There has been some buzz recently about Miniature German Shepherds, an increasingly popular “designer dog breed” for those who prefer the look of a German Shepherd but whose personal needs require a smaller dog.
According to US Service Animals, these dogs are perfect for apartment life, averaging under 50 pounds when fully grown.
What should I expect from a Mini German Shepherd?
You should expect a dog that is intelligent and easy to train while exhibiting a mixture of traits from the German Shepherd and the other dog breed or breeds involved in the German Shepherd mix.
What is a Miniature German Shepherd?
One thing worth keeping in mind is that this is a crossbreed or “designer dog,” not a purebred type of dog. One of these dogs comes from crossing a German Shepherd with a dog from a smaller breed.
Some of the breeds that might be crossed with German Shepherds to create this more compact cross include:
- Corgis – cattle herding dogs with a distinctly short stature
- Poodles – hunting dogs with a mostly hypoallergenic coat
- Shelties – sheep herding dogs with a smaller build
- Australian Cattle Dogs or Kelpies – cattle herding dogs of a small or medium build
- Australian Shepherds – medium-sized cattle herding dogs
- Yorkies (less common)- toy-sized terriers popular for their small size
What About Extra-Small Purebred German Shepherds?
There are some dogs with two German Shepherd parents who are smaller than usual. In most cases, this is because the parents were the “runts” of their litters.
Although these dogs are smaller, they usually have the same overall health as their bigger counterparts.
There is one type of extra-small Shepherd that does have health issues: dogs that have dwarfism. A dwarf results from a dog inheriting the gene that causes dwarfism.
Dwarf-sized dogs are likely to have respiratory issues that include allergies. These dogs are also susceptible to thyroid issues, which can affect multiple organs.
Hair loss also tends to be a problem in older age with these dogs.
Dogs with dwarfism usually have greatly decreased lifespans. Many of these dogs will not live past four or five years old.
What Does a Mini German Shepherd Look Like?
If you want a dog that has the appearance of a German Shepherd but is not as big, then a mini German Shepherd is what you have been looking for.
A Mini GSD has the same colors and markings as a German Shepherd, along with many of its other physical characteristics.
The mini German Shepherd will still have the same double coat with a slightly wavy outer coat that is tan, black, or slightly red in color.
They may also have the same tail that curves downward along with the same large and erect ears.
There is also a chance you will find a mini German Shepherd with a unique coat that is all white, black, or even golden in color.
What Are Common Miniature German Shepherd Traits?
Like a purebred German Shepherd, these dogs also possess a high intelligence level, as well as loyalty and protective instincts.
Two of the traits that are likely to be most similar to a Shepherd include the ears and coat colors.
The smaller dog breed in the mixture will likely influence the size to a certain degree.
In addition to having a somewhat smaller size, the dog will also likely have some of the same traits associated with the smaller of the two breeds.
Despite having one parent who is a smaller breed, some of these dogs might reach a size closer to that of a purebred German Shepherd, although weighing under 50 pounds is quite common.
In most cases, the height might vary considerably.
Most of these dogs have a double coat typical of German Shepherds, with red and black or red and tan colors.
Their ears might be larger and somewhat more erect, and the tail will curve downward and be bushy.
In the case of Miniature Shepherds that have a Corgi, Pug, or Sheltie parent, they will usually have a shorter, smaller stature, regardless of traits otherwise inherited from the German Shepherd parent.
You can count on having a unique dog, regardless.
What is a Miniature German Shepherd’s Personality Like?
Even though the physical appearance of Miniature German Shepherds varies, their personalities are fairly consistent. In most cases, they will be more like a purebred Shepherd as far as their personalities go.
These dogs are usually easy to train and instinctively loyal to their families. They are not only excellent family dogs but easy to train for special tasks and to provide emotional support.
Regardless of what other breeds are in the dog’s ancestry, early, consistent training is a must for these dogs.
The sooner your dog gets used to your “house rules” and a daily routine, the better they will adjust to their new home.
This crossbreed is excellent for children in many cases. However, proper supervision is always necessary.
The smaller breed involved might contribute to snappy behavior, and the German Shepherd ancestry might give the dog a stronger bite.
This dog can live just as well in an apartment setting as they can in a rural one, with daily walks or access to an exercise area.
Miniature Shepherds have an energy level that helps make them good running or hiking buddies.
Miniature German Shepherds may still have loud barks that can be somewhat of an issue, especially if crossed with Shelties.
Providing plenty of stimulation to keep your dog from getting bored will help stop a lot of this undesirable behavior.
Dogs without sufficient attention or mental stimulation may also resort to behaviors like whining. This trait can be common among many mixes that involve small or toy-sized dog ancestry.
A dog with enough to do won’t be as prone to whining.
Almost any dog left outside unsupervised too much might dig or either jump or climb over a fence. Supervised outdoor exercise or walks are effective deterrents to this type of behavior.
Are Miniature German Shepherds Suitable as Service Dogs?
Miniature GSDs as Service Dogs
A Miniature GSD makes an excellent service dog because of its trainability.
Another advantage is that they are good for apartment or condo dwellers who might find a larger-sized Shepherd difficult for their circumstances.
Some of the functions these dogs can be trained for include:
- Guiding the blind
- Helping the deaf
- Detecting low blood sugar or a seizure onset
- Helping owners with PTSD
When you have one of these dogs, you’ll need to think about your ability to handle their grooming needs yourself or by taking them to a groomer or having a mobile groomer help care for their coat.
Having a Miniature Shepherd as an Emotional Support Dog
The size of these dogs and their typical personalities make them excellent candidates for emotional support animals (ESAs).
However, you need to make sure your dog is trained and responsive to commands.
Even an ESA can require removal from a property due to bad behavior. Also worth noting is that dogs used for emotional support do not have the same level of public access as service dogs.
What Other Tasks Are Good for Miniature German Shepherds?
Even though these dogs are excellent as pets, service dogs, or emotional support animals, that is not all they are capable of doing. Miniature German Shepherds can also excel as working dogs.
A Miniature GSD living on a farm or ranch can be a great choice for even part-time herding duties. Mini-Shepherds with Corgi ancestry can be a good size for herding cows.
Dogs that have Sheltie or Collie ancestry will retain sheep-herding instincts.
Miniature German Shepherds make good watchdogs because of their protective nature. Even though they are smaller than most dogs used for police work, they can deter intruders with a fairly loud bark.
Another type of work that these dogs are very good for is search and rescue. They can easily cover different types of terrain very effectively.
How Should You Train a Mini German Shepherd Dog?
Since they are obedient, you will find that they are much easier to train than other dog breeds. They will readily listen to and obey your commands.
You can start training your German Shepherd puppy as young as seven weeks old. At this time, your mini German Shepherd puppy is ready to learn and respond to simple obedience commands.
German Shepherds also naturally want to stay busy, making training them even easier. They crave a work environment and respond well to a good leader.
When training your dog, be consistent with your verbal commands to not confuse them or slow down the training.
You also want to get their full attention when you start, so it is best to go somewhere for training to control the distractions.
Finally, positive reinforcement works well. Reward the mini German Shepherd pup’s good behavior with treats and praise, and it will motivate him to continue his training.
How Do You Care for a Miniature German Shepherd?
When caring for a Miniature German Shepherd, you want to keep basic care needs in mind.
This small dog is powerful and wonderfully active and has a ton of stamina. So, you will need to find a good amount of mixed exercises that prove to be challenging and fun for him.
When you feed your mini, feed him as if he were a small-sized dog because he is. Feed them twice a day to prevent bloating. Encourage them to eat their food slowly.
To do this, you can use a slow feeding bowl. This bowl can slow eating time by up to 10% and will help with common issues relating to fast eating like bloating, obesity, and regurgitation.
You also want to avoid any sudden changes to the dog’s diet because this can cause health issues like diarrhea, especially for a puppy.
If you have to change dog food brands, do so slowly by mixing some of the original food with the new food, increasing it gradually.
What Health Problems Can Miniature German Shepherds Have?
Although these dogs are usually healthy, some health issues might be an issue. Many of these conditions are genetic, originating with some of the German Shepherd lines.
As crossbred dogs, Miniature Shepherds are less likely to have some of these health concerns to the same extent as purebred GSDs.
However, it is good to be aware of certain conditions common in German Shepherds that can also affect mixes.
Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Shepherds and mixes are vulnerable to both elbow and hip dysplasia, which involves malformed joints in either the ball, socket, or both parts of the joint.
Afflicted dogs can have difficulty using joints and early arthritis.
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals estimates that 20% of German Shepherds will develop one or both conditions.
Less-invasive remedies for dogs with these conditions include special diets, anti-inflammatory medications, and heated beds designed to ease discomfort.
In some of the most severe cases, your dog might require surgery.
Hemophilia is a condition that occurs due to genetic inheritance in German Shepherds. Most of these cases are thought to originate in a particular ancestor, according to Cornell University.
As in the case of humans with hemophilia, canine hemophilia also means blood doesn’t clot properly.
As a result, bruises and relatively minor cuts might become life-threatening, requiring extra care to be taken with hemophilic dogs.
Taking care during exercise or interactions with other animals can help protect Shepherds with this condition.
Aside from a need to protect against injury, owners of hemophilic dogs can expect them to live normal lives.
Bloat, also known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, is an often life-threatening condition affecting deep-chested breeds. When GDV occurs, gas builds up very quickly.
The condition may occur due to activity too soon after eating and/or eating too fast.
Gas pressure can hinder the dog’s breathing, and in some cases, the stomach can twist. Dogs that have this condition might require emergency surgery at some point.
Feeding smaller, more frequent meals can help prevent this painful condition.
Dogs with megaesophagus have a limp or weak esophagus, making it difficult for the dog to pass food from the mouth to the stomach.
This condition is congenital, with symptoms like vomiting and regurgitation showing up in puppyhood.
Miniature German Shepherds and other dogs with this condition are usually fed in an elevated position on a liquid diet. Megaesophagus is an incurable condition.
Many Shepherds and mixes have this condition that causes anal openings to train. Possible causes include inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, and the lower tail carriage that is common in this breed.
Possible symptoms include:
- Foul odors in areas where the dog lies
- Licking around the anus
- Defecation difficulties
- Bloody stool
Dietary changes will often keep this condition under control.
According to Cornell University, degenerative myelopathy is a degenerative condition much like Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS.
This condition mostly affects senior dogs and involves the degeneration of spinal cord nerves.
Miniature German Shepherds that have either a Corgi or Poodle parent may have somewhat of increased risk.
When a dog develops the condition, its rear legs become weak and possibly paralyzed. Owners might make the painful choice of euthanasia.
The disease can only be formally diagnosed with a postmortem exam known as a necropsy.
Although you should expect most Miniature GSDs to be generally healthy, knowing what types of health problems they may develop is good.
Regular annual veterinary checkups will help you keep track of your dog’s health.
How Long Does a Miniature German Shepherd Live?
A Miniature German Shepherd can live for up to fifteen years, which is a significantly longer time than a normal German Shepherd breed.
Do Miniature German Shepherds Need A Lot of Exercise?
A Miniature German Shepherd requires at least one hour to two hours of physical and mental stimulation each day. This means that a short and leisurely walk around the block just isn’t going to cut it.
When considering how much exercise your pup needs, consider the dog’s age, health, and energy level. A puppy, for example, will be filled with a lot more energy than an older mini and will require more exercise time.
What is the Best Way to Find a Miniature German Shepherd?
Even though Miniature German Shepherds are not a recognized breed, they are popular dogs. It’s easy to find both dogs that are the product of intentional crossbreeding and unintentional ones.
Because they are a cross between two breeds, you might not find one in your area right away.
However, don’t lose hope because there are a lot of options for both breeders and rescue dogs, either of which will make a nice addition to your family.
Getting Miniature Shepherds from Breeders
Most dog breeders use a purebred German Shepherd mother. The father will usually be a purebred dog of the smaller breed or possibly a cross of more than one breed.
In any case, a reputable breeder will allow you to see the parents of the puppy.
The breeder should give an honest answer about known temperament issues.
You should also find out how many litters the mother has had, as dogs with too many litters in a shorter period might have unhealthy puppies.
Ask the breeder about what health problems, if any, the parents have had. Also, ask about whether puppies will come with a veterinarian’s health approval and a health guarantee.
Avoid dog breeders who don’t provide honest answers to these questions.
You should also stay away from dog breeders who don’t let you see their premises or who sell over the Internet without checking out where their dogs will be going to live.
Also, avoid breeders selling so-called “teacup” Shepherds. According to Christian Cotroneo, these dogs are likely to have serious health issues.
Even though German Shepherds are not a breed usually considered “teacup” size when crossed with smaller breeds, unethical breeders might breed the smallest dogs possible, leading to possible cardiac, respiratory, and other health problems.
Despite the high “cuteness” factor, these super-small dogs are best avoided. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for expensive vet bills and heartbreak.
Adopting a Shelter or Rescue Miniature German Shepherd
You may want to think about adopting a Miniature German Shepherd from a local shelter or rescue organization.
In some cases, you might be saving a dog’s life if they are at a local municipal shelter, known as a pound, which may euthanize dogs that aren’t adopted.
Dogs representing many breeds, including German Shepherds and mixes, can often be found in shelters. These dogs may range from puppies all the way up to adults, including seniors.
Depending on how many animals they customarily take in, pounds usually hold dogs for a few days to several weeks.
The adoption fees usually vary based on the location and whether the dog is already altered.
Most pounds will require that the dog receive vaccinations after adoption if they haven’t already had shots.
A spay or neuter requirement might be mandatory under your state’s laws, and many cities or counties provide vouchers to help with the cost.
Dogs from no-kill shelters or rescues are often already altered and vaccinated. In many cases, volunteers or fosters have had enough time to get a good idea of the dog’s personality and behavior.
A rescue or no-kill shelter will usually have an application process that includes personal references, contact information for your vet, and a home check.
These steps help ensure that the dog is going to a good home.
Are You Ready?
Have you finally decided to add a Miniature German Shepherd dog to your life? If so, you are ready to add an exciting companion to your life.