If you’re looking for a sociable family dog with great watchdog abilities, then a Sheprador (also called German Shepherd Lab Mix, or Labrador Shepherd) is the perfect choice for you. However, I advise all my friends to check if they’re the right match for such a large and playful pet before bringing a puppy home, and in this article I’ll try to explain why.
This hybrid has two strong and intelligent parent breeds, the German Shepherd and the Labrador Retriever, which means you’ll get the best traits from two of the most popular dogs in the world. You’ll also get never-ending energy and, unfortunately, a high chance of some serious medical conditions.
So check out my Seven Things You Need To Know About Shepradors to make sure you’re ready to take care of this unique dog.
Shepradors generally live between 10 and 12 years, and sometimes they can reach the age of 14.
Intelligence and trainability
With parents coming from two of the most intelligent dog breeds, they’re clever dogs, and very responsive to training.
They’re loyal, sociable, and always happy to spend time with their human families. However, they tend to be cautious with strangers, thanks to their German Shepherd ancestors.
- Grooming: their shorthaired coat needs regular brushing: every day in the shedding season (spring and autumn) and three-to-five times a week in the rest of the year. You’ll also have to visit a vet or a professional groomer periodically to clip their rather strong nails;
- Exercise: they require daily walks, intense playing and running, and mental stimulation;
- Feeding: these dogs love food and tend to have weight problems, so you should never overfeed them. Beef, chicken, and salmon can cause them skin allergies;
Children and other pets
They’re the perfect breed for kids, as these dogs are playful and affectionate, just like their Labrador ancestors. Generally, they’re friendly with other pets too, but they need time to get used to another dog.
With two highly energetic parent breeds, these dogs need an active life, so be ready to spend several hours a day keeping your pet busy.
They’re large dogs, weighing between 45 and 95 lbs. (20-43 kg) for males and 35-45 lbs. (16-20 kg) for females. A Labrador Shepherd is generally 20 to 26 inches tall (50-65 cm).
7 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Sheprador:
1. You’ll say goodbye to your cozy couch, at least for a few hours every day
All dogs should exercise to stay healthy and fit, but this hybrid, in particular, is full of energy and needs a family with an active lifestyle. You’ll have to walk her for at least one hour, twice a day, then play with your dog to stimulate her both physically and mentally. The good news is she’s a good companion if you’re into running or hiking, and she can be trained for dog sports.
Lack of exercise can cause depression, destructive behavior, and medical issues, so if you’re a sedentary person or you’re already too busy, then you should consider other breeds with lower energy levels.
Besides being active, you should have a large house, with a yard to provide her with enough space to move around. However, I wouldn’t just quit on the idea of such a great dog just because of a small house, as there’s always an alternative when we’re ready to adapt our lifestyle to a dog’s needs.
The Labrador Shepherd likes cold climates rather than hot weather, so be sure to have the ability to keep her comfortable all year.
2. Keep your Shepherd Lab Mix busy, or she’ll mess up your house
These dogs love to work. They have it in their blood, and can successfully do police work, including searching, tracking, rescue, or guard work. So if you don’t keep your pet busy, she’ll find herself something to do.
One of her favorite activities outside is digging holes, so you’d better pet-proof your yard to avoid escape attempts. If you care about your flowers and plants, you should also consider building an enclosure to keep your dog away from them.
When you bring her inside, provide her with toys and games to keep her busy. She will enjoy any kind of activity that stimulates her mind, such as dog puzzles or training sessions.
The advantage of having such a smart dog that also likes to please her owner is that you don’t need to hire a professional trainer. Most Shepradors are easy to train, so you’ll be able to teach your dog some cool tricks and also help her control her watchdog habits, such as barking when you have strangers around the family home.
3. The vacuum cleaner will be your new best friend
German Shepherd Lab Mix is a double-coated breed, which means they have an undercoat next to the skin with longer hair over the top. Dogs from this crossbreed shed a lot, especially when the seasons change. If you want to keep her hair shiny and healthy, you should take a time to brush her for at least 10-15 minutes, three-to-five times a week. During spring and fall she’ll need to be brushed daily, and sometimes the use of a shedding blade can be required.
A consistent brushing schedule will help you reduce the amount of hair around the house. However, you should start looking for a vacuum cleaner for pet hair as you’ll be cleaning your home almost daily.
Besides brushing, you should include in your schedule:
- cleaning her ears (once a week),
- brushing her teeth (at least three times a week),
- and cleaning her eyes (when needed).
While this sounds like a lot, on the other hand, she only needs to take a bath about once a month.
Trimming her nails requires professional help in most cases, because they’re strong and transparent, with blood vessels and nerves. Exercising her on a concrete surface could help you keep her nails in good shape and reduce the number of visits to the vet.
4. You’ll have to hide your shoes because these dogs love to chew
Both of the Sheprador’s parent breeds have a passion for chewing, so you’ll need a serious dog toy supply to keep your furniture and your shoes safe. Always buy non-toxic toys, and substitute them with new ones as soon as they start deteriorating to avoid accidents.
Your dog will need some strong toys, adapted to her age. Generally, you should avoid:
- soft plush toys, especially if they have one layer of material only;
- stuffed toys, because the stuffing will end up in your dog’s stomach;
- toys smaller than 3 inches (8 cm), if you have an adult dog, as there’s a high risk of choking.
5. You rarely get to know exactly what you’re buying
A hybrid can be an excellent choice, but it’s still far from a purebred. This crossbreed is recognized by the International Designer Canine Registry (IDCR) and by the Dog Registry of America, Inc. However the American Kennel Club doesn’t consider it an official breed.
I know it’s not all about pedigree and prestige, but crossbreeding can include some disadvantages:
- you can’t know for sure how large the puppy you buy is going to grow. You can have a rough idea by looking at her parents if you have the chance, but there’s still a high possibility the dog will get larger than you expect;
- no one can guarantee a particular temperament for this dog, mostly because the German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever are different breeds. Most hybrids tend to have a balanced personality, but as your puppy could be the result of more crosses, she may not inherit the exact characteristics you want in a dog;
- your future dog is prone to a series of health issues, caused by her bloodline. Obesity, hip and elbow dysplasia, eye diseases and diabetes are a lot more common with these dogs, but she could also develop epilepsy, skin allergies, bloat or cardiovascular diseases, these being common among Labradors and German Shepherds.
Few of these issues are visible in puppies, so you’ll get to know more about your dog only after you’ve brought her home. Each of these disadvantages alone is enough of a reason to give up your dog, but this isn’t fair for her or your family, so make sure you consider all these risks when taking a decision.
6. Keeping a Sheprador is expensive, but you won't file for bankruptcy
Generally, hybrid puppies tend to have higher prices than purebreds (between $150 and $600), but there’s always the possibility of adoption, which reduces your initial costs considerably. However, this is just a small part of what you’re going to spend over the years.
From my point of view, most estimations work well for average dogs. In this case, though, you’re planning to have a large dog with serious health issues in her genealogy, so you’ll have to provide her with the best food for large breeds, which can considerably increase your estimated costs.
And don’t forget about her chewing habit -you’ll need to buy costly chew-resistant toys to keep her busy; otherwise you’ll have to invest periodically in new shoes and furniture.
Taking care of a sick pet is not only heartbreaking but also expensive, so don’t underestimate the importance of medical insurance for this dog. Pet insurance will add between $200 and $700 to your annual costs, depending on the cover you choose.
7. You should buy your dog from a responsible breeder
In most cases, a Labrador Shepherd has high potential and is a great candidate for the title of the perfect family dog. However, as mentioned before, hybrid dogs could have unpredictable coat colors, personalities, and health issues, so buying your puppy from a reliable source is as close as you can get to a clear image about your future dog.
Find a responsible breeder and make sure you get in-depth information about your dog’s family, including:
- if there’s an OFA certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, for both the dog’s parents;
- if the dog’s grandparents had any hereditary medical problems;
- if the dog you’re buying has been screened for hereditary health conditions.
As you could see above, when buying a Sheprador you get the best of two great breeds. I think that this mix of German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever makes for the perfect family dog - kind, loyal, patient with children, and protective. However, they have endless energy and require a lot of time and attention, which makes them suitable for active families only.
So are you ready to handle such a dog? Most Sheprador owners don’t regret their choice, but every one of us has different expectations when buying a dog. What do you hope to get from a Labrador Shepherd or, if you already have one, what are the things you’d liked to have known before buying her?