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King Shepherd vs German Shepherd: Differences & Similarities

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Last Updated: October 2, 2023 | 8 min read | Leave a Comment

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The King Shepherd and the German Shepherd are very similar breeds, and that’s because they are related. The German Shepherd is one of America’s favorite pedigree dog breeds. And they often find themselves in the top five most popular breeds, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC.) King Shepherds are a relatively new designer dog breed and are a mix of German Shepherds and other shepherd dog breeds, making them a hybrid.

The German Shepherd is one of the traditional breeds in personal protection and other military services. Their protective nature makes them ideal for this work. German Shepherds are typically a one-person dog, forming a solid bond with their primary caregiver. Although the King Shepherd protects their family, they are much more sociable and friendly with strangers. Kings are larger and fluffier, too, giving them a cuddlier appearance.

There are more similarities than there are differences between these equally lovely breeds. They are loyal, outgoing, and intelligent. But their differences might mean one Shepherd is more suited to you and your family than the other. We explore their history, personality, appearance, exercise, grooming needs, and more. Let’s compare these canines and discover everything you need to know about them.

Breed Comparison

King Shepherd

  • Height 25-32 inches
  • Weight 80-145 pounds
  • Temperament Smart, loving, confident
  • Energy Medium To High
  • Health Better Than Average
  • Lifespan 10-14 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,500

German Shepherd

  • Height 22-26 inches
  • Weight 50-90 pounds
  • Temperament Courageous, confident, smart
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 7-10 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000

Breed History

A dog’s breed history can tell you a lot about them and what they might be like as a family pet. Let’s look at each Shepherd’s history.

German Shepherd

German Shepherd Eating Piece of Fruit
The GSD dates back to 19th-century Germany.

A German cavalry officer, Captain Von Stephanitz, made it his mission to develop the ideal herder and crossed various Shepherds from different districts. Over four decades, he devoted his life to refining the breed we know and love today. The breed is a fantastic herder but also has other qualities that make them a brilliant companion for police officers and soldiers.

German Shepherds became popular in America in the early 1900s thanks to films that starred these dogs in their movies, such as Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart. Sadly, they suffered a decline because of anti-German sentiment during the World War era. But their numbers and popularity recovered during the latter half of the 20th century. Today the German Shepherd is one of the world’s most recognized and loved breeds.

King Shepherd

King Shepherd in Snow
Similar to Long-Haired German Shepherds, the King Shepherd is often referred to is wolf-like.

King Shepherds are a hybrid of German Shepherds and other shepherd breeds and were created in the early 1990s. Breeders Shelly Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer became frustrated with the breeding practices of other German Shepherd breeders and the decline in their health. So they bred a German Shepherd with a Shiloh Shepherd. And, over time, bred Alaskan Malamutes and the Great Pyrenees into the mix. The result was a larger and healthier designer dog breed.

The King Shepherd is much rarer than the German Shepherd. As a hybrid, the AKC does not recognize the King Shepherd as an official breed, unlike the German Shepherd. However, the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) does recognize them. King Shepherds make brilliant service and therapy dogs thanks to their more accepting nature rather than military employment compared to the German Shepherd.

Appearance

German Shepherds are similar in appearance, but the King Shepherds are much larger and fluffier. According to the German Shepherd breed standard, they typically measure between 22 and 26 inches tall and weigh between 50 and 90 pounds. The King Shepherd breed standard states that females should measure at least 25 inches and males 27 inches, reaching up to 32 inches. Both females and males weigh between 80 and 145 pounds, with females being smaller. Size is a factor to consider, as there is a stark difference between the two breeds.

King Shepherds are often confused for large, long-haired German Shepherds. This is because, other than the King’s giant size and fluffiness, they look pretty similar. German Shepherds sport a variety of coat colors, with the most common being the traditional black and tan. The King coat also comes in various colors, including sable, bi-colored, black saddle with red, tan, gold, or cream, and solid black.

Kings typically have a medium to long length double coat, whereas German Sheps can have short, medium, or long. Some German Shepherds have a single-layered coat, although this is rare. So, if you prefer shorter-haired dogs, the German Shepherd might be a better fit for you.

Temperament

Like their appearance, their temperament is similar, but with a few more differences. According to the American King Shepherd Club (AKSC,) King Shepherds are “like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” And many German Shepherd owners say the same. They are both lovely, loyal breeds who make great family companions. Both are people-oriented and need to spend their days with their family and don’t like to be left alone for long periods. If you work long hours away from home, neither of these breeds is for you.

The German Shepherd is one of the best protection dogs in the world. They form an incredibly tight bond with their primary caregiver. Although they bond well with the entire family, they stick closer to their favorite person. The King Shepherd forms an equally tight bond with the whole family. And because they have Great Pyrenees blood, they have a fondness for children. Although German Sheps are great with kids, your kiddos will hold a special place in a King’s heart.

King Sheps have a more laid-back approach to life compared to German Sheps. German Sheps take their role as family protectors very seriously. And although they play with their family, they are always aware of their surroundings and ready to protect them immediately. Sure, King Shepherds have a protective streak, but they are super friendly and want to make friends with anyone willing to give them a belly rub. They’re more up for silly playtime than the more serious German Shep.

Exercise

The German and King Shepherd are medium to high-energy dogs that need around 60 minutes of daily exercise. You need to be sure you can commit to this daily to keep your Shepherd happy. If you’re an active person looking for an exercise companion, the German Shepherd might be the better option as they are more athletic than the King. The King’s huge size means they tire out quicker.

Exercise must be more physically and mentally demanding for German Shepherds, as their protective brains are always on the go. The King needs mental stimulation throughout the day too, but they are more likely to enjoy a snooze without feeling guilty about it. If you are looking for a lazy lapdog, neither of these breeds is suitable. And although you could employ a dog walker to help you with the exercise, nothing compares to exercise with their favorite humans.

Training

Both breeds are intelligent, smart, and eager to please their humans. This means that they are both trainable and willing to learn. However, the German Shepherd is most likely to be the more obedient dog out of the two. King Sheps are trainable but have a slight stubborn streak from the headstrong Great Pyrenees. If your King is having a rare determined day, you might find they are a little less obedient than usual.

It is crucial to socialize your German or King Shepherd as soon as you get them home, particularly the German Shepherd. They are natural-born protectors, and if you don’t teach them how to control their defensive streak, they can grow into overly protective and aggressive dogs. Mix them with as many dogs and humans as you can, and introduce them to new situations while they are still a puppy, and they should grow into a well-mannered dog.

Crate training is a great way to offer them a space to rest and recharge their batteries away from the hustle and bustle of family life. And when you have to leave them at home, you can put them into a crate to reduce their anxiety while you are gone. Considering their size and power, it would be best if you found a high-quality, durable crate to keep them safe. If you’re having trouble or uncertain about anything to do with training your German or King Shepherd, check out Doggy Dan, who can assist you with anything training-related.

Health

The German Shepherd is a relatively healthy breed with a life expectancy of seven to ten years. However, they suffer from various problems, including degenerative myopathy, heart disease, eye problems, and thyroid issues. They are also among the most common breeds to suffer from hip dysplasia, further exasperated by their sloping back. Responsible breeders should only breed German Sheps with a straighter back.

The King Shepherd was created to be a healthier version of the German Shepherd, and they have a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. Although the King is predisposed to hip dysplasia, they tend to suffer less frequently and less severely compared to German Shepherds. One of the biggest health concerns of the King is gastric torsion, which is also known as bloat. This is where the stomach twists and sends the body into shock, which can be fatal. Be sure to read up on this life-threatening condition.

Nutrition

The German Shep and King Shep have similar nutritional needs, except that King Shepherds usually eat much more owing to their larger size. How much you feed your dog depends on various factors, such as their weight, activity levels, gender, age, and more. Regardless of which breed you have, you must follow the feeding guidelines given to you by the brand you pick. Otherwise, you risk under or over-feeding them.

Both breeds need a high-quality diet to meet their nutritional needs. You can choose from kibble, wet food, raw, or a fresh subscription service. What you pick is determined by your lifestyle, budget, and your dog’s preference and dietary needs. But whichever food you choose, it should meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. It will state this on the packaging or website.

Grooming

The grooming of a German or King Shepherd is determined by their coat type. Usually, they both have dense double coats that need brushing several times a week. If you have a long-haired German or King Shepherd, they might need brushing daily to keep them looking healthy and intelligent. The King Shepherd typically has a longer and fluffier coat, so they might need more brushing than a German Shep. Both breeds benefit from a deshedding tool and a slicker brush.

The German and King Shep need their teeth brushing regularly to keep their pearly whites clean and healthy. And their nails need clipping as and when they get too long to prevent sore pads. Bathing is only required once every two or three months, depending on how active and dirty they get. A concentrated shampoo is ideal for dogs with dense coats like these two. Ultimately, if you aren’t a fan of dog hair on your clothes or haven’t got time for their above-average grooming needs, neither of these breeds is the best fit.

Puppy Prices

The German Shepherd is one of America’s most common dog breeds, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a responsible breeder. On the flip side, it also means there are many irresponsible breeders too. So researching your chosen breeder is crucial to finding a healthy and happy pup. The average price of a German Shepherd puppy is around $1,000. However, it can be much more if you’re looking for a puppy from a champion bloodline or a working pup.

The King Shepherd is much rarer, and only a handful of breeders nationwide exist. Again, it would be best to research them to ensure they are ethical and strive to produce healthy pups. Because they are much rarer and larger, too, the puppy price is usually higher. The average price of a King Shepherd is around $1,500. Remember, these are just the initial prices, and you must purchase everything else. As the larger dog, you can expect to spend a little more on King Shepherds in terms of equipment such as beds and crates.

Final Thoughts

The German Shepherd and the King Shepherd are incredibly similar in some ways but very different in others. These differences help owners to choose the right breed for them. The German Shepherd is a much more intense breed to care for, given their hard work ethic and always need to protect their family. But they are also more energetic and loyal to their master. King Shepherds are more sociable and goofier with their family, with a happy-go-lucky character. But they are usually more expensive to care for because of their size and rarity.

Overall, with the proper training and a suitable family, they make brilliant family pets. They need a family who can spend most of their time with them and offer regular daily exercise. So, you won’t be disappointed whether it’s the German or King you pick. These loyal and sweet shepherds have a lot of love to give.

German Shepherd Dog gray-haired looking over sholder at camera on a grey background.

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