You’re probably familiar with the German Shepherd, one of the world’s most popular and recognizable dog breeds commonly used in the military and police work. Have you ever wished you could have the intelligence and beauty of a German Shepherd in a smaller size?
Now you can thank the growing popularity of the miniature German Shepherd.
This breed isn’t actually a full bred German Shepherd. A female German Shepherd is usually bred with another, smaller dog breed like a huskie, poodle, or a collie, to create the miniature German Shepherd, although sometimes they are full bred but only when the German Shepherd has dwarfism.
Here’s what you should know about adopting one of these feisty and athletic dogs — including what you should expect in terms of temperament, health, and size.
What Is a Miniature German Shepherd, Anyway?
German Shepherds have a lot of appeals. They’re loyal, easy to train, yet love to play. Their size can put off many potential owners, however. A full-size German Shepherd needs a lot of room to play and run — something a lot of people just don’t have.
That’s where the miniature German Shepherd comes in: all of the beauty, loyalty, and intelligence but in a smaller size.
Before you start searching for miniature German Shepherd puppies, however, make sure you know what you’re getting.
There is no such thing as a purebred miniature German Shepherd.
A mini German Shepherd is usually the result of crossbreeding a German Shepherd with a smaller dog breed.
The German Shepherd’s dominant genes usually come out in the form of their coat colors and patterns as well as some physical characteristics like the ears. This is why mini German Shepherds often look just like small versions of their purebred mom or dad.
The type of small dog bred with the German Shepherd will impact what a miniature German Shepherd will look like.
What Does a Miniature German Shepherd Look Like?
If you’re thinking about adopting a miniature German Shepherd, you’re probably looking for a dog with the distinctive German Shepherd appearance but, well… smaller.
In general, that’s what you can expect from a miniature German Shepherd but, because this isn’t actually a real dog breed, there is no standard when it comes to the appearance. Every litter will differ a great deal and the pup’s appearance will depend on what the German Shepherd is crossed with.
A miniature German Shepherd typically has the colors and markings of a German Shepherd and some of its physical characteristics. In this case, the pup will have a double coat with a slightly wavy outer coat that’s tan and black or black and red in color. Your mini German Shepherd may also have the bushy, downward-curving tail and large, erect ears of a German Shepherd.
Of course, you may end up with a pup that has some characteristics of a German Shepherd like its body type, ears, and face but with a very unique coat, including all white, black, or golden.
It will all depend on the breed mixed with the German Shepherd. Common breeds used to produce miniature German Shepherd puppies include:
- Siberian Huskies (sometimes called a Siberian Shepherd)
- Poodles (Shepadoodle)
- Collies (Shollie)
- Golden Retrievers (Golden Shepherd)
- Corgies (Corman Shepherd)
- Pugs (Shug)
- Yorkshire Terrier — This is one of the least common mixes but capable of producing the smallest German Shepherd mixes
Because small to medium-sized dogs are usually crossed with German Shepherds to produce cute mini German Shepherds, your new pup probably won’t weigh more than 50 pounds fully grown. With some crossbreeds, the maximum weight may be even lower.
Your miniature German Shepherd may be up to half the size of a purebred German Shepherd which can grow up to 90 pounds and stand at 26 inches at the shoulder.
With a German Shepherd-Corgi mix, you can get the personality and sometimes the coloring and face of a German Shepherd with the distinctive body type of a Corgi: long and low with short legs and a weight of around 25 to 50 pounds.
The Temperament and Personality of a Mini German Shepherd
The appearance of a miniature German Shepherd can be really up in the air depending on the pup’s parents. When it comes to your mini German Shepherd’s personality, however, they’ll probably lean more toward a purebred German Shepherd.
Miniature German Shepherds tend to be very intelligent, loyal dogs great for support, family dogs, and tasks. These dogs tend to inherit the German Shepherd’s innate loyalty and excellent trainability.
With their medium size and energetic yet loyal personality, miniature German Shepherds are often well suited to:
- Apartment living
- Rural living
- Hiking and running companion
- Living with kids
- Emotional support animal
Just keep in mind the less desirable personality traits of the other dog breed may be dominant.
Tips for Finding & Buying a Miniature German Shepherd
Miniature German Shepherd mixes are becoming quite popular. This can make it easy to find a mini German Shepherd puppy — but it also increases the risk of working with a breeder that uses poor practices like breeding German Shepherds with known health problems like dwarfism or hip dysplasia.
The cost for a miniature German Shepherd will depend on the type of dog the mom is bred with and the breeder’s fees. As a general rule, you should expect to pay around $1,000 for a mini German Shepherd puppy.
Before working with a breeder, make sure you ask lots of questions! Don’t be afraid to ask about:
- The parents of the puppies (You should be able to meet the parents)
- How many breeds are involved in the heredity of the puppy
- Whether there are known temperament issues
- Whether the parents or puppies have displayed any health problems
- Whether the breeder offers a health guarantee and supplies a veterinarian’s approval of health
- How many litters the mother has had
If the breeder won’t or can’t answer these questions, it’s a good idea to walk away and find a different breeder. A great dog breeder should be happy to provide plenty of information about the DNA line and health of the puppies.
You may also have the opportunity to adopt an older German Shepherd mix from a rescue or local animal shelter. While you won’t know the pup’s genetic line, you will be giving a home to a pup in need that you’re sure is the right size for your needs.
Do Miniature German Shepherds Have Health Problems?
Purebred German Shepherds are at risk for a variety of health problems, many of them genetic.
Because miniature German Shepherd dogs aren’t purebred German Shepherds, they may be spared from the disorders that can affect their purebred mom — but that isn’t a guarantee. As a general rule, though, purebred dogs are far more likely to suffer from certain disorders than mixed breeds.
Your mini German Shepherd may still develop one or more conditions that tend to be common in German Shepherds. It’s a good idea to watch for the following conditions that require treatment.
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
German Shepherds are among many breeds prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. Dysplasia happens when the joint is malformed and unstable. These abnormalities can happen in the socket, ball, or both. Either one of these conditions can cause premature osteoarthritis as well as laxity in the joint. About 20% of German Shepherds eventually develop hip and/or elbow dysplasia.
Hip or elbow dysplasia can be moderate to severe and it tends to be an expensive problem to treat. Anti-inflammatories, a special diet, and a heated bed may help a dog with dysplasia. Sometimes surgery is necessary which may involve hip replacement.
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)
When a dog affected by GDV eats too much too quickly and then doesn’t get enough exercise, he can develop bloat as gas builds up in the stomach. The pressure of the gas can actually make it difficult for the dog to breathe and it’s possible for them to go into shock. GDV is a rapidly progressing and potentially life-threatening condition.
German Shepherds often have their food elevated which may contribute to this problem, even though it may be recommended to help other issues like hip dysplasia.
Hemophilia is actually quite common among German Shepherds and it’s the result of genetic inheritance. It’s believed that most German Shepherds with hemophilia type A in most parts of the world, including the United States, are descended from a single male from Germany who was a prolific sire.
When a dog has hemophilia, their blood can’t clot properly. Even a tiny cut or bump that produces a bruise can become life-threatening. German Shepherds are at a greater risk of hemophilia than any other breed. While the condition can’t be cured, dogs with hemophilia can live full, normal lives as long as you are careful that they aren’t injured or exercising too strenuously.
This is a common condition in German Shepherds that causes openings around the anus to drain. If your pup is affected, they may have bloody stool, diarrhea, difficulty defecating, or they may like at the anal area. You may notice foul odors around their bedding.
This condition is likely caused by the German Shepherd’s low tail carriage and possibly food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease. Changing your pup’s diet can help control the problem.
This congenital condition causes the dog’s esophagus, which carries food to the stomach, to become weak or limp and unable to pass food through the digestive system. German Shepherds with megaesophagus usually show symptoms like regurgitating food or vomiting once they begin eating solid food. They tend to be smaller than other pups in the litter and may look malnourished.
Megaesophagus can’t be cured but it can be managed, usually with a liquid diet for life and elevated feeding.
This neurological disease is a recessive genetic condition that can affect German Shepherds, usually in middle age or as a senior. Degenerative myelopathy can cause rear limb weakness and paraplegia. This condition can’t be treated and it can’t be diagnosed except through a postmortem exam.
What Makes the Mini German Shepherd a Great Support or Service Animal?
Emotional support animals don’t need to be specially trained like service animals; their primary job is being present to support their owner’s emotional wellbeing.
While any dog — or other animal, for that matter! — can make a great emotional support animal (ESA), you’re probably looking for specific personality traits and a particular size.
A miniature German Shepherd can make a great emotional support animal thanks to its small to medium size which makes it great at adapting to any type of home environment or travel. Mini German Shepherds tend to retain the temperament that makes the German Shepherd a great family dog and work dog as well including loyalty, affection, intelligence, and a high level of energy.
When choosing an emotional support animal that will travel with you or leave the house often, you want to make sure your pup is trained well enough to behave properly around other people and pets. Remember: if a service animal or emotional support animal behaves in a disruptive manner or fails to respond to your commands, you can be legally asked to leave the premises of someone else’s property.
That’s where German Shepherd breeds really shine: they’re very bright and easy to train, even with verbal commands.
German Shepherd breeds also make great service animals as they are easy to train to perform a variety of tasks. The German Shepherd is one of the most common dog breeds trained for use as a service dog but their large size can be a hindrance if you have a family, a smaller home or apartment, or you need an animal to perform specific tasks that would be difficult for a larger breed.
Before adopting a miniature German Shepherd, just make sure you’re willing to commit to the routine medical care they will require, especially if they inherit any genetic disorders common among German Shepherds. Depending on the type of crossbreed, your pup’s coat may also require a moderate amount of maintenance in the form of brushing and regular grooming. German Shepherds, after all, are known for shedding — a lot. If you’ve settled on the miniature German Shepherd as your new emotional support animal or service animal, make sure you take the time to have them registered. US Service Animals offers an easy registration process for service animals and emotional support animals.