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Golden shepherds are a cross between two of the most beloved breeds around: golden retrievers and German shepherds. This hybrid breed, sometimes referred to as a golden German shepherd, is utterly adorable, incredibly smart, very loyal to his family members, and, above all else, supremely lovable. Golden shepherds make great pets for families that have plenty of time and energy to dedicate to daily exercise and affection.
Golden shepherds, like other hybrid breeds, get their traits from both parent breeds. Half German shepherd, half golden retriever, they may closely resemble one parent or the other, or they may look like some combination of the two—it all depends.
"A hybrid breed like this means there are very few breeders and the genetics haven't been ironed out," says Liz Claflin, a trainer and the vice president of operations for Zoom Room. "It's anyone's guess as to what a mix of a golden and a shepherd will look like."
If you're planning to adopt a golden shepherd, take a look at golden retrievers and German shepherds to understand what your pup might look like.
Golden retrievers typically stand 21–25 inches tall and weigh 55–75 pounds. As this breed's name suggests, their fur color falls somewhere along the yellow spectrum—from creamy white to dark golden. They have feathery tails that are almost always wagging happily.
German shepherds tend to be about the same size as golden retrievers, weighing between 50–90 pounds and standing 22–26 inches tall. These regal-looking canines are typically black and tan (but they can also have black, black with red, sable, or white fur, too).
A golden shepherd's fur is likely to be some combination of colors and patterns found in the two parent breeds (some golden shepherds have a golden-hued coat on their bodies like a golden retriever and a darker "mask" on their faces like a German shepherd, for example). Similarly, golden shepherds may have the floppy, folded-over ears of a golden retriever or the alert, upright ears of a German shepherd.
No matter which parent your golden shepherd puppy looks like, he's basically guaranteed to be cute. A full-grown golden shepherd will likely be a medium- to large-sized dog, so consider how much space you have before bringing one home.
For lovers of German shepherds and golden retrievers, golden shepherd dogs are the perfect happy medium. These good-natured pups get the brains of a German shepherd, the happy-go-lucky attitude of a golden retriever, and the family-friendliness of both parent breeds.
Golden retrievers are cheerful, fun-loving dogs with delightful personalities—there's a reason they're so popular, particularly among families with kids. They love to romp and play, but they're equally as happy snuggling up on the couch for movie night. Golden retrievers absolutely adore getting attention from their human owners—pets, scratches, praise, and cuddles are their favorite—so they're all-around top-notch companions who would gladly follow you anywhere. They are friendly with new people and almost always steal the spotlight at parties.
German shepherds are extremely intelligent dogs with an innate curiosity about the world around them. They love going for walks and learning new cues and tricks, so some daily blend of physical and mental stimulation is important for keeping a German shepherd happy. They love their human family members deeply and are often referred to as "Velcro dogs" because they like to be in the same room with their people at all times. They'll readily alert you to a delivery at the door, too.
As a German shepherd and golden retriever mix, golden shepherds will likely have varying personalities that incorporate attributes from their parents, according to Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA, pet lifestyle expert with Rover.
"Being a mix, this varies a lot, but they are known for their strong work ethic and drive, while still being a great companion dog," she says. "German shepherds are an intense dog breed and goldens are very playful, so there is no guarantee how much one dog will lean to one side, but both love companionship and learning."
Golden shepherds are adaptable dogs that can thrive in an array of living situations, but they're happiest when they can spend as much time as possible with their human owners. This makes them ideal for families that spend a lot of time at home or young professionals with remote jobs.
"This breed loves people," Ellis says. "They're ideal for someone who can spend time with them."
They'll be on their best behavior when they get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, which means they need an active owner who has time in their schedule for daily walks, jogs, hikes, training sessions, visits to the dog park, or agility training sessions (or, ideally, some combination of these activities!). Puzzle toys and feeders can help keep your golden shepherd engaged, too.
"Having two high-energy parents, the golden shepherd does best with at least 60 minutes of activity a day," says Ellis. "A person who loves being outdoors with their dog—running, hiking, and more—is best."
After they burn off some steam and use their brains, golden shepherds are very happy to be couch potatoes, Ellis adds.
Grooming a golden shepherd is relatively low-maintenance, though be forewarned: Your dog will likely shed a fair amount (golden retrievers and German shepherds both shed heavily in the spring and fall and moderately year-round).
To keep your golden shepherd looking his most handsome, brush his coat at least once a week and bathe him with shampoo formulated specially for dogs as necessary. Regular brushing can also help keep the shedding in check, to a degree, but you may also want to invest in a good vacuum cleaner, too.
Though walking and playing outdoors can help wear down a golden shepherd's nails naturally, you'll likely also need to break out the clippers or grinder periodically (or book an appointment with a trusted groomer) for a nail trim. Also, brush your golden shepherd's teeth nightly (or at least as often as you can manage!) and talk to your vet about whether your dog would benefit from professional teeth cleanings as he ages. Set a reminder to clean your golden shepherd's ears regularly, too.
Though your golden shepherd may naturally be a very social dog, thanks to his golden retriever lineage, it's still important to socialize him from a young age. This way, he'll be comfortable around new sights, smells, sounds, people, and other dogs. Puppy kindergarten training classes can help your golden shepherd puppy learn new cues while also interacting with other pooches of all shapes and sizes as well as their owners.
As you search for a training facility or begin to prepare your own training plans, keep in mind that golden shepherds respond best to positive reinforcement that involves a reward, such as high-value treats, petting, and effusive praise, Ellis says.
A golden shepherd's health and expected lifespan depend greatly on the health of his two parents.
German shepherds, which typically live 7–10 years, can be susceptible to certain genetic diseases and conditions, including elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia, epilepsy, bleeding disorders, eye conditions, degenerative myelopathy hemangiosarcoma, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Golden retrievers tend to live slightly longer with average lifespans between 10–12 years. Like German shepherds, golden retrievers may also experience elbow and hip dysplasia and eye conditions including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. Golden retrievers are also susceptible to allergies and hypothyroidism.
Ellis says it's important to know both German shepherds and golden retrievers are susceptible to bloat, also known by the formal name gastric dilatation-volvulus, which can be life-threatening if not addressed quickly. The good news is that hybrid breeds tend to have fewer medical problems than purebred dogs, she says, though you should still be aware of these common concerns.
"German shepherds and goldens both have a lot of health risks, so while being a mixed breed the chances are smaller, there is always the potential for health issues," she says.
As with other hybrid breeds, the exact history of the golden shepherd is unknown. We do know that golden retrievers were developed in the mid-to-late 1800s in the Scottish Highlands by Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Lord of Tweedmouth, who wanted to develop a skilled hunting dog who could tackle the region's rugged terrain.
German shepherds hail from Germany, where they were developed in the late 1800s by a German cavalry officer named Capt. Max von Stephanitz. These intuitive dogs learn quickly, which is why they're such a popular choice for police work, search and rescue missions, and other important jobs.
Today, golden shepherds are primarily companion animals and pets. There aren't many golden shepherd breeders in the U.S., so you may have a hard time getting your hands on one. But check with local animal shelters and rescue groups regularly, as they may have a mixed-breed dog with some German shepherd and golden retriever in his DNA (or dogs with similar characteristics to these two pups!).
- If you're training for a marathon or planning a big summit, a golden shepherd will gladly accompany you on your training runs and hikes. These pups are very sporty and have a lot of endurance (not to mention that they'd get to spend time with you, their favorite person!).
- Large breeds like golden retrievers and Germans shepherds can become overweight if left to their own devices. Keep an eye on your dog's weight and talk with a veterinarian about the best way to keep him fit and healthy.
- Golden shepherds are good contenders for dog sports like agility, rally, obedience, and more. They love a good session of fetch in the backyard, too.