10 Facts You Should Know About King Shepherds (with Pictures)

Taylor A Ritz What do you get when you cross a German Shepherd with an Alaskan Malamute? A King Shepherd. These large dogs resemble super-sized German Shepherds and will work their way into your heart with their gold, almond-shaped eyes and loyal, gentle nature.  A 50-50 cross of two purebreds is called a “designer dog.” Designer dogs are crossbreeds between two purebred dogs of different breeds with the intention to combine the best attributes of both.

1. Where Does The King Shepherd Come From?

Shelly Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer, two American dog breeders, were the first to breed King Shepherds in the early 1990s. They founded a King Shepherd breed club in 1995. King Shepherds are a combination of American and European German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, and Great Pyrenees.

2. What Does A King Shepherd Look Like?

A King Shepherd is long, robust, and muscular. Their thick ears are moderately-sized, pointed and erect, and set high on the head. The King Shepherd can sport a coat in a wide variety of colors such as sable (brown/tan with brown or black markings, gray/silver with black markings) or black-saddled with tan, gold, cream, or silver markings. They can also have white spots on their chests. Though King Shepherds can also come in white, blue, or liver-colored coats, these colors are not accepted in the breed standard. Coats should ideally be richly colored with bright pigments. A King Shepherd’s hair is either coarse, which is straight, or longhaired, which is light and wavy.

3. What Is The Difference Between A King Shepherd And A German Shepherd?

At first glance, it may be easy to confuse a King Shepherd with a German Shepherd. So how do they differ? The most obvious difference is in size. While German Shepherds stand between 22 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder, King Shepherds tower over them, with males reaching over 29 inches tall. King Shepherds are also more heavily muscled; males weigh between 130 and 150 pounds. This is much heavier than the standard German Shepherd, which usually weighs between 50 and 90 pounds. Female King Shepherds are quite large as well, weighing 90 to 110 pounds and standing approximately 27 inches tall. King Shepherds tend to have longer, puffier hair as well, with what can only be described as a “teddy-bear” face.

4. What Is The Temperament Of A King Shepherd?

The King Shepherd is not shy and has plenty of confidence. They are extremely intelligent and eager to please their owners, which can make training a breeze. Whether guarding children or livestock, King Shepherds take their role as a protector seriously. They are courageous and brave, but also docile, obedient, and gentle. They tend to be friendly towards strangers, children, and other animals. Their strength and vigor give them plenty of stamina, so living in an apartment or small house is not recommended. 

5. What Are The Exercise Requirements For A King Shepherd?

The King Shepherd absolutely requires regular exercise. Their exercise should be rigorous and engage their minds as well as their bodies. Their intelligence requires them to be regularly challenged. A long, brisk walk or a jog alongside your bicycle each day are good ways to let your King Shepherd spend some of that pent-up energy.  A tired dog is a well-behaved dog; dogs that do not get enough exercise can become bored and resort to undesirable or destructive behaviors. 

6. How Do You Train A King Shepherd?

In addition to plenty of physical exercise, King Shepherds need loads of mental stimulation too. One way to get those gears turning is with training. Training and socialization are vital from an early age for any dog, especially one as large and powerful as a King Shepherd. These dogs are intelligent and eager to please their people, so establish yourself as the alpha early on and your King Shepherd will do anything for you.  Training behaviors such as sit, stay, and come are essential. The more time you put into training your King Shepherd, the better it will pay off in the long run. Training is not only a time for learning but a time for bonding with your animal as well.

7. How Healthy Is A King Shepherd?

Though, in general, King Shepherds are healthier than a purebred dog, they can experience their fair share of health issues. Here are a few health concerns King Shepherds may be prone to:
  • Hip dysplasia (bones of the hip joint don’t fit together correctly)
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease (a genetic disorder negatively affecting blood’s clotting ability)
  • Hypothyroidism (underperforming thyroid doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones)
  • Degenerative myelopathy (a degenerative disease of the spinal cord)
  • Eye disease
Overall, King Shepherds are a relatively healthy breed, but such large dogs rarely live as long as smaller breeds; a King Shepherd dog has a life expectancy of around 11 years.

8. How Do You Properly Groom a King Shepherd?

Since a King Shepherd’s coat is weather-resistant, they should only be bathed when necessary. When it comes to brushing, however, the thick coat should be tended to twice a week. Regular brushing prevents matting and tangles, so proactive grooming will save you quite a lot of hassle.

9. What Groups Recognize King Shepherds As A Breed?

Though not recognized as an official breed by larger organizations such as the American Kennel Club, the King Shepherd is recognized by several other groups. These include:
  • American King Shepherd Club (AKSC)
  • American Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI)
  • American Rare Breed Association (ARBA)
  • Dog Registry of America (DRA)
  • Eastern Rare Breed Dog Club (ERBDC)
  • States Kennel Club (SKC)
  • World Wide Kennel Club (WWKC)

10. Does a King Shepherd Make A Good Pet For A Family?

A King Shepherd is a sweet, loyal, protective, and loving dog. They bond quite strongly with their human companions and love nothing more than to be with their people. They get along well with all other members of the household, human and animals alike. If you are looking for a large, energetic running buddy who will be a devoted family dog, you need look no further than a King Shepherd.

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Taylor Ritz

Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She is a former zookeeper and animal trainer. She has her own dog, Dobby, with whom she has bicycled across the U.S. and thru-hiked the Long Trail.

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