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German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide. The King Shepherd is a rare stunning-looking dog, similar to the German Shepherd. So, you might wonder what the difference is between a German Shepherd and a King Shepherd.

The difference between German Shepherds and King Shepherds is that GSDs were initially bred in Germany in the late 1800s to herd sheep and are purebred dogs. In contrast, King Shepherds are a relatively new crossbreed, bred as a large family dog with a calmer temperament and fewer health issues.

The hybrid King Shepherd is a German Shepherd mixed with other breeds, including the Shiloh Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, or Great Pyrenees. Another key difference is the origin. We know the GSD came from Germany, but what about the King Shepherd?

In this post, you’ll learn all the differences between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd, in particular, their:

  • Origin and history
  • Temperament and traits
  • Size and appearance
  • Health and nutrition

You’ll discover all the information you need to help you decide which is the breed for you.

First, let’s cover the basics.

A German Shepherd next to a King Shepherd. Difference Between German Shepherd and King Shepherd

Difference Between German Shepherd and King Shepherd

What’s the difference between a German Shepherd and a King Shepherd? It’s a good question if you want to bring either of these puppies (or adults) into your home. It’s fair to say both are stunning breeds and make great family dogs. 

However, there are several differences between these two breeds. Whether you choose a German Shepherd or a King Shepherd will ultimately depend on what you are looking for in a dog. 

When you first see a King Shepherd, you might think you’re just looking at a large, long-haired German Shepherd, but that’s not entirely correct. So, what exactly is a King Shepherd?

A King Shepherd is a relatively new breed of dog still in development. It is a hybrid not recognized by the American Kennel Club. King Shepherds were initially developed using American German Shepherds crossed to flock guardians (livestock guarding dogs).

The primary ancestors of the King Shepherd are the German Shepherd and the Shiloh Shepherd. The Shiloh Shepherd is another hybrid of the German Shepherd and predominantly Alaskan Malamute. So, most of this new breed is the German Shepherd – maybe we could say around two-thirds.

The American King Shepherd Club (AKSC) recognizes the King Shepherd and is the original club of the breed. The breed’s history dates back to 1991 when Americans Shelley Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer developed it. 

Learn More About King Shepherd vs. GSD In Our Video…

If you desire an easily trainable, reliable working dog, you should probably choose the German Shepherd. This breed is intelligent, strong, brave, loyal, and protective and can be aggressive toward intruders if not socialized or trained. They make both excellent police and guard dogs due to their protective nature.

However, if you want a gentle family dog with a lovely temperament, you should choose the King Shepherd. This breed is considered more laid-back and rarely becomes aggressive. Nonetheless, he is very protective and makes an excellent watchdog due to his intimidating size.

Although they are utilized as family companion dogs, King Shepherds are also easy to train and can work as police dogs, guide dogs, or therapy dogs.

German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd (Breed Comparison)

So, what sets these two breeds apart? Below is a table highlighting the main differences between German Shepherds and King Shepherds. 

GROUPHerding Herding
60 – 65 cm
24 – 26 inches
68 – 81 cm
27 – 32 inches
55 – 60 cm
22 – 24 inches
63 – 76 cm
25 – 30 inches
30 – 40 kg
66 – 88 pounds
50 – 63 kg
110 – 140 pounds
22 – 32 kg 
49 – 71 pounds
40 – 54 kg
90 – 120 pounds
APPEARANCEAny pigmentation (nose can be black or pink)Dark pigmentation (e.g., black nose, paw pads, lips)
More angulatedBalanced angulation,
More upright stance
LIFE SPAN10 – 13 years10 – 11 years
DOG SIZE Medium-Large  Large
Alsatian, Alsatian Wolf Dog, Schäferhund, Deutscher SchäferhundAmerican King Shepherd,
Giant German Shepherd
Black and Tan, Bicolor, Black, Black and Red, White or Cream, SableBlack and Tan, Bicolor, Black, Black & Red, Sable
Double-coated, short, medium, or longDouble-coated.
Varies from smooth to long
Constant, seasonal
Heavy, constant, seasonal
TEMPERAMENTAggressive, Outgoing,
Brave, Protective, Watch-dog, Strong,
Intelligent, Alert,
Independent, Loyal, High-energy,
Affectionate, Versatile
Stable Temperament, Less Aggressive, Loving, Protective, Alert, Courageous, Playful, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Loyal, Sensitive, Intelligent, Independent, Versatile, Aloof With Strangers
GROOMINGModerate maintenanceModerate maintenance
TRAINABILITYEasily trainableEasily trainable
HYPOALLERGENICNot hypoallergenicNot hypoallergenic
CHILD FRIENDLYYesYes, very child friendly
NEW OWNER FRIENDLYYesYes, excellent first dog
COST$1000 – $4500$1250 – $3000
German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd

German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd (History)

German Shepherds are deemed to be multipurpose working dogs. They are medium-large, agile, muscular, strong, and highly intelligent. The GSD is fun, loyal, confident, and courageous, forming an intense bond with its owner – making them the perfect match for many dog lovers. 

King Shepherds resemble giant German Shepherds, with a typical Shepherd face and pointy ears. However, they have less severe hip angulation. Front and rear angulations should be balanced.

They also have quite a different temperament, are not overly aggressive, and have a calmer demeanor than the German Shepherd. They were specifically bred to be less intense – making them an excellent family companion. Although still protective, they are more friendly and gentle. They also adore children.

The History of the German Shepherd

True to their name, German Shepherds originated in Germany in 1899. They were bred by Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain, to be working dogs. They are unbelievably bright, strong, brave, and obedient.

GSDs were not initially bred as household pets or companions but were specifically bred to work as herders and all-purpose farm dogs. They were responsible for herding sheep and protecting flocks. Their sense of smell, intelligence, courage, and speed made them perfect herders.

By the start of World War 1, the German Shepherd had become extremely popular throughout Germany and had already started spreading to other parts of the globe.

The breed’s popularity rose in the UK and America, mainly due to the popularity of dog movie stars Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin. Returning soldiers of the First World War also spoke very highly of them. They admired the German Shepherds’ characteristics, especially their loyal and courageous demeanor. 

All these remarkable qualities have made the German Shepherd an increasingly popular choice over the years. Nowadays, German Shepherds are rarely used to herd sheep. However, they are often used as police and military dogs, dogs for the blind, and search and rescue.

The History of the King Shepherd

King Shepherds are a relatively new breed, but they share the same ancestry as German Shepherds. They were developed in 1991 in America by Shelley Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer. The official breed club, the American King Shepherd Club (AKSC), was established in 1995.

The King Shepherd is defined as a rare breed. It remains unrecognized by the American Kennel Club. It also matches the definition of being a dog still in development or in the process of being refined.

King Shepherds
Heart of the Valley

It is true to say that the King Shepherd was created by selective breeding. Specific bloodlines of American German Shepherds straying from the American Kennel Club breed standard, mainly oversized, were used.

The original breeders wanted to create a larger-sized GSD, having outstanding watchdog capabilities but less aggressive and having fewer health issues.

The American King Shepherd Club includes the following among its acceptable definitions of how an F1 Generation King Shepherd could be produced: 

  • Breeding a King to a German Shepherd
  • Breeding a King to a Shiloh Shepherd
  • Breeding a German Shepherd to a Shiloh Shepherd

Subsequently, the AKSC improved the King Shepherd breed standard. They introduced other breeds to build upon the King Shepherd’s traits different from the German Shepherd.

Therefore the King Shepherd is primarily a German Shepherd mixed with many other large breeds, including the Shiloh Shepherd, Alaskan Malamutes, Belgian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Leonberger, and Akita.

The American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) also recognizes the King Shepherd. Its mission is to protect rare breeds in the US, register dogs, and host conformation dog shows. Many other smaller organizations also acknowledge the breed.

Meet The King Shepherd In This YouTube Video…

German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd (Temperament)

German Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

German Shepherds love to please their masters, making them easily trainable. Obedience training should start from a young age to ensure that your puppy grows up to become a well-trained adult.

They make an excellent protective companion or watchdogs, and they love having a job to do. GSDs form an intense bond with their master from a young age.

The German Shepherd can become nervous and occasionally aggressive when faced with strangers. This is due to their immense loyalty to their family, which originates from their natural guarding instincts.

“My German Shepherd will go crazy if a stranger approaches the house. However, she will relax when I let her know that the “stranger” is not a threat.”

German Shepherd in the snow
My German Shepherd, Willow

If not raised in a loving home, socialized, and trained, German Shepherds can grow up to become aggressive. 

The German Shepherd is a high-energy dog, and lots of exercise is essential. They require at least two hours of daily physical exercise, including walks, hikes, off-leash running, frisbee, fetch, or agility.

They also require mental stimulation. It’s a good idea to have a selection of interactive or puzzle toys to keep their brain active.

Without regular exercise, German Shepherds will get into mischief and become destructive. They’ll display unwanted behavior such as digging, chewing, barking, or howling. I love to keep my GSD occupied with the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher from Amazon, as the random distance setting keeps him guessing and stimulated.

German Shepherds are very affectionate dogs and love to be part of the family. They can often become quite clingy and suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.

Having a decent-sized yard might be beneficial for a German Shepherd. But as long as they’re exercised and cared for properly, they can adapt to living in smaller spaces, even apartments! However, this will require lots of additional work, so make sure you have a suitable lifestyle to devote time to your dog.

Learn More About The German Shepherd In This Video…

King Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

King Shepherds are known for their kind and loving nature. They are not hyperactive or overly aggressive. They were specifically bred to have a consistent, sound temperament.

They are extremely intelligent dogs and are very trainable in obedience and personal protection. Their intimidating size would deter any threat! They are strong and fearless.

They are also very loyal, especially towards children whom they adore. Despite their size, King Shepherds are affectionate and sensitive in how they are treated. They are eager to please and thrive off praise. 

King Shepherds are clever dogs and enjoy learning new commands and tricks. They train efficiently and excel as protection, police, or therapy dogs. Their excellent temperament makes them cherished family pets who will be kind and friendly to children.

Like the German Shepherd, King Shepherds can be quite clingy towards their owners. They are also prone to separation anxiety and can’t cope with being left alone for long periods. They soon become bored and depressed.

King Shepherds are an active breed due to their strong herding lineage. They require a great deal of daily exercise, including running and playing, and are great fun.

However, if they are left without exercise, they will become destructive as they need to release their pent-up energy. Kings enjoy dog sports and conformation, keeping them mentally and physically stimulated.

German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd (Health)

German Shepherd Nutrition and Health

The German Shepherd breed is generally a very fit and healthy dog with an average lifespan of around 10-13 years. However, like many other purebreds, some hereditary conditions can cause issues in the German Shepherd. 

Due to this, it’s necessary to choose a reputable breeder. Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for known hereditary health conditions, such as degenerative myelopathy (DM) or hip dysplasia. 

The GSD needs high-quality food to provide all the nutrition he needs for an active lifestyle. There are many different diets to feed your dog, such as dry, wet, raw, etc.

German Shepherds can also be prone to bloat (GDV). This life-threatening condition causes the abdomen to swell with gas and twist, leading to severe complications and trauma. With this in mind, German Shepherd owners should educate themselves on the symptoms.

German Shepherd with a ball
My German Shepherd Willow looking all healthy!

King Shepherd Nutrition and Health

We have learned that the King Shepherd also has an abundance of energy. It’s also essential to feed a healthy, high-quality dog food formulated for large breeds. This ensures that the dog receives the correct nutrients in their proper proportions to meet all its energy needs.

This beautiful breed is also considered healthier than the German Shepherd due to careful, selective breeding. After all, it was one of the criteria that the founders wished to create.

Early screening by most breeders for conditions such as hip dysplasia has allowed this disease, and others, to be substantially reduced. Kings can live for 10-11 years.

What Else To Know About King Shepherds

King Shepherd With Pup

The King Shepherd has striking features due to his immense size, good-looking expression, and wolf-like appearance. He’s becoming increasingly popular due to his desired temperament, beauty, and reduced health problems. 

Nonetheless, Kings are heavy shedders, and daily brushing is required to keep on top of the flying fur! You should only bathe as and when needed. Two to three times per year is usually sufficient.

The King Shepherd is less expensive to purchase than the German Shepherd. Prices can vary, but the average is $1600.

In contrast, expect to pay around $2000 for an average German Shepherd. However, this price can also quickly increase to $4500 or even more for top breed lines, such as a working or show dog.


As its name suggests, the German Shepherd was originally developed in Germany. The King Shepherd was created in America, emerging from the American German Shepherd, Shiloh Shepherd, and other livestock guarding dogs.


The main difference between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd is their appearance. The King Shepherd is a large dog having the appearance of a giant German Shepherd.

He possesses thick, dense bone, a well-muscled torso, and a strong, impressive head. He is rugged, powerful, and impressive, with less severe angulation at the hips.

The German Shepherd is classed as a medium to large dog and is more angular at the hips.

How Are German Shepherds and King Shepherds Similar?

As you can see, there are several differences between the German Shepherd and King Shepherd. However, they share a lot of similarities, too! Below are the main similarities between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd. 


The German Shepherd and the King Shepherd share the same ancestry. Although a crossbreed, the King Shepherd is closely related to the German Shepherd. You could say the King is two-thirds GSD due to how they were bred, especially if the pup came from a Shiloh Shepherd.


Both of these breeds are remarkably intelligent and easy to train. This stems from their eagerness to please you and their undivided devotion to you. They can easily learn many skills and tricks and quickly obey commands.

When socialized and trained well, both the German Shepherd and King Shepherd are highly disciplined and respected. This is why they are used as working dogs in various roles.


The German Shepherd and King Shepherd are loyal, devoted, protective, and love to please their master. While King Shepherds can be slightly needier towards their owner due to their more gentle nature, both will protect their family and territory due to their strong herding traits.

Good with Children and Other Pets

When raised with children or other pets, both the King Shepherd and German Shepherd are very good with them, again the former being slightly better due to their softer temperament.

It can be daunting to decide on the right dog breed to bring into your family. However, both are a great choice – and getting a puppy German Shepherd or King Shepherd will be a success as long as you devote enough time to them and know what to expect. 

Who Makes The Best Pet?

The answer to this question lies in what you are looking for in a dog. The breed also needs to fit your specific circumstances and lifestyle. However, they do come pretty close. 

If you are looking for a trustworthy, protective, confident watchdog, I recommend a German Shepherd. Due to his more aggressive nature, he makes the perfect guard dog while remaining faithful and true to his family.

However, if you are looking for a less intense loving family pet with a lower drive, I would choose the King Shepherd. Being aggressive does not tend to be in their nature, and they have a more gentle and calmer demeanor. 

Nonetheless, they still make excellent watchdogs, and their immense size and wolf-like appearance are enough to scare any intruder away!


Let’s Wrap This Up!

When considering the difference between a German Shepherd and King Shepherd, let’s look at the key takeaways:

  • The main differences between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd are their size, country of origin, temperament, and health.
  • The German Shepherd and the King Shepherd have almost identical traits. However, the King is a lot less intense, calmer, and less aggressive.
  • Both breeds make wonderful, loyal pets. They also make great working dogs due to their intelligence and easy trainability. 

Remember that both require the same amount of daily exercise and thrive from being well-trained and stimulated. This is a crucial point to remember when considering a German Shepherd or a King Shepherd as a pet, as you need to dedicate lots of time to care for them properly. 

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck!

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Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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