There is no such thing as a typical shepadoodle. Like other mixed breed dogs, the German shepherd and standard poodle cross inherits traits from both parent breeds, which means the dogs can range in size, weight, appearance, and temperament. These dogs can have the coarse, dense, black and tan coats that German shepherds are known for, or sport curlier, low-shedding coats that are the hallmark of their poodle parent.
Both German shepherds and poodles are known for being active, intelligent breeds and the shepadoodle remains true to his roots. He's a dog that needs a lot of exercise, consistent training, and (because shepadoodles descend from two working dog breeds) he'll be happiest with a job to do.
Just like German shepherds and standard poodles, shepadoodles are large dogs. Full-grown shepadoodles stand 22–28 inches tall and weigh between 60–90 pounds, but that's where the mixed breed's consistency ends. These pups can look totally different from one another, depending on which parent they take after more.
Many shepadoodles have German shepherd-like coats: coarse, dense, and black and tan. But it's certainly possible to see the poodle influence in their coats, too, says Sally Hammond, director of Doodle Dandy Rescue in Texas.
"You do see some shepadoodles with curly coats," she says. "A shepadoodle is almost never a 'hypoallergenic' dog, but the more poodle [in their lineage] the less the dog will shed."
Though black shepadoodles are common, you can also find ones with different-colored coats, including white, cream, and fawn.
Though German shepherds and poodles differ in appearance, these distinct breeds do share some personality traits. Hammond says both were developed as working dogs and are prized for their intelligence, athleticism, trainability, and need for mental stimulation. As a German shepherd and poodle mix, shepadoodles embody all of these characteristics.
Hammond says a well-exercised (and well-trained!) shepadoodle is an excellent companion for experienced dog owners. He needs an owner who can keep him busy and engaged so his sharp mind doesn't become bored.
Both poodles and German shepherds develop strong bonds with their families and thrive on companionship, playtime, and affection. A shepadoodle is no different—these are not dogs that like to spend a lot of time alone, and their families should be prepared to meet their social needs.
"They need to have your participation in their lives," Hammond says.
When it comes to the best environment for the shepadoodle, Hammond says the more space, more interaction, more exercise, and more training, the better. "They need to be able to run and play and get a lot of exercise," she says.
Access to a fenced-in yard to run and play in is a must, but that isn't the only reason Hammond cautions against raising a shepadoodle puppy in an apartment. Poodles are known as champion barkers, she says, and German shepherds will sound the alarm when there are deliveries or noise from neighbors. So if you don't want passive aggressive glances from neighbors in the hallway, think twice before bringing a shepadoodle into your unit (or commit to training them not to bark at passersby).
But even with a yard, you shouldn't expect your shepadoodle to entertain himself. Shepadoodles are high-energy dogs that love running, hiking, and swimming. This is not a dog that will be satisfied with a quick walk around the block; expect to devote a few hours a day to helping your shepadoodle burn off his energy.
To keep a shepadoodle mix happy, he needs plenty of exercise—both for his muscles and his brain. The breed excels in agility, obedience, and flyball. Hammond also suggests nose work for these dogs, in either a formal or informal setting: "Take them outside on a leash and let them smell things," she says.
Training is essential. Not only are shepadoodles highly intelligent and eager to learn new things, but without adequate mental stimulation the breed will get bored and exhibit some unwelcome behaviors like chewing or barking.
"This is a very smart dog that requires strong leadership and training," Hammond says. "I can't emphasize enough how important training is with these dogs. Get a trainer and keep up the training."
Hammond says training also creates a critical bond between shepadoodles and their pup parents. As with all dogs, always use positive reinforcement methods and reward your shepadoodle's good behavior.
Another constant of shepadoodle care is grooming. Whether he inherits the German shepherd's flat, coarse coat or the curly poodle locks, he'll need to be brushed several times throughout the week. If you have a curly-coated shepadoodle, you'll need to schedule regular appointments with a professional groomer, too.
Shepadoodles are fairly healthy dogs with an average lifespan of 10–14 years. But they are susceptible to some health issues inherited from their parents.
Poodles are prone to progressive retinal atrophy, a group of eye diseases that cause the retinal cells to degenerate, leading to blindness. The diseases can be diagnosed in puppies and older dogs and, while it causes no pain, there is also no treatment. Your vet may recommend antioxidant supplements to delay cataracts and prolong vision.
A separate eye disease, degenerative myelopathy, is common in German shepherds. It's a progressive disease that targets the spinal cord and causes hind limb weakness and paralysis; lack of balance and dragging hind feet are the earliest symptoms. There is no treatment or cure for degenerative myelopathy.
Hip dysplasia is also commonly diagnosed in German shepherds. It's a condition that causes the joints in the hip to grind because the joint and socket do not fit together. Common treatments include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and surgery.
Perhaps the biggest shepadoodle health condition to be aware of is gastric dilatation volvulus, or bloat. This is a life-threatening condition when gas stretches the stomach, causing it to twist and cut off blood to the stomach. Both poodles and German shepherds (plus other breeds with deep chests and thin waists) are prone to bloat. Gastropexy, a preventive procedure that involves stitching the stomach to the side of the body, is sometimes recommended for bloat-prone breeds.
The American Kennel Club doesn't recognize the shepadoodle mix as an official breed, so there are no official guidelines for the appearance or temperament of these dogs. And, without formal breed registration, little is known about how the breed originated.
- The shepadoodle isn't the only popular (and loved!) German shepherd mix. There's also the Gerberian shepsky (a German shepherd and husky mix), the golden shepherd (a German shepherd and golden retriever mix), and a sheprador (a German shepherd and Labrador retriever mix).
- There are a lot of popular poodle mixes out there, too, including the goldendoodle (a poodle and golden retriever cross), Bernedoodle (a poodle and Bernese mountain dog cross) and Yorkie-poo (a poodle and Yorkie mix).