Sarah Mouton Dowdy
By Sarah Mouton Dowdy. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Jan. 24, 2024
black german shepherd lab mix standing outside

In This Article

General Care

The Sheprador is a cross between two of America’s most beloved breeds: the German Shepherd and the Labrador Retriever

Because the German Shepherd-Lab mix is not recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), there is no breed standard detailing the dog’s appearance and temperament. However, the two parent breeds have been established with the AKC for more than a century and serve as helpful blueprints for what you can expect if you add a Sheprador dog to your family. 

With a Lab-Shepherd mix, you can typically expect a dog of medium to large build (50–90 pounds) with chart-topping energy, intelligence, and shedding abilities.

Caring for a Sheprador

Both of the Sheprador’s parent breeds are known for their boundless energy and impressive intellect. These traits, coupled with their large size, mean these dogs need to be taught from an early age how to appropriately interact with people and other animals.

Daily mental and physical exercise are also vital. A boisterous and brainy Sheprador can cause unintentional harm without training and adequate activity.

Shepradors are recommended for experienced pet parents who are well-versed in socializing dogs and training with positive reinforcement. Prospective families should also be prepared for a very active lifestyle, as the German Shepherd-Lab mix needs ample opportunities to flex their brain and body. 

Sheprador Health Issues

Both German Shepherds and Labs are healthy breeds with life expectancies of 7–10 years and 11–13 years, respectively. You can expect your Sheprador’s lifespan to be similar. Still, like all dogs, the two breeds are prone to various health conditions that can be passed to their offspring. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop properly and becomes loose. Both German Shepherds and Labs are prone to the condition, which can lead to arthritis. Mild cases are treated with interventions like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs, but severe cases may require surgery.

Elbow Dysplasia

Both parent breeds are also prone to elbow dysplasia, which is when an elbow joint hasn’t developed as it should. It’s one of the most common causes of osteoarthritis in canine elbows. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help with the pain and inflammation, but surgery is recommended before osteoarthritis develops.

Eye Problems

Both German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are prone to eye issues, including:

  • Pannus: Also called chronic superficial keratitis, pannus is an incurable eye disease that occurs most often in German Shepherds. Affected dogs typically have a pinkish film that spreads from the outside edge of the eye toward the center. Without treatment, it can lead to blindness. Topical medications can slow progression and even achieve remission.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy: More common in Labs, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an umbrella term for a family of eye disorders in which the rods and cones of the retina either don’t develop properly in puppies (early-onset PRA) or begin deteriorating in adulthood (late-onset PRA). There’s no cure for PRA, and the condition eventually leads to blindness.


Bloat in dogs occurs when gas and/or food cause the stomach to expand. Sometimes, bloat progresses into a condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), in which the dog’s stomach twists and cuts off blood flow to the stomach and the spleen.

GDV is a painful, life-threatening emergency, and it’s more common in large and deep-chested breeds like German Shepherds and Labs. Sheprador pet parents need to know the signs of bloat, including:

  • Retching or dry heaving without vomiting

  • Swollen abdomen

  • Sudden anxiety, pacing, or inability to get comfortable

  • Panting and drooling

  • Collapse

If you notice any of these signs in your Sheprador, call your veterinarian immediately.

Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia

Tricuspid valve dysplasia (TVD) is a congenital (present at birth) heart condition in which the tricuspid valve is malformed and unable to properly close. It can eventually lead to congestive heart failure, where fluid builds up in the abdomen. 

The signs of TVD typically appear by the time the affected dog is 1 or 2 years old. There isn’t a cure for TVD, and treatment is typically focused on managing congestive heart failure, if present. 

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is an inherited, progressive disease of the spinal cord similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in humans. Affected dogs typically don’t show signs of illness until they’re 8 years old or older, and German Shepherds are predisposed to this condition. 

The signs of DM often start with the back limbs, then progress to the front limbs. While there are ways to manage the signs of DM and even slow their progression, there isn’t a cure. Genetic testing can screen for at-risk dogs and those used for breeding. 

Exercise-Induced Collapse

Exercise-induced collapse (EIC) is a condition in which a gene mutation causes affected dogs to experience progressive weakness and collapse in response to intense exercise. While rare, the condition is most common in Labrador Retrievers. Light or moderate exercise typically won’t trigger an episode, but even five minutes of strenuous activity can cause signs in affected dogs. 

Signs of EIC can include:

  • Wide stance

  • Muscle weakness (particularly in the back legs)

  • Dragging back legs

  • Loss of coordination

  • Sudden collapse during exercise 

  • Inability to move after exercise

  • Increased heart rate

  • Rapid breathing

  • Fever

  • Seizures (rare)

If you notice signs of weakness or collapse in your dog during or following exercise, treat it as a medical emergency and seek immediate care to determine the cause. 

Most dogs recover from EIC on their own within 30 minutes, but more serious and even fatal reactions are possible, especially if signs aren’t caught early and the dog continues to exercise. 

What To Feed a Sheprador

Every Sheprador is unique, so partner with your veterinarian to develop a feeding plan that’s nutritionally complete and balanced for your pup’s age, size, and health history. 

How To Feed a Sheprador

Most full-grown Shepradors should eat two meals a day: once in the morning and again in the evening. Breaking up meals can help reduce the risk of bloat. If your dog tends to snarf their food (another bloat risk factor), try a slow feeder bowl

Because they have a higher metabolism than adult dogs, it’s generally best to add a midday feeding for Sheprador puppies, for a total of three meals. Your vet can help you determine the best schedule for your dog’s age and energy needs.  

How Much Should You Feed a Sheprador?

The nutrition label on your dog’s food bag includes a feeding guide that gives a general idea of how much you should feed your Sheprador based on their weight. For a more accurate feeding recommendation, ask your veterinarian. They will tailor their guidance not only to your dog’s weight, but also to their body condition score, lifestyle, and health needs.

Remember to factor treats into your pup’s daily calorie count. Even for dogs as active as Shepradors, treats can add up fast. Treats should make up no more than 10% of a dog’s daily calories.

Nutritional Tips for Shepradors

If your Sheprador is eating a complete and balanced diet of dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they shouldn’t need extra supplementation. However, your vet may recommend nutritional supplements or a prescription diet to treat or prevent certain health conditions.

Never give your dog a supplement without speaking to your veterinarian first.

Behavior and Training Tips for Shepradors

All dogs benefit from early socialization and training, but these investments are particularly important with dogs like Shepradors because of their intelligence and energy.

Sheprador Personality and Temperament

Because both of the Sheprador’s parents were bred to work, Shepradors need outlets for using their innate abilities, such as swimming, retrieving, and tracking. 

Shepradors are loyal, loving companions to family members of all ages. But due to their energy, all interactions between Shepradors and small children should be closely supervised so no one is accidentally knocked over. Whether your German Shepherd-Lab mix is comfortable around new people or animals depends largely on their training and socialization.

Sheprador Behavior

Labs and German Shepherds were bred to work alongside humans, so your Sheprador will need plenty of exercise and companionship. Bored, lonely Shepradors with energy to spare are more likely to engage in unwanted behaviors like barking and chewing

Sheprador Training

It’s important to safely expose your Sheprador puppy to various animals, people, environments, activities, and objects when they’re young. The goal of this socialization is to help your pup become comfortable in a variety of settings, which will help keep your puppy from growing into a fearful or reserved dog.

Consistent, positive training that uses rewards instead of punishment is the best approach for Shepradors. The training process is also a great way to provide Shepradors with mental and physical exercise, and to build the human-animal bond. 

Fun Activities for Shepradors

Sheprador Grooming Guide

Shepradors have a dense double coat that‘s short to medium in length. And while their grooming needs are low, they tend to shed a lot. 

Skin Care

Shepradors don’t require special skin care. However, it’s a good idea to check their skin for ticks following outdoor play. How often you bathe your pet will likely depend on how they spend their time outdoors. For example, a Sheprador that jumps in the pond at every opportunity may need a more frequent scrubbing than if a dog’s outdoor adventuring is confined to paved paths. 

Avoid giving your dog a bath too often, as this can strip their coat of healthy oils and lead to dryness and itchiness. Talk to your vet for the best guidance.

Coat Care

Brushing your Sheprador’s coat two or three times a week can help manage the heavy shedding. 

Eye Care

Because both parent breeds are predisposed to eye issues, watch for signs of disease. Call your vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary. 

Ear Care

Talk to your vet about how and how often you should clean your Sheprador’s ears. This is especially important if your pet likes to swim, as this can leave them more vulnerable to ear infections. Call your vet if you notice signs of infection, such as redness, odor, pain, itchiness, and head shaking. 

Considerations for Pet Parents

Here are some questions to consider before adding a German Shepherd-Lab mix to your family:

  1. Am I OK with dog hair on my clothes and furniture?

  2. Do I have enough space for a dog that could grow to be 90 pounds?

  3. Do I have time to properly socialize a dog?

  4. Do I have the skills, patience, and dedication to train a dog using positive reinforcement?

  5. Am I home enough to give a dog companionship?

  6. Do I have the time to provide a highly energetic and intelligent dog with mental and physical exercise every day? 

  7. Am I financially prepared to provide veterinary care?  

  8. Can I provide a dog with a loving home for their lifetime, which could be 13 years or more?

If you can answer these questions with an enthusiastic “Yes!” you may be ready to parent a Sheprador. 

Sheprador FAQs

Is a Sheprador a good family dog?

Shepradors can be excellent dogs, but they aren’t right for every family. Lab-Shepherd mixes need experienced pet parents who can provide thorough socialization and early, positive, consistent training. Shepradors do best in an active family who can exhaust their huge energy stores and who are home enough to provide proper companionship.

What are the characteristics of a Sheprador?

As a cross between a German Shepherd and a Labrador Retriever, Shepradors are highly intelligent, active, and shed a lot.

Is a Sheprador a large breed?

Shepradors are medium to large dogs, typically 50–90 pounds.

Featured Image: Adobe/Tanya

Sarah Mouton Dowdy


Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Freelance Writer

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