Miniature German Shepherd dogs are shorter, lighter versions of the standard loyal, protective German Shepherd, weighing under 65lbs. They have the courage, intelligence and affectionate nature of a standard German Shepherd, in a more manageable body. But making this large military, police and service dog smaller has its drawbacks. Miniature German Shepherds are bred by mixing with another breed, introducing a dwarfism gene or breeding from runts of the litter.
Corgi, Miniature Poodle, Spitz, Chow, Pomeranian and Border Collie German Shepherd mixes can be referred to as miniature German Shepherds. Today we’ll look at the pros and cons of miniaturization. Focusing on the health, personality and appearance of mixed and purebred miniature German Shepherd puppies. Here’s what you can expect from this family pet in terms of temperament, characteristics and behavioral traits.
Standard German Shepherd Dogs
In the late 19th century, various strains of German dogs were combined to create the ultimate herding dog. Today the breed is better known for their military, police, protection and service dog work. A well-socialized German Shepherd Dog makes a wonderfully loyal family pet.
This is a well muscled dog with a deep chest and strong hindquarters, and he is longer than he is tall. Their double coat of medium length comes in a variety of colors. They have a long muzzle, confident head carriage, and pointed ears.
Appeal of the Miniature German Shepherd
Despite ranking as the second most popular breed in the U.S., many people feel the German Shepherd is too big for them. They’re a powerful, active breed who needs plenty of exercise and room to move.
If you live in an apartment or a small house, space could definitely be a reason for wanting a miniature German Shepherd. Perhaps you have young children and would feel more secure around a smaller, more manageable dog.
Then there’s the cuteness factor. There’s no question that smaller dogs tend to be more adorable. Therefore that makes them more appealing to many people. The oversized round head and big eyes associated with little dogs engenders a feeling of caretaking behavior in people. This phenomenon is known as baby schema.
Are Miniature German Shepherds Real?
First of all, it’s important to understand that there is no miniature German Shepherd breed. Miniaturization in dog breeding is achieved in one of three ways.
A standard German Shepherd can be crossed with a smaller dog breed. They can possess the gene for dwarfism. The final way to miniaturize is to breed two exceptionally small purebred German Shepherds together. Each of these methods has drawbacks which we’ll look into.
Miniature German Shepherd Mix
Breeding a female German Shepherd with the male of a smaller breed produces a mixed breed dog. This is the most humane way to miniaturize. However, when mixing with another breed, there’s no way to know which parent the puppies will take after.
They could be smaller but not look or behave anything like a German Shepherd. There’s also the possibility that the mini German Shepherd puppies will only be slightly smaller.
The upside to crossbreeding is that it can reduce the incidence of passing along genetic health problems. Of course that is if both parents aren’t prone to the same condition. Here are some breeds that breeders commonly mix with the German Shepherd.
German Shepherd Corgi Mix
Mixing the German Shepherd and the Corgi produces the German Shepherd Corgi mix. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is distinctive for being built long and low to the ground. They measure just 10 to 12 inches and weigh from 25 to 30 pounds. Despite the size difference, these are both herding breeds who are smart and trainable.
You can expect this mix to stand from 12 to 15 inches and weigh anywhere from 25 to 65 pounds. The Corman Shepherd will be an athletic dog who needs plenty of activity.
German Shepherd Poodle Mix
The German Shepherd Poodle mix crosses the GSD with a Poodle. This is a highly intelligent, loyal, and loving mix.
In appearance, these two breeds are very dissimilar, so looks can vary depending on which parent the puppies take after. The standard Poodle is over 15 inches and weighs from 40 to 70 pounds. You can expect the Shepadoodle to range from 15 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 40 and 90 pounds.
Border Collie German Shepherd Mix
The Border Collie German Shepherd mix combines the Border Collie with the GSD. This is sure to be a whip smart and extremely energetic dog.
He will need plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation. The Shollie will be highly trainable. But a tendency to be protective might not make them the best choice for homes with small children. The Border Collie stands from 18 to 22 inches and weighs from 30 to 55 pounds.
The Miniature German Shepherd and Dwarfism
Pituitary dwarfism is a genetic autosomal recessive disorder that affects the GSD. Physical characteristics of this condition include:
- Shorter than normal legs
- Longer than normal body
- Bowed front legs
- Stagnant development of the hair coat or baldness
This would truly be a miniature German Shepherd in terms of temperament and behavior. However, pituitary dwarfism can have some pretty serious health effects. Impaired kidney function, hypothyroidism, and a weakened skeleton are just a few of the health problems that are associated with pituitary dwarfism.
The Miniature German Shepherd Bred From Runts
The term runt can refer to the smallest puppy in the litter. To a breeder, it means puppies whose weight at birth is abnormally low. To clarify, defined this way, you could have an entire litter of runts.
Unfortunately, puppies who are born extremely underweight are likely to face many health problems throughout their lives. And the more underweight they are, the more they are at risk.
Breeding from two undersized purebred GSDs is another way to get a miniature German Shepherd. Some breeders choose this method because the sought-after physical and behavioral characteristics of the breed will get passed down to the mini German Shepherd puppies. However, when two dogs who are way below the standard size are bred together, it increases the chance of passing along health problems as well.
Miniature German Shepherd Size
The standard male German Shepherd Dog stands from 24 to 26 inches and weighs from 65 to 90 pounds. The standard female German Shepherd is somewhat smaller, standing from 22 to 24 inches and weighing between 50 and 70 pounds.
To be a mini German Shepherd you need to be less than 22 inches tall and fewer than 50 lbs. But Miniature German Shepherds can be considerably smaller than this, depending upon how they are bred.
How Big Do Miniature German Shepherds Get?
Miniature German Shepherd size will depend on a number of factors. If they’re crossed with another breed, they could be closer to the size of the other parent. So crossing with a Collie would make a larger dog than one mixed with a Yorkie.
A miniature German Shepherd full grown with the gene for dwarfism would have very short legs and weigh approximately 30 pounds. Breeding two very underweight purebred GSDs could potentially make an even smaller dog, but at what cost?
Miniature German Shepherd Health
The German Shepherd breed has an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years. They are at risk of a number of health conditions you should be aware of. Like many breeds, the GSD is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. This is a disease in which the ball and socket joint is malformed. Consequently, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America recommends hip and elbow evaluations of the puppy’s parents. This helps to reduce the risk of passing along joint problems.
Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable disease of the spinal cord. It begins with a loss of coordination in the hind legs. Then it gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk.
Bloat is a sudden, acute swelling of the abdomen that can be life-threatening if prompt treatment is not received. Another joint disease which affects the GSD is osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). This is caused by an abnormal growth in the cartilage.
Are Mini German Shepherds Good Family Pets?
The standard German Shepherd Dog can make a wonderful pet. Provided they are given the training, attention and socialization that they need, and come from health tested parents. When it comes to mini German Shepherds your odds of finding a dog that is a perfect match for it’s GSD parent in a smaller, still healthy package are slimmer.
If your miniature German Shepherd puppy is a German Shepherd mixed with a smaller breed that doesn’t have dwarfism, you are probably going to have the best odds of finding a happy, healthy pet. But you need to carefully research the other parent breed before you commit to bringing home your new dog.
Pros and Cons of Miniature German Shepherd Dogs
- Potential for poor health
- Unpredictable temperament
- Often not truly a German Shepherd breed
- Good size for apartments and smaller homes
- More portable
- Welcome more places
Miniature German Shepherd Adoption
It can be difficult to find breeders who specialize in specific crossbreeds. Choosing to adopt a dog from a shelter has the advantage of allowing you to see exactly what kind of dog you’re getting. This can also be less expensive than buying from a breeder, and some of these dogs will already be trained.
Finding Miniature German Shepherd Puppies
Miniature German Shepherd breeders will all focus on different types of dogs. Some will be breeding mixes, others using runts or dogs with dwarfism to get the look they want. If you want a smaller version of the German Shepherd then we recommend going for a mix, despite the fact they might look and act a little differently to the pure bred version. This is because they are far less likely to have health problems. Purebred dogs can be tested for the conditions that impact their breed, but you can health test away the issues caused by dwarfism or breeding from runts of the litter.
Choosing to get a puppy from a breeder may also require some patience. Don’t be fooled by claims that miniature German Shepherds are rare. This is a ploy used by unscrupulous breeders trying to charge more money. Above all, ask questions and make sure the parents were health tested for any conditions related to their breed.
Is a Miniature German Shepherd Right for Me?
Is there a miniature German Shepherd in your future? In short, only you can know for sure.
We recommend choosing a miniature German Shepherd who is the result of a cross with another, healthier breed. Research the other breed type so you have a full understanding of the potential problems your puppy could have before deciding. Make sure you’re able to dedicate time to a dog who will require plenty of exercise, socialization, and training.
If you’re ready to make a commitment, these intelligent dogs are loyal, devoted companions. If you’re wondering what other breeds can be made miniature, take a look at the miniature Husky!
References and Resources
- Borgi et al. “Baby schema in human and animal faces induces cuteness perception and gaze allocation in children.” frontiers in Psychology, 2014.
- Kooistra et al. “Combined pituitary hormone deficiency in German shepherd dogs with dwarfism.” Domestic Animal Endocrinology, October 2000.
- Voorbij et al. Pituitary dwarfism in German shepherd dogs. JVCS, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2009.
- Stock et al. “Genetic analyses of elbow and hip dysplasia in the German shepherd dog.” Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics, 2011.
- Barclay et al. “Immunohistochemical evidence for immunoglobulin and complement deposition in spinal cord lesions in degenerative myelopathy in German shepherd dogs.” Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, 1994.
- Rivier et al. “Combined laparoscopic ovariectomy and laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy in dogs susceptible to gastric dilatation-volvulus.” The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 2011.
- Grøndalen et al. “Arthrosis in the elbow joint of young rapidly growing dogs. V. A pathoanatomical investigation.” Nordisk Veterinaermedicin, 1981.