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Purebred German Shepherd vs. Mix (Which Is Better)?

So, you want a dog of German Shepherd descent but are not sure if you want a purebred German Shepherd or a mix? Both options can make wonderful pets, but if you really want to know which is better between a purebred German Shepherd and a mix, here’s the fairest answer. 

A purebred German Shepherd’s behavior is easier to predict, while mixed puppies are cheaper. Apart from these differences, there is no universal standard that indicates that purebred or a mix is best. Both have their pros and cons, and the better dog is the one that meets your expectations.

To help you assess your expectations, this article underscores the strengths and drawbacks of a purebred German Shepherd vs. mix. 

Purebred German Shepherd vs Mix. A purebred GSD sitting next to a GSD mix.
Purebred German Shepherd and a German Shepherd Border Collie Mix (Shollie)

Purebred German Shepherd vs. Mix: The Basic Difference

There is just one clear-cut difference between purebred and mixed dogs: their genetic inheritance. A purebred German Shepherd is from breeding two purebred German Shepherds with the genes of an extended family line of only German Shepherds.

A German Shepherd mix comes from breeding dogs with genetics from more than a single breed; a German Shepherd and another (or other) breeds.

Is a Purebred German Shepherd or a Mix Better?

Dog owners usually consider several factors before deciding on their preferred pet. These factors help them decide what dog breed best suits their lifestyle and expectations. 

You can decide if a purebred German Shepherd or a mix is better for you based on these factors:

  1. The cost of buying (and owning) the dog.
  2. The dog’s lifespan.
  3. The dog’s health.
  4. The dog’s temperament.
  5. The dog’s trainability.

1. The Cost of Buying (and Owning) the Dog

The average cost to buy a German Shepherd is around $2000. Of course, you’ll need to keep in mind the cost of owning the dog for the pet’s life span, accounting for food, pet care, and training. You can learn more here, Costs of Owning a German Shepherd.

Having a purebred German Shepherd or mix won’t make a difference in the owning cost. However, you may pay more or less to buy a German Shepherd mix depending on the following:

  • What breed your GSD is mixed with: A GSD bred with another popular breed may cost more than when mixed with a less popular dog.
  • Breeder status. You may pay more if the breeder is registered.
  • Your location: You might pay less for a mix where purebreds are highly valued.
  • Parent dogs’ bloodline: A German Shepherd mix with a champion bloodline will cost more. 

Verdict: If you are on a small budget, it might be better to find a cheaper German Shepherd mix. If cost is not your issue, you can easily go for a purebred or a champion bloodline mix. Your pocket determines which dog is best for you.

2. The Dog’s Lifespan

The speculation that mixed-breed dogs live longer is not scientifically founded. In fact, a recent study on the lifespan of companion dogs did not find any noteworthy difference in lifespan between mixed breed and purebred dogs.

Being a purebred German Shepherd or a mix will not significantly affect longevity. Most German Shepherd mixes are bred from another medium to large dog. Most medium-sized and large dogs have a longevity range similar to that of a GSD (7-10/12 years).

Verdict: If you want a longer-living dog in a mix, you may need to ensure the dog bred with a German Shepherd is a long-living breed. But there’s no guarantee that your German Shepherd mix will live longer than a purebred.

3. The Dog’s Health

A study of the health of purebreds vs. mixed breeds showed that purebred dogs had higher chances of suffering 10 (42%) of 24 genetic disorders. As a difference in mixed breeds, only one of the disorders (4%) had higher incidences.

However, we forget two important facts when assuming that mixed breeds are healthier than purebreds:

  • The referred study found no noteworthy difference in the incidences of the other 13 disorders (a majority of 54%). This means both purebred dogs (German Shepherds) and mixed breeds (German Shepherd mix) have equal chances of suffering these diseases.
  • A dog’s health is highly dependent on the care given: A purebred German Shepherd owner who takes good care of their dog ensures their pet has good health and longer life. A German Shepherd mix owner who leaves loopholes in their dog’s care and wellbeing endangers their pet’s health.

Responsible dog breeders usually ensure they breed healthy dogs, whether these dogs are purebred or mixed breeds. 

Verdict: A purebred German Shepherd and a mix are both prone to health problems if they inherit them from their parents or if they do not get the care needed to stay healthy.

4. The Dog’s Temperament

A purebred German Shepherd’s temperament can be predicted based on national breed standards such as the one by the AKC. Here, the GSD is described as smart, confident, courageous, affectionate, highly adaptable and trainable, fairly open to strangers, good with children, and protective with family, among other traits. 

When you breed a German Shepherd with another dog, it’s expected that the mix will inherit a bit of each dog. In fact, studies have confirmed that the greater part of a dog’s personality is genetically inherited, while training also plays a significant role. 

The percentage the offspring inherits from each parent is not guaranteed to be 50:50. A mixed breed can have more of one parent’s temperament. 

Verdict: Even though it is easier to predict the temperament of a purebred dog, you can also deduce how a German Shepherd mix will turn out guessing from the temperament traits of the parent breeds. 

Purebred German Shepherd In River
My German Shepherd Willow

5. The Dog’s Trainability

There’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that purebred or mixed breed dogs have an intellectual and trainability advantage over the other category. 

Existing information suggesting mixed breeds may be more intelligent and, therefore, easier to train is not yet enough to support this. A 2013 California State Science Fair project found that mixed breed dogs would solve more problems than purebred dogs. 

In contrast, a 2017 study on owner-perceived differences between purebred and mixed-breed dogs recorded similar scores for trainability for both categories. 

Verdict: From the preceding, we’ll go by the saying that ‘all dogs are trainable.’ How fast or slow your dog learns is affected by other factors such as personality, training methods, age, and environment.

Final Verdict

Purebred German Shepherds and mixes all have their advantages and disadvantages. To answer the question, “Purebred German Shepherd vs. mix: Which is better?” prospective dog owners have to assess their lifestyles and expectations to see if it fits better the qualities of a purebred German Shepherd or a mix.

Nonetheless, if your heart is set on a GSD mix, check out this article, 21 Best German Shepherd Mixes (With Pictures).

Or if you want more info on mixed breeds in general, check out this article, Are Mixed Breeds Bad? 5 Reasons NOT to Get a Mixed Breed.

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