. 

Shiloh's will also do well with a job to do, such as obedience training or therapy work. 

Housing

Ultimately, the Shiloh Shepherd is a giant companion dog that is not suited to sleeping outdoors. They need to be a part of their family and make excellent housemates. Because of their size, they should have access to a garden to stretch their legs.

Food & Diet Requirements

Shiloh Shepherds are prone to obesity, and so their diet needs to be carefully monitored. Because this is a giant breed, excess weight can put a lot of strain on their joints and muscular structure. 

Speak to your vet about the best diet to suit your dog's requirements. Their food should be formulated according to their age, size, and medical conditions such as allergies.

You may choose a raw diet for Shiloh Shepherd, but if you do so, please ensure that the diet is checked by a veterinary nutritionist to avoid any deficiencies or imbalances. 

Grooming

The smooth-coated Shiloh Shepherd may only need to be brushed once a week. Meanwhile, their longer-haired, plush counterparts will need a good brushing at least twice a week to remove dead hair, prevent matting, and evenly distribute the oils in their coat.

You may want to use a  pet grooming glove or slicker brush for this. 

If they shed heavily when the seasons change, consider taking them to a professional groomer to have the shedding undercoat blown out.

Their nails should be trimmed about once or twice a month with a good nail grinder or clipper.

Ears and teeth should also be adequately maintained to prevent infections and further health complications. 

Health 

Exercise

The Shiloh Shepherd is not bred to be as energetic as many of its parent breeds and should be OK with a one-hour walk a day. 

Still, they do have working dogs in their background and will enjoy a job to do. They make excellent therapy dogs and enjoy the challenges presented by obedience training. 

Choose a  no-pull harness over a collar when walking your Shiloh Shepherd, as collars can damage their throats. Also, be sure to be safe when traveling and secure your dog properly in a crate or with a doggy seatbelt

Concerns 

Severe Health Problems

Mild to Moderate Health problems

Rare Health Problems

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Degenerative Myelopathy

Eye abnormalities

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

Heart Troubles

 

Panosteitis

Epilepsy

Obesity

Cancer

Bloat

 


While Tina Barber made every effort to breed a dog without the health problems of the GSD, it seems that, unfortunately, several issues crept into the breed. This is not uncommon.  

Most, if not all, breeds bred from modern European breeds have inherited disorders that run in certain lines. The Saarloos and Czechoslovakian Wolfdog are other examples of this. 

Hip and elbow dysplasia have not been eradicated, which is typical for a large to giant breed. In fact, the Orthopedic Foundation of America found that 20 % of 1200 tested Shiloh Shepherds had dysplastic hips, while elbow dysplasia occurred around 7% of the time.  

Such a large breed may also suffer from panosteitis or "growing pains" while they reach maturity, which may cause lameness. 

Degenerative Myelopathy, or the paralysis of the dog's hind end, is a particularly distressing disorder recorded in older Shiloh Shepherds.

Perianal fistula, a condition associated with German Shepherds and their mixes, is also a concern. In this case, the perianal area may become inflamed as there is often more than one draining duct where there shouldn't be.  

Cases where the esophagus is enlarged (megaesophagus) have also been recorded. This sometimes leads to severe complications such as aspiration pneumonia. 

Other health concerns to look out for may include:

The Shiloh Shepherd is also vulnerable to bloat or gastric torsion. A slow feeder bowl can reduce the risk by keeping them from gulping their food down too fast. You may also want to feed smaller meals a day more frequently and avoid exercising immediately before or after meals. 

What is the Shiloh Shepherd's life expectancy?

The Shiloh Shepherd is expected to live between 9 and 14 years.

The Trainability of a Shiloh Shepherd: Temperament and Intelligence

The Shiloh Shepherd is bred to be less intense than the German Shepherd but still be trainable. They may have an independent streak but should respond well to positive reinforcement and lots of praise and treats.

These are gentle, empathetic dogs who love children and are highly intelligent. 

Although, it should be noted that some of the breeds in the Shiloh's background, such as the Alaskan Malamute, can be dominant and willful, and this might show up in your Shiloh. 

For this reason, it is best to socialize your Shiloh Shepherd from an early age, as well, and begin training as soon as possible. While they are usually gentle giants, they are still giants, and their power should be respected. 

They will thrive with a job to do and may enjoy carrying a backpack on a hike or working as a therapy or service dog. 

Are Shiloh Shepherds Aggressive?

Shiloh Shepherds are explicitly bred for calm, affectionate, and reliable temperaments. Any aggression or viciousness in the breed is an immediate disqualification. 

Still, they are giant dogs and should be properly socialized and trained to be on the safe side, as any dog could be aggressive under the right (or wrong) conditions.

Sociability with Other Pets

Shilohs can get along fine with other pets, even cats. An owner should still be on the lookout for signs of dominant behavior and be sure to train and socialize their dog with as many animals as possible to avoid potential problems.

Suitable Home: Are Shiloh Shepherds Good Pets?


Shilohs might be a bit expensive when it comes to food and vets bills because of their size, but they are still designed to make excellent pets. 

They love children but should still be supervised with kids, as with any large dogs, to make sure nobody gets hurt by accident. 

They are also generally friendly with strangers, so they may not make great guard dogs, but their size should be deterrent enough.

They will do well in a family or with an owner who is home more than away and willing to invest a bit of time in training and exercising their giant dog. 

How much does a Shiloh Shepherd cost?

The demand for an ISSA registered Shiloh Shepherd is high. You may have to join a waiting list to get a puppy from a reputable breeder. It is still better to do this, as many unaffiliated Shiloh breeders out there may be running scams. 

Due to their rarity, a Shiloh Shepherd puppy may cost you between $ 1000 and $ 2000. Possibly more. 

Alternatively, you can look into rescuing a Shiloh Shepherd as several rescue and rehome organizations are available for the breed.

Conclusion

The Shiloh Shepherd is a gentle, calm, and reliable dog, ideal as a family or therapy canine. They possess unmatched good temperaments and breathtaking good looks. Anyone looking for a puppy should look for an affiliated breeder and ask to see the parents' hip and elbow screens, as well as any DNA testing since large dogs can come with large vet's bills. But if you are looking for a giant cuddle bug with wolfish looks, this may be the breed for you. 

 

 

References

“How Is a Shiloh Different from a German or King Shepherd?” Shiloh Shepherd, www.shiloh-shepherd.com/pages/howdifferent.html#:%7E:text=Most%20Shilohs%20are%20significantly%20larger,the%20body%20as%20German%20shepherds. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

Lobetti, R. “Von Willebrand’s Disease in the German Shepherd Dog.” PubMed, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11030365/#:%7E:text=Abstract,and%20lameness%20due%20to%20haemarthrosis. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

“MY SHILOH SHEPHERD BREEDING PROGRAM, by Breed Founder, Tina Barber.” Thedogplace.Org & Copy; 2011, www.thedogplace.org/Breeds/Shiloh-Shepherd/Breeding-Barber113.asp. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

“Panosteitis in Dogs.” Vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/panosteitis-in-dogs. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

“Perianal Fistula in Dogs.” Vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/perianal-fistula-in-dogs#:%7E:text=Perianal%20fistula%2C%20also%20known%20as,termination%20of%20the%20digestive%20tract. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

“Shiloh Shepherds.” Paws For People, www.pawsforpeople.co.za/shilohsheps.html. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

Welton, Michele. “Shiloh Shepherd Health Problems | Feeding.” Your Purebred Puppy, www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/health/shilohshepherds.html#:%7E:text=Shiloh%20Shepherds%20are%20vulnerable%20to,and%20can%20require%20expensive%20surgery. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.