Dogs are considered man’s best friend for more reasons than I can count. Whether purebred or mix, each breed will have a different trait or personality, but they are all loving and loyal companions. The key to having a good dog is understanding their natural instincts, but if you have a cross breed German Shepherd, how can you tell what he is mixed with?
To tell what your German Shepherd is mixed with, compare the coat features, body type, muzzle, ear, and tail shape, to those of other breeds. Monitor behavior, ask your breeder or a vet, or use a breed DNA kit. German Shepherds are often mixed with Golden Retrievers, Labs, Poodles, and even Pugs.
There are several ways to determine what your German Shepherd is mixed with. This article will focus on:
- Popular types of Shepherd mixes
- Ways to tell what the Shepherd is mixed with
- Why the mix matters
- How a breed mix may alter training methods
- What happens when a German Shepherd is a variety of breeds
So, if you want to learn how to determine what your German Shepherd is mixed with, you’ll love this article!
Types of German Shepherd Mixes
Owning a German Shepherd is an amazing experience because they are smart, loyal, and family-oriented. However, they need not be purebred to exhibit all of these worthy traits.
These dogs are incredibly protective, which is why many families seek this breed. Breeders have found that mixing a German Shepherd with other breeds often creates an even better dog with the best of both breeds, so it’s not surprising that there are so many German Shepherd mixes.
Popular German Shepherd mixes include:
- Golden Retriever – This mix is a combination of the 2nd and 3rd most popular dogs in the world. The result is a Golden Shepherd, and the choice is often made to get the Retriever’s coat color and affectionate disposition coupled with the intelligence of both parents.
- Pug – The result is a Shug, and this mix aims to create a smaller dog with fewer coat maintenance requirements that’ll display the German Shepherd’s guard dog mentality.
- Labrador – This mix produces a Labrashepherd, and the most desirable trait here is having the Shepherd’s guard dog traits with the playfulness of the Labrador.
- Collie – The upshot of this mix is a Shollie. Both the Border Collie and the German Shepherd are highly intelligent. They require jobs to remain happy, so this mix produces a highly trainable dog suitable for agility, farm work, and obedience training. You can learn more about the Shollie in this article, Mini German Shepherd: Do They Exist?
- Poodle – This mix produces a Shepadoodle that generally keeps the coat traits of the Poodle and the intelligence of the Shepherd. It’s often sought after due to the Shepadoodle’s lack of shedding and dander production – a requirement for a family member who’s allergic to dog dander.
- Saint Bernard – The outcome of this mix produces a Saint Shepherd, and its most impressive trait is the Saint Bernard’s massive size. These dogs do well as guard dogs and must be socialized at a very young age to avoid aggressive behavior.
- Husky – The Gerberian Shepsky or Shepsky is a high-energy, smart dog that makes a great pet for first-time owners as it will inherit the best characteristics from both parents. Nonetheless, they need a ton of exercise or will engage in destructive behavior. If you have this breed, check out this post for some cool tips, German Shepherd Husky Mix: 9 Tips For a First Time Owner.
- Alaskan Malamute – This mix, known as the German Shepherd Malamute Mix, normally takes on the coat of the Alaskan Malamute and the strength, loyalty, and intelligence that are characteristic to both breeds. As most Shepherd mixes, they need early training, and hip or elbow dysplasia is a common health concern.
To find out more about German Shepherd crossbreeds, check out this article, 21 Best German Shepherd Mixes (With Pictures).
5 Ways To Tell What Your German Shepherd Is Mixed With
The mix of breeds is often intentional because breeders want to create a hybrid that brings out the best in both breeds. Sometimes the mix is accidental, but either way, knowing what a dog is mixed with impacts training, food, and healthcare choices, so it’s good to have the dog’s hereditary information if available. If it’s not, it’s important to find out.
Here are five ways to tell what your German Shepherd is mixed with:
- Study several breeds and make observations. What does the dog look like? Look for coat characteristics, muzzle shape, ear types, tail shape, and body type, unlike those of the purebred German Shepherd (ex: floppy ears, a white coat, etc.). Compare your observations to the characteristics of other breeds.
- Monitor behavior. Although training will have a lot to do with how the dog behaves, natural instincts are often stronger than training. How does the dog behave when alone? How does it behave with strangers and other dogs?
- DNA testing. A breed DNA test like Embark (check price on Amazon) will reveal the exact percentages of any breed your dog is mixed with at an advertised 99% accuracy. This option is the simplest and most accurate way to gain this important breed information. For around $20 more, the test can also reveal possible genetic defects and health concerns.
- Talk with breeders. Although breeders are primarily concerned with their respective breeds, they often also have a wealth of knowledge. You might not know where that non-bushy tail comes from, but a career breeder just might.
- Ask a veterinarian. Few people will know various dog behaviors, traits, and abilities better than a veterinarian. At the same time, many can look at a dog and guess the breed mix with a large degree of accuracy.
Visual Clues When Determining a Breed Mix
- Muzzle. The shape and size of a dog’s muzzle provide a lot of information concerning its breed. German Shepherds have long, slender noses, while Pugs have short blunt noses. Though a drastic difference, noting the size of the nose helps determine the natural instinct of the dog. For example, was he born to hunt and track or to fight? The muzzle shape provides a clue.
- Ears. Here, you’re looking for the size of the ear and how the ear sits on the dog’s head. Is it floppy? Folded? Pointed? The dog’s ears help him communicate with you, but they also let you know what job he was bred for. Canines with dropped ears were bred to hunt because the dropped shape helps block out distractions, leaving them to concentrate on smell. A German Shepherd will normally have pointed ears that stand up.
- Body shape. The dog’s shape is important because although they are descendants of wolves, many modern dogs were bred specifically to alter different body types. For example, many miniature dogs were bred with dwarfism traits. Likewise, if a German Shepherd was bred with a St. Bernard, the result is a larger, more menacing look that’s sure to ward off potential intruders.
- Tail length and shape. Most German Shepherd mixes will have long tails, whereas Pugs have short, curly tails. The tail does more than tell us if the doggo is happy. Identifying the breed by its tail can also help owners determine if they will face future back problems.
Why Should I Know the Mix?
There’s nothing quite like looking into the eyes of a new furbaby. And, regardless of heritage, love trumps all. The first meeting was love at first sight, and that made the decision final. The dog’s behavior over time, though, may become a problem. Or, they may have a weird health concern crop up that doesn’t appear common in GSDs. Therefore, it’s that same love that requires some investigation into the dog’s genetics.
The first thing to consider is how to determine exactly what you’re looking for. In some cases, there will be one bloodline, and there may also be two. In the final category, the lineage may contain many mixes.
Purebred vs. Crossbred vs. Mongrel
- A purebred is a dog with parents and an ancestral line that contains only dogs of the same breed. This type of dog is often sought after because owners can depend on the lineage to predict its size, health, and overall disposition. In this case, you’d have a purebred German Shepherd.
- A crossbreed is the result of intentional breeding. Different purebreds are selected to create a different breed, with the desire to get the best traits of both breeds. Again, these dogs are sought after because of the predictable outcomes in size, health, and disposition. Examples include a GSD mixed with a Lab or a Husky.
- A mongrel, otherwise known as a mixed breed or “mutt,” is a dog that results from nature. The sire and the dam are often mixed breeds, so the lineage is almost impossible to trace with any accuracy without DNA testing. However, educated guesses can be relatively successful. In the case of a GSD with questionable genetics, a German Shepherd may be a few generations back in the bloodline.
Knowing the dog’s mix is for more than satisfying the family’s curiosity. This knowledge helps owners make wise decisions for the dog in healthcare, food, and training.
Breed Specific Healthcare
The likely most important reason to seek what a German Shepherd – or any dog, for that matter – is mixed with is veterinary care. Many purebreds are susceptible to known ailments.
German Shepherds, for example, are predisposed to hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint ball and socket separate. Therefore, if the dog is mixed with a Labrador, another breed prone to this condition, there may be a higher risk for joint issues later on.
Being prone to develop a certain health condition is not a reason to avoid the breed. But rather, knowing that a specific condition is common to particular breeds is necessary to arm the owner with the knowledge to help the pet avoid the condition. This knowledge includes dietary needs, supplements and vitamins to use, and vet care to seek.
Positive attributes integrated by cross/mixed breeding provide a foundation for improved health. According to research, mixed breeds are less vulnerable to inherited diseases but stronger carriers. In contrast, purebred dogs have fewer disease genes but are more susceptible to the same diseases.
Breed Specific Food
Although in most cases, a dog’s diet is best determined by having a conversation with a veterinarian, many people often make food choices based on marketing. Some even choose to feed a homemade diet. Either way, foods for specific breeds are often unnecessary. But it’s important to know the breed’s anticipated height, weight, and activity level to avoid nutritional deficits.
When considering food brands, many owners feed their dogs based only on life stages: puppy, adult, and senior. But they never consider the dog’s behavioral traits.
While it’s important to consider the dog’s various life stages when determining nutritional needs, failing to consider the dog’s genetics and activity levels can eventually cause health issues.
For example, a German Shepherd is a highly active dog that will require a different nutritional plan than a Pug. However, if the breeds are crossed, the resulting Shug will have different nutritional needs than either parent. Since Pugs are prone to obesity, you could accidentally overfeed your Shepherd mix if you’re feeding it like a purebred Shepherd.
Regardless of the breed, though, the dog will let you know if its nutritional needs are being met. If he has a bright and shiny coat, fresh breath, and maintains a normal weight, chances are the food he’s eating is the right mix of protein and fats. If not, it’s worth a visit to the vet to discuss food options.
Food is also important when thinking about health and training, as German Shepherds are prone to many conditions due to their size. Keeping them on a balanced diet that helps them maintain a healthy weight is crucial to avoiding conditions like hip dysplasia.
Once the dog’s mix is known and potential health concerns are noted, various supplements can help ward off the condition or help alleviate symptoms. In the instance of hip dysplasia, starting the dog on a Glucosamine Chondroitin food supplement might keep either the condition or the symptoms at bay so you can avoid medicine. A good option is the YuMOVE joint health supplement from Amazon. It’s highly recommended by veterinarians and has a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Although most of a dog’s nutritional needs should come from high-quality food, if the dog is fed a homemade diet or a breed mix is prone to certain conditions, it’s good to talk to the vet about adding supplements.
According to the AKC, depending on the breed mix and health concerns, you should also give your dog fish oil such as the Zesty Paws Omega Bites (check price on Amazon) because this supplement helps alleviate skin allergies. Therefore, if a German Shepherd is mixed with a Golden Retriever or a Labrador, it’ll be important to consider skin health from the outset.
German Shepherds are often mixed with Collies. Since both breeds are prone to digestive issues, another supplement to consider is a probiotic. By knowing the dog’s mix, you can address many health concerns before they become an actuality.
The most important reason to investigate what the German Shepherd is mixed with is that training expectations, needs, and results often depend upon the dog’s disposition. For example, a German Shepherd may require more training in socialization than a Labrador will due to breeding.
For example, German Shepherds are bred for protection, at least in part, so they need training that addresses their sometimes aggressive instinct toward new dogs and visitors. On the other hand, Labradors are typically happy, playful, and friendly, so their socialization training will not combat possible aggression but rather keep them from being afraid of new things.
All dogs need vet care. In addition to yearly vaccines for rabies and other conditions, they need to be checked for parasites and undetected health conditions. But some breeds need more frequent veterinary care to keep them healthy, especially if they reach their senior years earlier. Knowing the dog’s breed can help owners and their vets determine how frequently they should visit to maintain optimal health.
What if My German Shepherd is a Variety of Mixes?
People often adopt dogs from the local shelter, which is an incredibly loving thing to do that they certainly appreciate. They seem to know that they’ve been given a second chance and don’t want to disappoint their new owner. But this adoption makes it difficult to determine what the pet is mixed with.
One thing to keep in mind is that having a “mutt” in many ways is like holding a golden ticket because they normally don’t have the health issues that many purebreds do. Their mixed breeding also offers unique coats, body shapes, and behaviors that only nature can provide.
Unfortunately, it’s often this natural blend that lands many dogs in the shelters in the first place. Owners often fail to understand how the dog’s mix will impact behavior.
Many German Shepherd mixes, for example, end up in animal shelters simply because owners don’t understand and work with the dog’s natural protective instincts, mistaking them for aggression.
If the desired dog is part German Shepherd, the chances are high that the local shelter will have several options. So, the crucial thing to remember is the importance of determining the dog’s other breeds. While a DNA test may not be available, there are ways to make an educated guess.
Before leaving for the shelter, study various breeds and start making observations at the kennel gate. Once the selection is narrowed down to two or three candidates, make observations in the shelter playroom to determine the dog’s general disposition.
Knowing what a German Shepherd is mixed with is a good foundation for caring for one. Whether the dog is purebred, crossbred, or mixed, knowing his genetics will help you decide on the food, healthcare, and training that will keep you both happy and healthy for many years to come.
To help you determine your dog’s parentage, use a dog breed DNA kit, consider his characteristics and behavior, and speak to experts such as breeders and veterinarians.