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Shepherd dog breed profile

Everything you need to know about the many Shepherd varieties.

Whether your dog is a purebred Shepherd or a Shepherd mix, learning about their breed can explain a lot about your pet’s personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you’re interested in adopting a Shepherd, but you wanted to do some research first.

Shepherds are intelligent, high-energy dogs who thrive with plenty of proper training and enrichment. If you have a big yard for them to run around in or enjoy long walks or hikes, a Shepherd (or Shepherd mix!) may be the perfect dog for you. 

What are the different types of Shepherds?

There are a wide variety of Shepherds including German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Anatolian Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd. Although each breed has its own unique traits, Shepherds share similar energy levels and needs.

Shepherds were originally trained as herding dogs, and they usually still enjoy safe work — this breed is naturally suited for training and thrive when they’re given a job to do.

"They usually require constant stimulation, both physically and mentally,” Dr. Amber Koch, DVM, a veterinarian at MedVet Norwalk, says. “They do well with puzzle feeders, a circulation of new toys every month or so and training.”

What are Shepherds’ personalities like?

Shepherds are usually very high-energy, intelligent dogs and may not be suited for individuals looking for a dog to relax with. If they aren’t given a job to do or plenty of forms of exercise, enrichment and training, Shepherds can become destructive due to their boredom.

Depending on the type of Shepherd, these pups can be affectionate and loving. The Anatolian Shepherd, for example, is typically more independent than other Shepherd varieties. On the other hand, Australian Shepherds tend to enjoy family life with daily exercise and play.

 Related: Australian Shepherd dog breed profile

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How big are Shepherds?

Shepherds are generally large dogs. The different breeds will change slightly in size, but they can vary from 40 to 150 pounds, with Anatolian Shepherds at the heavier end of the scale.

What are common health issues for Shepherds?

Different Shepherd breeds are prone to different diseases. German Shepherds, along with other large, deep-chested dogs, are at risk for gastric dilatation and volvulus, or bloat.

“Bloating occurs when the stomach flips on itself, cutting off blood supply to part of the stomach and becoming significantly distended with air,” Dr. Koch says. “Dogs with bloat may be restless, uncomfortable and may retch without producing any vomit. This is a medical emergency requiring emergent surgery. If you think your dog may have bloat, seek veterinary care immediately.”

Dr. Koch warns that any active dog is prone to tearing their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), similar to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans.

“This can be treated with either strict crate rest and pain medication or with surgery,” Dr. Koch says. “Big dogs are less likely to heal without surgery, so your vet will most likely recommend surgery for your Shepherd. If done by an experienced veterinarian, your pup should be good as new in no time.”

Adopting a Shepherd

Are you interested in adopting a Shepherd, Shepherd mix or any pet at all? Check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend.

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Alyssa Graham, Shayna Douglas and Anna Dudkova on Unsplash

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