King Shepherd: 16 Facts To Know Before You Get One
“The King Shepherd Dog – from the typical watchdog to a faithful companion”
Everybody knows him – the King Shepherd.
Big, sporty and alert, he is often to be seen at dog training grounds or during extensive walks in the forest.
He is docile and has a strong character, which makes him particularly suitable for work as a police and protection dog.
Origin of the King Shepherd Dog
“A good Shepherd dog knows his master almost better than himself […]” – Max Stephanitz (founder of the breed)
The King Shepherd dog has its origin – as the name already indicates – in Germany.
The former officer Max Stephanitz was so fascinated by a dog that helped a shepherd herding sheep that he founded the breed of the King Shepherd Dog in 1899 with a similar dog.
The King Shepherd was first bred and used as a herding dog, later also as a utility dog in protection, war and police service.
Character, temperament and nature
The King Shepherd is a good family dog and is compatible with children.
However, his strong temperament demands a very consistent education.
A sufficiently demanded and well-behaved King Shepherd can integrate well into the family.
In principle, the King Shepherd dog was not bred for hunting.
However, by his docile nature one can teach him the basics of hunting.
As a herding dog, the King Shepherd is very intelligent and must be mentally utilized to keep his temperament in check.
The dogs are best suited for training as utility or protection dog, rescue dog or tracking dog!
A full-grown sheepdog needs some exercise. The better the dog is utilized, the more balanced he is.
The shepherd dog is a friendly dog that creates a close bond with his caregiver and is very loyal to him.
But the key to the perfect shepherd dog is a very consistent education with a lot of positive reinforcement.
If the hierarchy in the family environment is clarified, the King Shepherd is well compatible with children because of his balance and teachability, and he is also well suited for keeping other pets and conspecifics.
The shepherd dog should not be shorn in any case, because he belongs to the so-called double coated breeds:
Under the long top coat the shepherd dog carries a dense layer of undercoat, which can become very matted after shearing.
Instead, it is recommended to use a special comb, which removes the dense undercoat from the animal’s coat.
If you need tips and tricks for the utilization and proper care of the sheepdog, contact us!
Special features to be considered
Especially in the early phase of the sheepdog’s life one aspect should be considered:
Sheepdogs are particularly prone to hip dysplasia.
It is therefore important not to feed the young dog too many calories, so that growth is not stimulated even more and the musculoskeletal system is unnecessarily strained.
Furthermore, a dog must always be moved according to its age and not be overburdened.
The shepherd dog is not only clever and resilient, but has, similar to the husky and unlike many of today’s fashionable breeds, a body shape that is relatively close to the wild type, i.e. wolf oriented.
Through this, it has a big head with long nose, in which approximately 220 million Riechzellen find place.
Through this huge number of olfactory cells, the sheepdog has an excellent sense of smell (macrosmatic) and is very well suited for the service as a sniffer dog.
More and more often there are discussions whether the shepherd dog should become a list dog.
In fact, the shepherd dog is one of the breeds that are frequently found in bite statistics.
However, the decisive factor for such incidents in most cases is not the dog’s aggressiveness, but lack of expertise and above all careless training by the dog owner.
Anyone who is planning to get a King Shepherd dog should pay special attention to a disciplined education with clear rules to give the dog and himself the necessary security.
White shepherd dog, Old King Shepherd dog, Belgian shepherd dog
Meanwhile there are all kinds of shepherd dogs and for the untrained dog lover this can be a bit confusing.
What is the real King Shepherd and what other breeds are there?
The term “Altdeutscher Schäferhund” is not an independent breed, but rather describes the long-haired King Shepherd.
One recognizes it by the longer fur, that is very dense especially between the ears and the shoulder-area of the dog and resembles a lion’s mane.
Furthermore, there is still the white sheepdog.
It may not be listed as King Shepherd since the color white is not integrated into the breed name of the King Shepherd.
For the white specimens, there is an own race recently:
The white Swiss shepherd dog. Last but not least, there is the Belgian shepherd dog.
It resembles the King Shepherd dog from the nature, is however an independent race.
There are him in four subtypes, so-called varieties, that all have quite individual appearances.
There is the “Groenendael” with black fur, the bay “Tervueren”, the yellow-brownish “Malinois” and the rough-haired “Laekenois”.
Especially frequently occurring illnesses with the King Shepherd dog
Occasionally, the sheepdog is in the criticism, above all if it is about the topic torture-breeding.
In the focus is the, partially jokingly named “downhill-shepherd dog”, whose rear back drops off steeply and puts heavy strain on the lumbar spine.
Joints and hind legs can be affected massively.
Through breeding and other factors, the King Shepherd is more susceptible to various diseases than other breeds.
Hip dysplasia (HD) and elbow dysplasia (ED)
Hip dysplasia (HD) is a genetic disease.
The bony and cartilaginous parts of the hip joint are affected and cause instability of the hip and considerable pain.
HD can also cause arthrosis. An X-ray can provide information as to whether hip dysplasia is present or not. Elbow dysplasia is the counterpart of HD on the front leg.
Spleen tumors and hemangiosarcoma
The shepherd dog has an increased predisposition for spleen tumors.
Hemangiosarcoma, a malignant tumor that originates from the inner lining of the vessels, is particularly common.
Older dogs are often affected, although the chance of recovery is relatively low.
A spleen tumor tends to bleed and likes to spread (metastasize). Removal of the spleen is therefore the preferred therapy.
Renal cell carcinoma and nodular dermatofibrosis (RCND)
This disease is a genetic defect and probably occurs exclusively in the King Shepherd.
The genetic defect causes tumors in the dog’s uterus, kidneys and skin.
The disease is usually poorly curable and the dog is often euthanized.
Affected dogs should be excluded from breeding.
Especially large dogs are at risk of bone cancer (osteosarcoma).
Osteosarcomas are very painful and often fatal.
The veterinarian diagnoses the bone cancer by means of an X-ray examination and can treat it with chemotherapy and amputation if necessary.
Especially uncastrated bitches tend to develop diabetes mellitus type 1, where the own body develops antibodies against the cells that produce insulin.
Thus the blood sugar level of the dog is permanently elevated.
Dogs suffering from diabetes are treated with insulin – usually for life.
Von Willebrand syndrome and hemophilia A
These two diseases make sure that the dog’s blood can no longer clot properly.
As a result, even the smallest injuries can cause great blood loss.
While the Von Willebrand symptom is a deficiency of the protein of the same name, hemophilia A is a deficiency of coagulation factor A.
There are therapeutic measures for both diseases, but care should be taken to exclude affected dogs from breeding.
Merle coat color
Malignant hyperthermia is a disease of the metabolism of muscle cells.
A lot of CO2 is produced in the body, the body temperature and heart rate rise sharply and the blood pressure drops.
The disease usually comes to light when certain drugs are used.
It is possible to determine by genetic testing whether the dog is a carrier of this genetic predisposition.
MDR1 gene defect
This disease is a defect in the multidrug resistance transporter 1 (MDR1 gene defect).
Drugs can penetrate the brain without restriction and cause damage there.
Approximately 6-10% of the sick animals are sheep dogs.
In order to check whether your own dog is affected, a genetic test can also be performed.
After this breed portrait you are now even more sure that the King Shepherd would be the perfect companion for you?
Do you feel up to the challenge of providing a clear education and taming a demanding dog?
Your first option could be a visit to the shelter. Often there are shepherds who have had to leave their home for various reasons.
The advantage of this – usually the dog has been living with people for a while and the staff at the shelter can give you good tips about the nature of the dog in question.
If the right dog is not included in the animal protection, or you just wish to accompany a puppy from an early age, you can look for a breeder.
Especially with the King Shepherd dog, it is essential that an x-ray examination for hip and elbow dysplasia is done to be able to admit the parents for breeding.
You should look for a breeder who is a member of the VDH.
Because in order to be recognized there, the breeder must perform these examinations.
So you can be sure to buy a rather healthy dog.
And finally, one last tip: From our experience, orthopedic treatments, as they have to take place in case of HD, are very expensive.
Therefore it makes sense to take out an animal health or surgery insurance.
But make sure to inform yourself in detail about the benefits of the respective insurance!
Many well-known insurance companies exclude the “breed-typical” diseases from their coverage.
Especially with a demanding dog like the King Shepherd, it might make sense that you visit a dog school with him.
It can be helpful to get tips and tricks from a professional, or just to get feedback on the dog’s education.
Often small mistakes creep in, which you don’t even notice directly.
But these small mistakes can have massive consequences in case of emergency.
Do you still have questions about the sheepdog, his character, his diseases or about the animal health insurance?
Give us a call, we are happy to help you choose the perfect companion!
And by the way, we will start a new breed portrait series soon.
Origin and history
The origin of the King Shepherd dog goes back to short- and/or stock-haired herding dogs in Germany, as they were to be found also in the remaining Europe at the end of the 19th century.
Beside the herding, they were used preferentially also as watchdogs.
It is regarded as certain that the former breeding basis is to be led back mainly on race-hits from Württemberg and Thuringia.
A first breed standard was created in 1891, in which the officer Max von Stephanitz divided the dog breed into three classes:
In long, rough and smooth-haired shepherd dogs. In 1899 von Stephanitz founded the first association for King Shepherd and became its president.
Already in 1929, the Australian government banned the import of the King Shepherd Dog, because it was feared that this dog could mix with the Australian Dingo and thus pose a danger for the sheep to be herded.
Only in the year 1974 this law was repealed again.
With about 200,000 copies, the King Shepherd Dog was used worldwide on the fronts as a guard and protection dog in the 2nd World War and in the Third Reich the possession of such a dog was almost fashionable.
Also in concentration camps, the King Shepherd was used as a relentless watchdog.
Because of the reservations about the Germans as a result of the 2nd World War, the British called the King Shepherd “Alsatian Wolfhound” until 1977, which translated means “Alsatian Wolfhound”.
Thus, the notorious “Alsatian” reminded the British of a bitter fight against the German Wehrmacht in 1945 in the German-French border area of Alsace-Lorraine, where the King Shepherd was used as a particularly sharp watchdog, as everywhere on the front lines.
The name gives it away. Like its ancestors, the shepherd dog was already used since the 7th century in Germany mainly in the herding area as a herding and watchdog.
Beside obedience, perseverance, and concentration, great importance was attached above all to the good herding qualities.
The breeding of the today known King Shepherd Dog began in 1871 by the Prussian court steward Max von Stephanitz.
He had clear ideas about the appearance of the dog, the character as well as its working qualities.
In the beginning, there were different fur-variants in the form of rough-haired, short-haired, smooth or long-haired types.
With the colors, nuances of gray-yellow to yellowish black gradations appeared.
The A and O for him, however, always consisted in the efficiency.
In 1899, Max von Stephanitz began with the planned breeding of the King Shepherd.
At the same time, he founded the “Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde” in Karlsruhe.
His dog “Horand von Grafrath” is considered the progenitor and was the first King Shepherd dog to be registered in the stud book of the association.
The bitch “Mari von Grafrath” was the ancestral mother.
Nature and character
The King Shepherd dog is curious, capable of learning, open-minded and has stamina.
His friendly and calm nature seems balanced. He always shows obedience to his mistress or master.
Due to his intelligence and versatility he can adapt to almost any situation.
Even physically and mentally the King Shepherd is considered to be highly resilient and also performs service as a rescue dog in airplane crashes, earthquakes, avalanche accidents or as a sniffer dog for people buried under rubble or buried in snow.
With discipline and loyalty he is an excellent guide dog for blind and handicapped people as well as a therapy dog in old people’s homes or hospitals.
Despite its many advantages, prejudices about alleged aggressiveness and dominance persist. This is however completely out of place.
A well educated and socialized four-legged friend is neither aggressive nor dominant.
On the contrary, he is particularly suitable as an excellent family dog because of his friendly and sometimes playful nature.
Keeping and care
For the acquisition of a quadruped it always requires the certain conditions.
The owner of this breed should be aware that his darling needs a lot of variety, movement and exercise and that in the long run.
The life expectancy is ten to thirteen years. As a companion when cycling or jogging he always finds pleasure.
The speed is determined by his mistress or master, so that a short sprint provides a varied workload with lots of fun.
He also feels very comfortable in a large apartment if the daily physical workload is present.
However, a basic kennel position is strictly discouraged.
The instinctive protector and guard drive is abruptly interrupted here, which has a negative influence on the dog’s nature in everyday life.
For a short nap or as a retreat, however, the kennel is quite recommendable.
The King Shepherd dog likes it best when he can guard and protect house and property at the same time.
With a magnetic small door flap as installation in the front door he can go outside individually by nudge of his nose.
With strong wind the flap can be secured with an additional slide-in lock.
The King Shepherd should be brushed and combed once a week.
A long hair comb is suitable for detangling the coat.
Additional care is required during the change of coat. Here one brushes with an undercoat comb to undercoat.
The fur-change takes place with long-haired sheepdogs in the spring and autumn, with stick-haired (short-haired) constantly.
Also the correct nutrition and the choice of the feed are decisive for the life expectancy of the quadruped.
The following rules must be observed:
- Table scraps, leftovers from meals, sausages are unsuitable and cause digestion problems!
- Extraordinary delicacies are not staple foods!
- The dog does not share the habits of humans, even if it is its best friend.
- Ideal snacks for the King Shepherd are chewing bones, rumen, unseasoned raw meat and special dog snacks.
Whether dry food, wet food or other side dishes – the diet should always be varied and adapted to the habits of the four-legged friend.
Considerations of advantages and disadvantages of food composition must be taken into account.
King Shepherd dogs sometimes develop diseases typical for the breed. These include the following diseases with genetic causes:
- hip dysplasia (HD) – malposition of the joint
- Elbow dysplasia (ED) – growth-related disease of the elbow joint
- Congenital vestibular syndrome – malformation of the vestibular organ
- Degenerative Myelopathy – Muscular atrophy with movement disorders
- Pancreatic insufficiency – weakening of the pancreas
Sheepdogs with joint and hip problems should not jump into the car alone.
For them, dog ramps are recommended as a convenient entry aid.
Incorrect nutrition and additional stress on the joints during growth can also be triggers for dysplasia.
Daily running and swimming training helps against muscle wasting.
However, posture-related factors can also have an early influence on the development of muscle atrophy.
No fear! Not all King Shepherd develop such deformities or diseases in the course of their lives.
However, if one or the other characteristic or symptom should become visible, there are also numerous possibilities of help for the four-legged friend and a happy dog life is assured.
The King Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide.
He is not only a reliable family dog, but also a versatile utility dog.
Since the 1920s, the famous King Shepherd “Rin Tin Tin” has been inspiring the audience in numerous American movies.
In the 50’s finally one produced the television series “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” in the USA, in which one of Rint Tin Tin’s successors, the King Shepherd dog “Golden Boy junior” with his master, the small boy Rusty, experiences unbelievable adventures at the time of the Wild West around 1888.
On the Hollywood Walk of Fame Rin Tin Tin was even awarded a star for this.
Famous personalities like Burt Reynolds, Clark Gable, John F. Kennedy, Bob Dylan or Jennifer Lopez once owned specimens of this breed and not least in the TV series “Kommissar Rex” a King Shepherd Dog proves intelligence, nerves of steel and loyalty again and again.
Appearance of the King Shepherd dog
The King Shepherd Dog bears the FCI standard number 166 and is classified in Group 1, herding and driving dogs and in Section 1, shepherd dogs.
With a height at withers of 60 – 65 centimeters for the male and 55 – 60 centimeters for the female, determined by the FCI, the King Shepherd is among the medium sized, strong and muscular dogs.
The weight should be between 22 and 40 kilograms depending on the sex.
It has a life expectancy of 12 – 13 years.
Alone because of his quite imposing appearance he instills respect to many a person.
His coat is extremely weatherproof. The stock-haired coat has a dense undercoat and a tightly fitting, straight top coat.
Also the long-stick-hair-variant was taken up into the race-standard, with what the deck-hair may be soft and not firmly lying down here.
The coat color may be black with yellow to light gray, brown or reddish brown markings, or even solid black.
The white shepherd dogs belong to their own dog breed, the Berger Blanc Suisse, also called White Swiss Shepherd, but which is descended directly from the King Shepherd.
He has pointed standing ears, which are carried upright to the front.
The eyes are slightly slanted and should be as dark as possible. The muzzle is rather long and stretched.
Only black noses are permitted according to the breed standard.
The bushy tail should reach at least to the hock joint, but not beyond the middle of the hind metatarsus.
Run and care of the King Shepherd dog
This very active dog needs much and regular exercise and mental activity to be a balanced, peaceful representative of its breed.
A dog sport like Agility offers ideal conditions for mental as well as physical fitness of the four-legged friend.
Unfortunately, it is often susceptible to allergies and joint problems.
Due to overbreeding or the over decades nonsensical and purposeful breeding of a sloping back line, hip joint and elbow dysplasia are unfortunately more frequent in this breed.
If you want to get a King Shepherd, you should ask the breeder especially about these weak points, or have it confirmed that the breed has been free of these genetic defects for several generations.
The fur of the sheepdog is easy to care for, occasional brushing is enough, whereby it tends to hair.
By the shine of the coat you can always tell if the food is the right one for the dog.
Heat loves this faithful companion less, it prefers cooler temperatures.
Of course you should deworm, vaccinate and examine your dog regularly.
Shepherd dogs in need
Since the King Shepherd belongs to the most popular races at all, especially many shepherd dogs get therefore also in need.
It is therefore announced in any case to visit the nearest animal homes once.
The chances to get a healthy shepherd dog from the animal home are especially good with this breed.
There are also good chances to find a pretty shepherd dog puppy in need.
If it is an adult shepherd dog, you should first check exactly how well the dog is socialized, or what problems can arise.
The animal shelter will be happy to provide information on this.
Some adult shepherd dogs can be successfully resocialized by a few hours with the dog trainer if any difficulties arise.