The Shiloh Shepherd is a large, active companion dog.
Breed name: Shiloh Shepherd
Lifespan: 9 to 14 years
Height: 26 to 30 inches
Weight: 36 to 72 kg
The breed begun in the 1970s before the American Rare Breed Association recognised the Shiloh Shepherd in 1991.
As a rare beed, it’s easy to come across a lot of misinformation online about these wonderful and unique canines.
For instance, a Shiloh Shepherd is not a cross between an Alaskan Malamute and a German Shepherd. This is a misconception and untrue.
We spoke to Cynthia Kelly, who is a member of the International Shiloh Shepherd Alliance (ISSA), and Shiloh Shepherd breeder Darcie Coles to learn more about the rare breed.
Working together, they provided detailed insight into the Shiloh Shepherd breed to give our readers an exclusive perspective on these incredible dogs.
In doing so, they debunked some of the misconceptions and myths surrounding Shiloh Shepherds and provided an authoritative feature on the breed.
You can follow Cynthia’s Shiloh Shepherds on Instagram @campfireshilohs and Darcie’s Shiloh Shepherds @vanisleshilohs.
Note: All the photos in this article have been taken from Campfire Shilohs with their permission.
What Is A Shiloh Shepherd?
The Shiloh Shepherd is a large, active companion dog originally derived from a combination of herding and working breeds. The breed founder began working on the Shiloh in the 1970s, and in 1991 it was recognized as its own rare breed by ARBA (the American Rare Breed Association). The Shiloh is large, calm, and generally easier to handle than many working shepherd breeds. However, as with any dog, they do require significant socialization and structure from the time they are puppies. They are highly intelligent and can be protective of their family and home.
What Are The Origins Of The Shiloh Shepherd?
The Shiloh Shepherd breed was developed several decades ago in the United States of America by Tina Barber. Tina, having been born in Germany, grew up in a multi-generational family of German Shepherd breeders. She had been breeding AKC German Shepherds since the early 1960s. As the decades passed, Tina began to notice how the American German Shepherds did not look like the German Shepherds she remembered from her childhood in Germany. Many modern German Shepherds were becoming more difficult to handle for the average family. Hip and elbow issues were also rising in the German Shepherd breed. These were a few of the reasons why Tina decided to pursue the creation of a new dog breed. These dogs would have heavier bone, level toplines, and squarer body proportions to limit the chances of spinal injuries occurring, along with an easier to handle temperament and good longevity. The first official “Shiloh Shepherds” were born in 1991.
What Is The Difference Between Shiloh Shepherd v German Shepherd And Shiloh Shepherd v King Shepherd?
The Shiloh Shepherd is approximately 30% larger than a well-bred German Shepherd. Shilohs have a more wolf-like appearance, and more square body proportions than a German Shepherd. The Shiloh Shepherd is typically more family-friendly, calmer, softer, and easier to handle than modern German Shepherds. It can be said that the Shiloh Shepherd is more of an active companion dog, while the German Shepherd is a better working dog. The long “plush” coat is the most popular coat type in Shilohs, unlike in German shepherds where the long coat exists but is not the standard. The King Shepherd founder split off from Shiloh Shepherds and went in a different direction. King Shepherds crossed in more German Shepherds, in addition to Akitas and Alaskan Malamutes. They consider white dogs faulty and disqualify them, unlike Shilohs. Important note: There is a lot of confusion over the difference between a “King-sized” German Shepherd and a “King Shepherd.” A King-sized German Shepherd is a purebred German Shepherd that is larger than the breed standard allows. Someone with a King Shepherd should be able to show you a pedigree that stretches back to when these dogs used to be part of the Shiloh Shepherd breeding program.
How Big Do Shiloh Shepherds Get?
Females are 26” at the minimum at the withers, and males are 28” at the minimum at the withers. A healthy weight ranges from approximately 80 lbs – 120 lbs. Some dogs do exceed this, but care must be taken as excess weight can be detrimental to the health of the dog, especially during the growth phases and in old age.
How Would You Describe The Appearance Of Shiloh Shepherds (Coat Color etc)?
Shilohs are large, big-boned dogs with wolfish features, a 9:10 body ratio, and blocky heads. Their colors vary from all shades of sable, bi-color, and dual, as well as solid white and solid black. Most Shilohs are plush-coated, but there are short-coated Shilohs too (affectionately called ‘smoothies’).
Shiloh Shepherds Temperament
Shilohs are a little easier to manage than most other shepherd breeds, but still retain herding and protective instincts. This should be considered when training and socializing, as these traits will make them more environmentally aware than other non-herding type breeds. Shilohs are typically a medium to low energy breed, with some exceptions to either end of the spectrum.
However, that doesn’t mean that Shilohs are inherently couch potatoes, and they require training, calm exposure, and proper socialization. A wellbred Shiloh is even-tempered and fits into family life, and many are accomplished therapy dogs! They’re typically neutral to strangers, but with pushy or improper socialization, they can be fearful/shy. Aggression, nervousness, and shyness are faults. Shilohs are great for weekend warriors and for dabbling in dog sports.
Are Shiloh Shepherds Hard To Train?
Shilohs have a quick and curious intelligence that is easy to train. Their exuberant and fun-loving personalities often have them earning the title of “class clown,” and they are often selected by trainers to demo during classes.
Shiloh Shepherds Exercise Requirements
Adequate daily exercise for a full grown Shiloh is a minimum 60 minute walk or other equivalent activity. However, remember that the energy levels do vary in this breed, so if a pup is more energetic, an owner may want to do a bit more. Younger puppies also have more energy.
It is important not to over-exercise—doing so can have detrimental effects on their growing joints and bones, and Shiloh pups are still growing until they are 18-24 months old. Mental stimulation is equally important for Shilohs, especially as they are growing, and physical exercise must be moderated for their growth. A Shiloh has a very active brain. Training sessions, puzzle toys, and other types of brain games are fantastic ways to tire out an active Shiloh mind, and they help build a healthy relationship between handler and dog.
Do Shiloh Shepherds Shed A Lot? Do They Require A Lot Of Grooming?
Yes, as a double coated breed Shilohs do shed. The two different coat lengths do shed differently, however, and therefore require slightly different levels of grooming commitment. The smooth (shorter) coat sheds a bit throughout the year. Twice a year it will “blow coat.” . However, it’s a very wash-and-wear coat; easy to care for. It requires only a quick brushing here and there to keep looking nice, and it’s generally simple to keep clean since dried mud and other debris brushes right out! We only find it necessary to bathe our smooths a couple times a year. This coat does well during the hot summers and is still thick enough to block winter cold. It’s an all-purpose coat for all weather—and it’s still beautiful. The plush (long) coat sheds very little throughout the year, but will “blow coat” twice a year and it can be epic. The longer coat will “catch” the shedding hairs, so you MUST brush during these times or the coat will matt. Otherwise the long coat is easier to care for than it looks, doing well with a brisk brushing two or three times a week. It does seem to require a bit more frequent bathing than the smooth, generally every 2-3 months. The plush coat is not so good in the hotter summers but can adapt to heat if you work up to it. The plush coat LOVES the cold.
Would You Say Shiloh Shepherd Are Family-Friendly Dogs (Kid-Friendly And/Or Pet-Friendly)?
One of the goals of the breed is for a dog that is easier to handle and more family friendly. They often do well with other animals in the house if raised with them from an early age. Breeders will also select dogs that will do well in a family environment, as busy households can be overwhelming to a less confident dog. With any dog, it is important that there is structure for both puppy and children, and that children and dogs are always supervised and monitored for signs of distress when interacting.
Do Shiloh Shepherds Suffer From Separation Anxiety?
Shilohs can bond strongly to their family, and can experience separation anxiety if owners do not practice giving the dogs some independent alone time with enrichment toys. However, they are less prone to chew holes in the walls as some higher-intensity breeds.
What Advice Would You Give To Someone Looking For A Shiloh Shepherd Breeder Or Puppy?
Look for a breeder directly from the ISSA (International Shiloh Shepherd Alliance). All of these breeders are required to submit breeding proposals to a panel of breed wardens to ensure quality. Every pairing has mandated requirements which include PennHip/OFA hips and OFA elbows, DM clear, heart holter, heart auscultation, a temperament test, and DNA submitted to UC Davis. The website www.shiloh-shepherd.com is a great resource. If you choose a breeder that is not registered with the ISSA, be sure to ask for complete health testing (OFA elbows, OFA hips/PennHip, DM clear, heart holter at 6 months and veterinarian auscultation or echo at 24 months, and temperament testing).
How Much Does A Shiloh Shepherd Puppy Cost?
The cost depends on a lot of factors, and varies between $2000-$4000 USD.
Can You Give An Insight Into The Monthly Costs Of Owning A Shiloh Shepherd?
Insurance and food may cost you at least $100 a month. It’s also a good idea to budget for training classes and grooming expenses, especially with puppies and young dogs.
Are Shiloh Shepherds Fussy Eaters Or Have Any Dietary Requirements?
Picky eaters are not uncommon. Some dogs can be a little sensitive to chicken or salmon, but it’s easy to switch them to a different dog food.
Are There Any Misconceptions That You’d Like To Debunk About Shiloh Shepherds?
One of the biggest ones is that many people believe that Shiloh Shepherds are 50/50 Alaskan Malamute/German Shepherds mixes. In reality, all Shiloh Shepherds can be traced back to about 20 founding dogs, and they are genetically identifiable as Shiloh Shepherds by Embark, Wisdom Panel, and UC Davis. There is only a trace amount of Alaskan Malamute in modern Shilohs at 2-4% by pedigree. They also include trace amounts of Sarplaninac and Czech Vlcak. Shiloh Shepherds lack a lot of genetic diversity, which is a problem that the International Shiloh Shepherd Alliance (ISSA) has been tackling with carefully vetted outcrosses and working closely with geneticists.
Will A Shiloh Shepherd Protect Me?
They may bark if someone is at the door, and may bark at a threatening stranger. However, they are bred to be more bark than bite, and are typically not truly aggressive.
Do Shiloh Shepherds Have Wolf In Them?
No, Shiloh Shepherds do not have wolf in them. They are bred to have wolf-like features, but there is no genetic or pedigree data that shows that they have wolf in them.
Can A Shiloh Shepherd Live In An Apartment?
With proper daily exercise and mental stimulation, a Shiloh can live in an apartment. As dogs with territorial tendencies, be prepared for barking and consider how this may impact apartment living for your family and your neighbors.
Is A Shiloh Shepherd Rare?
They are considered a rare breed and are recognized by ARBA (American Rare Breed Association). There are only a few thousand Shilohs in existence.
Are Shiloh Shepherds Cuddly?
Almost all Shilohs Shepherds are affectionate and want to be near their owners, but actual cuddliness varies.
Anything Else To Consider?
It’s very rare to find purebred Shilohs in rescues, since most breeders are very selective on the homes their puppies go to, and follow the common practice of taking dogs back if their home falls through. Rehomes by individual breeders happen, and there is also the Shiloh Shepherd specific rescue that monitors and facilitates the rehoming of Shilohs. Shiloh Shepherd breeders are few and far between, so it’s wise to anticipate some level of travel to get a Shiloh puppy from a reputable and responsible breeder. Currently, the only countries with breeders are Canada, Northern Europe, and the United States. You can anticipate average wait list times to be between 6 months and 2 years in North America, and over 5 years in Northern Europe.
We’ve reached the end of our feature on Shiloh Shepherds.
These stunning dogs are recognised by the Rare Breeds Association of America.
Not to be confused with an Alaskan Malamute-German Shepherd mix, Shiloh Shepherds are a breed in their own right.
If you would like to learn more information about the Shiloh Shepherd breed, you can check out the International Shiloh Shepherd Alliance’s website.
To gain a further insight into the Shiloh Shepherd, you can follow Cynthia’s Shiloh Shepherds on Instagram @campfireshilohs and Darcie’s Shilod Shepherds @vanisleshilohs.