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King shepherd trotting across a lawn

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Miscellaneous
  • Height — At least 25 inches (females) or 27 inches (males)
  • Weight — 80-145 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Rough or smooth and moderate
  • Coat color — Strong and rich colors like sable, bi-color (mostly black with tan, red, or cream), black saddle with red, tan, gold, or cream, and solid black are among the wide range of acceptable colors. Small areas of white meet breed standards, but predominantly or solid white do not.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking —Very vocal
  • Life span — 10-14 years
  • Temperament — Even-keeled, loving, and self-confident
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — United States

King shepherd fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male King Shepherds Riley and Max. Meanwhile, most of our users with female King Shepherds love Sandy, then Bell.

  • The king shepherd is a relatively new breed. It’s also a rare breed. Though the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize kings, they have gained recognition from smaller organizations like American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), World Wide Kennel Club (WWKC), and Eastern Rare Breed Dog Club (ERBDC).
  • A little bit of a lot of dogs makes up the king shepherd. A king is a hybrid or designer breed, which means different dog breeds were used in its development. King shepherds are a mix of American German shepherds, European German shepherds,  Shiloh shepherds (a cross between German shepherds and Alaskan malamutes), and Great Pyrenees.
  • A king shepherd is a working dog. You can catch them serving as police, search and rescue, and guide dogs.
King shepherd closeup outside

King shepherd temperament and characteristics 

Kings are known for their loving personalities, like their German shepherd counterparts. The dogs are gentle giants with king-sized hearts (figuratively speaking). They’re loyal and protective — some even serve as personal protection dogs. Expect barking when the Amazon delivery person or a friend visits you, but they are not known as aggressive dogs. King shepherds will tolerate strangers, but they can be a bit standoffish. They save their affection for their nearest and dearest — you.

King shepherds are excellent family members. They generally are a great addition to homes with small children. Don’t let the name fool you. Kings don’t need to be kings of the castle. They are generally friendly towards other animals in the home, including other pups and cats.

The American King Shepherd Club (AKSC) notes that the breed is typically even-keeled. But, the dog’s large size and high intelligence require an attentive pet owner who is willing to give them the physical and mental stimulation they need to thrive.

Common king shepherd health problems 

The breeding program to develop the king shepherd was designed to produce a dog with fewer health problems than German shepherds. Still, the king shepherd breed is prone to specific health issues. Your veterinarian is your best resource for concerns about your dog’s health. However, you spend the most time with your animals, so knowing the risks and symptoms can ensure your pet receives the best care.

  • Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia occurs when a dog’s hip bone does not develop properly. It can cause discomfort, arthritis, and lameness.
  • Elbow dysplasia. As a large dog breed, the king shepherd is more prone to developing elbow dysplasia. It’s similar to hip dysplasia, but it happens in a dog’s elbow.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV). A king shepherd is a large dog with a deep chest, so they are prone to this condition, commonly called bloat. It occurs when the stomach rotates and can become fatal in minutes. Vomiting, restlessness, and pacing are some of the hallmark symptoms.
  • Hypothyroidism. This endocrine disease happens when a dog’s thyroid does not produce enough hormones . Thinning hair and weight gain are common signs associated with hypothyroidism.

👉 Though bloat is most common in large dogs, even smaller pups can develop the condition known as the “mother of all emergencies.”

Cost of caring for king shepherds

Taking your king shepherd to the veterinarian once or twice per year is an expected but important part of caring for your pet. But those costs can increase if your pet develops health problems.

As a large breed, you and your veterinarian will want to keep an eye out for signs of hip and elbow dysplasia. If your dog is diagnosed and needs surgery on either, it can cost $4,000 or more per knee or elbow. Seconds are critical when treating bloat, which usually requires surgery and multiple days of hospitalization. It can add up to $7,500. Thyroid medications can cost about $50 per month.

Health insurance may be a way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Pet owners who sign their dogs up when they are puppies typically receive the greatest benefits. Two useful alternatives are opening a pet savings account and creating a budget.

King shepherd laying down in grass

History of the king shepherd

The king shepherd is a relatively new breed. The dogs’ history begins in the 1990s, when two individuals, American breeders David Turkheimer and Shelley Watts-Cross, bred a German shepherd with a Shiloh shepherd. The primary objective was to create loving family dogs who could also perform rescue work or serve as police dogs, similar to German shepherds. However, the breeders wanted to root out some of the common health issues in German shepherds.

The breed continued to evolve. By breeding the dogs with long-haired European German shepherds, the king shepherd developed a longer coat. Today, the king shepherd will have one of two coat types: The long-haired variety that looks like a Belgian Tervuren. The smooth-coated variety has a resemblance to a large German shepherd dog.

Caring for your king shepherd

Puppies can be overwhelming, regardless of the breed — same for older dogs. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. You’ll also need to puppy-proof your home (hint: their larger size makes king shepherds more likely to get into things, so ensure chemicals and toxic foods are out of reach). King shepherd puppies will teethe, just like human babies. If you bring a younger pup home, you’ll want to prepare for teething.

No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to the king shepherd.


German shepherds are a high-energy dog breed, but the king shepherd is known to have an even-keeled personality. Still, a king’s sheer size alone means they’ll require opportunities to move their body. The AKSC recommends a pair of 50-minute walks on a daily basis.

Play sessions can also count towards their exercise needs. Good news: King shepherds are playful pups. Games of fetch and agility training can keep this breed stimulated and happy. Like humans, dogs need to stay hydrated when exercising. If you’re bringing them out for a long hike, walk, or even a jog, pack a water bottle for yourself and a bowl for your pup. In the winter, be sure to keep their paws safe. Ice-melting salt can get stuck in paws and cause irritation, so cleaning is essential.

King shepherd running outside


Whether you have a smooth-haired king shepherd or one with a long coat, expect some shedding. Still, you likely won’t be on a first-name basis with your king’s groomer. Regular brushing, about twice weekly, should suffice.

Your king shepherd can also benefit from other basic regular maintenance. Nail trimming can protect against ingrown or broken toenails, which can be painful to pups. Be sure to clean their hallmark firm ears frequently to nix bacteria and other build-up that can lead to infection. Dental disease is something dogs are prone to, but owners can overlook this risk. Daily teeth brushing is the best way to fight it.

👉 King shepherds aren’t opposed to water play, and monthly baths are also essential. Be sure to clean their ears after any dips in the water.

Diet and nutrition

King shepherds within the ideal weight range for the breed will thrive on a standard dog food with the AAFCO seal, which indicates it meets nutritional standards. If your dog has unique medical needs, a vet can provide more insights into the best food for them. Otherwise, look for a food designed for your dog’s age and weight. Dog food should make up at least 90% of your dog’s daily caloric intake, with up to 10% coming from low-calorie treats.

As a large breed, it makes sense that a king shepherd will have higher caloric needs than a medium size pup like a beagle. But like most other dogs, it’s generally recommended to feed a king shepherd twice per day. The AKSC recommends three to four cups of dog food on a daily basis. Your vet can give you the best information on how much to feed your dog.

Training your king shepherds 

King shepherds are strong dogs who benefit from early socialization and training. Even older dogs can take to training. King shepherds combine high intelligence and an eagerness to please, making them a relatively easy breed to train. It’s also why the pups often thrive as working dogs.

King shepherds respond best to positive reinforcement, which is what the American Humane Society recommends for all dogs. Positive reinforcement leans into praise and treats and avoids punishments. Other recommended tactics include keeping commands short and sweet, such as “sit,” stay,” and “come.”

Ensure everyone, including small children, uses the same commands and sticks to the same rules so the dog doesn’t get confused.

King shepherd carrying a large stick

Breeds similar to the king shepherd 

Not quite sure that a king shepherd is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here is some information on a few to get you started:

  • German shepherd. The German shepherd has higher energy and may be prone to more health problems but has a similar loving, family-friendly personality.
  • Labrador retrievers. No. 2 on the AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds for the first time in three decades, Labs are still affectionate and playful pups.
  • Cocker spaniels. Cocker spaniels are loving but protective animals, similar to the king shepherd.

Frequently asked questions

What is a king shepherd vs. German shepherd?

King shepherds were bred using American and European German shepherds. But, they are a distinct breed. King shepherds are generally taller and have fewer health problems than German shepherds. In terms of recognition, the AKC recognizes the German shepherd as a purebred dog but not the king shepherd. The ARBA and other smaller such organizations do recognize the king shepherd, though.

How rare is a king shepherd?

The king shepherd is considered a rare breed as it is still somewhat new. However, the dogs are rising in popularity in the U.S.

How much does a king shepherd cost?

It depends on the breeder, but king shepherd puppies typically start at around $1,500 and can cost more than $2,000.

Do king shepherds bark a lot?

King shepherds are naturally protective, so they are one of the more vocal breeds. They are often aloof towards strangers, but not known as aggressive dogs.

Is a king shepherd a type of German shepherd?

No. King shepherds are a distinct breed developed using German shepherds. They are larger than German shepherds and tend to have fewer health problems.