In the search for the perfect dog, German Shepherds remain one of the more popular breeds. However, they are so common and ubiquitous, sometimes you want something close but just a little bit different.
That is why we scoured the breeds to come up with a list of dogs that look like German Shepherds. Not all of these dogs are recognized by every, or sometimes any, kennel club, but they all bear resemblance to the German Shepherd Dog.
Out of all the dogs on our list, the Malinois is perhaps the one that is most often mistaken for a German Shepherd. In fact, Malinois are often used to play German Shepherds on television, though their coats are thinner often with more brown than black.
Malinois makes excellent working dogs, but they may not be the best for children due to their temperament. This breed of dog requires significant amounts of exercise and enrichment to prevent potentially destructive behavior from surfacing.
That said, Malinois is one of the smartest dogs, apt to the training of advanced commands and eager to learn. As noted by the AKC, you need to spend plenty of time working with a Malinois, but they form some of the strongest bonds.
2. White Shepherd
Technically, the White Shepherd is just a slightly different coloration of the German Shepherd, though they have been recognized as their own breed by the UKC. Still, the breed went through plenty of controversies before American breeders reintroduced the coloration.
While the eponymous white coat may appear beautiful, it is worth noting that this breed is the result of more inbreeding than most others. This is due to the white coloration being a recessive gene.
Thankfully, this development did not create serious health issues uncharacteristic of the German Shepherd breed in general. While intelligent and loyal, the White Shepherd does not always play well with others– especially dogs of the same sex.
3. Eastern European Shepherd
This breed of dog might not be the most well-known, but it is definitely one of the closest resembling breeds on our list.
In fact, the Eastern European Shepherd is a direct result of Soviet breeding with the intent of making a larger, healthier version of the German Shepherd.
Standing a bit taller, the Eastern European Shepherd, also known as the VEO or BEO, is significantly heavier than the German Shepherd. As such, BEOs make excellent working dogs and are used for a wide variety of tasks in Russia.
While they are calmer than German Shepherds, in general, their breeding for military and police work left them a bit more prone to aggression than some of the other breeds. However, VEOs are easy to train and wait for a signal before going into action.
Like the Malinois, Tervuren is another Belgian dog, though its distinctive coat helps prevent it from being mistaken for a German Shepherd. That said, there is some debate as to whether or not the Tervuren and Malinois are actually different breeds– along with the next two on our list.
Much like the Malinois, the Tervuren bounds with endless energy, though their personalities differ in some important ways. While they make good watchdogs, Tervurens are not as aggressive or prey driven as Malinois.
While this can make Tervurens better-suited for families with rambunctious children, they can also be excessively shy. Due to their black mask face markings and reddish body, this breed presents a striking appearance.
Another member of the hotly debated Belgian Shepherd sub-breeds, the Laekenois is still recognized in its own right. However, one look is all it really takes to see why this breed stands apart from the rest.
The Laekenois is one of the few shepherd breeds that does not have exceptionally straight hair. Instead, the Laekenois’ coat looks wooly, almost wiry, in nature, and is much lighter in color than most of the other breeds on our list.
Laekenois have similar levels of energy as other Belgian Shepherd breeds but are known for being a bit more affectionate and good-natured. While they are intelligent and easy to train, Laekenois are not as good for competition as some of their cousins.
The final Belgian Shepherd breed on our list, the Groenendael might be the most visually striking due to its mostly black coloration. Like Tervuren, the Groenendael has a longer coat, a more luxurious coat than German Shepherds, or other Belgian Shepherds.
The Groenendael also follows the Tervuren in a number of temperamental ways too with nearly limitless energy. However, where the Tervuren may be a bit shy, the Groenendael can be a bit more protective, leading to slightly more aggression.
Still, the Groenendael is extremely intelligent and eager to please, though they are a bit more reserved with their affections. However, they bond extremely well and are noted for suffering separation anxiety when left alone for long periods of time.
7. Dutch Shepherd
Moving a bit north, the Dutch Shepherd keeps the size and shape of the German Shepherd more than Belgian breeds.
Defined by the UKC, the Dutch Shepherd defines itself with a brindle coloration and a distinguished-looking, bushy muzzle.
Like a couple of other breeds we saw, the Dutch Shepherd has a wooly undercoat rather than the straight fur German Shepherds bear. One of the better working dogs, Dutch Shepherds takes quickly to training such that they can be left to their tasks without the oversight of their master.
On top of that, Dutch Shepherds are some of the healthiest of the Northern European shepherd breeds. Dutch Shepherds are also great with children and other dogs but show the characteristic wariness towards strangers.
8. Berger Blanc Suisse “White Swiss Shepherd Dog”
A breed that might otherwise be mistaken for the White Shepherd covered earlier, the Berger Blanc Suisse hails from Switzerland instead of the Americas. However, the Berger Blanc Suisse is fairly different than most shepherds you will encounter.
One of the biggest differences between the Berger Blanc Suisse and other shepherds is their energy level. The Berger Blanc Suisse does not require nearly as much activity as most other shepherds you encounter.
On top of that, the Berger Blanc Suisse displays are far calmer, more mellow disposition. This makes them great for kids and other animals, and they do not display nearly the same level of suspicion towards strangers as other shepherds.
9. Carpathian Shepherd
The Carpathian Shepherd is one of the first on our list that may not immediately strike you as looking like a German Shepherd. However, this has more to do with the thicker, wooly coat and the fact that their ears do not point, flopping down instead.
Another notable difference between the Carpathian Shepherd and the German Shepherd is the size. Recognized by the FCI, The Carpathian Shepherd is one of the larger breeds on our list, able to reach weights in excess of 100 pounds.
Noted for a milder temperament than other shepherds, the Carpathian Shepherd is calm but extremely loyal and protective. In fact, the Carpathian Shepherd still guards flocks of sheep against even bears to this very day.
10. Bohemian Shepherd
The Bohemian Shepherd begins our foray into breeds that are not quite recognized, though the FCI recognized the Bohemian Shepherd just this year. That said, the Bohemian Shepherd is an old breed and may even predate the German Shepherd.
One thing that sets this breed apart from the German Shepherd is its size with the Bohemian Shepherd standing a bit shorter. The Bohemian Shepherd also sports a longer, thicker coat than the German Shepherd with a black and red coloration.
Like other shepherd offshoots, the Bohemian Shepherd contains bundles of energy and requires a lot of activity. However, this breed is far more affectionate and even-tempered than some of the other shepherd breeds.
11. King Shepherd
King Shepherd is a developing breed that is not currently recognized as its own distinct breed. However, the resemblance to German Shepherds is unmistakable, though King Shepherds are much bigger.
In fact, King Shepherd is the second-largest breed on our list, able to reach 150 pounds. This breed of shepherds crosses a Shiloh Shepherd, itself working on recognition, with large Alaskan Malamutes and Japanese Akitas.
They make excellent working dogs, especially guard dogs, and carry the self-assurance of German Shepherds. However, this is one of the few shepherds on our list that not only lacks shyness but is actually friendly towards strangers.
12. Shiloh Shepherd
The Shiloh Shepherd is a work in progress that aims to increase the size of the German Shepherd while still retaining much of its original genetics. Like King Shepherd it helps develop, the Shiloh Shepherd is larger than most able to reach 140 pounds.
Not only is the Shiloh Shepherd generally larger than German Shepherds, but they aim to remove or reduce the number of health problems associated with the breed. The Shiloh Shepherd can also display a thicker, plush coat than their German cousins.
Noted by the SSRC, one of the main intentions when making this breed is a calmer temperament. In fact, the development of the breed requires temperament testing in order to be certified by its focused clubs.
13. American Alsatian
The American Alsatian is a developing breed focused on presenting the appearance of a wolf without mixing with a wolf. This is because wolf hybrids can be extremely difficult to work with and keep as pets.
This breed gets up to 100 pounds which makes them larger than their German cousins but nowhere near the largest breed on our list. The American Alsatian combines the German Shepherd with the Alaskan Malamute, English Mastiff, and Great Pyrenees.
Despite their imposing size and fearsome appearance, the American Alsatian is not a working dog. Instead, this breed is noted for its calm, friendly demeanor and was bred primarily to be a companion.
14. Northern Inuit
The Northern Inuit is another breed designed to look like a wolf, but it takes a completely different approach. Excluding the English Mastiff and Great Pyrenees, the Northern Inuit is the only breed on our list noted for being a wolf hybrid.
That said, the hybridization has long since passed, and the breed does not demonstrate some of the difficulties other wolf hybrids present. However, there is no getting around the fact that the wolf blood of the Northern Inuit makes itself known through its sheer size and personality.
As befits a wolf hybrid, the Northern Inuit is definitely not for novice owners and carries with it a stubborn streak and can be fairly difficult to train– though they are intelligent. As reported by National Geographic, it is worth noting that the Northern Inuit is the breed used for the Direwolves on Game of Thrones.
15. Panda Shepherd
To be clear, this is not actually a breed of dog as much as it is an extremely rare coloration. As such, this should definitely not be mistaken as anything other than a German Shepherd, but their rarity can make finding one extremely difficult.
The main feature that defines a Panda Shepherd is the inclusion of white in their fur coloration, something that normally disqualifies a German Shepherd from being registered. However, genetic tests show that this coloration is actually a result of genetic mutation, not crossbreeding.
Much like standard German Shepherds, Panda Shepherds are incredibly intelligent and easy to train. They make excellent working dogs and are extremely protective of their family, demonstrating the characteristic wariness of strangers common with German Shepherds.
16. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Out of all the dogs on our list, the Caucasian Shepherd is the one that looks the least like a German Shepherd while still maintaining some passing resemblance. Looking a bit more like the Carpathian Shepherd already covered, this is a very large dog, arguably the largest on our list.
If you are looking for a guard dog, there are few that can strike fear into the heart of an intruder like this one. Historically, the Caucasian Shepherd, also known as the Mountain Dog, lives up to its name as this is easily the largest dog on our list able to reach weights of 220 pounds.
Whether you want a big dog, a small dog, or something in between, there are numerous breed sand developing breeds of dogs that look like German Shepherds. Many of the breeds are directly descended from or potentially forebearers of German Shepherds.
On top of that, many developing breeds aim to increase the size, mellow the temperament, or provide a distinctive look. Regardless of what you are looking for, there is a breed of a dog similar to the German Shepherd on our list perfect for your family.