If you’ll cross AKC’s numbers 1 and 2 dog breeds you’ll definitely end up with a clear winner. Combining the outgoing, intelligent, kind, gentle, and even-tempered nature of the Labrador retriever with the loyalty, courage, intelligence, confidence, and obedience of the German shepherd will give you a hound that will bring endless joy and unparalleled companionship in your life. Make the Sheprador your family dog, companion dog, and your best friend and it will happily give you the best of both worlds. It’s playful, great for kids, and has an infectiously positive outlook in life that will rub off on all members of your family.
History of the Sheprador
Like all designer dog breeds or modern-day crossbreeds, it is difficult to ascertain the exact origins of the German shepherd Labrador Mix. It is possible that the Sheprador was ‘designed’ in the later part of the 20th century since it was during this period that there are a steadily increasing number of dog owners trying to create something that reflects the characteristics of the ‘ideal’ dog. It was also during this time that Goldendoodles, Maltipoos, and Puggles, as well as many more crossbreeds, have begun appearing in the market. However, it is also possible that the very first German shepherd Labrador mix was developed much earlier.
Who are the Parents?
Because it is difficult to establish the actual origins of the crossbreed, we can at least look at its parents to have an idea of just what kind of dog the Sheprador really is.
The American Kennel Club’s top dog, the Labrador retriever, is best known for its outgoing and agile nature. It’s a dog that is as good-looking as it is smart, being one of the highly trainable breeds in the dog world. It is fun-loving and has a very calm demeanor within its 55- to 80-pound muscular frame. There is nothing that interests a Lab more than fetching a downed bird or even a Frisbee or a tennis ball, making this dog a favorite companion among picnickers, campers, and beachgoers.
If you’ve watched the 2008 film, Marley and Me, we’re pretty sure you had tears welling up at the corner of your eyes. The young Lab simply epitomizes the true nature of Labs all over the world. It’s a family dog and a venerable therapy dog, too. They are highly trainable and have the intelligence of a health care giver. They are prized for being the third eye of the blind, the friend of individuals with autism, and an invaluable member of the team of rescuers, law enforcers, and even the military. In short, the Lab is your perfect do-it-all kind of hound.
The Labrador owes its existence to the first St. John’s water dog in Newfoundland, a mix of different working dogs with Portuguese, Irish, and English origins. It was primarily tasked to retrieve items from the water such as nets that are filled with fish and even carry messages from boat to boat. It was in the 1830s when the 5th Duke of Buccleuch and the 10th Earl of Home brought the Lab progenitors to Europe. About half a century later, the 12th Earl of Home, the 6th Duke of Buccleuch, and the 3rd Earl of Malmesbury worked together to develop the Labrador retriever that we know today.
The Labrador lives up to 13 years, although you can see some that can live well beyond 15 years. One of the reasons why the Lab has a relatively short lifespan is its health vulnerabilities. Like other large breeds, the Lab is quite prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, eye disease, exercise-induced collapse, epilepsy, allergies, and heart disease, among others.
A product of Max von Stephanitz’s relentless pursuit for the perfect German working dog, the original German shepherd was designed to be highly intelligent, super-fast, has exceptionally keen sense of smell, and very strong. These are the same characteristics that you can expect from a German shepherd purebred.
Von Stephanitz purchased Hektor Linksrhein when he saw the dog at a dog show in 1899, believing that this is the perfect representation of what he had in mind to be Germany’s best working dog. Hektor was elegant, beautiful, highly intelligent, and had a sense of loyalty that is unheard of at the time. Von Stephanitz renamed Hektor as Horand von Grafrath, officially becoming the very first German shepherd in the world. Horand fathered many pups and, with Stephanitz’s in-breeding practices, provided the world with the kind of intelligent, strong, and agile working dog that it needs.
A lot of folks are intimidated by the size and stance of a GSD. While it does make for an excellent guard dog, it really doesn’t need to bark. Its imposing size and watchful stance are often enough to make would-be no-do-gooders to think twice before making any attempts at whatever mischief they want to carry. It is very affectionate and, despite its size, is very friendly to kids. It is one of the most intelligent dogs you can ever bring home and is specifically bred for work. Recognize this and address it properly and you’d be blessed with a hound that is obedient, loyal, and very confident.
If there’s anything you don’t want from the GSD, then that would be its tendency to shed. As a matter of fact, it is known to shed heavily that you’d better think twice before getting one especially if you have allergies or someone else in our family does.
The full-grown GSD can reach up to 90 pounds and can live just about as long as the Labrador at 13 years. The GSD is a natural protector and very adaptable dog, although its adaptability can never really be seen in its health. Prone to hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, heart disease, epilepsy, eye problems, digestive problems, immune system disorders, and even bleeding disorders, the German shepherd is not exactly that well-protected against diseases.
There really is no telling what kind of dog the Sheprador can be. This is despite the fact that both the Labrador and the German shepherd are large breeds of dogs. The obvious variances will be directly related to the state of purity of the parent breeds. If you get 100% purebred Labrador and 100% purebred GSD, then you can expect the Sheprador to have 50% each of its trait from either parent. The problem is that we’ll never really know which of these traits will come from the Labrador parent or from the GSD parent. What we know so far are the following quick facts.
- The fully grown Sheprador can weigh as much as 95 pounds with a lower limit of about 35 pounds, usually for females.
- On the average, a Sheprador can be as tall as 26 inches at the shoulders, but should never be shorter than 20 inches.
- A Sheprador can have either short or medium length coat, but always in double layer and quite dense. The colorings, markings, and patterns may follow the parents.
- The muzzle and ears can be either that of a German shepherd or a Labrador retriever.
- The tail can be fluffy or thick, depending on whether it gets the trait from the GSD parent or the Labrador parent, respectively.
Things You Should Know
Before you get a Sheprador for your family, make sure you understand the following requirements.
Both parents of the Sheprador are famous working breeds. One is a retriever gun dog while the other is a shepherd dog. Both are intelligent and very trainable. It is, thus, expected that a resulting crossbreed will also inherit these characteristics. The Sheprador is best for dog owners who have a clear understanding of early dog training. It makes no sense if you’re only after its looks. If you cannot train your dog there really is no way you could become a good pet parent. And while the Sheprador is the offspring of 2 of the world’s most intelligent breeds, you’ve still got to show them you’re the leader of the pack.
These are large dogs. Even if you happen to get a Sheprador at the lower limit of its weight range, you’d still have to give them more food than small or medium dog breeds. Depending on the activity level of your dog you’ll need to feed them high-quality proteins and moderate amounts of carbs for their energy needs. Of course, if you’re intention is to get a lap dog that doesn’t really do much, then you’re more than welcome to feed them calorie-rich carb-filled food. Just be ready with canine obesity, diabetes, and heart problems as the Lab and GSD are quite famous for. Also, you may have to watch what you feed them as both are prone to allergies.
Your Sheprador needs at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. Its favorite? Playing fetch, of course. And if you have access to bodies of water, you’ll find the Sheprador to be especially built for water games as well as for retrieving stuff from the water. Daily walks should be just fine. However, it is critical to include mind games in your pet’s exercise regimen. This is an intelligent dog and it requires all the mental stimulation it needs to feel happy.
The Sheprador takes on the gentleness and friendliness of its parents, making it an exceptional family pet. It’s especially fun to have around kids and doesn’t really mind being roughhoused. Unfortunately, it should never be left alone around very young kids as it is still a fairly big dog. The Lab may be dog-friendly, but the GSD isn’t that much. So, you’d have to look at your Sheprador if it behaves well with other dogs. However, you can actually improve on its socialization the earlier you expose it to other dogs as well as other people.
If your pet happens to have the coat of its GSD parent, daily brushing is a must. If not, brushing once every 2 to 3 days should be enough. It will still require at least once monthly bathing, of course. Daily brushing of the teeth is also important, just as routine trimming of its nails and the cleaning of its ears.
Hip dysplasia is always a great concern among pet parents of Shepradors. The heavier the dog is the greater the impact of this disease on its hip joints. Shepradors may also be prone to heart problems, eye disorders, skin irritations, digestive problems, and allergies, among others. Make sure to check the Labrador and GSD parents of the Sheprador to make sure your dog doesn’t have any of these diseases.
Ideally, the Sheprador is perfect for the following individuals:
- Those who have an idea about how to properly train a dog whether it’s purebred or crossbred
- Can devote at least 60 minutes of walking every day
- Can provide mental stimulation and playtime activities on a daily basis
- Families with children who are aged 8 years, at least
- The Sheprador is not for you if you’re any of the following:
- Very busy in your work that you cannot devote plenty of bonding time with your pet as the Sheprador can be prone to separation anxiety
- Don’t like puppy training and socialization
Outgoing, active, and very friendly, the Sheprador can be a great family pet. It can also be obedient, watchful, alert, and very courageous, often depending on which between its Lab and GSD parents has a more dominant trait. It’s a working dog that loves nothing better than show off its skills to its human pet parents and become the apple of the eye of the entire family. It thrives on the unconditional love of its family that it can show its destructive tendencies if it feels that it is not receiving the attention it needs. And by attention we mean lots of exercise, playtime, socialization, and other activities where it gets to be with its human friends. On that note, the Sheprador can be especially vulnerable to separation anxiety, too, just like its Labrador parent. So if you cannot guarantee your pet that you won’t leave its sight for more than several hours, it is best to forego getting a Sheprador into your life.
With its even temperament and an amiable nature, the Sheprador makes for a great family pet. Renege on its exercise and socialization requirements and you’ll find that this friendly nature can be quite destructive, too.