Alaskan Shepherd

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Alaskan Shepherd
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Who wouldn’t want a German Shepherd that is even larger, cuddlier and now comes in several more colour combinations? In essence, that’s almost what we have here with the Alaskan Shepherd, which is a mix of the affectionate Alaskan Malamute and the loyal German Shepherd that has somehow turned out to be even more handsome than either of its original parent breeds (though we won’t tell them that!).

Owners need to be committed to spending plenty of time with this dog, particularly in their formative years. They need extensive training to prevent them from becoming dominant or nervous. In the right hands, they have the potential to mature into highly-trained, loving and loyal family pets.

About & History

The Alaskan Shepherd originated sometime in the 1900s but their exact origin, like most other designer dogs, is undocumented and open to speculation. Combining the German Shepherd and the Alaskan Malamute; two working dogs, both of whom are known for their courage and dependency, must have seemed like a natural step at the time and the resulting Alaskan Shepherd is a fine example of a hybrid dog.

The German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is one of the best-known and most easily-recognised dog breeds around the world and their popularity has been earned, with owners appreciating their dependable nature and the fierce loyalty that they demonstrate towards their family. By no means an ancient dog, the German Shepherd has only been around for about 150 years. Developed within Germany from a number of Shepherd breeds, it was a man named Max von Stephanie that is accredited with actively establishing the breed.

He was aiming to achieve a well-rounded individual that would be loyal, easy to train and athletic. He was successful in his endeavours and the resultant German Shepherds were widely used during World War I and II. While German Shepherds are sometimes referred to as Alsatians, Kennel Clubs prefer to use the title German Shepherd. The health of the German Shepherd has come under great scrutiny in recent years, with a particular focus on their hip conformation. In fact, the ‘Best of Breed’ dog at Crufts in 2016 was a German Shepherd with markedly sloping hips who drew lot of criticism from veterinarians and associations including the RSPCA, who were concerned for the welfare of the breed.

The Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute hails from the Arctic and was one of the first dogs to be domesticated. Malamutes were traditionally used to work and would carry loads on sleds, as well as scare off predators and hunt for food. Importantly, they were also a valuable source of companionship and forged strong bonds with humans through the years, ensuing they evolved into a loyal and loving breed of dog. As Malamutes are not fast sled dogs like Siberian Huskies, they are not typically used in races.


The Alaskan Shepherd is a large and handsome dog that is sure to impress. As their parent breeds are not too dissimilar when it comes to appearance, they have already achieved quite a uniform look. When fully mature, Alaskan Shepherds will measure from 56cm to 66cm, and will weigh between 27kg to 43kg, making them somewhat heavier than the typical German Shepherd.

They have a long face with a wide muzzle and strong jaws. Their eyes are almond-shaped and should be dark brown, while their ears are erect and triangular in shape. Their body is rectangular and thickly muscled, built in proportion. Their limbs are sturdy and solid and they have a long tail that curls elegantly over their back and is often coated with a plume of dense fur. The coat of the Alaskan Shepherd is dense and straight and may be a combination of black, tan, grey, white and silver. Many will have darker markings on their face and ears.

Character & Temperament

Alaskan Shepherds have strong personalities. Owners should not forget that they have descended from intelligent working breeds and were never bred to be layabout lap dogs. These independent-minded animals do not tend to rely on humans for their happiness and certainly have a mind of their own. They are affectionate with their family and tend to form strong bonds with one family member over the others – usually the one that feeds them and spends most time with them.

Brave and territorial, most make excellent watch dogs though are generally not hostile enough to cut it as guard dogs. However, their deep barks and large, well-muscled frame should be enough to put any sensible intruder off!


Quality training is crucial when it comes to the development of the Alaskan Shepherd and when training is lacking or not up to scratch, owners will frequently run into issues. These dogs should not be allowed to become dominant or possessive and need to understand their position in their family. Their training needs to be consistent from day one and every family member must be on board for optimal results. To ensure they get on with people outside of the family and other animals, they require extensive socialisation from puppyhood and should be exposed to a wide variety of situations to ensure they are accepting of them.

A dog with brains to spare, the Alaskan Shepherd will take to most forms of training well and can master a wide range of tasks, excelling in most. Their intelligence can mean that they become discouraged if training sessions are repetitive, so owners need to make the effort to change things up and keep them challenging.


The health of any pet should be paramount to the owner and when breeding Alaskan Shepherds, breeders must ensure to act responsibly and exclude those with known health issues from the breeding pool.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This is a progressive disease that tends to affect dogs later in life. Sadly, there is no cure and it can be very difficult to watch an animal suffer with this debilitating condition. Initial symptoms include a wobbly gait and dogs will then start to drag their hind limbs as they walk.

Over time, incontinence will set in and dogs struggle to stand and get about. While the condition does not cause pain, animals can be distressed at their inability to do what they want to do. Some owners turn to slings and carts to assist their pets as their mobility worsens.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia can seriously impact on a dog’s life and can lead to chronic pain and poor mobility. As breeding adults can be easily screened for this condition with X-rays, there is now no excuse to breed from a dog that has got hip dysplasia.


Though seizures can occur for many reasons (including low blood sugar and brain tumours), epileptic dogs will have fits that no cause is found for. To reach a diagnosis, the dog will have to undergo extensive testin, to ensure that there is no other medical reason behind the seizures. For most, they are managed well with medication. They will need to be closely monitored but tend to have an excellent prognosis.


Those with an underactive thyroid gland can have a myriad of symptoms, including a poor coat quality, alopecia, chronic skin disease, a low heart rate, weight gain and generalised lethargy. Bloodwork will reveal a low thyroid hormone (although owners should be aware that some dogs who don’t have hypothyroidism may have a low thyroid hormone level for other reasons, such as a concurrent illness).

To treat this disease, the thyroid hormone that is lacking can be replaced by giving daily tablets. For many patients, they will start to feel better within days though it can take weeks to months for any coat or skin conditions to completely resolve.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The exercise needs of the Alaskan Shepherd are vast and they need a minimum of 90 minutes of activity each day. This should consist of varied hikes, swims and agility training. These large dogs require access to lots of enclosed land and will become frustrated if kept on lead at all times.


Though the coat of the Alaskan Shepherd does not tend to get matted and is quite easily maintained, it will shed a lot in the warmer months. During shedding season, owners will need to increase grooming from a couple of times a week to a couple of times a day.

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