A cross between two of the cutest dog breeds of all time has to be the German Shepherd mix with Australian Shepherd. Dr. Jess will breakdown what makes them such a great pet (or not), and some considerations you will want to think about before bringing one home to your family.
I would like to take a moment to note straight away, that every dog is special and your dog may not fall under the breed-specific descriptions that you read in this article. For instance, you may know a German Shepherd that is very social or that doesn’t ever bark. You may own a Australian Shepherd that is hard to train or does not adapt well to change. The descriptions that I use are intended to be used for generality of the overall breeds in the discussion.
What is a German Shepherd Mix with Australian Shepherd?
This mix between a German Shepherd and an Australian Shepherd is a hybrid dog breed, or a mix between the German Shepherd dog breed and the Australian Shepherd dog breed.
Both of these parent breeds are considered working type of dogs, bred for a specific line of work. Both have their pros and cons.
This combination of breeds is sometimes referred to as a German Australian Shepherd, or an Aussie German Shepherd.
Whichever way you want to refer to them, this dog breed mix has both pros and cons as well.
So by mixing the two breeds, does this shepherd dog mix make for a great pet or should you consider a different breed for your home?
Let me break down the basics of the German Shepherd/Australian Shepherd mix for you so that you can make a well-educated decision.
The German Shepherd Breed:
In order to know what the German Shepherd mix with Australian Shepherd is like as a pet, knowing the two parent breeds that make it up, will be very helpful.
Therefore, I quickly broke down the basics of both parent breeds.
This will give you a better idea of why this shepherd mix pups are the way that they are.
First up is the German Shepherd:
German Shepherds are a large dog that is classified under the working group of dogs.
German shepherds have been known for a long time, as great companions as well as workers.
Some of their more common jobs include police dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, protection dogs, and service dogs, just to name a few.
The average German Shepherd weighs between 60 – 90 pounds. Their height is between 22″ – 26″ inches from floor to the top of the shoulder, also known as the withers [source].
German Shepherds commonly exhibit either a black hair coat or a brown and black haircoat of medium length and thickness. although other coat colors do exist.
These shepherds have a long pointed nose, dark eyes, and large perky ears that stand up erect.
German shepherds are a large-bodied breed, with deep chests, and long tail with a slight curve upward.
German Shepherds are known to be easy to train, loyal, intelligent, courageous, hard-working dogs.
The German Shepherd was originally bred as a herding dog, running long distances and tending to their flocks. We now use them commonly in other jobs that require lots of energy, such as guard dogs or police dogs.
Because of this in their genetics and their current work requirements, German Shepherds naturally have energy that they need to burn off if their jobs do not allow them to do so.
They definitely need daily exercise. Also make sure to offer daily play time to help burn off excess energy and stimulate their incredible minds.
Weekly brushing, if not more often, is required.
Routine ear cleanings and nail trimmings also are needed.
The average GSD (German Shepherd Dog) life span lies between 7 – 10 years.
Some shepherds will not live that long, while others may live longer.
A lot of this is determined from what underlying health problems the specific dog in question has been diagnosed with.
Below I have listed some of the more common health issues that are commonly seen in GSD’s that may affect their lifespan.
Common Major Health Issues include:
Hip dysplasia runs rampant in large dogs, such as German Shepherds, which is extremely unfortunate.
Hip dysplasia is a serious condition of one or both of the hip bones of your pup.
This condition is specific to the ball and socket joint of the hip joint.
The hip joint is for some reason malformed, whether it is inherited or is from physical trauma.
Hip dysplasia can be observed in puppies and young dogs, however, it tends to show up in the majority of the time, in older dogs, including in German Shepherds.
Veterinarians will diagnose hip dysplasia after a few diagnostic tests like a physical and lameness exam, as well as radiographs (x-rays) of the hips and hindlimbs.
Treatments include everything from massage and chiropractic work, braces and support systems, anti-inflammatory medications, and even surgery for some patients.
Degenerative Myelopathy (AKA “DM”) is another disease that German Shepherds unfortunately succumb to, typically later on the their lives.
DM, a neurodegenerative disease, in its initial stages, may present very similarly to hip dysplasia, with hindlimb weakness, decreased mobility, etc. However, Degenerative Myelopathy is not painful to the dog, they lose feeling in the affected areas.
Degenerative Myelopathy progresses, the disease overtakes more and more of the body.
This is because this condition affects both the spinal cord and muscle coordination. That’s why the dog has a hard time getting up and moving around.
Testing for this disease can include tests such as myelography/radiographs of the spine, x-rays of the hips (to rule out hip dysplasia), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), genetic testing (to test for the gene mutation of the disease), and bloodwork (to rule out other conditions).
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus:
Gastric dilatation volvulus, also known as GDV, is an emergency condition, usually of deep-chested large breed dogs.
It is also commonly known as “bloat”.
Basically what happens in this life-threatening condition, is the stomach becomes dilated (or bloated) with food and gas, building pressure to a point, where neither can any longer escape the stomach. In this situation, the stomach is like an inflated balloon that is tied at the opening end.
Because of the trapped food and gas at high pressure, the overly inflated stomach starts to cut off the blood supply to the digestive system and may even rupture the stomach due to an overload of pressure on the stomach wall and lining.
If the stomach is not deflated in a timely manner, the dog will become life-threatening sick and may even die.
The veterinarian on duty will want to see the dog in immediately.
They will do a physical exam, run blood work, and possibly take a radiograph (x-ray) in order to visualize the gas trapped in the excessively expanded stomach, among a plethora of other tests that may need to be conducted, depending on what the pet presents with.
To treat this emergency condition, your vet will need to decompress the stomach, removing the gas and food.
There are multiple ways that your vet can do this, including surgical correction.
Other pieces of the treatment plan usually includes fluid therapy to replace lost fluids, as well as other supportive therapies.
Your veterinarian may recommend a gastropexy, tacking the stomach wall to the inner wall of the abdomen, decreasing the chance of the stomach twisting back on itself again in the future.
Megaesophagus is the big fancy medical term for an enlarged esophagus, which is the tubing made of smooth muscle that connects one’s mouth to the stomach.
Megaesophagus is more common is some breeds than others.
It can occur when food gets trapped in the esophagus, and over time, becomes stretched out, becoming wider and more stretched out even more time and time again.
This condition can occur due to inherited genes, so the puppy is born with the condition.
Yet another way a dog can acquire this condition is from neurological conditions where the nerves in the muscles of the esophagus are affected.
Dog owner’s who’s dogs have megaesophagus usually realize something is wrong with their pet when they start to observe their dog regurgitating their food directly after their meals.
This happens when the muscles in the esophagus are not working correctly and allowing the food to move backward, back up the esophagus, and not downward, towards the stomach.
Most people reading this article will already be familiar with arthritis.
Arthritis is a broad term describing inflammation within a joint.
Arthritis can happen in any joint, the space where two or more bones meet together.
Arthritis can be quite painful, as many highly-moveable joints, such as hips, elbows, shoulders, and knees, can over time, lose the cartilage that pads and cushions the joint spaces between the bones, leaving bone to rub on bone without any protection.
Other joints can also have arthritis and can also be very uncomfortable for your pet.
The most common type of arthritis is from years of use of the joint, however, arthritis can occur after infections, such as bacterial infections or tick-borne infections, and can also be from physical traumas or other medical conditions.
Treatment options range from weight loss plans, to exercise routines, to physical therapy, to glucosamine or other supplementations, to massage or chiropractic work.
One form of epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, is a neurological disorder where seizures do occur.
Idiopathic is a medical term that means that the origin, or the reason why the seizures are occuring, is unknown, which can be scary and frustrating for dog owners.
To diagnose epilepsy in a dog, the veterinarian will want to ask very specific questions about the seizures that you have observed.
They will likely want to take blood samples to see how the internal organs are functioning. Urine samples may very likely be warranted as well.
To rule out other diseases further, a MRI or CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) may be given as options too.
Treatment options include anti-seizure medications that may need to be adjusted multiple times in order to best fit your pet’s needs.
Constant monitoring of your pet for seizures is needed, even when your dog is on these antiepileptic meds, as these types of medications do have side effects that can become issues themselves.
The Australian Shepherd Breed:
Okay, now that we know the quick rundown on German Shepherds, let’s look at the other parent breed to this Aussie German Shepherd mix, the Australian Shepherd.
The Australian Shepherd breed, a breed in the herding group, can be described as:
The average Australian Shepherd weighs between 40 – 70 pounds. Their height is between 18″ – 24″ inches [source] from floor to the top of the shoulder, also known as the withers.
Australian Shepherds commonly exhibit a white hair coat with either a grey or a brown patches of medium length, although other coat colors and patterns do exist.
These shepherds have a pointed nose, are known for their striking blue, green, hazel, or amber eyes, and small to medium-sized perky ears with tips that flop over the base.
Australian shepherds are a medium-bodied breed, with a strong muscular core, a short, stubby tail, and attentive expression.
Australian Shepherds are known for being very easy to train, loyal, intelligent, energetic, and playful.
The Aussie was originally bred as a herding dog, running long distances and tending to their flocks.
Because of this in their genetics, Australian Shepherds naturally have energy that they need to burn off if their jobs do not allow them to do so.
They definitely need a lot of daily exercise, otherwise behavioral problems may arise.
Also make sure that you offer daily play time to help burn off excess energy and stimulate their quick, bright minds.
Daily to weekly brushing is a must. Routine ear cleanings and nail trimmings are also required.
Average lifespan of most Aussies is anywhere from 10-14 years. Common health issues that occur among the breed include hip dysplasia and epilepsy, like the German Shepherd, as well as a few other conditions discussed below.
Aussies are notorious for having some major eye issues, including collie eye anomaly, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and colobomas.
Collie Eye Anomaly, also known as CEA, is a disease that can lead to blindness if not treated in it’s beginning stages.
Cataracts is a condition of the lens of the eye, in which it becomes cloudy. This disease can also result in total blindness in the later stages of progression.
Canine progressive retinal atrophy occurs when the retina at the back of the eye degenerates, or wastes away. The retina is a very important part of the eye, as it contains the rods and cones of the eye, the photoreceptors necessary to send messages to the brain in order to “see”. Once the retina is degenerated and can longer house the rods and cones appropriately, sight will be lost.
Colobomas is a condition where the iris is not formed properly and therefore can not dilated or contract correctly, not allowing the correct amount of light into the eye. Merle-colored Australian shepherds are at greatest risk of being born with colobomas.
Elbow dysplasia is very similar to hip dysplasia, discussed above as a health issue in German Shepherds.
The only large difference is location, where elbow dysplasia is in the elbow joint, and hip dysplasia occurring in the hip.
Certain cancers are more prevalent among Aussies than other cancers. A few of these cancers include hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.
Hemangiosarcoma, or HSA for short, is an aggressive form of cancer that affects the vascular tissue, the blood vessels in the body. Because it affects the blood vessels and blood vessels cover the entire body, HSA can be located anywhere on the body that has a blood vessel.
Furthermore, it can easily metastasize to other areas of the body because of the ease it has to travel (it’s already in the blood vessels!), making it even more dangerous and quick-spreading.
Lymphoma is another form of cancer that affects a different part of the body.
Lymphoma is derived from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
White blood cells are a part of the immune system that helps to fight off infections, whether it is bacterial, fungal, viral, etc.
Lymphoma typically originates in the lymph nodes that are spread all over the body and usually affects the organs in the body that are associated in some way with the immune system.
These organs may include lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, etc.
What Makes For a Great Pet?
What makes for a great pet, will vary among every single person reading this article. Everyone has different things that are important to them.
For instance, one person may prefer a pet that takes very little time to care for, while the next person values a pet that is affordable to purchase – two very different desires.
So I can’t answer that for you.
No matter what is most important to you, you need to make sure that the greatest pet for you checks many boxes that fit into your lifestyle, so that both you and your pet are happy for many years to come.
For me, a great pet is one that fits my life.
My little dog, is small and compact, the perfect size for my smaller home. She is quiet, which is perfect for me, working at home quite a bit and needing a quiet space to work.
She is low-maintenance – not requiring much as far as exercise, or time (she’s happy curling up on my lap), or costly materials or medications.
Obviously any of these can change in the future, but I am prepared in case this happens.
She makes a great pet for me.
Let me give you some information on the shepherd mix dog, and then you can decide for yourself, whether this hybrid is best for you and your family.
What Makes a Pet A Bad Choice?
A bad pet?
The answer is kind of like a good pet in regards to that the answer will depend on the individual answering the question.
Everyone will have a different answer as to what makes a good pet a good pet and what makes and bad pet a bad pet.
For many people, a bad pet is going to be one that will use up one or more of that individual’s resources, whether they are using up their money (pets can be expensive!), their time (pets require attention), their space (pets need to live, sleep, and eat somewhere), or a plethora of other resources.
For me personally, a bad pet would be a messy pet, and a pet that is not trained properly.
I like to keep a clean house, so a pet that is tidy is the best type to keep me sane.
That is not to say that accidents don’t happen, because they do.
My little dog Pippy is pretty clean – she even puts her toys away, back into her toy box when she is done with them!
Pros of the Shepherd Mix Breed:
It should come as no surprise that many of the things that make the Australian Shepherd and German Shepherd dog breeds so great, also make a German Australian Shepherd a wonderful pet too.
Pros of the German Shepherd Breed:
German Shepherds have a lot of energy, perfect for those with active lifestyles!
They are also very intelligent and can be trained incredibly easy.
German Shepherds need less time and money spent on their routine grooming than a Aussie typically does.
They also are known to be less of a barker than their more bark-ative Australian Shepherd counterparts.
Pros of the Australian Shepherd Breed:
The Australian Shepherd breed has even more energy than your typical German Shepherd, great for those outdoorsy folks with active lifestyles.
Australian Shepherds are very smart and easy to train.
They tend to also be more social as a whole when compared to German Shepherds.
Shepherd Mix Pros:
Put all of these attributes together and you get a lot of great things that can be passed down to the Aussie German Shepherds. These are some of the pros to owning this shepherd mix:
- Physical Pros: Strong, large-bodied dogs built to have a job.
- Behavior / Temperament: Pros Smart and easy to train, loyal, noble, energetic, affectionate, thoughtful, dependable
Cons of the Shepherd Mix Breed:
You will likely notice that many of the cons for either the German Shepherd or the Australian Shepherd breeds are going to be the same cons for their hybrid cross, AKA the German Shepherd mix with Australian Shepherd.
Cons of German Shepherd Breed:
German Shepherds are very intelligent dogs and are best when they are given a job, whether that job be to protect the home, be someone’s companion, or as a running buddy – they will take their job extremely seriously.
German shepherds can be intimidating to some individuals, due to their large stature, strong build, and known for being used as police or protection dogs.
Cons of Australian Shepherd Breed:
An Australian Shepherd’s wavy silky coat requires more grooming or than shorter haired dogs. Grooming costs can be more if one uses a groomer instead of grooming oneself.
Because of their intelligence added to their high level of energy, you must be one step ahead of them in training and obedience. If not, your smart dog will run over you as they have moved on and you now need to catch up!
Aussies can sometimes become so excited that they can’t help but bark their enthusiasm outward for all to hear.
They can learn how to contain their excitement and show it in other ways besides barking.
Cons of this Shepherd Mix:
- Physical Cons: This medium-large breed dog may be too large for some people or spaces, a small apartment or condo, for example.
- Behavior / Temperament Cons: too much energy for some people or households with very young children or elderly family members; can have a mind of their own due to their high intelligence; some shepherd mixes are barkers; reluctance with strangers at first
- Exercise Cons: Requires a lot of exercise on top of frequent playtime multiple times a day – not good for those with mellow lifestyles.
- Grooming Cons: medium length coat requires routine grooming, can shed hair onto clothing and furniture. Needs routine teeth cleaning, ear cleaning, and nail trims.
- Health Issues: Health issues range and are limited to: hip or elbow dysplasia, eye disease, cancer, heart disease, dental disease. Average lifespan between 10-15 years of age.
Shepherd Mix Summary:
The shepherd hybrid dog is a large breed dog that is a cross between a German Shepherd and an Aussie.
The German Shepherd mix with Australian Shepherd dog combines the pros and some of the cons of each of these parent breeds to produce a very intelligent, loyal, energetic companion in a furry package.
Now it is your job to decide if this is the breed is best for you, your family, and your lifestyle.