If you peruse the list of most popular dog breeds, you’ll find both the German Shepherd and the Siberian Husky (number two and number 14 respectively on the 2018 AKC most popular breeds list).
Breeders have long been creating unique hybrids from combining different types of dogs: the Puggle and the Labradoodle are two that have recently made headlines in the news.
German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies have been having litters of puppies together for centuries! They were purposely bred together, however, to create a brand new hybrid, affectionately called by some the Gerberian Shepsky!
If you have decided to adopt one of these adorable, energetic, feisty little guys into your home, congratulations! You are in for a ride!
Loyal, Hardworking, And Steady: How German Shepherds Won The World’s Heart
German shepherds originated in the year 1899 in (you guessed it!) Germany. Their original German name was Deutscher Schäferhund.
They were a mixed breed dog, the result of generations of combining French and Italian herding breeds. These many types of herding dogs created many kinds of hybrids all generally called the continental shepherd dog. In the late 1800s, three primary genetic lines emerged in an attempt to standardize breeds: the German Shepherd Dog, the Belgian Shepherd, and the Dutch Shepherd.
They were, like many species, bred to herd sheep. German Shepherd Dogs, in particular, were prized for their intelligence and quick thinking, their speed, and their strength.
They proved to be a versatile dog with an astounding array of special skills. In the next few years, they were used as hunting buddies, guard dogs, and farmhands. They have an incredible sense of smell, they are natural problem solvers, and they are loyal and obedient.
After World War I the breed was introduced to Europe under the name Alsatian. The UK Kennel started accepting official show registrations for German Shepherd Dogs in 1919. That year 54 were registered. The popularity of the breed grew at an unprecedented rate and by 1926 the number of German Shepherd Dog registrations in the UK had risen to over 8,000.
Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd Dog that lived from 1918 to 1932. He was an international movie star! He was actually rescued from the battlefield in World War 1 by an American soldier. He went on to appear in 27 movies, many of them silent and helped create momentum for famous brands like Warner Brothers.
Rin Tin Tin even has his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
The era of Rin Tin Tin saw a surge in the popularity of German Shepherd Dogs all over the world. The number of registered dogs and breeders rose very quickly.
Unfortunately, World War II caused a sharp decline in popularity. General anti-German sentiments caused an immediate drop off. Adolph Hitler had a German Shepherd he adored, and stories from Nazi camps featured teams of dogs chasing prisoners.
They did come back into vogue, however, and fifty years later were again one of the most popular breeds around the world.
German Shepherd Dogs, while doing less herding than originally intended, are still commonly used as working dogs. They have been known to:
- Perform search and rescue operations for emergency and disaster response teams. German Shepherds were used for victim recovery in the aftermath of 9/11!
- Search for cadavers at crime scenes
- Help police seek out drugs, in particular, narcotics
- Work with apprehension teams, like police and bounty hunters, to find, track, and takedown criminals
- Be an integral part of bomb and arson squads, especially because they can smell even tiny amounts of the chemicals used as an accelerant
- Serve as guide dogs for blind and deaf humans. The first official seeing-eye Dog was a German Shepherd named Buddy in the 1920s!
- Assist humans as medical alert dogs, for conditions involving seizures, heart arrhythmia, and blood sugar or pressure
- Be personal protection dogs, trained as bodyguards
- Find work as gentle emotional support animals in places such as hospitals and nursing homes
For perspective on their sniffing ability, a German Shepherd Dog has around 225 million scent receptors in their noses. Humans have about five million. Their ability to detect scents is nearly unmatched, even in the canine world.
They are known for their ability to focus exclusively on their task, to ignore distractions, and to work tirelessly until their assigned task is completed. They will work all day, often in extreme conditions and under great stress, and are physically capable of withstanding the pressure.
German Shepherd Dogs bond quickly with their owners or handlers. They are eager to please and very intelligent, which makes them easy to train. They are naturally obedient. They are extremely loyal and will protect their family unit to the death.
They are classified as large-sized dogs, standing around two feet tall at the shoulder and weighing anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds depending on sex and genetics. They are muscular and very strong; in fact, prizefighter George Foreman used a German Shepherd as his training partner for years at the height of his career!
German Shepherd Dogs are beautiful, with a thick layer of fur and the characteristic pointed ears. Their face and muzzle are squared and chiseled, lending them an air of nobility, and their eyes are soulful and wise.
Their double coat keeps them warm and dry. The undercoat is warm and fluffy while the topcoat is short and water-resistant. Their coats tend to stay soft and clean and they are generally not smelly dogs, but they do need quite a bit of grooming. They require regular brushing and will occasionally get tangles or mats that need tending to.
When most people think of German Shepherd Dogs, they think of one color scheme in particular: the traditional tan and black. While this is the most popular set of genes, sure, but this breed can come in many colors! Eleven of them are recognized by the AKC.
German Shepherd coats can be cream or white-colored (which unfortunately does not qualify for the AKC show ring), a lovely gray-blue, or a deep rust red.
Many pet owners will find German Shepherds on their community’s list of dangerous or restricted breeds. The American Veterinary Medical Association has argued against that a number of times. Many dog breeds used in police and military training are labeled as potentially dangerous, but German Shepherds have not earned their title as aggressive!
Especially because of their reputation of being hard to control, it is essential that you strictly train your German Shepherd Dog and make sure he gets enough socialization very early in his life. They are absolutely not inclined to be friends with strangers and will go to great lengths to protect their home and family.
These two aspects, when combined with a deep bond with your pooch, will eliminate any concern over his potential for aggression.
German Shepherd dogs are confident, self-assured, and capable. They need to have a purpose to be content and enjoy constant movement and activity. They will be a good hiking or running buddy- they are always up for an adventure!
Their average lifespan is between ten and thirteen years, and there is actually a special club devoted to celebrating German Shepherds that have survived to see their twelfth year! The 13 Club is an offshoot of the German Shepherd Dog Club Of America, which requires a four-generation pedigree and AKC registration to join.
The Siberian Husky, The Natural Leader Of The (Wolf) Pack
The Siberian Husky is an ancient, iconic breed.
Bred by the Chukchi people specifically to help tribes of humans survive in the Siberian Arctic, the original sled dogs from this area were originally thought to have gone extinct. They were rediscovered by an expedition sent to survey the land; these explorers called the dogs “eskies”, which was short for “Eskimo”, the broad term applied to all native arctic people at the time. The shortened form evolved into ‘husky’ as their popularity rose again.
Humans worked tirelessly to strengthen the bloodlines with only the strongest, healthiest, most intelligent breeders, and the modern-day Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and Alaskan Malamute are the surviving legacy of their efforts.
Siberian Huskies were imported from Siberia To Alaska during the first major gold rush in the early 1900s. They were used primarily to haul sleds of equipment across the frozen landscape. They were smaller and faster than similar breeds being used for that purpose at the time.
In 1930 the AKC began registering Siberian Huskies, and just a few years later the breed had become synonymous with cold-weather work. Richard E Byrd, in 1933, made a historic trek for the US Navy to establish a military base in Antarctica. He attempted to travel the entire coast of the continent, which measures around 16,000 miles. He used a team of around 50 Huskies.
Every year, many elementary-school-aged children will learn all about Balto. He is an endearing figure in the storytelling of our country. Balto was a Siberian Husky sled dog that led his team to deliver an emergency supply a diphtheria antitoxin serum to Nome, Alaska. Balto is famous for running the last leg of the journey.
Interestingly, Balto was taxidermied after his death and his body currently resides on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Siberian Huskies make their way into popular culture pretty frequently. Many children’s movies have been made featuring the breed, like Eight Below and Snow Buddies, and a recent horror zombie movie (World War Z) finds a secondary character adopting a husky when its owner freezes to death.
As for television, most notable is the uptick in popularity caused by the show Game Of Thrones. The dogs depicted in the series are not Huskies, but they look so similar that avid viewers were adopting and buying Huskies in record numbers.
Sadly, animal shelters across the country saw corresponding numbers of surrendered Huskies when people realized they require constant care. The actors on the show actually spoke out against buying a Husky purely out of enthusiasm for the storyline.
Siberian Huskies are not innately an easy breed to care for. They are smart and loyal, but they are also willful and mischievous, making them natural troublemakers. They often enjoy playing tricks on their owners, like hiding things and playing keep away.
Huskies are energetic and require constant activity. They enjoy being in motion and having jobs to do. When they are bored and under-exercised they quickly become destructive. Huskies have been known to dig, chew, and jump their way to freedom just to have something to do.
Because of their size and activity level, they do not do well in apartments or small spaces without access to a yard.
They are, however, great with children. They are gentle and dependable. The Chukchi people bred them to safely guard small children while the adults were working, so being a good family dog is built into their genes.
Huskies are hunters by nature. They often find themselves in trouble for attempting to snack on the housecat, or for trying to get the parakeet out of the cage, and they will even playfully stalk their people.
Siberian Huskies move gracefully and effortlessly, which belies their power. Make no mistake: Huskies are fast and strong for their relative size. They are agile and light on their feet, seeming to turn direction and start and stop the flow of motion with no hesitation.
They are medium-sized dogs, around 20 inches tall at the shoulder and between 40 and 65 pounds when fully grown.
They were purposefully bred to be smaller than other similar breeds: Alaskan Malamutes, for instance, were bred to be large and strong, pulling heavy freight sleds across long distances, but they are not as fast as Siberian Huskies, which are meant to pull lighter sleds much more quickly. The Husky actually has a top speed of around 28 miles per hour!
Endurance is the objective for Huskies. They can maintain a moderate speed, around 10 to 15 miles per hour, for hours, easily covering over 150 miles per day. Your pet Siberian Husky can run a dozen miles at a quick clip, so be prepared to try and keep up!
Huskies are more vocal than many other common breeds. They have a language all their own, complete with special vocalizations for dozens of specific needs. They will howl, bark, and whine. They developed their range of sounds as a way of chatting with their pack mates; if your Husky chats with you, too, that means he sees you as part of his family.
Siberian Huskies have a thick, long, double coat that keeps them warm in even the most frozen of landscapes. In their native environment low temperatures usually reach 50 and 60 below zero in the winter so their fur is an essential part of their survival!
The dense, fluffy bottom layer lays against their skin, insulating them from the cold. The topcoat consists of short tough guard hairs that reflect heat in summer and repel water. They shed year-round and require at least weekly grooming. It is important to never cut your husky’s coat unless it is a medical emergency.
Huskies come in a variety of color patterns. Cream, white, gray, black, and copper red are common colors. Many huskies have a white tail tip and white paws, and white facial markings are characteristic.
Some huskies have a very rare agouti coloring, which is common in wild wolf populations but has been bred out of domestic dogs. Agouti means each hair is banded with different colored lines instead of patches of colored hair all being one color.
The breed standard is blue, brown, or black eyes, but huskies often have heterochromia, which is one eye of one color, like blue, and the other eye is a second color, like brown. Heterochromia does not affect vision.
They have lovely almond-shaped eyes, but it does much more than just make them look quirky and quizzical! Their shape makes it easier for Siberian Huskies to squint in the snow and wind while they run and work!
Their snouts are not pointed or squared off, and their noses are most often pink or black but can be pure white. This form of hypopigmentation is called ‘snow nose’ or ‘winter nose’.
Siberian Husky tails are heavily furred and are meant to curl up against their face when they lie down. Their tail is also a way of engaging with the world and expressing their emotions; if it held neutrally low towards the ground the dog is relaxed, if it high in the air he is excited and curious.
A fascinating fact about Huskies: they are by far the most-used dog breed to run sled races all over the world. The best-known race, the Iditarod, is an annual 1000-mile that commemorates Balto’s diphtheria serum run to Nome. Alaskan Huskies, a mix between greyhounds, malamutes, and Siberian Huskies, are almost always among the winning competitors.
The German Shepherd Dog Siberian Husky Mix
There is no official name for the German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix. Some people refer to them by cutesy names like Gerberian Shepsky, Siberian Shepherd, or Husky Shepherd, but most breeders and owners simply label them by their bloodlines.
Whatever you call your dog, he will look and act startlingly like a wolf pup before he grows into his calmer adult behavior. He will be fluffy, he may mouth and nip at everything, and he will probably start howling fairly early in life.
Your German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix puppy will present with traits from both breeds. Which characteristics he gets from each parent comes down to genetics, and there is no sure-fire way of guaranteeing a particular appearance or personality.
Your dog will absolutely be one thing though: fierce.
Physically, he will be fast, tough, and strong, and he will be able to run and work all day without stopping. He will require lots of activity and exercise, so it is vital to his quality of life that you work him as much as you can.
He may not be suited for a first-time pet owner or an apartment dweller, and will not be content being left home alone all day or with a self-proclaimed couch potato.
Your husky German Shepherd Mix will be the perfect companion for an active, outdoorsy family! Take him on a nice long hike in the woods, go camping and kayaking with him, and introduce him to obstacle courses you build in the backyard. Go sledding with him in the wintertime, too- the husky genes will know exactly what to do when he is pulling you down the hill!
When you are not exercising your dog, make sure he has plenty to do. Rubber chew toys filled with snacks and peanut butter, bones with meaty marrow and fat in them, and strong knotted ropes bolted into the floor for him to tug on are all good options.
It may be best for you to crate train your German Shepherd Husky Mix. He will be a natural escape artist that hates confinement, so make sure to start training him to ‘go to bed’ as soon as you can. Keep the crate growing with him as he gets bigger.
He will also very likely naturally fall into the alpha dog role when combined with other animals, so it is a wise idea to introduce him to your family slowly and gently.
His appearance will probably combine the two bloodlines fairly evenly- for instance, he may have the coloring of a German Shepherd Dog with the slight body size of the Husky. He will probably have pointed ears since both breeds do.
He will live a relatively long, healthy life given he is kept in good care. The average for this mix is 10 to 13 years, with some living to 15 or even 18 years old. Of course, there are many factors to weigh when figuring out long-term health and lifespan potential, like weight, chronic health conditions, and genetics.
He will need high-quality food right from that start. If you choose to feed him a dry kibble, pick one specifically for large, active breeds. He will definitely need high-calorie food. You may want to look into minimally-processed raw kibble for him.
You may also want to supplement with canned dog food or fresh human foods. Canned food can add moisture and essential calories to his diet, and produce can get him his fully recommended daily intake of fiber and nutrients.
Add plant-based foods like apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bananas, leafy greens like kale, and cruciferous vegetables. Meat like ground bison, pork chunks, and shredded chicken are great additions. Fatty wild-caught fish is excellent. Fats like coconut oil are a great boost to his nutrition. Dairy can be good in small amounts; cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are easily digested. Eggs are a superfood for dogs- feed him the shell, membrane, and all.
Your German Shepherd Siberian Husky mix evolved to eat lots of fat and lots of raw animal protein. Many owners are committed to continuing that, citing biology and physiology as evidence of the dog’s need to eat his ‘ancestral diet’.
He will also have a thick double coat that he will require your help keeping up with. He will need to be brushed at least once a week, and maybe up to once a day during shedding season.
While you are brushing him, check in his ears and look over his teeth. Feel the skin for any changes in moles or cysts. Make sure hair does not grow over his genitals or in between his toes.
Professional grooming can be handy for major shedding periods.
An important aspect of puppy care is retaining the services of a competent, qualified veterinarian. Your dog will need annual physicals, vaccines, and preventatives for heartworm and internal parasites. Some form of preventative for fleas and ticks is going to ensure he stays healthy too.
He could also need intensive care if he gets ill, so it will be worth it to build a relationship with a veterinary care team while your dog is young.
Emotionally, he will be a smart and loyal companion. As long as you engage in thorough obedience training and socialize him early and often, he will be easy to handle, friendly, and affectionate.
He will also be fantastically loyal to an owner that knows how to handle him and take care of him properly. Your German Shepherd Husky Mix will be a watchdog, always attuned to his surroundings, wary of any potential danger. He will protect you and watch you and put you above himself. That is true love in the canine world!
Your German Shepherd Siberian Husky Mix will be your best friend for life. If you take good care of him he will reward you with hours of fun (and work) and years of protection and love.
You will be able to see how much he adores you when you look in his eyes!